In Defense of Food

By Dr Graeme Wright

Several years ago, I read In Defense of Food and surprisingly it was mentioned in a recent meeting when discussing food and performance. So, I went back and reread it and I reckon it could make a wonderful gift for those who have everything or for that someone in your life who you think they have everything.

The book is published by The Penguin Press and written by Michael Pollan. Michael Pollan is not the guy who made speech impediments famous, he is not the guy who travels around the world, but he was the Knight Professor of Journalism at Berkeley University when the book was published.

Pollan challenges a raft of issues about food and what we are eating. His thesis, in part, is that what we are consuming today is not food but “edible food-like substances” and where we are eating – the car, in front of the TV and increasingly alone, he argues is not actually “eating” at all. He suggests that we are no longer eating the product of nature but that of food science.

He also proposes that Americans (and by default Australians) have created a paradox in that the more they worry about health and nutrition the less healthy they have become. He suggests that thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker, fatter and in the process ruined countless number of meals.

He challenges all of us to consider what is it that we are “eating”. He poses many situations that need redressing and one of my favourites was that when we must read the nutritional value of food on the side of the packet before consumption, then we are in big trouble. He indicates that he is yet to find a nutritional label on the side of a carrot. Love this type of stuff!

His mantra through the book is EAT food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

He links a great number of diseases and disabilities to how and what we eat. He argues that our own personal health is intertwined with the health of the food chain from which we eat and of which we are a part.

Remarkably he also cites the work that Kieran O’Dea completed in the 1980’s up in Derby, Western Australia with Aboriginals. He highlights the stark contrast that exists in their traditional food intake and their food intake in Derby. This contrast is magnified by the health profiles that were recorded on the Aboriginal group pre and post consumption of traditional tucker. Post traditional tucker their health profiles returned to desired level across many factors. These changes occurred over an incredible short period of time.

It is an amazing book that challenges a great number of food issues.

Enjoy the read!

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