While we continue to hear almost every day that we should eat more fruits, vegetables, and grains; we almost never hear that we should be eating more meat. But rarely will you hear any public figure actually weigh in on whether or not we actually "need" to eat meat.
Yesterday, the new USDA food guide (a dinner plate) was unveiled by Michelle Obama and Tom Vilsack (Secretary of Agriculture). There you have it in this picture -- the recommended plate is over 3/4 vegetables, fruits and grains. But what about that little piece of the "pie" in the lower right corner, "Protein?"
This category ignores the fact that the other three healthy items have ALL the protein that we will ever need. Now the meat industry was probably not happy with their little "protein" corner, but I think that this is actually a big win for them -- almost guaranteeing that people everywhere will continue to think of "meat" and "protein" as synonyms. That is simply not true as any dietician or nutritional scientist can tell you.
Did anyone notice that the "dinner plate" above has only a fork beside it? The knife is mysteriously missing, or maybe that was a win for us whole plant eaters. Like the movie "Forks over Knives" conveys; you really don't need a knife very often if you're eating at the "4-Leaf " level.
Due to special interests, our government will continue to mislead the public and will thereby ensure the continuation of the harmful, inefficient and unsustainable western diet consisting of meat and dairy three meals a day. Speaking of "dairy," I almost forgot to mention that little circle in the upper right corner. Appearing to be a glass of milk, I suppose it means any product produced by the almighty dairy industry.
Simple clarification needed. What would happen if the FDA, the CDC and the top five schools of nutrition clarified the following guidelines? (Notice I didn't include the USDA in the above -- obvious conflict for them) For maximum health, we, the FDA , CDC and notable scientific experts, recommend the following two simple guidelines:
- Eat primarily whole plants and products made from them with as little refinement as possible...and don't worry about protein, nature will ensure that you will get all you need.
- Avoid all meat, dairy, eggs, and fish as these products are high in saturated fat, are associated with the promotion of chronic diseases, use 20 times more energy per calorie (than plants), require 20 times more land per calorie and are contributing mightily to global warming and the destruction of the fragile harmony of planet Earth.
So what would happen if the Feds endorsed the above? Probably not much at first, since hardly anyone ever planned their meals using the USDA Pyramid anyway. But their endorsement would be huge in terms of increasing the pace of public acceptance of the health-promoting plant-based diet.
The China Study (January 2005) reported overwhelming scientific and clinical evidence of the health benefits of the above guidelines, and John Robbins in his many books has been reporting on the other problems for the past 25 years. I would even settle for Michael Pollan's own "food guidelines" that he put on the cover of his book, In Defense of Food. He said simply, "Eat Food -- Mostly Plants -- Not too much."
Fortunately, mainstream media giants like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman (New York Times) are "getting it" in terms of the many health, energy and environmental problems associated with eating meat, eggs and/or dairy three meals a day -- but they're coming up short on really telling it like it is.
They never tell you flatly that we simply DO NOT NEED any animal protein of any kind - EVER. They are still dancing around with the old "meat is okay if it is grass fed and sustainable" routine. Here's a quote from Mark Bittman's article from May 31 (See link to full article at the end of this post.)
As much as we like eating animals, naturally crave them and are encouraged by misinformation (often a better word than “marketing”)....They’re produced badly, they cause immeasurable damage to both our bodies and the earth, and — compared with the real thing — they don’t taste that good.
In limited quantities, meat is just fine, especially sustainably raised meat (and wild game), locally and ethically produced dairy and eggs, the remaining wild or decently cultivated fish.
No matter where we live, if we focused on those — none of which are in abundant supply, which is exactly the point — and used them to augment the kind of diet we’re made to eat, one based on plants as a staple, with these other things as treats, we’d all be better off. We can’t afford to wait to evolve.
Once again, I should remind you that I truly appreciate the work of people like Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan. Their work is moving us in the right direction -- just not nearly fast enough in my opinion. As a "big picture guy," once I truly understand thatpicture, I like to make it as simple as possible so that the least intelligent and/or the least educated among us, will have no trouble understanding it completely.
But our Federal government has big industries to worry about so will continue to totally confuse the American public for forseeable future. In the meantime, we promise to tell you the clear "bottom line" every chance we get. Our simple eating advice is to maximize the percent of your daily calories from whole plants -- all explained very simply in our 4-Leaf Program. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day…
—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at healthyeatinghealthyworld.com