Permaculture Diet

  • Permalink Gallery

    The Permaculture Diet (Part 2): The Permaculture Diet in Action

The Permaculture Diet (Part 2): The Permaculture Diet in Action

Please read The Permaculture Diet (Part 1) for more background information. The photo above is local produce from our organic farm market, meat from our local beef producer, and eggs from one of my patients!

After developing the Permaculture Diet, I decided to try it for a week. As of today, I am 6 days into it. I wanted to share a few of my thoughts and experiences so far.

I gave myself one day preparation. “Let’s just jump in”, I thought. As it turns out, this was not so easy to do. I currently live on a very small island in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. My garden is small, young, and I don’t really have a lot of choices when it comes to food.

Remember, Step One: Produce all your own food in a way that cares for the Earth and for People. I have been here for just about a year. I got some seeds into the ground by Autumn last year, but this was my first Spring garden at this location. Fortunately the garden is growing well. Unfortunately, it is small and not producing much food yet. I figured I was too late for an Autumn/Winter garden last year, but I chanced it anyway. Well, many of the seeds ended up waiting to germinate until this Spring. I have been eating beets, broccoli, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, and fava beans from the planting last Autumn. The garlic from my sprouted cloves are also providing some additional harvest now (see my article on what to do with sprouted garlic bulbs). I am also eating snow peas and the occasional yellow summer squash now from my Spring planting. The tomatoes are setting fruit, but no harvest yet. I have a number of other plants growing, but we will see how they do. Overall, it is a small garden and is producing only a small amount of food, so this makes Step One difficult to complete.


My kids browsing the small organic market.


Our local dairy and beef producer is committed to ethical care of their animals and the land and is a leader in the “organic” movement in Portugal.

Step Two: If you cannot complete Step 1, then get to know the people who produce all your food, and make sure they are caring for the Earth and People. I am very glad to have an organic market here on the island. It is quite small and does not stock a lot of food, but it is something. I know one of the farmers, and he is a Permaculturist, which is fantastic. Also, there is a local dairy and beef producer who, while not a Permaculturist, raise their animals in a very ethical manner. The animals are almost entirely grassfed as well as hormone and chemical free. They also sell some of the local organic fruits and veggies in their store.

Still, between these two locations, choice is limited. I am envious of those living in larger cities on the mainland who can go to a farmer’s market or organic grocery store.

I have also been very fortunate to have an elderly German couple, patients of mine, bring me eggs once a week. They have a small homestead and raise their animals in an “organic” manner, just without the certification. They are in their 80’s, and they have been following something very close to my Permaculture Diet for years. This is likely one of the reasons they are both still so healthy!

Considerations for the Permaculture Diet
You need to cook. If you don’t cook at all, trying to eat within these ethical guidelines is going to be very tough. I am sure if you live in a large city with a good organic and/or Permaculture scene, you could probably make do, but even that would be tough or expensive or both. I think a person should know how to cook for a large number of reasons, but I think it is vital if you want to be successful with this plan.

You need to source all your food. This is also tough. Until I actually started to apply these ethics to everything I ate, I never thought too much of where my salt comes from and how my black pepper is harvested and does that organic milk my kids are drinking come from a farm that produces sustainably. It can be a bit overwhelming.

You need to prepare. While I cook a lot and prepare a lot of my own staples (e.g. chicken or beef stock, sauces, spice mixes), the time I decided to start this experiment was about the same time I had just run out of most of my prepared foods. We had also just finished our supply of local fruit, meat, and eggs, and we just finished our veggies from my garden. If I was going to do this for one week, especially to feed others, I would have had more of my own staples ready and restocked. As it is, I am skipping a few meals this week because I only gave myself one day to prepare! Which leads me to my next point…

You need to ease into it. While it is gimmicky to follow the Permaculture Diet for a week like I did,  the goal of the Permaculture Diet is to change our minds and our communities toward sustainability. If you have the ability to make this change, 100%, overnight, then that is amazing. Please let me know where you live! Most others will need to learn to garden, learn to garden better, or learn to manage their gardens more appropriately so that they have a steady harvest all year round. It will take time to source all your food, get to know your local food producers, and build relationships with them. It will take time to learn to eat in season. It will take time to learn to cook certain food, cook them better, or cook them with more variety so you don’t get burned out on one food.

