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A Book Review: In Defense of Food

Wow! Over 90 hits on my new bike post. I’m glad my readers are as excited about the new addition to my family as I am : ) Val and I are hitting up Skyline Drive tomorrow! I’ve never been on it, but it should be scenic, fun, and educational.

So, I finally got around to reading one of Michael Pollan’s books – I chose In Defense of Food.

Even though most of the ‘rules’ in the book were nothing I didn’t suspect or already try to keep in the back of my mind when I shopped for food, this man puts together some fine sentences. I found myself wearing out my highlighter because every few pages had a great quote I wanted to be able go back to.

The book condenses down to the following – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The first snippet of that gets the most attention from Pollan as he details how most of our food isn’t real, but highly processed. And the food we should be eating is the pure stuff our great great grandparents would recognize as food.

I got some good insights on the history of nutrionalism and what goes into the ‘scientific’ studies of nutrition. It’s pretty disheartening and had great parallels to my biological research – keep finding smaller and smaller components, periodically declare this part is bad or awesome, depending on the label remove it from everything or fortify everything with it, and then monitor the consequences (which were rarely good, because we don’t REALLY understand the whole system).

“Like so many ideologies, nutritionism at bottom hinges on a form of dualism, so that at all times there must be an evil nutrient for adherents to excoriate and a savior nutrient for them to sanctify” – Pollan

I also really liked the idea of food synergy – that maybe a whole food is more than the sum of its nutrient parts – therefore fortifying could be a waste of effort?

Also scary to note that the food we eat now has less nutrients than it did 100 years ago!

A couple more quotes from the book that got a fist pump from me – things that annoy me about the way America eats:

“Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunites: diet pills, heart bybass operatoins, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery.”

“Apparently it is easier, or at least more profitable to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way civilization eats.”

It’s one of those books that makes me want to change the world. But, since that’s not happening today, I have renewed determination to carefully examine the ingredients in my food and make sure I’m living as clean and unprocessed as I can. It’s a book worth reading, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods now. Pollan also supports the idea of eating meat more as a side than a main course, something I wish was more poplar in this country.

To celebrate finishing the book, I had a salad using stuff I got from my crop share – All freshly picked from Virginia by the local Menonites. The mix included Bibb lettuce, blueberries, cucmbers, tomatoes, walnuts, and feta with some delicious corn on the side. The corn was so sweet and juicy that it would be a crime to put anything on it. I just boiled for 3 minutes and that was that! Nom nom!