Over the past year, I've gotten really into the idea of local, natural food. It all started when I got an email from my alma mater, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, suggesting I join a book club and read In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan, Professor of Science & Environmental Journalism at UC-Berkeley. I didn't have the time to join, but picked up the book from my library because I'd heard great things.
I can't possibly sum up the genius that is this book in a blog, so do yourself and favor and read it (it's a very quick read). Pollan very articulately describes the reasons our Western, over-processed, and fast-food-laden diets are contributing to the rise in diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and childhood obesity. In a nutshell, due to heavy government subsidies for corn and the food industry's need to create cheap, processed food in order to continually make more and more money, we find ourselves with grocery stores packed to the brim with a variety of products made from ingredients our bodies are not quite ready to handle. Mainly, we're eating corn, corn, and more corn along with more fats and sugars infused into our food by companies who know we're predisposed to love and therefore buy these tasty products. Our bodies react to the overload of sugars and fats because historically they provide lots of energy very, very uncommon in the natural foods our species has been eating for centuries. The side effects are devastating. In short, we're eating too much of the wrong things and what we should be eating, the book's motto sums up very well: "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants".
Eating food is not as easy as you think and is the main reason you should pick up a copy of this book.
The more you read or hear on the subject, the more individual studies agree. No one is telling us to stop eating vegetables and fruits or whole grains. It seems the scientific community is actually in agreement that the best things for us are the foods our great-grandparents grew up on. The book fell into my lap exactly the same month last year that my mother-in-law ended her 3.5 years with a cancer called Multiple Myeloma. The timing was too loud to ignore.
So Nathan and I have changed the way we eat. We pay more if necessary and vote with our dollars. If there's a choice, we buy organic. If we can make it ourselves, we do that (to a point). I'll tell you one thing, I didn't gain a single pound switching from margarine to butter and from low-fat foods to regular. I haven't been sick in years and by trying to shop locally and responsibly, I feel really good about the impact our food choices are making on the world.
I will be talking about this subject a lot as I figure out how to feed my kid(s) the best possible stuff on earth. I plan to grow my first real garden this summer, visit the farmer's market often and try new recipes, make my own baby food with a food processor, and continue to research this subject as we evolve our eating habits to more sustainable and natural ones. So stay tuned! In the mean time, check out these other great resources I've enjoyed on the subject:
Books (yes, I went on a Michael Pollan spree):
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan - Thorough look at the origins of four common meals (it's quite long, so I listened to this one on audiobook)
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michal Pollan - A continuation of In Defense of Food, with more concrete examples of how to eat naturally
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver - A year spent eating naturally & locally with great tips on doing this yourself
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser - An incredibly interesting look at our fast food system and habits - skip the movie, which is a fictionalized version without the depth
Food, Inc. - The best two-hour summary I've found of current knowledge and thinking surrounding the problems with our food system
King Korn - Excellent movie about where our food comes from and the lives of farmers today