Summary of the book EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle : Even though we live in a toxic society in which industrial food, pollution, stress and chemical products are all around us, it’s not too late…
By Gilles Lartigot, 2013, 320 pages.
Note: This is a guest chronicle written by Ester Ramos from the blog audasioux.fr
Description and summary of the book EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle
In his book EAT, Gilles Lartigot explains that even though we live in a society that is toxic for our health, we can reverse the damage. To do so, we simply have to pay attention to what we eat. We cannot live without food. We are built to eat everything. Most of us even eat 3 meals per day. Paying attention to what you eat will have a very tangible and beneficial effect on your everyday life.
The book EAT, as suggested by its subtitle “Chronicle of a beast in the food jungle” is about food and its impact on our health.
The author, Gilles Lartigot, attempts to demonstrate the importance of food on health. He denounces the “toxic society” in which we live and warns us against the consequences. They include the development of diseases that are caused by civilisation (obesity, diabetes, heart disease) and the threat to the reproduction of the species.
Part 1. Faced with abundance, we often make bad choices
In the early chapters, the author stresses that the modern age is a great time to be alive from the point of view that we can still choose what we eat. We have access to products that are exotic, organic, industrial, light, gluten-free, sugar-free… And yet he notes that we seem lost when faced with so many possibilities. This loss of points of reference and a kind of “laziness” lead to us to make poor choices in terms of our health.
“A balanced diet of the traditional Mediterranean or Japanese type can prevent 40% of cardio-vascular illnesses, cancers and metabolic diseases and slow the development of these diseases in 60% of cases. No medicine exists that is this effective.” ― Gilles Lartigot, EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle
Part 2. Chemical development and the feminisation of species
He also points out that an entire politico-industrial system is forcing us down the wrong road. Chemical development has led to exponential development of synthetic molecules and environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). We still don’t know the impact that these molecules have on human health.
Gilles Lartigot explains that there are four sources of EDCs.
- Pesticides and fertilisers,
When you read the interview between Gilles Lartigot and Professor Pierre Marie Martin, you understand that the development of endocrine-disrupting chemicals is not without consequences for the preservation of the human species. The author concludes that: “EDCs are responsible for feminising species and rendering males sterile”.
The impact on health is just as worrying, because women exposed to EDCs are more inclined to develop breast cancer and children have a strong chance of developing behavioural problems, as well as becoming more aggressive.
However, there are solutions, because the food we eat can slow down or accelerate one out of every two types of cancer. Appropriate diet can prevent one out of every three cancers! These are very optimistic perspectives. Food has an unexpected potential for prevention and healing. It is the very best medicine.
Part 3. The consequences of the race to lower prices
For years, consumers and industrials were obsessed with producing and consuming cheap food. This choice was the result of a particular context: the war years were notable for rations and hunger and this traumatised people. This choice has consequences on our production methods, our lifestyles and on the quality of the food we continue to eat today, even though the context has changed considerably.
It leads to the production of poor quality products.
In his book Eat, Gilles Lartigot contends that this race to lower prices has ultimately cost much more in terms of public health. Furthermore, it led to the disappearance of small farms and the development of industrial scale farming production. Nowadays, food products are commodities like any others. The prices are set by the stock exchange. This financial approach leads to the production of poor quality products to increase margins and sell more. The author analyses how the race for profits forces farmers to keep using more fertiliser and more pesticide.
It leads to the development of supermarkets.
The race to lower prices has also led to the development of supermarkets. France has the highest number of supermarkets per inhabitant. Author and food business specialist Christophe Brusset came to the same alarming conclusion in his French book “Vous êtes fou d’avaler ça”: supermarkets are temples of consumerism. They are practical. You can buy everything there. The problem is that this method of consumption leads us to forget about the seasonal nature of food and separates us from the realities of actual farming.
Alternatives exists but obstacles must be overcome
Alternatives exist in France. Local farmers’ markets can be found in most French towns and villages. Therefore, it is possible to find out more and make clear and informed choices.
