In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Author: Michael Pollan
ISBN-13: 978-1-4104-0537-1 ISBN-10: 1-4104-0537-0

'In Defense of Food' is the kind of book that makes you look differently at what is on your table and in your pantry. It makes you think differently when your at the grocery store and it’s a book that everyone responsible for their families meals and health must read.

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Michael Pollan tackles the question of what to eat in order to be healthy in his eye opening book 'In Defense of Food.' He doesn’t tell you to eat beta-carotene or Omega-3’s, he tells what real foods you should eat.

"How a people eats is one of the most powerful ways they have to express, and preserve, their cultural identity"(pg83). But in Western society how we eat is dictated by the newest nutritional fad, it’s a culture that changes more often than the weather.

As a genuine journalist should, Pollan’s 'In Defense of Food' creates a well argued, well researched manifesto, cuts out the B.S., and makes choosing what to eat easy again.

He starts by addressing the billions of dollars in marketing surrounding food and the advice that is given on healthy eating. There is too much of a conflict of interest when food producers are funding nutrition research and policy.

Take for example Weston Price, a dentist who thought that our Western diet was the cause of tooth decay, not poor oral hygiene. Price studied isolated populations eating various diets of local, unprocessed foods and noticed that their teeth were healthier than Westerners teeth yet these isolated populations didn’t brush, floss or gargle like Westerners.

Yet Price’s findings are nearly forgotten as food producers and scientists funded by those producers decide what 'health food' is and how it should be labeled.

In the second part of 'In Defense of Food' Pollan debunks the myth that dietary fat is what leads to the chronic illnesses so common among those who eat a Western diet leaving us to wonder what, if anything, food scientists report is accurate.

Processed foods simply don’t have all the nutrients found in real, naturally occurring food sources from healthy soil. We haven’t even discovered all the micronutrients out there, it’s impossible for us to chemically add them to food products when we don’t know they exist.

"In order to eat well we need to invest more time, effort, and resources in providing for our sustenance, to dust off a word, than most of us do today. A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap and easy. Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food; they also spend less than half hour a day preparing meals and little more than an hour enjoying them(pg201)."

In the third part of 'In Defense of Food' Michael Pollan sets some rules for healthy eating and explains why these are more important to follow than the current fads.

Michael Pollan’s rules for healthy eating from 'In Defense of Food' include:

  • Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
  • Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  • Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number.
  • Avoid food products that make health claims.
  • Shop in the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
  • Shake the hand that feeds you.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
  • You are what what you eat eats too.
  • If you have the space, buy a freezer.
  • Eat like an omnivore.
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
  • Eat wild foods when you can.
  • Be the kind of person who takes supplements
  • Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
  • Regard nontraditional food with skepticism.
  • Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
  • Have a glass of wine with dinner.
  • Pay more, eat less.
  • Do all your eating at a table.
  • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • Try not to eat alone.
  • Consult your gut.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Cook and if you can plant a garden.

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