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156 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing the way I think about what's "healthy"
I picked up this (very user-friendly) book after doing some reading that would explain why the only thing that could help curb my sugar cravings was drinking whole milk in the morning. I've been sugar-addicted for years; just couldn't say no. But about 3 months ago I started drinking whole milk with my breakfast and found that I was no longer thinking about food all...
Published on June 28, 2007 by J. Schutz

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85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Chatty, readable, but ultimately unrewarding
If you are looking at buying this book, you are probably already convinced, as I was, that eating "real food" is much healthier than "factory food". What I was looking for was evidence to support this view. I was hoping that Ms. Planck had gone through the effort of researching, compiling, then presenting the data to support and expand upon this theme...
Published on May 2, 2011 by Matt


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156 of 162 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing the way I think about what's "healthy", June 28, 2007
By 
J. Schutz (Alpharetta, GA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
I picked up this (very user-friendly) book after doing some reading that would explain why the only thing that could help curb my sugar cravings was drinking whole milk in the morning. I've been sugar-addicted for years; just couldn't say no. But about 3 months ago I started drinking whole milk with my breakfast and found that I was no longer thinking about food all morning, binging, skipping lunch, thinking about food all afternoon, binging, skipping dinner, etc. Planck's book explains the science behind this, as well as the common sense - the natural, healthy fats in natural milk are satisfying. They prevent the cravings of the fat-deprived individual I've become while gaining 30 pounds on low-fat eating over the last 10 years.

In addition to having more energy eating only natural, whole, real food, I have lost several pounds over the last month. I also appreciate the references given to the science behind it all.

One of the more fascinating things I find is that this book would have been considered 100% wrong 15 years ago (when even avocados, olive oil, and almonds were taboo). But in the last 5 years, we see "eat the healthy fats!" and even that margarine is on the outs with the recent trend away from trans fats. What more of the established "knowledge" about healthy eating will be disproven over the next 5-10 years? For me, I'll stick with eating what's been eaten for the last couple thousand years and avoid techno-foods and I bet it'll all be proven out in the end.
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293 of 319 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't read this book hungry!, June 25, 2006
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In Woody Allen's 1973 classic comedy Sleeper we see him as Miles Monroe, a nerdy sprout eater, who is transported two hundred years into the future only to find that science has determined that hamburgers, fries and thick milk shakes are now considered "health foods".

Fast forward from 1973 to 2006, that's only 33 years, not 200, and we are now learning that hamburgers, fries and thick milk shakes are, indeed, healthy food. The only caveat is that they should be prepared with real ingredients and not "processed" or "industrial" foods as Nina Planck explains in her wonderfully written Real Food, What to Eat and Why published by Bloomsbury Publishing.

In the spirit of those oh, so wonderfully helpful government warnings on everything from wine to ground beef I must add my stern warning to readers who sit down to read this book. Warning! Do Not Attempt to Read This Book If You Are Hungry! Why you ask, is this one of those books where they tell you what goes on in meatpacking plants and the images will make you want to throw up? No, no, not that! It is that she writes so well about food, how it is acquired, prepared, served and tastes so good and, is really, truly, even healthy for you, that you will immediately want to put the book down, run to the kitchen and prepare whatever it is that she was describing. You think I jest? Wait till you get to page 238 where she starts to talk about chocolate. She talks about Cacao nibs. I had never heard of them before. I now have my own private stock.

For me, the best parts are where she provides both the historical and modern nutritional reasons why natural foods, what humans have been eating for many thousands of years, not only taste good but are good for you. She also provides the detailed technical reasons why modern industrial foods are the real culprits and that they are what is really killing modern humans, not the real food we crave.

In addition to a good glossary, bibliography and a further reading and resources list she has a really nice "Where to Find Real Food" section which is how I found the Cacao nibs. You are going to have to read the book to find out where as I'm not telling.
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112 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get the data you need to support your nutrition!, January 6, 2007
I can't praise this book highly enough. A zillion cheers for Nina and the easy-to-read, friendly book she has delivered, filled with information that even a seasoned amateur nutritionist like myself can learn from.

