In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food

An Eater's Manifesto

Book - 2008
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"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of food journalist Pollan's thesis. Humans used to know how to eat well, he argues, but the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." Indeed, plain old eating is being replaced by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Pollan's advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food." Looking at what science does and does not know about diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about what to eat, informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the nutrient-by-nutrient approach.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
ISBN: 9781594201455
1594201455
9780143114963
Characteristics: 244 p. ; 22 cm.
Summary: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of food journalist Pollan's thesis. Humans used to know how to eat well, he argues, but the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." Indeed, plain old eating is being replaced by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Pollan's advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food." Looking at what science does and does not know about diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about what to eat, informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the nutrient-by-nutrient approach.

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WendyLC
Apr 29, 2017

While the basic message here is good and seems logical (eat real foods, at meals, of the type your great-grandmother would recognize as food, don't eat packaged foods, and don't eat anything you can't pronounce), his anti-meat stance is bizarre. In the traditional diets he refers to, some of them eat meat (the French eat lots of cheese, too), a few eat almost nothing but meat (hunter gatherers might eat only meat six months of the year), and there's no science saying meat is bad for you, and he seems to be suffering from the "nutritionism" he skewers in much of this book, perhaps having a hangover from the "fat is bad for you" nonsense. Meat leaves you full for longer, and some cultures and individuals like a lot of it, and it is actual real food.

Sure, meat--red meat in particular--is horrible for the environment, but that's not what this book is about. It's about health and getting rid of the fifty years of nonsense reductionist nutrition science. So why doesn't he?

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sorensje
Jan 16, 2017

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." is the main take away and he doesn't expand into each of these 3 elements until the end. Much of the book is about nutritionism and how whole food has been broken down into separate properties that do or don't affect our health, it seems everything is almost up for debate. Mainly eat whole food that isn't processed, doesn't have generally more than 5 ingredients listed and things you don't know or can't pronounce. Smaller portions, more plants for the nutrients you miss out on through processing. Eat slower and be more in tune with your body telling you its full. Shop more at farmers markets to cut down on chances of buying processed food. Start a home garden. Buy eggs that have been pastured. Buy beef that's been grass finished.

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KathyS82
Oct 01, 2015

Interesting take on our current western diet. It made me think about things differently. Being from a Slovakian background we use food to show affection and love cooking for our family. Food brings us pleasure and isn't just about nutrition. Good principles to apply.

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stewstealth
May 10, 2014

A very concise and thoughtful look at the problems in North American ( Western Diet ) food production and delivery. A very sensible, though still difficult, recommendation for healthy eating. Though this book is specifically about food growing and food processing it encapsulates many problems in our society outside of the scope of the book. Should be read by everyone.

r
ReadRobin
Mar 03, 2014

The SPL has several more copies of this book in the Large Print edition--I recommend it if you are tired of the long waiting list for the regular edition. Excellent book and good read.

h
hagrid46
Jun 27, 2013

I have read a brazillian articles and books on the internet, from the library, and purchased on nutrition. This book captures, condenses and presents a simple, sensible, effective approach to eating. Rather than guidelines it is more like a North Star to help us navigate through the myriad of new fads, research, products and advertising. For example if your great grandmother would not recognize it don't eat it. If you can't pronounce and don't know what the ingredients are, don't eat it. If there are more than 5 ingredients don't eat it. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He explains what he means by food. It is sad to realize that he needed to explain what food is and what it is not. He reviews the diverse, indigenous diets around the world that keep different populations healthy. The key is always that they are eating real food, no matter whether it is high or low fat or high or low carbohydrates or high or low protein.
This is an easy read. I enjoyed it immensely and will consider buying it or his next book, just to keep myself grounded when I start to be swayed by the newest research. Eating is not complicated, but finding real food may be.

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meldaravaniel
Jun 20, 2012

I have been recommended this book by several people and was glad I finally got around to reading it. There is a lot of information about food and nutrition floating around out there. I was especially confused by the recent commotion over high fructose corn syrup. Some people were saying it was perfectly safe, others were saying it wasn't, but no one had any proof to their claims. As a scientist, that bothered me. In this book, Pollan starts out by giving a history of 'nutritionism.' He then talks about the more recent happenings in food, including discussing the 'cults' of fats, carbohydrates, omega 3 fatty acids, and even high fructose corn syrup. Just as you're feeling as though you won't ever be able to eat healthfully, he gives a detailed explanation of how to do just that and why you should do it.

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sharon711
Jan 21, 2012

Thank you Michael Pollan. You’ve researched the heck out of the western diet to show us just why we’re growing fatter the more we try to eat healthier foods. I’ll have no trouble now giving up processed foods as often as I can, especially any of those with fructose near the top of the ingredient list.

I’ll have more trouble swapping meat for leaves... but maybe if I can just make leaves one of the main veggies on my plate every time I eat, that will be a step in the right direction. After reading your book, I ran down to the grocery store and came home with a bunch of red kale, a bunch of watercress, and a box of baby spinach and arugula. I found some simple recipes, and the kale and watercress were delicious. Tonight we start in on the box of mixed greens. Who knew they were good sources of omega-3... a fat? Better yet, I learned that although omega-3 may be really good for us, it’s not the whole story - there are likely interactions with other unknowns in the leaves that account for their effectiveness in regulating our good health.

It all makes good sense, completely, especially the way you explain it. Foods are such complex biochemical systems that it’s no wonder scientists are still straightening it all out. It appears they have much farther to go before they can advise us on the best eating patterns for good health. Going back to eating like our parents and grandparents did definitely means getting back into the kitchen... and spending more time at the table with our families. I like that idea. Let’s put culture back into agriculture and tradition back into family life.

elviralupsa Jan 13, 2012

All there is to know about food today. It is a enjoyable book with valuable information about what we eat and what we SHOULD eat.
If you are too lazy to read through the 256 pages, just read Food Rules by the same author which is a summary of this entire book.

c
cmills10
Aug 17, 2011

I enjoyed this book cover to cover. Michael Pollan's sensible approach to eating really made sense. He talks about how little we know about "nutrition" and how our body processes food. If you are looking for a book to teach yourself about eating well and get off the diet wagon this is it.

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Kobetsky Mar 06, 2012

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.

Real food -- the kind of food your great-grandmother would recognize as food - is being undermined by science on one side and the food industry on the other, both of whom want us focus on nutrients, good and bad, rather than actual plants, animals and fungi.

According to author Michael Pollan, the rise of "nutritionism" has vastly complicated the lives of American eaters without doing anything for our health, except possibly to make it worse. Nutritionism arose to deal with a genuine problem -- the fact that the modern American diet is responsible for an epidemic of chronic diseases, from obesity and type II diabetes to heart disease and many cancers -- but it has obscured the real roots of that problem and stood in the way of a solution.

In 200 pages, Pollan outlines the challenge and offers a straightforward manifesto -- "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." -- as well as practical advice on how to accomplish these deceptively simple goals.

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cmills10
Aug 22, 2011

cmills10 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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birchpoint5
Aug 27, 2012

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

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