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In Defense of Food: Nutrition, Food Science and the American Diet

March 04, 2008 | 34,554 views

michael pollan, nutrition, food science, whole foods, organic, in defense of food, optimal health, dietAcclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food but “edible food-like substances.” His latest book is called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

In this interview with Amy Goodman, Pollan discusses nutrition, food science and the current American diet. According to Pollan:

“Food’s under attack from two quarters. It’s under attack from the food industry, which is taking, you know, perfectly good whole foods and tricking them up into highly processed edible food-like substances, and from nutritional science, which has over the years convinced us that we shouldn’t be paying attention to food, it’s really the nutrients that matter. And they’re trying to replace foods with antioxidants, you know, cholesterol, saturated fat, omega-3s, and that whole way of looking at food as a collection of nutrients, I think, is very destructive ...

“Basically the food has gotten more complex ... you can’t really make money selling things like, oh, oatmeal, you know, plain rolled oats. And if you go to the store, you can buy a pound of oats, organic oats, for seventy-nine cents. There’s no money in that, because it doesn’t have any brand identification. It’s a commodity, and the prices of commodity are constantly falling over time. So you make money by processing it ... you take those oats, and you turn them into Cheerios, and then you can charge four bucks ...

“We’ve known this for a hundred years, that if you eat this Western diet ... lots of processed food, lots of refined grain and pure sugar, lots of red meat and processed meats, very little whole grains, very little fresh fruits and vegetables ... about 80 percent of heart disease, at least as much Type II diabetes, 33 to 40 percent of cancers all come out of eating that way, and we know this.”

For more of Pollan’s insights, click on the link below.

 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

In case you didn’t already know this, Michael Pollan is the same New York Times author who wrote the brilliant article about the perils of factory-farmed beef back in 2002. He also published the book Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006, which is well worth reading if you have not already done so.

In this interview, Pollan discusses many of the problems with our modern, Western “food-like” diet, and the underlying causes, including:

  • How dietary recommendations based on nutrient content has led you astray from real foods
  • The real reason why food products have become more complex
  • Why refined food products are so pervasive despite the knowledge that they damage your health
  • How nutrition science is actually not meant to help you, but rather allow food companies to make health claims to increase profits
  • Why whole foods are so much more expensive than processed foods
  • Why you cannot get sound dietary advice from your government

Today’s Recklessness is a Mortgage on Tomorrow

It all boils down to this: if you want to optimize your health, you must return to the basics of healthy food choices.

The problem is, there is so much confusion about what is healthy – and in some cases, whether or not something is actually food -- and as Pollan describes, one of the reasons is due to the obsessive focus on individual ingredients or nutrients.

The simplest way back toward health is to focus on WHOLE foods; foods that have not been processed or altered from their original state. Food that has been grown or raised as nature intended, without the use of chemical additives, pesticides and fertilizers.

Speed is of paramount importance to most people. Fast food and processed food products are the norm for most working people simply because of its ease and speed. Likewise, most people want to change their health status, or their weight, quickly. Hence the plethora of drugs and processed foods that promise to do just that.

Well, folks, here’s a thought for you to chew on; the FASTEST way to optimal health is through choosing a diet made up of whole foods. Making your food selections based on your nutritional type can speed up your progress even further.

So if you’re REALLY interested in speeding up your recovery from disease, losing weight and increasing your overall health quickly, putting your daily diet front and center is akin to zipping down an empty expressway, compared to toiling through a traffic jam.

Why?

Because whole foods give you MORE than the sum of their individual nutrients.

Whole, organic foods contain so many other things that work together synergistically, making them superior to anything that contains only the active ingredient (and frequently as a synthetic version at that).

That’s also one of the reasons why I do not put a major focus in my health recommendations on supplements. There is a danger in getting too hung up on particular nutrients because you will consistently miss your mark.

Eating a diet of processed foods while popping vitamins and supplements, thinking you’re getting everything you need for health, is a reckless miscalculation that will extract its true cost in the form of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Any amount of time and money you save today by stopping at a fast food restaurant, you’re bound to repay later when you’re too ill to lead an active life.

Your Future Health Depends on Today’s Choices

Sad but true, multi-national corporations are forcing small organic farmers out of business. However, by realizing that they are the key to your good health, you can help them not only stay in business, but prosper, as you begin making healthier choices for yourself and your family.

And remember, a diet based on local, organic foods doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive for the average family or single consumer. One way to keep costs down is to visit farmers' markets and use Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Not only is their food fresher and healthier for you, but it is far more environmentally friendly, as large amounts of fuel are not wasted in transporting it to you.

Here are some great resources to obtain wholesome food:

Farmers’ Markets

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA’s)

Other Organizations and Online Suppliers 

For even MORE links to cool organizations like the “National Farm to School Program,” or the “Farm to Hospital Program,” don’t miss my resource page Promoting Sustainable Agriculture.


[+] Sources and References

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