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Friday, August 1, 2008

In Defense of Food

I just finished reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. Wow, was this an eye-opening read! It IS a bit hard to review though, so I'm grateful for the questions submitted by the Weekly Geeks. (Go check out this post if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

Book Zombie asks: Why did you decide to read this book? Because of this review. I've never wanted to read a "food book" before, but I was intrigued and so I requested it from the library. Because I chose to read it after seeing it reviewed, it fits with the Irresistible Review Challenge.

Julie asks: Did you change your eating habits after reading this book? That's an intriguing question. I had Julie's question in mind as I read, so I think that influenced me; I WANTED to change in part because of her question (does that make sense? What I'm trying to say is that her question influenced the way I looked at the book as I read it). I WANT to change my eating habits but of course it's not as easy as it sounds. I'm definitely more aware of what I'm eating now, and I'm pretty grossed out by it honestly. My next shopping trip will be a painful one as I try to decide which foods I need to eliminate. Oh joy.

GraySkyEyes asks: Which of his arguments do you think is most compelling? Do you think you'll incorporate any of his suggestions into your normal eating routine?

Jessica has similar questions: How do you feel about the "whole foods" thing? Is it something you could actually accomplish with your eating?

A few things really stuck in my mind after I finished this book. Here are the ones I found the most compelling:
  • nutrition science tells us that we can't understand on our own what is good for us and what is not (contrary to thousands of years of evidence) - Pollan likens nutritionists to a "priesthood" that translates the unknown to the masses
  • the health of the soil affects the health of the plants affects the health of the animals eating the plants affects our health when we eat the plants and animals
  • humans can survive and be healthy on a wide variety of diets, but NOT on the "Western diet" of processed food
  • foods are more than the sum of their nutritional parts - scientists still can't determine exactly what nutrients are in each food item OR how those foods work with others to affect our health
  • Americans eat in different ways than other cultures - we focus on speed whereas other cultures focus on the meal as an event - we see food as merely fuel for our bodies rather than a cultural experience
  • WAY to much of our diet is based on soy and corn - the facts he presented were mind-boggling to me
  • taking time to really prepare a meal makes you more attuned to the food you're eating
My plan is to be more aware of what I'm eating for starters. I'm looking into the CSA programs mentioned in the book - I thought that was a wonderful idea! [It's a program where you get local produce delivered to you each week.] Hopefully I'll be able to find new foods that can be added to our diet to replace some things that I want to cut out or cut down on. I don't think I can honestly follow all the suggestions in this book, but at least I'm aware now of what I'm eating. I'll be on the lookout for more "natural" foods, "whole" foods, and less "food-like substances" for sure!

One thing I want to bring up ...

I do want to mention something that really freaked me out: the discussion of soy-based products, particularly soy isoflavones . Pollan explained that soy isoflavones are "compounds that resemble estrogen .... It is unclear whether these so-called phytoestrogens actually behave like estrogen in the body or only fool it into thinking they're estrogen." With so many women (including myself) diagnosed with fertility problems, this sent up huge red flags for me. How many other additives are influencing our reproductive systems in ways that we don't yet understand?!

Thanks to everyone who asked questions - it was really helpful to me in writing this review.

If you've reviewed this, I'd love to post your link here!
The Inside Cover


Amanda said...

Wow! What an interesting book! I'm going to have to read this now. It still boggles my mind when people think pizza is healthy because there's "wheat" and "veggies". Hmmm....what???

Amy said...

Now I want to read this, but I don't, ya know? Several of our friends joined CSAs this year (they had a LOT of beets for a while). We haven't committed to that, but we love the farmers' market that happens on Sunday morning on Saratoga Street between Holliday and Gay Streets - tons of local and fresh produce.

kellyrae said...

ok I swear I left a comment here earlier but it's not showing up! Harumph.

I wanted to show you our CSA box! It's our 1st summer and I'm loving it. It's a little pricey (works out to $20/week) but I feel good.

And also to recommend Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I feel like I generally eat pretty well (mostly whole, unprocessed food, and I try to not eat HFSC or artificial sweeteners) but I love books like this to encourage me and reinforce the idea.

kellyrae said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for answering my question! I've been working on this book for a long time, and I just can't seem to get through it even though it's really short. I agree with the points that stuck out, those are ones I was being drawn to as well.


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I've been seeing this book everywhere recently but honestly I'm a little scared to eat it. We eat a lot of processed foods--primarily because my husband is allergic to fresh fruits and vegetables (yes, seriously all of them) which makes it difficult to eat a square meal. I do think, though, that there are other things that we can do to eat healthier instead of out of so many boxes and cans so maybe a book like this would help. Thanks for the review! I think I actually like the question answer format for a book like this! As readers we all have maybe the same questions...?

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