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Paperback In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto Book

ISBN: 0143114964

ISBN13: 9780143114963

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

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Book Overview

#1 New York Times Bestseller from the author of How to Change Your Mind, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Food Rules Food. There's plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it? Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion--most of what we’re consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Required reading for anyone who eats

Michael Pollan is a brilliant and clear thinker. This book made me say "Eureka!" about every other page. A call back to traditional whole foods, Pollan expounds on his eating mantra: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." You would think that eating would be natural in mammals, but our western culture of "nutritionism" and the food industry has taken such a scientific approach to food that most people are confused on what humans should eat amid fad diets, health claims, and advertising. We sometimes consider food to just be fuel, eating whichever calories are the cheapest and easiest to consume. Reading this book helped me center my eating habits and my family's eating habits around cooking real food and eating with pleasure around the dinner table, making food a cultural experience again.

Against Nutritionism, and For a Return to Basic Foods--With a Caveat

Pollan, the author, traces many of the maladies of modern civilization to the artificial aspects of many of our foods. For instance, our need for constant dental care stems from our western diets (pp. 96-97). Oddly enough, our digestive tract has as many neurons as the spinal column (p. 63). This suggests that the digestive process is a much more complex one than simply the breakdown of foods. What if "western diseases" occur simply because people now live long enough to develop them? Pollan rejects this thinking, and presents evidence that a 70 year-old today is more likely to have diabetes or cancer than his counterpart a century ago. (p. 93) Pollan notes that the Polish biochemist Casimir Funk discovered vitamins. In this book, he takes a middle view of their value. He suggests taking supplements, but also warns that they may be ineffective when out of the context of their foods. In fact, Pollan's warnings about "nutritionism" may be illustrated by one common natural food: "Milk through this lens is reduced to a suspension of protein, lactose, fats, and calcium in water, when it is entirely possible that the benefits, or for that matter the hazards, of drinking milk owe to entirely other factors (growth hormones?) or relationships between factors (fat-soluble vitamins and saturated fat?) that have been overlooked." (p. 31) Pollan generally agrees with those who suggest that overconsumption of nutritionally-barren refined carbohydrates is harmful (p. 59, 112-113). However, he cautions that the scientific reductionism of low-carb thinking as the full answer should be avoided. Pointedly, there is no such thing as a single "natural diet". Evidently-healthy diets centered around seafood, meat, dairy products, and vegetarian products, have all been found worldwide (p. 97). Let's consider nutritionism further. Although Pollan recommends the "Avoid eating anything that your great-grandma wouldn't recognize" rule, the "Don't eat anything incapable of rotting" rule, and the "Eat more vegetables rule", it may not be so simple. For one thing, farm vegetables may be short on nutrients because they had been bred for rapid growth, and because chemical fertilizers indirectly deplete nutrients (p. 115). In fact, the obesity prevalent in the west may be partly the result of the body attempting to accumulate enough nutrients through the overconsumption of these low-nutrient foods (pp. 123-124).

Back to Nature

It is so good to read a book about nutrition that does not promote any new diet! The author's message is plain and simple: Go back to nature, eat wholesome foods, and don't bother with dieting. Don't overeat; instead eat slowly, and enjoy your meals - such notion has already been promoted by Mireille Guiliano in her bestseller "French Women Don't Get Fat". Our curse is processed food. The dieting industry completely distorted our feeding process. Our desire to improve everything and to separate 'needed' ingredients from the 'unneeded' ones leads us to refining most of our food products. However, our artificially 'improved' food only seemingly has the same nutritious qualities as natural food. Artificial and natural foods have as little in common as silk roses with real ones. Processed food is easily obtainable, doesn't require much work to prepare, and, unfortunately, it is often also addictive. At the same time it is full of calories with very small nutritional content. Like "The Omnivore's Dilemma", Pollan's new book is indeed eye-opening. It makes us think twice about what we are going to put into our mouths the next time we eat. For more reading about the danger of refined foods I strongly recommend Can W e Live 150 - another book devoted to living in agreement with nature, and revealing the secrets of healthy diet.

Care for your family? Want to live long and well? This is required reading.

What's better for you --- whole milk, 2% milk or skim? Is a chicken labeled "free range" good enough to reassure you of its purity? How about "grass fed" beef? What form of soy is best for you --- soy milk or tofu? About milk: I'll bet most of you voted for reduced or non-fat. But if you'll turn to page 153 of "In Defense of Food," you'll read that processors don't make low-fat dairy products just by removing the fat. To restore the texture --- to make the drink "milky" --- they must add stuff, usually powdered milk. Did you know powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, said to be worse for your arteries than plain old cholesterol? And that removing the fat makes it harder for your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that make milk a valuable food in the first place? About chicken and beef: Readers of Pollan's previous book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma", know that "free range" refers to the chicken's access to grass, not whether it actually ventures out of its coop. And all cattle are "grass fed" until they get to the feedlot. The magic words for delightful beef are "grass finished" or "100% grass fed". And about soy...but I dare to hope I have your attention by now. And that you don't want to be among the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight and the third of our citizens who are likely to develop type 2 diabetes before 2050. And maybe, while I have your eyes, you might be mightily agitated to learn that America spends $250 billion --- that's a quarter of the costs of the Iraq war --- each year in diet-related health care costs. And that our health care professionals seem far more interested in building an industry to treat diet-related diseases than they do in preventing them. And that the punch line of this story is as sick as it is simple: preventing diet-related disease is easy. In just 200 pages (and 22 pages of notes and sources), "In Defense of Food" gives you a guided tour of 20th century food science, a history of "nutritionism" in America and a snapshot of the marriage of government and the food industry. And then it steps up to the reason most readers will buy it --- and if you care for your health and the health of your loved ones, this is a no-brainer one-click --- and presents a commonsense shopping-and-eating guide. If you are up on your Pollan and your Nina Planck and your Barbara Kingsolver, you know the major points of the "real food" movement. But if you're new to this information or are disinclined to buy or read this book, let me lay Pollan's argument out for you: -- High-fructose corn syrup is the devil's brew. Do yourself a favor and remove it from your diet. (If you have kids, here's a place to start: Heinz smartly offers an "organic" ketchup, made with sugar.) -- Avoid any food product that makes health claims --- they mean it's probably not really food. -- In a supermarket, don't shop in the center aisles. Avoid anything that can't rot, anything with an ingredient you can't pronounce. -- "Don't get

