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Real Food: What to Eat and Why

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  4,095 ratings  ·  447 reviews
Yes, Virginia, you can butter your carrots. A farmer's daughter tells the truth about cream, eggs, fish, chicken, chocolate--even lard.

Everyone loves real food, but they're afraid butter and eggs will give them a heart attack--thus the culinary abomination known as the egg-white omelet. Tossing out the yolk, it turns out, isn't smart. Real Food reveals why traditional foo
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 2006)
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanIn Defense of Food by Michael PollanThe Dirty Life by Kristin KimballFarm City by Novella Carpenter
Locavore Reading List
10th out of 57 books — 190 voters
The China Study by T. Colin CampbellWhy We Get Fat by Gary TaubesThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanIn Defense of Food by Michael PollanGood Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes
A Nutrition Reading List
80th out of 204 books — 228 voters


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Community Reviews

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Diane
Jan 09, 2008 Diane rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants an excuse to guzzle half and half
I teetered between shock and skepticism for the entire 275 pages of this book, and at the end of it all, I've been persuaded. I now stock my fridge with whole milk, and whole-milk yogurt, I threw out my beloved Brummel and Brown, and I bought pancetta at the grocery store yesterday - all because of Nina Planck's book. The basic premise of Real Food is that industrial foods (essentially all processed and factory-farmed foods) are what cause heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and t ...more
Melissa
I have to admit that I was a pretty skeptical audience. I read this book because I have visted the Plancks' farm and I was curious about what their daughter had to say about food.

I'm a little torn in my opinion--she makes some really good points, but others didn't seem so well considered. The central idea of the book is that humans have been eating animal fats (meat, lard, eggs, dairy) thousands and thousands of years, so we should be eating them rather than industrial imitations created in the
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Caitlin
I recently got into a very interesting conversation with one of my smarter (wink) friends about what humans eat and she brought up a great point, essentially, the heart of this dilemma: she said, "humans have no idea what to eat, I mean, look at us!" And my friend is exactly right, we are a species that doesn't know when to say when and we readily accept "industrial food" in place of "real food," and Planck successfully conveys this fact. This book made so much sense it was frustrating. Nina Pla ...more
Kelly Cooke
I didn't finish this. Here's her thing: the healthy way to eat is to eat what our grandparents did. If you had grandparents who lived on a farm, I guess. I mean, my grandparents ate Spam and those little vienna sausages that come out of a can with a disgusting slurping sound. What she means is 'natural' beef, eggs, cheese, oil, butter, whole milk, lots of fruits and vegetables. All food that she calls 'real.' At first, I was into it. She had been a vegetarian and a vegan and all of that. Then sh ...more
Dawn
I don't understand why "real food" must be so joyless, and preachy. The author grew up on what she considers a perfect family farm, strayed from her roots as a young adult, and has since returned to her family's traditional ways--just like the parable of the prodigal son.

If you want to read yet another self-righteous rant about how terrible the American food industry is, you'll find a friend in Planck's book. However, if you want to read an actual handbook on "real food," I recommend Nigella Law
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Lisa R.
Jun 15, 2008 Lisa R. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in food
This book changed the way I look at food and affirmed something I have felt instinctively for a long time: real foods are the best foods.

I was worried I wouldn't like this book because I am a vegetarian and had heard it was very anti-vegetarian and vegan. I will say this book is staunchly anti-vegan, but us veggies have nothing to fear (but the book did influence my decision to eat fish again, so now I'm just avoiding poultry and beef).

The emphasis on eating foods that are real (i.e., traditiona
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Nancy Donaghue
Real food is better for you than industrial food. Old, traditional fats like butter, lard, and coconut oil aren't to blame for heart disease, obesity and all the other Western diseases that plague us; new, plant-based fats like canola oil and safflower oil are suspect. Whole milk is good for you; skim milk is not. Etc.

I went back and forth on 2 or 3 stars for this, and settled on 3 only because 2.5 isn't an option. While I agree with Planck's premise that we're demonizing the wrong foods and ne
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Liz De Coster
I have mixed feelings about this book. Planck says she set out to find out more about the science of "real food," and in many instances she does. There was valuable information in this book about nutrition and diets (in the sense of the whole of what one eats, rather than a diet plan). However, I felt the author undermined herself in a number of ways, and I ended up doubting some of the claims she makes. Some examples include:
- Planck frequently uses anecdotes in place of data (for examples, see
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Jennie
if i could give this 2.5 stars, i would. the basic thesis makes intuitive sense to me and is supported in the scientific literature - "real" food is better for us than "industrial" food. fear not the butter nor the meat nor the duck fat. planck is very inconsistent about citing the scientific literature, and her monotone writing style presents JAMA articles with the same weight & merit as her mom's cholesterol story and some book she got on the sale rack at the health food store.

also, i can
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Cristin
Although Planck may have some good points buried deep within (namely, processed foods are bad, "real" foods are good), she bases this book on sweeping generalizations and vague assumptions. Her condescending, borderline-offensive attitude towards vegetarians and especially vegans is startling.

