UATR Book Club | In Defense of Food Discussion
Happy Monday, fellow book club readers! Phew. December was a hard month for me to get through this book. Truthfully, I kind of speed-read the last half of it within the past week because I was falling behind. The reopening of our shop and getting the blog back up and running took a lot more energy out of me than I thought! How did you like reading In Defense of Food? I learned a LOT. There was so much good information inside that I had not considered before. Honestly, my favorite part of the entire piece was the concept that nutrition is a theory, an ideology. I LOVE that. I think it's true, one hundred percent, at least the part that the media and nutritionists try to push. There's just so much information out there, especially when it comes to others' opinions of what we should be eating. I mean, here I am trying to preach to you that I think you should eat real food! You could take that as just another diet, but it's not a diet or a fad or an easy button. I think that's the beauty of this lifestyle change. The entire point of this book was that as humans, we have lost the animal instinct of eating food for nourishment and the human instinct of eating food for pleasure. We no longer eat because we love it. We either completely restrict ourselves of the pleasure or indulge in the worst things, hoping they'll be better for us with their labels of being fat-free, hiding out in our homes and never admitting our love of Oreos or Lay's potato chips. It's fascinating and sad and confusing. I like to think that Pollan's entire concept of eating is to stop being confused and just eat food that you make at home, yourself. Of course, that's not always easy. There are still places where I mess up like removing refined flours and sugars from my cooking/baking; meaning that now I have to go out and hunt for organically grown and processed whole grains and then mill them at home myself... doesn't that sound inexpensive? That part is harder to come by, or at least hard to come by at an affordable price.
I've listed some discussion questions below that I'd love to hear your viewpoint on! Feel free to leave a comment and talk it out. You can reply to other people's comments here, too, like a thread which is fun! Let me know what you got out of this read.
Also, we start reading the next Book Club novel today! We are reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I have never read it before, so I am excited to fall hard for Mr. Darcy!!!
- In this book, Pollan often discusses what feels like an underlying opinion of proving that the need to take extra dietary supplements is, in ways, a false assumption. One quote being, "People who take supplements are healthier than the population at large, yet their health probably has nothing whatsoever to do with the supplements they take - most of which recent studies have suggested are worthless. Supplement takers tend to be better educated, more affluent people who, almost by definition, take a greater than usual interest in personal health - confounders that probably account for their superior health." He also mentions that studies where a person who ate a certain food containing a nutrient as opposed to a supplement often had better results after simply eating the food, that perhaps a supplement does not contain the necessary constituents to help our bodies process the nutrient alone. What do you think? Are supplements necessary? Do you take them and why?
- Immediately upon reading the introduction when he mentions the way that his grandmother cooked, a "traditional Jewish-American fare," I felt that that was the answer to everything. I am not sure this book is meant to be an answer, but more as a way to help pull the wool from our eyes. What do you think? Is cooking traditionally with unprocessed foods the answer for you?
- On page 80, Pollan makes the statement, "Nutritionism is not science but ideology." He makes this reference several times throughout. How do you feel about this? In my mind, this puts blame to media rather than the science of our food. This is not to say that nutritionists have false conquests, but the information they are reporting is leading to negative impacts on the processed foods being created by food companies. Why is that? How do you think we could fix it?
- Do you believe that the health of our teeth is directly correlated to our overall health? Have you had any personal experience with this?
- I was fascinated by Weston A. Price's study on restricted diets throughout different parts of the world; it was interesting that no matter which restrictions you had, if the food was whole and unprocessed, your overall health was satisfactory. Thoughts?
- If you believe in restricted diets (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, etc), is it for your health or for an economic or environmental reason? Do you think that we have been brainwashed by media and marketing into believing these diets are better for us? Could you move away from processed foods marketed towards your restrictions? Because I was definitely the person eating "veggie chips" while I tried being a vegan in high school - should have just eaten real veggies.
- Pollan brings up the studies of Sir Albert Howard (will have to look into his research!), in which he states that the synthetics added to our soil will take their toll on our health in the future. Do you think that this has already happened? How can we improve this?
- Do you believe in the statement on page 98 that industrial food is "breaking the rules of nature" by feeding us food that is not from local soil? How can this be fixed?
- Okay, I was a little blown away by the historical analysis of the relationship between humans and cows on page 102-103. As someone who chooses to not eat conventionally raised meat for environmental reasons (i.e. commercial agriculture causes a LOT of pollution), I still feel guilty eating dairy, even when it is produced locally and ethically. Why? I am consistently seeing vegans touting that "milk is for baby cows!" Sure, that's plausible. I did not know that by having a symbiotic relationship with cows by milking them, we were improving their health. What do you think about that? This is, of course, in the mindset of a small dairy farm, not commercial agriculture. Does this also break down your guilt for eating dairy products?
- Pollan claims that the Western Diet as we now know it is only 150 years old. How does that make you feel? Do you feel like it's possible to change? That's relatively young in the scheme of things!
- What are your thoughts on refined flours? Refined sugars?
- On page 115, Pollan talks about how most plant fertilizers are simply made of NPK and lack many micronutrients needed for plants to grow. As a grower, I know this to be true... after taking my master gardener courses, there was never any mention of anything other than NPK or anything better suited for feeding your plants. He calls this a "fast food diet for plants." I am a firm believer in this! Don't use chemicals or synthetics on your plants! How do you feel?
- I love that Pollan brings up what used to be grown in Iowa before corn and soybeans took over. It makes me proud to be growing a unique crop like aronia berries. Are you open to welcoming more diverse plants and foods into your diet? Perhaps even raising and growing it yourself?
- What are your thoughts on the conclusion of this book? Are you interested in breaking the mold and getting over nutritionism?
I, for one, am tired of being afraid of my food! I want to eat what I like, which is the food that I cook. I also feel lied to, like my entire life up to this point has been a huge advertisement. We are one year into eating whole foods and failing almost everyday. There are still ways that we could improve. I talk about this with my parents a lot. We all live under one roof and eat meals together. Every single day, at least one of us says, "I am so glad that we eat more vegetables." We feel better, think more clearly, get more work done, and have more energy. Our family has always had great health, we don't often visit the doctor or the hospital, but within this past year we have not been there at all save for physical injuries. We have less colds, flus, and other related problems. We eat well, but not perfect. Our pantry still has Cheese Its inside of it, and Tad still eats the occasional hot dog. I want to change that. The older Tad gets, the more open he is to new foods, and that is surprising and not surprising all in one.
Here's the big question: why are we so sensitive and defensive over our food?
I think this is one that I need to personally analyze and answer for myself. I have a lot of opinions about food, about how my body reacts to it, how my son's body reacts to it, and how I feel about other people's food choices. The issue is that I write it out and immediately delete it. I don't want to make any one person feel less than because of what they eat. Sometimes, they don't have that choice. I think one of the biggest issues that our country faces is that real food, good food is too expensive for those with a lower paycheck to afford. They can only afford the processed food items and then suffer the dietary diseases related to that, which just gives into the entire vicious cycle. In fact, I personally know several people that have simply eaten themselves into health issues, even death. It's heartbreaking, and I wish it didn't happen. I know that to make a difference, I have to speak truths. We all do! The simple answer is that we all need to face reality and become less sensitive over our obsession with processed and synthetic food and trying to cover up the fact that we all eat it. What do you think?
P.S. We're reading Pride and Prejudice starting NOW!