In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan
256 pgs, April 2009
Vitamin-enriched Diet Coke, bread infused with Omega-3 fatty acids – you’d think we were getting our fair share of vital nutrients. That all was right with our national diet. But Michael Pollan in his best-selling book “In Defense of Food’ – out now in paperback – offers a very different perspective.
Pollan affirms the problem lies with how we look at food. He’s a stark critic of nutritionism, the belief that food is merely the sum of its parts, a carrier of its constituent nutrients, and the good stuff can be engineered in, while the bad stuff extracted. Such an approach leaves the consumer at the mercy of the food industry which has only one goal in mind: profit, by any means necessary. Further, upon close review, the benefits of these “healthy’ processed foods are consistently proven false.
So what can we as health-conscious eaters do? Pollan suggests a few simple, memorable points of advice. Avoid food products that make health claims. Avoid products with more than five ingredients or include high-fructose corn syrup. Shop in the peripheries of supermarkets (where the fresh food is). Eat meals, not snacks. Eat slowly, at a table, and try not to eat alone. All this can be summed up in seven words, his now-famous maxim: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’
Pollan writes in a clear, blunt, at times folksy style that is very affecting. His arguments are well drawn, backed by studies (but not too many), and are extremely compelling. Gazing across the wide expanse of global eating customs, Pollan opines that only one diet has done us more harm than good: the so-called Western diet. This Monday why not take control of what you put in your body? Join us in eating food, not too much, mostly plants.