The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781573247023
Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
Publication date: 07/01/2001
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 450
Product dimensions: 6.01(w) x 9.02(h) x 1.16(d)

About the Author

John Robbins is also the author of Diet for a New America, and the widely acclaimed Reclaiming Our Health. His life and work have been featured on the PBS special, Diet for a New America. Groomed to follow in the footsteps of his father, founder of the Baskin-Robbins empire, he chose a different more authentic path for himself. He lives with his family in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Author website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What Is the Food

I was born into ice cream. Well, not literally, but just about. My father, Irv Robbins, founded, and for many years owned and ran what would become the world's largest ice cream company: Baskin-Robbins (31 Flavors). Along with my uncle, Burt Baskin, he built an empire, with thousands of stores worldwide and sales eventually measuring in the billions of dollars. We had an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, our cats were named after ice cream flavors, and I sometimes ate ice cream for breakfast. Not all that surprisingly, many people in the family struggled with weight problems, my uncle died of a heart attack in his early fifties, my father developed serious diabetes and high blood pressure, and I was sick more often than not.

    None of that showed up on the balance sheets, however, and my father was grooming me to succeed him. I was his only son, and he expected me to follow in his footsteps. But things did not develop that way. I chose to leave behind the ice cream company and the money it represented, in order to take my own rocky road. I walked away from an opportunity to live a life of wealth to live a different kind of life, a life in which, I hoped, I might be able to be true to my values and learn to make a contribution to the well-being and happiness of others. It was a choice for integrity. Instead of the Great American Dream of financial success, I was pulled forward by a deeper dream.

    Explaining that kind of thing to my father, a conservative Republican businessman whosometimes drove a Rolls Royce and never to my knowledge went a day without reading the Wall Street Journal, was not easy. At one point I told him, "Look, Dad, it's a different world than when you grew up. The environment is deteriorating rapidly under the impact of human activities. Every two seconds somewhere on Earth a child dies of starvation while elsewhere there are abundant food resources going to waste. Do you see that for me, under these circumstances, inventing a thirty-second flavor just would not be an adequate response for my life?"

    My father was not pleased. He had worked hard his whole life and had achieved a level of financial success most people can only fantasize about, and he wanted to share his success and his company with his only son. From his point of view, I am sure, he got the only kid in the country who would turn down such a golden opportunity.

    But turn it down I did, and, hungering for connection to the natural world and life's deeper rhythms, I moved with my wife, Deo, in 1969, to a little island off the coast of British Columbia. There we proceeded to build a one-room log cabin, where we lived for the next ten years, growing most of our own food. We were financially poor, some years spending less than $1,000 total, but we were rich in love. Four years into our time on the island, our son Ocean was born into my hands. Deo and I are still lovingly together all these years later, by the way—a rarity in our generation.

    During this time we began to live by the values that would culminate, in 1987, with the publication of my book Diet for a New America. I was learning to perceive the immense toll exacted by the standard North American diet—and the benefits that might be gained by a shift in a healthier direction. I was learning that the same food choices that do so much to prevent disease—that give you the most vitality, the strongest immune system, and the greatest life expectancy—were also the ones that took the least toll on the environment, conserved our precious natural resources, and were the most compassionate toward our fellow creatures.

    In Diet for a New America I described what it was that pulled me away from the path my father had envisioned and prepared for me, and set me instead on the one I took:

"It's a dream of a success in which all beings share because it's founded on reverence for life. A dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a people living in accord with the natural laws of Creation, cherishing and caring for the environment, conserving nature instead of destroying it. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.

"This is not my dream alone. It is really the dream of all human beings who feel the plight of the Earth as their own, and sense our obligation to respect and protect the world in which we live. To some degree, all of us share in this dream. Yet few of us are satisfied that we are doing all that is needed to make it happen. Almost none of us are aware of just how powerfully our eating habits affect the possibility of this dream becoming a reality. We do not realize that one way or the other, how we eat has a tremendous impact."

    In Diet for a New America, I attempted to show in full detail the nature of this impact on our health, and in addition on the vigor of our society, on the health of our world, and on the well-being of its creatures. I had no idea, while writing that book, that it would become a bestseller. I never suspected that I would receive 75,000 letters from people who read the book or who heard me speak about its message. And even if I had known how widely the book would be read, and how deeply it would impact the course of many people's lives, I don't think I could ever have imagined that it might help to impact choices on a larger scale. In the five years immediately following the book's publication, beef consumption in the United States dropped nearly 20 percent.

