The Bin Diet, named by our friend Melissa, means that you eat mainly from bins - that is, the food bins filled with healthy whole foods at your neighborhood food co-op or the health food section of your grocery store. You know, the ones filled with those unprocessed grains, nuts, dried fruit and the like, whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth.
And if you're considering becoming a full-time vegetarian, here is some recent news that might inspire you to at least reduce animal foods in your diet:
- A recent study in the British Medical Journal tracked 23,000 adults in Greece for more than eight years to identify dietary components that contributed to longevity. The researchers found that eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, and eating less meat, had the biggest effect on increasing lifespan. Interestingly, a high intake of seafood and cereals did not contribute to longevity.
- A study published in May in Nutrition Reviews showed that vegetarians had a lower incidence of adult-onset diabetes compared with people who included meat in their diets.
- Recent data from Harvard's Nurses' Health Study, published in Diabetes Care, showed that the consumption of fatty foods in midlife, especially saturated fats and trans fats, may increase the risk of cognitive impairment in later life. Most of the saturated fats in our diets come from animal foods.
- In a recent study of more than 2,000 Asian American women in Los Angeles County in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that those with the highest intake of soy and veggies had the lowest incidence of breast cancer while those who had the highest intake of meat and starch had twice the risk of breast cancer.
- In the ongoing AARP Diet and Health Study, researchers who tracked the diets of more than 500,000 people for more than six years found the people with the highest intake of red meat and dairy foods also had the highest risk of pancreatic cancer.
- Animal food production consumes huge amounts of energy. Almost 20 percent of fossil fuels used in the United States goes toward raising, processing and distributing farm animal foods. Animal food production also consumes anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent of all antibiotics in the United States and is felt to be a big contributor to the problem of antibiotic resistance.
- Finally, a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey found traces of mercury in all fish obtained from 300 streams across the country. While most of those fish had only small amounts of mercury, 25 percent had levels that exceeded what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for human consumption.
- So try a more "bin"-ful diet - chances are you'll feel better, your clothes will get looser, and you'll be helping the planet to boot.
(Drs. Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden are medical directors of Sutter's Downtown Integrative Medicine program. They have written "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Secrets of Longevity" ($18.95, Alpha/Penguin Books). Have a question related to alternative medicine? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)