“Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Vegetables.”
It was really nice venturing into a genre I had never dabbled in before-food and health. In Defense of Food is essentially an attack on most of our eating habits and tendencies. A large chunk of the book is devoted to explaining Nutritionism (the prevailing scientific food theory that the identified nutrients in foods determine the value of individual food items) and his problems with it. He also goes on to provide some tips and guidance for how to eat in a more healthy manner.
I am not sure a food expert would enjoy this book, as it is certainly written for the complete novice (such as myself). This book got me thinking more about my dietary tendencies. I particularly enjoyed two of his off road (yet related) insights when contrasting our diets to those of different cultures: Weston Price’s findings and the habits of the French.
Weston Price (a dentist) devoted a portion of his life studying isolated populations that had not yet been exposed to modern foods. He discovered that these populations (eating a wide variety of traditional foods) had no need of dentists at all. He believed that the quality of the soil was a key to health. He also found that the vitamin levels in foods produced from animals eating more healthy (natural) diets were higher and thus the people eating these animals (and their products) were healthier as well. I found it to be absolutely incredible that less developed people living in the far corners of the world could be as healthy as us.
Pollan cites different findings regarding the eating habits of the French. The French people have a completely different relationship to food than we do: They have smaller portion sizes (both in restaurants and supermarkets), a far more enriched food experience, and dont snack. They spend more time eating than us and enjoy the overall food experience. He goes on to explain that it is no surprise that they are healthier than us despite all their consumption of wine and cheese.