The Planetary Health Diet Isn’t Much Use to People Living in Food Poverty

Yves here. Mass market food producers have not been good actors in promoting a healthy diet. Among other things, adding sugar to products makes them taste better and “snacks, drinks, and processed foods that are high in sugar have the highest profit margins.”

By Anya Pearson, a freelance journalist and editor, and guitarist in feminist punk band Dream Nails. Originally published at openDemocracy

Picture: Images of meals used in the Planetary Health Diet report.

 

The ‘planetary health diet’ was announced yesterday by an international commission established to prevent millions of deaths a year and avoid climate change. But for the 5 million people in the UK who are estimated to be malnourished or at risk of becoming so, the high cost of this earth-friendly diet will be out of this world.

The ‘planetary health diet’ is a welcome initiative to define a sustainable diet in the face of global environmental catastrophe and widespread lack of access to healthy food, and the ambition of the commission’s report is compelling. But with fresh berries, avocado, sourdough bread and fresh edamame served up on the planetary menu put together by the Guardian, the sample meals seem more like offerings from the latest book by Deliciously Ella instead of truly accessible, affordable food.

There’s no price breakdown included in the menu, but meals like “courgette, cavolo nero and tomato gratin with breadcrumbs and almonds, and a green salad and polenta on the side” are likely to be out of financial reach for the almost 4 million children in the UK who are estimated to live in households that struggle to afford enough fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to meet official nutrition guidelines as it is.

These sample meals are simply intended to demonstrate that it’s possible to produce appetising food using the diet, but they raise an important concern. People shouldn’t be forced to choose between eating well, and eating in an environmentally conscious way. In Britain, where food deserts are becoming increasingly commonplace, the messaging around the ‘planetarian’ diet (to coin a phrase) has to be very carefully managed, or it risks being read as another middle-class fad instead of what it is: an urgent call to arms.

The report acknowledges that the “concerted commitment can be achieved by making healthy foods more available, accessible and affordable in place of unhealthier alternatives”. The challenge, should we choose to accept it, is to double our national consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes and halve our consumption of red meat and sugar by 2050. If the UK is to reach this target without leaving millions of families behind, business leaders and policy-makers need to work with farmers, supermarkets, suppliers and communities to tackle the gross inequality in the UK food system. And the government must lead the way by taking decisive action to subsidise healthy, sustainable food.

We can start by ending the damaging conflation between ‘sustainable’ food and luxury. The point is left just hanging in the air that being ‘environmental’ is expensive as if it’s a law of physics. Healthy and environmentally sustainable food is not unavoidably or inherently expensive – it’s the result of political and economic choices.

We are, understandably, quite resistant to being ‘told what to eat’. And often the campaigning messages get it wrong (step up Peta, who have chosen this week to ruin vegetables for everyone). But hidden behind cheap price tags are existing price systems and subsidies which already influence what people decide to cook for dinner – or can afford to buy in the first place.

People have become disconnected from the way food is produced, so wholesale systemic change needs to happen at the local level if it’s to gain enough traction. Schools, local growing projects and public health initiatives all have a part to play. Change the system, and you truly give people the choice to go green.

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58 comments

  1. Demented chimp

    Nonsense beginning to end. We are not resource constrained we are knowledge constrained. Everyone going veggie is such a nonsensical side issue and teaching people to eat differently is silly.

    Lab meat cheaper energy, suck up the carbon, let’s get real about this.

    Reply
  2. PlutoniumKun

    The whole issue of eating healthy comes up against a whole range of cultural and societal and economic issues. I’ve talked to local doctors who work in areas in the UK who say that its a struggle to get their patients to eat just one portion of vegetables each day. Its not just about money – it depends on where you live, but in inner city areas in many cities you can find ‘ethnic’ shops that sell very healthy foods either dried or canned that are much cheaper than the processed crap that most people seem to eat. People don’t take advantage because they don’t know how. In my area in Dublin there was a scheme where unemployed men (most of whom had wives who were working in low pay jobs such as cleaners) were taught how to shop for ingredients and cook cheap nutritious meals for their kids. It was a big success – the men genuinely took great pride in being able to help out their families – it was pretty clear that most of them simply didn’t know how to do it before, so covered up their ignorance with macho bluff about cooking not being a mans job.

