In Which Scientists do not Recommend that We Eat Food

“…We should understand and engage with food and our bodies in terms of their nutritional and chemical constituents and requirements – the assumption being that this is all we need to understand.” This reductionist way of thinking about food had been pointed out and criticized before…but it had never before been given a proper name: “nutritionism.”…

The first thing to understand about nutritionism is that it is not the same thing as nutrition…It is not a scientific subject but an ideology…The widely shared but unexamined assumption is that the key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient. Put another way: Foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts…

Since nutrients, as compared with foods, are invisible and therefore slightly mysterious, it falls to the scientists…to explain the hidden reality of foods to us. In form this is a quasireligious idea, suggesting the visible world is not the one that really matters, which implies the need for a priesthood. For to enter a world where your dietary salvation depends on unseen nutrients, you need plenty of expert help.

– Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, pp. 27-28

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2 comments on “In Which Scientists do not Recommend that We Eat Food

  1. Flippin’ brilliant! Might have to look into that book.

  2. Do! I have enjoyed it immensely so far. Pollan has not only researched his subject well, but writes with great wit and an unassuming sincerity that it is impossible not to like. He has also written The Botany of Desire and Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, the latter of which I just picked up and am planning on starting next (when I finish one or two of the dozen books I’m half-way through).

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