What you'll find here are not recipes, like a reviewer was upset about below. But if she had read the title, it's pretty obvious this book is about the "why" behind the foods, not a "how-to-make-a-dish" book. And that's good, as we've been needing this info.

What you will find are facts and references to studies (with footnotes). I think we all can agree that American nutrition has been muddled by so much information, that it seems impossible to weed through just exactly what is healthy?

And that's where Nina cuts through the fog, with basic, simplified, and logical explanations of "why" our bodies need "what" food and the different kinds of food from traditional to industrial.

Nowhere in this book does Nina bash or criticize. Here positivity is glowing and admirable, especially with such hotly debated topics.

I would advise anyone to read this book. There are also parts addressed to children and the elderly. It's important for us to get back to the natural order of things, and stop being nutritional and drug experiments for scientists and pharmacologists. Being healthy starts first with your mind, then what you eat!
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97 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High-Carb, Low-Fat Junk Diet Has Made Us 'More Fat, Diabetic, And Heart-Diseased', December 27, 2007
This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
This is a reprint of my interview with Nina Planck that first appeared at LivinLaVidaLowCarb.com:

1. What a real treat we have at the "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" blog as the author of the book Real Food: What To Eat And Why is here with us today. She's food enthusiast Nina Planck and she has quite a perspective as it relates to advocating people start eating more "real food" in their diet while shunning the processed garbage that unfortunately has become all-too-common in the modern diet.

Welcome Nina and I appreciate you spending a few moments with me and my readers. You grew up around fresh produce and quickly fell in love with farmer's markets. How did that experience shape you into the enthusiastic lover of "real food" today? And what is "real food" as opposed to "fake food?"

My mother read Adelle Davis and she taught me that real food is whole food. We ate meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and lots of produce. The only thing that was restricted in our house was junk food, and that boiled down to white flour and sugar of all kinds. So dark chocolate was a popular dessert. So was proper ice cream, not too sweet, and homemade fruit pies, and real pancakes, made with whole grains we ground ourselves.

My definition of real food is food we've been eating a long time and food which is more or less farmed and prepared the way it used to be. So that means wild salmon and grass-fed beef; ecological fruit and vegetables; traditional fats and oils (animal and vegetable); raw milk cheese (not processed fake cheese or low-cholesterol cheese); and whole eggs (not egg-whites, pasteurized eggs, and powdered eggs). If you eat around the edges of the supermarket, you'll be eating real food. Avoid the highly processed, high-profit-margin, low-nutrition foods in the center. Except, as my mother would say, the brown rice and olive oil.

2. You believe (as do I) that most people would actually enjoy eating a more traditional diet of fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats and dairy products, and other real food if they simply tried them again and greatly reduced or eliminated their reliance on the overabundance of what I like to call "carbage" from their diet. But we are a nation full of people who wants what we want (junk food, fast food, meals in a box) and we don't want to pay a lot of money for it.

How do you convince someone who says they can't afford to eat a "healthy" diet with all those foods and is that a good enough excuse for not eating "real food?" Should the government or some other third party step in and help make fresh healthy foods more readily available to the lower-income consumer?

Carbage is expensive and because it contains so little nutrition, it's worse than expensive: it's wasteful. Why put all those empty calories in your body? The nutrients are in the foods we've eaten since the Stone Age: meat, fish, poultry, produce, nuts, and fats. I'm also a fan, nutritionally and personally, of real dairy foods (especially raw milk and good butter) but they're not for everyone.

3. Many people have come to the conclusion that the best way for them to start eating better and living a healthier lifestyle is to start cutting the fat out of their diet. After all, we've always been told--at least over the past three decades--that dietary fat is the reason why we have become such a nation full of overweight and obese people. But you devoted an entire chapter of your book on the reasons why fat should be consumed, including saturated fat.

For my readers who may still be skeptical about why fat will not "clog" their arteries and give them a heart attack, explain why real foods like butter, coconut oil, beef, and other high-saturated fat sources are indeed safe for consumption. If fat is not the culprit in heart disease, then what are we eating that is contributing to this health problem?

