In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  61,328 ratings  ·  6,100 reviews
Michael Pollan's last book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, launched a national conversation about the American way of eating; now In Defense of Food shows us how to change it, one meal at a time. Pollan proposes a new answer to the question of what we should eat that comes down to seven simple but liberating words: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Pollan's bracing and eloqu...more
Hardcover, 205 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Penguin Press HC, The (first published January 1st 2007)
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The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanKitchen Confidential by Anthony BourdainAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverFast Food Nation by Eric SchlosserIn Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Food-Related Non-Fiction
5th out of 646 books — 1,210 voters
The Devil in the White City by Erik LarsonFreakonomics by Steven D. LevittIn Cold Blood by Truman CapoteA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
42nd out of 2,776 books — 4,726 voters


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Ginny Messina
Actually, there is enough good stuff in this book that it probably warrants another star or two. But I was so alarmed at the amount of misinformation here that I can’t bring myself to say that the book is “okay.”

Michael Pollan is right about some of the big stuff. Nutrition research is badly flawed. It has sometimes led us down the wrong road (although it has also provided life-saving findings). The government is far too slow to change its recommendations and has strong ties (to put it mildly)...more
Amy
In the Buddhist tradition there is a level of hell whereby the dead, known as hungry ghosts, are trapped with enormous stomachs and tiny throats unable to swallow anything but the smallest bites of food. Their particular brand of torture is that they are always eating and yet their hunger is never satisfied. These hungry ghosts sound an awful lot like the modern American eater trapped in the unhealthy western diet demonized in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

You may be...more
Ken-ichi
I am conflicted about this book. On the one hand, I agree with Pollan's thesis: food science has not served us well over the past 100 years, and we really should "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I believe that partially because of Pollan's arguments, and the revelatory reporting he did for The Omnivore's Dilemma, but mostly because I've studied biology, and have at least a limited idea of how complex human bodies and human food can be, and how evolution may not have prepared us for Twin...more
Happyreader
I hated reading this book. And that's sad because I agree with his basic premise. Just eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants. And I would add, try and get off your ass once in awhile. But this book was excrutiating to read. I read the first 50 pages, gave up, and went to the last section on his very basic food rules, gave up again. His language was all black and white with blanket condemnations and blanket recommendations, ironic since that's what he condemns in scientific thinking and food...more
Jason Koivu
Books like this make me afraid to eat. Then they make me mad at the way I've been eating. Finally, they make me a better eater.

At the start, the idea seems simple: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." When I read that I thought, okay I can stop reading. I know that already, so I've got this shit down.

But what is food today? It may not be what you think it is. Most of what you find at the grocer's is not food. That complicates things just a little bit, doesn't it?

Pollan complicates that sim...more
James
I am deeply ashamed, depressed, and embarrassed by the fact that such a book as Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food need be written, much less published, critically acclaimed, and enjoyed by someone such as myself. Pollan himself acknowledges the perverse state of affairs saying, “That one should feel the need to mount a defense of ‘the meal’ is sad, but then I never would have thought ‘food’ needed defending, either.”

We should be collectively mortified as a culture because though Pollan greets...more
Ganesh
Jan 13, 2008 Ganesh marked it as to-read
Shelves: food, culture, environment
Last night, I watched Pollan -- who looks just like one of my uncles -- on TV promoting this book. Something wonderful and empowering he said: the food industry pays very close attention to what consumers want.

In fact, they're terrified of us.

For instance, it only took a little over 100 concerned McDonald's customers writing to ask if it were true that the chain served genetically modified potatoes -- that was enough
to get the issue on the agenda at their shareholders' meeting.

Another example...more
Charlotte
Michael Pollan is absolutely on to something with his central thesis; namely, that the American diet has been taken over by "edible foodlike substances" (ie, hyper-processed foods) and the American approach to health as it relates to eating has been taken over by "nutritionism" (ie, the idea that food is nothing more than the sum of its nutrient parts). He makes an excellent case that the current epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. are the inevitable result of this perverse relat...more
Trevor
One of the most remarkable meals I’ve ever eaten was here - http://www.royalmail.com.au/Pages/Foo.... Now, Dunkeld is a long way to go for a meal, even if you do live in Melbourne – and a ten course meal served over many hours with matching wines that costs an arm and three toes possibly isn’t something everyone would think of as value for money. However, unlike the said value for money meals I will never forget the evening I spent at this restaurant. Fantastic food, remarkable wines and delight...more
Patadave
I’m a huge fan of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, (see review here) but only a big fan of In Defense of Food. The first two sections of Defense, “The Age of Nutritionism,” and “The Western Diet and Diseases of Civilization” fit perfectly with Omnivore’s posture of investigative journalism. While Omnivore included Pollan as a character, it came across as a non-biased, or relatively low-biased, intro to the foodstuffs served across America. The first two sections of Defense adhere to this eve...more
Spencer
Feb 07, 2008 Spencer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Thanks for the reminder to update, Ethan!

