Eat food. Sound simple? Not according to Michael Pollan. In his most recent book, In Defense of Food, Pollan uses fourteen pages alone to define “food,” as opposed to what he calls “edible food-like substances.” In his lecture, “The Politics of Food: Changing the Way the World Eats,” Pollan argued that society’s obsession with discovering the “evil nutrient” and our drive to manufacture “nutritious” food have created a crisis of the American diet. Pollan pointed out that throughout history and across geographical regions, humans have thrived off a diverse array of diets, from seal blubber to corn. But as populations adopt a “Western diet” (one low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and high in processed foods often misleadingly marketed as healthy), they predictably develop a common set of chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. This in turn drives up the cost of healthcare, as is already evident in the United States and is quickly becoming the case in developing countries such as China.
What roles do culture, politics, and economics play in shaping the American diet? How does this impact other issues such as healthcare reform and climate change? What simple rules can we follow to improve our diets and approach to nutrition and to ultimately create a healthier society?
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