Pollan Post: Simplifying Nutrition?

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I was has very happy to see that one of the local blogs I’m following, “Philly Food Feed,” posted a couple of interviews with Michael Pollan, an investigative journalist,  who has published three highly publicized books on the subject of food.

On Good Morning America

On Oprah

His first novel on this subject, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,”  is on my nightstand.  While I’m only on page 67 (I tend to get sleepy when I read), I am engaged in factual story involving an Iowa farmer who has watched his farm, possessions and priorities evolve at the hands of industrialization, modern agribusiness (i.e. chemical fertilizer) and politics.  The current farming landscape has changed so drastically that Pollan refers to American’s as “processed corn, walking” a tribute to the corn plant’s dominance in the American diet.   Fuelled by government subsidies (think tax dollars!), the growth of corn is also a result of the economics of farming: 

“when prices fall farmers actually expand production, in order to keep their cash flow from falling.  This economically and environmentally disastrous phenomenon has resulted in an increase in the American corn harvest from four billion to ten billion bushels since the 1970s….when the price of the commodity you’re selling falls, the smart thing to do is to curtail production until demand raises prices.  But farmers don’t do that, because there are so many of them, and because they all operate as individuals, without any coordination.”  http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/we-are-what-we-eat

I am in the middle of learning about one food chain (industrial agriculture) and then will move on to two others (organic farming and growing and scavenging our own food) to settle the debate – with so many choices of foods to eat, how do we know what we should eat?   It’s always been very clear to me that nutrition can be confusing (omega-3 fatty-acids vs. omega-6s; low-fat vs. low-carb; trans fat vs. saturated fat vs. unsaturated fat).  People are often looking for a ‘quick-fix’ to lose weight or have more energy.  But Pollan is on to something by removing the science from the picture and deconstructing our eating habits and food culture to provide a more straightforward definition for a ‘healthy diet.’   After all, it’s difficult to solve a problem you don’t fully understand.

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