Friday, November 07, 2008

Book Review: In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan is a very interesting, albeit poorly written book. Pollan gives a different perspective on the whole nutrition and food industry. His premise is that by breaking down foods and focusing on their micronutrients, scientists/nutritionists/doctors have actually lost sight of the big picture. The way various nutrients act together and the way each, individual person reacts to the various nutrients is too complex of a system to treat as a sum of it’s individual parts.

Pollan makes the argument that the various nutrition and health related claims, suggestions, recommendations, etc. haven’t made us healthier, in fact in some cases has made things worse. He gives the example of margarine. It was touted as being healthier than butter because it contained less saturated fat. What people didn’t realize at the time was the trans fat in the margarine was actually worse than the saturated fat.

My brief little blurb here doesn’t do it justice. If you’re interested on a different viewpoint on the food industry and “nutritionism”, I would highly recommend it. You may not agree with what is offered but it should at least give you chance to look at nutrition and health claims from a new angle. My only criticism is that it’s poorly written from a grammar/punctuation standpoint. Pollan must write like he talks which doesn’t work out well especially since I don’t know him and therefore can’t imagine him saying what’s written. There are several run-on sentences and I frequently had to go back and reread a paragraph because I couldn’t follow what was written. If you are a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation, the interesting content won’t be worth the frustration of reading it. Heck, if you’re a stickler for grammar and punctuation, you’ve barely made it through this review!


Kirstin said...

I haven't ready Michael Pollen - I keep asking for "The Omnivore's Dilemma" for xmas/birthdays but no luck yet.
My friend recommends his "The Botany of Desire" which looks at the relationship between humans and plants. If you're really curious about how he sounds, there are some interviews available through npr. As a side note, how awesome that someone with the last name of Pollen wrote about botany.

If you're looking for a new reading recommendation, I recently finished "Heat" by Bill Buford. I think you can tell that he used to be a newspaper magazine writer, but overall the book is a fascinating look at food and a professional kitchen.

Jenny said...

Hmm, thanks for the recommendations. I'll definitely look into them. I'm currently reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma". I just started it so I really don't have a sense of how it is yet. Maybe I'll feel inspired to write a review of it when I'm done.