I also have many concerns with the content of this book, which, having taken courses in Boston University's graduate gastronomy program, I would contend are misguided or downright wrong. For example, Planc
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Tessa
My Acupuncturist suggested I read this (after being very happy that I was already "on board" with Micheal Pollen and Barbara King Solver). Very good read, a lot of the exact same information you find in The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal Vegetable Miracle, but then Planck follows up with very specific nutrient information and fascinating accounts of how and why the body absorbs and processes them.

In a nutshell: Eat the way your grandparents ate, and more importantly make sure those "traditional"
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Jenn
Lately, I have been in the habit of reading books that pair together - either by the same author or books that seem to treat the same topic. The two most recent books -- on the heels of the two Michael Pollan books I finished a few weeks ago, are "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" by Sandor Katz, the author of "Wild Fermentation" and "Real Food: What to Eat & Why" by Nina Planck. Since the Planck book is the least useful and most controversial, I'll start there - hoping to make this qui ...more
Elyssa
I have read a lot of books about food lately to seek guidance about what and how to eat for optimal health. This book provides strong arguments with supporting documentation for something that I have suspected for awhile: rather than focusing on fat/low fat, good carbs/bad carbs, being carnivorous or vegetarian, it really comes down to the quality of the food you eat.

Nina Planck illustrates how mass-produced, industrialized, and processed food has caused poor health more than eating supposedly
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Katie
i am trying to be more liberal with my 5 star ratings, and this book happens to be the first beneficiary.

the premise of this book is similar to the premise of a lot of books that have come out recently. the most healthy things to eat are real foods, foods that were eaten hundreds of years ago. meat, dairy, real fats, etc... what i liked about it is she went into detail with what the nutritional value of different food items. she explained the nutritional differences between powdered milk, grain
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Lisa
I hate to point out the obvious but the book spends a great deal of time discussing the various types of "fats" and without an official nutrition background by the last few chapters I found myself dog paddling a bit in the explanations of the HDL LDL ratios monosaccharides, disaccharides saturated monosaturated...I slightly coasted in general towards the end as the list grew longer in the various terms and explanations being used to get the message across to the reader.

The book efinitely influen
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Shelby *wants some flying monkeys*
Loved this. Made me remember being a child and having good food and thinking I was deprived. LOVED it
Faith
I'm on a food book kick, as I am desperately trying to inspire myself to cook better for my family. I am completely burned out trying to do this. As a result we eat way, way too much carry out and junk food. It has got to stop!

I've only read the first chapter so far but there is something very interesting to me. The author talks about how she grew up in VA on real food. Her parents were friends with the Newcombs who started the Potomac Vegetable Garden. Well, their original garden and roadside s
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Lisa
I am completely perplexed as to how she found a publisher for this nonsense. She offered zero useful information and contradicted herself at every turn. She had an entire section bashing soy and in the next chapter stated it is useful to reduce cholesterol then in the following chapter built an argument as to why cholesterol doesn't matter. She dismissed research findings and used her own anecdotal experience as support for her views. She picks and chooses what research she wants to use. She cor ...more
Anina
Ok, so I love this. Please ask me to borrow it. I picked it up at a friend's house and started reading it and immediately went out and bought it. I am partial to food and nutrition writing as it is, and nutrition trends, but reading this, something just clicked.

As everyone else has said, this book is basically about how industrial fats and refined foods, especially sugar, white flour, and hydrogenated vegetable oils, are what is causing Americans to have a high rate of heart attacks, cancer, an
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Rebecca Duncan
In the genre of food lit, this one is missable. Not saying much that hasn't been covered better elsewhere, it should more accurately be called "Real Fats," because that's where the author spends most of her time. There's also too much subjectivity involved; the author seems to want the reader to accept as foregone fact that whole, raw milk tastes better than skim homogenized, when really many of her assertions are a matter of personal, well, taste, rather than concrete fact (though she frames th ...more
Vmichelle Skinner
I loved this book! Although it sent me into sort of a mind-trip for awhile seeking perfection in my food. I considered raw milk, started eating raw cheese, and I actually drove forty minutes once to an organic chicken farm for eggs and a whole chicken. The chicken ended up still being kind of "hairy" and had the long neck still attached that I couldn't figure out how to cut it off and it wouldn't fit in my stew pot. I ended up cooking it and then it was stringy and tasteless and tough. Sigh. Ha! ...more
Tryn
Mar 30, 2010 Tryn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
I read one nutrition book each year and try to apply the best advice I glean from it. This is a good one. I like the engaging, personal style and the author's farm memories, mixed with factual reports on current research. What will I do differently after reading this book? Eat more fish. Try cod liver oil. Learn to prepare fermented vegetables. Make my own chicken broth. Eat less sugar. Avoid fake and refined fats, like canola and vegetable oil. Let go of the last bit of guilt I may have harbore ...more
Becca
I did not finish this book. While I don't disagree with much of what I did read, I couldn't help feel judged. For someone lacking any formal education in nutrition or agriculture, Planck proffers opinions as if they were facts. While there may be evidence to back up her claims, the book is poorly cited. It waffles between being a story of personal experience and childhood anecdotes and a scientific text book you'd expect to find on a reading list for an R.D. program.

