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Book Review: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

Posted Apr 19 2010 3:00pm

Last week, I  read In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan because I was bored at work. Hey, at least I did something productive ;)

I liked it right from the get go!

I think my favorite quote from the book was in the very beginning; Pollan opens his book with this very simple phrase, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”. I think that phrase is genius.  Throughout the novel, he provides the research and history behind this phrase to back up his argument.

The book is divided into three sections:

1) The Age of Nutritionism

In the first section, Pollan provides his interpretation, which is based on well researched facts, on how our food supply has evolved over time. He discusses the downfalls of many common and well known diets such as the low-fat diet (which I think is the stupidest thing known to man). How could I live without peanut butter?

He also argues “that the majority of the nutritional advice we’ve received over the last half century has actually made us less healthy and considerably fatter.” He refers to this statement as something called “over-nutrition” which describes how we’ve become more obsessed with nutrients rather than actual food and the other nourishment that it provides us with.

Another statement that I found interesting was “Foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts.” According to Pollan, this is because scientists look at nutrients one at a time because they hope that they can find one abundant mineral that is the key to good health. In reality, we need a variety of vitamins and minerals to truly be the healthiest we can be.

2) The Western Diet and the Diseases and Civilization

I found the second section very interesting. Pollan highlights the problems with the Western diet, which include food-related diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and numerous cancers.  According to Pollan, the main reasons that we are fat is because we eat a lot of processed foods and meat, a lot of added fat and sugar, and a lot of everything that doesn’t include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Remember, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants“.

3) Getting Over Nutritionism

In the third and final section, Pollan gives us several “bite-sized” ;) rules that go along with his opening phrase, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” His rules tell us to eat real food, which will help you avoid “food-like products”.

When he talks about “not too much” he is referring to the actual dining experience. Eating food should be about good times, good friends, and good experiences. And tasty food ;) On the contrary, when Pollan refers to “mostly plants,” he is talking about the benefits of eating a variety of whole, nourishing foods, especially fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

All in all, I really liked this book. I learned so many things that it was hard to pack it all into a single post. I think you need to fully read it for yourself the get the full benefit of his wealth of knowledge, so hopefully I have influenced you to go out and buy it.

The main thing I got from this book was “Eat simple food”. If you are eating food that isn’t processed, loaded with things made in a lab, and is on the outside of the grocery store (think fruits and vegetables), then you are golden (to an extent of course). My diet isn’t perfect and it never will be, but this book has helped me rethink a lot of the things I am going to put into my mouth.


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