Professor Prelack joined Simmons as full-time Nutrition faculty this year! She shares what makes our students special and the importance of Heart Month from a dietitian's perspective.
What attracted you to Simmons?
My first introduction to Simmons was as adjunct faculty. I was immediately drawn to the students here. In fact, the students are primarily what influenced me to make a career shift from a primary role in clinical dietetics to one as full-time faculty at Simmons. They show a genuine interest in learning, work hard and strive for excellence while still being humble and a friend to their peers.
What do you teach?
NUTR 231: The Practice of Clinical Dietetics and NUTR 201 Advanced Food Science
What’s your favorite part of teaching?
I love watching students progress, particularly in my Clinical Dietetics course where they get to apply what they've been studying in nutrition for the past few years. Watching their enthusiasm to learn and motivation to improve on their skills is incredibly meaningful and rewarding. They’re just on the cusp of being nutrition professionals, and I’m so proud to be a part of that.
Where do you practice?
Shriners Hospitals for Children in Boston, which is a pediatric burn hospital. I've been there primarily as the Director of Nutrition for more than 20 years. It is a very special, unique place to work. We help children with burn, orthopedic and other special needs from around the world. I'm so happy that some of our students are able to do fieldwork and research there as well.
What is your research background and current focus?
My research background has primarily been in energy requirements and body composition during metabolic stress. More recently, I started studying nutrient requirements during rehabilitation in burn children. Apart from their continued increased energy requirements, we are learning about the importance of certain micronutrients and antioxidant substances in their recovery, such as melatonin, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins D and K. I’m in the process of developing a functional food that may be used to decrease inflammation, improve sleep and promote bone health.
In what ways can diet boost heart health?
I’ve always been intrigued with the role of fats in promoting heart health. Fats function very differently based on even small changes in their chemical composition. Because the type of fat that you eat gets incorporated into the cells in your body, you can actually influence how your body responds during stress. Meaning you can fight off free radicals, reduce blood clotting, decrease blood pressure and optimize function. It truly is an example of you are what you eat
. Eating foods high in omega 3’s such as salmon, mackerel, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds, among others can be really good for your heart.
What does Heart Month mean to dietitians and nutrition professionals?
Most of the major chronic diseases we encounter in this country, including coronary artery disease (CAD) and hypertension, can be significantly influenced by diet, both in terms of management and prevention. Dietitians are the most skilled at not only providing information on what the heart healthy foods are, but providing strategies on how to incorporate them into individual lifestyles. Heart Month is an ideal time to highlight dietitians' role in promoting heart health.
Heart Month is intended to raise awareness about heart disease - what do you think is important to share?
The importance of nutrition and cardiac health. Evidence is strong that a diet high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat or fat free dairy, seafood, legumes and nuts will reduce your risk of heart disease. In this long list of foods, there are sure to be options for everyone to eat in a way that helps to prevent heart disease.