By Deb Bass
Before college, Niran Abbas planned to become a pharmacist. She ended up pursuing a career in the humanities, but the same instinct that ignited her interest in medicine and biology guides her now after a career as a graduate and professor in the science of communication and cultural studies.
Niran taught in higher education in England after earning her doctorate from the University of London, Birkbeck, in cybernetics, the science of communications and automatic control systems in machines and living beings. Now Niran, 49, and living in Carmel Valley with her husband and two children is passionate about healthy eating, cooking, food production and the effects of food in aiding a sense of well-being.
“I became interested in pursuing a certificate in integrative nutrition from UC San Diego Extension in 2018, because I wanted to understand a different approach of using food as a healing mechanism rather than compartmentalize vitamins and nutrients in a conventional manner,” Niran explains. “I look at food as both health and pleasure.”
She says that she benefited most from the practical healing cooking component of the certificate courses. In addition to expanding her knowledge of cooking, she says the program has now lead her to start a business, Scrumptious Bites. She plans to teach and design healthy cooking recipes and classes for families and youth who need help creating nutritious and tasty balanced meals on a budget.
Niran explains her journey:
“I loved cooking before and now I feel even more confident and well-versed. I’ll pick up uncommon vegetables in the supermarket and often people will look over and ask, ‘What do you do with that?’ It happens so often.
The nutrition classes within the program allowed me to meet like-minded people, interact and more importantly look at new technical ways of cooking the foods I have always enjoyed. I also appreciated the different philosophical, cultural, scientific and physiological approaches of ‘food as medicine,’ in the coursework, which seemed to bridge that gap into a symbiotic relationship.
I have learned quite a lot from taking this course. First, we live in a world of ‘hollow abundance,’ as the food historian Bee Wilson calls it – a food culture that is a dysfunctional paradox. We have lost a sense of balance with eating, lost the art of home cooking and live in a world of sensory overload and sensory disconnect. Some of the courses in the certificate program remind us to use our senses when dealing with food to reconnect with our sense of taste. When you cook a meal slowly, you can smell and touch each ingredient as you handle it. In turn, you are fed by the cooking process and not just by the final product.
I also learned about how lifestyle is based on bio-individuality in terms of behavior, motivation and biology. This course teaches the biochemical components and bioavailability of the foods we eat which are invaluable tools of how we choose, cook and heal our bodies.
This course has made me read and explore further theories within integrative nutrition. I feel my family and I have gained a healthier lifestyle and hope to inspire other people with my recipes and cooking.
I think it’s always important to continue learning, and growing as a result, in whatever field you pursue. My father is an inspiration as he still writes and conducts research well into his 80s. I hope I serve as a role model to my children as a former academic that learning is a lifelong pleasurable endeavor.”