Book Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

During my grad school days in the US I travelled via bus to and from my University. On the bus, I was struck by how many poor people, who could not even afford their own car- were huge, overweight and obese. I was puzzled. In India being fat and obese is a mark of prosperity and wealth. If you think about the poor in the US, the reasons are clearer - Coke 1.89 litre is cheaper than water. Fast food burgers are the cheapest food and the most fattening. It is a very disturbing that it takes a lot more money and effort to buy vegetables, or meat and make healthy meals at home. It takes a lot more money to afford a gym. Being thin , slim in the US therefore, is a sign of being well off.

In 'In Defense of Food', Michael Pollan calls this phenomenon, "being overfed and undernourished". Why is this happening and what can we do about it? These are the primary questions raised and answered by Michael Pollan in 'In defense of food'. I am a longtime fan of Michael Pollan, and his many articles on food in the New York Times and via his books - two of my favorite works are Botany of Desire and Second Nature.

Michael Pollan begins with outlining the rise of "Industrial Agriculture" in the US, and its devilish spawn- the processed food industry. He is very entertaining and lucid as he reveals the true extent of their lobbying and marketing power. The extent of their manipulation of government and media is frankly frightening.

These might sound like big words, but everyday we, you and me; hear & see & read news reports saying that X ingredient is good for your health and then within six months we read that no, no actually X ingredient is bad for your health. In short, the scientists really donot know.

This is a direct result of Food Companies "sponsoring" research in food. Yesterday Oat bran was in fashion, today it is Omega 3. I guess they will put Omega 3 in your french fries too tomorrow- does that actually make your french fries healthier?

He names this manner of studying food, one ingredient at a time, nutritionism.He points out that this food fashion buisness does not really lead to any benefits in the long run and then goes on to suggest some really practical rules for all eaters leading to a healthy life and happy stomach.

Personally, i think this book is a MUST read for every foodie who wants the best for their family. Unless we realise how we are being manipulated by the food industry, in every meal and every snack - we cannot resist or more importantly - fight back.


Sia said...

lovely review MS. obesity has become a biggest health problem in UK and government is spending millions of pounds on this. i would check this book in my local library and see author's pint of view.