I managed to snag a copy of In Defense of Food from the library last weekend, and it has proven to be a worthwhile investment of some of my casual reading time this week.
If you are living in America (or any place where our western diet has strongly influenced your eating options) and you are perfectly happy with our addiction to reductionist food nutrition and processed foods then maybe this book isn't for you...or maybe it is. :)
Pollan claims that there isn't one cultural diet in the world for us to specifically emulate for its marked benefits (although he talks a good deal about the French and Mediterranean eating habits), but there is one diet that seems to be quite unhealthy - ours.
Pollan essentially holds up a mirror to the American diet to show us how non-sensical our eating and consumption habits have become over the past half-century. We've given into the food industrial complex that has us eating low-fat one decade, low-carb another and high-fiber the next.
Pollan's operating thesis is "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." He doesn't advocate vegetarianism specifically, although its benefits are certainly not lost on him. I like that he doesn't try and ram home a handful of specific foods you should eat, but instead spends the entire final chapter offering some helpful filters for anyone wanting to eat in a way that is more healthy and sustainable. I thought I'd take a few posts and share these "filters" or "algorithms" with you. You'll have to pick up the book to fully understand his basis for making these claims!
Eat Food: Defined
"Don't eat anything your great grand-mother wouldn't recognize as food."
(I already asked my mom what her grandmothers cooked and she said that virtually everything - produce, dairy, meat, grains - was grown at home, with the exception of sugar, jello and the occasional sweet treat.)
"Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronouncable, c) more than five in number or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup"
"Avoid food products that make health claims"
"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle"
"Get out of the supermarket whenever possible" (i.e. gardening, farmers markets, CSA box)
Essentially, Pollan is trying to help steer us away from processed foods and our nutrient-0f-the-month obsession and toward whole/natural/local foods that are better for our bodies and the earth.