Omnivore's Dilemma Updated In A Quick, Focused, Factual Form

I thought I'd discovered gold two years ago when I chanced upon Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" on the new-book shelf at my local library. I'm a health nut, and what Pollan had to say between the covers of that book was exactly what I'd been looking for. The message blew me away. I started telling all my friends, colleagues, and family about how phenomenal and groundbreaking the book was, and encouraging them to read it. I even went so far as to buy five hardbound copies to give out and loan. But in the end I don't believe I really made any serious converts. Plenty of people wanted to listen! Telling my friends and acquaintances about the content of Pollan's book made me a big hit in social situations, but I honestly don't think many people took the time to read the book or, more importantly, to change their eating habits. But Michael Pollan's book did convert me. Over the last two years, I have changed my eating habits--not as much as I hoped I would, but significantly nonetheless. The problem is, as I am sure anyone else knows who has also tried to follow his path: eating healthy in modern, urban America is extremely difficult. "Omnivore's Dilemma" went on to become a nationwide bestseller. Thanks in part to the stir that book caused, and the many newspaper articles and television programs that followed, there has been a small but noticeable difference in the availability of healthier, more naturally produced vegetables, fruits, meats, and fish in the area where I live. Merchants now appear to be very conscious of the fact that many buyers are eager to know how and where each batch of produce was grown; whether fish is wild or farm-raised; and whether meats, dairy products, and eggs come from range-, grass- or grain-fed animals. In our area, the local farmers' markets are thriving, and the supermarkets...well, they don't seem to be doing so well anymore. Instead there are a number of small health food chains opening up that seem to be robbing the supermarkets of a large portion of their business. People are starting to "vote with their forks." They are saying they want better quality food, and slowly, their voice is being heard. When I heard that Pollan had a new book out--"In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto,"--I jumped at the chance to be one of the first to buy it. It is a small book, easy and quick to read. I finished it in one enjoyable afternoon. Frankly, there is not much in this new book that wasn't already covered in "Omnivore's Dilemma." However, what this new book accomplishes that the previous book did not, is to present the basic concepts--about what is wrong with the modern Western diet and what we can do to eat in a more healthy manner--in a far more concise and readable form. Gone are the stories, the humor, the horror, the amusing dialogue, and the semitravelogue--all that was, for me at least, very delightful--but it also made the book perhaps too long and chatty for some, especially those just seeking a qu

Want health?

". . . no people on earth worry more about the health consequences of their food choices than we American do--and no people suffer from as many diet-related health problems." What to do? Like so much today, food truth is hard to find. We can't trust government to tell us the truth because it is influenced by the industrial agriculture giants that produce most food. We certainly can't trust labels using "natural" to describe chemical agglomerations. And, frankly, we can't trust doctors because they are simply not educated about food. Nutritionists? Many are educated, but how do we learn their bias? And, can they overcome "the pitfalls of reductionism and overconfidence?" I trust Michael Pollan. He has now written enough books regarding food that we know who and how he is. If he has a bias, it seems to be that he really gives a damn about we American consumers. Pollan shows how, starting in 1977, government dietary decrees began to speak in terms of nutrients rather than specific foods. This was due to the pushback from the meat industry against the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. Senator George McGovern's committee had made the fatal mistake of suggesting that Americans should eat less red meat and fewer dairy products. Enter agribusiness lobbyists. And that changed the whole story of the Western Diet. "The Age of Nutritionism had arrived." No longer would certain foods be extolled; now we would be sold nutrients. No matter that these mysterious and unpronounceable ingredients might be manufactured rather than grown. At the end of the day, and near the end of this most valuable book, is the suggestion: "Cook and, If You Can, Plant a Garden." I relate well to that. I was lucky--I grew up in a poor family that raised most of our food. The proof of the eating is that my parents long outlived their eight younger "buy it at the store" siblings; Dad died at 93 and Mother is still avidly gardening at 94. If we can't raise food we can buy from small producers as close to us as possible--we can be locavores. The more we know about the people who produce what we put in our body the more we can trust our food-buying decisions. And when we buy food we vote our values. The shorter the distance from field to plate, the less oil is consumed. Win-win. So buy from nearby growers. Buy from farmer's markets and CSAs. Spend more money on best-quality food and spend less money on health insurance. It's an essential choice. I won't be a spoiler and tell you about the new and contradictory information about fats, cholesterol and heart disease. I won't bore you with the stories of how our present unhealthful dietary condition came to be and the many businesses and agencies who have created it. And I won't tell you what you should do, beyond this: read this book and act on the uncommon commonsense knowledge it gives you.
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