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Mr. François CARNINO, lecturer on plant-based food at L214

Mr. François CARNINO, lecturer on plant-based food at L214


Hello Mr Carnino,

Allow me, first of all, to thank you for accepting our interview with our newspaper. Our interview will focus mainly on plant-based food. You will explain to us what a meat-free diet can have for our health and the implications that exist with the environment and the climate. But before I get to that, here's my first question:

  • Could you introduce yourself to our readers and explain to us what your work involves within the L214 association?

I am François Carnino, and I have been working at L214 for 8 years now. Today, I devote myself to raising awareness on the subject of plant-based food. This notably involves interventions and conferences with students, the general public or even businesses.

  • First of all, how do you define vegetable food?

A vegetable diet is more respectful of animals and the environment. Animal products such as meat, fish, or eggs will be replaced by vegetable alternatives such as legumes, tofu, seitan, etc. The alternatives are numerous and we often discover more foods and dishes when we are interested in vegetable cuisine!

  • What do you think are the main health benefits of a plant-based diet?

A well-managed, varied and balanced plant-based diet is good for your health at any stage of life. It has benefits in terms of preventing certain health problems that are still very common: cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancers of the digestive system, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Are these benefits validated by the scientific community? We hear a lot of doctors talking about the harms and imbalances caused by a vegetable diet, what do you think?

These benefits are scientifically established. As with any diet, it is important to ensure nutritional balance, otherwise certain problems may arise. This is often caused by a lack of information about plant-based diets: today's nutritional recommendations in France give very little advice to people who choose to adopt a plant-based diet. There are of course certain points of vigilance to have, in particular at the level of vitamin B12, but the “standard” diet also includes certain points of vigilance, even if they are different.

  • What are the different types of plant foods that we can consume in order to cover all of our needs and in particular our protein needs, since I understand that this is the main stumbling block with the critics of the vegan diet?

Protein requirements are very easily covered by legumes and their derivatives (tofu, milk and soy yogurt, for example). You can also turn to lesser-known foods such as seitan, which is made from wheat protein. It is essential to take a vitamin B12 supplement: this supplementation is also recommended for people who choose to reduce their meat consumption, as has been established by the ONAV (National Observatory of Vegetable Foods). In fact, vitamin B12 is only found in animal products.

  • What are the essential foods found mainly in foods of animal origin and how to replace them in a vegetable diet?

Meat can easily be replaced by legumes. Many alternatives exist for recipes that use eggs. Regarding cheese, the vegetable cheese market is booming and more and more products are available. These are often based on oilseeds such as almonds or cashews. For fish and seafood, marine flavors can be found by incorporating seaweed into recipes.

  • A question that comes up frequently and errors are numerous, can you remind us of the difference between a vegetarian and vegan diet?

A vegetarian diet excludes meat and fish, while a vegan diet will also do without eggs and dairy products.

  • Don't you think that the vegan diet is a bit too extreme and dangerous for your health?

This is a frequent criticism that we make of vegan food, but in reality it is not so! Planting your diet often allows you to discover many other recipes and another way of eating. In terms of health, the scientific consensus is very clear: plant-based diets are viable at any age of life, including for people who practice sports intensively.

  • I imagine that you welcome the introduction of a compulsory vegetarian menu in canteens? Is this enough for you or do you need to go further? Legislate in this area for example.

Indeed, this is a good first step! However, this measure remains rather symbolic: the number of meals without meat that are served is quite low. In view of the climate emergency and the omnipresence of intensive livestock farming, we need to massively green the offer in collective catering and take incentive measures. Let's keep in mind that animal husbandry is today one of the main contributors to global warming. A legal and regulatory approach would speed up this process.

  • In your opinion, should the same approach be adopted in companies?

Completely ! Companies must engage and participate in the collective effort to build a sustainable food and agricultural system.

  • To your knowledge, are there countries in the world that are much more advanced than us in this area and where it works very well?

Many European countries have a considerable lead on the subject: Germany, Belgium, Portugal, etc. We can also mention England, which is probably the most advanced on the subject. This requires in particular a much larger offer in restaurants but also in mass distribution, but also a culture and a state of mind that considers veganism and vegetarianism as something positive.

  • We spoke some time ago here with Madame Gothière, founder and President of L214, on the damage caused by intensive agriculture. Are you also of the opinion that this mode of agriculture is harmful for our environment and our planet? And if so, how do you think it should be done?

