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Real Food: What to Eat and Why
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Real Food: What to Eat and Why

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  4,908 ratings  ·  473 reviews
Yes, Virginia, you can butter your carrots. The country's leading expert on farmers' markets and traditional foods tells the truth about the foods your grandmother praised but doctors call dangerous.

Everyone loves real food, but they're afraid bacon and eggs will give them a heart attack--thus the culinary abomination known as the egg-white omelet. But it turns out that to
Hardcover, 1st U.S. Edition, 343 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Bloomsbury (first published 2006)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  4,908 ratings  ·  473 reviews

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Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
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
Jan 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Lisa R.
Jun 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nancy Donaghue
Oct 05, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Liz De Coster
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, food, health
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
Jenn "JR"
Dec 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-ag-history
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 quick a ...more
Nov 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: read2007, food
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't r
Annette Towler
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After realizing that I was eating too much processed food, I picked up this classic by Nina Planck. It's an excellent read and it strengthened my resolve to shift to a diet that focuses more on protein, vegetables, and fruit. I've been trying Nina's ways for a month now and I feel good! No more sugar highs and crashes and I've also noticed a change in taste sensations. I also agree with Nina about the food industry's tactics to convince us that fat is bad. I grew up in a farming town in England ...more
Jul 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! It explains the history of different food groups (dairy, meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, fats) and biologically how they affect the body. This is so informative and heavily cited with an updated 10th anniversary edition for 2016 so the information is relatively fresh.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book should have been titled, "My Diet: Eat What I Eat Because It's Old (aka Real) Food."

Based on the contents of this book, I was not surprised to learn that Planck's nutritional science credentials consist of the fact that she grew up on a farm and created several farmer's markets throughout London and Washington, D.C.

Ironically, despite having an issue with Planck's blatant cherry-picking of the same science she often criticizes, I agree with the basic premise of the book, which is that
Jun 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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"
Nov 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Apr 30, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Loved this. Made me remember being a child and having good food and thinking I was deprived. LOVED it
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-cooking
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
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Engaging, informative, revolutionary -- this is a MUST READ / MUST OWN!!!!
Nina's upwardly mobile parents abandoned their promising career track in the northeast to move to Virginia and raise vegetables. She fleshes out the whys and wherefores with summaries of nutritional studies. As a young adult Nina opted for the vegetarian and then vegan lifestyle. Puzzled that her healthy lifestyle was neither producing robust health nor slimness for her, she began reading and researching the history of fo
Rebecca Duncan
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, health
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
Vmichelle Skinner
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 22, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Jun 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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! ...more
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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

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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
“Frugal cooks use small amounts of meat and fat to supplement the vegetables, grains, and beans that provide most of the calories Think of collard greens with fatback in the American South, Latino refried beans with lard, and the Asian stir-fry with a little pork and lots of rice.” 0 likes
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