Our book review this month looks at The Food Revolution, written by John Robbins. It has a great tag-line: “how your diet can help save your life and the world”. So, although it was first published in 2001, (and has been updated a number of times), it is still a great read if you are interested in what you eat and the impact of what you eat on the wider world.
John Robbins was born into the well-known ice-cream family, Baskin-Robbins. He explains in the introduction how he made a decision to look for a different route, leaving the company and setting out to create his own life, lively simply and growing his own food.
Through the book Robbins contrasts the messages that are given to the public by the meat and dairy industry to the research published by scientists.
John Robbins has written many books over the years, including the book that started many people thinking – Diet for a New America. He co-founded the website: Food Revolution Network (external link), which contains lots of really interesting and useful information about healthy, ethical, sustainable food.
Core messages from The Food Revolution
To me, this book asks you to ask yourself a question – does what I eat really matter, does it matter to me personally, for my own health? And does it matter to the world? John´s answer to both of these questions is a resolute yes.
After the introduction, the book is in four parts. In part 1 Food and Healing, the chapters focus on healthy heart, preventing cancer, policing the pathogens and more. One of the chapters looks into calcium and the promotion from various bodies over the years that we all need calcium from cows milk to maintain healthy bones and teeth, to grow, prevent osteoporosis and more. He contrasts nutritional information on cows milk compared to soy based milk and it makes fascinating reading.
In part 2, called Our Food, Our Fellow Creatures, Robbins takes a look how we treat animals. The first chapter describes a meeting he had with a pig farmer. In the chapter on farming he looks at how animals are raised and treated, referring to farms as “factories”. The final chapter is called Eating with a conscience. In this section he discusses how raising our awareness of how the meat (and dairy) on our plates is produced can help you to question whether this is compassionate or right, to make your own decision. Robbins also looks at egg production and cautions us to question more closely labels like “free range” and “natural”.
Part 3, is called Our Food, Our World and topics include reversing the spread of hunger and choices for a healthy environment. Topics covered include water and the atmosphere. Robbins also discusses how much of the food production in the world is needed to produce meat and dairy. The final part (4) is called Genetic engineering. Robbins looks not just at the change in genetically modified products, but also the use of chemicals in food production, with it´s impact on wildlife and the environment. Whilst this section is difficult reading, Robbins also looks at the rise of organic farming. The book concludes with the chapter Our Food, Our Future, which pulls together all of the concepts in the book.
In my edition, a large portion of the latter part of the book was given to references to all the statements and research published in the book. He considers that scientists are the people most likely to be looking for answers for the good of the public, with no hidden agenda. However, be aware that Robbins clearly advocates for a plant-based diet.
Robbins also provides information and contact details of organisations that support a sustainable future, which is a really useful resource.
I enjoyed picking up this book and reading it again for this review. It really did make me think clearly again about some of the decisions I make about what food to eat and the actions that I take on a daily basis.
Organic fruit and vegetables are still premium products in Spain, fairly rare in most supermarkets with high price tag. However, Spain is one of the largest producers of organic produce in the European Union. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this produce is exported, to the UK and Germany in particular. We do have an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, grown locally, which is truly wonderful. I love walking into the local markets and seeing the seasonal products. I also love being able to open my front door and pick a lemon off the tree, or cut some fresh herbs.
Recycling is another area. I started recycling years ago (at university, mainly wine bottles and newspapers!) and have continued ever since. Yet living in Spain, recycling is still relatively new and sometimes it feels like trying to push water up a big hill. Colleagues with children tell me no or limited information is given at school about recycling. A more effective approach might be to choose those products that are produced in a more sustainable way, or that use minimal or no packaging. In the UK there is currently a large public voice towards reducing the use of plastic, particularly around food packaging. I love that there are an increasing number of “zero-container” shops appearing on high streets (these shops sell products, like shampoos, in bulk and you bring your own container to fill). We do have a choice in what we eat and where we shop.
Sometimes, one can start to lose sight of what matters – this book was a great reminder for me.
The Food Revolution
The Food Revolution is in print and is available from major booksellers (online and in larger shops). This book is also available as an audio book. John Robbins encourages all to follow a plant-based diet, not just for our own health but for the health of the world.
Here at La Crisalida Retreats, we serve a healthy plant-based diet, which is naturally low in cholesterol and saturated fat, great for our health. Where possible we source products from the local area – learn more about the food that we serve here. You can also read more about our retreats here.
In reading the book I hope that it makes you take a fresh look at what you eat – not just from a dietary, nutritional perspective, but also from the wider view, of how your choices can affect your world.