Michael Pollan tells University of Portland audience to ditch processed food
Published: Monday, April 18, 2011, 10:00 AM Updated: Monday, April 18, 2011, 1:14 PM
Michael Pollan kicked off his lecture Saturday with a bit of a horror show. The best-selling author lugged two grocery bags on stage at theUniversity of Portland's Chiles Center, and began pulling out packages of some of the scariest products lurking on supermarket shelves.
Things like a frozen fruit pizza with cheese, artificial sweetener spiked with fiber, ginger ale made with green tea and antioxidants, chocolate-flavored Cheerios, and something calledGatorade 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel.
"It boasts that it has no fruit juice," Pollan said. "Just chemicals."
What all the products had in common was that each made nutritional claims on their packaging, and Pollan said that those misleading claims were making it difficult for consumers to find healthy food when they shop.
"People will bring home that green tea ginger ale instead of Coca-Cola and think they're doing something good," he told the near-capacity audience.
Pollan said that Americans have become obsessed with the nutritional value of the food they eat, creating an unhealthy paradox, given the nation's high rate of obesity and health problems that are directly related to diet. This obsession is rooted in an ideology that Pollan calls "Nutritionism."
Like any ideology, nutritionism has core beliefs: food is a delivery system for nutrients; you need experts to tell you how to eat; foods can be divided into camps of good and evil; and the only reason to eat is to maintain and promote bodily health.
Instead of following this broken ideology, Pollan advocates an old-fashioned idea: How about eating because it gives us pleasure and fosters community?
"We need to take back control of our diet from the priesthood who would tell us what to eat," Pollan said. "We had a way to eat before we had food science. We had food culture. And culture is really just a fancy word for your mom."
To eat better, Pollan recommended that people shop the perimeter of grocery stores, since that's where the least-processed and generally healthiest foods reside, and focus on foods that are perishable.
"Foods are alive and they should die eventually," he said. "Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot."
Pollan had a few more don'ts to add to his list: Don't eat anything that has ingredients you can't identify; whatever you eat, don't eat too much of it; and don't eat anything you see advertised on television.