    Of course, the whole thing about healthy eating being something for hipsters and the middle classes can be quite damaging. I like the youtube recipes from the Happy Pear – they have lots of demonstrations on how to cook great meals for a euro a meal – but the whole hippy dippy vibe really puts so many people off, its no wonder they just go and buy a frozen pizza instead.

    Reply
      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yeah, I’m not vegan either, but that’s the link I send when any students in my family complain about the cost of food and how hard it is to cook. My local supermarket is next to some student accommodation and I keep thinking about that every time I find myself standing behind some students with baskets piled with junk (as I did last night, they were complaining about lack of money while they had a basket full of frozen pizzas and doritos).

        The Happy Pear can be annoyingly upbeat sometimes, but their recipe demonstrations are fantastic, I’m not much of a cook but even I can follow them easily. Their restaurant is fab, that rare vegan place that even meat eaters love.

        Reply
        1. MichaelSF

          We had a nice “white tablecloth” vegetarian restaurant around the corner from us. The chef was from South Africa and served a mixture of food based on the different cultures in that country. We’re ominivores but we went there a lot, because the food was so tasty.

          The chef pointed out to us that his dishes took more work to prepare than was needed to pull a slab of meat out of the refrigerator and throw it on the grill for 5-6 minutes.

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          1. tegnost

            on a tangent, I recently discovered that the ghost pepper, or habanero, is commonly used in african cooking (do I recall that it was east africa or the congo? not sure). I’ve always worried about the heat of these peppers, but I’ve found they add a very complex, fruity, almost smoky flavor when used in prep (as in cooked in, not sprinkled on top as garnish). Related to diet, meat consumption and the like, I’ve been getting more beans, so many different varieties makes it possible to have a varied menu but I still eat a couple of steaks a month without any decent justification. Stew is great as it gets lots of vegetables involved. I avoid ground meat, but the local market on san juan island makes their own italian sausage, and since I chat with the butcher I give myself a pass, along with the occasional hamburger, which tends to be better when you want it than it is after you’ve had it. Hmm. Cauliflower is a great meat substitute when cooking dal, stew, etc. Turmeric is good and good for you. One can have a hearty (pun intended, dad has a stent) vegetarian diet, and it’s pretty much never too late. Lose the sugar. Lose the sugar. Lose the sugar. There said it three times so it’s easy to remember. You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy intensely flavorful and extremely healthy, food but it does take time to prepare, and a kitchen to prepare in. Currently also experimenting with veggie patty to replace the hamburger so any recipes for such would be appreciated as that task seems to be approaching rocket science.

            Reply
    1. Ford Prefect

      A lot of this historically has been class driven. My father is originally from Europe and generally only eats white bread because it was poor people who ate whole grain bread, and nobody wanted to be viewed as poor. Wonderbread in the US was a similar type of phenomenon. So now the entire bread industry is structured around highly processed inexpensive white bread for shelf life while whole grain breads are generally more expensive and less available.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        I’ve never really understood Wonderbread popularity as has no flavor, no texture, and falls apart easily. There has always been other brands of white bread that are far better and I do believe that the company’s multi-decade ad campaign was the reason for its success

        Reply
    2. kareninca

      “very healthy foods either dried or canned”

      Canned food contains bisphenol A:

      “The researchers found that people who consumed one canned food item in the past day had about 24% higher concentrations of BPA in their urine compared with those who had not consumed canned food. The consumption of two or more canned food items resulted in about 54% higher concentrations of BPA.” “eating canned soup resulted in a whopping 229% higher concentration of BPA compared with consuming no canned foods” (https://www.cnn.com/2016/06/29/health/canned-foods-bpa-risk/index.html

      “Scientists have continued to examine whether BPA exposure from canned foods poses a health risk. The concern stems from how BPA can hack and disrupt the normal responses of hormones in the body. For instance, it can mimic the effects of estrogen. In doing so, it can reprogram cells, causing a plethora of health problems. .
      “BPA exposure is associated with many adverse health effects including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, reproductive development issues, amongst others,” Hartle said.”

