Synopses & Reviews
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 food-like 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.
"[A] tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be reduced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential....[L]ively, invaluable." Janet Maslin, the New York Times
"Pollan's accessible, meticulously researched book will be essential reading for anyone who takes food seriously." Boston Globe
"[Pollan] uses his familiar brand of carefully researched, common-sense journalism...providing guidelines and convincing arguments." Los Angeles Times
"Having described what's wrong with American food in his best-selling The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006), New York Times contributor Pollan delivers a more optimistic but equally fascinating account of how to do it right.... A delightful chronicle of the education of a cook who steps back frequently to extol the scientific and philosophical basis of this deeply satisfying human activity." Kirkus (starred review)
#1 New York Times Bestseller from the author of How to Change Your Mind, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Food Rules
Food. There's plenty of it around, and we all love to eat it. So why should anyone need to defend it?
Because in the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion--most of what we're consuming today is longer the product of nature but of food science. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we see to become. With In Defense of Food, Pollan proposes a new (and very old) answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we can start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives, enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy, and bring pleasure back to eating.
"Michael Pollan is the] designated repository for the nation's food conscience."--Frank Bruni, The New York Times
" A remarkable volume . . . engrossing . . . Pollan] offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave."--The Washington Post
"A tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be redced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential... a] lively, invaluable book."--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"In Defense of Food is written with Pollan's customary bite, ringing clarity and brilliance at connecting the dots."--The Seattle Times
Michael Pollan's most recent food book Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation--the story of our most trusted food expert's culinary education--was published by Penguin Press in April 2013, and in 2016 it served as the inspiration for a four-part docuseries on Netflix by the same name.
Pollan is also the author of How to Change Your Mind What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence
About the Author
Michael Pollan is the author of three previous books, including The Botany of Desire, a New York Times bestseller. A longtime contributor to The New York Times, he is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.