In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

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Michael Pollan
Penguin Press HC, 1st edition (January 1, 2008) Book Description:

What to eat, what not to eat, and how to think about health: a manifesto for our times

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the bestselling The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists-all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not “real.” These “edible foodlike substances” are often packaged with labels bearing health claims that are typically false or misleading. Indeed, real food is fast disappearing from the marketplace, to be replaced by “nutrients,” and plain old eating by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Michael Pollan’s sensible and decidedly counterintuitive advice is: “Don’t eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food.”

Writing In Defense of Food, and affirming the joy of eating, Pollan suggests that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we’ll benefit ourselves, our communities, and the environment at large. Taking a clear-eyed look at what science does and does not know about the links between diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about the question of what to eat that is informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach.

In Defense of Food reminds us that, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, the solutions to the current omnivore’s dilemma can be found all around us.

In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families-and regions-historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Michael Pollan’s bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy.

Thanks to the author, you can read this Excerpt of In Defense of Food .

You can also listen to the author, Michael Pollan, talk about In Defense of Food on NPR’s Morning Edition here.

Pick up a copy at, and take a glimpse behind the shroud that conceals the realities of our nation’s food industry – and it’s dramatic impact on our health.

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  1. Ashly says:

    A very engaging read. I felt that it explained many important aspects of current debates on topics such as global warming, preservation and other environmental issues.Wilson’s writing and focus is unique and his facination and love for the natural world is truly fascinating.

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  2. vivsalib says:

    This was a very interesting book. It provided a lot of information about food and nutrition. It has made me more aware of what type food I’m eating. I now look at the ingredients more and notice how there are so many chemicals and other additives that I do not understand. I hadn’t realized how processed most of the food in my house was until I read the book. Ever since reading it, I have changed my lifestyle to avoid a lot of the processed foods that have become prevalent in the American diet.

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  3. Joseph Amato says:

    This was a very relevant book to read because America is at the forefront in the business of genetically altering foods for the masses and then hiding them in your every day supermarket. Pollan makes extremely well grounded arguments against the companies that head the genetic modification of these foods such as the Monsanto Corporation. He begins by pointing out how debased the science of food engineering is by citing specific hypocrisies in the measurements of what is bad and what is good as time goes on. For instance, certain types of fat demonized in the 1980′s are lauded today for their healthiness. The science of delineating nutrients as a measure of food’s worth is inefficient when it is driven with the capitalistic ideal of a high yield being most important. A result is a reality where most Americans are eating food that Pollan does not consider “food” at all. He moreover thinks of most food in the supermarket as a conglomeration of nutrients that Americans are tricked into buying because of gleaming food labels and low prices. Ultimately, Pollan’s real argument for the reader is to eat [real] food, not much, mostly and preferably plants.

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