Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Dear Michael Pollan: My Rebuttal to the New Book “Food Rules”

Dear Mr. Pollan,

It was refreshing to hear you speak tonight on small vs. large farms, sustainable agriculture and moving our society to real, unprocessed foods instead of the crazy products you carried into the Wharton Center in Meijer bags. You have a good time poking fun at corn, don’t you? It deserves it, we don’t mind.


You had some striking sound bites that I shared on Twitter that night, so since I’m about to disagree with you, I thought I’d tell you there are a lot of things I love about your message. Here’s what I tweeted:

  • Some of @michaelpollan ‘s best quotes tonight: We have an unhealthy obsession w/healthy eating= “Nutritionism”
  • No 1 ideal diet: What an achievement for our civilization to have come up w/the ONE diet that makes people sick!”
  • What is best for health = best for agriculture too. Farmers can’t diversify fields until we diversify our diets.
  • Pollan to farmers: “You have chosen the most important work anyone can do for nation, self, family; a noble profession.
  • Pollan to farmers cont: “Farmers need to learn to talk to eaters. Do some direct marketing. Get to know your eater.”
  • “Pay people a living wage to buy real food instead of subsidizing to lower the price of food.”

Now that I’ve stroked your ego a little bit, I have to tell you that I bought your new book, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual. I read it in about 45 minutes, which I suppose is the point of putting together 64 brief rules about eating food.

I would have loved to sit down with you after the talk and have a little chat about Food Rules. As I read the book, I immediately began formatting a rebuttal on three of your points. Three wrong out of 64 really isn’t a bad grade, Mr. Pollan, so don’t worry about getting an A- or a B+. No one can be 100% right all the time!

Many of them are marvelous, really. I take a bit of an issue with “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” your 7-word mantra, only because I am not sure I agree with “mostly plants.”

Three Food Rules I Disagree With

#23: Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food. You are absolutely right that Americans need to change their relationship with meat. We do probably eat too much of it, but worse, it’s the wrong kinds. Corn-fed beef with lower omega-3s and unhappy chickens aren’t nourishing us well.

I use less meat than I’d like, just because it’s so expensive. However, meat and dairy are an important source of nutrient-dense food, and you can spend an awful lot of money eating vegetables and have a hard time getting your healthy fats, cholesterol and proteins. Eating more plants and less meat and dairy may result in too many grains and carbs, which would make us fat without much nourishment.

I’m happy you take the middle ground and don’t say “only plants,” but I’d like to see you laud the value of good, healthy meats even more.

#26 Drink the spinach water. I understand the value , both for frugality and nutrition, of using the water vegetables are cooked in. The cooking process leaches minerals and vitamins from the veggies, so consuming the water is one way to try to get those back in your body. Spinach is my ultimate top powerhouse superfood vegetable. Unfortunately, spinach contains oxalic acid or oxalate, a compound that inhibits the absorption of both calcium and iron.

Cooking spinach quickly for about one minute neutralizes oxalates, but they end up in the cooking water. Therefore, using the spinach water, of all things, is about the worst thing you could do as you would be ingesting more toxins than necessary. Maybe “Use your carrot water” would be a better rule. (Note:  Broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and kale also release toxins into their cooking water. Don’t reuse!)

#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. When I read this, I had homemade pumpkin ice cream, coconut pie, homemade potato chips and leftover rock candy from Christmas tempting me to wander through the kitchen and “graze”. As an at-home mom who loves to cook, I could keep us too well-stocked with hazardous foods!

“Cooking yourself” needs the caveat of “from healthy recipes” or “without white flour or sugar”. You know how bad white sugar is for people, right? However, this rule would work well for most people and might encourage healthy cooking from scratch. Come on over to my house sometime, Mr. Pollan, and I’ll whip you up some awesome Healthy Snacks!

My Favorite Food Rules

#29 Eat like an omnivore. Yep. We eat too much corn and soy as a culture. Let’s eat more variety!

#35  Eat sweet foods as you find them in nature. Pairing sweets with fiber was an intriguing point for me…

#40  Be the kind of person who takes supplements…and then skip the supplements! I’ve often wondered if it’s more the lifestyle of healthy people rather than the pills they pop that keep them healthy! I’d love an excuse not to take my vitamins. 😉

#44  Pay more, eat less. You deserve to be quoted:  “If you spend more for better food, you’ll probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care…Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories. Or as grandmothers used to say, ‘Better to pay the grocer than the doctor.’ ”  Amen!

#46  Stop eating before you’re full. I love that the French say “I have no more hunger,” instead of “I’m full.”  We Americans train ourselves to over eat.

Thanks for stepping out there to encourage real food and bring attention to the monoculture of corn, Mr. Pollan. You’re doing important work! Want to be interviewed on Kitchen Stewardship® someday?

Katie Kimball

Note: Donielle and I had the great privilege of getting to see Michael Pollan speak a few weeks ago. He packed a huge theater at Michigan State University, and I thought my hand would fall off by the end from the frantic notes I was taking. I will work on making some notes from Pollan’s excellent speech to share with you all sometime soon.

I also keep putting off typing a post about the experts I talked to on soaking grains, perhaps because the document of their conversations and my thoughts alone is 26 pages! Sheesh! Distilling that down to some bullet points or a table is my hope for Friday’s post; give me some encouragement if you want to see it and maybe I’ll quit procrastinating…  😉  You can see all my soaking grains research so far to catch up if you’d like.

I’m entered in Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Photo credit from lemonice photos.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

About The Author

75 thoughts on “Dear Michael Pollan: My Rebuttal to the New Book “Food Rules””

  1. Pingback: not recommended « girl without a country

  2. Brittan Starr

    Hello Katie,

    I just found your blog today and have not been able to tear myself away from it for the last two hours! I love your mission to educate individuals on particular tools for living a sustainable and economic lifestyle. This is one of my major passions as well, but are still in the early learning stages so I greatly appreciate everything you are doing here at this blog.

