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Mark Bittman at Expo East: Why food matters

Mark Bittman, the excellent New York Times food columnist and author of Food Matters, gave the keynote address this morning at Natural Products Expo East in Boston. Here are excerpts from an article written at Expo by Mitchell Clute:

“The food most Americans eat makes us sick and makes the planet sick,” said Bittman.... For example, he referred to a USDA chart that listed the top ten foods by caloric intake in the typical American diet. Those foods, in order: soda, donuts, hamburgers, pizza, chips, rice, breads, cheese, beer and French fries. ...

Our diet ... has repercussions that go beyond the obvious. Seventy percent of agricultural land in the U.S., Bittman said, is used either for animals or grain to feed animals, a system that is horrendously inefficient. Each Big Mac patty produced requires enough grain for five loaves of bread. And, according to a UN report titled Livestock’s Long Shadow, 18 percent of all global warming gasses are directly attributable to livestock production, an agricultural system Bittman called “barbarous, insane and fascistic.”

Yet Bittman’s attitude is not all gloom and doom. His own approach is to take small steps, like trying to convince people to eat rice and beans one meal a week. In his own life, he’s adapted an approach to eating he calls “vegan before 6.” Beginning with dinner, Bittman eats whatever he wants, but until then he restricts himself to fruits, veggies and whole grains.

As a result of this small change, he said, he lowered his cholesterol by forty points and lost more than thirty pounds. “It’s got to be plants first—real plants,” Bittman said. He’s living proof that such a simple approach can yield significant health results.

For more, check out deputy editor Radha Marcum's video interview with Bittman: "What's the link between obesity and global warming? ..."

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