The main villains of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are industrial foods: corn oil, corn syrup, white flour, and trans fats. Don't eat them. The good guys are omega-3 fats in foods like wild cold-water fish; whole eggs; and natural fats, including saturated fats, like coconut oil, and unsaturated ones, like olive oil. If you eat traditional fats rather than industrial ones, you'll be fine.

Many traditional cultures eat traditional fats, including saturated fats, and don't get heart disease. That's because natural saturated fats don't raise cholesterol in unhealthy ways AND because they don't eat industrial foods. Coconut oil in particular BALANCES HDL and LDL. Deficiency of B vitamins raises homocysteine, which damages arteries.

How did we get deficient in B vitamins? By eating carbage. Don't eat white flour and sugars, which deplete the body of B vitamins. You'll get plenty of B vitamins from meat, fish, poultry, and whole grains.

4. As Michael Pollan outlined in his amazing book The Omnivore's Dilemma, one of the real problems we face with our food supply nowadays is the prevalence of a corn derivative in virtually every food out there. And the worst culprit of them all is sugar's evil twin--high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which sneaks its way into just about everything the average American eats.

Why do you think people are so unconcerned about eating all these foods that are nutrient-deficient and absolutely loaded with excessive amounts of sugar and carbohydrates? Is there any practical way to get through to them and hammer home the message that they are destroying their body and their health by forgoing a "real food" diet?

There is only one way: you must eliminate all forms of industrial corn from your diet, including corn oil, corn syrup, and even corn-fed beef. Of the three, corn-fed beef is by far the healthiest food. But what a New Year's Resolution!

For the average American, a personal ban on industrial corn would be a radical move, and, I think, not a difficult one, if your eyes are open to all the foods that ARE good for you. There are so many real foods. I'm getting hungry just thinking of one category: nuts. Brazil nuts in my pantry, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pine nuts - I love them all. On you can go, with another category of real food: cheeses, say, or fruits.

5. I'm with you on the nuts and cheeses! Your passion for "real food" is so evident as I read through the pages of your book and I'm sure it makes you wonder why more people aren't as enthusiastic about adding fresh, whole foods to their diet as has become such a normal part of your life.

Let's see if we can help people who sincerely want to change their diet from a typical, meal-in-a-box one into a farmer's market-styled plan. What would you suggest they do to begin making that transition starting right now?

After the corn suggestion above, I suggested eating fresh fruits and vegetables at every single meal. People are astonished at how much produce I eat everyday and I'm too often astonished at how little they eat. It's more important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables every single day wherever they come from than to eat local and seasonal foods. The grocery store is your friend in this respect. Even the sorriest grocery story has a produce section. Use it.

6. A major problem that people who are unfamiliar with eating "real food" may not even be aware of is the big factory-styled farms. Before I lost 180 pounds eating a healthy low-carb diet in 2004, I didn't care how a tomato got to my supermarket's produce section. I just wanted to be able to buy one to slice up for my cheeseburger when I wanted it.

But not all fruits and vegetables and even beef are the same, are they? Explain the difference between a mass-produced food product and one that you can purchase at a farmer's market.

Local food tastes better. There's no doubt about it. And there is junk--pesticides, fungicides, waxes--on a lot of industrial produce. But there is a greater difference, for your health, between processed foods and junk foods and whole, real foods. If your only choice is supermarket broccoli and grain-fed ground beef, eat it. Don't eat the other garbage that comes in TV dinners and canned soups. Eat simple, whole foods.

If you can afford it, spend more money on foods high up the food chain. So, in our house, we spend more on grass-fed and pastured meat and dairy and eggs, and on wild seafood. Ideally, these foods should also be free of hormones and antibiotics. We buy local fruit and vegetables because we love them and are lucky to get them near us in New York City, but in the winters, my mother raised us on the produce department at the local discount chain, Magruder's. You must eat fruit and vegetables every day.

7. We hear a lot of nutritional buzz words these days that don't mean very much to the uninformed. They've become such marketing slogans for food manufacturers that they are almost rendered useless in the modern vernacular since nobody really knows what they mean. Perhaps you can help clearly define what "organic," "healthy whole grains," and "grass-fed" means for my readers. Are there any other popular labels that you feel have become too convoluted, too?

