Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Defense of Food: Review and Giveaway!

A couple of posts ago, I gushed on this book:

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food

It is one of the best books I’ve read in a while (and I’m an English major, but you don’t have to take my word for it!), and the best I’ve ever read about food. When I first saw this book in Borders, It was the tagline that caught my attention: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.
Well, of course! Right? I mean, I eat food, don’t I? Unfortunately, I don’t eat food as much as I thought I did. Pollan’s book is common-sensical, straightforward, and practical. He doesn’t waste your time explaining the science behind nutrition, and he would argue, I think, that too much science is what’s gotten us (by “us” I mean global Westerners eating “Westernized” food) in trouble in the first place.

In Defense of Food is organized into three main sections. The first, “The Age of Nutritionism” is a little part history, a little part science, and a lot of eye opening. He explains (in smaller chapters) how we’ve turned harvesting food into engineering nutrition, a nuance I didn’t think mattered all that much. Nutrients are nutrients, right? Get enough of some, not too much of others, and I should be fine, or so I thought. As it turns out, those diet cereals and breakfast bars and snack cakes haven’t been doing us much good. What they lack in calories and fats and sugar, they also lack in real ingredients. As it also turns out, the banana I put on my cereal isn’t even half as nutritious as a banana I would’ve eaten in 1940. The food we’re eating today are chemical concoctions with artificial flavorings that confuse us and leave us as unhealthy as ever.

In Part 2, “The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilizations,” Pollan again takes us through a kind of history of eating, but this time on a global scale, and proves, quite effectively, that it’s not what we’re eating, but what we’re eating. (Yes, I just wrote that). Rephrased: there are low carb, high carb, high fat, vegetarian, and carnivorous diets found all over the world in all kinds of indigenous culture groups, and NONE of them exhibit the typical western health problems so many of us are afflicted with (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke). Our problem is not our knowing how to diet (we do that well), it’s in our eating of non-foods—overly processed, engineered, substitute food we’ve accepted in our pantry as nutritious.

Part 3, “Getting Over Nutritionism,” is perhaps the most helpful in a practical sense. This part of the book takes all the knowledge you’ve gained in parts 1 and 2 and puts them to use in your own kitchen. In this section, he gives his readers simple tools for shopping for your food: stay on the periphery of the grocery store; if an ingredient list has more than 5 ingredients and you can’t pronounce them, it’s not healthy. It’s the “How” part of the whole book—how to, simply: Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.

If you are even slightly interested in healthful eating (and I’m assuming most of us are), you must read this book. I’m serious. Go now, and leave your life of food ignorance. To help feed the masses (ahem. Pun intended) I’m giving away one copy of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to a reader. To be eligible to win, just leave a comment on this post, answering this: What’s the one food you refuse to give up, no matter how unhealthy you know it to be (mine’s delivery pizza)?

All comments must be entered by Friday, January 30th, at 9:00 PM (Eastern). Please, one entry per person. I’ll pick a random entry over the weekend. Tell all your friends!

Note: I am in no way supported by Michael Pollan or The Penguin Press. Neither of these groups know who I am, and I’ve never communicated with either of them. Neither are providing this prize, and neither are receiving any direct revenue from the giveaway (Neither am I). I just happen to love this book, and think other people should, too.


alisha said...

Key Lime Pie....and this book really looks awesome....

Carolyn G said...

I refuse to give up chocolate cake with that thick buttercram frosting!!

spunkysuzi said...

I must admit i love my cheese :)

Lynn said...

I'm a big fan of deep fried cheese sticks. those "fiber one" coated low fat pieces of bleh that Hungry girl recommends doesn't even begin to compare. Especially with the campfire sauce from Red Robin... YUM!

ambika said...

I keep *meaning* to read his work and just have not gotten around to it. I really ought to make time.