T Nation

Michael Pollan: In Defense of Food

Berkeley professor and journalist Michael Pollen interviewed on CBC radio.

Go to the bottom of the page and click on “Listen to The Current:Part 3”

His new book ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ comes out this month. The interview was facinating!

Yeah, Pollan is a very interesting author. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” really opened a lot of people’s eyes in terms of our food system.

He has been criticized (sometimes fairly) for being a bit elitist and academic, but he is forcing people to examine the consequences of their food choices, which is a good thing no matter how he presents it.

I’m still a bit miffed about the main message, which is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Not because of the “eat food” part, because I agree that processed foods don’t belong in a healthy diet, but because of the “mostly plants” bit. My question is why? And what do you mean “mostly”? He claims to be a proponent of pasture-based meats, but I feel like he doesn’t do enough to encourage people to go out of their way to get good meats (although to his credit he does suggest people invest in a big freezer and buy meat in bulk direct from farms).

And I think he’s a bit harsh on nutritionism. Sure, our idea of food has descended into a sort of schizophrenic stupor since we are bombarded with nutrient-based health claims from the media, the food industry, and government organizations, but some nutritional science has worked wonders (such as studies of insulin and inflammation). The problem is that there is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on marketing to people’s diet fears, and a lot of pressure for the government to tell people what to eat.

It’s a good read either way, and I especially love it because he also mentions the fallacies of the lipid hypothesis, which is good to see in a relatively mainstream book.

I haven’t had a chance to catch this feature on The Current, but I did read the bit on Pollan in this morning’s Globe and Mail.

To be charitable, Pollan is making a claim for the tension between nutritionism and reporting on the “science” supporting its claims. Journalistic integrity with regard to health issues is problematic (at best) and though I may not identify with some of his dietary ideologies, it is highly refreshing to see the push for whole foods as opposed to specific macro-dominant approaches to nutrition hitting the mainstream.

I am most interested to further explore Pollan’s view that scientific discourse now operates as a vehicle for the legitimization of nutritional approaches and ideas that are prior to modern science, itself.

I look forward to reading “In Defense of Food” and gratefully await any reviews from fellow posters. Thanks for starting this thread tpa!

sweet post, thanks for linking to it today! :slight_smile:

Many of us eat ‘mostly plants’ without even thinking about it. After all, 99% of carbs are plants. Just because we are all loading up on protein and chugging Metabolic Drive on the way to work doesn’t meal that we aren’t getting our fair share of non-animal sources of food. Don’t forget your fats that come mostly from plants, too.

Morning oats
PWO meals
Veggies/fruits with each or most meals
Olive Oil
Peanut Butter

We eat a lot of plants when you think about it. Rarely will any healthy diet go above 40% in protein (some of which comes from plant sources), which leaves 20-40% for carbs almost always in the form of plants, and the rest in fat (which generally is a split between animal and plant sources.

Basicly, if you are eating healthy, your diet is a minimum of 40% ‘plants,’ but most of the time it’s even more.

I know I’m nitpicking, and it’s not going to stop me ---- but do oats and nuts rot (I think fake bread goes bad faster than them)? Then what about quinoa, and like 20 other kinds of grains?

Does that mean Pollan doesn’t recommend eating these foods, is there something I missed? These foods are very important, but it seems they get no mention.

These foods (nuts, oats, quinoa, other grains) don’t have infinite shelf life–most whole grains will last six months to a year at the most. I don’t know how long it would take for them to physically rot but the oils will go rancid. In nuts this can sometimes happen in just a couple of weeks.