Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual is a collection of principles and guidelines on which consumers can rely to buy healthful food. In his earlier books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan describes how the American diet and its industrial structure of producing food is actually making Americans unhealthy. America is home to extremely high levels of obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. For readers left wondering what is “safe” to feed their families, Pollan offers this set of Food Rules.
In his introduction, Pollan explains how confusing the American supermarket can be. He suggests that food corporations have begun to process foods in ways designed to catch the eyes and dollars of consumers. For example, Pollan points out that there are cereals that claim to help children focus in school. Meanwhile, other cereals have so much food coloring that they change the color of the milk. Unfortunately, Pollan argues, these food innovations have largely distracted people from how to eat healthfully.
Pollan admits that he is not a nutritionist or a scientist, but in his search for answers as a journalist, he has found two agreed-upon facts. First, Americans suffer far higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer as a result of their diet. Pollan calls these “Western diseases.” The second fact Pollan discovers is that cultures that rely on traditional diets, ranging from the high-fat diet of the Inuit to the seemingly unhealthy diet of the French, do not suffer from these Western diseases either. (Pollan anticipates that many people will object and argue that people in the West tend to live longer now than ever before, to which Pollan responds that this average has been extended thanks to a lower child-mortality rate.) It may seem rather daunting that the Western diet should be so unhealthy, but Pollan assures his audience that “getting off” the Western diet can lead to very immediate health gains.
From these studies, Pollan draws the conclusion that the American public discussion over health is entirely misguided. Most studies and campaigns seek out a single nutrient that is the magic bullet of a healthy diet rather than focusing on these three nutritional facts. Pollan explains that this is...
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