Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22! To honor our planet, we’re sharing an excerpt from J. Morris Hicks’s book, Healthy Eating, Healthy World, which lays the foundation for how when each of us eats more plant-based foods, we come together to take better care of ourselves and our planet.
“It turns out that if we eat the way that promotes the best health for ourselves, we also promote the best health for the planet.”
—T. Colin Campbell, PhD, author of The China Study
Millions of creatures have evolved throughout the ages on our planet, and until recently, they have all lived in harmony with nature. During the past few hundred years—a mere blink of the eye in history—one species has unknowingly thrown the natural scheme out of balance. That species is us—the human race. Although we mean no harm for ourselves, for the planet, or for the other creatures, we have drifted far away from the natural diet for our species. We have started eating the wrong food—in great quantities. This change in diet has set in motion a series of chain reactions that has negatively affected the planet in many ways.
Our craving for the rich Western diet has intensified to the point that we have almost totally abandoned the type of fuel that nature intended for us to burn. Whereas animals in the wild with DNA closest to ours consume almost 100 percent raw plants, the humans of the Western world today are consuming virtually none. We now consume generous portions of meat, dairy, eggs and/or highly processed foods three meals a day and are deriving far less than 10 percent of our calories from whole plant foods. In addition, many of the plants that we do eat are french fries, which gain over 40 percent of their calories from the fat in the oil in which they are prepared. This love affair with a very unhealthy diet has begun taking its toll in myriad ways both within our bodies and without, affecting the whole world.
In the United States and other Western countries, obesity and diabetes are running rampant, while heart disease and cancer maintain their position as our top killers—and the top drivers of our health-care costs. These out-of-control costs are choking our economy to death, prompting elected officials in the United States to frequently discuss health-care cost as the single biggest problem facing our nation. In 1960, the cost of health care in the Unites States was 5.2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). In less than fifty years, it tripled to 16 percent, and U.S. officials now project that it will double again to 31 percent within the next twenty-five years.2 This cost is simply unsustainable, and we all know it, but we haven’t yet figured out what can be done to address the problem.
It turns out that much of this health care problem is food-driven. We are eating way too much of the wrong food. What is the optimal diet for humans? It’s one based on what your mother may have told you long ago: “You should eat more fruits and vegetables.” We rarely hear health officials, doctors, dietitians, or nutritionists advising us to eat more meat, dairy, or processed foods. They’re all saying we should eat more vegetables, but with each passing year, we seem to be eating fewer. Why is that? The first part of Healthy Eating, Healthy World explores this question, outlines the many health benefits of an optimal diet and addresses various arguments against the adoption of such a diet.
But health is just one of the issues. What you eat affects far more than just your body. You may already know about some of the environmental impacts of our rich Western diet, but you may not have heard much about other related problems, such as the rising cost and decreasing availability of energy (especially fossil fuels), the increasingly difficult challenge of feeding the growing population of the world, and the horrific suffering of 60 billion animals per year in the factory farms where they are raised. The second part of Healthy Eating, Healthy World is devoted to an exploration of these four categories of critical global issues.
At some point during your reading, you may very well ask yourself, “Why haven’t I heard all this before?” That is a very good question, inviting us to look at the vast system that controls the flow of this kind of information in our society. The third part of Healthy Eating, Healthy World explores this question in detail, helping you to digest all that you have read and decide how you will act on that information. Whatever you choose for you and your family, this book can help you execute your plan, providing you with information, helpful tips, and guidelines that you may need to reach your goals.
In a nutshell, Healthy Eating, Healthy World is about the single most powerful move that we humans can make to promote health, reduce obesity, lower the cost of health care, nurture our fragile environment, conserve our energy resources, feed the world’s steadily growing population, and greatly reduce the suffering of animals in factory farms all over the world. This move is an aggressive push to consume more whole, plant-based foods—not necessarily becoming a vegetarian or a vegan. These “v” words only convey information about what a person does not eat; they do little to convey what the person does eat, and that is what i most important. A great many vegetarians eat an unhealthy diet and, as a result, fail to enjoy the host of benefits that result from eating a truly health-promoting diet. After all, one could consume nothing but Diet Coke and potato chips and call himself a vegan.
What about weight loss? While this is not specifically a weight-loss book, adopting a diet of whole plant foods will enable your body to seek its ideal weight effortlessly and permanently. Many health professionals and researchers cite the statistic that diets fail 95 percent of the time. Compare that to a near 100 percent success rate for those who make a commitment to a health-promoting diet for the right reasons—to achieve vibrant health. When vibrant health is your primary objective, effortless weight loss is simply a convenient by-product or fringe benefit.
The primary objective of Healthy Eating, Healthy World is to outline in simple, everyday terms the extent of the problems we face, how we got ourselves into trouble, and what each of us can do to make things better. Fortunately, despite the incredible complexity of our current dilemma, the solution is refreshingly simple. All we have to do is educate ourselves, start making better choices about what we eat, and then share all that we have learned with everyone we care about. I am convinced that there has never been anything more important in the history of the world.
If you’re interested in learning more from Healthy Eating, Healthy World, it’s available now wherever books are sold. And if you’d like to take the next step in plant-based living for yourself and for the planet, check out our many resources at BenBella Vegan.