Friday, May 30, 2008

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

I just finished reading the above mentioned book. Excellent, enlightening, and interesting. The short answer is, as author Michael Pollan says, Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pretty sound advice that has kept the human race alive for a few million years.

One distinction of note he makes is between actual food and food-like substances. Food-like substances are those foods you generally find in the center of the grocery store, while actual food is more likely to be found in the periphery (i.e. produce, milk, cheese, meats). He delves into the "religion" of nutritionism, the belief that food is only a collection of nutrients/vitamins/carbs/fats/proteins. He supports the idea that food is more than a sum of its parts.

I like his guidelines for selecting food, so I'm going to list them here, as much for my own reference as for anyone else's benefit (parentheticals are my additions/clarifications:

Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar, B) unpronouncabeable, C) more than five in number, or that 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.

Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

You are what what you eat eats too. (Yep, that's typed correctly. Read it again if necessary! In other words, if the cow you ate was fed junk calories, you're eating junk calories.)

If you have the space, buy a freezer. (Especially if you eat meat--find a good grass fed source and stock up.)

Eat like an omnivore. (Eat a variety of foods. You are more likely to cover your nutritional needs this way.

Eat well-grown food from healthy soils. (For example, a carrot grown today is generally less nutritious than one grown 50 years ago because the fertilizers and pesticides do not provide the same level of nutrition in the soil.)

Eat wild foods when you can.

Be the kind of person who takes supplements. (He says that until you are middle aged, most people shouldn't need supplements, but as we age it is helpful.)

Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks. (Nearly all traditional diets are healthy because they are less refined--refined sugars & flours are two of the main culprits of our Western diet.)

Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.

Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet. (So the new "superfood" isn't likely to be that super. Better to eat a healthful variety.)

Pay more, eat less. (Buy better grown food. Good food, i.e. fruits/veggies/etc, is more expensive than crap food, but it's better for you.)

Eat meals. (Put more energy/time into meal preparation and eat fewer snacks.)

Do all your eating at a table. No, a desk is not a table.

Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.

Consult your gut. (Don't judge your fullness by how much is left on your plate or in the bag. Pay attention to your own level of fullness. It may take some effort to figure this out, as we don't generally pay attention in our culture to internal cues.)

Eat slowly. (Meaning deliberately.)

Cook and, if you can, plant a garden.

So there you have it. :o) Pretty sound ideas, methinks.


Debra said...

We've "evolved" beyond what's good for us, haven't we. Looks like a back-to-basics approach to me. Can't argue a lick with it. All good ideas. Thanks for posting them.

Native Minnow said...

Reading this makes me feel like a slob. I really should try to eat better. But sometimes a gas station dinner is just so tasty. Especially if you're on the road.

mindy said...

debra--you're welcome! i think it's good info to have rattling around in my head. And, Minnow, I think it's okay to eat gas station food on occasion, too. I know I'm not giving up my occasional slurpee & cheeto lunch. But I think it's good to indulge on such items with the understanding that it isn't actually food. :o)

Lucy, Marc and Katie said...

Thanks for posting this. We're trying to be more healthy around here. As with so many other aspects of life, decisions come down to time vs. money; e.g., "I don't have time to eat healthy," or, "I can't afford to eat healthy."

I'm guilty of both those arguments, however as I age, I find it more beneficial to stop arguing and to just do what's right. ;)

andrea said...

Just out of curiosity...what did it say about Juice. We have been having a great juice debate on the old family email that has gotten WAAY out of hand. Some proposing that drinking beer is akin to drinking juice. Any thoughts?

mindy said...

Andrea, he didn't discuss juice at all. Personally, I would say that 100% juice is pretty darn good for you. The problem with even 100% juice is that it lacks the fiber that slows the uptake of the sugars, so it causes a spike in your blood sugar. But in moderation, everything I have read/heard indicates that true juice is a fine part of a balanced diet.

How the heck could beer be like drinking juice?!? curiouser & curiouser.

katie-I think we all are guilty of those arguments! they just sound so nice and reasonable!! :-)

andrea said...

I'm not sure... because of the calories? sugar is evil? just to be overly dramatic? whatever the reasons it annoyed me.