Top 50 Food Activists

Humans have been growing food, cooking and eating for centuries, but it’s never been more difficult to navigate our food system than it is right now. Processing, marketing, healthwashing, genetic modification, chemicals, toxins – it’s all impacted our food supply and more importantly, our health and wellbeing.

Thankfully, we have these top 50 food activists on our side. They champion whole food eating, challenge corporations to change their damaging practices, educate us about nutrition and how food affects us, raise awareness about the link between our food choices and the environment, and more. These food activists encourage us to make informed decisions about what we eat and inspire us to do the best we can.

Here are our Top 50 food activists – we hope you are empowered by them as much as we are!

Michael Pollan - Health and Food Activist

Michael Pollan


The Scoop: Michael Pollan has opened millions of eyes about our food and where it comes from. We love his articles, documentaries and books (he’s on the reading list for the culinary nutrition expert program) for their honesty, evidence-based information and easy-to-read style.

Marion Nestle


The Scoop: Marion is a professor, award-winning author and prolific blogger who fosters frank discussions about food safety, food marketing, and the politics surrounding food. We appreciate her sensible, tell-it-like-it-is attitude and her unflappable commitment to making researchers and politicians accountable for their actions.

*** Featured guest in The 2016 Culinary Nutrition Conference. Buy the interview as part of the Full Shebang here. 

Dan Barber


The Scoop: Dan is an award-winning chef at Blue Hill Farm whose 2014 book The Third Plate has radically changed the way we think about food in the culinary nutrition expert program. His examination of food, our health and sustainability will challenge you to think about what’s on your plate in a completely new light.

Kris Carr - Health and Food Activist

Kris Carr


The Scoop: We love Kris for her spirited personality and her devotion to helping others heal through food and lifestyle practices. Her ‘Crazy Sexy Cancer’ series of books are essential guides to plant-based foods and have been an entry point to healthy eating for thousands of people.

Melanie Warner


The Scoop: When Melanie began covering the food industry for the New York Times, she discovered how little consumers know about the food they’re eating. Her book, Pandora’s Lunchbox, tells the story of what happens to processed foods before they reach our plates. It’s an eye-opening tale, that’s for sure!

Nina Teicholz


The Scoop: For years we’ve been told to fear fat and avoid it all costs. Nina puts her investigative journalism skills to good use with the book The Big Fat Surprise, which completely rebukes the seemingly age-old fat wisdom and lays out a fact-based argument for why fat is actually good – no, great – for us. It’s no wonder The Big Fat Surprise was named the best book of 2014 by the likes of the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.

Jamie Oliver


The Scoop: Jamie has long been a darling in the foodie world (and has enjoyed a particularly strong female fan base!), but now he’s garnered the attention of health-minded folks, too. His campaigns to reduce obesity, improve school lunches and lower sugar consumption are prime examples of a celebrity using his powers for the ultimate good.

meghan telpner

Meghan Telpner (*ACN Founder + Director)


The Scoop: Sure, we’re biased, yet we know we’re not the only ones who love Meghan’s vibrant spirit, fun cooking videos and made-up words. Meghan is a true advocate for health who aims to empower culinary nutrition experts around the world to educate their communities about food, and her investigations into corporate healthwashing claims have raised public awareness, held companies accountable and created change.

Mark Bittman


The Scoop: Mark’s best-selling books have encouraged us to get back to basics in the kitchen and even encouraged the most enthusiastic meat-eaters to go vegan until dinnertime. He believes that food has the power to make or break our health and the health of the planet – and we couldn’t agree more.

Kevin Gianni


The Scoop: Kevin and his wife Annmarie created Renegade Health as a space where health nuts can come together and not feel…well, nuts. Make no mistake: they use an evidence-based approach on their blog, and have offered a ton of helpful content including books, a daily video show an annual healing cancer summit. They also travelled around in an RV for over 2 years to discover what people were doing to support their health all over North America.

Robyn O’Brien


The Scoop: Robyn was one of those moms who rolled her eyes at the parents of kids with allergies – until her own children developed them. The information she’s revealed about the American food system has influenced major companies to change their ways, and she founded the Allergy Kids Foundation, whose goal is to restore our children’s health and the integrity of our food supply.

