Monday, February 2, 2009

In Defense of Food

This is Michael Pollan's latest. A couple of years ago he published The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has been quite popular, and was quite good, and I happen to like this one even more. In both books, he examines American eating habits and the impact and morality behind different sources of our food and ways of eating--but this book is much more about what we can do about it, how we can, as he says, "escape" from The American Way of eating, which is so bad for us and for the world.

The book's advice can really be summed up quite easily, as is proclaimed on the front cover: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. But the author really delves into how we can navigate this somewhat obscure directive, as well as why it's so difficult for us to do that in the prevalent food climate.

Here's most of his advice points, taken from the last third of the book. My additions are in parentheses and are not in italics.

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

Don't eat anything incapable of rotting.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high fructose corn syrup.

Avoid food products that make health claims. For a food product to make health claims on its package it must first have a package, so right off the bat it's more likely to be a processed than a whole food.

Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. (He goes on to suggest farmers' markets, CSAs, and growing your own.)

You are what what you eat eats too. (Thus feedlot cattle are not nearly as healthy for you to consume as 100% grass-fed.)

Eat like an omnivore. (Biodiversity is a good thing, for quite a few reasons.)

If you have the space, buy a freezer. (You can get a lot of good quality meat at once for cheaper...You can buy in season at the farmer's market and freeze for year-round local produce...)

Eat well-grown food from healthy soils. (How we treat the earth can affect the nutritional quality of our food. Thus, organic practices ARE important for our health in ways we might not have noticed or thought of before.)

Eat wild foods when you can.

Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism. (Sure, maybe someone might come along with one that might be good for you or at least not bad for you. But history is not behind that claim.)

Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet. (Don't try to isolate the omega-3 from the fish, for example.)

Pay more, eat less. (Your food dollar can work for you and for the world in this way.)

Do all your eating at a table.

Try not to eat alone.

1 comment:

Charley said...

I like his tips. I've been trying to eat in one spot more, rather than moving around and doing other things while I eat. Even though eating should be a time-consuming pleasure, it so often feels like an inconvenience, something I do on the run, or I only take 10 minutes to throw something in the microwave and eat quickly. Not good! I'll add this to my list.