In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
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In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

4.1 207
by Michael Pollan

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What to eat, what not to eat, and how to think about health: a manifesto for our times

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Humans used to know how to eat well,


What to eat, what not to eat, and how to think about health: a manifesto for our times

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." These simple words go to the heart of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, the well-considered answers he provides to the questions posed in the bestselling The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Humans used to know how to eat well, Pollan argues. But the balanced dietary lessons that were once passed down through generations have been confused, complicated, and distorted by food industry marketers, nutritional scientists, and journalists-all of whom have much to gain from our dietary confusion. As a result, we face today a complex culinary landscape dense with bad advice and foods that are not "real." These "edible foodlike substances" are often packaged with labels bearing health claims that are typically false or misleading. Indeed, real food is fast disappearing from the marketplace, to be replaced by "nutrients," and plain old eating by an obsession with nutrition that is, paradoxically, ruining our health, not to mention our meals. Michael Pollan's sensible and decidedly counterintuitive advice is: "Don't eat anything that your great-great grandmother would not recognize as food."

Writing In Defense of Food, and affirming the joy of eating, Pollan suggests that if we would pay more for better, well-grown food, but buy less of it, we'll benefit ourselves, our communities, and the environment at large. Taking a clear-eyed look at what science does and does not know about the links between diet and health, he proposes a new way to think about the question of what to eat that is informed by ecology and tradition rather than by the prevailing nutrient-by-nutrient approach.

In Defense of Food reminds us that, despite the daunting dietary landscape Americans confront in the modern supermarket, the solutions to the current omnivore's dilemma can be found all around us.

In looking toward traditional diets the world over, as well as the foods our families-and regions-historically enjoyed, we can recover a more balanced, reasonable, and pleasurable approach to food. Michael Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy.

Editorial Reviews

Jane Black
…in this slim, remarkable volume, Pollan builds a convincing case not only against that steak dinner but against the entire Western diet. Over the last half-century, Pollan argues, real food has started to disappear, replaced by processed foods designed to include nutrients. Those component parts, he says, are understood only by scientists and exploited by food marketers who thrive on introducing new products that hawk fiber, omega-3 fatty acids or whatever else happens to be in vogue…what makes Pollan's latest so engrossing is his tone: curious and patient as he explains the flaws in epidemiological studies that have buttressed nutritionism for 30 years, and entirely without condescension as he offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave. That's no easy feat in a book of this kind.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…a tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be reduced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential…In this lively, invaluable book—which grew out of an essay Mr. Pollan wrote for The New York Times Magazine, for which he is a contributing writer—he assails some of the most fundamental tenets of nutritionism: that food is simply the sum of its parts, that the effects of individual nutrients can be scientifically measured, that the primary purpose of eating is to maintain health, and that eating requires expert advice…Some of this reasoning turned up in Mr. Pollan's best-selling Omnivore's Dilemma. But In Defense of Food is a simpler, blunter and more pragmatic book, one that really lives up to the "manifesto" in its subtitle.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Pollan provides another shocking yet essential treatise on the industrialized "Western diet" and its detrimental effects on our bodies and culture. Here he lays siege to the food industry and scientists' attempts to reduce food and the cultural practices of eating into bite-size concepts known as nutrients, and contemplates the follies of doing so. As an increasing number of Americans are overfed and undernourished, Pollan makes a strong argument for serious reconsideration of our eating habits and casts a suspicious eye on the food industry and its more pernicious and misleading practices. Listeners will undoubtedly find themselves reconsidering their own eating habits. Scott Brick, who narrated Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, carries forward the same tone and consistency, thus creating a narrative continuity between the two books. Brick renders the text with an expert's skill, delivering well-timed pauses and accurate emphasis. He executes Pollan's asides and sarcasm with an uncanny ability that makes listening infinitely better than reading. So compelling is his tone, listeners may have trouble discerning whether Brick's conviction or talent drives his powerful performance. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 26). (Dec.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
" Michael Pollan [is the] designated repository for the nation's food conscience."
-Frank Bruni, The New York Times