Jeffrey Smith

Connect: and

The Scoop: Jeffrey is a world leader in the non-GMO movement and has raised widespread awareness about the dangers of genetic engineering and how we as consumers are being misled by corporations. His documentary Genetic Roulette and book Seeds of Deception are must-watch and must-read content.

J.B. Mackinnon and Alisa Smith


The Scoop: What began as a series of articles in 2005 about eating local for an online publication quickly snowballed into a worldwide sensation and best-selling book, The 100-Mile Diet. J.B. and Alisa’s commitment to only eating food that was grown within 100 miles of their home for an entire year sparked important conversation and awareness about where our food comes from and how far it travels to get to our plates. Concepts like ‘farm-to-table’ and ‘locavore’ are commonplace now thanks to them!

Joel Salatin


The Scoop: Joel was famously chronicled in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma and is a well known advocate for small farms, biodynamic farming and local food systems. He’s a prolific writer – with nine published books, mostly about farming and food production – and his sense of humour makes him a sought-after speaker, too.

Michele Simon


The Scoop: Michele, a public health lawyer, has been writing about food politics and the food industry for the last two decades. We love how she uses the law to fight corporations that harm the public’s health – and her work has led to federal bans of dangerous products in the US.

Tero - Food Activist

Tero Isokauppila


The Scoop: As one of the co-founders of Four Sigmatic, Tero has brought our understanding of the power of mushrooms to a higher level. He cuts through the hype to help us learn the science around medicinal mushrooms, as well as how to include them in a whole foods diet.

Tero was a featured speaker The 2015 Culinary Nutrition Conference.

Barbara Kingsolver


The Scoop: Barbara is a critically-acclaimed writer who lives with her family on a farm in Southern Appalachia, where they cultivate their own veggies and livestock. Her 2007 book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle poetically describes her family’s challenges to grow food themselves – or just live without it!

Michael Moss


The Scoop: Michael is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who has shone a big, bright spotlight on the food industry and how it tries to manipulate us. His book Salt Sugar Fat (also on the culinary nutrition expert program reading list), which details the way companies cultivate food addictions, is jaw-dropping.

Anna Lappé


The Scoop: Anna’s a writer and educator who advocates for sustainable food for us and the planet. She has initiated a bunch of cool projects, including Real Food Films (it uses online movies to spread the word about sustainable farming) and Small Planet Fund, which has raised $1 million for grassroots organizations.

Michelle Obama


The Scoop: America’s First Lady is an outspoken advocate for improving children’s nutrition and eliminating childhood obesity. Her Let’s Move! campaign helps parents and children make healthy choices, provides better food in schools, and increases accessibility and affordability to nutritious fare. She also planted a vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House, which grows food for the house as well as for local food banks and soup kitchens (our youngest CNE got to visit this garden last summer after winning a kids recipe contest thrown by Mrs. Obama).

Dr. Tom O’Bryan


The Scoop: Dr. Tom O’Bryan is a recognized expert in gluten intolerance and celiac disease. We appreciate how he makes gluten-related disorders easy to understand, and offers a ton of helpful information to empower people to eliminate gluten from their lives. His comprehensive Gluten Summit has educated thousands and continues to garner acceptance for gluten-free diets. And you will love listening to his voice!

Dr. Kelly Brogan


The Scoop: Dr. Kelly Brogan is a trained psychiatrist whose practice focuses on how to treat depression and other mood disorders using food and holistic therapies instead of pharmaceutical drugs. We love her food-first approach and her emphasis on using a healthy diet to help women become the happiest versions of themselves.

Dr. David Perlmutter


The Scoop: Dr. Perlmutter is a neurologist who takes gluten-free eating to the next level with his evidence-based, grain-free slant to addressing brain health. His books Grain Brain and Brain Maker will make you rethink the way you consume grains, even the gluten-free ones, and offer you a multitude of ways to maximize your noggin.

Vani Hari (The Food Babe)


The Scoop: Vani is well-known for putting pressure on corporations to disclose ingredients and eliminate the harmful toxins that impact our health. She has amassed a loyal following (The Food Babe Army) who helps her create the change they want to see in the world, and we adore how she galvanizes her tribe to stand up for what they believe in despite corporate or public constraints.

Alex-Jamieson - Food activist

Alexandra Jamieson


The Scoop: Alexandra co-starred in Super Size Me and built a career on being a vegan chef and author, until she began to crave meat and ‘came out’ as an omnivore – experiencing a huge backlash in the process. Now, she helps people develop sanity and balance in their lives through nutritious food choices, and encourages others to love their bodies through her blog, podcast, books and health programs.

