Food Rules

I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma years ago and loved it. I’ve been meaning to read the other books by Michael Pollan but I haven’t gotten around to it. This booked popped up recently while I was wandering through Open Books trying to burn a coupon. It’s a short book with 64 food rules postulated by Pollan that aim to make you a better eater and a better human.

It’s simple, he says:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Seven words, three sentences, that’s it. Each of the 64 rules expands on some aspect of these sentences.

By “eat food” he basically means eat less junk. This is the richest area of the book I think. He’s got some cool rules like these:

Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.

Avoid food products that make health claims.

Eat food made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Buy your snacks at the farmers’ market.

It’s not food if it’s called by the same name in every language. (Think Big Mac, Cheetos, or Pringles.)

The next sentence is pretty self-explanatory. For “not too much” he invokes the Okinawan term hara hachi bu, which means “eat only until you are 80% full.” He expands on this by noting that the “Ayurvedic tradition in India advises eating until you are 75 percent full; the Chinese specify 70 percent…” (I wonder if these ratios are equivalent to the decrease in human activity brought about by advancements that eliminate hunting, gathering, and farming). The American diet has no such guiding principles and I’d never even heard it couched this way until about five years ago when I first read the WSJ article on the long life span of the average Okinawan.

The mantra “mostly plants” doesn’t mean be a vegetarian, although I think Pollan may be. These are just more detailed rules once you get past “eat food.” We’re talking slick and timely things like this:

Be the kind of person who takes supplements – then skip the supplements.

This is especially after the recent finding that supplements really don’t make you any healthier. Then there’s my favorite:

Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Can’t knock that.