So the author Michael Pollan declares right on the front cover to “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly Plants“.
Well, that was an easy read! I guess it's all right there so no need to crack open the book. Pretty self-explanatory – especially the ‘eat food' part. I mean seriously – what else could I eat? Furniture, wood, the back of my hand?
But I figured, okay, there must be something more to it if the book is over 200 pages long. So I dove in. And, yes, there is plenty more than just those three suggestions. This book provides a wealth of information about the decline of healthy food in America. While it can get a little dry and technical when he discusses nutritionism (evaluating food by its nutrients), this helps explain why there even needs to be a book on how to ‘eat food'. In today's day and age of garbage groceries, ‘eating food' is really more difficult than it seems. It's not easy sorting through all the so-called food choices at the store. Now, I certainly know a Twinkie isn't a real food, but what about a cup of yogurt? You’d be surprised! And does a box of organic mac & cheese constitute ‘food' just because it’s organic? He does a great job evaluating how to define whether a food is really that. It's not so easy after all.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
The first three quarters of In Defense of Food discusses thoroughly why processed foods are so bad and how the food industry has grown so corrupt and confusing. So how do you even navigate through the grocery store? Well, Pollan recommends staying out of the food aisles. Instead stick to the outside perimeter of the grocery store: meat, dairy and produce sections. The tricky part is that this isn’t even the greatest solution. What’s the best thing you can do? Stay out of the grocery store as much as you can. Shop locally through farmers markets, CSA’s and neighborhood farms. Stick to produce and pastured meat and dairy products.
I was surprised by how little was focused on ‘eating plants’ and ‘how much to eat’. I guess defining what a plant is can be done in a couple of pages (or even paragraphs)… a little easier to do than defining what food is. And as for the ‘not too much’, well, that seems a little ambiguous. Not to mention, it’s out of context with the message of this book. Here’s the thing: if you’re eating loads of vegetables like he suggests, then you can never eat too much. It seems a little contradictory. There isn’t enough evidence for why we he says we need to eat less meat and ‘mostly plants’. I’ve read enough naturalistic health books to know eating pastured/100% grass fed meat is very important. So on this point Pollan falls short in his research and knowledge. He just glosses over these points too quickly. The two mantras: Not Too Much and Mostly Plants are misrepresented because that’s not what this book is really about. I think something along the lines of ‘Eat Real Food. Don’t Eat Processed’ sums it up succinctly.
As for the content there's a lot of scientific proof documented that turns the mainstream food industry up on its head. And controversies arise in the book– like how the medical establishment knows that a low-fat diet doesn't prevent heart disease or lower cholesterol. They know it, but after all the propaganda, how do they say ‘Oops, we screwed up. We actually were doing more harm than good.' Who doesn’t love a good argument with the ‘experts’?
All in all, his advice in this book is simple and right-on: Stay away from processed foods. Get back to basics. Eat more of what nature intended. Look to the ‘traditional’ diet our ancestors ate.
“In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto” is great for beginners looking for a place to start and for the long-time health gurus who may learn something new along the way. Believe me, the book is packed with information! He touches on a lot of different points that are well worth the read.
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Jenn became a health food advocate and naturalist ten years ago after a long struggle with infertility. She’s an avid reader and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and broadcasting. She and her husband own several businesses and are organic farmers. Jenn is also an enthusiastic cook who uses only whole, organic foods, raw milk, and pastured meats. Read more about Jenn in her guest interview.
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