In Defense of Food


My journey towards being a locavore began with Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I eagerly awaited his latest book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” This book takes nutritionism to task – the reduction of food into nutrients, and marketing foods based on what they do or do not contain. (Contains: vitamins, omega-3 oils, etc. Does not contain: carbs, fats, sugar, etc.)

Pollan has a simple 7 word mantra for how to eat: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I think I shall take to chanting that as a pre-meal prayer. Or, a pre-shopping prayer as the biggest hazards to your health and waistline are found on the supermarket shelves marketing pre-processed foods — many with nutritionism-based claims.

Most enlightening was the chapter on the sad state of nutrition research. We see this all the time as yesterday’s nutrition villains, such as eggs, are today’s heroes. Yesterday’s answer to high cholesterol – margarine vs. butter – is today’s villain – trans-fat! Do we really now know the whole truth, or is this just more over-hyped research? What should we eat?

Pollan says – eat food. Get basic and eat only foods your grandmother or great-grandmother would recognize as food. Cook and eat meals rather than snacking. Don’t drink sodas filled with high fructose corn syrup.

Don’t eat too much food. Ay, carumba, there’s the problem. My husband claims he’s gotten fatter since I joined a CSA and began cooking real meals with real food. The problem – too much food! Too tasty! But this is something we can address with portion control rather than going back to packaged foods.

Mostly plants: our Western diets are too full of meat. In our quest to eliminate carbs, we have replaced plants with meat, and even with plant-based foods we have replaced leaves with seeds. We eat too much processed flour and polished rice, not enough leafy vegetables and whole grains. The solution? Pollan touts CSA farms, for the same reason I found. I eat a much wider variety of veggies because my farmer puts them in my share and I have to use them. Just going to a farmers market, I came back with the same thing every time until the CSA introduced me to a wider variety of veggies.

I listened to the Audiobook Version, read by my favorite reader, Scott Brick. But in truth, I would prefer a different reader. Scott Brick ended up sounding strident and every statement sounded ironic or sneering. Love you Scott, but it got overwhelming. I would prefer a gentler reading of this book.

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