Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: Food Rules

by Michael Pollan
Published 2009
140 pages

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, has written a pocket-sized guide to eating.

The book consists of a short intro followed by 64 food rules. The author calls them "policies" more than rules - guidelines you can follow when you decide what to eat, not hard-and-fast prescriptions (or proscriptions) of behavior. It's really just an expansion of his seven-word advice from his previous books - "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

The rules are easy to remember, and often overlap. Ones like "Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce" and Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry" and a few others all advise you against processed foods. Ones about limiting meat consumption vs. plant consumption abound as well, often overlapping. This isn't by mistake - the idea is that a few of the rules will "stick" so they throw a bunch of them at you so you don't miss the redundantly explained message.

There is almost nothing in the way of scientific discussion. No citations. Very few nutritional terms (protein, fats, carbs, etc.) and the ones that are there are accompanied by some plain-language arguments for the food rules in question. It's just a short series of rules, some requiring no explanation to understand and follow, that you can use to base your eating around.

The book is really excellent stuff. It's short and punchy. The advice is spot-on for eating for health. The one caveat I'd add to the whole thing is that if you're looking to eat as an athlete, with excess calories for weight gain and optimal protein consumption and other things like that . . . this isn't the only book you'll want to read. This is a generic set of rules for eating healthy food in moderation for everyday life. You won't find a way to maximize your muscle gain or fat loss. But if you're at a basic loss on how to eat and what to buy, this will get you going in the right direction.

Content: 5 out of 5. Concise and incisive and right on target for healthy eating.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Well written and laid out of ease of use.

Overall: Read it. Borrow it or pick up a copy. Leave it around where your friends with diet issues will see it and browse through it. It's not and end-all be-all book on eating, nor on eating for strength, but it's enough to help change someone's diet for the better.

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