Michael Pollan is the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma as well as In Defense of Food. He is a clear, conscientious voice protesting the "hacking" of real food, and the proliferation of pseudo-foods—foods so augmented with mysterious multi-syllabic ingredients that their similarity to the real foods our grandparents ate has disappeared.
Pollan points out that, despite legions of nutrition experts, as a nation we’re getting fatter and fatter and less and less healthy. He says that an American child born in 2000 has one chance in three of becoming diabetic.
Diabetes, he says, presents a profitable marketing opportunity. The medical profession is gearing up for a surge of bypass operations. They expect 80% of diabetic patients to suffer from heart disease. Too much food and too little exercise puts them at this risk, Pollan says.
He blames the Western diet. We eat way too much sugar, drink too many corn syrup sweetened soft drinks, scarf down too much high-carbohydrate food and not enough plant foods. He says, "In countries where people eat at least a pound of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half what it is in the United States."
He advises, "Eat locally grown produce as much as possible. Foods lose nutrients in transit. Eat less, most of it plant-based."
The vegans have the plant part down pat. But what about the several spoonfuls of sugar they put in their coffee or tea? What about the sweet desserts they reward themselves with? Vegetarians, especially when they eat a little fish now and then, do somewhat better. They are less apt to suffer from the Western diseases. Flexitarians—near-vegetarians—are just as healthy as vegetarians. So it’s okay to eat some grass-fed beef or bison or venison once in a while. He says, "I haven’t found a compelling reason to exclude it from your diet."
My Chinese daughter-in-law says putting a little meat with the vegetables helps you get more out of the vegetable protein. My diabetic son’s nutritionist advises him to get a gram of protein for each kilo of weight, and cut back on grains.
Pollan advises us to eat all parts of plants—roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds. He speaks well of fungi, mentioning the mycorhizae in the soil that transfer minerals to plant roots in exchange for plant sugar.
Tonight we ate carrots and onions (roots), celery (stems), and chanterelle mushrooms (fungi) stewed with very lean beef, plus a lettuce and tomato salad with vinaigrette. I seasoned the stew with oregano and marjoram leaves, pepper (seeds) and salt. This sort of cooking and menu planning has become second nature to me. It’s a healthy habit to cultivate.
Note: Oregano, like cinnamon and cloves, is antibiotic.