04/09/2012 10:52 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2012

The Case for Eating 'Mostly Plants,' in 260 Words

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. But 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. And 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-exercised, and 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.


Dr. David L. Katz;

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