The highlight of my week was getting to meet Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and featured in the documentary Food Inc. I was amazed at how starstruck I was, meeting him I could only say a few words and smiled like an idiot. Ah, the idol of a lowly dietitian.
And here’s why I think he is so awe-inspiring- he understands how diet impacts both our health and the environment. True, a low-fat, vegetarian diet is the only diet that has been shown to lower risk and reduce incidence of heart disease but bring preachy isn’t the game of this blog. However, I would like to promote of the messages that Michael Pollan brings up time and time again in his work, the concept of Meatless Monday.
Here are some highlights from the lecture. Like I said before, it’s not meant to convince you to go vegetarian, but maybe to help improve you health and the health of our environment by giving up meat just one day a week. If you are inspired, and get a chance I highly recommend MP’s books, especially In Defense of Food, it’s a quicker read than Omnivores Dilemma, but delivers the same message: Eat Food, Not too much, Mostly Plants.
1. The percent of income we spend on food as drastically decreased. in 1910, the average American spent 24%, in 1960 we spent 18%, as of 2009 we only spend 10% of our income on food. We are choosing cheap, quantity calories, not nutritious quality calories.
2. Increases in meat consumption is responsible for the top three problems we face: fossil fuel dependence and use; health care crisis/obesity epidemic and climate change.
20% of our nations fossil fuel consumption goes directly to food production; while $500 billion dollars are spent annually on preventable, chronic diseases. Diseases that healthy diets have been shown to prevent and even reverse. 1/3 of the greenhouse gases produced are from the food system.
3. Fossil fuels are used in every link in the food chain: fertilizer, pesticides, equipment, processing, and transportation. Oil is the secret ingredient used to make “cheap food.”
4. Our nation supports both sides of bad health: we subsidize corn and soy products to produce unhealthy, cheap food. High fructose corn syrup is a great example of this. We then consume these types of food because they are readily available and in nearly every product we use. The overconsumption of these types of foods tax our health system as we develop obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes. You get to vote three times a day, by choosing healthy, locally grown food that isn’t made in a plant, you vote with your fork.
5. Cutting out meat just 1 day per week has the same equivalence of driving a Prius. Most of us can’t afford to buy a new Prius, but we can cut out meat 1 day a week. It’s also great for your health! A low-fat, vegetarian diet is the only diet to have reversed heart disease. Join the Meatless Monday movement, find out more at www.meatlessmonday.org