This book was really eye opening. I think (or thought) of myself as having a pretty healthy diet-- I have the whole wheat blend flaxseed enhanced pasta, the total cereal with nonfat soy milk, the bran muffins and the fish oil capsules.

I AM A DUPE! I've been sucked into the cult of "nutritionism" as Pollans calls it, the belief that what's healthy about the food are the identified micronutrients it contains, and that foods are either healthful elixers or n...more
Andy
**My full review is posted on my blog at: http://citingthetext.blogspot.com

Michael Pollan summarizes his latest book, published January 2008, on the cover and in just seven words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." He admits on the very first page that he has pretty much "given the game away" with that summary, but that he plans to complicate matters a bit in the interest of "keeping things going for a couple hundred more pages." Since I began the book at the start of a four hour bus ride...more
Adam
Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food might best be described as a book which fares best when judged by its cover. Below the title, a reader finds some dietary advice which is not a bad place to start: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." There are a few good ideas inside the book, too. It would be easy not to look much deeper, as Pollan's prose is so lively that most readers won't want to stop and give things a closer look. However, the reader who does bother to check the details sees that In...more
Jamie
Part of the idea behind this whole 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge was to branch out into genres and topics that I might not normally try. While I haven't read anything about perky single British chicks trying to make it on their own and find love in the big city or perky single British vampire chicks trying to fight crime and find love in the big city, this book by Michael Pollen about nutrition and eating well does signal a bit of a departure for me.

Pollen's manifesto here isn't actually that m...more
Laurel
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Those are the first sentences of Michael Pollan's delightful little book In Defense of Food. In fact, as Pollan himself admits, there's not much more to it than that. So, how to fill up a whole book when those three first sentences tell it all?

Well, as simple as that advice seems, the first sentence is more complicated than it may appear. Eat food. Sure. Of course. What else would we eat? But as we all know and often try not to think too much about -- what...more
Jackie "the Librarian"
Covering similar ground to his book The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan discusses ways to eat healthily despite a marketplace flooded with over-processed food and food-like products. He makes a very convincing case that food science has been oversimplified into "nutritionism", which reduces the idea of food to its component nutrients. The problem is that we still don't know everything that food does, and cannot adequately replace it by artificial means.
Even fresh food is suffering from this simplifi...more
Cass
Just finished it. Loved it. I borrowed this copy, which is a shame as I would have highlighted it, I shall have to buy my own copy and highlight it.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

This is the message of the book, brilliant in its simplicity. I plan to get a big poster made up and hung in the kitchen/dining area. I wholeheartedly agree with everything written.

The first half of the book talks about what is wrong with our western food culture. The second half of the books discusses some loose...more
Newengland
Feb 06, 2008 Newengland rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cooks, environmentalists, organic fans, vegetarians and omnivores
Any eaters out there? I thought so. And probably you didn't think you needed to educate yourself about eating since you mastered it way back when you were a babe. Think again! Michael Pollan's call to the ramparts is must-read material for those wondering what the heck happened to food as our great-grandparents knew it. Yeah, SOME of it (real food, I mean) is still around, but an awful lot of the stuff we buy and ingest, in all innocence, is "food" that has unfortunately earned the quotation mar...more
Laura
‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.’

This seems to be my summer of food. I'm in a CSA. I ordered the large family size to push myself into preserving the food. It's more food than I can eat. I give it away to almost everyone who visits. And I love it. It's the best deal I've ever gotten with food. I only hope that I can continue to give it away before it spoils.

