If you are serious about your food journey, you must read In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan. Even if you’re not serious about the foods you eat, you should still read this book. It will change your view of what you eat and where it comes from. It will also make you stop and think about how you think about food.
As an American baby boomer, I’ve fallen into the nutrients trap. When I look at food I subconsciously place foods into their appropriate category of carbohydrate, protein or fat. I look at French fries and think cholesterol. Banana cream pie invokes visions of big hips and tight fitting jeans. Food is so much more than that.
Michael Pollan so articulately points out that here in America we have an unnatural relationship with food. He speaks of a study whereby a group of Americans were to quickly attach an emotion with foods. When given the word (or picture, I don’t remember) chocolate, Americans associated it with “guilt.”
When given the same word (or picture) to a group of French citizens, their response was “celebration.”
Looking at the Whole Picture
The book points out how we’ve been trained to look for the next super food or super vitamin. Whether it’s vitamin C because of its extensive ability to diminish the effects of a cold or the latest craze of the acerola cherry or pomegranate for their antioxidative qualities. The problem is there is no super food. Its all food and it all should be enjoyed.
The problems began with the industrialization of agriculture and the stripping of nutrients from our food. After people started exhibiting symptoms of vitamin deficiencies, the food manufacturers started to “enrich” the processed foods with vitamins/minerals du jour.
Food manufacturers and the USDA discovered that certain minerals and vitamins were absolutely necessary so the USDA came up with a daily recommended requirement. To make it easier to reach that requirement, food manufacturers re-engineered the foods to include certain vitamins and minerals. Just read the back of any processed food to see it is enriched with niacin, riboflavin and other essentials. There wouldn’t be a need to enrich the food if they didn’t strip these minerals out in the first place.
As time goes on and the ruling powers realize other minerals/vitamins are necessary, they will re-engineer the food to include such nutrients. This all can be avoided if we eat whole unprocessed foods. Eat foods that don’t need a nutrition label such as carrots, greens, whole grain and the like.
Not All Foods are the Same
Be careful, however, with lableless food. Although natural foods don’t need labels, you’ve got find out how it was grown. If the produce and grains were mass-produced on one of the mega agricultural farms, there is a good chance t it was grown in nutrient depleted soil. Just like the foods, the US agriculture big wigs decided there are only three elements needed to enrich the soil and those are nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. They left out the rest of the necessary minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc and a host of others.
We stand a much better chance of getting nutrient rich produce if we purchase from a small local organic farmer who offers a variety of produce. Although the local farmer may not have the USDA seal of approval (while the large mega farms which produce depleted food do), we’ll get a much fresher, tastier, nutrient rich crop than if you were to get it from the grocery store.
What to Do Next
I sort of went off on a tangent, but after reading the book, you’ll be a bit fired up too. It’s not too late to get things back on track.
The food manufacturer’s main interest is the almighty dollar. They are doing what ever they can to get the dollars from our pockets into theirs. That same dollar is how we get to vote for what we want. If our dollars end up in the pockets of the local farmers or the businesses that practice healthy food preparation and not in the pockets of mega-agricultural folks, the big guys will have to stop and re-evaluate their practices.
It’s not a quick fix, but a fix is in process. With the growth in popularity of Community Supported Agriculture and farmer’s markets, the people are speaking out.
Take the time to read In Defense of Food. It’s also available in audio format. Michael Pallon gives a detailed explanation of the current state of our food, how we got here and how to turn things around. After reading his book you’ll realize just how important it is to eat real/whole foods.