In Defense of Food – Book Review

Hello everyone! Today I thought I’d share my thoughts on another book I just finished called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Pollan is a journalist and professor of journalism that has written numerous “foodie books” covering a wide variety of nutrition topics. I have yet to read his other books but I thought In Defense of Food was a great read and I admire his ability to engage readers and bring light to topics that seem to fly under the radar.

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This little book will scare the shit out of you and make you wonder what in the world you’ve been eating all these years! Pollan spends a good part of the book discussing “nutritionism” which, in very broad terms, is the Westerners obsession with what nutrients, vitamins, and minerals we get from our food. He also discusses the government’s impact on the Western diet and provides specific examples of how they have tricked us into believing supplements and foods injected with vitamins/nutrients are “good” for us. It was interesting to see exactly how we’ve evolved from a nation that used to follow our parent’s eating habits to a place where we rely on government to tell us what/how to eat. Also, there’s still so little known about exactly how vitamins and nutrients are fully absorbed by our bodies that I’m surprised the government even has a right to recommend certain types of processed, nutrient injected or chemically altered foods.

He ends by proposing a new way to eat which can be simply stated as “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It’s an interesting, quick read and I highly recommend anyone remotely interested in history, politics, or nutrition to pick up a copy. I even caught my boyfriend reading it over my shoulder a few times on the flight!

I think my favorite part of the book was his discussion of how our diet has evolved from something cultural that we inherit from our parents to something which we now seek professional advice. I reached out to my dad (who is in his 70’s) to see exactly what he ate growing up and if my eating habits were similar to his. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post but my dad is probably the biggest meat eater I know so I assumed our family has always been extra carnivorous….but holy crap, was I wrong! This is what he replied:

“We did not have much money.  Fast foods didn’t exist.  McDonalds wasn’t even born yet.  Didn’t have pizza until I went to college.
We had our own garden out at the farm.  Grew potatoes, carrots, beans, onions, tomatoes, corn, peas, etc.  Mom took the potatoes and stored them in the coal bin.  They lasted until next growing season.
Had our own chickens for eggs and chicken to eat.
Mom canned a lot of the veggies.
Drank lots of milk and ate a lot of bread and potatoes to fill up.
Had roast every Sunday very similar to Lorrie’s Moms Roast Beef.
Seldom had French fries.  We made our own ice cream about once a month.”

He went on to say that they ate lots of eggs but would only eat chicken once every couple weeks and pork about once a week. In Pollan’s book, he talks about the importance of making vegetables your main course and looking at meat as a side item if you choose to consume it, and my dad’s eating habits as a kid sound similar to what Pollan is talking about. When you read his book and take the time to think about how the Western diet has evolved, it starts to make sense why diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are all of a sudden becoming major killers in the United States.

Anyways, that’s my two cents on In Defense of Food! As always, feel free to send any good nutrition reads my way 🙂

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