Thursday, February 21, 2008

At the risk...

...of sounding like a broken record, you will REALLY enjoy Michael Pollan's books. Not only was The Omnivore's Dilemma named one of the best 10 science books of 2006 by the New York Times (it’s a personal favorite), but his new one, In Defense of Food, is terrific, too.

Before this book goes back to the public library, here are a few samples of Pollan's informative, persuasive, masterful writing:

“…as a general rule it's a whole lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a raw potato or a carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over in Cereal the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming their newfound 'whole-grain goodness' to the rafters.”

“We all know that lucky soul who can eat prodigious quantities of fattening food without ever gaining weight. Some populations can metabolize sugars better than others. Depending on your evolutionary heritage, you may or may not be able to digest the lactose in milk…The specific ecology in your intestines helps determine how efficiently you digest what you eat, so that the same 100 calories of food may yield more or less food energy depending on the proportion of Firmicutes and Bacteroides resident in your gut…So there is nothing very machinelike about the human eater, and to think of food as simply fuel is to completely misconstrue it. It’s worth keeping in mind too that curiously, the human digestive tract has roughly as many neurons as your spinal column. We don’t know exactly yet what they’re up to, but their existence suggests that much more is going on in digestion than simply the breakdown of foods into chemicals.”

“An American born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes in his lifetime; the risk is even greater for a Hispanic American or African American. A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts…years from one’s life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year…This is a global pandemic in the making…Diabetes is well on its way to becoming normalized in the West—recognized as a whole new demographic and so a major marketing opportunity. Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats.”

“The rise in obesity in America began around 1980, exactly when a flood of cheap calories started coming off American farms…American farmers produced 600 more calories per person per day in 2000 than they did in 1980. But some calories got cheaper than others: Since 1980, the price of sweeteners and added fats (most of them derived, respectively, from subsidized corn and subsidized soybeans) dropped 20 percent, while the price of fresh fruits and vegetables increased by 40 percent. It is the cheaper and less healthful of these two kinds of calories on which Americans have been gorging.”

Last one, I promise!

“In 1960, Americans spent 17.5 percent of their income on food and 5.2 percent of national income on health care. Since then, those numbers have flipped. Spending on food has fallen to 9.9 percent, while spending on health care has climbed to 16 percent of national income. I have to think that by spending a little more on healthier food, we could reduce the amount we have to spend on health care.”

Pick up a Pollan book on eBay, at your local library, at your independent bookseller, or even Amazon, if you must--wherever you get it, you won’t be disappointed!

No comments: