“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand the big picture of how to put food wisely into your body.
It’s especially important for anyone with a health issue, including a mental health issue.
Here’s from the opening pages:
What should we have for dinner?
This book is a long and involved answer to this seemingly simple question. Along the way, it also tries to figure out how such a simple question could ever have gotten so complicated. As a culture, we seem to have arrived at a place where whatever native wisdom we may once have possessed about eating has been replaced by confusion and anxiety. Somehow this most elemental of activities – figuring out what to eat – has come to require a remarkable amount of expert help. How did we ever get to the point where we need investigative journalists to tell us where our food comes from and nutritionists to determine the dinner menu?
… So violent a change in a culture’s eating habits is surely the sign of a national eating disorder. Certainly it would never have happened in a culture in possession of deeply rooted traditions surrounding food and eating. But then, such a culture would not feel the need for its most august legislative body to ever deliberate the nation’s “dietary goals” – or for that matter, to wage political battle every few years over the precise design of an official government graphic called the “food pyramid.” A country with a stable culture of food would not shell out millions for the quackery (or common sense) of a new diet book every January It would not be susceptible to the pendulum swings of food scares or fads, to the apotheosis every few years of one newly discovered nutrient and the demonization of another. It would not be apt to confuse protein bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast cereals with medicines. It probably would not eat a fifth of its meals in cars or feed fully a third of its children at a fast-foot outlet every day. And it surely would not be nearly so fat.
Nor would such a culture be shocked to discover that there are other countries, such as Italy and France, that decide their dinner questions on the basis of such quaint and unscientific criteria as pleasure and tradition, eat all manner of “unhealthy” foods, and lo and behold, wind up actually healthier and happier in their eating than we are. We show our surprise at this by speaking of something called the “French paradox,” for how could a people who eat such demonstrably toxic substances of foie gras and triple creme cheese actually be slimmer and healthier than we are? Yet I wonder if it doesn’t make more sense to speak in terms of an American paradox – that is, a notably unhealthy people obsessed by the idea of eating healthily.
It’s a fascinating read! Inside the food industry, to learn about all the inventions in “food,” and fragmentation of our knowledge so as to sell us toxic products based on single ideas, like “fat-free” or the now-meaningless “all natural.” But read the book. The tour through our last few decades of food invention is amazing – and disturbing. I’m very happy to be so disturbed, as I want all the encouragement I can get to eat right, naturally.