All-Around Good Reads on Eating Well and Food Culture

on Feb 21, 2010

Eating well is a confusing mess and much of that is due to bad information purported by self interested parties (more on that in a future post). Fortunately there are a bunch of legitimate resources out there to help you eat better. The NYT Magazine article, Unhappy Meals, blew me away and really got me rethinking the whole notion of eating better. This piece was written by Michael Pollan who has written many other great pieces regarding food culture. One relevant example is In Defense of Food which is an expansion of his NYT Magazine piece.

Another fantastic NYT Magazine piece, written nearly a decade ago, is What if It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie? by Gary Taubes. This piece is striking because it completely upends the notion that fats are the “nutritionary evils” that most people consider them to be. If anything, this article is worth a read because it spurs the kind of thought required to dispel much of the bad advice on eating well.

The following two books are interesting because of their seemingly antagonistic nature. Several reviews for Nina Plank’s Real Food slammed the book for bad advice and the reviewers suggested reading The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, instead. Seeing this, I decided to read both and did in fact find a common ground in between them.

In Real Food, Planck argues that foods containing saturated fats and cholesterol are improperly labeled as bad guys and consuming these foods is better than vegan or vegetarian diets. She also argues against “food”, such as soy this and soy that, that imitates other foods.

In The China Study, Campbell argues that the “western diet”, which often put animal products at the center of the plate causes “diseases of affluence” (heart disease and cancer among the biggest of these). Assertions are based on his decades of research that compare diets and disease occurrence between western cultures and traditional cultures (in this case, rural areas in China).

It is very interesting that each of these books addresses the same issue but from opposite ends. Certainly, they both call for eating food that is less processed. Also, they push for food that is closer to what humans ate for hundreds of generations before its transformation in western societies.

There are plenty of other great reads on eating well and our food culture (and I’ll cover some of those in future posts). But I’ve found these five pieces particularly astounding in providing a big-picture view for eating well – between bringing light to the mess of information on how to eat, to the actual process of eating better.