Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

The Lowdown on Low-Fat

There they sit on the supermarket shelves, in the dairy cases, in the freezers: cookies, crackers, ice cream, cheese, lunch meat, frozen dinners and diet soda. And they’re all labeled “low-fat”! Hallelujah! Fill up the shopping cart. Take it all home, eat it all up — in moderation, of course — and the result will be a healthier you: less “bad” cholesterol, lower blood pressure, etc. Don’t be so sure. A study published in early May in Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that it’s not how low the fat is that counts: It’s where the fat comes from, and what comes with it. According to stories by The Associated Press and other news services, scientists at the Stanford University Prevention Research Center took two groups of people and put them on two separate diets: One included such packaged foods as those mentioned above; the other was heavy on large quantities of plant-based foods — vegetables, fruits, legumes, soy and whole grains — and limited amounts of meat and dairy. The two diets were identical in total fat, saturated fat, protein, carbohydrate and cholesterol content. The participants were given enough food so that their weight stayed the same, and they were not allowed to increase or decrease the amount they exercised. After a month, the plant-based diet group’s bad cholesterol had dropped 9.4 percent, compared to the prepared-foods diet group’s reductions of about 4.6 percent. Christopher Gardner, lead author of the study, said it was no surprise that a plant-based diet resulted in lower cholesterol; earlier studies had strongly indicated such a cause-and-effect link. But the scientists knew that consumers who concentrate on plant-based diets usually consume less fat anyway; they wanted to see what happens when two diets identical in fat content, but sharply different in the content of processed vs. natural foods, faced off. Now we know. Where does that lead you, gentle reader, in your quest for a healthier lifestyle? Oh, it leads you to Chelsea Green Publications, of course — to Dianne Onstad’s Whole Foods Companion; to Michael Phillips’ The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (now being revised and updated, and widely considered a classic); and to the upcoming publication of Edible Forest Gardens Volumes I and II, by Dave Jack and Eric Toensmeir; Browse through the Vermont-based publisher’s catalog: Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture; The New Organic Grower; Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties; The Contrary Farmer; Four-Season Harvest; and dozens of other books that make going natural seem — well, natural. We can’t testify that your cholesterol level will drop, or how dramatically, but you’ll be following the same path as the Stanford University folks, and that’s where they ended up. Not the least of the implications of all this was alluded to, in an accompanying editorial, by Dr. David J.A. Jenkins of the University of Toronto’s Clinical Nutrition and Risk Factor Modification Center. The study’s results, he said, may lower the profile of drugs as the silver bullets of cholesterol control and “make diet relevant.” Fewer drugs? A diet that’s relevant to your health? What an age we live in!


No-Till Farming

In the below Q&A, author and permaculture designer Shawn Jadrnicek answers questions about no-till farming and the use of cover crops from two readers (one from North Carolina, and the other from Nova Scotia). In his groundbreaking book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek provides in-depth information on water flow management along with projects that use the free forces of nature—gravity, […] Read More

Reimagining Restoration as a Radical Act

Finding ways to manage “invasive” species as we’ve come to know them has sparked a vigorous debate within conservation and restoration communities, as well as farmers, gardeners, and permaculturalists.In her thought-provoking book Beyond the War on Invasive Species, author Tao Orion urges us to rethink and reimagine restoration as a way to break out of […] Read More

What Can Wisteria Do For Your Forest Garden?

Jerome Osentowski, founder of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute (CRMPI) in Basalt, Colorado, is one of North America’s most accomplished permaculture designers and author of the new groundbreaking book, The Forest Garden Greenhouse. Part case-study of CRMPI’s innovative greenhouses and part how-to primer, Osentowski’s book shows that bringing the forest garden indoors is possible, even on […] Read More

Tips on Perennial Crops with Eric Toensmeier

Eric Toensmeier is the award-winning author of Perennial Vegetables, Paradise Lot, and most recently The Carbon Farming Solution—a groundbreaking new book that treats agriculture as an important part of the climate change solution, rather than a global contributor to the problem. As part of our “Ask the Expert” series going on throughout the month of May to celebrate […] Read More

How to Design Swales for Optimum Water Flow

May has arrived! The birds are chirping, flowers are budding, and it’s time to officially celebrate Permaculture Month.Throughout the next few weeks, we are putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you in our “Ask the Experts” series. If you are looking to become a better permaculturalist, there’s still time to participate. Submit your questions here.Today’s topic is […] Read More
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