      Dried food can be problematic, too. A lot of it is from countries that do not have good inspection or quality control standards.

      Reply
      1. crittermom

        Here’s a more recent article regarding BPA, & not just in plastics as the title might suggest.
        https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/09/news-BPA-free-plastic-safety-chemicals-health/

        Since evidence came out it could be harmful, many substitutes are being used–which appear just as bad.
        https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)30861-3

        From the article:
        “Studies in monkeys, humans, fish, and worms suggest BPA effects extend across species…”

        “Like with BPA, our data show that exposure to common replacement bisphenols induces germline effects in both sexes that may affect multiple generations.”

        “Rapid production of structural variants of BPA and other EDCs circumvents efforts to eliminate dangerous chemicals, exacerbates the regulatory burden of safety assessment, and increases environmental contamination.”

        Well, it seems you should only eat what you can grow, or following that, maybe can & freeze all you can of what’s in season (in glass containers)?

        I remember my mom & gramma spending hours canning various foods from the garden.
        As a kid, I (now regrettably) had no interest in such things so I’d grab my cane pole & head to the pond to fish, or catch turtles & frogs.

        Reply
        1. crittermom

          And more…
          https://www.cbsnews.com/news/bpa-chemical-canned-food-study/

          From the article:

          “Margulis also pointed out that low-income Americans may be most at risk.”

          “The study found more than half the cans purchased at 99 Cents Only contained BPA.”

          “In many areas, dollar stores are the only places people can go for fruits and vegetables,” said Margulis.

          Anyone remember the recent articles here on NC about dollar stores & how they’re rapidly moving into poor areas?

          Reply
    3. jefemt

      One of our son’s friends works in Head Start programs. In addition to early education, childhood development, Head Start hosts paernts and caregivers to sessions on identifying healthy inexpensive nutritious foodstuffs, readily available if one is not in a food desert, along with home economics.

      Teach a man to fish… then cut funding for Head Start

      Reply
      1. TimH

        Some practical advice for those with zero spare time and little money:
        1. Get a slow cooker. Put vegetables (root) and a little meat (ideally) in first thing in the morning, you get dinner at night. Leftovers for work-lunch. Ground pork is cheap meat and adds flavouring, barley and lentils go straight in without soaking and add texture and thickening
        2. Dried beans/pulse as much cheaper than canned, cook fast in a pressure cooker if you soak for 24 hours first. Extras freeze well. You have to plan ahead… but since you now are, the cheapest cooking is to bring up to pressure and hold there for 5 mins, then turn off and ignore for 2-12 hours. Ready in the morning or evening if you do this in the evening or morning. No bacteria will get into a pressure cooker after cooking, so it’s a free big “can”
        until opened.
        3. Personal opinion… Indian vegetarian recipes are the nicest

        Reply
  3. clarky90

    “One may regret living in a period when it is impossible to form an idea of the shape the world of the future will assume. But there is one thing I can predict to eaters of meat: the world of the future will be vegetarian.” – Adolf Hitler

    In a diary entry dated 26 April 1942, Joseph Goebbels described Hitler as a committed vegetarian, writing,

    “An extended chapter of our talk was devoted by the Führer to the vegetarian question. He believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. After the war, however, he intends to tackle this problem also. Maybe he is right. Certainly the arguments that he adduces in favor of his standpoint are very compelling.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler_and_vegetarianism

    Reply
  4. makedoanmend

    Time: If you are exhausted from working 2 or more jobs (esp. if you travel), a microwave meal is a god send
    Precarity: Food might be the one area of your life where you get some instant satisfaction from an otherwise deteriorating situation
    Cost: basic things like nuts and dried beans are proportionally higher priced than many over-processed foods in the super market + some take time to prepare
    Income consumed by cost of living: a mate in NYC once commented upon a couple whose wages barely covered their rent for a room. They had no cooking facilities. Yes they ate tinned food and some dated fruit, but once a day they wanted a hot meal which consisted of fried rice from a local takeaway
    Advertising: keeping up appearances, being in the in-crowd
    Other: as PK covered already

    And lets face it, people are waking up to the fact that many are barely getting by or having to go to modern soup kitchens, called Food Banks in the UK (without the slightest bit irony). Meanwhile other people are worried about making sure their fortunes are not subject to UK taxes or, as one leading proponent of Brexit has done, setting up a financial business in the EU (Dublin) to ensure their fortune continues to grow. In such circumstances healthy eating is a subject that is at the bottom of many people’s concerns or expectation.

