Wednesday, 28 April 2010

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan

In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan is a fantastic book. He examines the age of nutritionalism and explains what a scam it has become for big food manufacturers and also the damage its manifestation, as The Western Diet, is causing to people's diets.

The most fantastic thing about the book for me though, is his rules for eating:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Seven words which have made me think again about the food I buy and what I cook and hence my decision to bake my own bread. There's slightly more to it that just that so let me expand on the rules.

Rule 1. Eat food

1.1 Don't eat anything that your great grandmother wouldn't recognise as food
1.2 Avoid food products containing ingredients that are:
a. unfamiliar
b. unpronounceable
c. more than five in number or that include
d. high-fructose corn syrup
1.3 Avoid food products that make health claims - can you actually believe these food science claims that might be based on exploring a single nutrient out of context of the rest of the diet?
1.4 Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle - fresh food is on by the walls (fruit and veg, meat, fish, deli, bakery) and processed food is at the core
1.5 Get out of the supermarket whenever possible - support local producers when and if you can. It's pretty difficult to find processed food at a farmer's market.

Rule 2. Mostly plants

2.1 Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
2.2 You are what you eat eats too - the food that the cow/lamb/pig/chicken/fish has been eating has an affect when you eat the cow/lamb/pig/chicken/fish
2.3 If you have the space, buy a freezer
2.4 Eat like an omnivore - eat everything in moderation
2.5 Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
2.6 Eat wild foods when you can
2.7 Be the kind of person who takes supplements - people who take supplements are typically healthier for reasons that have nothing to do with their morning pill-popping routine. They are typically wealthier, better educated and more health conscious and as a result probably eat healthily.
2.8 Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks. - these are all healthy traditional food cultures both in what they eat and how they eat
2.9 Regard non-traditional foods with scepticism
2.10 Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet
2.11 Have a glass of wine with dinner

Rule 3. Not too much

3.1 Pay more, eat less - good quality costs more, so savour it
3.2 Eat meals
3.3 Do all your eating at a table
3.4 Don't get your fuel from the same place a car does
3.5 Try not to eat alone
3.6 Consult your gut - stop eating when you're full
3.7 Eat slowly - support Slow Food
3.8 Cook and, if you can, plant a garden


  1. sorry, pay more eat less? oh as in better quality and don't be gluttonous? also, how can it be good to take supplements? surely if you eat a healthy balanced diet you shouldn't have any need for these? also it goes in contradiction to what your grandmother would recognise as food.

  2. I like the way you answer your own questions!

    Have updated the post for clarity.


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