Author: Michael Pollan

In Defense of Food is an eye-opening and inspiring read about nourishment and the Western Diet today. Michael Pollan’s writing style is easy to read and flows beautifully and comfortably. He makes the reader aware of the unhealthy shift in our western diets. Michael does this in a blunt and incredibly informed style with frequent footnotes, additional information, and a long list of sources. The beginning of the book addresses the loss of focus on ‘whole/real food.’ He finds that too much importance is given to the different nutrients that may comprise the food. Michael points out that too often, nutrients are added to ‘food-like substances’ to make up for their lack of nutrition. This is because they are manufactured and hold very little actual nutrition. He shoots down science’s interference with food and nutrition and reminds us that the simpler way, the traditional way, is better. 

Western Diet – Healthy Diet?

Michael goes a step further to discuss the western diet and its many health risks. One of the examples he cites within In Defense of Food is a study done in Australia. The study focused on Aborigines who had moved from “the bush” in Australia into the city. Within a few years, they developed many of the beginning stages of the major western illnesses. Kerin O’Dea, the researcher on the study, asked them to return to “the bush” and live as they had originally lived. All the while, she observed and recorded their changes. Within seven weeks, O’Dea saw a difference in their medical tests. Their health improved in every aspect since they were off the western diet, which they had eaten in the city. With this example as his introduction, Michael Pollan introduces more of his research and helpful views to combat the ill effects of the western diet.

Whole Food Rules

He outlines In Defense of Food, which one should follow to ensure a more “whole” diet. The rules are: Eat Food, Mostly Plants, and Not Too Much. Within each rule, he has sub-rules. Under Eat Food, Michael explains the difference between food and “food-like substances.” To give you a taste, my favorite in this section is Don’t Eat Anything Your Great Grandmother Wouldn’t Recognize as Food. Here he discusses how food has moved away from nature. He explains that the foods that don’t have packaging and have been the same for years are what we should be eating. Another favorite rule is to Avoid Food Products that Make Health Claims. He states that if it has a health claim, it has a wrapper; this is the first sign that it isn’t “whole.” And if it has to make a health claim, it means there’s probably something else it’s hiding.

Plants are the Key

The second big rule is Mostly Plants. Here some of the many sub-rules are equally filled with great information and details that may have you astounded at his research base. My favorite sub-point here is, You Are What You Eat Eats Too. This is a great note, showing that the diet of the beef that you eat affects you as well. This highlights that great attention should be paid to the nutrition of the animals we eat. I also love his Eat like an Omnivore rule; he makes the critical point of having a diversified diet to get all of the essential nutrients that nature has to offer. He points out how we have vastly reduced the number of foods we eat, thus reducing what the Agricultural Industry grows. At the moment, it is largely down to corn, soy, and wheat as the big players.

Small Meals

In his last rule, Not Too Much, Michael delves into our society. He examines how the manner and circumstances under which we eat have such a strong driving force behind the downfalls of our diet. He makes frequent comparisons to France and Italy; Michael shows the differences between the social interactions with food. Here his sub-rules are no less interesting than those in the other chapters. One of them is, Eat Meals, where he outlines the snacking culture of America. How a lack of defined meal time and therefore defined family and enjoyment of food time affects us. It creates more of a “must eat for energy” sense rather than one of pleasure and slow enjoyment.

Book Recommendation

This is just a nibble of the goodness you will find in this book. Throughout In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan finds witty ways of describing the hard truth about the western diet today. Backed by references and well-sited research, it makes this book not just interesting but also a must-read. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who’s starting their journey to living healthier. In his book, Michael Pollan makes the reader aware of the flaws in the American diet and lifestyle, flaws that most have probably just accepted as facts. His writing style is energetic, exciting, and eye-opening; it is a great motivational tool. The book also provides a lot of exciting introductions into research and issues with our food today. This book has the facts, helpful tips, and great rules to follow to turn one’s diet into a ‘whole diet.’

If this sounds like your kind of read, another book that you might enjoy is Farmacology by Daphne Miller. Another book that I think you’d enjoy is Gut by Giulia Enders. Her insightful and clever way of describing our guts will have you amazed and laughing.

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