In Reviewing “In Defense of Food” I have found a number of other topics I would like to research as well (Like, what is nutritionism? What was the American culture of eating pre-processed food? It’s not always what you eat but how and why, What are my reasons for the food choices I make? etc…). As I read the book I just kept thinking of ways to change or adjust.
Numerous times Michael Pollan talks about how we have lost the tradition of mom. That’s right instead of eating what our mothers did we are listening to science to explain what and how to eat. We don’t sit down, use a napkin, pray over our meal, or ask to be excused. We just eat in a rush or a hurry, snacking throughout the day. We choose our meals by what was packaged or what is easy or what has the latest health claims. As I thought of this it made me want to learn my ancestors culture of eating.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First off I loved this book. It answered so many of the questions I have had. I loved the way Micheal Pollan approached food by quoting and giving examples from numerous scientific studies. He showed that he did his research…and lots of it. He also used common sense and historical trends. If you are looking for information about food from multiple ideologies, this book is a great one to read. He looks at food from a health point of view, cultural, scientific, historical, and common sense.
Michael Pollan started off “In defense of food” by defining nutritionism (Nutritionism: foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts). He goes on to explain why this can be bad.
1) We can’t be sure we have discovered all the components of food. He gives the example of baby formulas beginning… before we discovered vitamins.
2) Nutritionism focuses only on the narrow, zooming in and ignoring the complexity of how foodstuffs may interact to promote health.
3) Nutritionism makes big money for food manufacturers.
4) It’s not consistent, there is always a good nutrient/bad nutrient… which is always changing.
5) Nutritionism makes it so we need someone to tell us what nutrients we need to eat… because we can’t see them.
He discussed food science and the trends it has gone through. Food science is a fairly new field and as such doesn’t have all the answers and has to change as it goes along. Maybe one day it will be perfected but at this time we are far from that. Food science is a difficult field to get accurate data from because people lie, the placebo affect, or multiple variables.
Michael Pollan also goes on to discuss the diseases associated with the western diet and civilization. He shares examples of Aborigines eating a western diet reverting to original diet and healing western diseases they had. Sadly many people don’t want to change their diet, so many scientists keep looking for a pill or some other cure.
He takes a step back and takes us from looking at nutrients to looking at food as a whole. Then another step back at the food cycle; including the soil, how we nurture it, and the animals we eat. All of this affects the nutrients we eat and the health and satisfaction from the food we eat. He then takes another step back to food culture: The combination of foods we eat, when and how we eat them. It’s incredible how he keeps zooming in to describe the nutrients and affects of the big picture…and he zooms back out again.
In the last section, he discussed how to get over nutritionism by explaining what he means by the motto, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. He defines food by excluding food like substances that make up over half of what occupies the grocery store shelves. He discusses how culture, habit, and the nutrient density of the food we eat affects how much we eat, as well as how to get more plants in the diet. This is the part that discussed culture. Those who follow a cultural diet are healthier than those who follow food science regardless of which culture they eat like.
He finishes, “In Defense of Food”, by offering the plan to cook and garden. Ultimately removing all question of whether the food is healthy because health is a given.
I know I can’t do this book justice. I found Michael Pollan’s book to have incredible insight. I would highly recommend it.
If I have spiked your interest you can get “In Defense of Food” here.