    But in the last few years there's been a backlash. Fad diet books have sold millions of copies telling people they can lose weight and obtain optimum health while eating all the bacon and sausage they want. The U.S. meat industry has managed to divert attention away from the fact that the animals raised in modern factory farms are forced to endure conditions of almost unimaginable cruelty and deprivation. The USDA is proposing to irradiate increasing numbers of foods to combat the deadly food-borne diseases such as E. coli 0157:H7 that increasingly breed in today's factory farms and slaughterhouses.

    Rather than clean up the conditions that produce these pathogens in the first place, the U.S. meat industry has strongly supported food disparagement laws that make it illegal to criticize perishable food products, and then has used such legislation to sue those who challenge their control over your wallet. They even sued Oprah Winfrey for saying that, based on what she'd learned about meat production in the United States, she was never going to eat another burger.

    Meanwhile, the chemical industry has mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit organic food. And without the knowledge or consent of most Americans, two-thirds of the products on our supermarket shelves now contain genetically engineered ingredients.

    The debate about animal products and genetically engineered foods, and about their impact on our health and our world, is not going to go away. It will be fought in courtrooms and the media, but it will also be fought in people's minds, hearts, and kitchens. In the process, those seeking a more humane and sustainable way of life—for themselves and for our society—will be criticized and attacked by the industries that profit from activities that are harming people and the planet.

    As the discussion intensifies, so will the amount of information floating around. Some of it will be valid and rigorously accurate. And some of it will be the product of the public relations machinery of the industries that are selling unhealthy food and exploiting our world. I have written The Food Revolution because I believe that, given a chance, most people can tell the difference between the propaganda of industries whose entire intention is to promote and sell products, and data from researchers and scientists whose focus is the public interest.

    I have written The Food Revolution to provide solid, reliable information for the struggle to achieve a world where the health of people and the Earth community is more important than the profit margins of any industry, where basic human needs take precedence over corporate greed. I have written this book so that you might have clear information on which to base your food choices. It will show you how to attain greater health and respond more deeply from your connection to all of life.

    There is still strong in our society the belief that animals and the natural world have value only insofar as they can be converted into revenue. That nature is a commodity. And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.

    There are many of us, on the other hand, who believe that animals and the natural world have value by virtue of being alive. That Nature is a community to which we belong and to which we owe our lives. And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

    In 1962, Rachel Carson dedicated Silent Spring to the "host of people" who are "even now fighting the thousands of small battles that in the end will bring victory for sanity and common sense." I have written The Food Revolution because I believe that virtually every one of us, if given a chance, would choose to be one of those people and would make our lives, if we knew how, into statements of caring and compassion.

    I believe there is within every human being a desire to make choices that help create a healthier future for ourselves, for our children, and for our beleaguered planet and all the life it holds. This desire may be buried, it may be twisted, bent, and broken, it may seem all but destroyed, but it still remains, driving each of us even if from afar, hungering for an opportunity to be seen and heard and felt.

    Judging by what appears in the mass media, it would be easy to think that people are only interested in the most shallow and trivial of concerns, that all we want is to eat our burgers, that we couldn't care less about how our food is produced and what the consequences will be to our health and to the wider Earth community. But that's a grievous lie, and it dishonors who we are. The truth is, most people care about world hunger, they are deeply concerned about global warming, they abhor cruelty to animals, they know the planet is in crisis, they sense much of the food we eat in this society is unhealthy, they are alarmed about the uncertainties of genetic engineering, and they are looking for ways to express their caring and concern.

    I don't care whether you call yourself a vegetarian, a vegan, or an asparagus. I care whether you live in accord with your values, whether your life has integrity and purpose, whether you act with compassion for yourself and for all of life.

    I don't care whether your diet is politically correct. I care whether your food choices are consistent with your love. I care whether they bring you health, uphold your spirit, and help you to fulfill your true nature and reason for being alive.

    The truth, as has been said countless times, will set you free. But what is said far less often is that sometimes it first will make you confront habits of behavior and thought that might be limiting you, so that you might attain the awareness to use your freedom for the benefit of your greater self and all of life.

