‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’

>> Wednesday, March 9, 2011

These 7 words encapsulates Michael Pollan’s book ‘In Defence of Food’ that I’ve read recently. He didn’t start elaborating on what he meant by that immediately. The first part of the book is titled The Age of Nutritionism. I’m glad to learn that eating healthy does not mean that I have to master the science of nutrition. In fact, he went as far as suggesting that nutritionism could just be ‘bad science’. In the second part, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization, the author elaborates on the changes that has happened to food and eating (specifically in the Western world).

The list of subtopics in the last chapter of this part may give some idea of what these changes are:
-From whole foods to refined
-From complexity to simplicity
-From quality to quantity
-From leaves to seed
-From food culture to food science

Although reading the first two parts had been interesting and enlightening, it is the third and last part of the book which I had appreciated the most, because this is where he had shared tangible advices and rules when it comes healthy eating. I’ll capture the points here so that I can refer to them in the future.

Eat Food: Food Defined (food, as opposed to foodlike or food products)

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food
Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting
Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number and 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 (fresh food is usually placed at the peripheries and processed food in the middle)
Get out of the supermarket whenever possible (eg shop at farmers’ market, or in Malaysian context, pasar tani I guess)

Mostly Plants: What to Eat

Eat mostly plants especially leaves
You are what what you eat eats too
If you have the space buy a freezer (freezing unlike canning does not significantly diminish the nutritional value of produce)
Eat like an omnivore (diversify your food)
Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
Eat wild foods when you can
Be the kind of person who takes supplement (without actually taking any, unless you’re over 50) ie typically more health conscious, better educated, and more affluent
Eat more like the French or the Italians or the Japanese or the Indians or the Greeks (eat traditional food)
Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism
Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet (it’s a ‘package’)

Not Too Much: How to Eat

Pay more eat less (costs, both in terms of price and time/convenience to prepare) Eat meals (and avoid snacking in between)
Do all your eating at a table (and a desk is not a table)
Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does (ie petrol station shops)
Try not to eat alone
Consult your gut (train our internal system to tell us when we are full)
Eat slowly
Cook, and if you can, plant a garden

One of my favourite paragraph: “If a food is more than the sum of its nutrients and a diet is more than the sum of its food, it follows that a food culture is more than the sum of its menus – it embraces as well the set of manners, eating habits, and unspoken rules that together governs a people’s relationship to food and eating. How a culture eats may have just as much bearing on health as what a culture eats.”

This is Michael Pollan’s website where he shares his archives or articles (I’ve just read 3 interesting ones and will probably go back for more). The article ‘Unhappy Meals’ which he wrote in January 2007 is the trigger which led him (encouraged by his editors) to write this whole book, so it actually contains a significant amount of the points he touched in this book, so head over there for a preview of this book.

Overall, a very satisfying read – interesting and informative. I feel so motivated now to improve my eating and cooking habits towards achieving a healthier life, I hope I’ll remain to be so consistently!


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