Some people have a library. Me? I have a library and a Mala, too! Not only does Mala recommend books, but she also hands them over so there is no way I cannot read the book. It kicks-ass. So a few weeks ago, when she slipped me Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual over a pint of beer and plate of fruit, there was zero chance I would not be checking out this little guide of gold. Good thing, too.
Michael Pollan’s Food Rules is a quick-read of “personal policies” about what you should eat and how you should eat it. He does not offer much in the way of explanation of his policies, because they are self-explanatory. If reading book reviews isn’t your thing, what you need to know is this: Pollan suggests we eat real foods that are not highly processed, and when done in the right amount with exercise, all other nutrients and fortifiers do not matter as much. If you enjoy reading book reviews with more depth, keep going.
Section one, Eat Food, is about how to select real foods. With policies such as, “Avoid food products no ordinary person would keep in the pantry,”Avoid food products with more than five ingrediants,” and “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t,” Pollan leads us through selecting foods at the grocery store (and much preferable, the farmer’s market) that make it easier to select real foods.
So much of what we eat is processed and flavored rather than simply being real. One thing all real diets have in common – be they Mediterranean, Japanese, or Native American – is they are comprised of real foods. Some are high in carbs, some in fish oil, some in olive oil, some in veggies; but they are all real. The more real foods you are eating in moderation, the less likely you are to be developing Western diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Section two, Mostly Plants, discusses what to eat above and beyond “real food”. Policies include “Don’t eat cereal that changes the color of your milk,” “Eat mostly plants, especially leaves,” and “The whiter your bread the sooner you’ll be dead.” Pollan took policies from people across the globe, many which were sayings that grandparents and great-grandparents passed onto us. Again, the focus of this section is still eating real food, and how to avoid non-real foods that are heavily marketed to us via all media outlets.
Section three, Not Too Much, focuses on how we should eat. Personal policies presented by Pollan include, “Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it,” “Buy smaller plates and glasses,” and “The banquet is in the first bite” all lead to one conclusion: eat less.* Which makes a lot of sense. This conclusion is exactly what David Kessler discusses throughout all of The End of Overeating. No matter how you phrase it or what cutesy ways to you find to say it, when it comes to food and the Western diet, we all need to eat less.
So, Pollan is most famous for writing The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I have not plowed through due to my incessive need to re-read the Twilight series, research formal uses of Twitter, and my writing business. But based on Food Rules, I might have to library up TOD. Pollan gets a lot right. Much like David Kessler, Pollan’s style is both simplistic but not demeaning. He takes concepts that might not be familiar and explains them, while still writing about those concepts so that if you’re aware of them already, you don’t feel like you’re being spoken to as a pre-teen. It’s refreshing.
*Dr. Dad always tells me “eat less, exercise more.” Sounds like he already knew.