I recently read a book for one of my classes called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, and it was one of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. It focuses on the paradigm called “nutritionism” that America has fallen into.
Nutritionism is based off of the idea that a food is solely a sum of all its individual nutrients. Pollan describes how noticeable it is as you walk down the aisle of the grocery store: “Where the once familiar names of recognizable comestibles- things like eggs or breakfast cereals or snack foods- claims pride of place on the brightly colored packages crowding the aisles, now new, scientific-sounding terms like “cholesterol” and “fiber” and “saturated fat” began rising to large-type prominence.”
When I read this I couldn’t help but think, why is this a bad thing? America is becoming a more health conscious nation, which is a good thing, right? We are an unhealthy country, with our biggest killers being diet-related. But in this lay the paradigm: as we have grown more “health conscious,” we have become an even unhealthier nation. Separating nutrient from food has completely distorted our needs and priorities.
Pollan specifically talks about the low-fat fad. It was the biggest experiment in nutritionism history: the idea that dietary fat is responsible for chronic disease. He goes on to explain what an utter failure it was, and thirty years later we are even unhealthier.
All in all, Pollan boils down eating to seven basic words, which become the catch phrase of this fantastic book: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. It really is that simple, but he expands on it quite a bit. This book caused me to truly examine what I believe in regards to trusting scientists with my food choices and nutrition advice. It made me re-think my philosophy of food, but I believe it was for the better. I truly could go on forever about it, but I think it would be best if you heard it from him.
By Casie Popkin