I know I’m a little late to the game, but I finally finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. At some point I’m going to have to stop reading these types of books or I’m going to just pull out what little hair I’ve managed to regrow.
Let me clarify. This book is great – thought provoking, inspiring, and frightening. It makes my head hurt. It makes me want to pack up everything I own and move out to the suburbs somewhere so I can grow my own food, shop at farmers markets, and keep a side of grass fed, free range, non-hormone treated beef in the freezer. Oh wait…
Basically, Pollan is anti-nutritionism. He argues that a whole food (ex: grain) is always better for you than a processed food (ex: white bread) no matter how many nutrients are added back into the processed food. Science is not so infallible that we can know every thing we’ve removed in processing and therefore can’t add everything back. Basically we’re too focused on the trees and completely discounting the forest as a whole. Somehow he manages to lay out his “preachings” in a fairly interesting and amusing manner. But it’s still terrifying.
Not surprisingly, I tend to keep an eye out for the cancer-impacting aspects of these books as I read them. Here’s a few highlights to stick in your pocket:
- The “Western Diet” causes cancer (amongst other fun “western” diseases such as heart disease and diabetes). Yay! Note to self: throw out all food in house that does not have a stem.
- The reports from research linking diet to cancers has been misrepresented. While we’ve heard time and time again that higher cancer rates are linked to dietary fat, most researchers discounted the argument that the groups with the higher cancer rates in those studies consumed more animal foods in general, and fewer plants. Therefore the cancers could “easily be caused by animal protein, dietary cholesterol, something else exclusively found in animal-based foods, or a lack of plant-based foods.” In fact, most studies “fail to find evidence that reducing fat intake significantly reduces the incidence of heart disease or cancer.” There’s multiple examples listed in the book of how specific nutrients are credited or blamed for health impact versus the food containing the nutrient. Note to self: stop reading so many nutrition magazines.
- Nutritionism actually created cancer-causing trans fats – in the form of margarine for example. Then when research emerged that perhaps that was not the smartest thing for the population, they re-engineered the formula. So now there’s some new bizarre non-food in there. How many years before it turns out that causes cancer, too? Note to self: pull the organic butter back out of the trash.
There’s more. Lot’s more. But I’m getting depressed and I’ve got a few months before I can initiate the Maplewood Menu of organic local foods. If you need justification for changing the way you’re eating – this is a doozy. I’ll be having raw brussel sprouts for dinner. Again.