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Food Rules: An Eater's Manual Kindle Edition
"A useful and funny purse-sized manual that could easily replace all the diet books on your bookshelf." —Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times
A definitive compendium of food wisdom
Eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. In this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, Food Rules brings welcome simplicity to our daily decisions about food. Written with clarity, concision, and wit that has become bestselling author Michael Pollan’s trademark, this indispensable handbook lays out a set of straightforward, memorable rules for eating wisely, one per page, accompanied by a concise explanation. It’s an easy-to-use guide that draws from a variety of traditions, suggesting how different cultures through the ages have arrived at the same enduring wisdom about food. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, “What should I eat?”
"In the more than four decades that I have been reading and writing about the findings of nutritional science, I have come across nothing more intelligent, sensible and simple to follow than the 64 principles outlined in a slender, easy-to-digest new book called Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, by Michael Pollan." —Jane Brody, The New York Times
"It doesn't get much easier than this. Each page has a simple rule, sometimes with a short explanation, sometimes without, that promotes Pollan's back-to-the-basics-of-food (and-food-enjoyment) philosophy." —The Los Angeles Times
"The most sensible diet plan ever? We think it's the one that Michael Pollan outlined a few years ago: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” So we're happy that in his little new book, Food Rules, Pollan offers more common-sense rules for eating: 64 of them, in fact, all thought-provoking and some laugh-out-loud funny." --The Houston Chronicle
" It doesn't get much easier than this. Each page has a simple rule, sometimes with a short explanation, sometimes without, that promotes Pollan's back-to-the-basics-of-food (and-food-enjoyment) philosophy." --The Los Angeles Times
"A useful and funny purse-sized manual that could easily replace all the diet books on your bookshelf." --Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times --This text refers to the paperback edition.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Eating in our time has gotten complicated—needlessly so, in my opinion. I will get to the“needlessly”part in a moment, but consider first thecomplexity that now attends this most basic of creaturelyactivities. Most of us have come to rely on expertsof one kind or another to tell us how to eat—doctors anddiet books, media accounts of the latest findings innutritionalscience, government advisories and foodpyramids, the proliferating health claims on foodpackages. We may not always heed these experts’ advice,but their voices are in our heads every time we orderfrom a menu or wheel down the aisle in the supermarket.Also in our heads today resides an astonishingamount of biochemistry. How odd is it that everybodynow has at least a passing acquaintance with words like“antioxidant,” “saturated fat,” “omega-3 fatty acids,”“carbohydrates,” “polyphenols,” “folic acid,” “gluten,”and “probiotics”? It’s gotten to the point where we don’tsee foods anymore but instead look right through themto the nutrients (good and bad) they contain, and ofcourse to the calories—all these invisible qualities inour food that, properly understood, supposedly holdthe secret to eating well.
But for all the scientific and pseudoscientific foodbaggage we’ve taken on in recent years, we still don’tknow what we should be eating. Should we worry moreabout the fats or the carbohydrates? Then what aboutthe “good” fats? Or the “bad” carbohydrates, like highfructosecorn syrup? How much should we be worryingabout gluten? What’s the deal with artificial sweeteners?Is it really true that this breakfast cereal willimprovemy son’s focus at school or that other cerealwill protect me from a heart attack? And when dideating a bowl of breakfast cereal become a therapeuticprocedure?
A few years ago, feeling as confused as everyoneelse, I set out to get to the bottom of a simple question:What should I eat? What do we really know about thelinks between our diet and our health? I’m not a nutritionexpert or a scientist, just a curious journalisthoping to answer a straightforward question for myselfand my family.
Most of the time when I embark on such an investigation,it quickly becomes clear that matters are muchmore complicated and ambiguous—several shadesgrayer—than I thought going in. Not this time. Thedeeper I delved into the confused and confusingthicket of nutritional science, sorting through thelong-running fats versus carbs wars, the fiber skirmishesand the raging dietary supplement debates, thesimpler the picture gradually became. I learned that infact science knows a lot less about nutrition than youwould expect—that in fact nutrition science is, to putit charitably, a very young science. It’s still trying tofigure out exactly what happens in your body when yousip a soda, or what is going on deep in the soul of acarrot to make it so good for you, or why in the worldyou have so many neurons—brain cells!—in your stomach,of all places. It’s a fascinating subject, and somedaythe field may produce definitive answers to thenutritional questions that concern us, but—as nutritioniststhemselves will tell you—they’re not there yet.Not even close. Nutrition science, which after all onlygot started less than two hundred years ago, is todayapproximately where surgery was in the year 1650—verypromising, and very interesting to watch, but are youready to let them operate on you? I think I’ll wait awhile.But if I’ve learned volumes about all we don’t knowabout nutrition, I’ve also learned a small number ofvery important things we do know about food andhealth. This is what I meant when I said the picture gotsimpler the deeper I went.
