Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The second part of Michael Pollan's eating policy is 'mostly plants'. As with 'eat food', he breaks it down with a few guidelines: mostly plants, especially leaves, you are what what you eat eats too, if you have the space, buy a freezer, eat like an omnivore, eat well-grown food from healthy soils, eat wild foods when you can, be the kind of person who takes supplements, eat more like the French, tor the Italians, or the Japanese, or the Indians, or the Greeks, regard nontraditional foods with skepticism, don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet, and have a glass of wine with dinner. Eating leaves is basically a point that Mr. Pollan makes throughout the book that we have basically become a seed-obsessed culture of food, but so many nutrients and valuable anti-oxidants are found in other parts of the plant that we aren't consuming. Seeds like corn, wheat, and soy dominate our diets, but greens, roots, and stems are sort of rare, mostly because they spoil quicker. Don't miss out; pick up some lettuce and kale at the market! If you are not a vegan, this includes what the animals that you consume (including their milk and eggs). Cows should be eating a varied diet, mostly of greens; but industrial farms feed them mostly corn...that limits the amount of phytochemicals that transfer to you, like omega-3 fatty acids. Did you ever notice that the eggs at the farmers' market have brighter, almost orange yolks? That's because the local farmers let the chickens eat a more natural and varied diet instead of stuffing them with grain. The orange color comes from beta-carotene that the chickens are consuming. Freezers are amazing. They allow you to eat locally, even in the off season...and get a steal on local meats. Get a bunch of corn from the farmer now, cut it off the cob and freeze it. Come January when you want some corn on your dinner plate you won't be buying corn from some industrial farm far away. Eat like an omnivore is not anti-veg. This simply means to diversify your diet and consume as many species as possible...and vegans/vegetarians can do that too. This covers all your nutritional bases. Don't limit your options. Eating well-grown food from healthy soils is basically common-sense. If the soil is nutritious for the plant, the plant will be better for the eater, regardless of whether you eat the plant or the eater, you benefit. This is more important than 'organic' because that label can be slapped on a lollipop, and that's certainly not good for you anyway. Granted, it might help if you can ask the farmer who grew it how is soil is and what he's doing to his plants. Wild food is better because the evolutionary process has forced those plants to retain all of the antioxidants and phytochemicals they need to survive; any agriculture means that people have made at least some of those nutrients unnecessary for the plant to produce. Remember that not only does wild meat get more exercise, but it eats wild plants. The supplement guideline doesn't mean that you necessarily pop vitamins, but rather that you care about your health to the degree that you consider these types of things. Traditional diets, of any culture, are good guidelines for preventing disease. None of them include highly-processed food like fruit roll-ups, boxed mac 'n' cheese, frozen pizzas, and TV dinners. The reason you should be skeptical about these non-traditional foods is that they are really quite new to our systems. Along these lines lie soy products. Tofu has been around for a long time with no major diseases resulting, but soy additives to our food products are a new thing, and their entry into our diet (the typical western diet actually contains more soy than those of Japan and China) came right along with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Further along the lines of traditional diets, is the warning to not look for the magic ingredient like olive oil, garlic, or ginger, but rather just look at the foods they are eating and how, it could be the food combinations, prep methods, or eating habits of these cultures that lead to good health. Having a glass of wine with dinner is by far my favorite part of eating plants! Mr. Pollan pretty much is making the point that having alcohol in moderation and with food has been shown to work pretty well, but he warns against abstaining and then going on the typical American weekend drinking binge. All in all, I think you can satisfy this mostly plants rule by stopping by your local farmer's market where you can get a wide array of plants. Better yet, join a CSA this year and you'll be forced to experiment with some new species!