    Not that long ago, the average American mother would have been more concerned to learn that her son or daughter was becoming a vegetarian than to learn that he or she was taking up smoking. Not that long ago, organic food products could only be found in specialty stores. Blood cholesterol levels of 300 milligrams per deciliter were considered normal, and patients in hospital coronary care units were fed bacon and eggs, and white toast with margarine and jam for breakfast. Not that long ago, people who ate food that was healthy, environmentally friendly, and caused no animals to suffer were considered health nuts, while those who ate food that caused disease, took a staggering toll on the resource base, and depended on immense animal suffering were considered normal. But all this is changing.

    The revolution sweeping our relationship to our food and our world, I believe, is part of an historical imperative. This is what happens when the human spirit is activated. One hundred and fifty years ago, slavery was legal in the United States. One hundred years ago, women could not vote in most states. Eighty years ago, there were no laws in the United States against any form of child abuse. Fifty years ago, we had no Civil Rights Act, no Clean Air or Clean Water legislation, no Endangered Species Act. Today, millions of people are refusing to buy clothes and shoes made in sweatshops and are seeking to live healthier and more Earth-friendly lifestyles. In the last fifteen years alone, as people in the United States have realized how cruelly veal calves are treated, veal consumption has dropped 62 percent.

    I don't believe we are isolated consumers, alienated from what gives life, and condemned to make a terrible mess of things on this planet. I believe we are human beings, flawed but learning, stumbling but somehow making our way toward wisdom, sometimes ignorant but learning through it all to live with respect for ourselves, for each other, and for the whole Earth community.

    I have written The Food Revolution in the belief that—wounded and human as we are—we can still create a thriving and sustainable way of life for all. The restorative powers of both the human body and the Earth are immense.

    When I walked away from Baskin-Robbins and the money it represented, I did so because I knew there was a deeper dream. I did it because I knew that with all the reasons that each of us has to despair and become cynical, there still beats in our common heart our deepest prayers for a better life and a more loving world.

    When I look out into the world, I see the forces that would bring us disaster. I see the deep night of unthinkable cruelty and blindness. But I also look within the human heart and find something of love there, something that cares and shines out into the dark universe like a bright beacon. And in the shining of that light, I feel the dreams and prayers of all beings. In the shining of that beacon I feel all of our hopes for a better future, and the strength to do what we are here to do.

    May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: What Is the Food Revolution?1
PART I Food and Healing
2 Healthy Heart, Healthy Life11
3 Preventing Cancer33
4 The Great American Diet Roller Coaster55
5 A Healthy Plant-Based Diet81
6 Got BS?97
7 Unsafe On Any Plate113
8 Policing the Pathogens135
PART II Our Food, Our Fellow Creatures
9 The Pig Farmer153
10 Old McDonald Had a Factory165
11 Misery on the Menu183
11 Eating with Conscience205
PART III Our Food, Our World
13 Choices for a Healthy Environment231
14 Once Upon a Planet253
15 Reversing the Spread of Hunger283
PART IV Genetic Engineering
16 Pandora's Pantry305
17 Farmageddon325
18 The Emperor's New Foods347
19 The Turning of the Tide365
20 Conclusion: OurFood, Our Future381
About John Robbins, EarthSave, and YES!387
Resource Guide389

