‘We Humans Need to Eat the Natural Human Diet’: Q&A With Glen Merzer, Author of America Goes Vegan!

Posted on December 4, 2023

Interviewed by Jane DeMarines, Executive Director of Climate Diet


Jane: While I am still reading your book, I do appreciate your down to earth advice and appraisal of the need for plant-based eating for our own health and the health of the climate—have you had any negative feedback from those who think vegans are elitists?


Glen: I honestly haven’t had any negative feedback, and the idea that vegans are elitists strikes me as odd. What is elitist about rice and beans, or potatoes and squash, or lentils and spinach? We’re not the ones eating foie gras.


Jane: I especially like the recipes that you and Tracy Childs have made a part of the book. Do you have a favorite recipe or two that you make yourself—and if so, why are they your favorites?


Glen: I love all the plant burger recipes and Tracy’s Low-Fat Garlic Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.


Jane: The title of your book suggests veganism has grown, and I certainly believe there is much more awareness of the health benefits—and of the damage that animal agriculture does to the planet. Have you seen any new data on this growing trend?


Glen: I’ve seen conflicting data, and I don’t have any insight into which assessment is correct, that vegans are 1% of the American population or 6%. Clearly it’s in that range but I suspect it’s lower than 6%. Unfortunately, at least half of the vegans I’ve met in my life eat a vegan junk food diet. If you’re not eating a whole food, low-fat vegan diet (minimizing oil), you may not experience the health benefits that veganism, practiced correctly, offers. 


Jane: Can you explain your own origin story and what propelled you into a vegan diet, and more so, what kept you there?


Glen: I became a vegetarian at 17 because of all the heart disease on both sides of my family. Unfortunately, I kept eating cheese (the only animal product I continued to eat) because relatives got me unnecessarily concerned about where I would get my protein on a meat-free diet. After 19 years as a vegetarian, I started getting pains around my heart. I put two and two together and realized that the cheese would kill me if I kept eating it, so I became a vegan in my mid-30s and haven’t had any pains around my heart for the last 30 years.


Jane: What is the most important message you would like to get out to those not yet vegans that can make a difference in their lives/life of the planet?


Glen: Well, of course I’ve tried to express my messages in my books Own Your Health, Food Is Climate, and America Goes Vegan!—but the central message is that we humans need to eat the natural human diet, which is a diet composed exclusively of plant foods, if we want to thrive. And if we insist on the folly of eating animal foods, we destroy the oceans, rivers, and streams; we destroy the land; we destabilize the climate; we bring on pandemics; we bring on antibiotic resistance; and we increase hunger in the world. That’s an extraordinary price to pay for eating flesh and dairy. I can’t understand why people would want to pay that price, while eating themselves into obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and so many other health conditions that are the direct result of an unnatural, inflammatory diet. Human beings are natural herbivores, as has been scientifically proven, and we should live like it. 


Jane: What’s your latest project?


Glen: I’ve started a podcast, The Glen Merzer Show, that can be found on YouTube and on the website realmeneatplants.com. I’m trying to build up the subscriber base, so please subscribe!


Jane: You are also a playwright and screenwriter. Does your veganism enter into your plays and screenplays?


Glen: Yes, it does. I have several plays and screenplays with vegan angles—sometimes subtle ones. If there are any vegan producers out there, they should contact me through glenmerzer.com.


Even With Current Emissions Pledges, Climate Will Warm Nearly 3°C by 2100, Says UN

How will the world fare if governments do not boost climate action? With countries’ emission-curbing commitments as currently pledged, world temperatures would still increase 2.5°C (4.5°F) to 2.9°C (5.2°F) by the end of this century, according to a United Nations analysis reported in Reuters. At that rate, scientists predict, the world could pass several catastrophic points of no return, including ice sheets melting and the Amazon rainforest drying out. The chance of limiting warming to the 1.5°C goal to which nearly 200 countries agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement is only 14%, according to the report.


Climate Denial Is a Growing Fad Among Instagram Wellness Influencers

Conspiracy-minded health and lifestyle influencers on Instagram increasingly are spreading misinformation about climate change, according to a HEATED report. False claims regarding the impact of animal agriculture are a frequent theme in their posts. “These are people who you would expect to be invested in climate and the environment,” said Cecile Simmons, a yoga instructor and researcher who has studied the phenomenon. “What they’re actually doing is promoting this kind of hyper-individualistic pursuit of health. That’s how you get to these rightwing anti-climate narratives.”


‘Polluter Elite’ Contribute More CO2 Emissions Than Poorest Two-Thirds of Humanity

The world’s richest 1% account for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66%, “with dire consequences for vulnerable communities and global efforts to tackle the climate emergency,” the Guardian reports, citing an Oxfam study. The elite group of 77 million people—billionaires, millionaires, and those paid more than US$140,000 (£112,500) a year—tend to live climate-insulated, air-conditioned lives, emitting in one year (2019) 5.9 billion tons of CO2. Such ‘polluter elite’ emissions would be enough to cause the heat-related deaths of 1.3 million people over the coming decades, according to the study.


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Why Eat for the Planet’s Benefit? My Journey of Healthiness

By Andrea Mones, Climate Diet Board Member


I have eaten a vegan diet since I was 30 years old. My motivation was my neurological health. I don’t hold an ethical or philosophical position for limiting myself to these choices. Rather, I started because there was no medical answer to my physiological problems. After seeking consultation with a nutritional counselor, within four months, I could tell my condition had improved. Now, 43 years later, I have achieved successful aging. I can fast walk, lead an independent life, have emotional vitality, and am very healthy. I have “perfect blood” (all levels within optimal range of those components that are tested), and no arthritis, or diseases. And the side benefit? I’m improving the environment at the same time.


A constantly growing number of medical studies link a diet based on plant foods to our personal health. 


Maintaining memory is linked to the health of the brain’s blood vessels in the same way as blood vessel health is linked to the heart’s health, according to an article in the latest issue of Nutrition Action, a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. So, a diet good for your heart is good for your brain.


“Therefore, following a plant-based diet in young adulthood and mid-life could reduce the overall burden of dementia in later life,” the article concludes.


Heart health has been understood for many years. Essential blood vessels feed both organs. Here, Nutrition Action states “Blood pressure and insulin levels in the healthy range may reflect eating very small amounts of protein.” Humanity’s reduced meat consumption will reduce the negative climate impact of raising animals. Our personal eating choices impact both our health and the planet’s health.

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