In Defense of Food- But Not in Defense of Book.

January 24, 2010 at 7:43 am 18 comments

Mmm oats and coffee, now that’s a nice morning:)

oatmeal coffee

And now for your Sunday morning reading pleasure, another book review.

I’m a little late on the bandwagon, but I finally read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I also have not read. You might know him better as the guy who said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

I figured that part made sense, so I guess I’ll read the book and see what he has to say. I can say first of all, you can probably skip to page 147 and start reading there. That’s where he starts to explain the whole eat food-not too much philosophy. Up until then, although informative and a slightly interesting history, he was mostly just bitter.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, my brother in law cringes at the word “corn”. I don’t know why entirely since I haven’t read it, but Pollan stumbles upon the topic briefly in this book. He points out that two thirds of the calories in the American diet come from four crops: corn, soy, wheat, and rice. (A lot to do with feeding animals cheaply and government subsidizing, but I’m not getting into that.) That only leaves a third of the diet for everything else! Fruits, veggies, dairy, protein! That’s a lot of good stuff to fit into a third.

I was pretty shocked to read about the decline in nutritional quality of foods like apples and milk due to economizing the business of agriculture. By finding cheaper ways to grow and raise things, more “calories are produced per acre, but each of those calories may supply less nutrition than it formerly did.” I’d love to learn more about that concept.

Now on to his “eat food” philosophy- for the most part he makes pretty good, fairly unbiased (sometimes) points here, but I thought I’d comment on a few.

Eat food. Yup, that’s a good start 🙂

-Avoid food products that make health claims. I don’t think so. Yes, there may be marketing behind this and it’s shouldn’t be taken as face value, but my oatmeal makes a health claim- says it’s good for my heart. And it is. And I’m not going to stop eating it.

You are what you eat eats too. Simple but overlooked. I like it.

-I forget what “rule” it’s under- something about eating how other cultures do- but a reminder that if you adopt a habit from another culture you have to adopt it in context too. (Don’t just eat corn because they do in Latin America- they use it to pair with beans to make a complete protein in a vegetarian meal)

Have a glass of wine with dinner. ‘nuff said, I’m not arguing there 😉

-Eat meals. 1/5 of eating done by 18-50 year olds takes place in the car. Yikes.

-He says we should go back to snacks being taboo. I disagree. I’m pro-snack. Call me a rebel.

Hmm that’s enough. I’ll leave something for you to read in the book and form your own opinion in case you haven’t read it yet. 😉

I do think it’s a pretty one-sided view, but it’s his book, so his prerogative I guess. I have to say the title was pretty much the take home message, I could have done without the rest for the most part. I was expecting more from something that was trying to hook me with this:

Despite all that, although I didn’t care for a majority of the beginning and I do have a few bones to pick with Pollan, I am interested in hearing what Omnivore’s Dilemma has to say.

Have you read any Michael Pollan books? If you did, what did you think?

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. julia  |  January 24, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for your comment on my blog…
    Never read any of this books, sounds really interesting!

    x Julia (Taste of Living)

    Reply
  • 2. Anna  |  January 24, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I’ve read In Defense of Food and The Omnivores Dilemna, and I liked the latter much better. I read them both a few years back, so I don’t remember all that much of IDF, but, like you, I remember not loving his tone all that much, and feeling like he could do a better job of “getting to the point,” etc.

    Also, any man who is anti-snack is evil in my book. Bring on the snacks!!!

    I have a weird question– how do you get your pictures to post side-by-side like that? Do you have to use a table? Any info you could pass on would be appreciated!!!

    Reply
    • 3. Heather  |  January 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      I use Windows Live Writer (not sure if you do or not, but it saves me a lot of time trying to upload pictures on my super old super slow computer!). When you click on the picture you have the option to change the dimensions- I just make the picture small enough so they fit next to each other.

      Hope that helps!

      Reply
  • 4. theprocessofhealing  |  January 24, 2010 at 9:34 am

    That is interesting and I’ve never read his books.
    I agree with you about snacking. Snacking is not bad, and I can’t stand it when people say that. Well snacking CAN be bad but not if you’re not eating a ton of extra calories or snacking on things that aren’t good for you.
    That’s a scary statistic about eating 1/5 of your meals in a car… what has the world come to? If it’s a true statistic that is.
    Good review! I’ve always been very curious about that book.

