Blog | Thursday, May 17, 2012

260 words about 'eating mostly plants'

The notion that eating meat might be bad for us is tough to swallow for a generation that has drunk deep of the "low carb" Kool-Aid.

Even if eating meat were good for people, too much focus on it would be ill-advised for a population of 7 billion of us. The environmental costs of eating animals are an order, or even orders, of magnitude higher than eating plants.

But can it be that eating meat is truly bad for the health of the great-great-granddaughters and sons of hunter-gatherers? Yes. Because just as we "are what we eat," so too are the animals we eat. The diets of most animals providing our meat are nothing like those of THEIR ancestors, and thus neither is their flesh. Most of our meat is higher in calories, harmful varieties of fat, and environmental contaminants that get concentrated as they move up the food chain.

Finally, what we eat more of has implications for what we eat less of. Eating "more" meat means eating a lower proportion of calories from plants, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, which are decisively associated with better health. To some extent, meat consumption contributes to adverse health outcomes, to some extent it "muscles" out of the diet foods that defend against them.

Eating some meat, preferably from lean, well-fed, well-exercisedand kindly tended animals is assuredly consistent with human health. But the health of humans and the planet argue consistently for Michael Pollan's excellent and pithy advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

David L. Katz, MD, FACP, MPH, FACPM, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center; Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, Conn.; founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation; and formerly the Director of Medical Studies in Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine for eight years. This post originally appeared on his blog at The Huffington Post.