There are basically two important things you needto know about the links between diet and health, twofacts that are not in dispute. All the contending partiesin the nutrition wars agree on them. And, even moreimportant for our purposes, these facts are sturdyenough that we can build a sensible diet upon them.
Here they are:
Fact 1. Populations that eat a so-called Western diet—generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processedfoods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lotsof refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables,fruits, and whole grains—invariably suffer from highrates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Virtuallyall of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of thecardiovascular disease, and more than a third of allcancers can be linked to this diet. Four of the top tenkillers in America are chronic diseases linked to thisdiet. The arguments in nutritional science are notabout this well-established link; rather, they are allabout identifying the culprit nutrient in the Westerndiet that might be responsible for chronic diseases. Isit the saturated fat or the refined carbohydrates or thelack of fiber or the transfats or omega-6 fatty acids—orwhat? The point is that, as eaters (if not as scientists),we know all we need to know to act: This diet, for whateverreason, is the problem.
Fact 2. Populations eating a remarkably wide rangeof traditional diets generally don’t suffer from thesechronic diseases. These diets run the gamut from onesvery high in fat (the Inuit in Greenland subsist largelyon seal blubber) to ones high in carbohydrate (CentralAmerican Indians subsist largely on maize and beans)to ones very high in protein (Masai tribesmen in Africasubsist chiefly on cattle blood, meat, and milk), to citethree rather extreme examples. But much the sameholds true for more mixed traditional diets. What thissuggests is that there is no single ideal human diet butthat the human omnivore is exquisitely adapted to awide range of different foods and a variety of differentdiets. Except, that is, for one: the relatively new (inevolutionary terms) Western diet that most of us noware eating. What an extraordinary achievement for acivilization: to have developed the one diet that reliablymakes its people sick! (While it is true that wegenerally live longer than people used to, or than peoplein some traditional cultures do, most of our addedyears owe to gains in infant mortality and child health,not diet.)
There is actually a third, very hopeful fact thatflows from these two: People who get off the Westerndiet see dramatic improvements in their health. Wehave good research to suggest that the effects of theWestern diet can be rolled back, and relatively quickly.*In one analysis, a typical American population that departedeven modestly from the Western diet (and lifestyle)could reduce its chances of getting coronaryheart disease by 80 percent, its chances of type 2 diabetesby 90 percent, and its chances of colon cancer by70 percent.*
* For a discussion of the research on the Western diet and itsalternatives see my previous book, In Defense of Food (NewYork: Penguin Press, 2008). Much of the science behind therules in this book can be found there.
Yet, oddly enough, these two (or three) sturdy factsare not the center of our nutritional research or, forthat matter, our public health campaigns around diet.Instead, the focus is on identifying the evil nutrient inthe Western diet so that food manufacturers mighttweak their products, thereby leaving the diet undisturbed,or so that pharmaceutical makers might developand sell us an antidote for it. Why? Well, there’sa lot of money in the Western diet. The more you processany food, the more profitable it becomes. The healthcareindustry makes more money treating chronicdiseases(which account for three quarters of the $2trillion plus we spend each year on health care in thiscountry) than preventing them. So we ignore the elephantin the room and focus instead on good and evilnutrients, the identities of which seem to change withevery new study. But for the Nutritional IndustrialComplex this uncertainty is not necessarily a problem,because confusion too is good business: The nutritionexperts become indispensable; the food manufacturerscan reengineer their products (and health claims)to reflect the latest findings, and those of us in themedia who follow these issues have a constant streamof new food and health stories to report. Everyone wins.Except, that is, for us eaters.
