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Food Matters

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders

During the summer I read the book In Defense of Food, and absolutely loved it. In Defense of Food lays out a very clear argument for why we should "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."A full review of the book can be found on Dr Arya Sharma's blog here. In Defense of Food appealed to me not only because it was so well written, but also because of the shift in my own own eating patterns over the past few years to a diet higher in fresh veggies and unrefined grains, and lower in meat and refined grains and sugars (mostly due to the positive influence of my girlfriend, rather than any conscious action on my part).

Given my experience with In Defense of Food, you can understand my excitement when a new book on the same topic came out this month. Titled Food Matters, this new book by Mark Bittman describes his personal journey to a diet very high in plants, and relatively low in meat and animal products. While In Defense of Food really laid out the argument for eating more whole foods, this book is more of a how-to manual, describing what has worked for the author, and what he thinks may work for others. Although his personal health story is impressive, the best part of the book for me was the appendix with over 75 recipes covering everything from how to cook beans to complex dishes that can feed several people. Although the only recipe we have followed so far is how long to cook a pot of lentils (they turned out perfectly!) the recipes sound delicious, and I am looking forward to trying them in the coming weeks. My only concern is that some of the meals seem very low in protein, and I worry that I would not stay full as long as I would like, which is often a problem for me if I am not careful when eating plant-based dishes.

Although I enjoyed the recipes, in comparison to In Defense of Food I found this book a bit of a disappointment. The arguments at times seemed rushed and haphazard. Further, it seemed like some of the main points were just rehashing In Defense of Food, but with less detail. Now I will say that my personal preference is for a book that lays out the evidence and makes very clear, sober arguments. On the other hand, if what you are looking for is an author filled with passion and emotion (not to say that those are lacking in In Defense of Food) then you will probably enjoy Food Matters more than I did. And if you are looking for a quick primer on the main arguments for switching to a diet high(er) in plants (but not necessarily devoid of meat or animal products), as well as some good recipe ideas to get you started, this book is for you. If you are looking for a more detailed discussion however, then In Defense of Food is the way to go.


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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