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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by…

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (original 2008; edition 2008)

by Michael Pollan

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5,312165828 (4.03)161
Title:In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Authors:Michael Pollan
Info:Penguin Press HC, The (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:animal welfare, family farm, sustainable agriculture, humane meat

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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan (2008)


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Showing 1-5 of 164 (next | show all)
Fantastic book. It's very refreshing to look at diet from a non "nutritionism" point of view. He makes some startlingly simple, but undeniably true arguments, the main one being that (I'm paraphrasing):

"Humans have been found to thrive and stay healthy on an incredible variety of diets, from diets that are purely vegetarian to those that are based almost entirely on animal protein to everything in between. However, the one diet that we know humans are cannot live healthily on is the western diet."

Pollan talks about how the fields of science do not have good answers to *why* the Western Diet is unhealthy. We are constantly trying to guess by deconstructing food into a macronutrients, vitamins and all sorts of other components, but are constantly failing. Food, it seems, is more than the sum of its parts. In no small part, this is because nutritionists just don't know or recognize all the parts and their importance and probably will not for a long time. As a result, Pollan's recommendation is simple:

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Of course, by "food", he means real food and not "food products". All the cereals, pastas, breads, sweets, sodas, etc that we drink are just products engineered in a lab. Something in them or something missing from them - and we don't quite know what - is unhealthy for us. What it is, however, just isn't that important as long as we instead choose to eat real food. He also points out that two other trends that have proven true through time is that eating mostly plants (fruits & veggies) and not too much food tends to be healthiest. ( )
  brikis98 | Nov 11, 2015 |
i am giving this book four stars mostly because i appreciate what pollan writes about. i'm not sure that i learned much or was challenged much by the book, but it is hard for me to give it less than four stars because i value everything he writes about. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Great argument about how we're starving because of the lack of nutrients in the so-called food we eat. Such a logical indictment of the food industry. Doesn't read like polemic. Just a reasonable argument. Should be required reading for all healthcare providers and lawmakers. ( )
  DianaSaco | Jul 8, 2015 |
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto gives a good overview of the checkered history of nutrition science (or what could be better termed "nutrient science.") There is a lot we don't know, which doesn't keep parties of all sides from making bold claims. Are Westerners' health problems caused more by a lack of Omega 3's or too much Omega 6? Why is it that nutrient compounds, when separated from their plant sources don't give us the health benefits found when consumed in the plants themselves? What health studies are actually useful and conclusive (not many)? What are scientists really confident of?

Pollan's advice after the review of the literature and hundreds of interviews are this:
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

You can break it down further into some basic rules of thumb:
1. Don't eat any single food with more than five ingredients.
2. Eat at a table--(ie: not at your desk or in the car).
3. Eat meals-- combinations of food have arisen for cultural and evolutionary reasons. There are social aspects of eating meals at table that improve our health, as well as the combinations in those meals themslves.
4. Spend more on healthier food (so you likely spend less on health care in the future) and then eat less of it (as the law of demand would imply). This includes having your own small garden plot.
5. Eat a variety.
6. See meat as a side item-- something to be enjoyed with a meal that is mainly vegetables.

Westerners have moved from eating leaves (fresh greens) to seeds (corn, soy), and this poses problems. We've industrialized our food chain and homogenized our products. Now we consume a ton of a few specific items-- like corn, soy, and meat-- which itself has become homogenized.

This book made me think about my own habits of straying toward processed foods so that I hit my calorie and macronutrient targets since I'm working out and lifting weights every day. The USDA's estimations of both micro and macronutrient content of things like produce is highly suspect, since there is a lot of variability based on the quality of soil each fruit and vegetable was grown on. Likewise for cattle, what's the quality of the grass consumed by the "grass-fed cattle" you're eating, and isn't "grass-finished" cattle more important since what they were eating in the feed lot before being slaughtered may not have been grass?

One flaw I might find in the book is the lack of combination with exercise science. Yes, the Europeans eat less and in smaller portions so this might explain their better health than Americans. But they are also more urbanized and walk and stand more, and do more flights of stairs. Building muscle, even in small amounts, effects how your body processes the calories it consumes. That area goes completely unaddressed in the book.

Not nearly as vitriolic or dogmatic as other books on the subject. Pollan is intellectually humble and understands that recommendations put forth today may not be what is put for tomorrow.I recommend it. 4 stars out of 5. ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
This is one of the best books I have read. I even teared up a few times while listening to it. But a warning: once you read this book you can never go back to looking at the stuff in the stores we think is food in the same way again. You might not like it if you're not ready to hear it. But I was. And I will say that ever since I started eating whole food I have enjoyed the whole experience of eating far more than I ever had before. ( )
  KR_Patterson | Apr 28, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Michael Pollanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brick, Scottsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Ann and Gerry,
With gratitude for your loyal friendship
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Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
…the "what to eat" question is somewhat more complicated for us than it is for, say, cows. Yet for most of human history, humans have navigated the question without expert advice. To guide us we had, instead, Culture, which, at least when it comes to food, is really just a fancy word for your mother.
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Challenges current approaches to healthy eating, arguing that the real food consumed by past generations is being replaced with commercialized, scientifically altered foods that offer no health benefits and may cause serious damage, and encourages people to change the way they eat and return to basic nutrition rules.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143114964, Paperback)

Amazon Significant Seven, January 2008: Food is the one thing that Americans hate to love and, as it turns out, love to hate. What we want to eat has been ousted by the notion of what we should eat, and it's at this nexus of hunger and hang-up that Michael Pollan poses his most salient question: where is the food in our food? What follows in In Defense of Food is a series of wonderfully clear and thoughtful answers that help us omnivores navigate the nutritional minefield that's come to typify our food culture. Many processed foods vie for a spot in our grocery baskets, claiming to lower cholesterol, weight, glucose levels, you name it. Yet Pollan shows that these convenient "healthy" alternatives to whole foods are appallingly inconvenient: our health has a nation has only deteriorated since we started exiling carbs, fats--even fruits--from our daily meals. His razor-sharp analysis of the American diet (as well as its architects and its detractors) offers an inspiring glimpse of what it would be like if we could (a la Humpty Dumpty) put our food back together again and reconsider what it means to eat well. In a season filled with rallying cries to lose weight and be healthy, Pollan's call to action—"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."--is a program I actually want to follow. --Anne Bartholomew

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:50 -0400)

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"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of food journalist Pollan's thesis. Humans used to know how to eat well, he argues, but the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." Indeed, plain old eating is being replaced by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Pollan's advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food." Looking at what science does and does not know about diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about what to eat, informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the nutrient-by-nutrient approach.--From publisher description.… (more)

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