Michael Pollan is a journalist and the author of many best selling books about food and our food system including ‘Food Rules’, ‘In Defense of Food:
An Eater’s Manifesto”, ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma:
The Secrets Behind What You Eat’ and ‘Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation’.
It can be very confusing and overwhelming with so much contradictory information out there about the best way to eat, and Pollan’s approach to food, to me, seems like common sense- “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.
Below are Pollan’s 6 Rules for Eating Wisely with my interpretation of his rules underneath.
1. Don’t eat anything your great-great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
Imagine how baffled your ancestors would be in a modern supermarket: the epoxy-like tubes of Go-Gurt, the preternaturally fresh Twinkies, the vaguely pharmaceutical Vitamin Water. Those aren’t foods, quite; they’re food products. History suggests you might want to wait a few decades or so before adding such novelties to your diet, the substitution of margarine for butter being the classic case in point. My mother used to predict “they” would eventually discover that butter was better for you. She was right: the trans-fatty margarine is killing us. Eat food, not food products.
My interpretation: stick to natural foods as close to their natural state as possible. Real Food looks like food and is made from food.
2. Avoid foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
It’s not just in cereals and soft drinks but also in ketchup and bologna, baked goods, soups and salad dressings. Though HFCS was not part of the human diet until 1975, each of us now consumes more than 40 lbs. a year, some 200 calories a day. Is HFCS any worse for you than sugar? Probably not, but by avoiding it you’ll avoid thousands of empty calories and perhaps even more important, cut out highly processed foods–the ones that contain the most sugar, fat and salt. Besides, what chef uses high-fructose corn syrup? Not one. It’s found only in the pantry of the food scientist, and that’s not who you want cooking your meals.
My interpretation: this goes for all added sugars.
Added sugar can be added to processed foods with names including Cane juice, Dehydrated cane juice, Cane juice solids, Cane juice crystals, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Date sugar, Malt syrup, Diatase, Diatastic malt, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Dehydrated fruit juice, Fruit juice crystals, Golden syrup, Turbinado, Sorghum syrup, Refiner’s syrup, Ethyl maltol, Maple syrup, Yellow sugar.
3. Spend more, eat less. Americans are as addicted to cheap food as we are to cheap oil.
We spend only 9.7% of our income on food, a smaller share than any other nation. Is it a coincidence we spend a larger percentage than any other on health care (16%)? All this “cheap food” is making us fat and sick. It’s also bad for the health of the environment. The higher the quality of the food you eat, the more nutritious it is and the less of it you’ll need to feel satisfied.
My interpretation: the stats are similar for Australians with 10.6% of our annual income spent on food and 9.4% on health care. From my own personal experience, I have saved money on my grocery bill by eating Real Food and also decreased my spending on health care as I no longer take daily anti depressants and anti inflammatory medications.
4. Pay no heed to nutritional science or the health claims on packages.
It was science that told us margarine made from trans fats is better for us than butter made from cow’s milk. The more I learn about the science of nutrition, the less certain I am that we’ve learned anything important about food that our ancestors didn’t know. Consider that the healthiest foods in the supermarket–the fresh produce–are the ones that don’t make FDA-approved health claims, which typically festoon the packages of the most highly processed foods. When Whole Grain Lucky Charms show up in the cereal aisle, it’s time to stop paying attention to health claims.
My interpretation: always read the ingredients on a packet (or eat food that doesn’t come in a packet!) – don’t trust the marketing.
5. Shop at the farmers’ market.
You’ll begin to eat foods in season, when they are at the peak of their nutritional value and flavor, and you’ll cook, because you won’t find anything processed or microwavable. You’ll also be supporting farmers in your community, helping defend the countryside from sprawl, saving oil by eating food produced nearby and teaching your children that a carrot is a root, not a machine-lathed orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag. A lot more is going on at the farmers’ market than the exchange of money for food.
My interpretation: agree with all of the above!! You will appreciate your food so much more when you know where it came from and who grew it.
6. How you eat is as important as what you eat.
Americans are fixated on nutrients, good and bad, while the French and Italians focus on the whole eating experience. The lesson of the “French paradox” is you can eat all kinds of supposedly toxic substances (triple crÃ¨me cheese, foie gras) as long as you follow your culture’s (i.e., mother’s) rules: eat moderate portions, don’t go for seconds or snacks between meals, never eat alone. But perhaps most important, eat with pleasure, because eating with anxiety leads to poor digestion and bingeing. There is no French paradox, really, only an American paradox: a notably unhealthy people obsessed with the idea of eating healthily. So, relax. Eat Food. And savor it.
My interpretation: Real Food is something to be shared with the people you love. Share food with your family and friends and avoid eating mindlessly in front of the tv or while driving. When you make the effort to plan, shop and cook for those you love (including yourself) you will get far more pleasure out of your food.
All Michael Pollan’s books can be found here.
Michael Pollan – 6 Rules for Eating Wisely. http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/six-rules-for-eating-wisely/
Annual income spent on food. Washington State University. http://wsm.wsu.edu/researcher/wsmaug11_billions.pdf.
How Much do we Spend on Health? http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health/2012/spending-on-health/