Promoting “common ground” with Michael Pollan

Susan Benigas -- sailing off Stonington, CT on 9-30-11

Moving the world in the direction of more whole foods, plant-based eating

My good friend Susan Benigas, who lives in Missouri, recently went with her husband, Jon, to see the famous “food” writer/speaker Michael Pollan at a St. Louis Speakers Series. She shared with me some of his comments; most with which she agreed. But not all.

When I first read over those comments, I realized that, just like me, Michael Pollan is out there urging everyone to eat more whole plants. It’s not important whether or not we agree with everything he says, the bottom line is that he’s out there helping to move the world in the right direction.

Common Ground vs. Argument. For those of you who’re familiar with the pioneering “veggie docs” out there, you probably know that Dr. Esselstyn doesn’t always agree with Dr. Ornish and Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t always agree with Dr. McDougall. But all four of them have helped thousands, if not millions, of people take charge of their health by adding more whole, plant-based foods to their diets. And all four of them share much more “common ground” than they do differences. So let’s forget the differences and dwell only on the common ground, on which we designed our simple, positive, flexible and powerful 4Leaf Program.

Leveraging the simple concept of maximizing the percent of your calories that are derived from whole, plant-based foods.

Leveraging the simple, yet powerful concept of maximizing the percent of your calories from whole plant foods -- still in nature's package

In embracing that simple philosophy, I have recognized that our world benefits far more if one billion people move just halfway to the 4Leaf level than if 100 million people went all the way. In a previous blog, I actually did the math for that example and concluded that the one billion that went halfway contributed over four times as much global benefit as the one million who adopted almost perfect, near optimal diets. A tiny few eating a perfect diet? — or truly changing the world?

So I am happy when I hear a prominent individual like Michael Pollan saying that we all should be eating more whole plants. And my good friend Alexandra Stoddard continues to remind me of the importance of embracing the great benefit of the “common ground” that I share with influential people such as Mr. Pollan. For the record, he appears 4 or 5 times in our list of 306 footnotes in our book. From his speech in St. Louis, here are some of those common ground statements that I like:

Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food" and "Omnivore's Dilemma"

    • Eat real food, mainly plants!
    • Current animal protein consumption patterns are unsustainable.
    • The vast majority of what grocery stores carry today is consumable food-like substances, not real food.
    • If something has more than five ingredients or has ingredients that a third grader cannot pronounce, then you shouldn’t eat it.
    • If there are health claims on the package, don’t buy it!  The items in the produce section with no packaging and no health claims are the most healthful—-these and whole grains. 
    • Until we address the fact that Americans are eating themselves into chronic disease, we will never be able to address our broken healthcare system—–the current model is unsustainable. 

Regarding this list, I really liked the fact that he used the word “unsustainable” twice; and his description of typical grocery “foods” is one of my favorites:

“consumable food-like substances, not real food”

J. Morris Hicks, author and activist. Working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

Want to receive some occasional special news from us? You may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4-Leaf page.

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—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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1 Response to Promoting “common ground” with Michael Pollan

  1. Listening to the President’s speech, just imagine the impact if he talked about health and a plant food diet. But then wouldn’t big business take umbrage…plant food, are you kidding!

    Eat more broccoli!

    Sal Liggieri

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