*** Featured guest in The 2016 Culinary Nutrition Conference. Buy the interview as part of the Full Shebang here. 

Josh Gitalis (*ACN Instructor)


The Scoop: It isn’t easy to disagree with Josh’s point of view – not only because he’s articulate, but also because infuses everything he does with evidence-based medicine. Josh makes food, health and wellness practical and easy to understand (he has the best analogies that make the most complicated concepts clear as a bell), and our culinary nutrition expert students love his courses and guest appearances on our weekly livestreams.

*** Featured guest in The 2016 Culinary Nutrition Conference. Buy the interview as part of the Full Shebang here. 

Mark Hyman


The Scoop: Dr. Hyman is a physician, functional medicine specialist and author with a vast knowledge of an array of health and wellness areas. Whether he’s writing about blood sugar imbalances, sugar cravings, weight loss, or hormones, he always has practical and specific dietary advice to help people eat better.

Julie Daniluk


The Scoop: Julie is a holistic nutritionist, TV host and author who specializes in anti-inflammatory diets and digestive health. We adore her positive attitude and relentless passion for making anti-inflammatory foods taste utterly delicious.

Julie was a featured speaker The 2015 Culinary Nutrition Conference.

Andrea Nakayama


The Scoop: Andrea’s expertise in digestive health and autoimmune diseases have made her a go-to person for both clients and alternative health practitioners. Her online courses teach students how to use the science of functional nutrition to help people heal the gut and balance their bodies.

Frank Giglio - Food Activist

Frank Giglio

Connect: and

The Scoop: A trained chef who left the restaurant industry, Frank runs Three Lily Farm, an off-the-grid education spot that teaches students the basics of real food eating, foraging, growing fruits and veggies, homesteading, fermenting and more. We’re huge fans of people who live off the land and show us how to do the same! If you don’t live in Maine, there are a number of online courses to choose from, too.

Frank was a featured speaker The 2015 Culinary Nutrition Conference.

Sayer Ji

Connect: and

The Scoop: Looking for evidence-based scientific studies that reveal the benefits of natural food, nutrients, supplements and herbs? You’ll want to check out Green Med Info, a website started by well-known speaker and author Sayer Ji. Thanks to the wealth of information Sayer offers, readers can make informed and empowered decisions about the natural substances that can support their health.

*** Featured guest in The 2016 Culinary Nutrition Conference. Buy the interview as part of the Full Shebang here. 

Joseph Mercola


The Scoop: Dr. Mercola is a well respected practitioner who is often the first stop for traditional media who want to grab an alternative perspective on health. Dr. Mercola’s website, which he funds himself, contains thousands of articles and videos that educate us about the enormous power of alternative medicine.

Marni Wasserman and Jesse Chappus (Ultimate Health Podcast)


The Scoop: Marni, a holistic nutritionist and chef, and Jesse, a chiropractor, combine their expertise for the informative Ultimate Health Podcast, which we listen to faithfully. Marni and Jesse interview an enormous range of wise experts (including, ahem, ACN director Meghan Telpner about the perfect diet) to help listeners create a most awesome and healthful life.

*** Featured guest in The 2016 Culinary Nutrition Conference. Buy the interview as part of the Full Shebang here. 

Diane San Filippo

Diane Sanfilippo


The Scoop: If you’re interested in the Paleo diet, head on over to see what Diane is up to. She’s a nutrition consultant and cookbook author who specializes in Paleo nutrition, digestive health, blood sugar issues, and food intolerances. Her bestselling book Practical Paleo has been nicknamed the Paleo Bible, and she has tons of resources and programs including a podcast, a 21-day sugar detox, videos and more.

Diane was a featured speaker The 2015 Culinary Nutrition Conference.

Tess Masters


The Scoop: We all love our blenders, but Tess takes blendaholics to a whole other level on her fantastic site filled with easy recipes for people on the go. She also has a comprehensive smoothie app, where you can explore a ton of smoothie recipes, photos, shopping lists, and even punch in your mood to find the perfect in-the-moment smoothie. We gained true inspiration from her interview in 2015 at the Culinary Nutrition Conference, where she chatted about bringing projects to life, working with brands, and finding work-life balance.