Organic is defined by US law and it means the food was produced without chemicals, nitrogen fertilizer, irradiation, and genetic modification. Organic food is certainly a better choice, a cleaner choice, than industrial food.

Grass-fed is not defined, but it means, generally, that the beef or dairy cattle, goat, or sheep was raised on its God-given diet of grass, not grain. Many grass farmers feed some grain, so you'll need to ask if you want 100% grass-fed.

Whole grains should mean the whole grain is there: bran, fiber, germ, and starch. Don't be fooled by "wheat flour." It must say 100% whole wheat or whole rye to be whole grain.

8. I blog about these issues all the time, but we seem to have an ever-increasing problem with people becoming overweight and obese, getting diabetes, and putting their health at risk with such calamities as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, among others. All of this seems to coincide eerily with the nationalized promotion of a high-carb, low-fat diet ever since I was a child.

If there is such a rise in weight problems and disease despite the fact that our government and health organizations like the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and others have been pushing this kind of a diet, then why haven't other nutritional alternatives such as a low-carbohydrate diet become more embraced as an alternative for those who don't do well on the recommended low-fat regimen?

They just haven't moved with the science. It's clear from the Nurse's Health Study--heck, it's clear from observing the population even superficially--that the high-carbohydrate, low-fat advice has led to a nation ever more fat, diabetic, and heart-diseased. The folks in the nutritional establishment will come around when the last people who believe the failing theory have died. That's how scientific and nutritional opinion changes shape--slowly. Too slowly!

9. One of the world's most perfect foods in my opinion is eggs. They are chock full of some of the healthiest ingredients in the world--including protein, antioxidants, omega-3s and other essential nutrients. And yet we've been sternly warned against consuming them because of their high cholesterol content no thanks to the erroneous hypothesis forwarded by Ancel Keys regarding cholesterol.

Like the "fat will clog your arteries" concerns that many people have, how do you overcome the perception that a high-cholesterol diet is unhealthy? Why shouldn't people worry about their LDL and total cholesterol so much that they'll take a statin drug like Lipitor or Crestor to artificially lower it?

Eggs are a perfect food. They contain excellent protein, digestible fats, and many nutrients for eye and brain and heart. We have known for some time (1999, I think) that people who eat MORE eggs have LESS heart disease. We have known for some time that DIETARY cholesterol has little effect on BLOOD cholesterol. So there is no reason not to eat eggs.

There is a very good reason not to eat junk eggs: powdered, spray-dried eggs contain oxidized cholesterol which does clog arteries. Not natural fresh eggs. Don't eat phony foods; eat real foods. One thing we notice about cholesterol-rich foods is that cholesterol likes to hang out with other nutrients. Thus some of the most nutritious foods are rich in cholesterol: eggs, shellfish, dairy, organ meats.

All these foods were (and are) prized by traditional cultures. That tells you something. There are many skeptics on statins and statins do have serious side effects. Read more at [...]

10. What an honor it was to have you with us here today, Nina Planck. Your book Real Food: What To Eat And Why is absolutely amazing and I cannot recommend it highly enough to my readers interested in learning to eat better by putting more "real food" in their mouths.

It seems like an impossible task to get people to stop spending their money on "fake food" and to begin investing in "real food" for the sake of their weight and health. Do you believe a major paradigm shift could happen to make people become more conscious of their choices and to begin caring about the food they put inside of their bodies? And what final recommendations would you make for people wanting to adopt your "real food" philosophy?

Remember this: the information is there for anyone to read--nutrition counselors, government advice-givers, individuals. And the carbage and other junk food is also there for everyone to eat. You can't change that. You can only change yourself. Start with your fridge.

If you're doing all this already, you're probably at your natural weight, so relax. Here are a few final tips I've learned along the way:

* Eat breakfast every day
* Get a lot more sleep
* Exercise (take the stairs & walk everywhere)
* Take smaller portions
* Eat real meat, poultry or fish every day (think deck of cards)
* Eat whole dairy foods as often as you like
* Eat real eggs as often as you like
* Eat a lot of vegetables at every meal (more than you think)
* Eat as many whole grains as you need (the size of your fist)
* Eat nuts, chocolate & coconut (if you like them)
* Eat a lot of omega-3 fats from wild fish (daily flaxseed oil for vegetarians)
* Don't eat industrial vegetable oils
* Reduce or eliminate white flour, white rice & sugar
* Don't eat junk food, diet food, or foods engineered to be low-fat
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85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Chatty, readable, but ultimately unrewarding, May 2, 2011
This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
If you are looking at buying this book, you are probably already convinced, as I was, that eating "real food" is much healthier than "factory food". What I was looking for was evidence to support this view. I was hoping that Ms. Planck had gone through the effort of researching, compiling, then presenting the data to support and expand upon this theme.

