on May 27, 2008
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 We Live 150 Years" - another book devoted to living in agreement with nature, and revealing the secrets of healthy diet.
on August 14, 2008
From bestselling author Michael Pollan comes "In Defense of Food", the highly anticipated followup to his previous masterpiece, "Omnivore's Dilemma".
Unlike "Omnivore's Dilemma" which was more of an exploration of the food that is on the typical North American dinner table. "In Defense of Food" is more of a prescription for healthy eating, and a natural follow-up to Pollan's excellent investigative work in "Omnivore's Dillemma".
Essentially, Pollan's argument is that we should eat less and eat mostly fresh vegetables bought at the farmer's market. Nothing fascinating there, but Pollan goes into depth to prove why the current North American diet is the absolutely worst diet humankind could have ever come up with.
Overall, I think most people will enjoy reading "In Defense of Food" more than "Omnivore's Dilemma" simply because it is more concise and has a direct message as opposed to the exploratory work that Pollan goes into with "Omnivore's Dilemma".
on January 20, 2009
Granted, it's a case of 'preaching to the converted', but the impact of the book is the same: if I were able, I'd give copies to everyone I love.
Considering the subject matter -nutritionism- Pollan has a light touch, a very non-lecturing way of dealing with the most pressing of issues. While he backs up his conjectures (because, let's face it, *everything* in this field is conjecture, not the least of which what science tells us) with references, he doesn't get bogged down. The tone is serious...yet the delivery quite...well, 'digestible'.
All the way through reading 'Defense', I found myself a) shaking my head, b) feeling angry, sad, frustrated, and c) wondering what the average person's reaction would be. Because over the past few years, I've found myself walking a particular, mostly divergent path when it comes to certain points-of-view. I am not a materialistic consume-a-lot consumer. I do not see the automobile as being an acceptable core value. I have strident views regarding fitness and health. And I see what Pollan talks about as paramount in our world; the economy, the environment...none of it will matter unless we effect a paradigm shift in the way we eat. Pollan provides enough to chew on here for the necessary dialogue to begin.
We have, in many ways, been sold a bill of goods regarding food. And at the heart of it, the equivalent of the 'military-industrial complex' that has brought about the world we live in today in a war-sense. Behind this 'Western diet' effort, the scientists, the media and the government. Where we are now, with all of our health problems (and it could very well be true that *all* of our health problems can be linked to what Pollan suggests), is the result of 'the perfect storm': industry's greed, the consumers' need for newer, better, shinier, and the arrogance of a society that has at its core, a belief that it is the most advanced ever seen in all ways, and therefore, cannot possibly make 'mistakes'.
But I digress.
Two elements come to mind where I felt the need to add to what Pollan has to say. First, although I understand that this was a book about nutritionism, and therefore only addressed this, he never even touches on why North Americans have been driven to eat more. (No, I'm not referring to the 'empty calories' reason; I 'got' all that, I didn't miss his point). An unhappy, dissatisfied, lacking-compass person/group/culture uses food as a means to hide all these shortcomings. To me, this is a parallel concern to the thrust of Pollan's book. The second has to do with the seven words of wisdom he has as the foundation of what he posits: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I would, at great risk to those who align themselves with what he says, reduce this to "Eat fresh." For in doing this, just as I believe that activity is actually *more* important than 'diet' in terms of being a synergistic motivator, when you eat fresh, everything else falls into place. Eventually, as the impact of the mindset takes effect, you only eat real food, not processed. You don't overeat, because your body is getting what it craves on a much deeper level. And when you're eating fresh, you're bound to eat mostly plants. How can this be? Go back to our roots (something Pollan advises) and examine the eating habits of our ancestors: what they consumed was all fresh.
If you care about yourself, read this book. If you care about the people in your life, recommend it to others. Most of all, begin the dialogue.
on July 17, 2009
Having not read The Omnivore's Dilemma, I can't compare the two books, but I can say that In Defense of Food has changed the way I look at food and the way I eat (for the better, I hope).
The book advocates a rejection of 'nutritionism' and reductionist science, with its over emphasis on breaking down the parts of food to chemical properties and expecting to be able to understand food piece by piece. But, like most of nature, things are not built like machines with interchangeable parts; instead they are a set of intricate and complex symbiotic relationships, irreducible to simple components that can be added or subtracted at whim by the food industry.
Pollan does fall into his own trap, when discussing the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, but acknowledges this seeming contradiction to his argument.
Pollan also advocates a return to food culture, rather than seeing food as simply an annoyance that must be dealt with a few times a day. Sit at a table, he says. Sit with other people. Enjoy your food slowly. All this is excellent advice.
Slowly but surely it seems our society is coming to recognize the importance of food and food culture, seeing food as a way to connect ourselves to nature and enjoy ourselves while doing it. Hopefully this book will speed up the process a bit.
on March 18, 2008
It is nice to read a book by an author who is not trying to push the latest theory about this or that diet or the celeb nutrient of the day. But I do not wish to suggest he is not highly critical of the so-called Western Diet.
Much like another excellent book: An Apple A Day:... by Joe Schwartz, this book is written by someone who has first rate critical thinking skills, and what appears to be the complete absence of any agenda. The author is very well read and comments along the way, and quite helpfully, about other books on diet and nutrition that have sold well lately. And unlike the flawed book, The China Study, this book does not seem to over-reach.
Finally, as with An Apple A day, you end up walking away with quite a lot of optimism about the food choices available to you, and also optimistic about what you can do right away so as to eat in a way that does not cause you to suffer lingering anxiety over your dietary choices.