    I was also happy to see you were (or still are) a Michigander. I grew up in Mason Michigan, and will be returning to Michigan for graduate school at Ann Arbor after living near Berkeley, California for the last seven years.

    I found your reactions to Micheal Pollen’s “Rules” very interesting. Having gone to Berkeley, I had the opportunity to take two Journalism courses from Mr Pollen, both focused on food issues and how to communicate such issues to the general public. As Journalism is far from my actual major, Microbiology, my sole reason for taking the courses was to learn more about the subject of sustainable living/eating and boy, did I learn allot in a short period of time! The class consisted of allot of reading, from a large range of authors, he forced us to look at the question of how we view food today from every possible angle.

    I went into the classes a confused omnivore, desperately searching for a single food philosophy from which to live healthfully and mindfully. These classes did not immediately alleviate my confusion, but with an additional year of trial and error and some serious research and sole-searching, I came to my conclusion. I became a vegan.

    Yes, a vegan. And not just any type of vegan. I am a marathon-running, mountain-climbing, trail-biking, yoga-stretching, super-duper active vegan. And that’s not all. About 95% of what I eat is homemade with as much organic ingredients as I can find/afford. All of this is done on a limited budget (I am a student, after all) and very limited time (for the same reason as above).

    What I have found becoming a vegan surprised me and everyone around me. I have never, ever, had so much energy in my life. I run faster and longer. My muscles recover in record time. I spend less money on food (for goodness sake, meat and milk is expensive!) and even less time cooking. And instead of decreasing the diversity of my food, I have increased in many times fold, eating a huge variety of fruits and vegetables every day.

    I know what you (if you are reading this) are thinking, what about protein? I don’t worry about it one bit. I think that the majority of the population has the whole protein thing completely wrong. How much protein do we actually need? It is allot less than most people think and can easily be reached through a diverse vegetable-based diet. Beans, lentils, some-whole grains, lots of nuts, and copious amounts of vegetables, and boy, am I golden. If I had any more muscles on my female frame it would start looking too manly. The only supplement I take is for B-12 (not found in plants) and yeah, that’s it. I get my levels of iron, calcium, and all the other important vitamins/minerals checked at least twice a year, and I have never had one deficiency. Eating a diverse range of whole, real foods, nothing processed, nothing “fake”, and you can stop worrying about nutrients and start just eating food.

    Number one, people need to figure out what works for them. This works for me great, and I completely realize it does not work for most people. But I do wish people would have an open mind to the fact that such a lifestyle is not only possible on limited time and money, but also amazingly enjoyable. Before I became vegan, I sneered at the “smug” vegetarians and vegans as well. Until I become one (though I try real hard not to be smug 🙂 Now I just smile and ask them to pass the vegetables, again, for the third time.

    Take care and keep on writing!

    1. Brittan,
      Girl, I can tell it will be fun to have you around. My jaw hit the keyboard imaging taking classes from Pollan. Wow! What a treat. I would never fall asleep in his courses. 😉 Katie
      PS – and yes, I’m still in Michigan (GR).

  3. I guess this is a good place to share my real food “testimony,” especially since Michael Pollan plays a part in it! Sorry this is kind of long; here goes:
    I’ve been seriously searching for a healthy way to eat for myself and my family for about 5 years now, though I was interested in healthy eating and bought mostly organic before that. I tried being macrobiotic/vegan for about 5 months back in 2007, then, from reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, learned about Weston Price, Polyface Farm, etc. I read Nourishing Traditions and found it pretty convincing, decided that maybe veganism wasn’t the best road to health, joined a raw milk group and began seeking out local pastured meat.

    Then I read In Defense of Food. Under his “Mostly Plants” thesis, Pollan says that vegetarians are healthier than the general population, but that flexitarians- people who eat meat once in awhile- are just as healthy as vegetarians. Therefore he doesn’t recommend never eating meat, but just limiting it to “a seasoning,” referencing the advice of Thomas Jefferson.

    I’m not sure why I found this so convincing at the time, but I must have really taken it to heart. I limited our meat intake- usually having meat as an ingredient in our dinners 1-3 times/week, usually with a lot of veggies. We used some chicken broth for soups in addition, but generally our meals were vegetarian and even vegan most nights, except around holidays when we splurged more often. Our deep freezer was a real foodie’s dream, crammed with lovely pastured meats, homemade chicken liver pates, wild fish. But I just couldn’t get beyond the idea that I shouldn’t eat much of it. I’ve long struggled with a major sweet tooth. I could pretty easily say no to processed treats and most refined flour/sugar desserts but if I made something myself with whole sprouted flour, unrefined sweetener, pastured butter and other wholesome ingredients, I would binge on it. And organic chocolate- very hard for me to resist.

    Last year, I gained a few pounds over the holidays from baking a lot and eating most of it myself, so I decided to try a vegan “detox” diet in January. I wanted to shed the pounds fast, as I had during my previous vegan experiment, and somehow expected that I would feel better overall. But I didn’t. I had little energy; I had constant, intense sugar cravings all afternoon no matter how large a bean and rice burrito with avocado and flax seed oil I ate for lunch. In fact, I wanted to start eating sugar as soon as I was finished eating lunch. I never wavered from my vegan diet, but I’d often break down and eat dairy-free chocolate all afternoon. I kept this up for 2 months and hardly lost any weight- only about 3 pounds- probably because of all the calories from sugar.

    By the end of February I was fantasizing about eating piles of ground beef and scrambled eggs. Around this time I also discovered Matt Stone’s blog, 180 degree health, and it all began to make sense. So in March I followed my craving, ate eggs for breakfast every day, grass-fed ground beef tacos for lunch, and always included some kind of meat or loads of cheese in our dinners. I actually added meat and cheese to my favorite vegan recipes! We finished off all the chicken liver pate in the freezer. For snacks I would eat raw cheese and apple. I avoided all grains except quinoa. And I began to feel great; I had more energy, my sugar cravings were GONE, and amazingly, I lost weight- 5 pounds in 3 weeks! (I’ve since added other whole grains back into my diet and had no problem with them, so I don’t think my results were from eliminating grains.)

