Response Online


Word Play What's in a Word

We don't know about you, but we love to learn about words — their meanings, their origins, how to use them in conversation. In each issue of Response, we ask a campus expert to explore a word related to the magazine's theme. This time, a nutrition faculty member examines the meaning of “nourish.”


By Gail Moe, Co-director of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department and Professor of Food and Nutrition

To nourish something means to sustain it, to cultivate it, to promote its growth. “Nourish” evolved from the Latin root, nutrire. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the earliest uses of nourish was to feed a newborn child. This usage is apt as newborns are especially vulnerable to nutritional deprivation. The term “nutrition,” also from nutrire and originally meaning “to feed or nourish,” came into use in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Today, the meaning of “nutrition” has expanded to include nutrition science and its application in our lives. As a professor of food and nutrition, I am naturally concerned with that science and what nourishes us.

Nutrition science suggests that one important determinant of health is our overall eating pattern, and not just our nutrient intakes. Do we emphasize a plant-based diet? Plants provide an abundance of nutrients and phytochemicals — and they are tasty. Do we keep our portion sizes moderate? Those large portions sneak in extra calories and contribute to food waste. Do we limit highly processed foods? These foods appear to be digested, absorbed, and metabolized differently than whole, intact foods. Do we consider the source of our food and its journey from “farm to fork?” Do we slow down and enjoy our food? Mindless eating can lead to overeating.

Gathering at the table to share a meal, we receive many kinds of nourishment. Good conversation nourishes our minds and our relationships. Good food nourishes our bodies. And a prayer of thanksgiving nourishes our souls and reminds us that God is the source of all nourishment.

One opportunity for nourishment on our campus is the Community Kitchen, where students regularly gather with community members to learn, cook, and share healthy food. In Family and Consumer Sciences, we aim to prepare students equipped to help individuals and families improve quality of life. An understanding of nourish, nutrition, and nutrire helps us to do this work.