    Reply
    • 5. Katherine @ Lipgloss and Spandex  |  January 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm

      Great point about snacking! Jessica also makes some good points about eliminating snacking as well.

      I personally know I couldn’t go without snacking. I get too hungry in between meals, and then make poor choices (potato chips for dinner!). But I try to carefully pick my snacks, so that I get some carbs+some protein.

      Reply
  • 6. kbwood  |  January 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

    that sounds so interesting!! i agree-im a snacker…and it works for me! ill keep on doing it! lol 🙂 sounds like a good book!

    Reply
  • 7. Jessica  |  January 24, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I haven’t read that one and it sounds iffy, but I’d definitely still recommend the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    I’ve heard the anti-snack reasoning is that we have this skewed sense that high metabolism = health, when all the work digesting is actually hard on our bodies. Apparently the thought trend is that once we tackle the obesity problem, we’ll need to lower metabolism by eating differently, mimicking hunter/gatherers (sounds miserable and totally improbable, huh).

    Reply
  • 8. Jasmine @ Eat Move Write  |  January 24, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I haven’t read his books. I don’t know. I’m not sure there IS a secret to being thin. The formula is different for everyone.

    Reply
  • 9. Teacherwoman  |  January 24, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    Great review. I saw some other bloggers reading it and thought it sounded interesting. I might have to see if the library has it.

    Reply
  • 10. Meredith  |  January 24, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    I am pro snack too! I loved The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but not In Defense of Food so much. I just couldn’t get past his negative view of “nutritionists” — and he never mentioned the difference between RDs and nutritionists, which makes me think he lumped everyone together.

    Reply
  • 11. marathonmaiden  |  January 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    i read the omnivore’s dilemma and while i agree with some of the points in the book (and i think it would be the same with in defense of food) i really just don’t have the means to make changes and overhaul my diet and i found myself getting resentful and frustrated with it

    and i don’t like the anti-snacking thing. i was watching the biggest loser and they were all anti-snacking too as no snacking = less calories but i totally think snacking can be a part of a healthy diet

    Reply
  • 12. poetreearborist  |  January 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I prefer The Sunfood Diet Success System. I’m not even a vegetarian let alone on the verge of becoming a raw-foodist. However, this book taught me and because of that I made some important changes to how and what I eat. Mainly, I eat a seriously large amount of vegetables and fruit. I lost weight, have awesome cholesterol levels, and my skin looks healthier now than it did when I was in college.

    (http://www.amazon.com/Sunfood-Diet-Success-System/dp/1556437498/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264359147&sr=8-1)

    Reply
  • 13. fromatopink  |  January 24, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    I like your honest opinion of the book – it’s refreshing! I haven’t read any books by him but am tempted to. I’m leaning toward The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

    Reply
  • 14. Heather  |  January 24, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I have both In Defense of Food and Omnivore’s Dilemma – I’m reading In Defense of Food right now. I am very early into the book but I look forward to reading more of it.

    Great review.

    Reply
  • 15. Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)  |  January 24, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I just finished reading Omnivore’s Dilemma a week ago and while I thought it had some interesting things to say I think the book could have been condensed quite a bit! It was so long and he would go off on these tangents explaining things in great detail which in my opinion was unnecessary. Most people I’ve talked to said I should have read In Defense of Food first, but I may just skip it because I don’t think I could sit through another hundred pages or so of his writing/talking!

    Reply
  • 16. Shannon  |  January 25, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I actually really like this book. I’ve read them both and even though I am studying to be an RD, I liked his take on nutrition science. It made me thing harder about just how difficult it is for scientist to study food. It’s just so complex! How do you isolate and study one thing when the benefit of that thing might come from its interaction with other things.

    I agree with you about snacking. For some people, like me, snacking is the way to go.

    Thanks for the review 🙂

    Reply
  • 17. LindsayRuns  |  January 26, 2010 at 8:34 am

    haha i love the part where you said your brother in law cringes at the word corn! that is exactly my take away from that book! I enjoyed his writing, but yeah I think it’s a little too chicken little for my tastes. But yeah, stay away from the corn cows! 🙂

    Reply
  • 18. Mae (OhhMay.Wordpress)  |  January 31, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you for this review! I’m definatly choosing this book for my argumentative research paper. It sounds like it has some fallistic arguments I could run with? (Hopefully!!)

    Reply

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