Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eat Food

I have been reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan. This is a fantastic book and I would certainly recommend it to any of you who want to explore the issues of eating more. For those of you who prefer to direct your prana elsewhere, I plan to sum up the 'manifesto' for you in three installments. He sums up how to craft your diet with this statement: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." At the end of the book each statement gets its own chapter. Eating food seems simple, but really isn't when you are faced with the wide array of edible options available to us today. Mr. Pollan gives us a few guidelines to stay on track: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food, avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup, avoid food products that make health claims, shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle, and get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Eating locally should help you identify food very clearly. I'm pretty sure my great-grandmothers would agree that everything I buy at the farmers' market or at Reading Terminal Market is food, and pretty good food at that. I think back to my great grandmothers and food, three of them were still alive when I was young. At my dad's grandmother's house my sister and I were fed peanuts, they had a garden and a huge blueberry bush in the yard. My mom's grandmother was in town once and she made some applesauce from fresh apples. Strange and numerous ingredients absolutely sound processed, and infiltrated by chemicals. The most 'processed' thing I typically get from the local sources is vanilla yogurt. It surpasses the 5 ingredient rule by two or three, but I know exactly what everything in it is without relying on my chemistry background, so I think that's pretty good! But beware of crazy ingredients that have you relying on your chemistry education to pronounce correctly for sure...and long lists of ingredients. That vanilla yogurt is a far cry from the ingredient label on the plain: cultured whole milk from grass-fed Jersey cows; it's likely not as healthy for me either. Avoiding health claims means basically those things that come in boxes and bags screaming things like low fat, low cholesterol, rich in omega-3, and full of anti-oxidants. Mr. Pollan claims that these companies have paid big bucks to find a way to cover up that a bag of chips will never actually be good for you and these things are highly processed so that they can come in a bag or box and not rot for a few years. I can't remember when that tomato from the farmer came in a package screaming I have antioxidants out the whazoo! The farmer a) doesn't have that kind of money, b) doesn't create waste by using packaging, and c) doesn't need to because we know tomatoes are good for us. I can't vouch a whole lot for the peripheries of the supermarket claim. When I go to the store it is typically for staples like flour, pasta, and rice that I can't get elsewhere, where my fresh food comes from. These staples actually are in the middle of the store. Getting out of the supermarket is exactly what I am all about! I find it so valuable not only for your health, but also for the economy and the environment. Reference: Pollan, M. 2008. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Penguin Books, New York, New York.

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