Nutritional Anthropology

What is Nutritional Anthropology?

Nutritional anthropology is “fundamentally concerned with understanding the interrelationships of biological and social forces in shaping human food use and the nutritional status of individuals and populations” ~Pelto, Goodman, and Dufour (2012:1-2)

Nutritional Anthropologists study a people and their culture, and how food is not only nutritionally significant, but culturally significant as well. They also study how diet and nutrition affects the body and its development. Nutritional anthropologists at the university I attended have an on-going data collection program in Costa Rica, where they are working with the local government to see how Western diet influences have affected nutrition and body development.

I became interested in this career field while watching Alton Brown’s TV show “Good Eats.” At the time, I was ignorant of what this profession truly entailed. The portrayal on the show was more food historian, in my opinion, than anthropologist.

This past semester (Spring 2016) I had the opportunity to take a class in Nutritional Anthropology at a local University. I learned a lot in this class and it gave me some new perspectives to think on, i.e. food insecurity by way of our Food Diary assignment where we couldn’t spend more than $45.00 that week on food. I also learned that this was not a career path I was truly interested in, just fascinated by. Being a food historian and knows the background of what we eat is what speaks to me.

This was a fascinating subject and I’m glad I took this class. I have a Master’s degree in Library Science, and have no plans to go for another Master’s or Ph.D. I took this class purely for the fun of it (much to the chagrin of some of my classmates who HAD to take this class for their degrees).

I would like to encourage everyone to take advantage of classes that interest you, regardless of the degree/career potential. I have added the assigned reading list below and an Amazon link with other helpful books. It helps you grow as a person.

© Cori Large 11 May 2016

Nutritional Anthropology Books

Assigned Readings List:

Anderson, E. N. (1997).  Traditional Medical Values of Food.  In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 80-91.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Barthes, Roland. (1961). Towards a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption. In Food andCulture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 23-30.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Clark, Dylan. (2004). The Raw and the Rotten: Punk Cuisine. In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 232-242.  New York, NY: Routledge.
De Garine, Igor. (2003). Anthropology of Food and Pluridisciplinarity in “Researching Food Habits:Methods and Problems,” MacBeth Helen and MacClancey Jeremy (eds.). Pp.15-28. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.

Himmelgreen, David A. and Crooks, Deborah L. (2005).  Nutritional Anthropology and Its Application to Nutritional Issues and Problems. In “Applied Anthropology: Domains of Application,” Kedia Satish and van Willigan John (eds.).  Pp.  149-188. Westport, CT, Praeger.

Himmelgreen DA, N. Romero Daza, E. Amador, and C. Pace. (2012) in press. Tourism, Economic Insecurity, and Nutritional Health in Rural Costa Rica: Using Syndemic Theory to Understand the Impact of the Globalizing Economy at the Local Level. Annals of Anthropological Practice

Hubert, Annie. (2003) Qualitative Research in the Anthropology of Food: A Comprehensive
Qualitative/Quantitative Approach in “Researching Food Habits: Methods and Problems,”
MacBeth Helen and MacClancey Jeremy (eds.). Pp. 41-54.  New York, NY:  Berghahn Books.

Krebs, John R.  (2009). The Gourmet Ape: Evolution and Human Food Preferences.  In The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90(3), 7075-7115.

Mintz, Sydney W. (1979). Time, Sugar, and Sweetness. In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 91-106.  New York, NY: Routledge.

Mintz, Sydney W. & Christine M. Du Bois. (2002). The Anthropology of Food and Eating. Annual Review Anthropology 31:99-119.

Swenson, Rebecca. (2009). Domestic Divo? Televised Treatments of Masculinity, Femininity, and Food.In Food and Culture: A Reader.  Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, (eds).  Pp. 138-153. New York, NY: Routledge.

Turner, Bethany L., Maes, Kenneth, Sweeney, Jennifer, and Armelagos, George J. (2008).  Human evolution, diet and nutrition: Where the body meets the buffet. In Evolutionary Medicine and Health: New Perspectives. Trevathan, et. al *eds).  Pp.55-71. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Weisberg-Shapiro, P. & C. M. Devine. (2015). “Because we missed the way that we eat at the middle ofthe day:” Dietary acculturation and food routines among Dominican Women. Appetite 95:293-302.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Candy
    Aug 19, 2016 @ 08:57:02

    We watch this show all the time. Guess I didn’t know you could get a degree in this area. I think that’s sounds awesome knowing how why and where food comes from


  2. Brittany Starnes
    Aug 19, 2016 @ 11:41:24

    Good read!


  3. Roxy
    Aug 22, 2016 @ 10:53:27

    I’m always fascinated by the way in which food varies across cultures and how some dishes actually hold importance/meaning in cultures. This class sounds super interesting….def something I’d take for fun too.


    • caendicott
      Aug 23, 2016 @ 16:04:10

      Taking the class for fun definitely took a lot of the pressure off. I didn’t stress myself out over doing well on assignments because I wan’t taking the class for a grade. And I think that made it more enjoyable for me.


  4. Victoria Stacey
    Aug 22, 2016 @ 11:14:19

    What an interesting career! I have a friend who is very interested in this type of work, but had no idea it was a career! I’ll have to share with her.


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