In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto Book Review

In Defense of Food book coverEat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. This is the mantra of Michael Pollan’s newest book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.  I want to share some of the tips I got from this book with you because I believe it will help you on your journey through slow cooking.

What Pollan means by eat food is that you should eat “real food” as opposed to the processed food that dominates most of our grocery store shelves today. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you look at the nutrition label of a food and it has more than four or five ingredients that you do not recognize or cannot pronounce, it is too processed to be healthy. He also warns us to be wary of any food promising to be a “healthy food.” Potato chips, for example, are not healthy even if they are stamped with approval from the American Heart Association. The best way to ensure you are consuming “real foods” is to a) grow them yourself; b) shop primarily at farmers markets where you are interacting directly with the food growers; or c) stick to the outside areas of grocery stores because the middle rows have all the processed foods. I think c is the most realistic of the options for me – at least in the winter – so I made an effort to do that tonight. I’m planning to make more of an effort to post recipes that call for “real foods” rather than processed.

Pollan breaks down how nutrition science is very limited because it is nearly impossible to study the nutritional value of food without breaking it down nutrient by nutrient. There are shortcomings to that method, however, because often it is not a particular nutrient that is good for you, but how the nutrients work together that really make a nutritious food. The mostly plants part of the mantra comes into play because although scientists don’t know exactly how plants are good for you (we’ve isolated some nutrients, but a lot of it varies by how it’s grown), one thing all nutritionists can agree on is that plants are good for you. Meat is too, although it is considerably better when the animals have been fed a diverse diet rather than strictly corn. Pollan recommends eating some meats, but more as a side than a main. This will be difficult to adapt for my blog, but I will definitely make more of an effort to look for all natural meats and read more carefully what the animals were fed.

The not too much part of the mantra was the most interesting to me and perhaps the most applicable to this blog. Obviously what Pollan is getting at is the American over-consumption of food. While we would all like to believe we stick to 2,000 calories per day, most people forget to track every individual snack between meals. The book quoted a statistic that about 3,900 calories worth of food is produced per American per day. Yikes. There is more to it than just volume though. We (Americans) have taken the joy out of eating. We are constantly striving to find meals that require the least amount of prep time and constantly find ourselves eating on the go or in front of the TV. Other cultures, in contrast, treat eating as a sacred time – a time to talk with family and friends and enjoy the food being consumed. Pollan advises people to slow down their eating and really concentrate on how the food tastes, smells, etc. and to keep track of your fullness (which requires you to actually have the food on your plate for 20 whole minutes). It’s also important to put some time into your meal preparation. You are way more likely to appreciate your food if you slaved away at making it. You also have more knowledge and control of what you are eating when you buy the ingredients yourself and cook it. So, keep cooking your meals, my dear readers, and enjoy the entire process from grocery shopping to dinner time.

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