In Defense of Food

Recently I read a novel for my persuasive writing class at BYU called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (written by Michael Pollan).  While I probably wouldn’t have bought it myself to read just based on the cover, I did find it rather interesting.  The main point of the book is to convince the reader to follow a few simple guidelines for eating: “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”

While on the surface this recommendation seems rather obvious, reading the book made me question my eating habits.  How much did I really follow these words when I ate?  While looking at my foodstuffs with a more critical eye I realized that most everything I owned wasn’t really that good for me.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to make changes.  I’ve been so ingrained with the traditions of my parents that I have a hard time breaking out of them now that I’m in college.  Even still I eat raw vegetables at dinner because that’s what my dad served me and my siblings.  When I first started living on my own I relied on frozen dinners and other preprepared food like my mom got for us.

However, I’ve slowly altered that trend.  Throughout several months at BYU, I’ve gradually cooked more for myself, eaten out less, bought more natural foods, and eaten more fruits and vegetables.  I’ve done this because I like to cook, I take recommendations and things I’ve learned from other people, I followed the example of some of my former roommates who try to eat healthier, and because I’ve read the book which inspired this post.  Each of these have helped to build the better habits I now practice; no one event could have done it alone.  Even now I am slowly adjusting to adopting better eating ways to go about eating.  Some of that adjusting involves eating the unhealthy food I already bought and don’t want to waste.  Some of it involves chipping away at old habits and familiar name brands I’ve used all my life and replacing them with healthier, more natural products.  It’s possible, just slow.

Honestly though, the main reason I agree with the book is because it told me what I already thought but in a stronger, bolder way.  Of course it makes sense to eat foods where you know exactly where all the ingredients came from without having to take a chemistry class first.  Of course it’s better to eat more fruits and vegetables.  There’s no way we can even hope to duplicate the product of millions of years of evolution in a few years with even the most advanced technology we developed in a single century.  Sure it’s good to study nutrition, but we should rely on what we evolved to consume for our sustenance – food.  Real, natural, whole, unaltered food.  Our bodies can’t really handle artificial “foods” as well as they can natural ones, so we should take note of that and eat things we can actually digest.  The reason we (well, some of us) are stuck on this terrible artificial diet is because it’s full of things that are hard to find naturally in food – refined sugars, salt, and fat.  All of these are very pleasing to eat, but not good for our health when in such large quantities and when unaccompanied with other nutrients.

Again, it’s obvious.  We just need to do something about it.

I’d recommend reading this book, even if you don’t think you completely agree with it.  There are a lot of interesting points in it, and I like the way the author uses logic and common sense, even if it comes at the expense of the usual number of expected statistics and studies which normally accompany works such as this.  Be warned – the author is a journalist, not a scientist, but I still think you should check it out.


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