By: Eliot Dittmer, UWO Peer Wellness Educator
Michael Pollin, author and professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley, wrote the book In Defense of Food. In this book, he explains simple dietary rules to live by that can potentially lead to good health and longevity. One of these rules is as simple as seven words; Eat less, not too much. mostly plants. Can such a vague statement really lead to a healthy lifestyle? Sometimes we tend to get caught in the minute details of nutrition, further straying away from the bigger picture. This is not to say that these rules will lead to weight loss or perfect health in everyone, as there are a multitude of factors that play into health, but it is worthwhile to look at.
In general, Americans eat too much. To be clear, the problem of obesity is multifactorial. Factors may include lifestyle, genetics, socioeconomics, and the stark inequities in our society leading to food insecurity and food deserts. Without considering an individual’s varying circumstances, there is some validity to Pollin’s advice.
More than two thirds of American adults are obese and about one third of American youth are either overweight or have obesity (Health.gov). In some cases overconsumption of food can lead to an increase in weight. Some easy ways to over consume on calories can be attributed to an over reliance on saturated fats and a high consumption of sugar which is added to many foods and beverages. The portions of meals and beverages continue to increase as well, leading to a high consumption of calories.
Now onto the last portion of Pollin’s simple rule, mostly plants. This is to promote a vegetarian diet or vegan diet, but rather focusing on the shortcomings of the typical “Western Diet” that contains processed foods, a lot of meat, added fat & sugar and refined grains (Pollan). The “eat food” portion of his rule pertains to real food, not processed and refined foods. With this “Western Diet” the highly consumed foods listed before often crowd out plant based food consumption. The benefits of vegetables are endless. They are rich in fiber, low in fat, contain important vitamins and minerals and also provide antioxidant functions. In addition, adequate vegetable intake lowers the risk of many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity,heart disease and some types of cancer. Vegetables are easily incorporated into many meals such as omelettes, smoothies, side salads, stir fry and just for snacking.
In general, this simple rule that Michael Pollan created is the quick fix for health. However, Eat less, not too much, mostly plants is a rule that aims to promote a general healthy lifestyle. Going along with these guidelines along with regular exercise can potentially lead to an overall better health. Of course, there are many other facets of health to be aware of such as mental, social, environmental and spiritual.