    This situation is surely a sign that the rights of the wealthy now triumph over the common good.

    Reply
    1. wilroncanada

      “Soup kitchens” and “Food banks” are not the same thing, though they may at times occupy adjoining space. Soup kitchens feed people, the poor, the indigent, etc. and food banks give away boxes or bags of donated food to be prepared at home.

      Reply
  5. Jacques

    As a South African living in a small town I have never even seen most of the foods mentioned in the article. I am also quite sure that not even rich South Africans can buy most of those foods in the cities.

    I read somewhere that child deaths in the UK dropped sharply during WWII. That was due to rationing. The government told the population that there will not be much food available, but that the food on the rations cards will always be available. And people were forced to eat everything available, and that included all the vegetables.

    Maybe it is time to bring rationing back.

    Reply
  6. Steve H.

    Hoosier roots: New exhibit looks at greenhouse legacy”

    “More than 80 growers featured these “acres under glass,” providing fresh vegetables and fruit to central Indiana year-round.”

    ““The German Growers of Indianapolis” gathers historical photographs and images dating back into the 1860s, combining it with first-person accounts of the southside’s greenhouse heritage from families who still practice it.”

    ““Right now, there’s a growing interest in the farm-to-table movement, locally grown, locally sourced foods. I think it’s notable to recognize that 150 years ago, there were folks who were developing a robust system of locally grown and distributed produce,” Gonzales said.””

    1860’s is before we started generating food from fossil fuels. These were year-round sources, and Indianapolis is not warm in the winter.

    Reply
  7. Ian Perkins

    One of the planetary health diet’s recommendations was to eat less – much less – red meat. Beef typically consumes far more resources than vegetables do. Eating more beans and vegetables should generally be a cheaper option if land is not given over to growing corn and soybeans to feed to pigs and cattle.
    India was predominantly vegetarian for ages, largely for reasons of poverty. Vegetarian travellers have told me it used to be unnecessary to ask if a street meal contained meat; you could assume that it didn’t.
    Of course, as countries like China and India have developed, meat consumptioin has increased. And of course, UK agribusiness and its cousin the food industry make it easier to eat junk food than healthy food. But there’s nothing inherently more expensive about a healthier diet.

    Reply
  8. diptherio

    Seems to me that a sustainable diet would likely be dependent on where you live. How sustainable is shipping almonds around the world if you don’t live in a place that grows them?

    Personally, I think we’d do better focusing on eating locally produced and processed food, rather than vegetables from thousands of miles away.

    Reply
    1. anon y'mouse

      Yep, I was giving their menu suggestions the strong side eye. Hardly any of that stuff would be “local” in much of the U.S., much less U.K.

      Hint: if it’s fresh and not local, it most likely is not sustainable.

      Reply
    2. CanCyn

      I agree D. I would like to know how they calculated the greenhouse gas costs of the various foods… I eat beef from a local area farmer. The abattoir is also small and local. I think there would much less greenhouse gas from this than from eating supermarket beef from a huge factory farm.
      I know the beef I get is not afffordable to all, but the point is that a one size fits all diet is not the best prescription. Local sourcing and learning to eat seasonally are important.
      Fruits and vegetables need to be subsidized so that they are affordable to more people.
      I am glad the 10B diet plan is making the news but like many of you writing here, I hope it doesn’t just end up being about status and virtue signalling nonsense.

      Reply
    3. Eclair

      ” … focusing on eating locally produced and processed food, rather than vegetables from thousands of miles away.”