Compromises I Made
I have not followed my own rules as strictly as I would have wished. The main reasons are due to the considerations I listed above. Also, I am cooking for my family; and three children, five years old and under, are not going to be real happy if they need to miss a few meals this week bacause their dad is performing an experiment. I still used salt and pepper and a number of other spices, and I have no idea where they originated or how they were produced. I did chose to use a few staples like olive oil and butter and chicken stock as well, even though I did not verify their sustainability.

The Way Forward
I would highly recommend every one try to follow the Permaculture Diet for one week. I am not selling anything. I am not writing a diet book. It is just an experiment. At the minimum, it will make you more mindful of where your food comes from and how it is produced. At best, it will catch on and spread through your local community. If everyone demanded that their food was produced in accordance to the Ethics of Permaculture, we would be living in a truly sustainable world in no time at all!


Subscribe to and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!

Photo References: The photos in this article are mine. Please ask if you would like to use them!

My Grand Experiment… The Permaculture Diet (Part 1)

The Permaculture Diet (Part 1): How it started. An Ethical Diet. Health Benefits. Community.

This started as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek response to being called “Dr. Permaculture” for the hundredth time. Every celebrity doctor has a diet plan, I thought, so why not embrace my new moniker and create a diet program to go along with it! I posted it on Facebook about a month ago (see image above). Well, what started as a joke has been marinating in my mind over the last few weeks. I realized that when you apply the Ethics of Permaculture to anything, even in jest, the result is going to be something true and maybe even profound.

As an experiment, I decided I would try following my own diet plan for one week. I am on day number 4, and I have had numerous thoughts and revelations about the Permaculture Diet so far. But first, let me start with some general observations…

Ethical Diet
The Permaculture Diet is an Ethical Diet. It does not specify what foods to eat, but rather guides our decisions on selecting the source of our food. By applying the Ethics of Permaculture (Earth Care, People Care, and Return of the Surplus) to our decisions on food, we can lay the groundwork for an ethical diet plan.

For more information on the Ethics of Permaculture, please read my articles here:
Permaculture EthicsThe Third Ethic… it’s time to identify the mutationIdentify the Permaculture Mutation (Part 2)

There are a number of ethical diets in the world today, but from what I can ascertain, they all deal with religion. There are a number of semi-ethical diets that people embrace. Eating “organic” or vegetarian or vegan and even fruitarian are a few examples. I call these semi-ethical, because they are often attempting to counter what is wrong with our modern diet or with modern agriculture. In my opinion, a true ethical diet is one that starts off with neutrality to eating, develops ethical guidelines, then identifies how our eating is influenced by these ethics. With that strict definition, I think only religious diet regulations would fall into this category.

Eating “certified organic” food also may do little to promote sustainability. There are USDA Certified Organic farms that are thousands of acres. While these megafarms are not using chemicals that harm the environment, they are far from sustainable. It is healthier for the land and produces better food, but we should be clear that organic farming is not necessarily ethical just by sheer virtue of being “organic”.

Eating vegetarian also may do little to promote sustainability. One can eat completely vegetarian or vegan and only consume food produced in a very environmentally poor, chemically sprayed, non-sustainable manner. This may be ethical to the animals, if that is your moral world-view, but it is not ethical to the Earth.

So in reality, a style of eating is not alway ethical. There must be something deeper that guides it. What we have with the Permaculture Diet is a set of ethics that are neutral to eating. These ethics were not created by me, but I firmly endorse them. The ethics are a way toward true sustainability.

