In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

“This is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question                                                                of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.”

This is the first line of the book, and it basically tells what the next chapters will talk bout. Michael Pollan published In Defense of Food, after writing An Omnivore’s Dilemma. An Omnivore’s Dilemma focused on ecological and ethical dimensions of human’s eating choices, and it didn’t focus on human health. In this next book, he attempts to answer a question that a lot of his previous readers had asked: So, what should i eat? As starters, I think its weird that we have come to a point where people don’t recognize what is healthy and what they should eat. It has transformed to a point where we have minimal connection to our food, and food is a necessity rather than a commodity. Pollen states that for years, it had been culture, traditions, and parental figures that told us what to eat. Nowadays, it is nutritionists, scientists, and ultimately the government that is the most concerned with what we eat. (This being said, don’t you think its in their best interest to want to keep us healthy?)

The rise of highly processed food, known as the Western diet, has shaped not only “Western” cultures, but it has had a toll globally. However, with the increase in farmers markets, and more organic food available due to a rise in the organic movement, it is possible to leave the Western diet behind. This is, if we stop thinking of food as something bad, and start looking at the bigger picture. This, as Michael Pollan refers to, is called Nutritionism. Nutritionism, not to be confused with nutrition, is the paradigm that assumes  that scientifically identified nutrients in food determine the value of the individual food, rather than what the food is. This movement was effective because nutrients are somewhat abstract and invisible to the regular human, therefore we tend to listen to scientists or governments when they refer to something either as good or as bad. But no one ever says this orange is good. What they say instead is, the vitamin C in this orange is good. Or no one says this fish is good. They say the fatty omega 3’s in it are healthy. By this logic, people start misunderstanding the actual value of food, and even processed foods can be deemed healthier and natural foods, as what is being looked at are the ingredients.

I have always enjoyed reading Michael Pollan’s books, articles, opinions, and collaborations. He was a part of Food Inc, which we watched a while back. I think his knowledge and point of view on food is very informative, and something everyone should get behind. I know the difference between good and bad calories. For example, although 100 calories of Doritos is not that much, it is still worst than 100 calories of strawberries. Caloric count, as well as nutrient composition, don’t always make up foods. However, I never thought about nutritionism, and everything that Pollan talked about. These terms, good vs bad, are what create phobias and promote eating disorders. For example, bad carbohydrates, bad polysaturated fats, bad sugars, all of these things create a war on food. I have also seen several nutritionists growing up, and have talked to many people about food. Yet, after reading this book, I truly have a different idea of what actually is healthy in foods.

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