      Exactly. On my cousin’s farm in NW Pennsylvania, a small sauerkraut making facility loads up 500 pounds of cabbage then produces the yummiest fermented cabbage. Of course, local families haul off pounds of cabbage and then have a weekend of shared shredding and salting. You can add other firm veggies, as well as garlic and hot peppers. And then it morphs into kim chee!

      Fermentation is a low-energy (as compared to canning) method of food preservation.

      Here in Seattle, we discovered that kiwi’s are local, when, at a dance evening, a gardener brought in a bushel of the fruit from her kiwi vine and begged us all to take some. It was a zucchini moment! And, I have noticed hardy greens, kale and collards, flourishing on the garden spaces between sidewalk and road. Fresh greens in January!

      Reply
      1. diptherio

        Kiwis grow in (parts of) Montana too! Eating local can also be “exotic”.

        For my part, I really wish more peeps around here in the inland NW US would remember how to eat things like service berries and choke cherries, and maybe a little biscuit root and thimble berry while their at it. And how about lamb’s quarter and purslane, if you’re wanting some greens? We’re surrounded by edibles that most people are oblivious to, as our diets have been standardized and globalized. As a friend pointed out to me recently, practically every “weed” people pull out of their gardens is edible.

        Reply
      2. TimH

        Whenever I plant seeds, I offer seedings to whomever… tomatoes and the squash family are easy to grow, and root vegs or herbs are fun in a window box.

        Reply
  9. Ignacio

    A diet richer on or exclusively made of vegetables is desirable from the point of view of sustainability, as well as population control. Such a change supposes modifications on the whole supply chain, some of them challenging if a big chunk of is it be be eaten fresh or at least unprocessed in dried forms. From seedlings to the table a lot of things should change. In high latitudes, keeping a continous supply of fresh vegetables comes at a cost.

    I suppose the planetary diet has been thougth taking in account all that.

    Reply
  10. Steve

    This is all much ado about nothing. Climate change is accelerating more than predicted. Chemical contamination of our waters, land and air is far worse than predicted and much worse than most people understand. Whether people living in food poverty can afford a climate healthy diet is sadly not an issue when it is very likely they will not have enough food. There are no “low hanging fruit fixes” that make any difference at this point. We all in the 99% are going to have logarithmically shrinking choices forced on us just through scarcity in our foods to medical choices. All these problems and their severity have been known by our governments and the 1%. If there were a rational plan for a solution we would have been engaged in it a long time ago. It is very likely the 1% have a plan for their continuation and the rest of us are not part of that plan. To say things are dire at this point is being very optimistic.

    Reply
    1. french75

      > It is very likely the 1% have a plan for their continuation and the rest of us are not part of that plan. To say things are dire at this point is being very optimistic.

      The plan is “pay what it costs.” The inevitable follow-up to “what if there is climate change that reduces food production by 50%” is an economic one: That’s just a supply shock. Prices will change, capitalism will tick on as usual. Please don’t bring up complete societal collapse.

      The other view is a kind of technological soteriology: when things get bad enough to make it cost effective, smart young capitalists will engineer our way out of the problem. Lab-grown meat, vertical farming, weather modification technology.

      The only real challenge is keeping the churls from tearing down the whole system before it has had a chance to do its work.

      Reply
  11. Arizona Slim

    Funny thing about vegetables: It’s easy and fun to grow them. And then you can save the seeds. But there’s no corporate profit in that.

    Reply
  12. adrena

    There is so much more to vegan diets than chickpeas and kidney beans.

    There is a whole world of other beans such as: Aduki, Lima, and Split Mung beans, to name a few.

    Reply
  13. Adam Eran

    As someone who has (mostly) eaten whole food, plant-based for several decades now, I can testify to the health effects. I’m sick far less often than when I ate meat, milk, sugar and oil. I’m far more energetic, and take zero medications, other than aspirin.

    As for whether such diets suit the poor: The cost of dried beans is far less than any meat, too. And with good salsa, you can eat tree bark.