    So this is why I am just a tiny bit resentful toward Michael Pollan and why I think his “Mostly Plants” rule is wrong, and that it’s worth saying so! Because there are probably other sincere seekers out there like myself who are not married to a particular dogma but are on a real food quest, searching for a truly nourishing way to eat. And Pollan’s writings may convince them that even pastured meat, eggs and dairy are compromise food to be minimized, not amazingly nourishing foods to be embraced.

    And lastly, it’s impossible to know what it feels like to live in a truly nourished body till you do! It’s like being in a different place altogether. Not that every minor health problem of mine has disappeared; I still have seasonal allergies and unexplained continuous post nasal drip. And I am definitely not done reading and researching, nor am I saying that this is absolutely the only way to eat for everyone for all time, period. But if you feel led to eat a whole lot of nourishing animal foods and you have the resources to do it, don’t be dissuaded by Michael Pollan’s rules!

    And thanks again, Katie, for all your great research and inspiring writing!

    1. Pamela,
      What an inspiration! It’s so clear that one diet isn’t perfect for everyone, and it’s good to hear a real life, very clear example of finding a nourishing way. What a road you had to travel! I’m honored that you shared here, thank you.
      🙂 Katie

    2. What a story and a journey! My story is similar but the journey was a lot less painful. We live in the Santa Cruz area of Central California-lots of pressure to think that “correct” eating can only be vegetarian and that the further removed one is from eating animal products the more pure one is. It is hard not to succumb to social pressure! This is also a very materialistic culture (ironic, I know!) and I also struggle to remove myself from the pressure to want, want, want.

      My turning point was listening to a speaker at the cycling club meeting who was talking about training. In the question/answer period someone asked the question re diet, what did he think re a training diet. And the poor man went “mumble, mumble, mumble”. After a couple rounds of “WHAT?” he finally said loud enough for all of us to hear “The Zone” and immediately launched into a frantic defense of the idea that one should eat animal protein as a part of one’s diet. What really slapped me upside the head was when he asked us to think about what a lot of people who come to him say about their diet-carbs, carbs, carbs. A bagel for breakfast, more bread for lunch and pasta for dinner.

      I took this semi to heart and started paying attention to how much carbohydrate I was consuming and trying to be sure there was a protein component to most meals (be it beans & rice or cheese or meat). And I too felt my energy levels go up.

      Without being obsessive I try to think of eating for energy as much as anything else. And, yes, lots of veg! What I love about lots of veg is one can eat a big pile of food for not so many calories!

      My current favorite tweak for the smug vegetarians is to chatter away about I slipped over the edge after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. “Oh, did you become a vegetarian?” is the universal response. “No, I chose the other path” and sit back to watch the puzzled processing of that tidbit-there is another choice? At that moment I chirrup about how I bought a freezer and a side of beef. So far no one has fainted and I do reveal that we split that side of beef with two other couples. After I have my moment of mean spirited fun.

      I just ran my calculator and adding the pounds of a half pig I bought to my share of the beef we average 3 oz per person per day. We do entertain a lot but we also dine with others and eat out occasionally so I have to assume that it all comes out even.

      In my culture (Santa Cruz, CA) this seems like a lot of meat but maybe not out in America?

      I will also say that I seem to be unusual in the amount of vegetables I haul home and cook-I stagger out of the farmers market each week with my load, studying all the people strolling out with two tiny bags of produce. I can see what they are having for dinner that night but what about the rest of the week? Bagels and pasta?

      1. Anita,
        What fun you’re having with those vegetarians! You are fabulous. And yes, your 3 oz. of meat per day is positively paltry compared to the avg. American, I’m certain. Consider a quarter pound hamburger, which has become on the “small” side for many, is already 4 oz. Enjoy your freezer full – I’m jealous!
        🙂 Katie

      2. Anita- Thanks for sharing! I currently live in Rochester, NY but grew up in Menlo Park, CA and went to UC Berkeley, so I am very familiar with the food climate you are talking about!

  4. I have to argue that Michael Pollan is spot on with his “rules” for eating. But we readers need to recognize that he wasn’t trying to write the definite and to be taken literally gospel on what we may and may not eat.
    Consider his work as guidelines for challenging the way Americans think about food. The save your spinach water is a throwaway line to get us to recognize that we toss a great deal of nutrition, not a specific “rule” to drink spinach water. Pollan is suggesting we pay attention to how much nutrition we throw away by not cooking like our great grandmothers.
    Similarly when he suggests thinking of meat as a seasoning he is suggesting a major change in our thinking about what a serving of animal protein is. Changing to eating “only” 2 ounces of animal protein as a serving would be thinking of meat as a seasoning for heavy meat eaters.
    Just accepting Eat Food, Mostly Vegetables is a huge change for most people. It is a dictum meant to ask us to think more carefully about what a portion of meat should be and what your plate should look like.
    In the same vein Pollans “rule” that we eat only “junk” cooked from scratch is a suggestion to be a lot more discriminating about what empty calories you include in your diet, not a “rule” that home made empty calories can be consumed indiscriminately.
    I would argue that nitpicking about this or that fine point of anything Pollan says is missing the main point that we need to change how we think about what we put in our mouths. Nitpicking about spinach water vs brocolli water or home baked treats made with this or that sugar/fat/flour or just how much pastured meat is ok is tottering dangerously close to “nutritionism”!
    Personally I find that being conscious of calorie load keeps my plate nicely balanced with lots of low calorie green veg, a modest serving of carb and a very modest serving of animal protein. But I also subscribe to the “everything in moderation, including moderation” concept so occasionally throw caution to the winds and eat all the meat loaf and mashed potato I want!
    And I challenge you to start paying attention to just how few vegetables most of your friends and acquaintances actually eat, especially your vegetarian/vegan friends and acquaintances! Don’t comment, don’t judge, just pay attention. And eat more vegetables!