There are obstacles. One of the biggest obstacles is due to the industrials. Their goal is not to preserve human life. They use a strategy of doubt, funding studies that disprove other studies calling them out on the impact of such or such a product on human health. They publish studies that say what they want us to hear. Gilles Lartigot takes the example of the dairy industry to demonstrate the level of misinformation that exists. Data about the level of pesticides contained in milk does exist, but it is not widely publicised. On the other hand, there is a famous slogan in France “Dairy products are our friends for life”. Official recommendations about the consumption of dairy products are the fruit of a successful marketing campaign and industrial lobbying, not serious scientific study.
Governments are often powerless against the lobbies. It is our responsibility as citizens to inform ourselves and take action at our own level.
Part 4. Animals are subjected to inhumane practices
Gilles Lartigot notes that consumption of meat has greatly increased since the 1960s. In his book EAT, the author states that the nutritional quality of the meat that we eat today is very different to that produced in the past.
Food scandals illustrate a dominant strategy: produce and sell at low cost.
The increase in the consumption of meat products led to the adoption of money-based and industrial approaches. We seem to discover these practices again each time a scandal emerges, such as “horsegate”, but they dominate the food business today. As a reminder, “horsegate” was the name given to the food scandal when it was discovered that industrials had replaced beef with horse meat in industrial products in order to lower production costs. This scandal highlighted a worldwide logistical chain.
The meat contained in the industrial products was negotiated with “traders” and came from various farms scattered throughout Europe. Different links in the chain operating on this market hid the fact that the meat was in fact horse meat in order to drag prices down. This scandal is indicative of a strategy that has now become dominant: Produce meat products at the best price. Sell them at the lowest prices and keep margins.
“In the industry, animals are not recognised as living beings but as meat carcasses.” ― Gilles Lartigot, EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle
Abattoirs are torture chambers
These industrial and money-based approaches also apply to abattoirs. Speed is of the essence. Gilles Lartigot spoke with an investigator named Jean-Luc Daub, who worked in abattoirs for 15 years. He confirmed that this is the case. The interview is very moving. It begins with a fact: 3 million animals are killed in France every day. This makes over 1 billion animals slaughtered per year. This fast pace leads to practices that are regularly denounced by inspectors or associations that are active in animal protection. Over the course of the interview, Jean-Luc Daub lists some bad practices that amount to non-observance of regulations in terms of animal slaughter: hanging animals by their feet while still alive, generalised ritual slaughter (without being stunned) for economic reasons, slaughtering sick animals…
These approaches are also seen on industrial farms where animals are not considered to be living beings but simply “carcasses”. 99% of meat production comes from intensive farming.
Gilles Lartigot shows that the workers in the abattoirs are also victims of this infernal system. Staff turnover is very high in abattoirs. We must not deny our responsibility as consumers. Our food choices lead to the development of these kinds of practices.
Part 5. Our food choices are personal choices
Everyone is free to make their own food choices
The author says that we cannot impose our own food choices on others, but we can raise awareness so that each person is free to make their own conscious choice.
In the final part of EAT, the author presents his choices.
He goes over some of the “super foods” that he uses regularly: coconut oil, maple syrup, fresh ginger, turmeric, Cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar.
Gilles Lartigot is in favour of reducing the amount of sugar in our diet, especially refined sugar, and cutting out certain foods that offer no nutritional value.
He criticises traditional approaches in nutritional matters as they focus on calorie intake. In fact, the main thing is not the amount of food, but the quality of the food we eat. These approaches have encouraged the emergence of what are known as “light” beverages. These products are pure marketing inventions. They allow people to feel less guilty and they condition our taste buds. They make us dependent on sugar. And they are of no nutritional benefit and they are even potentially dangerous.
The author takes us into his own kitchen and tells us about his eating habits. This offers readers concrete examples of what he means by “food that is appropriate to health”.
He highlights certain products such as miso or herbal juice.
Miso is a paste made from fermented soy, fermented rice or barley, sea salt and water. It offers a lot of nutritional value because it contributes to a healthy intestinal tract. Intestinal flora is essential for the good working of our immune system.
Herbal juice comes from freshly cut wheat grass. It is cold pressed to drink. This juice has benefits for blood circulation thanks to its high concentration of chlorophyll.
Gilles Lartigot talks about ways to prepare food and to grow your own food in an urban setting.
