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In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan [audiobook read by Scott Brick]

February 9, 2010

Most of what we eat is not food. That’s the simple premise in Pollan’s follow-up to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Most of what we eat are food-like substances (and that might be generous), packed with preservatives, artificial flavors, fillers and other chemicals that don’t exist in nature. Pollan makes the point that if our grandparents walked into the modern supermarket, they wouldn’t recognize many of the things on the shelves. This is not good.

It’s the Western obsession with nutrients as opposed to food that has led us here. Sometimes flaky dietary science, a culture desperately seeking out the “magic bullet,” big-budget marketing campaigns from American food manufacturers and laws and regulation that place the financial health of the agricultural industry above the physical health of the population have all contributed to a situation where people really aren’t sure what they should and shouldn’t be eating. As Pollan points out, that’s a uniquely human dilemma.

Although he give the disclaimer that he’s nobody to be telling anybody what to eat, he does give some good, common sense rules of thumb: Eat mostly plants (mostly green plants). Eat less. Think of meat as more of a side dish. Don’t eat things with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Paradoxically, avoid foods that make health claims on their packaging (which implies, firstly, that they have packaging—something else to probably avoid). Shop around the edges of the grocery store. All of these direct us to eat food, not food-like, processed, manufactured food-like substances. It’s a great message, and with all the confusing health claims out there, it’s nice to have a call for simple common sense.

The audiobook is read by Scott Brick who does a fine job.

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