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How to save the planet by eating healthily

February 10, 2010

Originally published at No Impact Man.

If there is a Grand Designer or a Universal Intelligence who made this world, it makes sense to me that He, She or It designed the place so that the interests of human beings and the interests of the rest of Creation work in harmony. Let’s face it, a Grand Designer who made a planet that put the interests of the people at odds with the rest of the world would have to be either mean or dumb!

Well, it turns out that, in food like nowhere else, the needs of humans and the needs of the planet are entirely in sync. Thanks, Grand, Munificent Designer!

To wit, in the New York Times, Jane Brody last week wrote about the two fundamental reasons Americans and other Westerners need to change their diet:

One, as [Michael] Pollan [author, most recently, of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual] points out, is that populations who rely on the so-called Western diet — lots of processed foods, meat, added fat, sugar and refined grains — “invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.” Indeed, 4 of the top 10 killers of Americans are linked to this diet…

The second fact is that people who consume traditional diets, free of the ersatz foods that line our supermarket shelves, experience these diseases at much lower rates. And those who, for reasons of ill health or dietary philosophy, have abandoned Western eating habits often experience a rapid and significant improvement in their health indicators.

Brody then goes on to quote the single piece of eating advice from Pollan that would help our hearts, minds and bodies AND our planet:

“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”

Guess what? That is pretty much the rule for environmental eating too, as long as you add the piece about the food that came from a plant being grown locally, and seasonally. That ensures that your food is fresh, too.

All and all, it’s pretty simple, right? Not necessarily easy, since some neighborhoods have many more McDonalds and KFCs than places you can buy fruit and veg, but simple.

Here are some other rules of Pollan’s Brody thinks are important:

  • Nothing sweetened with anything
  • Avoid refined flour which just like sugar to the body
  • Cook for yourself so that you control what goes in your body
  • For snacks, stick to fresh and dried fruits, vegetables and nuts
  • Eat less, and you can afford to pay more for better foods, like plants grown in organically enriched soil and animals that are range-fed
  • Eat at a table–not at a desk or in front of TV–so you actually pay attention to how much your eat#

I think we Singaporeans have a lot to learn from this. Myself included! Especially the part about eating at a table instead of at a desk or in front of the TV.


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