One example of this is germination. Germination or sprouting is a way of producing fresh vegetables throughout the year. It can help us reconnect with living food and stock up on protein and vitamins that are essential to the good working of our bodies. Sprouted seeds are one of the rare foods that offer the body comprehensive plant proteins. They contain all of the amino acids required for our bodies to function properly.
He also recommends having a food store with some essential food items.
Among these basic products, we can mention honey that can be used both in cooking and medicine. Honey has powerful healing properties. It can also be used to prevent germs and parasites. However, take care when buying honey, because many industrial honeys have added sugar. The author interviewed some beekeepers who are actively involved in preserving traditional methods of producing honey. He shines a light on the “bee industry”. We learn that in North America, 2 million bee colonies are transported from farm to farm to pollinate large fruit farms. In order to withstand the stress of travelling and an unvaried diet, the bees are given antibiotics. Bee colony collapse is caused by several factors, but it symptomatic of a system that is skewed. The race for profit will have irreversible consequences on our eco-system. Without bees, our immune system will be considerably weakened.
The author advises us to take care when choosing foods and to favour small local farmers. Food should be a way of recreating social bonds.
He also invites us to take an interest in the power of plants:
Camomile, lemon balm, peppermint, nettle, etc. Drinking herbal tea is a great healthy habit you can adopt.
Plants like nettles are treasure troves of vitamins. Garlic also has a number of healing properties.
Finally, there is nothing like education to prevent children from being manipulated by advertisers and to give them healthy dietary habits. This is essential because taste is something you learn. Taste depends on culture, which is a savvy blend of education and common practice in the country in which you live. Everything hinges on the period between the ages of 3 and 6 years old. Parents have a role to play in educating children in taste.
Children need models, “superheroes” they can compare themselves to. Cooking is an everyday act. It can truly make a difference and turn you into an everyday “superhero”.
“A balanced diet of the traditional Mediterranean or Japanese type can prevent 40% of cardio-vascular illnesses, cancers and metabolic diseases and slow the development of these diseases in 60% of cases. No medicine exists that is this effective.” ― Gilles Lartigot, EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle tags: food, healthy living “The choice of the food we eat is a form of resistance to the structures of hegemonic power. It is a form of resilience.” ― Gilles Lartigot, EAT: Chronicles of a beast in the food jungle
Conclusion about the book EAT: chronicles of a beast in the food jungle:
Gilles Lartigot points out that 80% of the food eaten by an average individual in an industrialised country is composed of processed foods that are poor in nutrients. In doing so, the quality of food has declined. Massive use of pesticides has an impact on human health that we can hardly imagine, in the same way that the effects of smoking were not known in the past.
In the face of this, the author ends his book on an optimistic note. There are solutions, information is available and accessible, but you need to take the time to analyse it and question your habits and way of thinking. It is not an easy thing to question your eating habits. Deconstructing what we have learned is no simple matter. Taking time to find information, to cook or to talk to farmers is not always easy in our modern society.
Explaining your choices to other people is not always easy. Being an example is the best means of defending your deep convictions in matters of food. However, keep an open mind and do not try to force your point of view on other people. Be humble in your ambitions. Our individual choices have an impact, but we cannot force other people to adopt the same behaviour. We need to defend our convictions while respecting the opinions of others.
I learned a lot from reading EAT.
It helped me to question my eating habits. It persuaded me to find out more about the products I consume. I also experimented with lots of recipes and discovered germination! Finally, the book sowed the seeds for the development of my blog Audasioux.fr, to help people to live in accordance with their convictions.
- This book is an enjoyable read, broken down into 49 summary parts that include pictures that offer a striking “punchline” to each interview.
- He gives sources, strengthening the credibility of the arguments. This offers the chance to look more deeply into certain points.
- This book helps to put the principles described into practice using the recipes given at the end of the book.
- The train of thought can be difficult to follow and Gilles Lartigot’s position on certain subjects is not clear. This is because the interviews are not necessarily in chronological order. What’s more, the author relies heavily on these interviews to implicitly translate his thoughts.
- Some of the interviewees live in North America and describe the system there. As Europeans, we may find it harder to identify with this and know whether the system described is applicable to Europe.
- The price of the book means that it is for a select public. This goes against the ambition of the author to educate and raise consciousness among as many people as possible.
My rating :
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