In Defense of Food

An Eater's Manifesto
by Michael Pollan | 256 pages

Michael Pollan is one of the world’s leading thinkers on nutrition. Time magazine voted him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He’s also a Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. One of the things I most love about him and his work is that, as a journalist, he takes a much wider, more objective view of the nutritional landscape—which can often be dominated by (and muddled by) individuals with *very* strong, dogmatic, inflexible ideologies. Big Ideas we explore: Nutritionism (vs. food), the big experiment (that failed), the Aborigine in all of us, the 5 fundamental transformations of industrializing food and Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puff and Trix cereals as health foods as per the American Heart Association. (<— Can you believe that? Crazy. And true.)


“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

I hate to give away the game right here at the beginning of a whole book devoted to the subject, and I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a couple hundred more pages or so. I’ll try to resist, but will go ahead and add a few more details to flesh out the recommendations. Like, eating a little meat isn’t going to kill you, though it might be better to approach it as a side dish than as a main. And you’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to ‘eat food,’ which is not quite as simple as it sounds. For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages elaborately festooned with health claims, which brings me to another, somewhat counterintuitive, piece of advice: If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

You can see how quickly things become complicated.”

~ Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food

This is our second Note on Michael Pollan’s books. Check out our first on Food Rules—which is, essentially, a super-abbreviated distillation of the wisdom from this book.

Pollan is one of the world’s leading thinkers on nutrition. Time magazine voted him one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He’s also a Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley.

One of the things I most love about him and his work is that, as a journalist, he takes a much wider, more objective view of the nutritional landscape—which can often be dominated by (and muddled by) individuals with *very* strong, dogmatic, inflexible ideologies.

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. (Get a copy here.)

It’s packed with Big Ideas and expansive wisdom. I’m excited to share some of my favorite Ideas so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author

Authors

Michael Pollan

Author of a number of New York Times best-selling books on nutrition.