Also the last three books I've read have all been about food. And in someways -- they've merged together. Between reading these boo...more
Edan
Nov 19, 2007 Edan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who eat
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
So begins In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, Michael Pollan's informative, frightening, and ultimately inspiring new book. Pollan explores the dangers of nutritionism and traces how we became a culture of fat people eating "Heart Healthy!" Fritos in our cars--and/or a culture of eaters obsessed with health, and yet eating food-like substances that are in fact incredibly harmful to our bodies. He urges us to to ignore the noise of diet fads and journ...more
Lightreads
This was The It Book in food a couple years ago, and I can see why. Its prescriptions are succinct and comprehensible, if not actually easy to follow. Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much. The "eat food" bit is about, y'know, food, and how much of what we eat is actually the nutritional equivalent of Styrofoam packing peanuts. It's a nice thought, and a pretty sound theory, but Pollan vastly overestimates the degree to which people below the upper middle class have access to food, as he defines...more
Keith Akers
I came to this book predisposed to give it 3 or 4 stars. The subtitle, "Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants" sounded like something that (as a vegan) I could get behind, even if Pollan himself isn't vegetarian. I liked "The Botany of Desire," and also am liking "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (haven't finished yet).

This book is well written and contains much that I agree with. But it's not in the same category as these others because of his attitude towards science. Michael Pollan can do better.

The r...more
Lauren
Michael Pollan is a purist when it comes to food, at least from his ideas in this book, and that could easily be translated as "elitist."

In short, I didn't like this as much as Omnivore's Dilemma.
For one, he berates "nutritionism," which to most people would appear to say that the study of nutrition has little to no redeeming value. Acknowledging and agreeing with the limitations of such a reductionist approach to the science of nutrition, I would argue that the true field of nutrition is much...more
Clif Hostetler
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

These cautiously conservative recommendations from this book by Michael Pollan I'm sure are good advice. Humans are descended from a long line of omnivores who found the most readily available food to be plants. Anything sweet such as ripe fruit was more rare and seasonal. With the development of hunting tools humans gained the ability to acquire meat, however the size of the human canine teeth is a good indication that humans are not true carnivores. So i...more
David
I don't read much nonfiction. While reading this, I felt it could have been edited down to about 10 pages and I would have enjoyed it more. I realize he had to illustrate his points, but those examples of bad science or corporate dominance of the food industry were at times frustrating and weak.

Using one of his examples, if I had to go out and find my own food, kill/harvest it and prepare it, I would most definitely find myself heatlthier thanks to many factors intrinsic to that overall lifesty...more
Nif
I've been reading tons of books about food and the American food industry. I was afraid that this one would cover too much of the same ground as Nina Planck's Real Food, but Michael Pollan's take was quite different. He was more interested in how Americans got to this state of being so insecure about what to eat that we are willing to eat chemically engineered food substitutes marketed as "healthy" and "nutritious" instead of actual food that tastes good. Nina Planck has a real platform that say...more
Rebecca
I'm suspicious of my motivation to read this book. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with wanting to be congratulated on my eating habits.

Well, having now finished it, I'm mostly right about that. Congratulations, self. But I also learned a lot, particularly a theory about how Americans think about food that seems utterly true for the majority of my friends and family. Which is that people don't think, "Hey, I'm eating a banana, yum!" they think, "Whoa, too much sugar, not enough protein,...more
Malbadeen
To skip my thoughts on stuff only mildly related to this book, go straight to the capitalized lettering (or better yet, go to the publisher summary of the book):

I really want to not care about this stuff. I mean, how bourgeoisie, what next the environment? cancer awareness? Shouldn't I be off helping 3rd world countries dig wells, or starting community gardens in depressed urban inner city neighborhoods?
Well, I'm not. Instead I'm spending hundreds of dollars picking out (and subsequently hating...more
Elizabeth
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Michael Pollan's succinct dietary advice is so simple it's practically insulting, but thanks to a combination of bad science and government influence, Americans are more confused than ever about how and what to eat. Our ancestors wouldn't recognize most of the "food" we eat today, things like refined pasta fortified with omega-3s or diet soda spiked with vitamins. By refining and processing our food and trying to add the nutrients back in, the modern food...more
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  • Real Food: What to Eat and Why
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  • Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes
  • Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System
  • Good Calories, Bad Calories
  • Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods
  • Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
  • Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty
  • The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter
  • Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It
  • The End of Food
  • Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly
  • Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
  • Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally
  • Everything I Want to Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front
  • The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation
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Michael Pollan is an American author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also the director of the Knight Program in Science and Environmental Journalism.

Excerpted from Wikipedia.
More about Michael Pollan...
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World Food Rules: An Eater's Manual Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

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“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” 382 likes
“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.” 253 likes
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