Unfortunately, reading this book is more like running into someone who shares your views, and is fun to talk to, but does not distinguish between opinions supported by evidence and those that "seem right", given her other views. This book is absolutely saturated with claims about everything from Omega-3's in breast milk affecting children's behaviour to cancer-curing compounds in unpasteurized milk . . . there are even endnotes, but look closely - many, maybe most are not scientific studies, but other books, or even an article from the Financial Times!

Perhaps my standards are too high, but the sheer number of unsubstantiated claims in this book eroded its credibility in my eyes. Entertaining, yes. Reliable or useful, no. This book would never convince an intelligent skeptic. I am not a skeptic and it couldn't even convince me.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative - though could be more practical, December 15, 2007
This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
I give this book a 5 with some caveats. It gets a 5 because what it does say it says very well, and it isn't easy to say things which go against the grain of modern "logic".

Planck goes through all the reasons "bad" food is good for you, from steak to whole milk to egg yolks. The chapter on cholesterol was perhaps the most interesting. I had heard before that dietary cholesterol wasn't that bad for you, but the distinction she made between whole lipids and damaged lipids (i.e. most prepared egg products and packaged foods) was new. The writing is smooth and readable, and she offers in endnotes the full bibliographic citation of the medical research. These citations are full of articles from well-respected peer-reviewed journals - quite a difference from the health-nut crack-pots roaming the web who make all kinds of fantastic and unsubstantiated claims.

The caveats, which are not huge, and perhaps are things which Planck could address in a revised edition:
- I found the chapter on sugar to be skimpy. White sugar is bad for you, yes, the entire book says that a million times over. But what are the options? Is raw sugar better? Does it have enhanced mineral content which would merit tweaking muffin recipes for raw sugar instead of white? In the end of the book she mentions honey (raw of course, I'm the lucky person whose father-in-law keeps bees as a hobby, raw honey is amazing stuff and well worth its weight in gold, literally) but honey has limited use in baking. Her discussion of other alternatives is barely mentionable, agave and stevia get a mention, but they are hardly discussed. And she doesn't spend a lot of time discussing chemical alternatives like sucralose, except that they are bad. Yes, they're bad, but is sucrolose worse than white sugar?

- This leads to the next problem, no comprehensive list of what food is good or bad, better or worse. The rule of thumb "eat what your great-grandmother ate" actually breaks down quickly. Like eggs, my great-grandmother ate eggs. But the form of the egg actually matters more than the egginess itself: Planck says pre-mixed cartons of eggs is bad because it has damaged lipids. Also, she mentions various "exotic" foods in her discussion of nutrition, like Siberian pine nuts. I eat regular pine nuts (very tasty on a green salad) is that good enough? Better than packaged croutons I suppose, but do they also offer me GLA? And I really don't think my Irish great-grandmother ate Siberian pine nuts anyways. The same with coconut oil. I'm being facetious, but you get the point.

- Like others have said, and other have responded, this is not a cookbook, nor meant to be a cookbook (or a diet plan for that matter). Nonetheless, even if I ordered some coconut oil I wouldn't know what to do with it when I got it. Most recipes in regular cookbooks don't even mention the stuff. While I don't think a full menu would be right for this book, a little concise and easy to find guidance would be helpful. Can I use coconut oil in place of canola oil? Can I use it in baked goods? I can experiment and try these out, but if I had a yes or no to these two questions I would have a much better understanding of how coconut oil works and what to do with it.

