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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 1 edition (April 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114964
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114963
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (746 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, January 2008: Food is the one thing that Americans hate to love and, as it turns out, love to hate. What we want to eat has been ousted by the notion of what we should eat, and it's at this nexus of hunger and hang-up that Michael Pollan poses his most salient question: where is the food in our food? What follows in In Defense of Food is a series of wonderfully clear and thoughtful answers that help us omnivores navigate the nutritional minefield that's come to typify our food culture. Many processed foods vie for a spot in our grocery baskets, claiming to lower cholesterol, weight, glucose levels, you name it. Yet Pollan shows that these convenient "healthy" alternatives to whole foods are appallingly inconvenient: our health has a nation has only deteriorated since we started exiling carbs, fats--even fruits--from our daily meals. His razor-sharp analysis of the American diet (as well as its architects and its detractors) offers an inspiring glimpse of what it would be like if we could (a la Humpty Dumpty) put our food back together again and reconsider what it means to eat well. In a season filled with rallying cries to lose weight and be healthy, Pollan's call to action—"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."--is a program I actually want to follow. --Anne Bartholomew

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In his hugely influential treatise The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan traced a direct line between the industrialization of our food supply and the degradation of the environment. His new book takes up where the previous work left off. Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of health, this powerfully argued, thoroughly researched and elegant manifesto cuts straight to the chase with a maxim that is deceptively simple: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. But as Pollan explains, food in a country that is driven by a thirty-two billion-dollar marketing machine is both a loaded term and, in its purest sense, a holy grail. The first section of his three-part essay refutes the authority of the diet bullies, pointing up the confluence of interests among manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists—a cabal whose nutritional advice has given rise to a notably unhealthy preoccupation with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily. The second portion vivisects the Western diet, questioning, among other sacred cows, the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. A writer of great subtlety, Pollan doesn't preach to the choir; in fact, rarely does he preach at all, preferring to lets the facts speak for themselves. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestsellers, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food. A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

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Customer Reviews

This book is well written and very informative.
Aloha Dog
This book is changing my life and I will never view food in the same way again.
M. Erb
In this book, Pollan focuses on the health food industry itself.
Charles T. Franklin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1,670 of 1,714 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What's better for you --- whole milk, 2% milk or skim?

Is a chicken labeled "free range" good enough to reassure you of its purity? How about "grass fed" beef?

What form of soy is best for you --- soy milk or tofu?

About milk: I'll bet most of you voted for reduced or non-fat. But if you'll turn to page 153 of "In Defense of Food," you'll read that processors don't make low-fat dairy products just by removing the fat. To restore the texture --- to make the drink "milky" --- they must add stuff, usually powdered milk. Did you know powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, said to be worse for your arteries than plain old cholesterol? And that removing the fat makes it harder for your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that make milk a valuable food in the first place?

About chicken and beef: Readers of Pollan's previous book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma", know that "free range" refers to the chicken's access to grass, not whether it actually ventures out of its coop. And all cattle are "grass fed" until they get to the feedlot. The magic words for delightful beef are "grass finished" or "100% grass fed".

And about soy...but I dare to hope I have your attention by now. And that you don't want to be among the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight and the third of our citizens who are likely to develop type 2 diabetes before 2050. And maybe, while I have your eyes, you might be mightily agitated to learn that America spends $250 billion --- that's a quarter of the costs of the Iraq war --- each year in diet-related health care costs. And that our health care professionals seem far more interested in building an industry to treat diet-related diseases than they do in preventing them.
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395 of 409 people found the following review helpful By Bozena Klejne on February 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
It is so good to read a book about nutrition that does not promote any new diet! The author's message is plain and simple: Go back to nature, eat wholesome foods, and don't bother with dieting. Don't overeat; instead eat slowly, and enjoy your meals - such notion has already been promoted by Mireille Guiliano in her bestseller "French Women Don't Get Fat".

Our curse is processed food. The dieting industry completely distorted our feeding process. Our desire to improve everything and to separate 'needed' ingredients from the 'unneeded' ones leads us to refining most of our food products. However, our artificially 'improved' food only seemingly has the same nutritious qualities as natural food. Artificial and natural foods have as little in common as silk roses with real ones.

Processed food is easily obtainable, doesn't require much work to prepare, and, unfortunately, it is often also addictive. At the same time it is full of calories with very small nutritional content.

Like "The Omnivore's Dilemma", Pollan's new book is indeed eye-opening. It makes us think twice about what we are going to put into our mouths the next time we eat. For more reading about the danger of refined foods I strongly recommend Can W e Live 150 - another book devoted to living in agreement with nature, and revealing the secrets of healthy diet.
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373 of 404 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Americans are fat.

Who's to blame? The government. Ay, but there's the rub. If the government undoes its mischievous agricultural subsidies, voters in farm states will throw the rascals out of office. Look what happened to Sen. John McCain in Iowa because he wants to end ethanol subsidies. No politician can afford to be public spirited instead of self-centered. The cure is not in government.

Instead, an intelligent solution begins with this book. Pollan goes to the heart of the matter, which is the content of our food. Our consumer society is based on making attractive products. For food, this means added sugar or added fat.

To quote Pollan: ". . . we're eating a whole lot more, at least 300 more calories a day than we consumed in 1985. What kind of calories? Nearly a quarter of these additional calories come from added sugars (and most of that in the form of high-fructose corn syrup); roughly another quarter from added fat . . . "

These extra calories are from nutrient-deficient food. It began with refined flour in the 1870s which removed bran and wheat germ to produce long-lasting snowy white flour. Consumers loved it because flour no longer turned rancid, and it didn't become infected with bugs.

Okay. Why didn't bugs chomp down on this new flour? Quite simply because the nutrients, the bran, wheat germ, carotene, were gone. Pollan explains, ". . . this gorgeous white powder was nutritionally worthless, or nearly so. Much the same is now true for corn flour and white rice." Take a look at a package of white flour and count the additives that make up for the loss of natural ingredients. Then you'll understand the basic thrust of this book and its remedies.

How do refined carbohydrates affect us?
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258 of 291 people found the following review helpful By LifeboatB on April 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Michael Pollan's book has some generally good advice about what to eat, and some fascinating/disturbing info about the American food industry, but I was continually frustrated by the author's weak attention to research. Pollan is a not a scientist, and doesn't seem to find it very important to ground his assertions with unimpeachable facts. His advice can sometimes be contradictory ("don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize" but "eat tofu"--If your great-grandmother didn't come from Asia, it's doubtful she would recognize anything made of bean curd) and he tends to cite sources that he likes, rather than sources he's really investigated. For example, Pollan would never list a dairy-industry pamphlet as one of his sources, but he gleefully quotes some rather doubtful statements from an organic-food-industry pamphlet, and apparently didn't bother to ask even one secondary source to verify them. He writes a compelling essay showing that nutrition and dietary habits are incredibly difficult for scientists to study, and implies that any information based on nutritional studies is flawed, yet quotes certain studies as if they are somehow immune to this problem. Pollan maintains that the American government's health-education programs are a major cause of the obesity epidemic, yet the descriptions he gives of these programs don't match my memory of what was actually being taught at the time. And because he gives merely general endnotes, rather than specific footnotes, it's difficult to check where he got his information.

I also had a little trouble with Pollan's tone, which is strangely naive, and occasionally condescending.
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