Read Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules” (179/366)

“Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.”
~ Rule 18, Michael Pollan‘s “Food Rules

Again, I’m going to ask you if you’ve watched “Food, Inc.” yet.  If you haven’t, I can’t stress enough how important watching this film is.  It is just the first, yet completely crucial step that anyone in America who cares about themselves at all needs to take to understand what is going on in the United States food industry, and how it affects all of us.  If you haven’t watched it yet, seriously – you need to watch it.  If you need to borrow my copy, let me know.

Michael Pollan is an award-winning author, and one of the people featured in “Food, Inc.” – he’s written several books on food and nutrition, including “The Botany of Desire” (which was the basis of the documentary of the same name I watched for the first time this year) and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” – named one of the best ten books of the year by both the New York Times and the Washington Post – an extensive volume about how we omnivores face a great dilemma in that while we can eat almost anything, not everything is good for us, and some things are certainly bad for us.  “Food Rules” is the answer for people who maybe are interested in what Pollan has to say, but don’t want to devote the time to read all about it.  This book takes culturally and historically universal knowledge about food – real food – and distills it into 64 guidelines (or “personal policies” as Pollan calls them) for eating healthy.  Distilled even further, this book outlines guidelines to help you: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants.”

There are tons of almost laughably obvious rules in this book, and that’s Pollan’s point.  Americans have gotten accustomed to eating so much garbage, that sometimes the obvious still needs to be pointed out.  Some great ones:

1. Eat food.
Not “edible foodlike substances” – highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry.
2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
A highly sweetened, artificially-colored, yogurt-type substance in a plastic tube is not food.
8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
For a product to carry a health claim on its package, it must first have a package … that’s not real food.
9. Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names.
Since the low-fat campaign began in the late 1970’s, Americans actually have been eating more than 500 additional calories per day …

I particularly like the following rules – they contain (and need) no explanation:

18. Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.
19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
21. It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles).

There are a lot more great insights in this book, and I definitely recommend it.  With “nutrition” and the American food industry becoming as complicated as it has been, the basic principles of this book are definitely a solid starting point.  While I personally don’t agree with Pollan’s statement, “Vegetarians are more healthy than carnivores,” which actually is comparing humans to animals, as “vegetarian” animals are actually “herbivores” and humans are omnivores, not “carnivores” … I very highly regard most of his ideas as sound: we should be eating what is produced naturally – plants and animals, and that very processed and especially food-like items that were really generated by human technology and chemistry, while originally touted as triumphs of science, should really be avoided.  Saccharin, high-fructose corn syrup, and margarine are a few fantastic examples.

If you’re interested in nutrition and need a no-nonsense place to start, I’d highly recommend this book.  And don’t forget to watch “Food, Inc.” and “Food Fight!

Related Links:
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual – Illustrated Edition
The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World
The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Food, Inc. Blu-Ray
Food Fight! Streaming Video

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