Mostly Plants: What to Eat
In the previous post of this Getting Over Nutritionism series, I talked about the importance of eating real food, and what exactly real food is. In part 3, I am discussing what foods are best to eat and why. Michael Pollan explains in his book In Defense of Food that as long as you eat food, whatever the food, the majority of the time, you are okay. People from all over the world have survived and thrived on a vast array of different kinds of diets, full of only real foods. These diets consist of anything such as healthy high-fat and low-fat diets; as long as the foods you eat are built on the foundation of whole foods instead of industrially processed products, your diet will most likely be a healthy one.
Although a diet consisting of all whole foods will pretty much be a healthy one no matter what, there are some whole foods that are better than others. There are also ways of cooking and combining whole foods that are healthier as well. Therefore, this section will discuss Michael Pollan’s tips on what real foods to eat.
Image credit: Austin Kleon: A Writer Who Draws.
As I was writing this post, I realized it was going to be a lot longer than anticipated. There are so many important things I wanted to share that I just couldn’t leave out. Because of this, I’ve decided to break Part 3 up into multiple parts. The first topic in Part 3 of the Getting Over Nutritionism series is:
- Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
There are many disagreements among scientists about diets, theories, and what about whole foods is so good for us (Is it the antioxidants? The fiber? The omega-3 fatty acids?), but there is one thing they do agree on – plants are really good for you and that people should eat more plants than anything else in their diet.
There are some big evolutionary reasons why we depend so heavily on vitamin C, an antioxidant. The bodies of ancestors once possessed the ability to make vitamin C on their own. Our body’s cell metabolism and the defense of inflammation both produce something called oxygen radicals which are atoms of oxygen that have an unpaired electron that make them keen to react with molecules in ways that can create health problems such as cancer and other problems that are many times associated with aging (because this oxygen radical production raises as you get older). Vitamin C and other antioxidants work to absorb and even out the radicals before they are able to react badly with other molecules. These antioxidants help our bodies in other ways such as helping our liver to break down toxins – this is why it is important to eat all different kinds of plants; the bigger variety of plants, the bigger variety of antioxidants.
Because our ancestors were eating so many plants that provided this vitamin C, their bodies slowly stopped producing it (because the evolutionary process gets rid of attributes that are no longer needed). Therefore, it is important that we eat mostly plants in our diet so that we receive the antioxidants that we need. Many studies show us that in countries where people eat one pound or more of fruits and vegetables a day, the rate of cancer is half than what it is in the United States; it actually reduces the risk of dying from all Western diseases. 
All of the nutrients that are found in meat (except B12) can be found in plants. Although we do need B12, we do not need much of it and it can be found in all animal foods, and in bacteria (in dirty, decaying, or fermented produce). Meat is very nutritious and supplies many vitamins and minerals that we need in our diets, but we do not need to eat it in the quantities that most Westerners (especially Americans) do. Some studies, according to Pollan, show that the more meat (especially red meat) you have in your diet, the higher your risk is for heart disease and cancer. Some studies suggest that you should eat meat as more of a side dish, than a main portion.
There isn’t a clear reason why we need to worry a bit more about our meat intake, but it is found that when people eat more meat, plants are pushed out of the diet. Eating industrial meat also causes us to consume more saturated fat, omega-6 fatty acids, growth hormones, and carcinogens than anyone should have in their diet. Meats have the advantages of getting much of the nutrients from its food when it is fed its natural diet, but it also has the disadvantage of getting much of the toxins when it is fed an unnatural diet. This is a perfect example of the connection between the health of the soil, plant, animal, and eater. This introduces us to our next rule: You are what you eat eats too.
The next post in this series will discuss the next six rules that Michael Pollan gives on what to eat.
Other posts in this series:
For You Were Bought With A Price, So Glorify God in Your Body