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In Defense of Food (Pollan) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
A tough, witty, cogent rebuttal to the proposition that food can be reduced to its nutritional components without the loss of something essential…In this lively, invaluable book—which grew out of an essay Mr. Pollan wrote for the New York Times Magazine, for which he is a contributing writer—he assails some of the most fundamental tenets of nutritionism: that food is simply the sum of its parts, that the effects of individual nutrients can be scientifically measured, that the primary purpose of eating is to maintain health, and that eating requires expert advice.... Some of this reasoning turned up in Mr. Pollan's best-selling The Omnivore's Dilemma. But In Defense of Food is a simpler, blunter and more pragmatic book, one that really lives up to the "manifesto" in its subtitle.
Janet Maslin - New York Times


In this slim, remarkable volume, Pollan builds a convincing case not only against that steak dinner but against the entire Western diet. Over the last half-century, Pollan argues, real food has started to disappear, replaced by processed foods designed to include nutrients. Those component parts, he says, are understood only by scientists and exploited by food marketers who thrive on introducing new products that hawk fiber, omega-3 fatty acids or whatever else happens to be in vogue...what makes Pollan's latest so engrossing is his tone: curious and patient as he explains the flaws in epidemiological studies that have buttressed nutritionism for 30 years, and entirely without condescension as he offers those prescriptions Americans so desperately crave. That's no easy feat in a book of this kind.
Jane Black - Washington Post


Written with Pollan’s customary bite, ringing clarity and brilliance at connecting the dots.
Seattle Times


In his hugely influential treatise The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan traced a direct line between the industrialization of our food supply and the degradation of the environment. His new book takes up where the previous work left off. Examining the question of what to eat from the perspective of health, this powerfully argued, thoroughly researched and elegant manifesto cuts straight to the chase with a maxim that is deceptively simple: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." But as Pollan explains, "food" in a country that is driven by "a thirty-two billion-dollar marketing machine" is both a loaded term and, in its purest sense, a holy grail. The first section of his three-part essay refutes the authority of the diet bullies, pointing up the confluence of interests among manufacturers of processed foods, marketers and nutritional scientists-a cabal whose nutritional advice has given rise to "a notably unhealthy preoccupation with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily." The second portion vivisects the Western diet, questioning, among other sacred cows, the idea that dietary fat leads to chronic illness. A writer of great subtlety, Pollan doesn't preach to the choir; in fact, rarely does he preach at all, preferring to lets the facts speak for themselves.
Publishers Weekly


Berkeley, California-based journalism professor and New York Times Magazine contributing writer Michael Pollan, whose previous work on the subject includes The Botany of Desire and the best-selling The Omnivore’s Dilemma, has placed himself at the forefront of food writing. He preaches a back-to-basics approach and a close questioning of the avalanche of information that has come out of our diet-obsessed society. Despite the accusations of a few critics as being a little alarmist, a little elitist, and a little obvious (not everyone has the access to or the resources to eat the food Pollan suggests), the book encourages a simple approach to eating that will strike a chord with readers weary of conflicting information and unrealistic weight-loss and wellness programs. So the message of the book and its well-written delivery can’t be faulted. The question is, do we need to hear it all again?
Bookmarks Magazine


Expanding on a theme from his popular The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2007), Pollan mounts an assault on a reigning theory of the relationship between food and health. For Pollan, “nutritionism” offers too narrow a view of the role of eating, confining its benefits solely to food’s chemical constituents.... Given the continuing fascination with Pollan’s earlier work, this smaller tome will surely generate heavy demand.
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