Some diets have ambitions a lot weightier than helping you lose a few pounds. AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama
But if you study the actual content of popular diet books, you will discover that most tell a different story. Many inspire dieters to improve the health of their bodies, society and the planet.
It’s a topic I explore in my research, as well as my 2018 book, “Diet and the Disease of Civilization.” More than merely guides for getting thin, diet books tell rich stories that urge people to change their lives to save the world.
Diets inspire change not because one is more effective than another, but because they tell stories worth believing in.
Peel away the nutrition advice and you’ll find that, while most popular diets ennoble seemingly selfish goals, they also insist that individual health is inextricably linked to the larger environment.
A quick review of diet books reveals their grand aspirations. Think of the Paleo diet. Hundreds of Paleo diets describe peaceful prehistoric communities rich with singing, dancing and storytelling. Today, leaders promise that “eating Paleo can save the world.”
Promoters of detox diets make similar claims. Detoxers believe that environmental pollution and toxins cause stress, obesity and other modern ills.
A detox book from 1984 argued that humans cannot “dissociate our fate from the fate of the earth” and insisted that “what we have learned about freeing our bodies from harmful substances must also apply to cleaning up the world.”
Today’s diets go a step further, intimating that if you’re not “eating clean” you could be eating “dirty” foods full of pesticides, toxins and carcinogens. One diet book explains that clean foods are “not only good for one’s health, but equally important for the environment.” “The Kind Diet,” a popular vegan book written by actor and animal rights activist Alicia Silverstone and Victoria Pearson, is subtitled “A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet.”
Arguably, today’s food world could use some saving.
But the environmental consequences of these food choices are just as stark. Agriculture is responsible for about one-tenth of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Farming consumes more than two-thirds of the planet’s fresh water.
And it’s specific dietary choices that are driving these environmental pressures. Animal products, for example, provide just 18 percent of the typical American’s calories yet take up 83 percent of all farmland. Just cutting down on beef would be more effective at reducing your carbon footprint than giving up your car.
The government’s role
This is where the government could learn from popular diet plans and promote sustainable diets for public health and the environment.
In its dietary guidelines, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages Americans to consume a healthy diet that focuses on foods high in nutrients and low in sugars and saturated fats. But despite the recommendation of an advisory committee, it does not include language about food system sustainability or how such diets have a well-established link to human health.
The government is also discouraging other steps toward an environmentally friendly diet. Consider the new technologies of culturing meat from living animal cells – a technology that could cut out 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the government is bending to industry concerns and enforcing needlessly strict definitions of meat, preventing soy- and lab-based products using the label.
History shows that today’s Department of Agriculture is missing a valuable opportunity. During World War I, the American government used diets to do more than improve individuals’ health. As the head of the Food Administration, Herbert Hoover urged Americans to stop wasting food so the U.S. could use it to prevent starvation in Europe. His efforts are now credited with saving the lives of about 7 million Belgians and 2 million French people.
Today’s food authorities could do the same: urge Americans to eat better because the food system is actually a web. Our food choices have a profound impact on our health and the planet.
About The Author
Adrienne Rose Bitar, Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University
Studio: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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Manufacturer: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Practical ways to explore and adapt a vegetarian lifestyle
Are you considering a vegetarian diet for yourself or your family? Wondering if it's safe and how you'll get the right amount of nutrients? This authoritative guide has all the answers you need about living vegetarian, featuring healthful advice as well as delicious dishes involving vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy.
Inside you'll find expert advice on adopting a vegetarian lifestyle, from creating a vegetarian shopping list and understanding the nutritional aspects of vegetarian eating, to using the right cooking supplies to vegetarian etiquette, eating out, and converting a kitchen-and your family's mindset-away from meat. You'll discover how to make it work when you're the only member of the house who is vegetarian, as well as how to support a family member, including a child.
- Provides the latest information on vegetarian diets as they relate to health, the environment, and other areas of our lives
- Includes tips for gradually reducing your meat intake
- Explains the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle
- Offers dozens of new recipes designed to ease the transition from omnivore to vegetarian
Whether you're a long-time vegetarian or just starting out, Living Vegetarian For Dummies, 2nd Edition is your guide to evaluating and enjoying a meat-free lifestyle.
- Ships from Vermont
Brand: Medinform Publishing
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Manufacturer: Medinform Publishing
Another blockbuster from Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the creator and author of the GAPS Protocol―Gut And Psychology / Gut And Physiology Syndrome. Her GAPS Nutritional Protocol has been used successfully by hundreds of thousands of people around the world for treating a plethora of chronic health problems, from mental illness to physical disorders. Her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome has been translated into sixteen languages. She has now undertaken an intense study into the value of plant foods versus animal foods. Vegetarianism Explained: Making an Informed Decision is the result of this study. Dr Campbell-McBride gives a full scientific description of how animal and plant foods are digested and used by the human body. This information will give the reader a good understanding on how to feed their body to achieve optimal health and vitality.
This book is an essential read for those who are considering a plant-based lifestyle and those who are already following a vegetarian or a vegan diet. The subject of fasting is covered and will give the reader a good understanding on how to use this method for healing and health. This book will also answer questions on where our food comes from and how it is produced, how to eat in harmony with your body’s needs and how we should introduce small children to the world of food.
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride is known for her ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a language easily understood by all. Vegetarianism Explained will be enjoyed by all ages of adults – from young teenagers to mature professionals. For those who are scientifically minded the book is fully referenced.
- Forks Over Knives The Cookbook Over 300 Recipes for Plant Based Eating All Through the Year
Brand: AMERICAN WEST BOOKS
- Isa Chandra Moskowitz
- Julieanna Hever MS RD CPT
- Darshana Thacker
- Judy Micklewright
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A whole-foods, plant-based diet that has never been easier or tastier—learn to cook the Forks Over Knives way with more than 300 recipes for every day!
Forks Over Knives—the book, the film, the movement—is back again in a cookbook. The secret is out: If you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, avoid cancer, and prevent (or even reverse) type 2 diabetes and heart disease, the right food is your best medicine. Thousands of people have cut out meat, dairy, and oils and seen amazing results. If you’re among them—or you’d like to be—you need this cookbook.
Del Sroufe, the man behind some of the mouthwatering meals in the landmark documentary, proves that the Forks Over Knives philosophy is not about what you can’t eat, but what you can. Chef Del and his collaborators Julieanna Hever, Judy Micklewright, Darshana Thacker, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz transform wholesome fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes into hundreds of recipes—classic and unexpected, globally and seasonally inspired, and for every meal of the day, all through the year:
- Breakfast: Very Berry Smoothie, Breakfast Quinoa with Apple Compote
- Salads, Soups and Stews: Kale Salad with Maple-Mustard Dressing, Lotsa Vegetable Chowder, Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Stew
- Pasta and Noodle Dishes: Mushroom Stroganoff, Stir-Fried Noodles with Spring Vegetables
- Stir-Fried, Grilled and Hashed Vegetables: Grilled Eggplant “Steaks”
- Baked and Stuffed Vegetables: Millet-Stuffed Chard Rolls
- The Amazing Bean: White Beans and Escarole with Parsnips
- Great Grains: Polenta Pizza with Tomatoes and Basil
- Desserts: Apricot Fig Squares, Bursting with Berries Cobbler . . . and much more!
Simple, affordable, and delicious, the recipes in Forks Over Knives—The Cookbook put the power of real, healthy food in your hands. Start cooking the plant-based way today—it could save your life!