The top nutrition breakthrough of the last decade was the demonstration that whole, unprocessed plant foods are the healthiest diet. Pioneering researchers and passionate consumers published at least 34 books between 2000 and 2009 proving the nutritional advantages of a whole foods eating plan. This practical nutrition information leads the way to new food choices that will define the next decade.
Ph.D.s, physicians, dieticians, and other professionals wrote 23 of these 34 key books (see list here), shredding tired nutrition myths along the way. "The weight of evidence for a whole foods diet is overwhelming," observes Janice Stanger, Ph.D., author of The Perfect Formula Diet.
"No other single change can address so many critical threats to our national well-being. This diet is the cornerstone to address the devastation of chronic illness and obesity, the soaring price of health care, and environmental issues all with one simple step."
Here are ten reasons that whole foods will outclass the competition over the next decade - or even sooner.
1. The rising cost of health care in the Unites States is not sustainable. Americans already work two months out of every year just to pay for health care. Some of these costs are obvious, such as insurance premiums, deductibles, and copays. Individual's taxes support Medicare, Medicaid, and other public health programs. But every purchase has a hidden health care component to pay for insurance for the supplier's workers and for the supplier's health-related taxes. Without a switch to a whole foods diet, keeping these costs from climbing even higher will be difficult and paying for health care will eat ever more of the GDP. Any health care reform legislation will not change this fact.
2. Celebrities and sports figures are defining the trend. Well-known stars and musicians, including Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Silverstone, Alanis Morissette, and Moby share their plant-based dietary choices. Athletes on a whole foods diet have a performance edge without steroids. A sampling of athletes sticking to a diet based on whole foods includes Brendan Brazier, ultra marathon champion, Ruth Heidrich, triathlete with over 900 wins, Pat Neshek, Minnesota Twins pitcher, and Salim Stoudamire, Atlanta Hawk's shooting guard.
3. Knowledge about a whole foods diet is becoming mainstream. Several of the 34 key books have been or are currently bestsellers. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet all are brimming with information on nutrition stories due to high consumer interest.
4. Baby boomers seek health for themselves and their families. Aging boomers want to slow the passage of the years and stay vigorous well into old age. A whole foods diet makes a huge difference to health and the pace of aging.
5. Whole foods are more effective than exercise in losing weight and maintaining health. Only quitting smoking can rival a change in diet for making a difference through lifestyle. Calorie-restricted diets and their many variations simply don't work in the long run, as anyone who is overweight has discovered.
6. Excellent recipes and cookbooks (http://perfectformuladiet.com/resources/) with whole foods ingredients and healthy cooking techniques abound in bookstores and on the Internet. Health conscious eaters can choose among several hundred plant-based cookbooks and recipe sites too plentiful to count.
7. Whole foods are conveniently available in restaurants and stores. Just about any supermarket has dairy-free milk alternatives, whole grain pasta and bread, veggie burgers, a huge produce section, and many other health-friendly alternatives. Restaurants are catching on, with plant-based meals on the menu or readily available on request.
8. Awareness of factory farm problems continues to grow. Books focusing on raising animals for food, including Jonathan Safran Foer's bestseller Eating Animals, penetrate the national conscience and drive the search for alternatives.
9. The environmental cost of animal and processed foods is not sustainable. Producing these foods uses staggering amounts of water, energy, pesticides and herbicides, and land compared to the resources required for whole plant foods. Making green choices is important for consumers.
10. Whole foods are budget friendly. Potatoes, beans, and grains are among the lowest cost food choices and certainly deliver value in terms of nutrients per dollar spent. In-season produce that is on sale, or frozen fruits and vegetables, also help consumers stretch their food dollars. Refining whole foods costs money for both the factory and the advertising, and consumers pay for both when they buy processed foods.
The first decade of the 21st century was the time for groundbreaking research on nutrition and health. Scientists and physicians delved into thousands of studies and shared the results in books that converge on one conclusion: people are healthy and happy on a whole foods plant-based diet. The next decade will see these discoveries put into action.
Janice Stanger Ph.D. is the author of The Perfect Formula Diet.