Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Penguin Press, 2008

Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.  Words to live by.  Michael Pollan shows that the food we eat is much more than the sum of its nutrient parts, and we should take and appreciate our part in the food cycle from how our food is produced/grown down to how we receive it. 

Aside from the issues raised in my discussion questions below, the other thing about this book that I found interesting was the idea that the human diet is incredibly varied around the world.  Some cultures are highly meat-based, while others are plant-based, and others are all stages in between.  And they can all be considered healthy diets in those circumstances.  So where does the Western diet go so wrong?  Pollan takes aim against the processing of food beyond all recognition, and by considering food holistically in the context of our culture, environment, and economics, and not just as a sequence of chemical nutrients to be altered and industrialized without consequences.

Discussion Questions: 
  1. What have you eaten so far today?
  2. How much of your diet is made up of “real food?”
  3. What is your favourite “real” food?
  4. Do you have particular attachments to any “food-like substances?”
  5. How “Western/North American” is your diet?
  6. How much blame do you place at the feet of “the Western Diet” for our poor health?
  7. Have you ever read any diet books?  How does Pollan’s advice of eat food, not too much, mostly plants compare to any past nutritional advice you have received?
  8. Where do you acquire your food?  Will you change any habits after reading this book?
  9. Do you eat alone, or with others?  How does the culture of eating affect our nutrition?
  10. The following is a list of tips that Pollan advocates for in this book.  Do you do any of these already?

  • Avoid certain ingredients
  • Avoid products that make health claims
  • Shop the peripheries of the supermarket
  • Shop outside the supermarket
  • Eat mostly plants
  • You are what what you eat eats too
  • Buy a freezer
  • Eat like an omnivore
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soil
  • Eat wild foods
  • Be the kind of person who takes supplements (then don’t)
  • Eat like traditional food cultures
  • Regard non-traditional foods with scepticism
  • Food/diet is more than the sum of their parts
  • Have a glass of wine with dinner
  • Pay more, eat less
  • Eat meals
  • Eat at a table, don’t eat alone
  • Don’t buy food at gas stations
  • Consult your gut, eat slowly
  • Cook, and plant a garden

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