* The diet specified in this analysis is characterized by a lowintake of transfats; a high ratio of polyunsaturated fats to saturatedfats; a high whole-grain intake; two servings of fish aweek; the recommended daily allowance of folic acid; and atleast five grams of alcohol a day. The lifestyle changes includenot smoking, maintaining a body mass index (BMI) below 25,and thirty minutes a day of exercise. As the author Walter Willettwrites, “[T]he potential for disease prevention by modestdietary and lifestyle changes that are readily compatible withlife in the 21st century is enormous.” “The Pursuit of OptimalDiets: A Progress Report,” Nutritional Genomics: Discovering thePath to Personalized Nutrition, eds. Jim Kaput and Raymond L.Rodriguez (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2006).
As a journalist I fully appreciate the value of widespreadpublic confusion: We’re in the explanationbusiness, and if the answers to the questions we exploregot too simple, we’d be out of work. Indeed, I hada deeply unsettling moment when, after spending acouple of years researching nutrition for my last book,In Defense of Food, I realized that the answer to the supposedlyincredibly complicated question of what weshould eat wasn’t so complicated after all, and in factcould be boiled down to just seven words:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
This was the bottom line, and it was satisfying tohave found it, a piece of hard ground deep down at thebottom of the swamp of nutrition science: seven wordsof plain English, no biochemistry degree required. Butit was also somewhat alarming, because my publisherwas expecting a few thousand more words than that.Fortunately for both of us, I realized that the story ofhow so simple a question as what to eat had ever gottenso complicated was one worth telling, and that becamethe focus of that book.
The focus of this book is very different. It is muchless about theory, history, and science than it is aboutour daily lives and practice. In this short, radicallypared-down book, I unpack those seven words of adviceinto a comprehensive set of rules, or personal policies,designed to help you eat real food in moderation and,by doing so, substantially get off the Western diet. Therules are phrased in everyday language; I deliberatelyavoid the vocabulary of nutrition or biochemistry,though in most cases there is scientific research toback them up.
This book is not antiscience. To the contrary, inresearching it and vetting these rules I have made gooduse of science and scientists. But I am skeptical of a lotof what passes for nutritional science, and I believethat there are other sources of wisdom in the world andother vocabularies in which to talk intelligently aboutfood. Human beings ate well and kept themselveshealthy for millennia before nutritional science camealong to tell us how to do it; it is entirely possible to eathealthily without knowing what an antioxidant is.So whom did we rely on before the scientists (and,in turn, governments, public health organizations,and food marketers) began telling us how to eat? Werelied of course on our mothers and grandmothers andmore distant ancestors, which is another way of saying,on tradition and culture. We know there is a deepreservoirof food wisdom out there, or else humanswould not have survived and prospered to the extentwe have. This dietary wisdom is the distillation of anevolutionary process involving many people in manyplaces figuring out what keeps people healthy (andwhat doesn’t), and passing that knowledge down in theform of food habits and combinations, manners andrules and taboos, and everyday and seasonal practices,as well as memorable sayings and adages. Are thesetraditions infallible? No. There are plenty of old wives’tales about food that on inspection turn out to be littlemore than superstitions. But much of this food wisdomis worth preserving and reviving and heeding. That isexactly what this book aims to do.
Food Rules distills this body of wisdom into sixtyfoursimple rules for eating healthily and happily. Therules are framed in terms of culture rather than science,though in many cases science has confirmedwhat culture has long known; not surprisingly, thesetwo different vocabularies, or ways of knowing, oftencome to the same conclusion (as when scientistsrecentlyconfirmed that the traditional practice ofeating tomatoes with olive oil is good for you, becausethe lycopenein the tomatoes is soluble in oil, making iteasier for your body to absorb). I have also avoided talkingmuch about nutrients, not because they aren’t important,but because focusing relentlessly on nutrientsobscures other, more important truths about food.
Foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts,and those nutrients work together in ways that are stillonly dimly understood. It may be that the degree towhich a food is processed gives us a more importantkey to its healthfulness: Not only can processingremove nutrients and add toxic chemicals, but it makesfood more readily absorbable, which can be a problemfor our insulin and fat metabolism. Also, the plasticsin which processed foods are typically packaged canpresent a further risk to our health. This is why manyof the rules in this book are designed to help you avoidheavily processed foods—which I prefer to call “ediblefoodlike substances.”--This text refers to the paperback edition.
