A Crumb on Food

If you’ve glanced at my Goodreads box lately, you may have noticed the addition of a book called Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It is a brilliant, brilliant collection: so much so that I intend to write an entirely different post on the book itself and the medium it’s presented in. This post harkens more to the message of the book.

While the book has many great messages (it is full of adages and other wisdoms), a common theme I come away with is this:

You are what you eat.

This is not a new saying. We hear it often: you are what you eat, do, see, watch, listen to; who you associate with.

But when you start thinking of this in terms of grains and vegetables vs. maltodextrin, ferric orthophosphate, high frutcose corn syrup, xanthan gum, disodium inosinate, tripolyphosphate and red 40 (none of which my word processor recognizes as words, nor would my great grandparents recognize as food), the message doesn’t just resonate. It rattles. I don’t know about you, but if I am what I eat (that is, if my body absorbs it and it impacts my life and health now as well as over time), I would much rather be an apple or spinach or brown rice than a synthesized chemical. You know– punctuated with cookies and doughnuts here and there.

We live in a time when heavily processed and/or sugar-, salt-, and fat-injected foods are abundant and often more affordable than their healthier, wholefood counterparts. I did not realize to just what degree until I read Rule #13 in Pollan’s book:

Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle

The rule elaborates: most stores are laid out the same, with fresh produce, meat, dairy, and baked goods around the edges and all the processed foods in between. Think about all of those center aisles. Think about how much of the store they take up. Are our diets like that, too? What does that say about us? And given that, is it any wonder, as Pollan says in his introduction, that

Populations that eat a so-called Western diet– generally defined as…lots of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except vegetables, fruits, and whole grains– invariably suffer from high rates of the so called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.


It gives one something to think about– and that’s just the introduction.

The book gives dozens of excellent pointers and pearls about what and how to eat from as many cultures and origins. Rather than tell you my favorite “rules,” I think I will just encourage you to pick it up– it’s a worthwhile read. But if I can leave you with anything on the topic, it would be this: your diet impacts your life. Make the most of it.


11 responses to “A Crumb on Food”

  1. “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”

    That’s what Mark Twain had to say about it!

    1. Good quote. I LIKE healthy foods and drinks plenty– in fact, I often prefer them. It’s just that sweets are also very appealing 😉

      1. I know what you mean. There’s plenty of great healthy stuff out there. It’s just the other stuff that’s too tempting!

  2. Good ol’ Mark Twain.

    Honestly I’ve come to accept that I likely won’t have an incredibly long life, and I’m okay with that, because I’d rather eat the foods I like, and sometimes they are healthy and other times not so much. Just a few months ago I spent an entire month eating only Cup of Noodles… it was soooo bad for me, by the end of it I had so much sodium in my body that I was drinking all day and still thirsty.

    Though I do have to say on the You are what you eat front… I’ve been eating soy products and a lot of other phyto-estrogen producing products since I was practically born (allergic to the other stuff and I like the taste of em) and I can see the physical differences in my body. Didn’t hit puberty until 19 years old because of it, and when I did, I got a mix bag of male and female puberty. We don’t think about this stuff though, how much things like hormones in our food, or additives, or certain chemicals can induce certain things. I guarantee you there is a connection to a lot of foods out there and people’s mental diseases and physical diseases (not just things like diabetes and cancer).

    1. You are probably right, and that is something that can probably be studied till the end of time (the relationship between food additives and mental/physical, and maybe even emotional developments, that is). I suppose the important thing is to know what works for you…and usually, as with the ramen –> increased thirst, our bodies will tell us what that is (or isn’t) 😉

  3. Fredrik Kayser Avatar
    Fredrik Kayser

    I eat almost anything and everything. When it comes to food I’ve always thought that I’m more “you are How you eat” rather than ‘what’, which in my case would either be a total glutton or a wolf depending on your point of view. I’ve got a very high motabolism, I don’t think I’ve ever been on a diet other than ‘if it doesn’t taste like cardboard I’ll eat it.’ : )

    1. Very true: “How” is just as important as “what” we eat. In fact, Pollan’s book is divided into three sections and one of them is “how” to eat. I envy people with naturally-high metabolism who can eat like a wolf and get away with it 😉

  4. Excellent point. And to follow Pollen’s premise, I can now proudly proclaim, “I am butter pecan ice cream!”

    1. Fair enough (everybody likes ice cream). Just watch out for people who are lactose intolerant! 😉

  5. You think cannibals just want to be human?

    1. Haha! If absorbing a person’s qualities is what they’re after, I’ll have to remember to remind any [potential cannibals] that they need more quality time with that person, not salt.

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