In Defense of Food: Quotes by Michael Pollan

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Looking for In Defense of Food quotes by Michael Pollan? What are some of the most noteworthy passages that highlight the author’s key ideas about modern-day nutrition?

In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan distinguishes between real food and processed food and how the reliance on the latter leads to a society plagued by Western diseases. The following In Defense of Food quotes discuss some of his key ideas about modern-day nutrition.

Here are some of the most noteworthy In Defense of Food quotes by Michael Pollan.

In Defense of Food: Quotes and Passages by M. Pollan

“You are what you eat eats.”

Eggs, meat, and dairy are only as healthy as the animal they come from. When animals are fed only grain, they get sick, especially cows and sheep, which requires antibiotics to heal them. Those digested medications stay in the food. Likewise with chemical fertilizers and produce. 

It’s worth the extra money to buy pastured animal products and fresh produce grown locally to ensure the quality of the food you will eat. An egg from a free-range chicken is not the same egg as that from an industrialized chicken. Humans are animals, so if it stands to reason that we live healthier lives on a diet of mostly plants, it stands to reason that the animals we eat do as well. 

“While it is true that many people simply can’t afford to pay more for food, either in money or time or both, many more of us can. After all, just in the last decade or two we’ve somehow found the time in the day to spend several hours on the internet and the money in the budget not only to pay for broadband service, but to cover a second phone bill and a new monthly bill for television, formerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority. ”

Most people are geared towards quantity and cheap, accessible food. But according to Michael Pollan, we shouldn’t be too frugal when it comes to spending money on food. More expensive food is often so because it has required more care and energy to produce, rather than being mass-produced in factories, stockyards, or single-crop farms. These foods are better for you because of a lack of toxins or improved nutritional quality. Plus, you are more likely to savor the food more when you are spending more money on it and eating less.

“If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”

Pollan urges against buying foods that have health claims on the packaging. The problem with health claims is that only major food manufacturers have the resources to fund research studies to support health claims and pressure the FDA to approve them. But the science behind these claims is often narrowly focused or randomly tested.

When a company gets permission to place a health claim on the box, they are also given license to design the claim as they wish. They can make the big “Helps Reduce Saturated Fat” claim as big as they want while leaving disclaimers like, “The FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim” in small print. The FDA allows this strategy to continue despite their own research suggesting that consumers don’t truly grasp the full extent of health labels. 

“Avoid food products containing ingredients that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or that include D) high-fructose corn syrup.”

According to Pollan, foods with unfamiliar and difficult-to-pronounce ingredients, more than five ingredients, or high-fructose corn syrup as an ingredient should be avoided. When these aspects are present, it’s a good bet the food is not real food. 

In Defense of Food: Quotes by Michael Pollan

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Here's what you'll find in our full In Defense of Food summary:

  • Why eating a Western diet is killing you
  • How the rise of low-fat foods contributed to the rise of obesity and diabetes
  • What to eat if you want to restore a healthy relationship with your food

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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