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Michael Pollan's Influential Book "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual"

Food Rules:  An Eaters Manual

Michael Pollan has been named one of this year’s Times 100 Most Influential People for his dedication for bringing awareness to our nation’s food industry and the health of Americans who choose convenience over health. His latest work, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” was released in 2009 and recently featured on The Oprah Show.

Pollan, 55, calls it “The American Paradox”: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become. In our Westernized diet, people make poor food choices and attempt to remedy their indiscretions with nutritional supplements.

Food Rules gives us 64 very easy common sense guidelines on how to eat a healthier diet. For example, Rule #2 is “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.” He gives the example of “Go-Gurt”, a yogurt made to be kid-friendly with bright colors in a plastic “eat without a spoon” tube. However, think of the amount of unnatural chemicals are included such as artificial colors (Red #40, Blue #1) and potassium sorbate (to maintain freshness). Not to mention that each tube has 10 grams of sugar each.

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Which leads into rule #5 “Avoid foods that have some form of sugar or sweetener listed among the top three ingredients.” Go-Gurt’s number 2 ingredient: sugar.

The last two rules of the book are also using both a scientific and a common sense approach to eating. #63 is simply “Cook”. Packaged convenience foods, fast foods, restaurant foods, junk foods all contain lots of sodium, unhealthy oils, preservatives, and unnatural additives for “taste”. Cooking more fresh foods at home has been shown to improve nutrient levels and reduce risk factors for chronic diseases.

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Think you can’t afford to eat healthfully? Pollan stresses that today, Americans spend about 9.5% of their total income on food, less than that of previous generations. However, we spend 17% on health care. Improving diet and other lifestyle behaviors such as exercise and quitting smoking can reduce the amount spent on doctor visits, medications, and other treatments, leaving more room in the budget for fresh food.

Oh, and Rule #64? “Break the Rules once in a while”. Obsessing over foods and diets to a point that it interferes with daily life has been shown to have the reverse effect. Cortisol, released during stressful times, can actually contribute to obesity and inflammatory states that increase the risk of chronic diseases. Pollan quotes Oscar Wilde - “All Things in Moderation.”