If you only read one book about food, I recommend In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.
Michael Pollan sets out a compelling case for us to be wary of the modern food industry and of the Western diet, and instead to eat actual food rather than what passes as food in many of our supermarkets, most of which would be unrecognisable to our great-grandmothers. The starting point for his research is that “thirty years of nutritional advice have left us fatter, sicker, and more poorly nourished. Which is why we find ourselves in the predicament we do: in need of a whole new way to think about eating.”
What should I eat?
And the answer to what we should be eating? In short, anything other than the Western diet. I found it interesting that research into traditional diets showed that an amazing variety of traditional eating patterns led to a similar result – people lived longer and were healthier than those eating modern Western food.
In simple terms, Pollan’s famous eater’s manifesto sums it up well: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” As he says, that is the short answer to a complicated and confusing question of what we should eat, and he expands this manifesto in the rest of the book.
He also has some interesting thoughts about the economics of food, having noticed that modern industrial food practices have increased the quantity rather than the quality of our food, and we are in effect paying less for our food than our predecessors. Pollan suggests reversing this trend and being prepared to spend more on less, by buying quality, nutritionally dense food which sustains our local real food industries. He says, “Yes, shopping this way takes more money and effort, but as soon as you begin to treat that expenditure not just as shopping but also as a kind of vote – a vote for health in the largest sense – food no longer seems like the smartest place to economize.”
There is a companion book, Food Rules, which is really just an expanded version of some of the “rules” outlined briefly in In Defense of Food.
This post contains affiliate links.