In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. I first ran into Michael Pollan’s work reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is a Berkley professor of science and environmental journalism. That book made me a fan. His work is well-researched and absolutely facilitating. In Defense of Food is equally compelling.
After investigating what Americans eat in the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan turned his attention to the question that was pouring in from his readers: What SHOULD we eat? Pollan’s answer is deceptively simple: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. He then spends a number of chapters unpacking that simple advice and using it to construct a set of food rules. I mentioned Pollan’s rule earlier in my post on The Most Important Nutritional Rule. “Eat Food” , for example, isn’t as easy as it sounds nowadays. There are a lot of products out there in the supermarkets and restaurants that may LOOK like food, but that contain ingredients that no human being has every consumed in history – until now.
If it has high-fructose corn syrup in it, it’s not food. If it has ingredients in it your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized – it’s not food. If it arrives through the window of your car – it’s NOT food. Food is made from whole, natural products with as little extra processing as possible.
Along the way, Pollan also takes us on an eye-opening tour of the history of nutrition and food science and their efforts to boost sales and profits by tricking us into eating highly processed junk.
In the last part of the book, Pollan provides a set of rules for how to eat. This includes rules on what to eat as well as how to eat (at a table, with family, etc.) Pollan turns for his rules and his nutritional wisdom to traditional cultures and cuisines that have nourished humanity for thousands of years. Pollan’s book is a potent and convincing defense of common sense and wholesome food in a world where we have lost our way.
Recently, Pollan released a book called Food Rules, which consists primarily of the “rules” part of In Defense of Food. Pollan felt compelled to add a few rules, such as “Never buy any food that you have seen advertised”. I hope to get a look at this book soon. But if you’d like a more complete treatment of the topic, In Defense of Food is the book for you.
Below is a clip of Michael Pollan discussing some of the ideas in his book.