Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
By Michael Pollan
Penguin Press, 2008. 244 pgs. Nonfiction

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Thus starts the book written by Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He admits that he sort of hates to give it all away right there at the beginning, but that’s basically the conclusion. Of course he spends the rest of the book explaining just what he means. For instance, it may seem moronic to encourage people to “eat food,” but he means real food, from the ground to your stomach in as few steps as possible, and he explains why. A large portion of the book is devoted to decrying industrial food processing, and explaining how after so much processing it’s not even what he considers a food anymore, but rather a “food product” – lacking in nutrients even though the label may deceptively advertise one strong nutrient like “more fiber!” He makes some excellent points and notes a lot of very interesting studies to illustrate how the processing of food is failing us nutritionally and aesthetically.

I didn't realize this would be so much about the processed versus unprocessed food debate (which I have never tried to learn about before), but still I found this book very interesting. There are some points he made that I don’t necessarily agree with - for instance, I think there are some foods that can still be valuable even if some processing has taken place, but he really comes off discrediting processing of any kind. The book is split into three sections, and really if you just wanted some good motivation and suggestions for healthy changes you could make to your diet, you could read the last section which is devoted to an annotated list of he thinks we should do differently. After reading this, I’ve made my own list of what I think I can and want to change, and I’m motivated to do it knowing what I do after reading the book.


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