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Real Food: What to Eat and Why Paperback – June 12, 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nina Planck is a good, stylish writer and a dogged researcher who writes directly, forthrightly and with an edge. She isn't afraid to make the occasional wisecrack ("No doubt, for some people, cracking open an egg is one chore too many") while taking unpopular positions. Her chosen field—she is a champion of "real" (as opposed to industrialized) food—is one in which unpopular positions are easy to find. As Planck reveals, in her compellingly smart Real Food: What to Eat and Why, much of what we have learned about nutrition in the past generation or so is either misinformed or dead wrong, and almost all of the food invented in the last century, and especially since the Second World War, is worse than almost all of the food that we've been eating since we developed agriculture. This means, she says, that butter is better than margarine (so, for that matter, is lard); that whole eggs (especially those laid by hens who scratch around in the dirt) are better than egg whites, and that eggs in general are an integral part of a sound diet; that full-fat milk is preferable to skim, raw preferable to pasteurized, au naturel preferable to homogenized. She goes so far as to maintain—horror of horrors—that chopped liver mixed with real schmaltz and hard-boiled eggs is, in a very real way, a form of health food. Like those who've paved the way before her, she urges us to eat in a natural, old-fashioned way. But unlike many of them, and unlike her sometimes overbearing compatriots in the Slow Food movement, she is far from dogmatic, making her case casually, gently, persuasively. And personally, Planck's philosophy grows directly out of her life history, which included a pair of well-educated parents who decided, when the author was two, to pull up stakes in Buffalo, N.Y., and take up farming in northern Virginia. Planck, therefore, grew up among that odd combination of rural farming intellectuals who not only wanted to raise food for a living but could explain why it made sense. Planck, who is now an author and a creator and manager of farmers' markets, has a message that can be—and is—summed up in straightforward and simple fashion in her first couple of chapters. She then goes on to build her case elaborately, citing both recent and venerable studies, concluding in the end that the only sensible path for eating, the one that maintains and even improves health, the one that maintains stable weight and avoids obesity, happens to be the one that we all crave: not modern food, but traditional food, and not industrial food, but real food. (June)Mark Bittman's latest book is The Best Recipes in the World (Broadway); he is also the author of How to Cook Everything (Wiley).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A successful manager of urban green markets, Planck presents a contrarian view of what constitutes sound nutrition. She urges readers to think back to the kinds of diets that their grandmothers ate, regimens full of foods fresh from farms and from individual purveyors: meats, dairy, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Planck has a lot to offer about the role of fats in a healthy diet. Although most nutritionists worry about people consuming too much fat, Planck distinguishes good fats from bad, noting that many vital nutrients are absorbed into the body only dissolved in fat. She describes the differences between industrial fats that have been chemically saturated and hydrogenated and those fats that occur naturally in vegetables, fish, and meats, especially lauding the benefits of homemade lard. Planck draws a similar line between natural and industrial soy foods. She also encourages people to consume much more seafood, finding the threat of mercury contamination a bit overblown. Above all, Planck links good nutrition to sensible enjoyment of food in all its variety. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 343 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (June 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913424
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Schutz on June 28, 2007
Format: 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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: 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.
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