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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto Hardcover – January 1, 2008
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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
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.)
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Five weeks eating 3 meals a day...and by week two much of the chronic 24 hour a day pain was gone and I began walking the elliptical and the woods. Five weeks and 30 pounds lighter....with more energy than I've had in 20 years. Buy this book, learn it, live it, tell your loved ones.
This book takes a look at how "authorities" in food nutrition have steered us down the wrong path (well, any path!) in order to make a profit.
We can take charge and eat what our grandmother's put on our parents plates and I have to agree with this. My mom still buys whole milk and we would think, Oh, the fat content, my gawd, don't you buy 1% milk? That's what we do now .. we buy 1% milk that has been so processed it barely resembles what came out of the cow.
What strikes me as amazing is that the author isn't saying anything ground breaking, it's just simple, straight forward, basic ideas about food and how the industry is basically fooling us to buy into the next great nutritionism.
I enjoyed reading this book so much that I originally purchased the e-copy, but then bought the paperback so I have a hard copy.
Pollan covers baby formula and how it's essentially an experiment (p.32). Techno-foods: "modern cornucopia of highly processed foodlike products." (p.14) Public confusion: "thirty years of nutritional advice have left us fatter, sicker, and more poorly nourished." (p.81) This first section covers monocultures, the industrialized food model, distraction of the real message, and detachment from our food. Pollan seems to be driving home the message that any food that purports to have health benefits really ought to be avoided, that it's "a strong indication it's not really food." (p.2) Later he tells us quite simply to "watch out for those health claims." (p.40) This really got my mental juices flowing and made me consider the counter arguments to that.
The most impactful take-away as I finished was the idea that we really don't need books on what to eat. At one time, he tells us that nutritionism has done us no good, "At the behest of government panels, nutrition scientists, and public health officials, we have dramatically changed the way we eat and the way we think about food [...this] has done little for our health, except possibly to make it worse." (p.40) Gee, that is so inspiring. As a parent, I think I'd rather take this message, with a nice positive spin and which reinforces the message that we're smarter than we think we are, "most of what we need to know about how to eat we already know." (p.13)
He tells us that "seventeen thousand new food products" are presented to us every year (p.133) "Although an estimated 80 percent of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by a change of diet and exercise, it looks like the smart money is instead on the creation of a vast new diabetes industry." (p.136) "Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick." (p.135) "Don't eat anything incapable of rotting." (p.149) "Ordinary food is still out there, however, still being grown and occasionally sold in the supermarket, and this ordinary food is what we should be eating." (p.147) Don't eat anything my great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. (p.148)
This book boils down to a lot of rules for better eating. Some of them, for me, are doable. Some of them are not. What I can adopt is a mesh of several of his uidelines... "eat meals" and "try not to eat alone" and "do all your eating at a table." My great grandmother would think it silly, though, if those were guidelines at all.
I also became more aware of the overwhelming number of "manufactured" foods on supermarket shelves that are really doing you no favors with their fructose corn syrup, preservatives and other junk.
What personally bothers me is how food-makers will continue using certain ingredients or packaging methods science has shown is harmful to human health until they are absolutely forced to change by consumer demand. Eg, BPA lining in canned foods was a battle consumers only partially won. Another example: Campbell's soups and other companies are vigorously fighting having to merely identify which foods are genetically modified. If they didn't think GM foods were harmful, why resist identifying them so strongly?
It is a shame how undiversified American farms are today, and the factory-like conditions that abuse animals. It's the kind of thing that most people don't focus on simply because it goes on, year after year, sight unseen. But it makes me even more determined to buy locally grown, organic foods straight from the farmer just a few miles down the road.