Michael Pollan's 'Food Rules': Part II

So hopefully you read my previous post "Food Rules: Part 1" and understand that you're supposed to eat food (duh.) But more specifically, you're supposed to avoid "food-like substances," which have taken the place of whole foods in most of the western world. As a preface to Part 2, Michael Pollan says,

"If you follow the rules offered thus far you will be eating real, whole food most of the time... Beyond that, you have a great many options.... it is possible to nourish ourselves from an astonishing range of foods--so long as they really are foods... Yet there are some whole foods that are better for us than others, and some ways of producing them and then combining them in meals that can make a difference. So the rules in this section propose a handful of personal policies regarding what to eat, above and beyond 'food.'"

Part 2: What kind of food should I eat? (Mostly plants.)

Rule 22 - Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

Rule 23 - Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.

"Meat, which humans have been eating and relishing for a very long time, is nourishing food, which is why I suggest "mostly" plants, not "only" But the average American eats meat as part of two or even three meals a day--more than half a pound per person per day--and there is evidence that the more meat there is in your diet--red meat in particular--the greater your risk of heart disease and cancer... Consider swapping the traditional portion sizes: Instead of an eight-once steak and a four-ounce portion of vegetables, serve four ounces of beef and eight ounces of veggies."

Rule 24 - "Eating what stands on one leg (mushrooms and plant foods) is better than eating what stands on two legs (fowl), which is better than eating what stands on four legs (cows, pigs, and other mammals)."

"This Chinese proverb offers a good summary of traditional wisdom regarding the relative healthfulness of different kinds of food, though it inexplicably leaves out the very healthful and entirely legless fish."

Rule 25 - Eat your colours.

"The colours of many vegetables reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain... Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic diseases, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet containing as many different phytochemicals as possible."

Rule 26 - Drink the spinach water.

"The water in which vegetables are cooked is rich in vitamins and other healthful plant chemicals. Save it for soup or add it to sauces."

Rule 27 - Eat animals that have themselves eaten well.

"The diet of the animals we eat strongly influences the nutritional quality, and healthfulness, of the food we get from them, whether it is meat or milk or eggs... [Animals that have access to green plants] will contain much healthier types of fat (more omega-3's, less omega-6's) as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants."

Rule 28 - If you have the space, buy a freezer.

"When you find a good source of pastured meat, you'll want to buy it in quantity... A freezer will also enable you to put up food from the farmers' market, and encourage you to buy produce in bulk at the height of its season, when it will be most abundant--and therefore cheapest."

Rule 29 - Eat like an omnivore.

"Whether or not you eat any animal foods, it's a good idea to try to add some new species, and not just new foods, to your diet--that is, new kinds of plants, animals, and fungi... The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases."

Rule 30 - Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.

Rule 31 - Eat wild foods when you can.

Rule 32 - Don't overlook the oily little fishes.

"Wild fish are among the healthiest things you can eat, yet many wild fish stocks are on the verge of collapse because of overfishing. Avoid big fish at the top of the marine chain--tuna, swordfish, shark--because they are endangered, and because they often contain high levels of mercury. Fortunately, a few of the most nutritious wild fish species, including mackerel, sardines, and anchovies, are well managed, and in some cases are even abundant."

Rule 33 - Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.

"Many traditional cultures swear by the health benefits of fermented foods--foods that have been transformed by live microorganisms, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, soy sauce, kimchi, and sourdough bread. These foods can be a good source of vitamin B12... probiotics... and, according to some studies, help reduce allergic reactions and inflammation."

Rule 34 - Sweeten and sat your food yourself.

Rule 35 - Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature.

"In nature, sugars almost always come packaged with fiber, which slows their absorption and gives you a sense of satiety before you've ingested too many calories."

Rule 36 - Don't eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of the milk.

Rule 37 - "The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead."

"As far as the body is concerned, white flour is not much different from sugar."

Rule 38 - Favor the kinds of oils and grains that have traditionally been stone-ground.

"In the case of grain, more of the germ and fiber remains when it is ground on a stone; you can't get white flour from a stone... the newer oils that are extracted by modern chemical means tend to have less favourable fatty acid profiles and more additives than olive, sesame, palm fruit, and peanut oils that have been obtained the old-fashioned way."

Rule 39 - Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Because the convenience has been taken away, you are less likely to eat these foods often when you take the time to make them yourself.

Rule 40 - Be the kind of person who takes supplements--then skip the supplements.

"Supplement takers are health for reasons that have nothing to do with the pills. They're typically more health conscious, better educated, and more affluent. They're also more likely to eat whole grains. So to the extent you can, be the kind of person who would take supplements, and then save your money. (There are exceptions to this rule, for people who have a specific nutrient deficiency or are older than fifty...)"

Rule 41 - Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

"People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than those of us eating a modern Western diet of processed foods. Any traditional diet will do: If it were not a healthy diet, the people who follow it wouldn't still be around... In borrowing from a food culture, pay attention to how a culture eats as well as to what it eats. In the case of the French paradox, for example, it may not be the dietary nutrients that keep the French healthy (lots of saturated fat and white flour?!) as much as their food habits: small portions eaten at leisurely communal meals; no second helpings or snacking."

Rule 42 - Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism.

"...it pays to approach new creations with caution. If diets are the products of an evolutionary process in which groups of people adapt to the plants, animals, and fungi a particular place has to offer, then a novel food or culinary innovation resembles a mutation... Soy products offer a good case in point. People have been eating soy in the form of tofu, soy sauce, and tempeh for many generations, but today we're eating novelties like "soy protein isolate," "soy isoflavones," and "textured vegetable protein" from soy and partially hydrogenated soy oils, and there are questions about the healthfulness of these new food products."

Rule 43 - Have a glass of wine with dinner.

"There is now considerable scientific evidence for the health benefits of alcohol to go with a few centuries of traditional belief and anecdotal evidence... the fact is that people who drink moderately and regularly live longer and suffer considerably less heart disease... Most experts recommend no more than two drinks a day for men, one for women."

Stay tuned for Part 3... "How much should I eat?" or buy the book yourself!