    1. Anita,
      I cringed when MP defined “nutritionism” because I absolutely didn’t expect to hear him describe ME, and then, um…he did. Yep…I need to eat more veggies, too. Please open, Farmer’s Market!
      😉 Katie

      1. Katie, you are such a gracious blog host! This is my reply to Christina and Anita:
        I understand your points, but I, and clearly many of the other “real food” eaters, just see it differently. Personally, there is nothing in Pollan’s writings that makes me think he is just trying to make a practical recommendation that would improve the majority of American’s diet, rather than recommending the best way for everyone to eat. Certainly, his recommendations would vastly improve how most people eat and that’s great. But if we are going to look at context and intentions, you might take into account that Katie wrote her critique for an audience primarily of hard core, cooking-from-scratch, real food eaters thinking about what value Pollan’s recommendations have for us, not for the general population!

        1. Pamela,
          You’re too kind. Really, Anita has many good points. I’d just rather see Michael Pollan say “drink your carrot water” and encourage people to make more homemade snacks with less sugar, etc. I caught a conversation on Twitter from a gal who read that rule and was determined to find a recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls “so that she could eat them.” Sometimes people take “rules” pretty seriously, since that’s how Pollan presented them. No one is perfect, ultimately, and Pollan is doing good work bringing attentions to the evils of processed foods, you know?

          🙂 Katie

          PS – I think I might have more of a cross-section of people who aren’t all hard-core from scratch cooks…but I could be wrong!

          1. I would continue to argue that MP had no intention of being taken literally. There is his message: “eat food, mostly vegetables”. And there are his words, the set of words he chose to attempt to communicate what this could possibly mean. He also tells us to “listen to the silence of the yams” but I don’t think he meant for anyone to slap a yam upside their head and attempt to listen to it. If we can hear the message over the words re the silence of the yams than surely we can hear the message re spinach water/eat less meat/other specific sentences which is to pay more attention to what you put in your shopping basket, on your plate, in your mouth. Once we start paying attention we are on a different path. Our individual choices will always vary according to our individual needs and tastes and preferences of the people we prepare food for.

            MP could have made “In Defense of Food” totally unreadable by heavily footnoting. For example he could have footnoted that spinach water comment with a laundry list of vegetables to substitute if spinach water didn’t meet your requirements of a desirable veg to save cooking water from. But that would have been an even bigger distraction from the message. The message is simple and I think the people reading Katie’s original post and this series of comments “get” it. But it is not an easy message because it means moving to a more challenging path, a path in which we nourish our families and friends instead of merely feeding them. It is much easier to get distracted by fussing over details than to just get on with it and…… Eat more vegetables. Buy better animal protein. Throw away less.

            If you google Michael Pollan you will find a long list of his published essays on his website. Reading more of his excellent writing might put the specific set of words in “In Defense of Food” into a larger frame. For the readers among the participants in this discussion I would recommend using your library to borrow and read all his earlier work-his books before The Omminvore’s Dilemma” are relatively short and wonderful reads and a variety of topics. I especially loved his book on architecture, “A Place of My Own”. This is another book where the message could be drowned out by paying too much attention to the literal words. And this is another book which could/maybe should capture our attention. I could draw a lot of parallels between the food industry and the housing industry and how both have had a serious negative impact on the quality of our lives and our overall health and happiness.

            1. Anita,
              You say it perfectly, that we need to “nourish our families and friends instead of merely feeding them.”
              Thanks! Katie

    2. Christina @ Spoonfed

      Anita, excellent points. Every. Single. One. Thanks for articulating them so well.
      .-= Christina @ Spoonfed´s last blog ..“Two Angry Moms”: Still too true (redux) =-.

  5. Stanley Fishman

    Very interesting and thought provoking article.

    I totally part ways with Mr. Pollan when it comes to his rule”eat mostly plants”. I eat mostly animal foods, and I thrive on them.

    I am careful to never eat any kind of factory meat. I only eat grassfed and pastured meat. Yes, it is more expensive, though you can save a lot of money by shopping wisely and taking advantage of discounts.

    I actually spend less money on meat now than I did before I switched to grassfed. Why? Because I am satisfied with less than half the amount of meat I used to eat. Grassfed is much more satisfying, has much less water, and shrinks less. Going grassfed has actually saved me money, and my health has improved to the point where I have no symptoms and do not get sick.

  6. Christina @ Spoonfed

    I think Chanelle and Jenna have it right. Pollan is talking about quantity, and he’s also speaking to the vast majority of the American population, for whom factory-farmed meat and heavily processed foods are staples. If he wants those people to switch to pastured, humanely raised meat, dairy and eggs, he needs to present them as quantitatively small percentages of their overall diet. Most people can’t make that switch on quality and maintain the same quantity. It’s just too expensive. At least for now. And what’s better? Eating lots of industrial animal products? Or eating small quantities of grass-fed meat, pastured eggs and whole, raw if possible, dairy?

    Let’s remember, too, that researchers (including Price) found populations thriving on a wide variety of diets, the common denominators being whole foods (plant and animal) enriched by local soils. When we feel very passionately about the way that we, personally, eat, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking that’s the *only* way to eat. But I believe there’s room for variation within a real foods diet.

    To wit: I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 19 years, and anyone who knows me will tell you I’m one of the healthiest people they’ve ever met. But I’m a smart vegetarian. I know food and I include high-quality, local, pastured dairy and eggs in my diet. I have no interest in eating meat. It’s an ethical thing with me. But I don’t get preachy about it. I’m a vocal advocate for sustainably raised meat and for our local pastured meat farmers in particular. I respect those who choose to eat meat, and I appreciate it when others respect my choices as well.

    Oh, on the matter of sweets/treats: Again, Pollan is talking to *most* people. Not us. He knows it’s unlikely people are going to swap every Twinkie or Cheeto for something scratchmade!
    .-= Christina @ Spoonfed´s last blog ..Retire Ronald? Or reclaim responsibility? =-.