Tess was a featured speaker The 2015 Culinary Nutrition Conference.

Kathy Smart


The Scoop: Kathy is a holistic nutritionist, chef, speaker and cookbook author who is well-known for her gluten-free expertise. Her programs and recipes help people banish bloat and feel amazing, and we’re especially impressed that she launched her own trade show to promote health and wellness!

Dr. Russell Blaylock


The Scoop: We admire that Dr. Blaylock retired from his work as a neurosurgeon to devote himself to nutritional research. He’s authored several books, including ones that address neurotoxins and cancer, and he hosts a successful podcast.

Dave Asprey


The Scoop: Heard of Bulletproof Coffee? You have Dave Asprey to thank for that – and his concoction has gained a large and passionate following. But he’s about more than just coffee – Dave uses biochemistry to hack into the body and mind so we can all perform at optimal levels.

Mark Sisson

Mark Sisson


The Scoop: Mark’s website has educated and inspired a countless number people to consider the Paleo diet. Using a ton of evidence and critical thinking, Mark explores evolutionary science and encourages others to take responsibility for their health through nutrient-dense, whole foods.

Dale and Linda Bolton


The Scoop: Dale and Linda launched Organics for Orphans in 2008, which helps communities in Africa grow nutritious food. They equip people with the resources and knowledge they need to farm organically, and then ask them to help feed local orphans. We are such huge fans of Organics for Orphans that it was the first recipient to receive the proceeds from From Scratch Cooking, our annual e-cookbook for charity.

Sarah Elton


The Scoop: Sarah is a journalist, CBC food columnist and bestselling author. Her first two books examined the locavore movement in Canada and the industrial food system, while her latest is a cooking manual designed for young people (ages 10 and up). Let’s get those young ‘uns cooking early!

Sarah Wilson - Food Activist

Sarah Wilson

Connect: and

The Scoop: We all know that refined sugar isn’t good for us, but weaning off the white stuff is easier said than done. Sarah’s 8-week online program I Quit Sugar has helped nearly 2 million people ditch sugar worldwide. Amazing, right?!

Chef Ann Cooper


The Scoop: Ann is nicknamed ‘The Renegade Lunchlady’ for her unflagging and longstanding advocacy for better food in schools. She has launched numerous initiatives to help children eat more nutritious, whole foods, including The Lunch Box, which offers resources and guides to school lunch programs.

Annemarie Colbin


The Scoop: Annemarie is a visionary and leader in natural healing. She began operating her cooking school, The Natural Gourmet Institute, in 1977 out of her home kitchen on the Upper West Side (hmm, that’s similar to someone else we know!). It’s the oldest natural foods cooking school in the US, and since its inception the NGI has educated thousands of chefs about health-supportive, healing foods. Her 1986 book Food and Healing is considered a fundamental textbook by many holistic nutrition programs and has been translated into several languages (though she’s written many books before and after). Annemarie passed away in 2015, but she has left a legacy that will endure for many years to come.

Jo Robinson


The Scoop: Modern life has brought us many conveniences, but unfortunately the way our food is grown and processed has led to a reduction in vitamins, minerals, fats, protein, fibre and antioxidants. Jo is a recognized expert in obtaining ‘wild’ nutrition from modern food, and she teaches us how we can forage at our supermarkets, farmers markets and local farms to get the most out of our fruits and veggies. Her 2013 book, Eating on the Wild Side, is an incredible guide to sourcing, preparing, buying and storing food to maximize its nutritional value.

Donna Gates


The Scoop: Cultured foods have been used throughout history, but it was Donna who began to transform them from the world of 70s hippies and your grandmother into the respect and popularity they enjoy today. Donna is a pioneer in digestive health, fermented foods and sugar-free eating – she introduced stevia to the US in the early 90s and coined the term ‘inner ecosystem’, and her bestselling book The Body Ecology Diet is essential reading for anyone who wants to get their digestion and cravings under control.

Dr. Amy Myers


The Scoop: Dr. Myers grew up eating homemade whole wheat bread and yogurt, and was exposed to an array of alternative therapies throughout her childhood. While in medical school, she was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid and began her quest to discover the best methods of healing. As a functional medicine specialist, she helps patients address autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders and candida through a range of dietary protocols, supplements and lifestyle practices.


