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Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

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Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

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Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

Food Photos: Around The World In 80 Diets

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How many calories do you consume in a day? Is it more or less than the recommended 2,000? How does it compare to the butter-rich 4,900 of a Tibetan monk — or the scant 800 of a Maasai herder in Kenya? These are the questions asked by photographer Peter Menzel and his wife, Faith D'Aluisio, in their new book, What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets.

"I want people to understand their own diets better — and their own chemistry and their own biology," Menzell tells NPR's Michele Norris. "And make better decisions for themselves." To do that, he and D'Aluisio decided to lay it all out. Literally.

This is not the first project of its kind for Menzel and D'Aluisio. A few years ago, their book Hungry Planet showed what families eat over the course of a week. Before that, Material World displayed the anatomy of household possessions around the world. For their newest project, the duo traveled to 30 countries to document what we humans eat on an average day. And their findings are fascinating.

Take Joao Agustinho Cardoso, for example. He's a Brazilian fisherman who consumes a whopping 5,200 calories a day. But, as Menzel's photo shows, he has an average build, and the quantity of food on his table seems reasonably healthy: whole milk, an entire freshwater fish, pinto beans and noodles. The secret, Menzel explains, is an active lifestyle and high-fiber foods — and a lot of cooking oil. American truck driver Conrad Tolby, on the other hand, gets his 5,400 calories from cheeseburgers, fried foods and Starbucks.

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What I Eat: Around The World In 80 Diets by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, Ten Speed Press, 2010 hide caption

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Menzel's photographs are accompanied by D'Aluisio's text, which delineates each diet but also gives cultural context. She explains why, for example, Millie Mitra in India drinks her own urine; it's a practice called shivambu, described in ancient texts as cleansing and curative. For D'Aluisio, the goal is to get readers to compare and contrast — to situate one's personal diet against that of a 12-year-old runaway in Bangladesh or an acrobat in China.

According to Menzel and D'Aluisio, this display of daily diets has gotten people thinking. One soda-guzzling subject decided to cut back after seeing the sheer quantity put before him. And "The Snacker Mom," as Jill McTighe of Great Britain is called in the book, has been making a concerted effort to trim her binge diet of 12,300 calories. How this process benefited the Maasai herder in Kenya is less clear; but for the average reader who can see 80 diets in context, that herder's 800 calories gives a reason to consider what we eat — and what others don't.