" A remarkable volume . . . engrossing . . . [Pollan] offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave."
-The Washington Post

"A tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be redced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential... [a] lively, invaluable book." --Janet Maslin, The New York TImes

" In Defense of Food is written with Pollan's customary bite, ringing clarity and brilliance at connecting the dots."
-The Seattle Times

Library Journal
★ 09/01/2014
Journalist Pollan argues that we should only eat the sort of things that our great grandmothers would recognize.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.01(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"In his hugely influential treatise The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan traced a direct line between the industrialization of our food supply and the degradation of the environment. His new book takes up where the previous work left off. Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of health, this powerfully argued, thoroughly researched and elegant manifesto cuts straight to the chase with a maxim that is deceptively simple: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." But as Pollan explains, "food" in a country that is driven by "a thirty-two billion-dollar marketing machine" is both a loaded term and, in its purest sense, a holy grail. The first section of his three-part essay refutes the authority of the diet bullies, pointing up the confluence of interests among manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists-a cabal whose nutritional advice has given rise to "a notably unhealthy preoccupation with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily." The second portion vivisects the Western diet, questioning, among other sacred cows, the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. A writer of great subtlety, Pollan doesn't preach to the choir; in fact, rarely does he preach at all, preferring to lets the facts speak for themselves. (Jan.)" — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Meet the Author

Michael Pollan is the author of five books: Second Nature, A Place of My Own, The Botany of Desire, which received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best nonfiction work of 2001 and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and Amazon, and the national bestellers, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.

A longtime contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine, Pollan is also the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley. His writing on food and agriculture has won numerous awards, including the Reuters/World Conservation Union Global Award in Environmental Journalism, the James Beard Award, and the Genesis Award from the American Humane Association.

Brief Biography

San Francisco Bay Area, California
Date of Birth:
February 6, 1955
Place of Birth:
Long Island, New York
Bennington College, Oxford University, and Columbia University

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In Defense of Food 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 205 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just read a number of reviews and want to write something a little different than what has been expressed. If this diet is new to you and you are afraid you won't like it, relax. A major change in diet takes time getting used to,but the foods Michael Pollan recommends we eat are delicious. At one time, I ate processed food, much of it with a high fat content, too much salt and so on. For years now, I have eaten what Pollan suggests. I love the food I eat and now find fatty, processed foods to be inedible. My tastes have changed. This winter I have been experimenting with new vegetables and ingredients. Yum! Load me up on the simple but delicious flavors of real food! Author ofthe award winning book,Harmonious Environment: Beautify, Detoxify and Energize Your Life, Your Home and Your Planet
Hometownulysses More than 1 year ago
This is a truly enlightening book. Rather than lay out concrete rules and regulations for a diet, Pollan gives you a whole new way to view food - as whole beings. Rather than reduce food to nutrients, Pollan argues that maybe it's better to eat the orange than take Vitamin C. If you want to improve the way you eat and change your understanding of food, then read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In a word, Healthy. Michael Pollack's interesting, informative, and eye-opening breakdown of Western food culture to help us figure out "Why aren't we healthy"? Food is good. Food is necessary. Food is... well, just what IS food anyway? Surprisingly, food is living things. Food is the output from living things. Pollack's book suggests however, that what we eat is getting further away from being actual 'food' the more it is processed, enriched, chemically treated, and boxed for long storage and later microwaving. A compelling read for anyone interested in understanding why things have become so bad for the health of Americans in general, and a source for common sense suggestions for taking back our dinner tables, and possibly shrinking our waistlines. If nothing else, in some measure we may eat - and even BE - healthy. Seven words make up the eating guidelines, and it's these seven words that most of us don't do anymore. EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS. Highly Recommended.
curnet More than 1 year ago
Adding my positive review to so many others. A very accessible, entertaining, and easily read book. He makes a memorable case on how to eat "real food," and created a message that will stay with me for a long time. This is important stuff, and goes beyond the surface of nutrition labels and our empty way of eating.
songcatchers More than 1 year ago
The advice Michael Pollan gives in his new book, In Defense of Food: an eater's manifesto, is sound. It's important to be knowledgeable and make informed decisions about what we put into our bodies.

