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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!


Radical Ruminations of a Home Gardener

The editors here at Chelsea Green are constantly seeking out what’s new and important in the world of sustainable living. As part of an occasional blog series, our editors are sharing what they’ve been reading, researching, or just plain pondering. Below Senior Editor Fern Marshall Bradley daydreams about the coming growing season and reflects on some radical gardening ideas inspired by Maine farmer […] Read More

Not Level? No Problem. How to Build a Greenhouse on a Slope

Have you ever considered building a greenhouse on sloped terrain? It may not seem like the “perfect spot,” but as permaculture designer and farmer Shawn Jadrnicek points out, a sloped site for a greenhouse offers a bonus that a level site does not—the ability to use gravity to harvest rainwater.In his groundbreaking new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, Jadrnicek offers in-depth information […] Read More

Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you. Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and […] Read More

Hands-On Learning: School of The New American Farmstead

This summer, twelve of our authors (plus Chelsea Green’s own President and Publisher) will be leading hands-on intensive courses at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont.These workshops, classes, and certifications will inspire you, equip you with marketable skills, and provide you with new perspectives on integrated, community-centered farming and food production.Engage your SensesThe hands-on courses will […] Read More

Q&A: Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution:

A Q&A with Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution: A Global Toolkit of Perennial Crops and Regenerative Agriculture Practices for Climate Change Mitigation and Food SecurityQ: “Carbon farming” is a term that isn’t yet widely recognized in the mainstream. And even among people who are familiar with the term, not everyone agrees on what […] Read More
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