10th July, 2012
These seven words sum up the philosophy of professor and journalist Michael Pollan. On Sunday night Michael Pollan gave a talk for the Wheeler Centre at the Melbourne Town Hall. He was an excellent, entertaining speaker, but I have a feeling his talk was falling on the ears of the already converted. If only his message could be spread further to the general public, and not just be received by those with already strong or professional interest in food and diets.
His message is very simple, but has a lot of research behind it. He believes that if we got back to our traditional food wisdom, and didn't look to big corporations to feed us, we would dramatically improve our health. He doesn't claim to be an expert on nutrition, but can see very clearly that we have gone horribly wrong with our current western diet.
I think the first part of his message is the most powerful, but at the same time it is easy to miss. Eat Food. The processed food products that make up much of the western diet are not, in fact food, but rather 'food like substances'. These products have many additives, and scarily long shelf lives. To make his point, Michael brought with him a bag full of products he had bought from Woolworths. None of them were what people from a generation or two ago would recognise as food. And interestingly, most of them were in brightly coloured packaging that was making some form of health claim, or boasting the addition of the latest talked about nutrient (e.g. omega 3's).
If any 'food' makes a health claim it is probably wise not to eat it. The foods that are genuinely good for us don't make any health claims. Fruit and vegetables will not come in bright wrappers broadcasting their health giving properties. If any food product contains an ingredient that a third grader wouldn't be able to pronounce, don't eat it. If a product contains more than five ingredients, don't eat it.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.