If you are interested in trad
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Ashley
Aug 26, 2009 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
This is an easy (and inspiring - don't I need to go get coconut oil, right this minute?) read, moreso than Michael Pollan or Marion Nestle, offering much food for thought (literally) regarding not only what but how to eat, and raising questions that aren't addressed often enough. There are no recipes or romantic food writing here; instead, the author explains how she returned to eating a diet of real food and why you should too. The research doesn't weigh the book down, but is enough to support ...more
Chris
May 22, 2012 Chris rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
I found the overall thesis compelling, but I wish Planck had acknowledged the structural barriers placed between most of the population and 'real food'. There are other ethical ethical sidesteps, too - I absolutely believe that fish is important to good nutrition, but how are we supposed to reconcile that with the overfished state of the oceans? Eating low on the food chain would be a start (sardines rather than tuna), but she barely brushes past the question.

I also wish I had the background to
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Alexis
Not bad -- a little heavy on the Weston Price woo, and not as good as Michael Pollan's books (but what is?!). I didn't find the suggestions terribly practical for a lot of people. (What do you do if you just don't like vegetables much? How should people in northern climates eat seasonally? Etc.) Some of the scientific explanations for the way some things (for example, cholesterol) were interesting and well-explained -- though that's not my field, so I have no idea if they're accurate!
Ellen
While at times the tone of this book got pretty preachy, overall I think she makes some really good points, and the more I read the more I was convinced by her arguments. This will not be the last book I read on diet and nutrition, because I find the topic so interesting, but I can see myself referring back to this book at times.

One thing she doesn't really address is that for many people, finding "real" food can be difficult or impractical. It is illegal to sell raw milk in my state, but I can
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Niki
I think everyone should read this book. It changed my long-held & informed views on nutrition, which is saying a lot after 20+ years as a vegetarian. I haven't eaten any red meat yet, but have bought a couple free-range chickens & made the most of them, including making stock with the skin & bones. Raw milk is illegal to buy here, so I make do with homo. We do what we can, right?
Julie
I love food books of all sorts. This one is interesting because it is recommending that we add whole milk, beef, all the taboo foods back into our diets as long as they are of the grass-fed, free-range, organic type and not the processed type that we currently can easily buy. I wonder what the authors of The China Study would have to say about this.
Jessietaylortanner
I agree with eating whole foods and eliminating processed foods, but I am not in a place where I can or want to eat unpasteurized and whole fat dairy, organic and grass-fed everything. Too extreme and puritanical to be practical, especially as a suburban stay-at-home mom to small children.
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Nina Planck, author of Real Food and the Farmer's Market Cookbook, is an expert on local and traditional food. In 1999, she created the first farmers' markets in London, England. In New York City, she ran the legendary Greenmarkets. Nina lives in Greenwich Village with cheesemonger Rob Kaufelt and their son, Julian."
More about Nina Planck...
Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks The Farmers' Market Cookbook

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“What is true of meat is true of all fat-and-protein pairs: they go together. Consider, for example, two near-perfect foods: eggs and milk. Both foods are a complete nutritional package, designed for a growing organism's exclusive nutrition, and must contain everything the body needs to assimilate the nutrients they contain. Thus the fats in the egg yolk aid digestion of the protein in the white, and lecithin in the yolk aids metabolism of its cholesterol. The butterfat in milk facilitates protein digestion, and saturated fat in particular is required to absorb the calcium. Calcium, in turn, requires vitamins A and D to be properly assimilated, and they are found only in the butterfat. Finally, vitamin A is required for production of bile salts that enable the body to digest protein. Without the butterfat, then, you don't get the best of the protein, fat-soluble vitamins, or calcium from milk. That's why I don't eat, and cannot recommend, egg white omelets and skim milk. They are low-quality, incomplete foods.” 1 likes
“In 2005, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that eating three and a half ounces (100 grams) of dark chocolate daily decreased blood pressure and significantly improved sugar metabolism by increasing sensitivity to insulin.” 0 likes
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