Reading Good Books: Good for What Ails Ya

Just finished In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan yesterday. This is one of the best books I have read on the topic of food. He discusses “nutritionism” which is the “science” whereby scientists isolate individual substances in a food and then make pronouncements about them. They find out that beta-carotene is good, and suddenly you see label after label announcing that this product has beta-carotene in it! Much conventional or official wisdom which has been spread throughout the land has later been found to be incomplete in some way. Remember how margarine was supposed to be better than butter? And then, oops, we mean margarine that doesn’t have trans fats in it? Imagine how many people over the years, myself included, slathered on trans-fatty margarine thinking we/they were doing something healthy! Oops!

I am not a conspiracy theorist. Occasionally, I have books recommended to me that clearly fall in the conspiracy camp. I react as strongly to those as I would to be a bee sting. I go for reasonable and rational information. In Defense of Food is both reasonable and rational, and for me, completely believable. I could identify strongly with his assertion that going to the grocery store has become a pretty tough outing for someone who is trying to eat “right.” How many thousands of food items are there in the store? How many do we need to avoid if we are trying to eat healthy food? If you want to just avoid high-fructose corn syrup, that cuts out a HUGE number of foods.

His main thesis: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. He doesn’t advocate a strictly vegetarian diet, or any extremes, actually. The second half of the book expands on his thesis, in terms of what he means by “food,” (don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food — can you imagine her saying, GO-GURT? What in the world is GO-GURT?), what is not too much (how many times do we stop eating because the show is over, or the bag is empty, rather than based on whether or not we are hungry), and what he means by mostly plants.

For more info, go here.

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