in Food

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

…that’s the spoiler from Michael Pollen’s Unhappy Meals, in which he expertly dissects the food industry at the personal, commercial, industrial, and societal levels in just a few thousand words, helping us see the problems with Western nutrition are worse than we thought.

I’ve been working in this industry lately, and fascinated by the meta-designs that change eating and fitness on a large scale for the betterment of society — companies like Whole Foods, Curves, Jamba Juice, and Nike.

On the personal level, here’s a summary of Pollen’s eating advice:

1. Eat food [whole foods]. Try this: Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims. They’re apt to be heavily processed, and the claims are often dubious at best…

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup…

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. You won’t find any high-fructose corn syrup at the farmer’s market…

5. Pay more, eat less. …There’s no escaping the fact that better food — measured by taste or nutritional quality (which often correspond) — costs more, because it has been grown or raised less intensively and with more care…

“Eat less” is the most unwelcome advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we currently do is compelling. “Calorie restriction” has repeatedly been shown to slow aging in animals, and many researchers (including Walter Willett, the Harvard epidemiologist) believe it offers the single strongest link between diet and cancer prevention…

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves…

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. Confounding factors aside, people who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are…

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden…

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases…