Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Hardcover)

This book is full of clear-headed wisdom and practical advice. It's divided into three sections. The first third is a history lesson. In "The Age of Nutritionism," the author explains how, during the last half of the 20th century, well-intentioned politicians and scientists created a culture that places more emphasis on consuming nutrients (protein, potassium, Vitamin C) than whole foods (meat, bananas, orange juice). The middle of the book, "The Western Diet and The Diseases of Civilization," discusses how our modern diet has led to increases in such things as cancer, heart disease, even tooth decay. The final third, "Getting Over Nutritionism" offers advice on how to escape this troubled diet. Pollan argues that we should pay more attention to the portions of food we eat, and less to qualities such as carb or fat content. He points out that the French people eat rich food, but stay slim by eating on small plates and avoiding seconds and snacking, and mentions that in Okinawa, Japan, people follow "Hara Hachi Bu," which means to stop eating when you are 80 percent full. Pollan also recommends we eat more produce. Doing so can help with obesity as well as a host of health problems. My only qualm with "In Defense of Food" is that the publisher has packaged this advice into a typical all-text hardback. There are no photographs, no illustrations, no charts, no graphs. If only the book was more visual! This information is so useful, it's a shame that it will probably be exposed only to those of us who are avid readers. It doesn't, however, take long to get through. Not counting the acknowledgments, sources and index pages there are only 200 pages, and those are set in fairly large type. Personally I loved this book. I found myself making a grocery list while reading it -- jotting down what to avoid and what to stock up on.


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