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“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 the game away right here at the beginning of a whole book devoted to the subject… Eating a little meat isn’t going to kill you, though it might be better approached as a side dish than as a main. You’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than process food products.”
In Defense of Food – Quotes, Guidelines, and Review
This is how Michael Pollan begins his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I first saw a copy of In Defense of Food while browsing at Barnes & Noble. At the time it struck me as just another dieting fad book. The second time I saw the book was in the ship’s library on our Alaskan Cruise. I started the book but didn’t have time to finish it before the cruise was over. The third time I happened across In Defense of Food was at the local library. I guess the third time really is a charm.
In a nutshell, In Defense of Food changed my life. For several years I have tried to eat local and to eat many fruits and vegetables. Just like many others, I’ve read all about the health and environmental benefits of doing so. But, convenience often took a front seat and I bought produce shipped from all over the world and low-calorie bread with more ingredients than calories.
In Defense of Food didn’t just change my attitude about healthy eating — it also changed my shopping and dining habits. Now I go to farmer’s market at least once a week (and not just for a fun outing) and even make my own bread. One of the reasons In Defense of Food is such a good book is that it’s easy to read. Pollan can be funny and he pulls in all sorts of interesting facts and random tidbits. Kind of the way Freakanomics or The Tipping Point brings science to an almost pop-culture-non-fiction scale.
Partly because my last book review post Eat, Pray, Love Quotes was well received and partly because I selfishly want to have my notes from this book in one place for a reference, I pulled together my favorite quotes from In Defense of Food. I also posted the outline of the final section of the book, which lists Pollan’s guidelines for healthy eating.
I highly recommend In Defense of Food to anyone interested in food, health, the environment, and travel. Travel may seem a stretch to some people, but the book actually goes fairly in depth about food from other cultures and Pollan discusses these eating habits in a way that any traveler will find fascinating.
In Defense of Food Quotes
“My aim in this book is to help us reclaim our health and happiness as eaters. To do this requires an exercise that might at first blush seem unnecessary, if not absurd: to offer a defense of food and the eating thereof… But I contend that most of what we’re consuming today is no longer, strictly speaking, food at all, and how we’re consuming it — in the car, in front of the TV, and, increasingly, alone– is not really eating, at least not in the sense that civilization has long understood the term.”
“But who knows what else is going on deep in the soul of the carrot. The good news is that, to the carrot eater, it doesn’t matter. That’s the great thing about eating foods as compared with nutrients: You don’t need to fathom a carrot’s complexity in order to reap its benefits.”
“A diet based on quantity rather than quality has ushered a new creature onto the world stage: the human being who manages to be both overfed and undernourished…”
“Food consists not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people.”
In Defense of Food Advice
Eat food: Food Defined
Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (Or don’t eat anything that doesn’t rot.)
Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or include d) high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid food products that make health claims.
Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible– shake the hand that feeds you.
Mostly plants: What to Eat
Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
You are what what you eat eats too. [no that is not a typo]
If you have the space, buy a freezer. (When you find a good source of pastured meat, you’ll want to buy it in quantity).
Eat like an omnivore.
Eat well-grown food from healthy soils.
Eat wild foods when you can.
Be the kind of person who takes supplements.
Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.
Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet.
Have a glass of wine with dinner.
Not too much: How to eat
Pay more, eat less.
Do all of your eating at a table. No not a desk. A table.
Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
Try not to eat alone.
Consult your gut.
Cook and if you can plant a garden.