With all his talk of activated almonds and poisonous sunscreen, Pete Evans has put a lot of us offside.
His teachings go from the bizarre to the outright dangerous - like raw milk and anti-vax propaganda - so when word got out he’d authored a new book about ‘improving your health in a modern world’, I’m sure I can be forgiven for thinking it’d be full of nonsense.
While nonsense is not in short supply, after reading it, I was actually quite surprised at how much Pete Evans and I can agree on.
Heal is an easy read and dispenses the kind of wisdom we’ve all ignored from our mums in tiny, one-page bites. A good example is his recommendation to ‘chew your food properly’, a small but valuable practice that does quite a lot to aid digestion.
Another is eating offal; a staple of our grandparents’ generation which is slowly finding its way onto modern menus. Not only is offal tasty, packed with vitamins, and significantly cheaper than prime cuts, from an ethical and environmental standpoint, it also makes sense not to waste any part of an animal we raise to slaughter for food.
Making time for ‘a real lunch’, choosing fruit and veg that are in season, sharing meals with your nearest and dearest (instead of a screen), and making time for walks outside in the sun, are a few of the other 101 tidbits that make up the book.
Even our country’s drinking culture is touched on in a point titled ‘rethink your drink’ - something many of us would do well to consider after the 2019 Global Drug Survey named us the world’s fourth biggest consumers of alcohol.
Pete himself confesses, “I drank too much for many years and it was a destructive force in my life,” as he recommends we cut back on our booze.
And it gets better (if you’re privileged enough)
It all sounds fairly reasonable until now, right? While it’s nothing terribly groundbreaking, there’s value in each of his aforementioned points, basic as they are.
Pete goes on to advise that we eat organic, free range meat, and source wild caught, Australian seafood, to go with a rainbow of locally grown veg. It’s a romantic way of eating that’s far outside many Australians’ price point, but a beautiful way to respect the environment and the animals involved, for those who can afford it.
There’s another luxury in his teachings, and it’s time. The book features anecdotes from Pete’s own weekly routine, including that he preps healthy lunches for his family containing “animal protein such as meatballs, paleo hot dogs, fish cakes or an egg dish” with veggies and a piece of fresh fruit.
He also drinks cold-pressed celery juice most mornings, and grows a fresh batch of bean sprouts every other day - quirky yes, but they rave about home sprout growing on Gardening Australia too.
But is it as harmless as it seems?
While expensive and time consuming, we still haven’t ventured into the concerning, until he starts talking about the ‘carnivore diet’.
He writes: “For some who have inflammation of the gut, it can be helpful to remove vegetable and fruits from the diet for a period of time.
“This is known as a carnivore diet, in which you eat solely animal products (eggs, fish, seafood, chicken, pork, beef) and get almost all of your daily energy from protein and fat, with very little carbohydrate.”
While he does caveat this at the bottom by saying “talk to your healthcare professional before starting”, there is no real evidence to support this diet, and in fact, numerous studies have associated the consumption of large amounts of red meat to health issues. Most recently, a study published in BMJ last week linked a diet high in red meat to a higher risk of death.
There’s also the sustainability argument here, as the agriculture industry is Australia’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter (after energy), mostly thanks to the manure produced by livestock that we go on to eat.
In fact, environmental writer George Monbiot, recently said, “The best way to save the planet [is to] drop meat and dairy”.
Other diets mentioned in Pete’s book include intermittent fasting (where he goes up to 18 hours without food) and the ketogenic diet, both of which left Harvard researchers skeptical when they looked into the science.
He also throws in sly one liners like “step outside without sunscreen” and “I choose to use fluoride-free toothpaste”.
When I first flicked through this book, I didn’t hate it - in fact, I kind of liked it. It delivers a whole heap of really sound advice alongside a sprinkling of eyebrow-raising ideas, with the ratio making the latter easy for a skimmer to glaze right over.
But perhaps that’s done on purpose, to lull you into a false sense of security, or to trick you into believing it’s also normal to slather yourself in organic beef fat instead of commercial moisturiser (as he says on page 87).
And perhaps that’s more dangerous than a book filled with nonsense in the first place.
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