mostly plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family. Old Harvest Way, 2019.
It’s amazing to me just how controversial is diet and food. Perhaps it should be of no surprise, given that food is a human universal, and there’s absolutely nothing universal about the kind, type, quantity, and style of food that we eat. Food is as much identity as it is nutrition. Kindly declining a meal in some cultures is akin to an insult. For those of us who are seeking the truth of the matter, it is actually quite difficult for an everyday person in a modern industrialized and technologized society to have a good understanding of the dietary science. Not only is the science notoriously complicated, but the propaganda is notoriously forceful.
A good example is The Game Changers, Netflix’s documentary on veganism. There was no shortage of counter-videos and articles posted not long after it debuted, and the dissent was strong if not outraged. Admittedly, the entire enterprise was couched in conspiratorial and ominous tones, making objectivism that much more difficult. The result? A very well crafted and storied documentary with really sloppy reporting. Ugh. Disappointing. I really want something more sensible for the wisdom I need for what I put in my (and my family’s) body.
Enter Michael Pollan. His axiom: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” is about as brilliant as it can get; decades of research in terms that our psychologies can grasp. This (cook)book, mostly plants is also not avowedly “vegetarian” or “vegan.” It is flexitarian, a term that calms the defenses and invites discovery. I appreciate that it does not shy away from stating the facts about the environmental impacts of meat-eating. But neither is it presented as a “do-or-die” choice. Well, I suppose we’ll all die eventually. Eating like this can help us get there with as little pain as possible.
So, I post this here in hopes that you’ll consider giving flexitarianism a try with me? Let’s reduce our carbon footprint, decrease our chances of disease, enjoy better tastes, and save money! Let’s “turn over a new leaf” (ha ha, *groans*) in 2020!
…I recommended “mostly plants” because that is what the science tells us. We Americans tend to cast our eating choices in either-or ideological terms, and there is certainly environmental and ethical cases to be made for going vegetarian: meat eating contributes mightily to climate change, and many people question the morality of eating animals. It doesn’t have to be that way–there are farms that raise animals sustainably and humanely, but these are still the exception to the rule of industrial meat production, and even at its most sustainable, a meat-centric diet has a bigger carbon footprint than a plant-based diet. (viii)
| But the case I was making by advocating for a diet consisting mostly of plants was foremost about our health. (viii)
…absolutism about eating is not how most of us really live, especially when we’re trying to satisfy a wide diversity of eaters and appetites. There’s something here for everyone, including the intermittent carnivore. (x)
| There’s no good nutritional reason to banish meat from your table, not if you crave it or like what it can add to a dish. The research shows that vegetarians are healthier and longer-lived than the rest of us, but it also shows that “flexitarians”–those who eat meat once or twice a week–fare just as well as vegetarians. (Curiously, researchers can’t say for sure whether the problem with a meat-centric diet is with the meat itself, or is it with the absence of the vegetables–and their healthful qualities–which all that meat pushes off the plate. But either way, the advice is the same: eat more plants, less flesh.) (x)
According to a recent study, “Replacing 3 percent of dietary protein from animal products with proteins from grains, vegetables or other plants reduces the risk of death regardless of any other unhealthy lifestyle choice…” Research shows that flexitarians are at a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, have a reduced risk of many types of cancers and heart disease, have improved cholesterol levels, and in general have lower mortality rates from these diseases. In addition, studies have demonstrated that people who consume a plant-based diet also consume more of every essential nutrient the body needs, dispelling the myth that meat-free diets are nutrient deficient. (4)