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In Defense of Food

Monday, July 13, 2009

In Defense of Food: An Easter’s Manifesto (2008) Michael Pollan

in_defense_of_foodAfter reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma I picked up In Defense of Food to see what he had to say about the Western Diet and what most Americans eat.

OK. I have to admit that I didn’t particularly learn a lot reading this book, because I’ve had a long fascination with food and nutrition, but I enjoyed the way he explored the issue and I believe he does a very good job presenting what he has discovered.

Plus, he really seems to like food. That may sound like a somewhat foolish thing to say, but other books on nutrition and eating often feel like they’re written by someone who eats to live, not someone who lives to eat. If you’ve ever eaten food made by someone in the former category, you know there is a tremendous difference between the two.

…our Puritan roots also impeded a sensual or aestetic enjoyment of food. Like sex, the need to eat links us to the animals, and historically a great deal of Protestant energy has gone into helping keep all such animal appetites under control.

In this book, Michael Pollan looks at the Western diet, and Americans have health and weight issues at a much higher rate than the rest of the world. First and foremost he believes that “nutrition” as a science has nothing to do with diet and eating. Nutritionists (for the most part) look at the individual components of foods. However, we don’t eat individual components, we eat whole foods. He mentions some of the problems this has lead to, including the study on beta carotene that had to be stopped because as a supplement, beta carotene was leading to an increase in cancer rates even though diets high in beta carotene were associated with a lower incidence of cancer.

We have good reason to believe that putting nutritionists in charge of the menu and the kitchen has not only ruined an untold number of meals, but also has done little for our healthy, except very possibly to make it worse.

That’s right, made our health worse.

USDA figures show a decline in the nutrient content of the forty-three crops it has tracked since the 1950s.

This goes back to a point I’ve made before: industrial agriculture is a terrible way to grow and raise food, and much of what Michael Pollan discusses supports this.

The human animal is adapted to, and apparently can thrive on, an extraordinary range of different diets, but the Western diet, however you define it, does not seem to be one of them.

If you eat–and we all do–you need to read what Michael Pollan has to say about eating and food and the Western diet.
Rating: 8/10


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