Literature: Pollan’s Defense of Food

“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” –Michael Pollan

Down and Out on Pollan’s In Defense of FoodJust in case I don’t already read enough, I’ve started to read food labels. Mostly in response to reading Michael Pollan’s latest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (Penguin Press, 2008), I’ve been scanning packaging labels to make sure that the things I’m eating don’t contain loads of ingredients that I can’t pronounce or that high fructose corn syrup isn’t the first (or second, or third) item on the list. I don’t diet, and I’m not overly obsessive about what I eat, but after reading this book, I feel justified in being concerned about what I put in my mouth. Pollan’s manifesto, which reads like a few lengthy but related essays, has topped the New York Times bestseller list for the past few weeks in the hardcover nonfiction category, and it’s not hard to understand why. First of all, the book is easy to digest (pun intended). Pollan takes a slew of conflicting and confusing diet/nutrition/health advice out there and looks at what’s wrong with it in the first place. He also offers some very simple advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The fact that we need be reminded to eat “food” is further evidence of how far the things stocked on our grocery stores’ shelves have strayed from meeting our nutritional needs. American cheese slices wrapped in plastic, Go-gurt, and Twinkies are just a few examples of things that our great-grandmothers would not even recognize as food and things that we could replace with more healthy alternatives. Pollan’s slim volume is an important one because it reminds us that we can make sustainable choices at any point in our lives and that those choices can benefit our health, the environment, and the health of those around us. To read my more formal-type review of this book published in last week’s Sacramento News and Review, click here.

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