Pollan talks about food as science in the first part of the book. Scientists are trying to find out what is healthy and what is not but in many cases they are going about it the wrong way. They use a reductionist approach by looking at just vitamin C and lycopene, for instance, instead of looking at the whole tomato.

In the second part of the book Pollan looks at the Western Diet and all the diseases that are linked to it. He talks about how Industry has taken over the supermarket and changed the way we Americans eat.

Lastly, Pollan gives great advice on how we should be eating: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. This may sound simple but he goes into detail about how most of what we see at the grocery store is not real food but food-like substances. Here is some of my favorite advice he gives: If your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it. Shop at the periphery of the grocery store and you'll stay away from most of the junk. If something contains more than 5 ingredients don't eat it.

In Defense of Food really gets one thinking about what our ancestors ate and how different it is from what most Americans eat today. I think we would all do well to follow Pollan's recommendations about what we eat and the way we eat it.
RusselL10 More than 1 year ago
This book was very imformative on how people should and shouldnt eat. what i liked about it was how it didnt really say what people need to you and how they have to eat. It gave options rather than a concrete wall! I thought that was very helpful to me and im sure to alot of other people. Overall it was a very good book to read. i liked the voice, which was serious at times but humoruos at other times. it made the book that much more interesting. Great Book
Reader_Since_Five More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this book for everyone, whether you've done countless hours of research on the topic of food and how it affects us or whether you're just now becoming interested in the topic. Pollan has an engaging writing style that mixes serious research with topical musings of a more philosophic nature. I found the book to be enjoyable and informative - what more can ask for?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I find Michael Pollan a fascinating writer. I've either read or listened to two of his books ("The Omnivore's Dilemma" and "In Defense of Food"), and found myself led down paths of thought that I wouldn't have found on my own. He writes (and thinks) so logically, yet humanely and with humor, that I find myself willingly following him to his unique and thought-provoking conclusions. I tell everyone I know about his amazing perspectives on food. I would recommend his books to anyone!
AvidReaderJA More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly enlightening look at the poor state of affairs concerning the "American Diet" and our food delivery system. Pollen seems to state the obvious, but clearly most Americans don't seem to know "the obvious" or maybe they don't care? They will when they need serious health care and it is not there! Pollen makes it pretty simple to assess what is good to eat and how to go about it. Should be read and distributed throughout schools in this country!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book to inspire and challenge. He's a wonderful voice out there who has inspired many to think differently about food. The drums are louder and the chorus is getting louder for change in our food delivery systems here in the States thanks to Mr. Pollan, Alice Waters, and their colleagues.
GrannyN More than 1 year ago
This book was an eye opener. It is well written, an easy read, yet very informative. I've bought copies for family and friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
just as informative as an eaters manifesto (which i also loved), but much shorter and to the point. great information!
mc-4-ws More than 1 year ago
Although I am still reading this book, I found tons of useful facts that I didn't even know, and some I did know as well. When I was reading I noticed that Pollan used humor, or at least some things I thought funny, and that made the book even better. It was an easy read, but also a little drug on for me. I know you can go on and on when writting research, but I found myself putting it down at boring parts. All in all the book was alright, and I did learn alot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am still reading this book and I am very impressed with it. The writing style is very easy to follow and engaging. I think anyone interested in sorting through all the conflicting advice about diet and food will find Pollan's discussion about the history of nutritionism a freeing and liberating read!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Readable and eye opening, this book will help many people who are trapped in endless diet woes. I've already bought 4 copies for my daughters and friends. Buy it NOW and get happy with your food!