Aruna Voleti - Essay

Eat Food

Michael Pollan, in his article “Defense of Food,” advises his readers to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He wants his readers to be healthy and not eat processed foods, as they are not equivalent to real food. He says that those foods are not good for your health and not to trust “anything that does not rot.” He claims that companies add unknown substances to these foods and lie about what is inside them. He says that naturally available foods are the only type of food that anyone should eat for which you should go to farms. He advises his readers to eat simpler foods and “not eat anything your grandmother would not recognize” to lead a healthy lifestyle (Pollan 10). While Michael Pollan is right about processed foods having unknown substances and additives and not being good for one’s health, he is incorrect in saying that buying always only from a farm is always good for one’s health and you should avoid supermarkets. 

Pollan warned people about processed food that contain high substitutes and various food additives that spoil the digestion system. He says, a lot of these companies purposely try to make you addicted to such foods. “We are eating a lot of edible food-like substances, which is to say highly processed things that might be called yogurt, might be called cereals, whatever, but in fact, are very intricate products of food science that are really imitations of foods” (Pollan). He means that milk substitutes such as non-dairy beverages and almond milk are poor imitations of the real thing. This is true for many other foods as well.  For example, Sara Lee’s soft and smooth whole-grain bread contains so many ingredients like monoglycerides, azodicarbonamide, high fructose corn syrup, and added other food additives for taste. 

Part of the reason why this happens is that many companies do their own research and push their own agenda to get customers to buy their products. For example, Coca-Cola published a research article on how you can counter soda and sugar with more exercise. They push back against organizations and people that say their products are unhealthy and lobby against unfavorable laws. Pollan says that these foods are not good for you and that these companies are not your friend. Pollan is correct in this regard because if you read the back of the label, you would not be able to recognize half the ingredients that are there. Many of these products aren’t good for your health and people need to be educated on them as you can’t trust a lot of the information out there. 

Pollan says that buying food from the farmer's market is fresh, nutritious, and healthy. He also suggests that people should buy natural foods like milk, meat, and vegetable at supermarkets and farmers' markets. However, there is no proof that the foods at a farmer's market are nutritious and organic. Oftentimes, a lot of farmers at these markets are not really certified. No one knows what substances farmers add unless there is certain proof that something is organic. However, at stores, there is generally some certification before they go on the shelf. Many farmers use pesticides and hormones to increase the production of food which is often more unhealthy than processed foods. Pesticides can lead to neurodevelopmental issues and might even lead to cancer in severe cases.  

Dairy and meat are generally good for one’s health but, sex steroids like estrogen may be given to livestock to increase production. Scientists say that Organic milk has the same protein, mineral, lipid, and vitamin content as normal milk, but it is also homogenized. There are possibilities that homogenization would lead to health issues such as lactose issues. 

Conventional meat also has side effects such as obesity. No one can tell if the farmers are growing their plants and raising their livestock in a healthy way and should be cautious when buying at farmers' markets. That is why supermarkets might be better in some cases because a buyer will at least see if a product is organic and healthy before buying it. And most of the time, supermarkets ensure, the product they sell go through a quality check.

Pollen also advocates for avoiding buying food at supermarkets, convenience stores, and fast-food outlets. The food industry is huge, and it plays a major role in the market. There are so many varieties of food products and processed food sold in the market. Pollan said, “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food” (Pollan). This is not a good piece of advice. The foods that is available then and now are completely different. There are new cuisines and new dishes, but more importantly, there is more food than ever before, so many old people never ate anything that we have today. 

Moreover, before selling any products in shops, FDA would give a clearance certificate. The FDA is not as useless as Pollen makes it out to be. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle inspired many reforms and started the FDA in the first place. The FDA has standards and they do not really advertise junk food as being healthy. Furthermore, their certificates are for organic and more natural foods and warn people, which is what people see when they buy products. For example, customers who are allergic to milk prefer to buy almond milk or soy milk, which will not harm a person thanks to FDA approval.

Also, many alternatives are healthy. For example, whole milk has a lot of fat and calories, so many opt to buy low-fat milk. Corn and peanut oils have high calories and fat that causes heart attack so people would prefer low-fat saturated oils like sunflower and vegetable oils. Cereal bars, protein bars, black bean chips, oatmeal, whole-grain bread, roasted nuts, and seeds are also very healthy. 

Of course, not everything in the market is healthy, such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but we can look at the nutritional information for that. Pollan also says that people should “avoid products containing ingredients more than five, unfamiliar, unpronounceable and high fructose corn syrup” (Pollan). Today, most products have more than five ingredients. Most food products sold in the shops are labeled and describe the percentage of calories, ingredients, and other instructions given on them. Customers can use those labels and figure out if a product is healthy or not at all. So many of the products at supermarkets are healthy and are placed with unhealthy items. It is perfectly fine to shop at these places as long as people are intelligent to select the right product. 

In his article, Michael Pollen suggests that processed foods are unhealthy because of the different chemical substitutes and additives present in the food. He advised only buying real food that is available in the supermarket and farmers' market. However, in the farmer's market, most of the farmers sell food items like vegetables and fruits that are grown with pesticides. Only organic certified products can really be considered healthy, and that is something one will not find at a farmer’s market. 

He also advises his readers to stop shopping at the supermarket. However, all products at supermarkets are not that bad, most of them FDA approved and labeled, most of which have actual merit to them. People go to the market and select their choice of food that is good for their health. So, although Mr. Pollan is correct about processed foods having unknown substances and additives and not being good for one’s health, he is incorrect in saying that buying always only from a farm is always good for one’s health and you should avoid supermarkets.


About the Writer

Aruna Voleti is currently just taking English at Mission College to improve upon her English.