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Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book literally changed my life. I'm only 15 and i never before even thought that my diet would have that much of an impact on me later in life. Robbins has shown me that especially if i start young, i can significantly improve my chances of living longer and being healthy. every child, teen, adult, and elderly person in America should read this, and the world would be a better place.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Food Revolution is an eye-opening book if you haven't done your homework about how food is produced in this country and the environmental impact that it has! The commercialization of meat production illustrates most clearly how taking control of our food supply (domesticating, breeding, and artificial feeding) has affected its nutritional content and our physical health. Today, as John Robbins points out, much of the cattle in the U.S. does not graze on green pastures and are not allowed to roam free, like portrayed on the product labels. Instead most live their lives on feeding lots confined to small areas and are fed grain. The grain is what gives steak the fatty, marble look. This drastically elevates the saturated fat and cholesterol content within the meat and dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc). On a side note, these cattle are rapidly depleting our fresh-water supply that's stored underneath the great plains, since we have to provide them with water! Most cattle in the United States (unless certified organic) are injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), fed antibiotics, and then the feed lots are blanketed with insecticides which fall into the cattle's food and water and eventually become part of someone's dinner. The cattlemen found that when they inject BGH into a cow it produced between 15-25% more milk although it seriously damaged the animal's health and reproduction capacity. This injected hormone significantly increased their profit margin however this is terrible news for you and especially children. We note that kids today are physically maturing at an unusually earlier age now. I'm convinced based on widespread expert research there is an obvious and direct correlation between conventional food production, early physical maturation, and reproductive organ cancers. This would explain the fact that every industrialized country in the world, except for the US, has banned BGH! When the animal products mentioned above are ingested, you are also indirectly flooding your system with synthetic antibiotics. Bearing in mind that 90 percent of the bacteria in and around your body are beneficial and vital to your overall health, antibiotics are unable discriminate between good and bad bacteria. They kill everything! Vast quantities of certain antibiotics are routinely included in the diet of healthy farm animals because this practice has been shown to make animals grow faster. Experts have recently concluded this ultimately leads to an environment conducive to the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Needless to say, I cannot recommend this book enough!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you can only buy one book today, this should be the one. If you came here planning to buy several books, this should still be at the very top of your list. And while you're at it, consider getting a copy for someone you dearly care about as well. The Food Revolution is the one book that will tell you the truth about the food you eat, and how your food choices impact your own health, as well as world hunger, the environment, and the welfare of the other creatures that share this planet with us. In his inimitable, gentle way, John Robbins presents the facts about the impact our animal-centered Western diet has on our bodies and our world...never judging, never saying 'you must do this or that,' but simply presenting the facts YOU need to make informed choices. The beauty of this book lies in its readability. Robbins is an outstanding writer, and he blends anecdotes with hard data in a way that makes The Food Revolution highly accessible. In fact, it's difficult to put it down. That said, it's also a supremely well-documented work, as was its predecessor, the bestselling Diet For a New America. Robbins doesn't expect you to take his word for what he says...the primary sources are clearly indicated. This is a book for the scientist and the truck driver...for the secretary and the dietician. It should be required reading for all medical doctors, nutritionists, and politicians. It should be top on the list for anyone concerned with human health, world hunger, animal welfare or the environment. Whatever you know, or think you know, about the food you eat...where it comes from, how it's produced, what it does for your body (good or bad)...I strongly encourage you to read The Food Revolution. You may or may not agree with Robbins' conclusions, but I guarantee you will never regard the food on your plate the same way again. You will be will be amazed, appalled and quite possibly inspired...but most important, you will be educated as to just how much power you hold, over your own health and over the health of the planet and its peoples, in the hand that wields your fork.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm truly touched by John's story of the Pig farmer in this book. Eating a piece of pork chop or steak is more than just satisfying your palate. As John points out in this book, it's about poisoning your health slowly, causing misery and cruelty to the animals, depleting natural resources too rapidly and unnecessarily and playing a part in increasing starving population in other parts of the world. A true read to save yourself and our Earth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Other reviewers have said it all. I can only reiterate that John Robbins' latest book should be read by every literate American. It will force you to take action - in your own kitchen and on the streets.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Within a week of its arrival, my copy of 'The Food Revolution' was dogeared and coffee-stained. Such is the fate of a book kept at hand and read and re-read. I pick it up often, opening it to random pages, and find myself instantly absorbed in the powerful telling of how we can save ourselves and our planet by making saner choices at the supermarket. As in his earlier bestseller, 'Diet For a New America,' the facts are meticulously researched and the conclusions are undeniable - the way we eat can either save or destroy our own lives and the world we live in. But 'The Food Revolution' is no dry, scolding compendium of facts. It's an immensely readable book that leaves the reader both sobered and inspired. Robbins empowers us to take control of our lives and our health and our environment. Heady stuff, indeed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Robbins' earlier book, 'Diet for a New America' made the case for a plant based diet so thoroughly and convincingly, I had wondered what more there could be to say about it. As it turns out, there's plenty and Mr. Robbins says it eloquently - with passion and compassion. As in DFNA, the facts in this book are so well-researched and documented, they are simply beyond question. And updating the statistics has only served to make them more even conclusive.
alanTG More than 1 year ago
I've read 'Eating Animals' by Johnathon Safran Foer as well as all of the Michael Pollan books relating to diet, and I can say that this cannot be a book to pass up. I've had references to this book by the aforementioned and I'm anxious to read. I hope I beat you to it.
annarama on LibraryThing 19 days ago
A bit preachy at times, I didn't find the information in this book to be surprising or new.
grrrlennyl on LibraryThing 19 days ago
another good book from john robbins. instead of focusing on the animals, he tackles a lot of the issues that he sort of glossed over in diet for a new america. definitely a worthwhile read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I was very disappointed with this book. It only shows the bad farming which is done by feed lots and cooperate farms