Brief Book Review: Food Thoughts

By Michael Pollan

In one quote:

Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

When we think of frontiers of human knowledge, we might look up into the vastness of space and wonder what lays beyond the stars, or peer deep within ourselves studying the building blocks of life itself. Where we don’t think to look is our gut. After all, humans have been digesting food since forever, surely we’ve got that locked down by now? It turns out not. In fact, Michael Pollan compares our understanding of nutrition today with ‘where surgery was in the year 1650 — very promising, and very interesting to watch, but are you ready to let them operate on you?’

It doesn’t seem rational for a society that fixes broken bones, halts infection in its tracks and replaces hearts with mechanical equivalents not to have a clue how different foodstuffs affect the body. We demand answers to questions nutritionists are only now asking themselves, which leads to a fractured battleground of dietary information with more heroes and villains than that Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This backdrop makes a short and almost insultingly-dumb book like Food Rules necessary. In Food Rules, Michael Pollan (‘just a curious journalist hoping to answer a straightforward question for myself and my family’) presents a collection of short unscientific maxims to eat by. Maxims like ‘Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food’, and ‘Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk’. For some, Pollan’s rudimentary writing will come across as condescending. I found it refreshing in contrast with the incomprehensible rhetoric posing as dietary advice found elsewhere. Food Rules makes no mention of Omega-3s, Sodium-to-Potasium ratio or triglyceride levels. Instead it presents a series of rational, understandable rules that work to simplify your eating, not complicate it.

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