Sunday, September 12, 2010

Food Rules

Title: Food Rules
Author: Michael Pollan
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2009

Recommendation: A few quick rules on eating healthy.
Rating: 7/10

Summary + Reactions: The book is really tiny. It literally took me an hour to read the whole thing aloud. And in general it tries to bring across 3 ideas: one that you should eat non-processed foods, second that you should emphasize veggies and healthy foods in your diet, and third that you should eat slowly and avoid snacking too much.

I don't feel that any of the three rules are universally true or should be taken literally. Fortunately the book says as much itself, telling the reader to take the message to heart and not saying that unhealthy food will kill you at the first bite.

Still the book expounds on buying fresh fruits, vegetables, meats in a store (or even better at a local farmers market) and cooking them yourself to avoid preservatives and in general other things you wouldn't typically find in your pantry. One of the first rules of the book is "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food". There are also some interesting and perhaps less intuitive rules for staying away from low-fat food alternatives because they often make up for the lack of fat with carbohydrates and it's actually more healthy to eat the regular version in moderation. They bring up margarine as one such example.

I think it's actually pretty difficult for a modern American person to change their diet to the extent where they could avoid all non-processed food. Some things are just too darned convenient (e.g. canned chicken broth), but I do find that I can often cook meals out of raw ingredients at home that taste much better than anything I've ever bought as a prepackaged meal.

Eating in moderation, chewing slowly, stopping before you are full, and avoiding snacking is also advices we've all heard before, but often they are easier said than done. Even though I felt the book relied quite a bit on the arguments of the type "our ancestors did it and they didn't get cancer", there are some interesting studies quoted as well to support the claims. I do wish more of the research was cited, it's not a particularly in-depth study.

Overall, an interesting quick book on healthy eating that gives some practical suggestions that are easy to incorporate at least to some extent in your daily eating habits.

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