In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

July 16, 2008 at 9:44 pm (Book Reviews)

I was surfing around the bookblogosphere today and came upon a review of In Defense of Food. I actually got this book a few months ago and read through it right away. This was back when I wasn’t “counting” non-fiction, so you won’t see it on my list during that time, though it’ll be there now. I have been reading it again because I keep being drawn back to this book.

The premise, simplified, is: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. 

Eat food. The author’s definition of food is basically “foods your grandparents would recognize” although, as mentioned in the Both Eyes review, most people now know what edamame is – but my mother’s grandmother would not have, so that definition doesn’t really work. I have to dispute that by saying that while my great grandmother may not have known that it was a soybean, she would have looked at it and thought “bean” as opposed to, say, Pop Rocks, which would have left her… confused. But it goes even deeper than that – nothing is quite what it used to be. For instance, “bread” may now be “healthy, whole grain, additive-free bread” or “baked pile of white chemicals”.

Not too much. A lot of Americans Westerners people have problems with this. Americans especially, I think. We’ve been taught to eat the biggest portion possible. Upsize for only fifty cents. An empty plate, not a satisfied stomach, means we’re done. And, generally, we eat as quickly as possible.

Mostly plants. Even in and amongst all of the diets and nutrition fads out there, most of them agree that plants are good for you. Especially leafy greens. (Personally, I LOVE fruit. Veggies are… okay. I like some of them but have me choose between, say, a salad or a pineapple and I will almost always choose the pineapple. Mmm. Pineapple…)

This book goes into so much more than that. It discusses how we arrived at the age of nutritionism and why eating based on nutrients may be misguided. How we’re no longer told “eat an orange” but “have vitamin C”.

By far, the most “controversial” statement in this book is that we should stop eating processed foods. Most people believe we should, as well, but this is a hard edict to follow. It’s more expensive to eat this way. When I went grocery shopping last weekend, I was trying to find cottage cheese that didn’t have anything added – no high fructose corn syrup, no gums of any sort, etc. It was quite difficult. And I live smack dab in the middle of the city.

Could you follow the advice of this book? Do you eat food, not too much, and mostly plants? If so, is it a struggle? If not, would you like to? How could you go about doing this?

This book really makes me think.



  1. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan | My Redhead Girl said,

    […] The rest is here: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan […]

  2. Trish said,

    I’ve started asking for a to-go box after I get my food so I can dump half of it off my plate immediately–it doens’t always work that way, though. My husband is allergic to all fresh fruits and vegetables (yup, its true!!), so I’ve found that after being married I have been eating a lot more processed foods because I’m too lazy to cook something separate for myself. I’m hoping that when the kids come (one day far away) I’ll have an excuse to buy those fruits/veggies again. I was thinking yesterday that I can’t remember the last time I had broccoli–sounds so yummy right now!!

  3. dew said,

    I’ve lived by the advice of this book for years, yeah. 🙂 Whether I was living in a city or small town or on an organic farm. It’s not a struggle at all, especially now that there are stores like Whole Foods everywhere, so that you can get foods that are less processed more easily. Sometimes people will say oh, but Whole Foods is so expensive. But you can’t convince me that an organic zucchni and a handful of brown rice costs more than a microwave frozen stir fry. And if you’re following the “not too much” part, then you’ll save money by not buying so much food, and you can then put the money towards better quality food.

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