Michael Pollan has several books (and a movie or two) published on food, and his latest book is Food Rules. It’s definitely worth a read. It consists of 64 short one-pagers, each explaining one aspect of food. Shraddha and I found it quite interesting and useful. Here are some nuggets from it.
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t eat it.” That’s the line he uses to dissuade readers from processed food and promote vegetarian and vegan food instead. I’m already following this rule to a large extent; my diet is vegetarian, and I eat very little processed food.
“Look at the ingredients list. If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize those ingredients as food, or if you don’t have these ingredients in your own kitchen, don’t buy it.” This was a great eye-opener for us. The next time we were grocery shopping, we took some time to read the ingredients lists of some of the snack food items we occasionally buy. We saw all kinds of non-food ingredients like fruit pectin, agar gum, guar gum, xanthan gum, etc. And of course the ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup.
We’ve become rather selective now about choosing “all natural” products, for the few things we do buy that are factory-made (like bread, tortillas, ice-cream, etc.). Once we start to eliminate non-natural ingredients, choices become remarkably simple — there are very few all-natural selections to choose from. 🙂
The author also recommends ethnic cuisines more, since they still retain more of their traditional roots and are less prone to industrialization.
The book is quite good, and even those who are already health-conscious eaters will get something out of it. Pollan does advocate a vegetarian-dominated diet strongly, but he stops just short of recommending the plunge into a fully vegetarian diet. Other than that, it’s the best book on food I’ve read so far.
And if you’re getting your knickers all in a knot about having to strictly abide by food rules all the time, Pollan has the last rule for you: “Break the rules… once in a while!”
Recent Food for Thought
When we visited Mother’s Cafe a while ago, the food didn’t have as much salt as we were used to eating in restaurants. It took a bit of getting used to… for the first two bites. Then we enjoyed it thoroughly. It was an excellent reminder for us to moderate our own salt intake at home.
Another recent trip was to Taste of Ethiopia where vegetarian dishes are in the majority on the menu, and the food is served on injera bread which is eaten with the hands (without silverware), akin to the Indian way. There are tangible advantages to this practice. When you eat with your hands, the body starts getting clear signals about the food’s temperature, texture, etc. even before the food enters your mouth!
Guruji on Food
Food is one of the four sources of energy, as we learn in the Art of Living and YES+ courses. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high-prana foods; the more processed and old a food is, the less prana it has. Fresh = good. There’s a whole talk on Food and Prana that’s very worth your while, if you haven’t heard it already.
Some of us will remember the grape process from an Art of Living or YES+ course. When you eat with awareness, whatever you eat brings you more prana. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, go and do a course!
Nothing Beats Ayurveda
For a comprehensive treatment on food, nothing beats Ayurveda. Guruji talks about the subject in his (1997 Santa Monica series) talk titled Ayurveda and the Breath. Ayurveda is a life-long study, and its fundamental principles are an amazing practical guide to daily eating. It’s also a fascinating subject since I can observe it in action in your own body — start with the three gunas, three doshas, the five elements, and so on. The science of Ayurveda is also closely linked to yoga, pranayama, and meditation in one holistic practice. And the practice of nadi pariksha or pulse diagnosis is also quite amazing. Shraddha and I had nadi pariksha done on us last June when we were in the Bangalore Ashram… more on Ayurveda maybe in a later post.
Actually the Best Food of All is…
Home-made food. 🙂