October 06, 2011

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

This was a good book. Sadly, it was largely what should be common sense but due to the fact that the book needed written, it must not be so common anymore. Pollan addresses the problems with modern meals and the Western diet in this book.

There are three main sections. The Age Of Nutrition-ism talks about just that. Pollan goes over some of the studies and thoughts out there that are modern view of nutrition came from. Especially noticeable are the concepts of vitamins and nutrients. We all recognize that our bodies need these things to work properly, but Pollan's point is that supplements alone aren't going to solve this problem. There is something out there undefined as of right now that makes whole foods as nutritious as they are and not just the sum of their nutrients. He doesn't say that vitamins are worthless, he just says that they are not the best trade-off for whole fresh food.

The next section is the Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization. He touches on how most people eating a western diet (considered processed food, not a lot of variety, etc.) tend to have higher incidences of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other long term diseases. When he goes back to research other diets that have been established for centuries, he finds that they have lower incidences of these types of disease.

The last part is called Getting Over Nutrition-ism. This section basically gives his rules for good eating. He says to eat "food" and while this seems silly, what he means is actual food, not processed engineered food. He goes over how whole food may not actually be as good as you think, such as meat that is fed processed or bad for it type food. Eat mostly plants, meat should be an accompaniment, not the main course. And lastly, don't eat too much. People should learn when they are full and take cues from their body, not from the portion sizes. Enjoy the meals, that's what is most important.

Pollan makes several good points in this book. He does get repetitious at times and I think the book could have been shorter if this had been left out. He is also a writer, not a scientist so all his writing is not backed up by claims. But this is ok because it is interesting to speculate that the French are thinner because they take time to enjoy their meals even though its relatively similar to what the Americans eat.

The writing was easy to understand although it did get tedious in some parts. He uses a lot of the scientific names for things (i.e. lipids instead of fat) and sometimes this can make for longer reading as you have to remind yourself of what is what. He provides sources and scientific referrals for his work and this can be seen as credited in the back or footnotes within the book.

It should be common sense; but Pollan does a great job of directing this book towards people who maybe were never taught the proper way to eat. It does the research for those who might not know all that goes into their food and what they are ingesting. Truly a complicated educational read.

In Defense of Food
Copyright 2008
201 pages
At the end there are acknowledgements, sources, and an index.

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