Author Michael Pollan on Chipotle, canned haggis and making organic accessible


This is part one of my interview with Michael Pollan, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation; Food Rules: An Eater's Manual; The Omnivore's Dilemma; In Defense of Food; Second Nature; The Botany of Desire and A Place of My Own. Part two of Pollan's musings will run tomorrow. Pollan will appear in Sturm Hall at the University of Denver at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, in conjunction with the Tattered Cover. Tickets to his lecture are $35, and while the event is sold out, you can add your name to the wait list by calling 303-871-2291.

In the last decade of penetrating -- and probing -- what he calls the "Western diet," Michael Pollan has delved into everything from modern-day agribusiness and widespread obesity to sharing communal family meals at home and eliminating, once and for all, high-fructose corn syrup from our daily diet. His books, which number seven with last week's release of Cooked, are all New York Times bestsellers, and his doctrines, rules and personal policies have garnered immense public attention, leading to endless watercooler discussions about the pathetic American diet -- and how our country's tainted food landscape has become "needlessly complicated" amid "pseudoscientific food baggage" and the so-called "experts advice telling us how to eat."

See also:
- Fuel's Bob Blair on cooking for Michael Pollan
- Michael Pollan: The food industry creates patients for the health care industry
- Where did Michael Pollan eat post-Denver speech? Fuel Cafe

Just a few years ago, Pollan writes in Food Rules: an Eater's Manual, he was as befuddled as the rest of us, which prodded him to ask a couple of questions: "What should I eat? And "What do we really know about the links between our diet our health?" What he learned was this: "Populations that eat a so-called Western diet - generally defined as a diet consisting of lots of processed foods and meats, lots of added fat and sugar, lots of refined grains, lots of everything except fruits, vegetables and whole grains - invariably suffer from high rates of the so-called Western diseases: obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer."

On the other hand, Pollan continues, "Populations eating a remarkably wide range of traditional diets don't suffer from chronic diseases." While he admits that's there's "no single ideal human diet," he argues that the Western diet has, in essence, developed into one that "reliably makes its people sick."

Congratulations, America.

There is good news, however. According to Pollan, should we eschew the Western diet, especially highly processed foods, improvements to our overall health come relatively quickly. And Pollan's books, which eloquently traverse his own personal path of enlightenment, a journey that wades through feedlots, billions of dollars in food advertising and industrialized farms that freely use pesticides and shrug at the consequences, all echo one solid slice of advice: Dispense with "edible foodlike substances" and instead eat real food, mostly plants. To that end, encourages Pollan, shop at farmers' markets; when you must shop at a mega-market, avoid the middle, which is where the bulk of processed foods litter the shelves; don't eat anything that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food; stay away from food products that contain more than five ingredients; when you can't pronounce the ingredients on the confusing label, run like hell to the produce department; and only consume foods that will eventually rot.

Location Info


Sturm Hall

2000 E. Asbury, Denver, CO

Category: General

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My Voice Nation Help

Very few – if any – people have ever had as big an impact on me and my eating and shopping habits then his books have. I was lucky enough to meet him several years ago at a Naturally Boulder event and Was uncharacteristically starstruck. What a great guy.

Gipke Mikel
Gipke Mikel

Enjoyed this artical; bcuz it is very true that as Americas we eat all the wrong food, and need to chnage our ways. The past 8months I have been changing my diet; which by the end of the year i hope to only eat veggies and fruists. In the meantime while i train my body; I dont drink soda (unless chasing alcohol; still my weakness), eat meats once a day (if that; and if i do have meat, than no processed food for the remainder of the day), lastly I just started educating myself. It takes dedication and education to change your ways; but most Americans are gullible following the information that the Government provides. Which leads many of our childern to grow up and continue on with poor diet habits, and eventually die of cancer. (Ex; eating nasty hotdogs). The foood pryamid is wrong America. Ur being lied too.


I like that he qualifies his rules with the statement that "it's important not to be a fanatic."  I think he's right on with his analysis of the problems with the western diet, but the big issue is that it's so hard to change it for most people.  If you tell me "it's easy, all you have to do is become vegan and avoid even minimally processed grains and all fats from all sources" (which is what the doctors in the Forks Over Knives movie actually recommend), you've lost me - I'm not willing to forego ever going to restaurants or occasionally having delicious things that are bad for me.  But I AM willing to make sensible changes to help my health and help the food industry slowly move away from unsustainable (and, frankly, gross) practices.   It's not hard to do the very simple things he recommends - stay away from soda and highly processed foods, try to eat more veggies, go whole-grain where possible, etc. - and those can make big changes.  

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