    1. Christina,
      Well said! Your first paragraph is just perfect. I like to be a little pushy myself – but look at the great conversation in these comments! 😉 Thanks for pointing out the importance of balance.
      🙂 Katie

  7. I enjoyed this post, agree with most of it. On the issue of “mostly plants” I wonder if he means by volume not by calories? What I mean is, for dinner tonight we had Puerto Rican chicken (your yummy recipe- love it!) filled with cheese, covered in bacon and olive oil. On the side we had broccoli with butter, and corn with butter. If you looked at my plate, it was “mostly plants.” But if you counted out the calories, most of those came from fat and protein. I still think we ate mostly plants tonight.
    I agree with the post by Jenna where she says, ” it takes really very little of those foods to provide adequate nutrition in comparison to plant foods, which include grains. They are so nutrient-dense that large portions are unnecessary, and even when including them in meals, the grain/veggies/fruit portions should outweigh them.”
    Also, on the “eat as much junk as you want as long as you make it yourself”- I can see your point and how this can go either way. But for those of us that are cutting out or eliminating sugar and additives, what we’re making is not junk! Come over, I’ll make you a sugarless, whole wheat honey graham cracker! 🙂
    .-= chanelle´s last blog ..No- Knead Artisan Bread =-.

  8. Pamela Pollack

    I totally agree with you! When I re-read in “Defense of Food” recently I was totally bothered by the “Mostly Plants” section, both because I fundamentally disagreed with it and also because it wasn’t supported by much info that Pollan presented earlier in the book, such as the Australian aborigines who cured themselves by going back to the bush and NOT eating mostly plants there. Also, his support in that chapter itself was vague references to “many studies” plus the advice of all the nutritionists he had interviewed. And this after he spent most of the first half of the book doing a brilliant critique of nutritionism and generally discrediting nutritionists! However, I otherwise LOVE Michael Pollan.

  9. rebecca in michigan

    I just had a friend post on Facebook that she dumped her broccoli water in one of her plants. Someone posted for her to keep it and freeze it for later uses in soups. I wrote what you wrote and received a link from. another poster. Please help me with a response or links or something. The link she posted was this: You and send at direct email to me if you like at feldpauschmr at hotmail dot com

    1. Rebecca,

      Sorry I took so long to address this! I think the answer is quite simple, in fact: if you’re going to go to great lengths, especially freezing the stuff for later simply to “add nutrients,” why bother if you’re also adding harmful stuff? I see that oxalic acid isn’t evil and won’t hurt most people (unless you’re prone to kidney stones, ouch!), but why TRY to add it back into your food? Spinach, broccoli…If you want vegetable broth, use onions, carrots, ad celery and call it done. Again – if it doesn’t hurt, that’s great. But if it doesn’t help, let’s not specifically add it to our soup!

      Does that help?
      Good question!

  10. “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor.”” Amen!

    I love that… I think I’m going to embroider it on a wall sampler! It’s soo sooo sooo true, to!

  11. Well said Katie!
    I would LOVE to hear more about your grain soaking research etc…
    I have to say though… I think MP’s point in making “junk food” homemade is that by the time you get through the mess and the prep, the end result is fantastic, but time consuming, so you are less likely to make it as often… we make beet chips in duck fat- my kids love them, we all love them…but… the cost and time involved in collecting the duck fat, peeling and slicing the beets etc. discourages me from making them often- so they are a special treat. If I could drive through a drive through at McD’s and buy them we’d eat them a lot more often…( of course, we would never grace the steps of that particular establishment for any consumables…)
    but anyway, I think that’s his point- our society makes food that is really bad for us far too easy to access. If we had to make it ourselves, it would lose a lot of it’s attraction- it’s much easier to eat an apple or a banana!

  12. OK, this has nothing to do with Michael Pollan, but I was wondering if you could tell me more about how Kale leaches toxins into the water. I’ve been making soup with Kale for some time now and love it. I love how you research stuff. Could you tell me more? Thanks.
    .-= christina´s last blog ..My Dad’s Favorite Applesauce Cake – Now Gluten Free =-.

    1. Christina,

      I don’t understand exactly how it works, perhaps something about water soluble compounds. The bottom line is this: the water turns green, so obviously something is moving. If it’s not good for you, I’m not going to add it to soup on purpose like MP advocates with “drink your spinach water.” However, I love my sausage, bean and kale soup, too! The goitrogens that get into the kale water are only going to hurt folks with thyroid conditions, so I’m not worrying about my soup. If I steam kale to freeze it, though, I won’t add the water in the food cubes.
      Does that help at all?

  13. Dawn @ Small Footprint Family

    Actually spinach and kale are NOT in the same family.

    Kale belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kohlrabi, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and mustard.

    Brassicas (also called crucifers) do not have high levels of oxalates like spinach, but they are high in sulfur, which is a nutrient that can be problematic for some people with thyroid or detoxification issues.

    Spinach belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, which includes, beets, Swiss chard and amaranth.

    Thanks for your article. What a great, fun rebuttal for Real Foodies.
    .-= Dawn @ Small Footprint Family´s last blog ..S. 510 Could Kill the Real Food Movement =-.

    1. Dawn,
      Thank you! I knew kale was on a list of things that put bad stuff into water – the Brassicacaeas have goitrogens, troubling for thyroid issues in particular. Either way, don’t use the kale water on purpose, either!
      🙂 Katie

  14. “Pollan to farmers cont: “Farmers need to learn to talk to eaters. Do some direct marketing. Get to know your eater.””

    A family member now has a small farm – I’m learning a lot about farming whether I want to or not 🙂 Did he bring up that sometimes what farmers choose to grow or not grow is often dictated by farm subsidies? Did you know that farmers are paid money NOT to grow certain crops? I can’t fault a farmer who feels that they have to grow or not grow something because they will get extra federal dollars for it to help their buisness and feed their family.
    .-= Condo Blues´s last blog ..Zestra Natural Nookie Giveaway! =-.

