Diet for a Small Planet
|Diet for a Small Planet|
|Author(s)||Frances Moore Lappé|
|Illustrator||Kathleen Zimmerman and Ralph Iwamoto|
|LC Classification||TX392 .L27|
Diet for a Small Planet is a 1971 bestselling book by Frances Moore Lappé, the first major book to critique grain-fed meat production as wasteful and a contributor to global food scarcity. Eating a plant-centered diet, she argued, means choosing what is best for the earth and our bodies—a daily action that reminds us of our power to create a saner world.
The book has sold over three million copies and was groundbreaking for arguing that world hunger is not caused by a lack of food but by ineffective food policy. In addition to information on meat production and its impact on hunger, the book features simple rules for a healthy diet and hundreds of meat-free recipes.
Knowing that her audience would be skeptical that a vegetarian diet could supply sufficient protein, much of the book is devoted to introducing her theory of complementing proteins, also called protein combining. This is a method of eating different plant foods together so that their combined amino acid pattern matches that of animal foods. But while Lappé was correct that combining would indeed result in a more meat-like protein profile, it is also unnecessary: Individual plant foods contain all the amino acids required by humans, in amounts which satisfy growth and maintenance; however, certain deficiencies of particular amino acids should be considered since such deficiencies can have a negative effect on health. In other words, mimicking the composition of animal proteins is not essential to human nutrition. After this was pointed out, Lappé recanted the idea of protein combining in the 10th anniversary 1981 version of the book:
- "In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein ... was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.
- "With three important exceptions, there is little danger of protein deficiency in a plant food diet. The exceptions are diets very heavily dependent on  fruit or on  some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on  junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein."
The first edition, published by Ballantine, was sponsored by the Friends of the Earth organization. It includes recipes based on the complementary combinations and was followed by a collection, Recipes for a Small Planet by Ellen Buchman Ewald, with an introduction written by Lappé.
In 1975, Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins launched the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy (Food First) to educate Americans about the causes of world hunger. In 2006, Frances' daughter, Anna Lappé, took Small Planet a step further with her book, Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It (ISBN 978-1596916593). She revealed the disturbing connection between food production and climate change and outlined how we can eat food that’s better for people and the planet.
Topics covered in the book
- Part I: Earth's Labor Lost—Protein in United States agribusiness
- Part II: Bringing Protein Theory Down to Earth—Protein in human nutrition
- Part III: Eating From the Earth: Protein Theory Applied—Includes tables of food values, and explanations relating proteins to caloric and economic factors
- Part IV: Combining Non-Meat Foods to Increase Protein Values—Guidelines and recipes
- Appendices, Notes, Index
- Complementary Protein Myth Won't Go Away!, Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D., Healthy Times (May 2003)
- Diet for a Small Planet (ISBN 0-345-32120-0), 1981, p. 162; emphasis in original
- Diet for a Hot Planet, Small Planet Institute