Tuesday, September 27, 2016

My opinion on The Green Happiness NRC article

Food is a hot topic nowadays. Everyone has an opinion about it, and god forbid if someone openly talks about their dietary preferences in public. Today I wanted to address something which was all over the press and social media in the Netherlands a couple of days ago. Two girls (nutritionists, vegan), talked about their enthusiasm for a specific diet they developed, which consists of mostly vegetables, in an online interview with one of the major newspapers called NRC. The shitstorm (excuse my French) that followed promptly after the publication of the interview kind of shocked me (Google "the Green happiness interview NRC" and you'll find plenty of opinion pieces, mostly negative ones). Having just received my nutritionist diploma and a big supporter of the vegan diet, I wanted to give my opinion as well, because I think most of the reactions towards this interview are hugely exaggerated.
Some of the headlines in reaction to the interview, to name a few:

"Bullshit from The Green Happiness can save the world"

"How nutritionists scare us with a boiled egg"

"Is the Green Happiness a dangerous diet"

"Green Happiness? I'd rather have Real Happiness"

The major problem with the interview seems to be that these two girls do not back their statements up with scientific proof. And because they have more than 200.000 followers and launched a diet book, this poses an issue. Which I can totally understand. Some of the - controversial - things they say in their diet book are not backed up by facts, so I get why people (especially with a scientific background) got a little frustrated. I mean, if no one proved it, don't print it in a book, no matter how good it sounds. 

But what I don't understand is that people call their diet/lifestyle a myth or a "danger to health". These people don't back this up with scientific research either. It's a bit a case of the pot calling the kettle black, no? It's an extreme reaction to something which indirectly criticises people's daily choices in life, strongly influenced by culture (meat-potatoes-vegetables kind of thing). People feel offended, which is why they react. And then I react to those reactions :') 

The so-called problem with the Green Happiness diet is that it's a vegan diet: no meat, fish, eggs and dairy. As I learned in my nutrition course, a vegan diet poses absolutely no threat to your health, as long as you take a daily vitamin B12 supplement and make sure you get enough protein from different plant sources (additionally you can take extra iron and calcium). I haven't come across any scientific research that proves that the vegan diet doesn't provide enough nutrients, which one dietician claims in a reaction. As far as I know, vegan food consists of a big variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and pulses. If you're not doing anything "extreme", you should be fine. So what's the problem here? 

The arguments that these kinds of diets lead to eating disorders are also not very nuanced. Pascale Naessens' diet was also a headline on De Standaard (BE newspaper) last week, which I thought was just totally ridiculous. The people who are writing these articles surely haven't even read the books and they totally didn't get the message that the "food guru's" are trying to convey. People are calling these kinds of diets "extreme", but have they actually looked at what people put in their shopping carts in the supermarket? Isn't all this processed food extreme? The fact that 56 billion animals are killed every year to meet our "need" for animal products? No matter what your stance is, let's agree that the word "extreme" is a very objective thing. 

Another issue people have with The Green Happiness girls is that they're successful. They've done a good marketing job and have a big following on social media. This is something most dieticians don't have, which is why they're the one reacting and calling the diet 'dangerous'. I can sympathise with them, since they've actually studied the subject for several years, and now their credibility is overruled by "food guru's". But that doesn't necessarily mean that everything they say is untrue, it simply hasn't been researched enough yet. 

So do I think eating animal products is bad? No, I don't. But I don't agree with the way these products are produced today. Farmers are pressured by competition and high demand. People want a big choice of meat at a low price. The only way the farmers can do this is by optimising their production, which doesn't always mean that the animals are "treated well". I've seen enough videos which show a small peek into what goes on in an animal farm, and it's enough to make me feel sick. I don't want to be responsible for the suffering of millions of animals, which is why I choose not to participate. Fact is that the meat and dairy industry is producing more greenhouse gases than the whole transportation system (cars, planes etc.), so I think it's about time more people start to promote vegan diets. I don't think it's just another hype, this is real change which needs to happen if we want to continue growing and being able to feed everyone with the amounts of resources we currently have. Yes, deep stuff indeed. 

Let's also not forget that obesity is the big problem in Western society today. Not some healthy diet. So why doesn't the press write about how much crap people are eating every day? Why do they attack people who promote a healthy lifestyle? (I'm not only talking about The Green Happiness here, but also Rens Kroes or Pascale Naessens for example) The most important learning people should take away from this whole thing is that - regardless if this specific diet is actually "bad" or not - we should eat less animal products and more vegetables. Simple. It's beneficial for both our health and our planet. So all in all, I'm supporting these "hyped diets" even if they could be brought in a more nuanced way. They are raising awareness about some of today's major issues and I can only stand behind that. 

ps. excuse the incoherence of this post, it's nearly 1 AM but I just couldn't go to sleep without addressing this:) I could have written 10 times as much but I'll let it rest for now. please leave behind your thoughts, I'd love to hear them (even if you don't agree)

© whiskers & lions

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