    1. CB,
      He DID bring that up and is quite passionate about change at the level of gov’t. Large scale farmers really are stuck, quite often, but if they can move to sustainable, organic stuff, they’ll want to follow his advice there. If only our gov’t would pay farmers to take good care of their soil, right?
      Thank you for this perspective; it’s an important one.
      🙂 Katie

  15. Musings of a Housewife

    Nice job, Katie. Couldn’t have said it better. 🙂
    .-= Musings of a Housewife´s last blog ..How I Got Off Nexium. For Good. =-.

  16. @Kathryn… definitely use the spinach water for plants!

    @Starving Student Survivor… beware the dangers of soy (tofu).

    Yes, Yes, soaked grains research PLEASE!!!!!

    Our family consumes more milk, cheese, eggs than actual meat (because of cost)… but we agree that high quality animal protein and fats are valuable to health!

    Great rebuttal… great tweets!

  17. Totally agree with your rebuttal! I really like rule 44, too. I do spend a whole lot more on food now that I’m back in Canada, but I’m way more careful about how I cook and I find myself wasting way less stuff (almost none!) Eating well is like investing in your future.
    .-= kanmuri´s last blog ..First Hike =-.

  18. I guess i wasn’t cognizant of the spinach/broccoli/cauliflower water issue.

    Is it ok to use it to water plants?
    .-= Kathryn´s last blog ..Promised pics – i guess spring is here =-.

    1. Kathryn,
      I have no idea! Never thought about plants…I bet they’re resilient (said by someone who just killed 2 of her 3 houseplants this winter – ha!). 🙂 Katie

  19. You make some great points here! I liked the one about the spinach water. I didn’t know that.

    I am certainly looking forward to your soaked grains post. 26 pgs of primary info is a lot! But you can do it. I just opened my Nourishing Traditions cook-book to learn how to make brown rice. I bought a bag recently from our Korean Market…although it isn’t organic, it is brown short grain glutenous rice. I had no idea how to make it, but soaking it by their method makes it really sticky, and yummy. So, bring on the post! I am all ears…well, eyes.
    .-= abbie´s last blog ..aromatherapy + chemical-free body care =-.

  20. Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

    Awesome! Here, here!

    I haven’t read the book yet myself, but I completely agree with the points that you addressed.

    I almost fall over whenever I hear well-respected folks speak on nutrition and eating, who actually encourage us to eat lots of meat and animal fats. Too bad Michael Pollan isn’t one of those, because he’s right on target in so many other ways. It’s ok, we’ll just keep pushing those nutrient dense foods til we’re blue in the face, Katie! 🙂
    .-= Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog ..Real Food Encouragement: Whole Wheat Bread =-.

  21. I like that French saying. This year we are hosting a student from China and whenever I ask her if she wants more to eat, she responds, “It is enough.” That got me to thinking that I should stop eating BEFORE my stomach feels like it’s going to pop!

  22. Yes, Katie, I’m very anxious to see your notes on your grain research. But in your own time – we can wait!!

  23. Thanks once again for the great info! I have always gotten grocery store meat (although we don’t eat a whole lot of it, my husband and I both used to be vegetarian) …I have always balked at the high price of good, health food store or local meat…but, I like the idea of paying for better quality and not quantity…I will have to incorporate that!

    Also, I am looking forward to more soaked grain research!

  24. “Pay people a living wage to buy real food instead of subsidizing to lower the price of food.”

    That is the idea that spoke most to me. I have one of the better-paying rank-and-file jobs in the area in which we live, and it is still a struggle to feed my family of five.

    My husband’s family had been farmers for generations and got subsidies for some period of time. Now they struggle (due to age and disability, mostly) to plant enough to put some fresh produce on their own tables. (That’s where my kids and the other grand- and great-grandkids came in.)
    .-= LuAnn´s last blog ..Spring Cleaning Carnival – Week 1 – Friday =-.

  25. I like this post because I feel like a lot of people speaking out about “health” these days don’t get that we really do need nutrient-dense meat and dairy; we just need to change the way we raise it! I am always afraid to talk about it with certain “healthy” people I know because I feel like they’re so entrenched in the vegetarian/vegan culture that they would think I was some kind of crazy person! It shouldn’t be that way, we should have respect for omnivores who choose sustainable meat.

    And yes, I want to see your soaking/sprouting grains post!! Get to it! 🙂 What I’d really love to see, too, is the difference between soaking and sprouting, if one really works better than the other. Most people seem to soak more often, but I only sprout. To me it makes more sense to sprout, because you’re encouraging the plant while it is still whole to abandon its defenses, and only THEN are you grinding it. It seems to me that it just wouldn’t be as effective if it’s already ground up and destroyed, no longer a whole entity. But maybe I’m just weird like that.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Infant Allergies and Treatments =-.

    1. Kate,
      I did talk about the health benefits of sprouting which are slightly complicated, as usual, but I still think that for grains, sourdough is the ultimate healthiest, both proven scientifically and historically. Cracking the grain before fermenting/soaking is actually a good thing because it lets the acidic medium work on the phytic acid better.
      Don’t worry, you’re not crazy!
      🙂 Katie

  26. I’m wondering if maybe you and he aren’t belaboring the same, or at least a similar, point about meat. I’ve read his works, and I love your blog, and I’ve always taken those seemingly opposite sides to mean that we should strive to eat the meat we were meant to eat, not the junk with which we usually surround ourselves. Because we’ll be seeking quality meat, most of us won’t be able to afford it regularly, which will of course mean we will be eating it with less frequency. At least that’s how it works in my house!

    Better to eat “mostly plants” than meat from animals with bellyfuls of corn, hopped up on steroids and hormones. At least that’s how it works in my house!

  27. I went to MSU, it’s nice to know that they were hosting Mr. Pollan.
    I didn’t know that about the spinach! I love raw spinach 🙁 Do you know if that is the same thing for other lettuces or just the really dark green kind? Years ago when we did strictly NT I always noticed I was satisfied with smaller portions. I thought at the time it was because I was getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals that I needed. Kudos to those who can do it 100%.
    Good post.

