Book Review: In Defense of Food

In Defense of FoodIn the book, “In Defense of Food” Michael Pollan seeks to answer the question, What should we eat?

In this book, Pollan brings attention to the phenomenon of nutritionism. He explains that more than 30 years of nutrition advice has left us fatter, sicker and more poorly nourished than ever before. Not to mention more confused than ever. The failure of all this nutritional advice has created the need for a whole new way to look at food. Enter, Michael Pollan.

The refreshing thing about reading Michael Pollan’s work is that he is not a nutritionist, a dietitian, or anything of the sort – he is a writer and, above all else, an eater. Just like me! I think that is why I appreciated his insight – he speaks to readers in a comfortable way, asking the questions we often think to ourselves but never say out loud. We have been trained to believe anything that comes out of the mouths of an R.D., M.D., or any other professional with an acronym following their name.

Pollan reminds us that for centuries our ancestors managed just as well, if not better, than us by just using common sense and what their parents and grandparents taught them. We know have this obsession with what we should eat and not eat, and it seems like that changes every year.

In Defense of Food brings us back to what we should be eating – food! Pollan explains that what we see on shelves at the supermarket is no longer food – it is foodlike products. I knew I would be a fan of this book from the moment I read the headline on the cover – Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. That is my food philosophy in a nutshell – if only I could have summed it up so eloquently rather than dragging on for pages!

For those people lost in the world of why our food supply has gotten to where it is today or at a loss for what to eat, this book is a great starting place. It is also a great refresher and reminder for those who already stress the importance of fueling our bodies with the highest quality food possible.

While every piece of Pollan’s advice and insight on the “science” behind our food supply is poignant and relevant, a few things in particular caught my attention.

Food has been replaced by nutrients. Scientists took all the fun out of food by focusing on just the nutrients in healthy foods, rather than the foods as a whole. Pollan takes this confusing subject of food science and explains why focusing only on the nutrients is not the key. There is so much more that goes into how a food reacts in our body, and nutrients react differently in our bodies when taken out of the food packages the come in.

“You are what you eat eats, too”. Choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry is the first step, but take a look at the animal’s diet as well. Just like eating plants is better for our overall health, the same goes for animals. Grass-fed protein is better for your health than grain-feed.

Get out of the supermarket as often as possible. Farmers markets are very popular right now. While there is much talk about how much better purchasing produce from the farmers market is for the environment, think about yourself as well – eating in-season, fresh produce will do wonders for your well-being. I fully believe your health is one place to never feel guilty about being selfish – while you may not be able to save the ozone yourself, you will definitely be able to save yourself!

A point I want to make is that we live in a society of convenience where we don’t think twice about buying packaged (processed) foods as long as there is some sort of health claim on the box. What we often forget is that those very health claims are there solely to sell you something and we should not immediately assume those flashy blurbs tell the whole story. Taking an extra few seconds to read the ingredient list will change your life and your health. It really only takes a matter of seconds because you only need to read the first 5 ingredients on the list to make the decision of whether or not the item will land in your shopping cart.

While I could go on and on about the “truths” Pollan dispels in his book, I will cut myself short and just urge you to read the book. It does not have the ick-factor of other books of its kind and explains things in a way that makes you ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Enjoy this read!!

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