    My guess is the frou frou fancy schmancy meals suggested in the planetary health diet serve to attract the (wealthy) community leaders, while beans and tortillas will serve the poor. Either way people will have difficulty if they have to work too many hours to cook…but then beans are an easy-to-cook way to surmount that. The Mexicans have the right idea (although my French-based friends have complained they have difficulty finding tortillas).

    drmcdougall.com, and forksoverknives.com are two excellent sources of both recipes and testimonials about the kinds of good health effects these diets have. The cures (and I mean cures, not sustained medication) include stuff like diabetes, heart and artery disease, autoimmune diseases (lupus, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis). This is not light weight stuff.

    Meanwhile, a (flawed) UN report says livestock is responsible for more global warming than human transportation…

    That said, my family remains skeptical, so I’ve stopped trying to persuade them to eat differently. Their health has suffered, but things have to be really bad for people to change their ways, I guess.

    Reply
    1. french75

      > although my French-based friends have complained they have difficulty finding tortillas

      I can’t imagine any bread easier to make than a tortilla. Flour + butter + salt + water + skillet; takes ~10min to crank out enough for a meal.

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    2. kareninca

      “drmcdougall.com, and forksoverknives.com are two excellent sources of both recipes and testimonials about the kinds of good health effects these diets have”

      The best source of information is a blood sugar meter, and bloodwork lab results. I was a vegan (for ethical reasons, but it was “health food”) for 19 years (and then vegetarian for 3 more years) and it was not good for my blood sugar. I found out by accident (I was stuck in a hospital tending a relative for weeks on end, and had no choice re what to eat) that my blood sugar is much better if I also eat beef and fish. People need real data on themselves. You don’t really know what your relatives’ health would be like if they were vegan; it might be better or it might be worse.

      Reply
        1. kareninca

          Too high. For 19 years I ate as a “health food vegan” (all beans and whole grains); the only fat I consumed was olive oil. I was vegan for ethical reasons, but it was the “health food” version (not fritos and candy). I became prediabetic. Cutting carbs (as a vegetarian; you can’t really cut carbs as a vegan) didn’t help. However, now that I am eating beef and fish, my blood sugar is normal. I’m not eating tons of it; one small serving a day. I am guessing it either is a matter of gut bacteria (omnivore and vegans have different gut bacteria), or that this reduces my cortisol levels (thereby lowering my blood sugar).

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  14. Nancy

    “courgette, cavolo nero and tomato gratin with breadcrumbs and almonds, and a green salad and polenta on the side” – is this description designed to intimidate? This is just zuchini, kale (both grow like weeds!) and tomato casserole, with cornbread!! And, further, it can be cooked up in a plain frying pan…. sheesh, what were they intending? And to save $$ for the important (Vit B12) meat, just try fasting for a day each week (after talking with doctor)…it’s healthy weight loss! : )

    Reply
    1. kareninca

      Fasting may not be good for some women. When I fast, my blood pressure skyrockets; if you look around online that is not rare. My guess (just a guess) is that it is due to cortisol levels; women have spent millennia eating little bits of food (e.g. everyone else’s leftovers) in an ongoing way, and if there is no food at all (the kids can’t even manage to catch a lizard) their body tells them that the situation is dire. If you try fasting, check your blood pressure often. And don’t expect your doctor to know this.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Eating little bits of leftover food? And here I thought I was misanthropic.

        :-)

        Two things.

        First, how a society decides who, what, and when you eat is very different among the vastly different human cultures especially across time. Even today there are plenty of people living in societies other than the patriarchal ones from European, Indian, Chinese!

        The smaller, poorer, less “sophisticated” a society is, generally the more egalitarian it is, because they are usually more dependent on each other. It is true that agrarian societies are generally more patriarchal, but even that covers everything from near equality to near slavery. Farming has only been around for less than twenty thousand years whereas hunter-gathering societies stretch back millions of years.

        Second, is quite possibly the reason for our two genetic bottlenecks. Aside from those caused by war, famines have been been declining in only the past two centuries compared to the previous millions of years of episodic famine. All this explains why humans (over)react to any food shortage and why many people from poor, often hungry, societies have their bodies fall apart when enjoying modern Western diets or even people who suffered hunger or severe stress as a child. If you come from a family that comes from such a place especially in the last two generations, it won’t be pretty.