    1. Mary Jo,
      If I remember right, spinach and kale are in the same family, but not lettuce. And again, it’s not poison – you can eat raw greens and be very healthy, as long as the rest of your diet is looking pretty. You just wouldn’t want purposely include the cooking water, you know?
      I went to MSU too! 🙂 Katie

  28. Looking forward to that article on soaking grains. Thank you for some good points…I don’t feel wasteful about tossing my veg water anymore.:-)
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Tuesday’s Toolbox: Don’t Forget the Fun! =-.

  29. Erin aka Conscious Shopper

    I’ve been meaning to ask you to write a post describing how real food advocates justify eating lots of meat with the effects of animal production on the planet. One of the main reasons meat is now raised indoors in inhumane conditions is because we couldn’t possibly raise enough meat to meet the demands of Americans if they were raised traditionally outdoors. I believe that eating humanely raised meat is the right thing to do, but I also recognize that means I must eat much less meat. What do real food folk say on that aspect of the subject?
    .-= Erin aka Conscious Shopper´s last blog ..How I Line Dry My Clothes =-.

    1. Erin,
      Many real food folks *seem* to eat as much meat (and especially butter) as possible. For sustainable farming, Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms is a must visit. He produces a TON of meat on not a ton of land, because he’s smart about it. Pollan has a good point – we should eat less meat, less of everything. I think the meat production paradigm this country is working with is so flawed, because it’s dependent on gov’t subsidized corn, fuel to traffic the corn across the country, and then issues with waste disposal at the other end. The environmental impact and actual cost to natural resources is rarely tallied with all those pieces. Cows that eat grass don’t use any fossil fuel. I will touch on this more when I tell you what Pollan said in his April 12th speech.
      Good, good, valid question!
      🙂 Katie

  30. Jen @ BigBinder

    Fantastic!!! I really like Michael Pollan and I’ve read these rules before – I think they are super important for moving people in the right direction but I agree with you that if it’s a rule – it ought to be right. Nicely done!
    .-= Jen @ BigBinder´s last blog ..Tasty Tuesday Round Up =-.

  31. I also picked up on some of the same things you mentioned when I read his other book, In Defense of Food, like his mantra on the cover and within – “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I didn’t agree with it either. I think it would encourage people to eat very little meat, which can be harmful. I was a vegetarian for 5 years and began eating meat again when I was pregnant. I craved it, my body needed it, and my daughter needed it!

    I’d love to hear his response to your letter!

    Question – Should spinach salads be avoided, becuase of the oxalic acid?

    Thanks for all the great information!!

    1. Sally,

      Likely if the rest of your diet is super healthy and full of minerals, spinach salad is no problem. Oxalic acid inhibits absorption of calcium and iron, and it’s a major factor in kidney stones. If you don’t have problems in those areas, enjoy your spinach salad…just not for breakfast, lunch AND dinner! 😉 Katie

      1. Rebecca in Michigan

        If you do have problems with kidney stones, kale, arugula, collards, mustard and turnip greens have lower oxalic acid level and thus more available calcium in your body.
        Spinach, chard, and beet greens are the ones high in oxalic acid which can cause decreased calcium absorption and kidney stones to the ones who have problems.
        We also need to remember there are other factors that cause decreased calcium absorption besides oxalic acid. Like your age, deficient in vitamin D, A, and C, and stress. You can help improve absorption by exercising and keeping your stomach healthy.

  32. Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen

    You hit the nail on the head with this, Katie. There’s a lot of good to come from that book, but, frankly, he misses the mark dramatically in some areas and that’s a grave disappointment.
    .-= Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen´s last blog ..Sourdough French Toast with Maple and Cinnamon =-.

  33. Jenna Consolo

    Hey there! I’ve blog stalked you for a long time and enjoy what you write (and how you think!)

    I’m a Michael Pollan fan too, but I have just a few comments about your rebuttal. For one, the mostly plants rule is a very good one. I completely agree with the healthy meat emphasis, and I do buy organic, grass-fed beef and “happy chickens” (as my kids say), but I think the point is that we cannot afford to eat meat in the proportion to plants that we currently do. Yes, we need the fats and cholesterol that come from healthy meats and dairy (I spend a fortune on raw milk for my family of 8, let me tell you!), but it takes really very little of those foods to provide adequate nutrition in comparison to plant foods, which include grains. They are so nutrient-dense that large portions are unnecessary, and even when including them in meals, the grain/veggies/fruit portions should outweigh them. I’ve always understood that to be Pollan’s point. You have to think the way that most Americans think and see what he’s trying to accomplish. The typical American fare has plant food act as a side dish, an afterthought. He’s trying to change that. Our protein consumption is off the charts, and dangerous.

    I like your oxalic acid point. Although, chemically, I hardly think it’s high up on the list of things we need to worry about.

    The eat the junkfood you make yourself thing is also a very good tip from Pollan. Again, it’s not sugar that’s making this country fat. Nor is it carbs. It’s the chemical adulteration of food and the processing that goes into assuring long shelf-life. He is trying to help Americans make changes that will stick. You already have developed the ability to discipline your eating to a level that most people never will, nor will have interest in. But if Americans would only make their own junk food (like I do, again, 6 kids— lots of cookies going on here, and not with vegan butter and whole wheat flour) they would avoid the two most dangerous ingredients that are destroying our health right now: High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils/trans fats. The butter and sugar and white flour is hardly what is reeking havoc with our bodies in comparison. It’s foolish to think that everyone will throw away their Toll House cookie recipes for “healthy” junk food. So, I think you need to consider the bigger picture of the changes Pollan is trying to help America make. Changes that CAN be made and changes that will induce remarkable changes in the diet and consciousness of American eaters.