- She does not discuss common import foods, like coffee and tea, except to say that no, these are not local, and yes she likes them anyways. Given her emphasis on the environment and sustainability it would be helpful if she would discuss the need to buy coffee and tea products that were grown with respect to the environment and the people picking them. There are a number of fair-trade, organic, and shade-grown coffee companies in the US and UK, it would have been nice if she had mentioned a few of them.

She does give some very helpful links at the end of her book. Those interested in putting her advice into practice can look up the links and read the websites for more information. Of course, this presupposes that you have an internet connection and can order products over the internet, but I suppose one can make that assumption these days.

Altogether, I think it is a very good book which says some much needed things in a readable, yet researched, way. Even if you don't put all of her recommendations into action, it still gives some wonderful tips on how to eat healthier.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new, old way of life!, March 31, 2010
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This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
This book has given me a way to defend my "new" eating habits! I starting a gradual lifestyle change for my health and weightloss about 8 months ago. I have lost about 40lbs doing this gradual adoption of healthier habits and many of them are just what the author of this book encourages. I get some crazy looks and I finally have something to reference when I tell people that I eat eggs everyday, drink raw goat's milk almost every day and use full fat cheese! On top of all that I have started to encorporate many more servings of organic vegetables, organic fruits, real whole grains and healthier proteins like free range chicken, grass-fed beef and wild caught fatty fish. I'm eating all the foods I love and I NEVER crave fast food, white breads, refined sugars and a lot of processed foods that I used to eat regularly and never thought I could give up. And, I'm eating in moderation! I rarely ever feel the need to gorge on anything anymore. I feel like the part of my brain that measures satiety isn't out of whack anymore.
I wanted to cry when I read this book, b/c I've had times when (despite it working so well for me) I've doubted myself and my new eating just b/c of peer pressure, societal pressure, or even just commercial brainwashing, but I've stuck to my beliefs and I feel better and better everyday as the weight falls off almost effortlessly. I feel like I'm still in a 'training" phase but that it gets easier the longer I do it to adopt the habits of cooking my own food and being selective about what I buy. Our society is so skewed about food and production that unfortunately it can be a bit more pricey to buy real food and not processed, packaged junk, but I feel I'll be saving in the long run on doctor's bills and prescription medication for all the diseases I'll be avoiding!

Anybody trying to be healthier or lose weight should read this book! I feel so good now and my brother now jokingly refers to me as the food nazi b/c I'm trying to police my family's eating habits so they can feel as good as I do and be as healthy as I'm becoming. Also, watch the documentary Food, Inc.! It's a real eye opener about the way our country is treating food. It's amazing to me that we are not allowed to legally purchase RAW UNPASTEURIZED milk, almonds, and several other things for our own consumption! It's real food and we should be allowed to eat it without the government telling us it'll hurt us! Absurd!And I won't even go into the crazy misleading labeling that is allowed on our food! I'm not anti-government by any means but I do think that our's has gotten far to above themselves.
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70 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ineresting, September 4, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My first impressions reading this were that a crazy person had somehow tricked a publisher into printing their manifesto. But, I have a rule about not discarding a book until I've read at least 70-100 pages (depending on the thickness of the book), so I pressed on. Once I got past past the beginning, it really redeemed itself.

I suspect most people will still look upon this as crazy talk, at least for another ten years. The things she says seem to make sense, and she seems to have evidence to support her statements. It isn't the mainstream health knowledge we are so used to, but don't let that dissuade you. What she presents isn't tainted by the corrupting touch of corporate oligarchy that pervades American public interest.

I'm definately making some changes after reading this.
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hooray for real food - and common sense!, November 15, 2006
Hooray! I'm thrilled that there's another voice crying in the wilderness, joining the likes of Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions) and Uffe Ravnskov (The Cholesterol Myths) in promoting real food over the fabricated analogs so in vogue in modern health literature.

So much dietary advice comes at us from all media these days, and much of it just seems founded in bizarre suppositions: the idea that we can be so darn certain about the long-term effects of food products and eating habits that are, relatively speaking, brand new.

For instance, we're told that a certain nutrient is essential, but that it's impossible to get enough of it from its natural food source. Three bushels of kale, 1200 tomatoes, that sort of thing. So we should eat some factory-made product that's fortified with the proper amount of the substance. Now, how could this possibly be? How could our bodies require any dosage that has been, for all but the last five minutes of human history, technologically impossible to ingest?

