Saturday, April 6, 2013

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

I wanted to read a book about nutrition this year, and this book was certainly the right choice for me. It wasn't too long or too difficult of a read, but more important, it basically gave a lot of scientific evidence for a lot of things I've believed about food my entire life.

I think proper nutrition is important, but I've always been skeptical of counting calories or carbs or even nutrients. I admire people who forsake average food in order to eat weird health recipes with wheat germ or acai, but I never wanted to do it because food is important to me for much more than just staying alive. I love food not just for the taste or nutritional value, but for the cultural side of things. I've always felt that you really lose a lot when you narrow your food choices so far that you can't even enjoy a regular meal with other people. 

And it's always bothered me how the supposed "authorities" on nutrition constantly change their minds about which foods are good for you. Take milk, for example. People never used to question the nutritional quality of milk. They said you should drink a certain amount of milk a day. But then milk was too fattening. And now milk is good again...or maybe it's not? I don't even know anymore. 

Basically, it irked me that food had to be such a complicated thing. It never used to be complicated. Why does it have to be now? 

And that's exactly what Pollan says in this book. The basic idea behind it is that traditional diets are always healthy. People never used to have the problems that many Westerners are now facing (like heart disease, obesity, etc.). It was only once people started trying to dissect what food contains that we started to have problems, and now it's not about the foods themselves anymore; it's all about the nutrients the foods contain. The trouble with this is that we don't know enough about food to be able to reduce it to the nutrients it contains. Food is way too complicated to approach in this way. What we should be doing, rather than following the current food trends, is to eat real food (not food that's engineered to be healthy or tasty) and eat it in moderation. Pollan gives has three basic rules for eating: "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." And there's really not much more to it, except he goes through and explains these rules, because in this day and age we all require scientific evidence for every possible idea, even ones that are as simple and obvious as Pollan's. 

Anyway, I really liked this book and I recommend it, especially to anyone who finds themselves completely confused and annoyed by the way the food industry works these days. The crowning glory of the book is that Pollan gives some practical methods for actually getting away from the Western diet, for example, not to buy anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food (like Go-Gurt). It can be a daunting task to completely escape from the Western diet (aka McDonald's, refined and processed foods, etc.), but Pollan has some great ideas for how to start. 


  1. I really liked this book. Like you I haven't been a fan of eating fads. This book helped me to change some of our eating habits to include more real foods and much less processed ones.

    1. I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for your comment. I checked out your book blog and enjoyed it very much, by the way; I'll be following. :)