As Earth’s population grows to a projected 9 billion people by 2050, can our global community keep eating flesh like we’ve been doing for centuries? No, according to a 2010 report by the United Nations Environment Programme, an international panel of sustainable resource management experts. Mindful eating. Examining the food demands of a growing population and associated environmental and sustainability issues, Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production recommends “substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products.”
Making the case for a holistic view, Will Tuttle, Ph.D., suggests in World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony that we start to see the connections between our food choices and the health and well-being of ourselves, our families, communities and the world.
Web of Understanding
At the center of the web of life is the food we all share to sustain our bodies. Tuttle insists that we celebrate this and regard each meal as a feast. “Food preparation is the only art that allows us to literally incorporate what we create. It is also the only art that fully involves all five senses,” he says. We honor this wonderful activity most by sharing our cooking efforts with others, blessing the food and eating mindfully.
The problem at the center of life, maintains Tuttle, is that we involve animals in our food chain, an act that “introduces suffering, whether physical, mental or emotional.” This is a truth we try to hide from, what he calls the ”cultural shadow”. “The worst examples include factory farming, but even the best methods ultimately involve killing other animals for food,” he says.
One of Tuttle’s more controversial claims is that the herding culture—raising, dominating, selling, killing and owning animals—sets up a harmful physical, emotional and cultural dynamic, extolling domineering and aggressive behavior. “The herding culture requires male dominance and a mentality that might makes right,” observes Tuttle. “It also sees females as primarily breeders, not beings.” Based on contemporary research in anthropology, sociology and psychopathology, he maintains that the actions required to both dominate animals and eat their meat can lead to more aggressive and violent behavior.
One recent study seems to support his claim. Dr. Neil Barnard, in his book, Foods that Fight Pain, remarks that, “Plant-based diets also help tame testosterone’s activity.” Barnard cites a Massachusetts male aging study of 1,552 men ages 40 to 70, which indicated that men eating more fruits and vegetables than meat were less domineering and aggressive, because the increased sex hormone-binding globulin produced by plants helps keep testosterone in check.
“If we continue the meat-centric way of eating, we’re going to continue to have the problems that come with it,” says Tuttle. “The way forward is plant-based agriculture.”
Practicing a World Peace Diet
The Tuttles shop for fresh, organic and non-GMO (genetically modified organism) foods and favor what they call “blueprint recipes”, that vary from day to day. Each outlines the makings of a dish and encourages cooks to be intuitive in how they fill in the details.
For a typical breakfast, for example, Tuttle and his wife, Madeleine, will make a green smoothie that includes kale, banana, apple, grapes, ground flax, chia seeds, cinnamon and fresh ginger. “It’s a flexible drink,” says Tuttle. “We will swap out whatever organic fruits and vegetables we have so that we vary the flavor from time to time.” For example, they might use parsley, spinach, or chard leaves in place of kale, or citrus in place of grapes.
Lunch is usually a wrap-type sandwich, sometimes using fresh leaf lettuce or a whole-wheat tortilla. One recent example of such a wrap combined tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, walnuts, tempeh and avocado. A dinnertime blueprint recipe involves a base of cooked rice, quinoa, pasta, mashed potatoes or polenta, topped with a vegetable ragout, cooked or raw.
“You could live the rest of your life mixing and matching these ingredients and never have the same meal twice,” notes Tuttle. “We have been doing it for 30 years. If we all choose to eat like this, the world could feed everybody on a fraction of the land now consumed by agriculture.”
Judith Fertig blogs at AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com from Overland Park, KS.