The Michael Pollan Prescription: How to Eat Better and Avoid the Industrial Diet

Celebrated food writer Michael Pollan talked with Mother Earth News about easy ways to eat well and opt out of the broken food system.

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    Michael Pollan is the author of four excellent books, including his most recent, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto (Penguin Press, 2008).
    Alia Malley
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    Journalist and author Michael Pollan, speaking at a Yale University "Masters Tea"
    Creative Commons
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    Michael Pollan
    Ken Light

  • Michael Pollan
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He may make his living from a computer keyboard and a classroom lectern, but Michael Pollan — author of the best-selling books The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals and, most recently In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto — will tell you he’s happiest where the worlds of humanity and nature collide. In particular, he’s happiest at the intersection of dirt, the food that springs from it, and the humans who eat that food.

In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan explored how what we eat — whether produce, meat, seafood, sweetener or grain — gets to our plates. Perhaps more importantly, he examined what the consequences are to our bodies, our planet and our ethics when we consume the type of food that makes up most of what’s offered on supermarket shelves.

In In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, which he sub-subtitled “Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants,” Pollan goes a step further and deconstructs what used to be so simple just one or two generations ago … eating.

Furthermore, he points out, the concept of better living through chemistry has backfired on us at the dinner table. The butter that our grandmother served? Turns out it’s better for us than the partially hydrogenated oils used in margarine, once touted as a wondrous — and healthier — substitute.

The same argument can be made, Pollan says, for limited amounts of sugar versus corn syrup for sweetening, as well as old-fashioned mashed potatoes versus what comes out of a box.

In fact, Pollan advises, there are three general rules that most folks concerned about their eating habits can use whenever they’re in a grocery store:

Michele Bline
11/11/2008 11:34:14 PM

I have a small family(3 people) farm and grow and sell at several farmers markets. In Ohio we have a senior nutrition program which gives $50. in vouchers specifically for use at farmers markets. You would think it is great, but these seniors can't get to the markets to redeem them. In 2 years I have redeemed $25 worth. I grow heirloom, using only natural fertilizers(lots of manure from our free-range chickens), NO pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. My beds are raised, intensively planted and I use straw and leaves for mulch(no plastic here). We take a bulliten board to the markets. My catch phrase for last year was: "Our trusted FDA has approved for our use countless drugs which are known to cause heart attacks, strokes, kidney or liver failure, suicidal tendencies or death...Do we trust the USDA to be held to these same high standards regarding pesticides, herbicides or genetic engineering?" Need I say any more.

11/10/2008 10:58:44 AM

We have less than a half acre, and in our backyard I built raised beds that are irrigated with a well(we get almost all the veggies we need for a family of 4 in a 40'x25' space), boarder it with fruit trees and a chicken yard(we have 9 hens) and a goat pasture(we will soon be adding nigerian dwarf milk goats to our menagerie). All this, and we also set up an intex pool next to the garden(it's partially buried to make it sturdier) with a 25'x6' deck. What an oasis! The kids swim, I garden and then go for a dip, and we have so much extra that I sold a small portian and made more money than what I spent on creating the whole thing! There is no excuse not to at least plant one tomato plant, even if you live in an apartment. It's fun!!

11/9/2008 7:40:38 PM

I had originally bought In Defense of Food, before realizing Pollan had authored other books. Before starting it I went out and bought Omnivore's Dilema and am currently reading it. What a great book!! As someone in my 30's I have grown up on processed food and recently have begun looking at more natural alternatives. I have joined a CSA and have done some small gardening. I'm also trying to find grass-fed beef in my area. My husband and I have also started doing more of our own cooking and I don't mean opening up a can or box. Homemade is so much better tastng and better for you. We really need to start getting back to basics when it comes to the food we eat, not only for our environment, as so many people look at it now days, but for our health!!



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