Dena Herman, RD, PhD, MPH, is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Her research has focused on improving dietary quality among low-income populations, as well as the development of interventions to reduce childhood obesity.
What hooked you on science? On food? My dad was a chef for Nathan Pritikin, a nutritionist and longevity research pioneer who showed that cardiovascular disease was reversible with diet. The coolest example of science in your food?I am not sure it is the coolest, but I have always been fascinated by gels and emulsions. For example, vinaigrette dressing: you take 2-3 liquids and simply by the order in which you mix them they become and emulsion, something thicker than what you started with. The same principle applies to a roux: dry + liquid + heat = creamy sauce. How cool is that? The food you find most fascinating?Injera (Ethiopian flat bread).What scientific concept–food related or otherwise–do you find most fascinating?Currently I am fascinated with the “-omics.” Genomics, epigenetics, nutrigenomics, etc., and the idea that we are what our grandmothers ate (the idea of life-course health development). Your best example of a food that is better because of science?I can’t think of one. I believe the best foods are whole foods that have not been “adulterated” by science, i.e. Frankenfoods. How does your scientific knowledge or training impact the way you cook? Do you conduct science experiments in the kitchen? I have two sons (9 years old and 12 years old). The kitchen is always an experimental station, whether trying new combinations of ingredients to create exciting colorful mixtures (questionably edible), or figuring out ways to make things explode. One kitchen tool you could not live without?Vitamix.Five things most likely to be found in your fridge?Plain yogurt, cilantro, chili peppers, kale, raspberries. Your all-time favorite ingredient?Citrus, especially lemons and limes. Favorite cookbook?My German cookbooks. They take the simple and make it fabulous. Your standard breakfast?A kale, blueberry, and tofu shake. Phytonutrient-rich and protein ready.