    (But I’m not trying to be argumentative with you, honestly. Just to offer another viewpoint. I think you’re fantastic.)
    .-= Jenna Consolo´s last blog ..When We’re Helping We’re Happy =-.

    1. Jenna,

      I totally respect your opinion, and thank you for making the vital point of achievable change. I waffle on the meat issue myself – because it’s so expensive, and especially with bone broth, a little bit goes a long way, I don’t think we need it to be the central focus of the meal. I do a lot of “meat as flavoring” in reality here because of budget.

      Pollan made a point in his talk, that the change needs to come not only at our kitchen tables but within the legislature. When the government is subsidizing cheap food that is making us sick and then paying through the nose for health care, the system is broken. I always wish there was more I could personally do to change the overarching system. I know I can vote with dollars and vote with a ballot, but it still feels like a small impact. Hence – I blog!
      😉 Katie

    2. I think we have been politically programmed to believe that if we eat meat that we are literally yanking the food out of some third worlder’s mouth. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN PROVEN TO BE THE CASE. Grass fed meats, eggs, dairy are very good for you. If you want to do your family a big favor, nutritionally quit worrying so much about how vegetarian you are trying to be and quit purchasing store bought mayonaisse or ketchup or box rice mixes or cake mixes etc. I agree with previous bloggers who mention that if you do not eat enough meat that you tend to fill your diet quite quickly with carbs, most often white or incomplete or processed carbs which are nutririonally much more damaging than grass fed meats, eggs and dairy. Just think of how people have fed themselves up to 1900. They basically ate pasture raised meats, eggs and dairy. They ate wild yeast breads and had less refined grains and flours. They had less sugar because it was difficult to get hold of and expensive, so they used natural local sweeteners, but they did not go without. When they ate gathered fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and herbs/spices, along with their grains and meats they rarely had health problems at all. (Not to address infection and injury) Can we say the same? It has only been since the mid-1800s that eating vegetables is all that common ( among Europeans) yet humans have survived and often prospered for thousands of years. We ASSUME that we have come up with improved foods and ideas because we are “modern and civilized” and have more scientific knowledge but we cannot blindly accept without critically examining whether there is a political or profit motive behind nutritional advice. Hooray for KATIE AND HER RESEARCH AND THIS BLOG.Katie, you are reaching so many people who cannot take time to do what you are doing so that they can review , THINK, and decide for themselves.
      I applaud you!!

  34. It’s so good not to just accept everything a noted authority writes. But wow, it’s daunting to think we need to sift through everything we read as we effort to eat real food. Thankfully we come across folks like you who know food chemistry but then I suppose we need to sift through what we read from you too??!! Let’s hear it! Who’s the ultimate authority? I guess the one who’s putting the food in their mouth. It’s both overwhelming and very hopeful. Thanks for sharing your wealth of wisdom. And thanks for working hard on the soaking grains post– anxiously waiting and I truly hope you let us know we don’t have to soak!

  35. Newlywed & Unemployed

    Excellent thoughts – thank you so much for sharing your input. I’m a fan of his writing and a fan of yours, so I think you two should write something together!

    I especially was drawn to the rule about paying more for good food. I wrote a post about my recent changes in eating (due to reading his Omnivore’s Dilemma) and mentioned that though I’m buying more natural foods, now that I’m monitoring portion size, it’s not busting our budget because we’re not eating as much!

    And I’m so excited – the food co op where I volunteer now carries local, grass fed beef!
    .-= Newlywed & Unemployed´s last blog ..Husband Hump Day: A Man’s Hero =-.

  36. I don’t have time to give my thoughts on this post now, but I just wanted to say that yes, I’m looking forward to your soaking grains post, whenever you can get it out!

  37. I think the “eat junk food you make” is aimed at people who don’t usually cook! But if you are in the habit of baking every day, it could be dangerous!

  38. Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS

    Excellent, Katie, and funny too! 😀

    On the spinach issue, a recent article at the Weston A. Price Foundation reminds us that cooking spinach reduces the oxalates but doesn’t eliminate them. The water should definitely be tossed, as that’s where the reduced oxalates are.

    I definitely agree on #39! A stay-at-home mom can do alot of damage with her homemade treats. 🙂
    .-= Wardeh @ GNOWFGLINS´s last blog ..How To Dehydrate Dairy Kefir Grains =-.

  39. Being relatively new to the “Nourishing Tradition” style of eating, having seen “Food, Inc.”, and currently reading my way through a mountain of material (including Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilema” and your blog), I have to shout out a big THANK YOU to you for all your research and for making it available to us. 🙂 That said, I am looking forward to your post on soaking grains; it’s the one piece of the nutrition puzzle I’ve not been able to wrap my brain around.

  40. Thank you for the post. I just read that book two days ago and agree with your arguments. I was hesitant to lend the book out, but now I will send your blog post along with the book!

    I look forward to your soaking grains blog!

  41. Starving Student Survivor

    Great information! I didn’t know about Michael Pollan’s new Food Rules book. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    I’d have to side with Mr. Pollan on rule #23. For the last several months our family has only eaten meat about once a month, and we seem to be doing just fine. We eat a lot of beans, raw nuts, some tofu, etc. Dr. Fuhrman describes meat as a condiment in his book Eat to Live. That’s how I’m trying to think about it.

    I have to agree with you on #39, though. A person who likes to bake can certainly eat too much junk!
    .-= Starving Student Survivor´s last blog ..Non-microwave Popcorn =-.

  42. I so love reading your blog.

    Thank you for the rebuttle on “Food Rules”! Great information!

    You rock!
    .-= Tina Fisher´s last blog ..Earth Day 1/2 Marathon =-.

  43. Soli @ I Believe in Butter

    I love this! What a great rebuttal.
    .-= Soli @ I Believe in Butter´s last blog ..Short break =-.

  44. Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog

    You always make me feel so guilty about all the stuff we put into our bodies! But, great article. LOL!
    .-= Kelli @ 3 Boys and a Dog´s last blog ..5 Strategies to Manage Your Email =-.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.