Michael Pollan on What to Eat

Monday, June 16, 2008

Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma, explains his "Eaters’ Manifesto" in his new book, In Defense of Food. He says we should eat food, not too much of it, and mostly vegetables.


Michael Pollan

Comments [14]

Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

Perhaps it wouldn't "kill" anyone to keep eating meat as long as the animal was properly raised and properly fed but how easy it is going to be to ensure that? Too much money is at stake in the industrial food system as "The Omnivore's Dilemma" makes clear.
But more than that, is it really necessary to eat meat? Except for vitamin B-12, which can be taken as a supplement, vegetables, fruit, grains, seeds, and legumes can supply all of one's nutritional and, dare I say it, gustatory needs. As a diabetic of 41 years standing I should avoid meat for health reasons though it wouldn't kill me if I just ate it once in a while. But I choose to be strictly vegetarian because I don't believe in the gratuitous exploitation of other animals. I simply don't need to eat meat, so why should I?

Jun. 17 2008 12:12 PM


great site & tip!

Jun. 17 2008 11:44 AM

hjs --

ah, that's the question.

And for the sake of curiosity I wonder what diseases we might see in the 150 year old human that didn't have a chance to develop in the shorter period. I have a feeling that's where the tainted water, xrays etc. would really show their presence.

Jun. 17 2008 11:42 AM

It is not elitist to eat well - it is a priority. Im my case, I followed the Price principles and reversed bone loss in 15 months. I was at the edge of osteoporosis. I figure, I am either giung to pay big pharma or I am going to support local farmers. Not a hard choice for me, though it takes more effort. But elitist? hahahah.

Jun. 16 2008 01:10 PM

There is a lot of bad info out there informing what have become our assumptions about living longer and better - good info is hard to find -

but if indeed we ARE living longer - I wonder if some has to do with things like central heat - cats live in the wild less than 2 years but they can live past 20 inside

If you want to understand what Michael Pollan is talking about, a good read is Nutrition and Degenerative Disease by Weston A Price - I dare any of you to try and find it in a local library, though - that's a book you have to buy online, I think, because there is no mass interest behind it. Two small foundations support the preservation of his life's work and that of his partner, Dr. Pottenger.

What I took away from that book is we (so-called western civilization) are waaaaaaaay less advanced than we think - we can't even reproduce correctly, while we tell ourselves we are so accomplished - the people Price studied worldwide had no degenerative disease, no jails; they were happy - and ego and consumerism were alien concepts to them. Definitely worth reading.

Jun. 16 2008 01:08 PM
Mike from Ireland

A number of years ago now when I was studying at university, I undertook an internship for an organic CSA in Upstate New York. The family that ran the CSA and provided the majority of the labour needed, lived very close to the Earth and had very little in economic means. Yet the entire family suffered none of the health and dental concerns that often plague the rest of U.S. society. Furthermore the kids having little or nothing beyond family support, schooling, clothing, and minimal health care - showed great intuitiveness and capacity for learning. I saw nothing of the mental quandaries that are too often exhibited by many of the school-going children I have encountered as a school-teacher and director of environmental education at summer camps over the years. I know many factors play a role in the development of children - but I can't help seeing a correlation between the more stable mentalities of the CSA children and the much more nutritious diet provided them. This is in direct contrast to the much more distracted and diminished aptitudes of children from other walks of life. I realise that there is a level of generalisation in these statements, but just musing given the topic of the shows conversation.

Jun. 16 2008 12:47 PM
Jeffrey Slott from East Elmhurst

In order to determine life spans one obviously has to look into the records of people who recently died. If one calculates the average life span to be eighty that means that the average person was born in 1928. That person came of age during the depression years where the food industry still had not totally taken over our diet and when people were definitely not over-eating.

Jun. 16 2008 12:42 PM
hjs from 11211

so what if we ate better and used western science/ medicine, how long would we live?

Jun. 16 2008 12:37 PM
Nancy Dwyer Chapman from Scarsdale, NY

Mr. Pollan's work is important and can be life-changing; I give his books to family and friends, who all appreciate the messages he's conveying.

Concerning today's on-air commentary:

While not dismissing the valid concerns about the deleterious effects of the Western diet, shouldn't you consider that the rise of cancers and cardiovascular disease as causes of mortality and morbidity in the "western" populations might be valid sequelae of those populations living longer because of a (potentially) better diet (and other advances that resulted in longevity)?

Stated simply - people are living longer in part because of the "better" diet (at least compared to diets of centuries prior to the 20th - so the increase in certain causes of death are not necessarily attributable to diet (at least not alone) but merely to the aging process.

(By the way, I've seen Masaai several times on trips to Kenya - their average life span is not, I am almost sure, not equivalent to ours.)


Nancy Dwyer Chapman

Jun. 16 2008 12:32 PM

Hunter-gatherers might have great teeth and no cancer -- but don't they also die around age 35?

I'm guessing an 80 year old Masai warrior might have bad teeth too.

On another note, Americans do get some kinds of cancer from our diet -- just as Japanese and Koreans get totally different types of cancers from their fishy, salty diet (specifically, stomach).

Jun. 16 2008 12:32 PM
andrea from new jersey

how do we use traditional farming methods and still get the food yields we need? the planet has a lot more people to support

Jun. 16 2008 12:31 PM
Rick from Brooklyn

Michael's "macro" perspective is very useful however, he tends to throw out the major advancements in nutritional science that has increased our life expectancy and saved millions from diseases like scurvy, birth defects, and more.

Jun. 16 2008 12:17 PM
MZ from greenpoint

I'd like to here Michael respond to Stephen Dubner's post regarding localvores on the NYT's Freaknomics blog.

Jun. 16 2008 12:15 PM

Is this a repeat?
Anyway I am always glad to hear from Michael Pollan, a hero and a great writer.

Jun. 16 2008 12:02 PM

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