Online course: Introduction to Food and Health

Dates: any time

Duration: 7 hours

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 out of 16306 ratings (see total ranking of online courses here)

Participating countries: any country

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Organizer: Stanford University at Coursera


  • FREE
  • $49 with sharable certificate

Introduction to Food and Health

Around the world, we find ourselves facing global epidemics of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and other predominantly diet-related diseases. To address these public health crises, we urgently need to explore innovative strategies for promoting healthful eating. There is strong evidence that global increases in the consumption of heavily processed foods, coupled with cultural shifts away from the preparation of food in the home, have contributed to high rates of preventable, chronic disease. In this course, learners will be given the information and practical skills they need to begin optimizing the way they eat. This course will shift the focus away from reductionist discussions about nutrients and move, instead, towards practical discussions about real food and the environment in which we consume it. By the end of this course, learners should have the tools they need to distinguish between foods that will support their health and those that threaten it. In addition, we will present a compelling rationale for a return to simple home cooking, an integral part of our efforts to live longer, healthier lives.




WEEK 1: 1 hour to complete

Background on Food & Nutrients

In this section we will examine the social and cultural shifts that have contributed to our modern epidemics of overweight and obesity. We will briefly review the nutrients found in foods, their different functions in the human body and how we can support our own health by choosing wisely from the foods within each category.

Introduction 2m
A Sociocultural History of Obesity 3m
Macronutrient Structure & Metabolism 4m
Carbohydrate-rich Foods & the Glycemic Index 3m
Animal & Plant-based Proteins 3m
Dietary Fats & Their Effects on Human Health 4m

WEEK 2: 1 hour to complete

Contemporary Trends in Eating

In this section, we will explore the ways in which highly processed foods differ from real, whole food and the implications of food processing on our health. We’ll also look at how our consumption of sugar has changed in recent decades and explore sensible solutions for people who wish to start eating better. We will also meet Kevin, a middle-aged pre-diabetic man, and find out how a step-wise approach to behavior change helped him change for the better.

Why Are Highly Processed Foods Generally Less Healthy? 4m
Trends in Sugar Consumption & Recommendations 4m
The Case for Cooking 6m
A Case Study: Middle-aged Pre-diabetic Man 6m
A Step-wise Approach to Behavior Change 2m

WEEK 3: 1 hour to complete

Future Directions in Health – Part I

This section focuses on sustainable solutions to the challenge of choosing healthier foods more frequently. Michael Pollan explains his mantra and how we can use it to make better food choices. We also begin to explore practical tips for preparing foods that will support our health and enjoyment.

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. 3m
Cooking: Fundamental Ingredients 3m
Cooking: Increasing Vegetable Intake 2m
Cooking: Sensible Substitutions 3m

WEEK 4: 1 hour to complete

Future Directions in Health – Part 2

In this section you will find more practical tips for grocery shopping, reading labels and assembling a balanced meal. We also learn more about the most important secret ingredient for success: moderation.

Constructing a Healthy Plate 2m
Shopping in a Supermarket 2m
Reading Nutrition Labels 4m
The Importance of Moderation in Maintaining a Healthy Diet 4m

WEEK 5: 3 hours to complete

Cooking Workshop

A few years ago, a friend of mine started a healthy eating and fitness website called Grokker. She asked me to make some instructional cooking videos and generously agreed to share some of them with you. Thanks, Lorna! (If you like this section, you can find many more great videos on cooking and fitness at

How to Make Gluten Free Crêpes 10m
How to Make Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken 6m
How to Make Asparagus Torta 8m
How to Make Idlis – Indian Rice Cakes 8m
How to Make Pad Thai 9m
How to Make Lasagna 8m
How to Make Ricotta Cake 5m
How to Make Pancakes in a Blender 4m
How to Make a Sweet Pea Salad 4m
How to Make Egg Sandwiches