Food. There’s plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it? Because most of what we’re consuming today is not food, and how we’re consuming it – in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone – is not really eating. Instead of food, we’re consuming “edible foodlike substances” – no longer the products of nature but of food science. Many of them come packaged with health claims that should be our first clue they are anything but healthy. In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.
But if real food – the sort of food our great grandmothers would recognize as food – stands in need of a defense, from whom does it need defending? From the food industry on one side and nutritional science on the other. Both stand to gain much from widespread confusion about what to eat, a question that for most of human history people have been able to answer without expert help. Yet the professionalization of eating has failed to make Americans healthier. Thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker and fatter while ruining countless numbers of meals. Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. By urging us to once again eat food, he challenges the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach – what he calls nutritionism – and proposes an alternative way of eating that is informed by the traditions and ecology of real, well-grown, and unprocessed food. Our personal health, he argues, cannot be divorced from the health of the food chains of which we are part.
In defense of food shows us how, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, we can escape the Western diet and, by doing so, most of the chronic diseases that diet causes. We can relearn which foods are healthy, develop simple ways to moderate our appetites, and return eating to its proper context – out of the car and back to the table. Michael Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.
Pollan’s last book, The omnivore’s dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In defense of food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time.
- Introduction. An eater’s manifesto.
The age of nutritionism
- From foods to nutrients.
- Nutritionism defined.
- Nutritionism comes to market.
- Food science’s golden age.
- The melting of the lipid hypothesis.
- Eat right, get fatter.
- Beyond the pleasure principle.
- The proof in the low-fat pudding.
- Bad science.
- Nutritionism’s children.
The Western diet and the diseases of civilization
- The aborigine in all of us.
- The elephant in the room.
- The industrialization of eating: what we do know.
Getting over nutritionism
- Escape from the Western diet.
- Eat food: food defined.
- Mostly plants: what to eat.
- Not too much: how to eat.
About the author:
Michael Pollan is author of In defense of food, The omnivore’s dilemma, Second nature, A place of my own, and The botany of desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon. A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.