Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Food Rules???

The book that changed my whole outlook on food and thus began my new food journey is called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  You can see him guest appear on many food documentaries, and he has written other related books, such as The Omnivore's Dilemma and his most recent, Food Rules.  

Pollan describes a culture that has become increasingly confused on what we're supposed to eat.  People in leadership that are supposed to be looking out for our general well-being (ex: Food and Drug Administration, USDA) have unknowingly (and possibly knowingly) made mistakes on telling the people what to eat and what to avoid.  We listen to them (because why wouldn't we?) and try to eat those extra omega-3's, whole grains, low-fat dairy...  We have broken food down into its parts and try to get healthy by taking supplements and getting more Vitamin C.  Pollan makes it clear that people have known what to eat for thousands of years, and a healthy human race has been the result (until recently with the industrialization of our food).  For example, did you know that the beautiful marriage of flavors between tomatoes and olive oil is no coincidence?  The characteristics of olive oil (fat) make the lycopene (powerful antioxidant) found in tomatoes more accessible to our bodies.

So why are we listening to people who might have less-than-perfect motives, and just look into our human heritage and classic food traditions?

Michael Pollan points out a phenomenon called the American Paradox:  the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we become.  So what is going on?  Nutrition science has replaced common sense.  I think we need to just trust the senses that God has given us at birth (ex: "this tomato tastes great with olive oil!"), to eat what he has given us (plants from the earth), to use animals in a respectful way (healthy animals mean healthy meat and eggs), and to give back to the earth in order to sustain future generations of food eaters.  So...what does this look like?

Pollan lays out in his book Food Rules several "rules" or ways of eating that will help us as a nation get back on track in becoming healthy again.  And the first thing he says is: stop eating the western diet.  He mentions Dr. Denis Burkitt, an English doctor stationed in Africa during WWII, who gave many of the western diseases their name.  "The only way we are going to reduce disease", he said, "is to go backwards to the diet and lifestyle of our ancestors" (In Defense of Food, p.142).  Sounds easy enough in theory.  So instead of worrying so much about specific nutrients, we should simply avoid any food that has been processed and focus on filling our bodies with clean (organic), whole foods.  In this culture, though, exactly how easy is that?

I am ok with rules.  For the most part, I believe rules are there for a common good.  But when I saw that Pollan mentions 83 food rules I was a bit skeptical.  I thought I'd use this blog as a means to discuss the rules (one or more rules at a time) and come up with recipes and ways of living that would help me change my eating and grocery buying habits, and ultimately my health.  Feel free to take this journey with me, disagree with the rules, or take on the challenge of applying these rules to your own life.  I'd like to hear how it goes!

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