Monday, September 5, 2011

Interesting Summer Reading

I've begun two very interesting books lately having to do with foods: the very popular Michael Pollan In Defense of Food and a book from Gabriel Cousens' series Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine. I'll try to highlight some intriguing quotations and make a running commentary.

So far in In Defense of Food, Pollan has bashed food science and nutritionists in general. He creates well-constructed points in general, leaving behind any lifeline to "credible" science. I liked his point about the dubiousness of reductionist scientific methodology to create health claims guidelines for everyone. However, my argument is that they are simply that - nutritional guidelines, not rules or written in concrete. He makes the valid point that in recent times only has there been the need for nutritional guidelines. In historical times one ate what their family grew or raised. Food was difficult and laborious to produce and was not wasted or thought of as a leisure activity or something that was disposable. I have heard several times that we spend less on food proportionate to income now than we ever have in history. Pollan lists three nutritional myths I thought were noteworthy: "What matters most is not the food but the 'nutrients'", "Because nutrients are invisible and incomprehensible to everyone but scientists, we need expert help in deciding what to eat", and "The purpose of eating is to promote a narrow concept of physical health." On that third point he goes on to explain that historically, food has been also for the purpose of "pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world and about expressing our identity." I more or less agree with him on this point, but my question is are we talking about health or are we talking about culture? I liked, but not necessarily agreed with this bold statement: "There is no escaping the conclusion that the dietary advice enshrined not only in the McGovern "goals" [dietary goals for Americans] but also in the National Academy of Sciences report, the dietary guidelines of the [now replaced] food pyramid bears direct responsibility for creating the public health crisis that now confronts us." I like the conviction he presents, but I disagree with the fact that it is all the bureaucracy's fault that we are a sick country. No one is shoving the cheeseburger down our throat. Everyone knows, more or less, what is conducive to good health and what is not. I believe we need to take more responsibility than that.

Those are my noteworthy points so far from In Defense of Food. More to come.

I have just begun Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine, and already Cousens has challenged germ theory. It was not too long ago I considered germ theory and thought to myself, "They're still calling it a theory?" However, Cousens does present a great argument for an alternative: that your terrain, or your body chemistry as I gathered, determines whether you become ill. That intracellular protits, which can exist in harmony or malignancy depending on their environment, determine our health. It makes sense when you think about those times you were staying up late, drinking too much, and not eating right and got sick. Although decreased immunity also explains this occurrence. I'll have to read on to find out more! I love Counsens positive, encouraging writing style; it makes for a book that's quite a page-turner.

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