In Defense of Food
An Eater’s Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And there you have a summary of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. This is not a dieter’s book; at least not in the traditional sense of the word. There is no calorie counting nor are there restrictions placed on what we should and should not eat in terms of proteins and carbohydrates and so forth. What it is is an exploration of the way the Western world eats and why we are so unhealthy.
Pollan begins by taking a look at how we as a society have changed the way we think about food. How we now have become addicted to nutritionism – that is, how now, instead of seeing food as a whole, we reduce it to the nutrients it contains and focus on that bit. And how, as a result, we convince ourselves that food-like products – artificially made and over-processed – are actually good for us because they’ve been fortified with those nutrients to meet our low-fat, low-carbohydrate, low-salt obsession. In essence, this misguided obsession with nutrition has led us to a place where we substitute real, healthy foods with fortified artificial ones and, as a result, we have become both obese and undernourished.
Pollan insists that you simply cannot reduce food to its nutritional components without losing something essential in the process. In the same vein, he speaks out against a system that would justify an empty food, such as Diet Coke, simply because it has been enriched with vitamins to appeal to our junk-food loving nature while appeasing our health-food consciousness.
So, what is his solution? Get back to real food. Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize. Recognize fads for what they are and realize that the studies that demonize one food today will be praising it tomorrow. Use common sense. Spend more money and time on your food – get back to the farmer’s market and spend time in the kitchen preparing your meals. Eat together as a family; stop this fly-by, eating on the run lifestyle and appreciate real food for what it is and what it can offer.
In Defense of Food is a true manifesto for the enjoyment of simple foods. Much of what it tells us we should already know. For those of us not struggling with our weight, it offers a great reminder of where our focus should be when it comes to healthy living and eating. For the overweight, it’s a great read, but it doesn’t provide the additional incentives and help most people need to get to fit.