FOOD RULES: AN EATER’S MANUAL
By Michael Pollan
In this little volume, Michael Pollan of The Ominivore’s Dilemma fame decries the confusion and uncertainty in the field of nutrition. For the “Nutritional Industrial Complex,” confusion about food “is good business,” he says. Food Rules builds on Pollan’s haiku-like aphorisms: Eat food; mostly plants; not too much. But his prescription is nothing but confusion and contradiction from square one. Case in point: He comes out firmly against meat in the Introduction, lumping consumption of meat with “added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains” instead of “vegetables, whole grains and fruits” as the cause—agreed upon by “all contending parties in the nutrition wars”—of all the Western diseases (he didn’t ask our opinon). Yet he notes that the Eskimos, the Masai and the French are healthy—and these folks eat lots of meat. He also says to eat the way our grandmothers ate; weren’t our grandmothers the ones who heaped our plates with meat so we’d be healthy and strong? No, says Pollan, “Eating what stands on one leg [mushrooms and plant foods] is better than eating what stands on two legs [fowl], which is better than what stands on four legs [cows, pigs and other mammals.]” Snacks, he says, should be limited to unprocessed plant foods—hungry teenagers should lift their sagging blood sugar with carrot sticks, according to Pollan, not cheese, eggs, milk or salami.
Likewise regarding saturated fats, Pollan dedicates the book to his mother, “who always knew butter was better for you than margarine” and admonishes readers to avoid foods with the words “lite” or “lowfat” on the labels. But elsewhere Pollan hews to the party line, blaming saturated fats for chronic disease. (There’s nary a mention of trans fats in the whole book; we shouldn’t focus, says Pollan, on “the evil nutrient in the Western diet.”)
“Don’t eat cereals that change the color of your milk,” says Pollan, but studiously avoids discussion of breakfast cereals or milk—presumably as long as your breakfast cereal doesn’t change the color of your UHT milk, you’ll be fine. Pollan’s rules are witty and clever, but they do not answer the questions that people are asking and certainly don’t make the subject of nutrition any less confusing. Don’t waste your money on this book. THUMBS DOWN.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2010.