Health Benefits
By its nature, an ethical diet does not guarantee health. It is not a prescription for eating or not eating any one particular food. This is important to keep this in mind, and this is true with almost any diet program. Vegetarians can eat sugar and white potatoes all day long and be very unhealthy while never breaking the vegetarian rules. While I have never seen it this extreme, I have seen a number of very unhealthy vegetarians (and to be honest, a lot more unhealthy non-vegetarians). They are very devout in their beliefs, but their health is failing. It takes more than just ethics to be healthy.

Well then, can an ethical diet have health benefits? Let’s examine this. Step One of the Permaculture Diet is: Produce all your own food in a way that cares for the Earth and for People. The first part, “Produce your own food” has many health benefits. When we produce our own food, we have a vested interest in the quality of that food. We care more about it. We are more mindful, more careful, and more intentional. We are more likely to harvest food at its peak and consume it before it loses nutritional quality sitting in a boat, plane, or truck, or on a grocers shelf. We are going to pay more attention to soil quality, which will provide more nutrient dense food. We require less food when it is nutrient dense (as opposed to still feeling hungry when we consume many calories of nutrient-poor food) which means less total calorie consumption. When we are producing our own food, we are outside, we are exercising, we are in nature. All of these things are also correlated with good health.

The second part, “in a way that cares for the Earth and for People” also has health benefits. Again, if we are being mindful of people, we are going to be significantly less inclined to douse the food in chemicals before we eat it. If we are being mindful of the Earth, we are not going to be destroying ecosystems to build fields of monocropped species. We will build the soil. We will build ecosystems. We will build systems that moderate water instead of promote flood and drought cycles. When we care for the Earth in a truly sustainable manner, we will be caring for People at the same time. These two concepts are synergistic, not oppositional, to each other. When we are producing food in this manner, it is healthier for us.  When we live in a healthy environment, we are healthier as well.

Step Two of the Permaculture Diet is: If you cannot complete Step One, then get to know the people who produce all your food, and make sure they are caring for the Earth and for People. By supporting these producers, we are promoting all the benefits as outlined above for ourselves as well as the producer and others who purchase from them. We are helping to build healthier communities. Healthier communities will promote and maintain healthier individuals.

Step Three of the Permaculture Diet is: If you cannot complete Steps One and Two, then don’t eat. This step serves two functions. The first is fasting. Fasting has traditionally been a religious exercise, and while not all that enjoyable at first, fasting has numerous health benefits. We do know that fasting is not a healthy way to lose weight, but there are a number of studies that suggest fasting can increase lifespan, aid in detoxifying the body (protects/repair the liver and assists with filtration), improve chronic diseases, and may reduce inappropriate inflammatory and immune responses in our body. There are also a number of other claims made about fasting which have not yet been validated by modern science. Obviously, if a person is pregnant, malnourished, or very sick, they should not fast. The second function of this step is motivation. If we are dedicated to following this plan, then skipping a few meals is a pretty good motivation to keep gardening and/or to find a person producing ethical food.

Again, Step Two of the Permaculture Diet is: If you cannot complete Step One, then get to know the people who produce all your food, and make sure they are caring for the Earth and for People. By supporting ethical producers, we are enabling that producer to keep producing. This is an important thing to understand. While many of us would like to be completely self-sufficient, it is almost impossible to do so. We need others in many ways, but especially for our food. Every time we eat, we are make a choice of who to support. I see so much inconsistency in people who are against genetically modified foods or monoculture agriculture systems or “big ag”, but they continue to eat breads and cereals which support these systems. If we chose to support only those people who are producing food in an ethical manner, then we are returning our surplus back into the sustainable systems (the Third Ethic of Permaculture), and this will keep the cycle going. It will make it easier for other motivated food producers to make a living producing food in this ethical manner. When we choose to give our money to those who are not-sustainable, we are delaying that change, we are promoting the status-quo.

Permaculture’s originally meaning was for Permanent Agriculture, but it quickly grew to include Permanent Culture. By supporting those who are producing ethical food, we are building community, we are building permanent culture. We are building sustainability.


(check back soon for The Permaculture Diet, Part 2: The diet in practice)

Subscribe to and receive updates whenever a new article is posted!