July 20, 2010

Book review: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (Michael Pollan).

This relatively short (139 pages) book offers a quick (the whole book can be read within a relatively short time) yet highly useful read as well as a good introduction to the work of Michael Pollan.

In it, Pollan offers up 64 “rules” for anyone interested in eating “real food.” These 64 rules can be summed up in the three major guidelines that are used to separate the sections of the book: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Free from technical jargon yet supported by scientific research, Pollan lays out guidelines to help the reader move toward a healthier diet through a more holistic and cultural approach to eating. These rules were drawn from a wide range of sources, from nutritionists and physicians to folklorists and even grandmothers.

Many rules include a paragraph or two of explanation, some are self-explanatory; none need to be memorized, but all can easily become second nature when making food purchases. Most of the rules are simple good, common sense but at the same time, Pollan does not suggest a particularly Spartan diet, in fact, moderation and eating food that is minimally processed and easily understood serve as the basic guidelines for his overall view.

He also gives a nod to the reality that not everyone can afford to eat well in the United States, but also takes the time to point out that Americans spend less on food (less than ten percent of income) than the citizens of any other nation, while spending more on health care, suggesting an interesting corollary.

If looking for a “quick summer read,” or considering changing eating habits and looking for a place to start, this book his highly recommended. From Penguin Books and available from your local, independent bookstore. (As always, buy local, buy independent, and tell ‘em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

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