A Healthy Planet Diet for the Prevention of Disease
The Healthy Planet Diet is the one way of eating that makes the most sense for preventing the diseases of civilization while preserving the livability of our planet. A growing number of people are beginning to see that turning a large amount of vegetable protein into a small amount of meat (plus a large pile of manure) is unsustainable.
Our vaunted Western system of agriculture turns imported fossil fuels into food and then feeds it to cows, pigs, and chickens at a loss — or alternately, we grow corn with natural gas based fertilizer and turn it into ethanol, also at a loss of energy. This is insane.
Both our excessive consumption of animal-source foods and our oil-based sedentary lifestyle are the twin causes of most of our diseases. Viewed from an economic standpoint, our agriculture system is operating at a loss, while creating a diabetes epidemic alone that is predicted to bankrupt our medical system.
A Civilization That Squanders Declining Supplies of Critical Resources Is a Recipe for Disaster
People in the developed societies consume too many of the wrong foods, too few of the right ones, and do too little physical work to burn off the excess calories. Our abundance of what the less-developed world would call luxuries is causing the most common diseases that are sickening us and ending our lives prematurely.
Fortunately, a small but growing number of conscientious individuals in Western societies are taking action to correct this dysfunctional living pattern.
I personally was motivated to do something about my risk for heart disease and diabetes after losing three members of my close family to them before I turned sixteen.
There is not time nor space to credit all the leaders of this movement to rationalize our dietary habits in light of a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for all residents of this unique planet, but the book Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe’ was a huge impetus in getting a large number of people thinking about this issue. Since then, the works of John Robbins have also been seminal.
Their basic premise is that our present methods of growing an average of ten pounds of corn and soybeans to feed to cows for each pound of beef that we receive is an unwise use of protein. To spend a lot of effort and fossil fuels to produce meat at a net loss of protein is unsustainable, cruel to animals, immoral, and unnecessary for human health, they argue.
A growing segment of the medical and health research community are coming to agree with this position, notably T.Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. Dean Ornish, to name just a few.
With growing food costs leading to riots in many parts of the world — and a diminishing supply of cheap oil and natural gas leading to wars for the remaining reserves — it might be wise for the average person in prosperous Westernized nations to begin to think seriously about adjusting their dietary habits.
Our Unhealthy Diet Is Driving Our High Health Care Costs
It is unfortunate that only a few people see the connection between what they eat and their health outcomes. Fewer still see that what wealthy nations waste in terms of energy used for food production is a root cause for the growing resentment felt toward them by the poorer nations.
The concept of a Healthy Planet Diet is a way to bring personal meaning to the many worries the average Western national faces every day: Weight gain, heart disease, several common cancers, the high cost of medical care, food prices, and gasoline costs.
All these issues, plus the importance of maintaining precious soil and water supplies needed to continue to support life on this earth, are related. A healthy environment is important for our long-term survival just as much as it is cherished as a place to “get away from it all”.
None of this is an extreme viewpoint. In the U.S., mainstream recommendations by public health agencies (1)(2) are routinely ignored by the average person who would prefer to center their calorie consumption around meat, dairy foods, and refined carbohydrates.
Only 27% of the U.S. population get the recommended three servings of vegetables a day (3). Thanks to government subsidies for luxury items such as meat, milk, and soft drinks, these least-healthy items are less expensive and therefore more often chosen by the poor. This adds to the cost of health care for us all.
The Healthy Planet Diet is a simple way to bring all these critical issues into focus. Our unhealthy, unnatural, and unnecessary choices of what we eat are causing problems far beyond our expanding waistlines. It is time for leadership in breaking our addiction to an unhealthy way of eating that could easily bring about the collapse of our way of life.
Feeding healthy vegetable protein to fatten farm animals while millions in the Third World go hungry is a recipe for more armed conflict in the world.
How we eat in the USA affects the prices of staple foods in the developing world. To ignore this fact is akin to “fiddling while Rome burns.”
Sources: (1) National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, “Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes Guide” — ” Diets
with too much saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol are the main cause for high levels of blood cholesterol a leading contributor to the high rate of heart attacks among Americans.”
(2) National Cancer Institute, National Cancer Trends Progress Report, 2009-2010: “People whose diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of getting cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, lung, and there is some suggested evidence for a lower risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas, and prostate. They are also less likely to get diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps to reduce calorie intake and may help to control weight.”
(3) USAToday, 9/29/2009 reporting on a new U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention study.
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