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    1. Juneau

      Plant based is carbs with fiber. The fiber makes a big difference in reducing glycemic load (some of the carbs get pooped out sorry to get graphic) and even keto guys in finance like Karl D eat a lot of green vegetables. . It’s true simple carbs (sugars, grain products etc…) can cause problems but the blue zones all have higher carb diets and longevity is associated with their diets (Japanese Okinawa etc…). I know some people do well with keto but genetic factors are real (Apo E 3/4 makes high fat diet problematic for example). This issue is a lot more complex than we like to think. Phytonutrients (the pigments in plants) simply cannot be gotten through animal products and are important immune chemicals for the plants and for us. I find it hard to endorse zero carbs for anyone but I hear ya all carbs is no good either.

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      1. jrs

        Yes, people have eaten lots of carbs in many places for thousands of years, so people aren’t just getting diabetes because they eat carbs as that is nothing new under the sun. But the carbs were less refined (although not always totally unrefined), they weren’t particularly overweight, and they probably got more exercise. So all that counts, but the less refined is probably the majority of it. Now animal products do have some nutrients it’s difficult to get from plants so there is that point against an entirely vegan diet.

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    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Nonsense. Seventh Day Adventist men live over seven years longer on average than other men, and women live on average over four years longer.

      Individual doctor promotion of fad diets proves nothing. There are also doctors who do back fusion surgery (hugely expensive and does no good), stem cell treatments, and fake stem cell treatments (amniotic tissue, which has no live material) and will give human growth hormone for anti-aging (cancer futures).

      Reply
      1. howseth

        However, you need to take into account – none of the Seventh Day Adventists supposedly smoke – or drink. They get their stress the healthy way – through exercise. They have a supportive community. Also, they are all not strict vegetarians… It varies. This is from an article I read (CBN News 02-07-2015)

        “Many Loma Linda residents, like Welebir, are total vegetarians. Others will eat eggs and some have dairy such as cheese and milk. There is a group that eats fish, and there are those who eat small amounts of poultry and beef.”

        How could this group not live longer than Americans in general?

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          1. howseth

            Yes. Fair enough. Does not seem like those vegetables are doing them in. (Good to know – I do like my cabbage, and my oatmeal)
            I also do wonder: is there a group of contemporary people, who live as healthy lifestyle as the Seventh Day Adventists – but have also been ‘Carnivore’ (Paleo, Keto, Atkins) diet for a long enough period to be fairly compared to the Seventh Day Adventists in longevity outcomes?

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  15. kareninca

    After 19 years as a vegan, and then 3 years as a dairy-eggs vegetarian (both for ethical reasons, but as it happens I ate the “health food” version of each), I am now eating fish and beef. Because my blood sugar is a lot lower if I eat fish and beef. I’m not happy about it, but I have a glucose meter and a lot of data. People vary a lot and what is a healthful diet for one person is not for another.

    Reply
  16. Mickey Hickey

    Cheap processed foods came on the market post WW2. The problem today is overconsumption of processed foods, delicious, calorie rich, fat rich and sugar rich. In the bad old days from Finland to Ireland the balanced diet consisted of potatoes, cabbage , milk fresh and sour, small amounts of meat usually pork and smaller amounts of fish. An often cited Finnish study from the 1980s’ determined that the people who lived the longest lived in rural areas in poverty where they grew their own potatoes and cabbage and either owned a milch cow or bought their milk locally unprocessed and unfiltered. They also kept laying hens who when they stopped laying eggs became hen stew. Prosperity which led to widespread availability of processed food engineered for taste and laden with chemicals, sugar and fat has shortened lifespans considerably. Usually by causing diabetes and heart problems. I grew up in a town of 6,000 in Ireland where I knew of only one overweight person, that person died early (50s’) of diabetes. Ireland today is well on its way to the widespread chronic health problems of the developed world.

