From the grocery store to television ads, we are overloaded with packaged foods that claim to be healthy. Between that and the fad diets, it's so hard to know what to eat anymore. But it doesn't have to be this way. In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan gives three easy rules to follow for healthy eating. They will completely transform how you think about food. It's an absolute must read for everyone.

The book

Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food book coverThere is more food than ever before in our grocery stores. Boxed in packages with claims of health and ingredients we can't pronounce, much of this food isn't really food at all according to Michael Pollan. In his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's ManifestoPollan examines the relationship between nutritionism and the Western diet and how it's ultimately causing us to be less healthy.

Pollan starts the book out with a look at the age of nutritionism and how we've gone from thinking in terms of food as a whole to focusing on the parts of the food, such as fats, vitamins and carbohydrates. Once you have a full understanding of how food science has changed the way we eat, he starts in on the Western diet and the many diseases associated with it.

Thankfully, Pollan doesn't stop there. Instead, he finishes In Defense of Food with some very important and easy-to-follow rules for helping each and every one of us eat better.

The rules

On the very first page of In Defense of Food, Pollan lays out his rules for what we should be eating. They are very short and very simple...


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Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

When I first read those rules, I was a little shocked. I eat food. I don't eat too much. I could eat more plants. But then I read about the rules. It was life changing to say the least.

Pollan has some rules of thumb to follow which include 'avoid foods that make health claims.' That one tip cuts out about two-thirds of the food on the grocery store shelves.

Most of what's available in the grocery store and thought of as food, isn't really food according to Pollan. In fact, he calls it "edible foodlike substances." These foodlike substances include nondairy creamer, margarine, breakfast cereal bars and the countless other packaged goods available in stores. To help you know what real food is, Pollan has some rules of thumb to follow which include "avoid foods that make health claims." That one tip cuts out about two-thirds of the food on the grocery store shelves.

After defining what real food is and how to find it, Pollan goes on to talk about eating more plants and the benefits of eating organic, well-grown whole foods. I think this section is particularly important because many of us, myself often included, don't eat enough greens. They are an important part of a balanced diet and we need to consume them to stay healthy and reverse the effects of the Western diet.

Spend more money on better quality food and eat less of it to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The second rule is the last one covered in the book and that is "not too much." I think we can all agree that portion sizes in the Western diet can be very large. A healthy portion of steak should fit in the palm of your hand, yet many people will consume a 12-ounce steak in one sitting. One suggestion Pollan makes in this section is to spend more money on better quality food and eat less of it to maintain a healthy lifestyle. That might sound strange at first but once you read his reasoning, you'll agree.

The recommendation

I first picked up this book almost four years ago and since then I've read it more than once and have sent copies to numerous friends and relatives. It's an absolute eye-opener when it comes to nutritionism and the aisles full of food in the grocery store. If you're looking to improve your health and stay out of the doctor's office, I highly recommend you start with reading In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. It really will change the way you live and eat.

More on healthy eating

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