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1,674 of 1,718 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Care for your family? Want to live long and well? This is required reading., January 8, 2008
This review is from: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (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. And that the punch line of this story is as sick as it is simple: preventing diet-related disease is easy.

In just 200 pages (and 22 pages of notes and sources), "In Defense of Food" gives you a guided tour of 20th century food science, a history of "nutritionism" in America and a snapshot of the marriage of government and the food industry. And then it steps up to the reason most readers will buy it --- and if you care for your health and the health of your loved ones, this is a no-brainer one-click --- and presents a commonsense shopping-and-eating guide.

If you are up on your Pollan and your Nina Planck and your Barbara Kingsolver, you know the major points of the "real food" movement. But if you're new to this information or are disinclined to buy or read this book, let me lay Pollan's argument out for you:

-- High-fructose corn syrup is the devil's brew. Do yourself a favor and remove it from your diet. (If you have kids, here's a place to start: Heinz smartly offers an "organic" ketchup, made with sugar.)

-- Avoid any food product that makes health claims --- they mean it's probably not really food.

-- In a supermarket, don't shop in the center aisles. Avoid anything that can't rot, anything with an ingredient you can't pronounce.

-- "Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."

-- "You are what you eat eats too." Most cows end their days on a diet of corn, unsold candy, their pulverized brothers and sisters --- yeah, you read that right --- and a pharmacy's worth of antibiotics. And they bestow that to you. Consider that the next time there's a sale on sirloin.

-- "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." By which Pollan means: Eat natural food, the kind your grandmother served (and not because she was so wise, but because the food industry had not yet learned that the big money was in processing, not harvesting). Use meat sparingly. Eat your greens, the leafier and more varied the better.

In short: Kiss the Western diet as we know it goodbye. Look to the cultures where people eat well and live long. Ignore the faddists and experts. Trust your gut. Literally.

In all this, Pollan insists that you have to save yourself. And he makes a good case why. Our government, he says, is so overwhelmed by the lobbying and marketing power of our processed food industry that the American diet is now 50% sugar in one form or another --- calories that provide "virtually nothing but energy." Our representatives are almost uniformly terrified to take on the food industry. And as for the medical profession, the key moment, Pollan writes, is when "doctors kick the fast-food franchises out of the hospital" --- don't hold your breath.

"You want to live, follow me." I loved it when Schwarzenegger said that in "Terminator." It matters much more when, in so many words, Michael Pollan delivers that same message in "In Defense of Food."
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 64 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 13, 2008 3:45:09 PM PST
Luddite says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Apr 7, 2008 8:04:58 PM PDT
I was reminded of the jaw-dropping, horrific scenes in Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation." It got my attention...it should get yours.

Posted on Dec 11, 2008 5:05:22 PM PST
S. Sanders says:
Cattle are not being fed "their pulverized brothers and sisters". You must be getting your information from some of those wacko animal rights sites that make up information to scare people trying to get them to stop eating meat and to fundraise. They know that the truth doesn't bring in the money that the made up lies do.

Posted on Jan 15, 2009 11:28:39 AM PST
Booky McGee says:
Well, a huge part fo the problem is most of don't have access to local organic farmer's markets. And what organic goods are in the supermarket are drastically more expensive than non-organic. Same goes for meat. I recall when there were butchers everywhere. Now it's rare to see a butcher shop, and again the cost between organic and non-organic is absurd. So, while it would be nice if everyone had access to a "natural" diet, the vast majority don't, nor can they afford it. Eating well has always been for the rich. Hell, the world's vastly overpopulated anyway and it's getting worse. We need to cull the species.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2009 7:55:28 AM PST
There are two main issues I have with this comment. First, the organic food indusrty is precisely that: an industry. Many companies care more about using "organic" as a marketing strategy, not about producing healthier food.

Second, Americans spend the lowest percentage of total income on food than any other country in the world. I understand that there are people who cannot afford to fill their shopping carts with fresh fruit and vegetables, but the vast majority of Americans could afford to spend more money on healthier food if they were willing to do so, even if it means sacrificing 500 TV channels for basic cable.

"Eating well has always been for the rich." That is absolutely absurd.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2009 1:11:07 PM PST
S. Freeman says:
There is certainly an "organic industry" out there. And many mainstream companies are jumping on the bandwagon....I've seen "organic" processed breakfast foods popping up in the cereal aisle. Why not just make all Wheaties organic?

Pollan stresses the advantage to shopping locally whenever possible. This way we not only keep our food dollars in our local communities but we also increase the chances that the food we are buying is really produced if not organically, then cleaner than it's agribusiness counterparts. Buying whole food ingredients and <gasp> cooking ensures that we aren't eating a myriad of additives that have dubious effects on our health either on their own or in combination with the slew of additives in other foods we may be eating.

Eating well doesn't have to be reserved for the rich. As the previous poster stated, it's a matter of priorities. Who wouldn't benefit from less time in front of a screen and more time preparing simple healthier meals....even just one or two days a week?

Posted on Apr 27, 2009 4:46:42 PM PDT
it was actually Michael Biehn that said "You want to live, follow me." Schwarznegger was the Terminator (no doubt powered by HFCS) who was trying to kill the lady. ;). That aside, I agree with it all.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2009 10:57:04 PM PDT
minguy says:
"Come with me if you want to live" is the actual line. It is first uttered by Kyle Reese (Biehn) in the first film but it is also repeated by the Terminator (Schwarznegger) in the sequel. In fact, the line is spoken (in one form or another) in all the movies of the franchise (including the upcoming fourth film, Salvation) and probably in other formats as well (video games, tv series).

I recently finished Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and just started on "In the Defense of Food." So far, it seems like the latter is a natural progression of the former so I would recommend "Dilemma" as a primer for this book.

In reply to an earlier post on May 23, 2009 3:39:38 AM PDT
Terri says:
You say the world is 'vastly overpopulated" and we 'need to cull the species'. What have you done to contribute? I've done what I can to 'cull the species': I'm child-free by choice.

Posted on Jun 6, 2009 11:09:29 AM PDT
K. Polzin says:
I don't know where this milk with added powdered milk is being sold - my low fat milk says "Ingredients: lowfat milk, 400 IU Vitamin D3 added per quart."
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