In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan


“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” This is the main theme throughout and a good summary of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food; it even appears on the cover! The book is divided into three parts:

Part 1, The Age of Nutritionism, dismantled a lot of misconceptions I had, leaving me frustrated and suspicious of most nutritional information I’ve received throughout my life. The problems with research are so complex, with countless variables impossible to isolate. On top of that, business and politics muddy the waters in some pretty despicable ways.

Part 2, The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization, is where I started to feel bogged down. Reading this section was slow going, but I greatly appreciated the how thorough and well-researched it was.

Part 3, Getting Over Nutritionism, contains practical advice applicable to daily living. Pollan also addressed some questions that came up while reading the previous two sections, which helped the book feel cohesive. This is a useful, valuable section I often feel is missing from other books in this genre.

Although In Defense of Food started out with a bang, I found it gradually grew less and less interesting. The political and economic ties to how our food culture has deteriorated was the most eye-opening to me, but that was in the first section of the book. The rest of the information is fantastic, but most of it wasn’t terribly new to me: I’ve heard or read the same ideas elsewhere, and a lot of it is just common sense.

If parts 1 and 2 interest you, read this book! If you’re considering it mostly for the information contained in part 3, you might want to skip it and read Hungry by Darlene Barnes instead: same information delivered as a memoir, fun to read, with some very simple recipes scattered throughout.