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    1. kareninca

      When I was tending a relative in the hospital a few months ago, he wanted a McDonald’s cheeseburger, so we got one. Then he didn’t want to eat it. So I (a decades-long vegan/vegetarian) ate it, since there was nothing else for me to eat and the animal was dead already anyway; it would otherwise be discarded. It was unbelievably tasty. I was stunned; it was so tasty. And then it took over my brain; for weeks and weeks I thought of that cheeseburger. No, I haven’t had another one, but whatever they put in that stuff is really tempting.

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  17. Debbie Vozniak

    Something a lot of people miss when they talk about processed food is probably 90% of the reason they are eaten so much by people living on the edge of poverty. They don’t take long to prepare. If you are making minimum wage, you are often working long hours, sometimes two or three jobs, trying to make ends meet. Even if you are able to afford whole foods, and many times they are far more expensive than the processed ones (which makes no sense!) the time and effort, and equipment, it required to prepare the whole foods is beyond what they are able to manage. If you come home from working 2 jobs, 12-16 hours a day, often highly physical labor, you are most likely exhausted and not in the mood to spend an hour or two fixing dinner. Often working 7 days a week doesn’t help with food prep either. Then there’s the myriad of specialized equipment from blenders to mandolins, to pressure cookers to food processors, etc. that are needed to prepare those dishes.

    Imagine, you have a burner and possibly a microwave. You have a couple of pans and a spatula. You have salt and pepper and maybe hot sauce. You don’t have a convenient whole foods store, so you have to travel to find quality whole foods ingredients. In addition to which you still have all the normal tasks of living: cleaning, washing dishes, washing yourself, taking care of children, etc. You still have to travel back and forth to possible two or three jobs each day so your work, including travel is often 18 hours a day.

    You come home from 16 hours of hard, physical labor followed by an hour commute on the bus or train and you need to fix a meal. Do you fix “courgette, cavolo nero and tomato gratin with breadcrumbs and almonds, and a green salad and polenta on the side” which sounds fairly labor and ingredient intensive, or do you open a can of soup or slap a processed burger in the microwave? Common sense says make the food as fast and easy as possible. That is a lot of the reason why people living on the edge are often not eating whole food, nutritious meals every day.

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    1. Lambert Strether

      Thank you, material conditions are extremely important. The millions of food carts on every street corner Southeast Asia have a similar function (and who wants to go home and cook in a sweltering, non-airconditioned micro-apartment after a long day?) Though of course corporate food in venues like 7/11 is competing with them, and the middle classes often want to clean them up, i.e. away. It’s too bad we can’t incentivize food carts in this country with the same sort of tax breaks Big Ag gets.

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    2. ambrit

      This is also a result of the trend towards two earner nuclear families and the disappearance of extended families.
      My Mom lives with my youngest sister and her “assemblage of genetic kin” group. This was facilitated by Lydia’s husband being from a Spanish immigrant family. The practice of extended family living was still culturally strong with both her and Ralph. (And yes, he does spell it Ralph. He says that is a perfectly acceptable spelling in Espanya. [Sorry but I don’t have a tilda key.]) The point being that when the children of Ralph and Lydia were young, Grandmom, (she has gotten used to that usage by now,) acted as the caretaker while the ‘parents’ did their respective things. One of the skills that family emphasized was that the children learn cooking.
      So, would we consider extended families to be class based or economically based? The two categories are not necessarily the same. One’s familial culture plays a big part too.
      Sorry for the rant.

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    3. jrs

      “then there’s the myriad of specialized equipment from blenders to mandolins, to pressure cookers to food processors, etc. that are needed to prepare those dishes. ”

      oh my I’ve been cooking my whole life with none of these things but a blender. I get the overall point but the arguments are getting pretty silly, you don’t need all this to cook.

      I think anyone who works for a living comes home exhausted and wanting to do anything but cook so it’s not hard to relate to at all, it’s an extrapolation of exhaustion and more importantly having even less time.

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  18. Odysseus

    People shouldn’t be forced to choose between eating well, and eating in an environmentally conscious way. In Britain, where food deserts are becoming increasingly commonplace,

    So what are you doing to change that?

    What cheap food has low environmental impact?
    What are you doing to support grocery stores in low income areas?

    Reply

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