Indeed, intensive farming is a scourge on all fronts. At the environmental level, its massive emissions of greenhouse gases no longer need to be proven, not to mention the pollution of rivers and the sea by nitrates (green algae). At the health level, the risks of contamination and food poisoning are high, as evidenced by the many scandals of recent years. The concentration of thousands of animals in a confined space can also lead to the appearance of diseases that can be transmitted to humans, or to antibiotic resistance due to the routine treatment administered to them. Intensive farming, by its nature, does not respect the biological imperatives of animals and is a source of immense suffering for them.

  • A particular point that is controversial with the medical profession. How to get the necessary good quality calcium intake while completely excluding dairy products from your diet? Aren't there necessarily shortcomings?

Calcium intakes are indeed to be monitored, but it is quite possible to fill them! Today, many plant-based milks and yoghurts are fortified with calcium to the same level as dairy products. Green vegetables are also good sources in addition to being excellent foods for our health. It is also possible to turn to mineral waters rich in calcium. While plastic bottles aren't ideal, keep in mind that milk production is a far greater environmental disaster, and milk will often be stored in the same type of container.

  • Are you one of those who think that adopting a vegan diet is the solution to climate change?

If there is no miracle solution, vegetable food is essential to be able to meet the objectives set by the IPCC. It should be remembered that animal husbandry is responsible for more than 14% of greenhouse gas emissions among human activities. Many aspects of production and consumption need to be adapted, and food is one of them.

  • What links do you establish between food and environmental protection?

Food and agriculture have a considerable impact on our environment: climate change, water and air pollution, etc. We cannot do without agriculture for obvious reasons, but we can adapt and transform it so that it corresponds to a sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly model. Today the data is clear: meat is the main contributor to climate change in our diet. Going without meat is the most effective individual act to reduce our carbon footprint, 6 to 7 times more than eating locally!

  • A question for our sports readers. Is it possible to follow a plant-based diet while exercising, whether moderately or intensively? Do you have examples of athletes for whom it works?

Vegetable food and sport are completely compatible , whether the practice is moderate or intensive! Many high-level sportsmen and women have successfully adopted a plant-based diet. We can mention the footballer Alex Morgan, world champion twice, the bodybuilders Frank Medrano and Patrick Baboumian. Endurance runners are also widely represented: Scott Jurek, Fiona Oakes, Rich Roll, etc.

  • Give us the typical example of a balanced vegetable meal?

An ideal vegetable meal will consist of these different foods:

    • a source of protein, such as legumes.
    • possibly whole grains (pasta, bread, etc.)
    • half of the plate must be made up of vegetables (and this whatever the diet, by the way!)
    • quality lipids, such as rapeseed oil which is rich in omega-3. Oilseeds are also interesting and can supplement the protein intake.
    • a fruit or raw vegetables can be interesting for their vitamin C and fiber intake.

Keep in mind that you have to know how to be flexible in your diet: the balance is made over several meals, it is useless to make complex calculations each time you cook!

  • Finally, what advice would you give to people who want to make a successful transition to a plant-based diet?

Find the approach that works best for you: For many people, going incrementally will be the preferred solution. Some examples :

    • initially, choose to plant 1 or 2 meals per week, then gradually increase the frequency of these meals. This will allow you to get used to it and discover new recipes as you go.
    • choose a meal of the day (breakfast for example) to be vegetated on a daily basis.
    • choose recipes that you like and plant them: you can find many alternatives on the internet.

Avoid the “all or nothing” approach: it's not because it seems too difficult for you to do without cheese that you have to give up everything! First, identify foods of animal origin that you can easily do without. If you are concerned that a plant-based diet will be too restrictive outside, in a social or professional context, first change the meals eaten at home.

  • To end our interview, could you tell us what major projects you will be working on in the coming months and what goals (or dreams) you would like to achieve?

Our association has a fairly broad field of action. In the coming months, we would like to be able to roll back the worst farming practices for chickens and pigs in particular. The greening of the offer in catering and mass distribution is essential and we want to push companies and the food industry in this direction. Our primary goal is to end animal exploitation, but there are many steps and milestones to go through before we get there. One of the ambitious objectives that we would like to achieve is the prohibition of intensive farming in France.

I have come to the end of my questions, Mr Carnino. It only remains for me to thank you once again for the time you have given us to enlighten our readers on this very important contemporary subject and we wish you, of course, much success in the pursuit of your work.

Posted on 2023-06-16 13:04

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