America’s national eating disorder

Julia Belluz spoke to journalist and food advocate Michael Pollan: Julia Belluz: Other countries seem to be doing a much better job of advising people on how to eat, like Brazil. It gives people simple advice — cook at home more often, eat more fruits and vegetables, and eat less meat.

Michael Pollan: That’s an interesting case. The Brazilians have tried to revolutionize the whole concept of dietary guidelines and get away from talking about nutrients completely. They talk not only about foods and science but food culture.

They have recommendations about how you eat, not just what you eat, so for example they encourage Brazilians to eat with other people. What does this have to do with health? It turns out it has everything to do with health. We know that snacking and eating alone are destructive to health.

Julia Belluz: What would it take to see guidelines like Brazil’s in the US?

Michael Pollan: It would take viewing food through a different lens. The mindset that produced those Brazilian guidelines is influenced as much by culture as it is about science — a very foreign idea to us. But food is not just about science. The assumption built into the process here is that it’s strictly a scientific process, a matter of fuel. Eating is essentially a negotiation between the eater and a bunch of chemicals out there. That’s a mistake.

We also have a very powerful food industry that cares deeply about what the government tells the public about food. They don’t want anyone else to be talking to the public about food in a way that might contradict their own messages. So they’re in there lobbying. When the government is deciding about the guidelines for school lunches, industry is in the room, making sure the potato doesn’t get tossed and gets the same respect accorded to vegetables. [Continue reading…]

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