- ASIN : B002YJK5L4
- Publisher : Penguin Books; 1st edition (November 24, 2009)
- Publication date : November 24, 2009
- Language : English
- File size : 1816 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Sticky notes : On Kindle Scribe
- Print length : 114 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: #53,003 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2018
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An unassuming little 4.5×7-inch book, this is one power-packed punch of information you can use to make healthy decisions for you and your family. Broken up into three parts-"What Should I Eat?" "What Kind Of Food Should I Eat?" and "How Should I Eat?"-Pollan says it's all about eating real food, mostly plants, and not too much. If this theme sounds familiar, then it should if you've read any of Pollan's previous books on diet. But the bite-sized format of Food Rules may make this more compatible for the average person to consume and absorb all the lessons he's been conveying through his previous works. Maybe Gary Taubes and his publisher could put something together like this for his bestselling 2007 release Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health (Vintage) . People like simplicity when it's done right like this book is.
I knew the book was going to start off well when I saw Pollan dedicate it to his mother who "always knew butter was better for you than margarine." YES! He proceeds to share how eating has become more of a chore these days because we needlessly rely on media pundits and so-called health "experts" to tell us what's right and wrong about what to put in our mouths. Food is no longer the sustenance of life, but rather something to be critically examined for its impact on health either negatively or positively.
While I certainly see nothing wrong with being careful about what foods you choose to consume (and neither would Pollan), he's right about the obsession and it cuts both ways. You've got one group of consumers who absolutely don't give a rip about what they're eating as long as it tastes good to them. So they fill up their shopping carts at the supermarket with Cheetos, Hot Pockets, Twinkies, and Coca-Coca none the wiser that not a bit of that is real food. On the other hand, there's another set of consumers who are ardent about perfection in their diet. You can only eat fresh organic vegetables, grass-fed meats, and nothing artificial at all. They believe if you stray from this even a little that you are damning yourself to an unhealthy lifestyle. Both of these extremes are ludicrous and Pollan says there is a happy balance between the two.
Pollan's mantra of "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." that was basic premise of his book In Defense of Food is the underlying theme of Food Rules and it guides all of the information contained within these pages. I would only amend that statement to say "Eat real whole foods. Eat to satiety. Mostly grass-fed meats and organic vegetables." He does seem to be stuck a bit on conventional wisdom regarding the health halo of consuming vegetables, but Pollan is most of the way there with many of the 64 "rules" he shares within the 140 pages of this book.
His goal with Food Rules is to help people make better choices when shopping for food and that's a very good thing. And he's starts off with a bang with Rule #1 to just "Eat Food." Sounds simple enough, but most people haven't got a clue what "food" really is. Pollan explains this concept which lays the groundwork for what he attempts to communicate for the rest of the book. Positive messages for people who are livin' la vida low-carb include "avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup," "avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients," "avoid food products with the wordoid `lite' or the terms `low-fat' or `nonfat' in their names," and "shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle." This is all sage advice that will serve you well when purchasing food for you and your family.
The visualization that Pollan uses to get people to think about real food is remarkably effective. He educates people to think about food as something that is supposed to "eventually rot" and that you should be able to think about it growing in the "raw state." Mickey D's French fries and Twinkies never seem to spoil no matter how long they stay in your cabinet which is why you don't need to be putting them inside of your body. And too many people think food comes from supermarkets. Actually, real food comes from local farmers which is why Pollan is such a fan of farmer's markets where you can support the locavore movement while feeding your family the most nutritious and delicious foods possible.
As for the kind of food to eat, Pollan acknowledges that there is such a thing as a "healthy" high-fat or low-fat diet. It's about choosing the plan that's right for you. He encourages eating the leaves of plants which falls right in line with the green, leafy veggies you consume on a healthy high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb lifestyle. But his insistence on treating meat like a "flavoring" or "special occasion food" is where I would part ways with him. He repeats the mantra that vegetarians are "generally healthier than carnivores" and that's just plain nonsense. While not identifying what he thinks is the exact blame for why meat is a poor choice on a regular basis, Pollan does hint that it could be the saturated fat, protein, or absence of veggies from the meals. But the latest science is showing saturated fat has no bearing on heart disease, protein should be limited to the amount that is adequate for the individual, and veggies can be combined with meat for a nutritious meal plan. This is the heartbeat of the low-carb lifestyle!
