Michael Pollan’s excellent book “Food Rules.” It is just a short little book with 64 basic rules which he lumps into what he calls an “eater’s manual.” And what a manual it is. It is a perfect blend of fun, science, and simple advice that just makes sense. I first heard about it via tweet from Scott Jurek, the legendary ultramarathoner and fellow Brooks Running enthusiast. I basically do whatever he recommends with regard to running and diet, I’m like a Scott Jurek lemming. I’m glad, in this instance, that I listened.
“Food Rules” is just a 1-2 hour read. It tackles the Western diet head on with some simple conclusions. In short, he says the whole book can basically be summed up in seven words:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.
The book gives you lots of information about cancer rates (which of course peaked my interest) in countries that eat a traditional diet versus countries like the United States, where we eat a modern Western diet, which is characterized by processed foods, preservatives, and the same kind of manufacturing know-how that we used to apply to cars and stuff. The great point he makes is that nutritional science is relatively new, and focuses mainly on ridding our processed diet of the evil ingredients like fat. Or is it carbs? You quickly see his point. Food manufacturing has become a complex, multi-trillion dollar industry when all we really need is the local farmer’s market. Eat things you or your neighbors could grow or raise yourself, and you’d be better off, in his view.
He started the book by asking his regular New York Times readers to send him some simple family rules for eating…old, traditional rules. He received thousand and distilled them down to those seven words. Set against the backdrop of some serious nutrition science journalism he completed for his more robust books, this little manual would leave us all in a better place if we followed just some of the rules he gives us. Here is a sample of some of my favorites:
- It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
- Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
- Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. (the outside is where the real veggies, meat, and anything needing refrigeration usually are)
- If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.
- It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language (Think Big Mac, Cheetos or Pringles).
- Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
- Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
Anyway, a good read and maybe it’s just simple and memorable enough that a food idiot like me can actually make some real, simple changes that will get me even faster on the roads next season. Read it!