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is so good to read a book about nutrition that does not promote any new diet! The author's message is plain and simple: Go back to nature, eat wholesome foods, and don't bother with dieting. Don't overeat instead eat slowly, and enjoy your meals - such notion has already been promoted by Mireille Guiliano in her bestseller 'French Women Don't Get Fat'. Our curse is processed food. The dieting industry completely distorted our feeding process. Our desire to improve everything and to separate 'needed' ingredients from the 'unneeded' ones leads us to refining most of our food products. However, our artificially 'improved' food only seemingly has the same nutritious qualities as natural food. Artificial and natural foods have as little in common as silk roses with real ones. Processed food is easily obtainable, doesn't require much work to prepare, and, unfortunately, it is often also addictive. At the same time it is full of calories with very small nutritional content. Like 'The Omnivore's Dilemma', Pollan's new book is indeed eye-opening. It makes us think twice about what we are going to put into our mouths the next time we eat. For more reading about the danger of refined foods I strongly recommend Can We Live 150 - another book devoted to living in agreement with nature, and revealing the secrets of healthy diet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was fantastic. It has changed the way that I view nutrition (he calls it 'nutritionism') and diet. My food choices will be much closer to being 'real' food not processed, industrial, and/or manufactured food. Wow. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I generally enjoyed the book, but a few points stuck with me ever since reading, and made the entire read worth it. The main idea is to check the ingredients of what you eat. Pollan points out the irony of 'whole-wheat white bread', and suggests consumers not buy anything your great-grandmother wouldnt recognize as food (he gives examples of new food products with their 40-some ingredients lists, and offers that if your great-grandmother doesn't know what the ingredients are, consider if they are really FOOD or not). Contrary to previous comments, Pollan doesn't have a 'vegetarian agenda', but he does promote eating 'mostly plants' which is entirely healthful, and any study on nutrition will back up that large quantities of fruits and vegetables are great for health.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I started to really examine the food I was eating (and feeding my family) last year, it was because of Pollan's 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' and the shock-on-every-page quality of what it revealed. 'In Defense of Food' is an excellent follow-up to that book. It's a quick read, but that's because its message is short and sweet. Instead of the convoluted messaging we get about nutrition from many sources (eat this! NO! eat that!), Pollan provides a very practical, common sense approach to what constitutes healthy eating. I didn't buy this book with the intention of treating it as a diet book, but I decided to try eating according to Pollan's guidelines. After just two weeks I have dropped 5 lbs and have a lot more focus and energy. (Though I have to admit that I haven't been able to stick to the rule about not eating at your desk since it's hard to get away for lunch at my job.)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Michael Pollan has put into words what has been slowly creeping into my consciousness. He is right, we can no longer trust the 'authorities' to tell us what to eat. Real food is superior to manufactured food. We should eat what is natural, food as it appears in nature without altering its form. Perhaps we can change the course of disease in our society by changing the one aspect that we can control and that is what we choose to eat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As someone in the health field, I only wish I had learned this in medical school
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally! First off, I am a personal fitness trainer and competitive drug free bodybuilder---so fitness, diet and exercise has been a major part of my life for over a decade. And, In Defense of Food, is a smart, well-written, down-to-earth discussion about making sound choices, not getting caught up in the hype, and choosing to do something healthy for your body. I am still reading it, and will re-read it to refresh myself. But, if you want some real information, and thus real healthy results, then read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Defense of Food is a well-written and well-researched book that offers a lot of advice and help for those who love to cook. I think it is a terrific addition to any home library of cookbooks!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have this in paperback. One of THE most boring books ever!!!!!!!! Wish I never bought it .Kept talking about the way on back!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm writing this on behalf of my daughter. She loved this book. Originally she had checked one out of the library, but she was so fascinated with it that she wanted to own a copy. She said it's a great read and learned a lot.