Here's another. The mainstream recommendation today is for low-fat dairy products for everyone who has reached the age of two. But consider this. I was a child only a few decades ago. No kid was subjected to low-fat anything. Low-fat versions of this, that and the other thing didn't even exist then. Yet, it was very unusual for any kid to be overweight. There would be one or two obese children among a given age in an entire elementary school. Today, children are increasingly fed low-fat (read: fake) versions of everything, and childhood obesity rates continue to climb. If full-fat dairy makes kids fat, why isn't it the reverse? Why didn't the childhood obesity epidemic occur when children ate full-fat products?
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chicken with skin, potatoes with butter and milk -- this diet is what Nature intended? Nina Planck explains why, June 13, 2007
This review is from: Real Food: What to Eat and Why (Paperback)
Her father was a college professor in upstate New York. Her mother started a school. But in the 1970s, Nina Planck's parents bought 60 acres in Virginia and, with their three children, started a new life --- as farmers.

The Plancks made a living selling produce at roadside stands and farmer's markets. Their children were forced to eat real food. They grew up healthy and strong. But in her teens, Nina became a vegan. She had been 5'5" and 120 pounds, "most of it muscle." Now she ran three to six miles a day --- and bloomed to 147 pounds, with less muscle tone.

Alarmed, she started responding to her natural hungers. And she learned two things:

1) "The more meat, fish, butter and eggs I ate, the better I felt."

2) "No traditional culture is vegan --- humans are omnivores."

Omnivores. Hmm. That should ring a bell; I was so impressed by Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that I wrote a long, two-part review. Planck's book is a kind of sequel to Pollan, a hands-on guide to what you ought to eat, and why.

Planck's major proposition is that "traditional" food --- "foods we've been eating for a long time" --- is good for us. "Industrial" food --- "recent and synthetic" --- is bad for us. Worse, industrial food leads to the diseases of the industrial era: obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Real foods lead to health and vitality.

You want to eat the skin of a roast chicken? Please do. Like mashed potatoes moistened with butter and milk? Go right ahead. And, yes, eat meat: "Plant protein is always inferior to animal protein."

Some of this will be familiar --- there are echoes here of the Mediterranean diet. What is new to me is the unwavering emphasis on natural foods in their purest form: grass-fed beef, whole milk from pastured cows, raw milk yogurts and cheeses. And on cooking combinations, foods that work together to release more useful energy in your body.

The bad news here is the good news. Planck has done massive homework, and the book is clotted with science. On the plus side, that suggests her conclusions --- which will surely seem cracked to those who don't buy food products not labeled "low fat" --- aren't just the pet theories of the whole foods crowd. On the minus side, it means you need to read, pen in hand, to mark the good stuff.

But then, you should read "Real Food" as if you're going to school --- there are that many pointers to better living here. Like which "organic" foods to eat. Unless you have unlimited wealth, you'll notice your food bills are dramatically higher if you opt for an all-natural kitchen. If you have to choose, Planck says, it's better to buy grocery vegetables and wash the chemicals off. Save your money for organic, grass-feed beef --- if there are pesticides in animal protein, they're in the most concentrated form. Not healthy.

And there are charming factoids along the way. My favorite: "spring" butter, so named because it's produced by cows eating lush pasture in spring and fall. Priests used to bless it. If I could find some and slather it on real bread, I imagine I might too.

Inspired by this book, I went down to Murray's Cheese Shop in Greenwich Village and bought a sampling of raw milk cheeses and yogurt. The yogurt had creamy lumps that made me think twice --- until I had some. So that's what yogurt tastes like! Ditto the cheeses, all of them much stronger than what we usually get.

Thanks to Pollard and Planck, we have banished most of the products that our fellow citizens enthusiastically swallow --- for the kid, we've even been able to find Heinz Ketchup without High Fructose Corn Syrup. This week, we'll start making our own yogurt.

In a few weeks, I truly believe, we'll feel healthier. And be healthier too.

How can you not be interested in Nina Planck's book?
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Real Food: What to Eat and Why
Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck (Paperback - June 12, 2007)
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