Trying to tell people what to eat, how and when to eat it, and perhaps even why they should eat it is a touchy subject. For millions of years, the only person we had to guide us on the path of nutritional righteousness was Mom.
That’s precisely the point of In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan’s recent book on the fallacy of American nutritionism. Michael, a journalist with a passion for food, outlines the decline of the American diet over the last century and the problem with the human drive to identify, label, and extract every little nutrient present in food (at which we have miserably failed).
Michael’s book is a remarkably compelling outline of the problems with following the latest “diet fad” (currently, Omega-3s), and the effect of this uniquely Western phenomenon on the health of a population. Michael also puts to bed what we’ve suspected all along—the U.S. dietary guidelines (most often associated with “the pyramid”) are such a joke that, were it not for the people they were killing, would be amusing.
Michael’s advice is deceptively simple: Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants. He’ll spend 240 pages convincing you why and explaining exactly what he means.
Another interesting perspective is the Joe Cross documentary, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It’s a testament to what 60 days of pure vegetable and fruit juice will do for the body and the mind, and how a dietary fast can turn an entire person’s health around.
Joe the Juicer, as he’s known on Twitter, travels through the United States during his juice fast, meeting people from all walks of life and finding out why they are overweight (or skinny) and why they’ve decided on the lifestyle they lead. It turns out that he’s also able to help a few of them along the way and teach them how to implement his fasting “system.” (I put it in quotes, because the self-admitted simplicity of Joe’s fast isn’t really a system at all.)
Finally, there’s the documentary I watched most recently on healthy eating, Food Matters. I’m hesitant to recommend it, because it felt more like a pep talk and a sales pitch for further information from the group, on everything from raw diets to the power of vitamins. But the movie does do a good job of exposing some of the pitfalls of modern medicine and presenting a few dietary concepts you may be unfamiliar with.
One of these is the idea of nutritional therapy, or treating chronic and even acute diseases through food and supplements. The documentary showcases some of the results of this kind of treatment on patients with terminal diseases, which makes you think twice about how we deal with medicine in the Western world.
All three of these sources present different viewpoints on what healthy eating means. Some of them even take jabs at the information in the others. That’s okay—the common themes between them (as well as the differences) are what’s interesting, and the mere fact that we’re starting to think more about our diets is very promising.
Photo by leoncillo sabino