Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

bq.. 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, and I’m tempted to complicate matters in the interest of keeping things going for a couple hundred more pages or so. I’ll try to resist, but will go ahead and add a few more details to flesh out the recommendations. Like, eating a little meat isn’t going to kill you, though it might be better approached as a side dish than as a main. And you’re better off eating whole fresh foods rather than processed food products. That’s what I mean by the recommendation to “eat food,” which is not quite as simple as it sounds. For while it used to be that food was all you could eat, today there are thousands of other edible foodlikesubstances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages elaborately festooned with health claims, which brings me to another, somewhat counterintuitive, piece of advice: If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.

You can see how quickly things can get complicated.

p. The above is from the introduction of a new book by Micheal Pollan, “In Defense of Food”:http://www.michaelpollan.com/indefense.php. Read the “whole introduction to the book here”:http://changethis.com/pdf/43.01.EatersManifesto.pdf. It’s the single best, most concise food advise I’ve ever read.

His last book was, “The Omnivores Dilemma”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/2007/04/the_omnivores_dilemma_a_natural_his.html was eye opening, and this book is now on my list of must read books. The “Google page on the new books has some reviews”:http://books.google.com.pk/books?id=FmAVGQAACAAJ&dq=inauthor:Michael+inauthor:Pollan.


While in Pakistan we don’t quite have the American diet, it’s not so far off now, with the same antibiotic fed chicken and cows, and a over reliance of fertilizers and chemicals, some of which are now banned in more advanced countries.

A “good summary from Amazon:”:http://www.amazon.com/review/R38U1SNZBU1WLQ/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

bq.. What’s better for you — whole milk, 2% milk or skim?

Is a chicken labeled “free range” good enough to reassure you of its purity? How about “grass fed” beef?

What form of soy is best for you — soy milk or tofu?

About milk: I’ll bet most of you voted for reduced or non-fat. But if you’ll turn to page 153 of “In Defense of Food,” you’ll read that processors don’t make low-fat dairy products just by removing the fat. To restore the texture — to make the drink “milky” — they must add stuff, usually powdered milk. Did you know powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, said to be worse for your arteries than plain old cholesterol? And that removing the fat makes it harder for your body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins that make milk a valuable food in the first place?

About chicken and beef: Readers of Pollan’s previous book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, know that “free range” refers to the chicken’s access to grass, not whether it actually ventures out of its coop. And all cattle are “grass fed” until they get to the feedlot. The magic words for delightful beef are “grass finished” or “100% grass fed”.

And about soy…but I dare to hope I have your attention by now. And that you don’t want to be among the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight and the third of our citizens who are likely to develop type 2 diabetes before 2050. And maybe, while I have your eyes, you might be mightily agitated to learn that America spends $250 billion — that’s a quarter of the costs of the Iraq war — each year in diet-related health care costs. And that our health care professionals seem far more interested in building an industry to treat diet-related diseases than they do in preventing them. And that the punch line of this story is as sick as it is simple: preventing diet-related disease is easy.

In just 200 pages (and 22 pages of notes and sources), “In Defense of Food” gives you a guided tour of 20th century food science, a history of “nutritionism” in America and a snapshot of the marriage of government and the food industry. And then it steps up to the reason most readers will buy it — and if you care for your health and the health of your loved ones, this is a no-brainer one-click — and presents a commonsense shopping-and-eating guide.

If you are up on your Pollan and your Nina Planck and your Barbara Kingsolver, you know the major points of the “real food” movement. But if you’re new to this information or are disinclined to buy or read this book, let me lay Pollan’s argument out for you:

— High-fructose corn syrup is the devil’s brew. Do yourself a favor and remove it from your diet. (If you have kids, here’s a place to start: Heinz smartly offers an “organic” ketchup, made with sugar.)

— Avoid any food product that makes health claims — they mean it’s probably not really food.

— In a supermarket, don’t shop in the center aisles. Avoid anything that can’t rot, anything with an ingredient you can’t pronounce.

— “Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.” _i.e, try to stay away from nitrogen grown vegetables_

— “You are what you eat eats too.” Most cows end their days on a diet of corn, unsold candy, their pulverized brothers and sisters — yeah, you read that right — and a pharmacy’s worth of antibiotics. And they bestow that to you. Consider that the next time there’s a sale on sirloin.

— “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By which Pollan means: Eat natural food, the kind your grandmother served (and not because she was so wise, but because the food industry had not yet learned that the big money was in processing, not harvesting). Use meat sparingly. Eat your greens, the leafier and more varied the better.

*In short: Kiss the Western diet as we know it goodbye. Look to the cultures where people eat well and live long. Ignore the faddists and experts. Trust your gut. Literally.*

p. And there we have it, the simplest possible way to think about food. Go one, read the “whole introduction to the book here”:http://changethis.com/pdf/43.01.EatersManifesto.pdf.

One thought on “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

  1. As a teen I thought diet is only something for fat people, but now I’m in my fourties and I realise that I gained some extra pounds myself. So nowadays I’m much more interested in articles/blogs like yours. Just wanted to share.

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