I do appreciate that Pollan notes it's better to consume animals "that have themselves eaten well." This means avoiding the grain-fed factory farm meats in favor of those that have been grass-fed and treated humanely. It's not just good for you, but it's the right thing to do. He also says to mix it up and eating something new from time to time, including wild game that you hunt yourself. And that includes the "oily little fishes." Stocking up on this kind of quality meat is an important part of absorbing all of the lessons of Food Rules .
One of my favorite rules is #37: "The white the bread, the sooner you'll be dead." HA! I like that and it's so true. Pollan explains that white flour is a health risk we've known about for ages and he notes that the body treats it "not much different from sugar." YES! He does tend to favor whole grains and I suppose they are better than the refined ones. But I tend to lean on the side of NO grains instead.
Finally, on the subject of how to eat, Pollan was hoping to help people "foster a healthier relationship to food." That's always a good thing because our culture has so jaded us to the idea that food has to be dirt cheap to be worth it. But you'll learn that when you "pay more" you "eat less." I don't think calorie-restriction just for the sake of cutting calories is a smart idea. Yet if you are choosing more satisfying calories coming from fat and protein sources and less from carbohydrates, then you will consume the right amount of nutrition for your body. Pollan even notes to "stop eating before you're full" and "eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored."
Although he's all about using smaller plates, taking smaller bites, and the like, I think his overall message in Food Rules is solid: get back to real, whole foods, avoid the artificial garbage that you've become addicted to, and make this a permanent and healthy lifestyle change you can live with and enjoy for the rest of your life! Despite my disagreements with a few of his positions on what all of that entails, I do think Michael Pollan has emerged as a great leader in the movement to bringing real food back to the forefront of American culture. If we are going to get a handle on obesity and chronic diseases of modern man under control, then we need a lot more people like him out there carrying the torch and leading the way.
The links between diet and health according to this novel is that individuals who eat a Western diet (lots of processed food, food with added sugar and fat, and lots of refined grains) will suffer from Western diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardio diseases. That totally makes sense to me but I didn’t know it was known as a Western diet. The second link is that if you eat a traditional diet (a lot of different varieties here) you will not suffer from these diseases. Which basically means, no one diet is perfect but as humans we have adapted to different diets to make them work for us. The Western diet, as it stands now, is the diet which makes everyone ill. Inside this novel, there are 64 rules to live by to eat a healthy diet. These rules are explained further with a brief explanation, if needed.
Some of these rules I had heard about before but about half of them were new to me. There are three parts to the novel: What to eat? What kinds of food should I eat? And How should I eat? Each of these parts have different rules to follow. I liked that these rules are, for the most part, something I could memorize on my own and therefore, I could recall when need be. There is the rule about not eating food that you cannot say, rule about eating a variety of colors, and a rule about eating at a table, these are a few of the rules I already knew.
Here are a few of the rules that I really enjoyed:
Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
So, cellulose, thiamine mononitrate is not something I would have on hand, therefore this product should not be in my house.
Avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients.
Wow, that would eliminate a lot of the processed foods I have on hand.
Avoid food products that contain ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
Again cellulose, thiamine mononitrate are out and I need to start thinking simple.
Cook food that has only been cooked by humans.
Again, lots of preservatives, added sugar, and other interesting items are added which we don’t need.
Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
This one is a killer. I have literally cut down on the number of French fries I eat as I think this rule says it all. I’m not physically making French fries out of potatoes every time I want them, it’s too time consuming and too much work. The novel says there is nothing wrong with sweets, soda and other sweet snacks as long as you prepare them yourself. If I had to prepare potato chips, snack crackers, or cookies as much as I consume them, my consumption would really go down.
Spend as much time enjoying your meal as it took to prepare it.
I think this book has a lot to offer, things you might know and things that you should know. I like the short and sweet aspect of the novel, it’s not a wordy or a complex read, the author gives his readers just the facts in an easy way to think about them and how to apply them to their own lives. I’m ready to jump on board and I know it will take some time, strength and willpower to incorporate these rules but I know the benefits will be worth it.
Top reviews from other countries
The advice I am sure was amazing and the book was recommended in another book I am reading - but the actual book itself was unreadable.