Dr. Gabriel Cousens


The Scoop: Gabriel blends the world of organic, whole food, plant-based nutrition with mindful eating practices. His book Conscious Eating is considered by some to be a vegetarian bible, and his Tree of Life Center is an ecological retreat that celebrates vegan eating, organic living, holistic healing and connection with nature, joy and spirituality. Once you snag his wisdom, you won’t want to binge on chocolate chip cookies!

Dr. Andrew Weil


The Scoop: Dr. Weil is a longstanding and well-respected expert in integrative medicine. He’s authored 13 books, including cookbooks, and written countless scientific and consumer articles that help people take control of their health. He founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine to support healing medicine, the Dr. Weil Foundation to advance our knowledge of alternative education and research, and the Healthy Aging online program to boost mental and physical health. In all of his work, food and nutrients are essential to optimal wellness – and we definitely love that.

Heidi Swanson


The Scoop: Heidi began her blog to inspire others to get into the kitchen and use their cookbooks, but now she’s racked up quite a collection of books she’s authored herself! Her website and cookbooks celebrate whole, natural foods and the beautiful recipes she creates encourage us to cook from scratch, so it’s probably no surprise to you why we adore her.

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12 responses to “Top 50 Food Activists

  1. Wonderful info!

  2. Ken Fletcher

    Way too America-centric. Is there no one other than Jamie Oliver outside America? No one in Asia? Non English speaking places? You know. The majority.

    1. Academy of Culinary Nutrition

      We are North American based, and so are most familiar with the work being done on this side of the pond that affect the foods we’re eating here. If you have some awesome people from around the globe you’d like to see, we’d be happy to add them. Please share! We’re always happy to learn from our community.

      1. Mandi Kraft

        Okay. Zoe Harcombe, Dr Aseem Malhotra, Dr Tim Noakes. Start there.

      2. There are so many amazing people from around the globe who haven’t been included such as Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra from UK, Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film) from Australia, Dr Nicole Avena Research Neuroscientist from US, The Hemsley Sisters from the UK, Dr Robert Lustig, Dr David Ludwig, I could go on for days.

  3. Love the range of professions represented here-so many sources of great inspiration and knowledge!

  4. Barbara Hanover

    I would suggest two others: John La Puma MD ChefMD ( and Bernie Siegel MD ( both are leading movements in this space: La Puma in culinary medicine (now taught in 35+ medical schools: he wrote the first book and paper, taught the first class) and Siegel in mind-body medicine (he is devoted to humanizing medical care, is a senior statesman, and is especially interested in and expert in cancer treatment and complementary, holistic medicine, including holistic nutrition).

  5. Elizabeth

    You are being noticed! While listening to the Model Health Show hosted by Shawn Stevenson, I couldn’t help but notice that when he introduced his guest Tero Isokauppila, he gave a nod to the Academy of Culinary Nutrition when he mentioned that he was named as one of the Top 50 Food Activists.

    The episode can be found here:

  6. Becky

    I am familiar with and deeply respect many of the professionals listed here, but am disappointed that only TWO of the 50 are people of color (one of which is the former First Lady). What was the process of developing this list? Who was in charge of it? What efforts were made to ensure it was representative and inclusive? Off the top of my head and with little effort, here are a few of the Top U.S.-based Food Activists you missed:

    1. Ron Finley, The Gangsta Gardener
    2. Dolores Huerta, community organizer and Presidential Medal of Freedom award-winner
    3. Will Allen, Growing Power
    4. Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef
    5, 6, 7. Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Jocelyn Jackson & Saqib Keval, People’s Kitchen Collective
    8. Bryant Terry, James Beard Foundation Leadership Award-winning chef
    9. Roy Choi, chef and co-founder of LocoL
    10. Malik Yakini, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
    11. Real Food, Real Stories team
    12. Antonio Diaz, Migrant Kitchen (documentarian)
    13. Marcus Samuelsson
    14. Civil Eats lists SIXTEEN more dynamic executive directors, academics, scientists, farmers, journalists—bringing this list of food activist leaders of color that you overlooked to 30:

    Please, do better.

    1. Thank you so much for bringing these incredible people to our attention, Becky! We genuinely appreciate it when our readers share their resources and experiences with us – thank you.

  7. Lisa November 21, 2018

    Awesome list!! You might also want to check out Terry Wahls ☺

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