In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan in his essay talks about how the focus of food processing in America has been on individual nutrients rather than on dietary patterns or whole food that are beneficial to consumers.
He speaks of a complex subject and simplifies it in a manner that his readers can easily understand. He also exposes how the nutritional guidelines created by the government are not beneficial to the general American public but instead lead to a catastrophe of poor health. Compared to other countries, dietary related health conditions are very high in America.
Pollan blames this problem on the whole food that constantly gets processed and engineered with chemicals to generate sensational taste. In the process, a lot of high calories are produced and essential nutrients reduced. The reason why people eat is not to enjoy the taste but to become healthy. According to Pollan this seems not to be the case with American food, instead most Americans are dying as a result of poor dieting and over processed food.
Pollan offers several alternatives to bring a solution to this problem. He proposes that the focus should not lie on breaking down food into their individual nutritional component but on leaving food in its whole form.
For instance he says that grain and corn can easily be broken down into their chemical parts and there is no way they can be gathered back together. He also says that Americans should not eat food that can hardly be recognized by their great grandparents. When food is over processed, it fails to become real food but an imitation which poses a great health risk to consumers.
He provides some basic tenets that are essential in nutrition. One of these tenets is that food comprises of all its nutritional parts. All these components are important and need not to be separated. For instance, cattle that are fed naturally are healthier for consumption than cattle that are processed or engineered to fatten their steak. Such advancements are unhealthy for consumers.
Another tenet for basic nutrition is that food is supposed to enhance and maintain human health. This means that when people eat food they are not supposed to fall sick or develop health conditions that will eventually be the cause of their death. Therefore when food is presented properly to the consumers and also the consumers adopt the right dietary patterns then food will serve its purpose.
Pollan also touches on the issue of experts in offering nutritional advice to consumers. Experts, according to Pollan, need to start shedding real light to consumers regarding the dietary issues.
Sometime experts would lead consumers into taking supplements which Pollan considers not helpful in maintaining good health. His primary focus is on eating enough food and not too much. Also, he proposes eating food that has vitamins such as vegetables and fruits. People need to be conscious of vitamins in the same way they value food supplements.
All these alternatives that Pollan offers are based on statistical evidence of American’s eating habits and health conditions. He also compares the lifestyle choices of Americans with the lifestyle choices of other countries such as France. He says that Americans have the highest cases of obesity compared to other countries.
According to the FDA, it recently approved a health claim concerning corn oil. Some of the substances approved for consumption are suggested to replace a good amount of poison in the diet and also maintains the amount of daily consumable calories. This, according to FDA, is appropriate.
The argument that Pollan puts a cross is very convincing bearing in mind that he simplifies the issue and presents it in an understandable manner. The food that people eat today is worsening their health rather than making improvements. Conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases have become the leading causes of death among people today. It has reached a point where the focus of government spending on health is on preventive medicine simply because the population is dying in mass from preventable medical conditions.
The advancements made on nutrition seem not to help much in keeping people healthy. Consequently, Pollan’s suggestion of dialing the clock backward and returning to the eating habits in the countryside is very convincing. In these remote parts of the world, people do not eat processed food. They have a dietary pattern that focuses on less meat and more veggies. It is also highly unlikely to find obese children in such areas. Their food is whole and has all the right combination of nutrients for a healthy living.
Since Americans spend a lot of money and time on food consumption, the idea of eating less is also very convincing as it would save people’s health and finances at the same time. When food is consumed on the right amount, the body does not have to store excess and eventually people do have to grow fat. Also, with the appropriate amount of food, the risk of getting some of the lifestyle diseases is minimized.
Concerning fast food, Pollan does not recommend it. Fast food is one of the avenues where processed food finds its ground in society. Some of the genetically modified foods are sold in fast food inlets.
For instance, the fattened beef and poultry that have enhanced sensational taste are being sold in fast food joints. Americans especially in cities are the biggest consumers of these fast food and their health is put into high risk. Some of the people in these societies have broken the tradition of family dinner; they now live and depend on fast food.
As an individual, these revelations by Pollan have sparked a need for personal responsibility in eating properly to maintain good health. The right kinds of foods are those that will enhance personal health. It is true that food can cause diseases, but this is not the intended purpose of food.
If statistical figures were to be examined closely, they would reveal an increase in the number of cases of people who are dying from lifestyle illnesses such as heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer. The figures at the moment are very high compared to a few years ago when such cases were minimal. This can be explained by the issue of poor nutritional habits among the American public.
The rise can also be attributed to the ability of people to afford diets that are rich in animal products such as beef, and poultry. To make things worse, such products have been engineered in a manner that poses a great health risk. It is therefore important that people eat plants, be conscious of vitamins more than all the macro nutrients, and eat very little of animal products to enhance and maintain their health. Veggies and fruits are the only food that has little calories and are not linked to any serious health conditions.
If Americans have to eat proteins, then they do not have to focus on complete proteins since science and research have proved that such products contain serious health risks even though they have all the essential amino acids that the body requires. Incomplete proteins can easily take the place of complete proteins and furthermore; combining them can complement the other since they all do not contain the same essential amino acids. For instance, combining oats and peanuts with cashew will make a complete protein.
It is therefore recommended that people take their dietary reference intake in order to know the exact amount of nutrients that they should take based on their body mass index. This will help individuals to take personal responsibility in caring for their health and ensuring that they eat the right food in the right quantity. Pollan’s recommendations and suggestions are appropriate especially in this generation where food can turn out to be fatal.
As earlier mentioned it is only the western diet that has proven fatal. In most parts of the world where people do not consume the western diet, there are very little health risks posed by their food. In some places, they do not have to worry about such diseases as diabetes and heart attack. It even becomes worse when such food is mixed up with substances such as alcohol and tobacco.
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