Book review: Omnivore’s Dilemma

DisclosureThis week’s book is not a children’s book. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals is a non-fiction book about nutrition and health, which  I highly recommend everyone, who wants to figure out how to eat healthy in the age of industrialization, to read.

Definition of Omnivore in the dictionary  is  “an animal or person that eats food both plant and animal origin”. This book focuses on the dilemma of the human beings who feed on meat, plants and industrially processed foods.  It contains information and discussion about vegetarian diet and omnivore diet, but it doesn’t compare meat vs. plant-based diets.

The author of the book is Michael Pollan who also authored “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto“. He has quite a few interviews on He mainly questions the state of humankind where we can eat anything, however, with all the options available, answering the eternal question of “what should I cook (eat) tonight?” became harder for us than ever.

The book consists of three sections. The first section covers how industrial food chain messes up the nature and how profit-focused corporate companies are spoon feeding us petrochemicals – the one that fuels cars. After reading this section, I felt like banging my head on the wall, yelling “how the hell can I feed myself and my family a healthy meal in this fecked up world?”

The second section covers the rise of the organic food industry which seems like the savior of the humankind, who realize the impact of nutrition on our health, from the industrialized processed food industry . He differentiates the organic food industry into two. The “industrialized organic” such as “Whole Foods” and “Earthfarm” and other mainstream grocery stores vs. mom and pop farms who are trying to maintain the tradition of sustainable organic farming and survive against the “industrialized organic”. This section made me question the stiff prices I pay at big organic markets.

I was really frustrated in this section, where Pollan talks about how U.S. government and USDA is harder on small organic farmers and producers, cattle farmers with restrictive laws while they still let the “corporate chains” run their horses free. Not only this but these rules still harm the natural cycle of life and obstruct the sustainability of farming and raising animals.

The third section is about going back to our ancestral roots. Pollan is trying to answer whether we can survive on hunting and gathering without having to rely on any of the industrialized or organic food chains. To answer this question is is as hard as answering the more familiar question “can we survive without buying Chinese products?” The answer is “very unlikely”. I enjoyed his adventures in hunting and gathering avoiding to buy anything from a store to prepare dinner for a group of his friends. Considering his efforts to prepare one single meal, we can conclude that it is very hard to live solely on hunting and gathering for a longer period of time.

In summary, I’ve 5 main take-aways from Omnivore’s Dilemma:

  1. We should avoid all processed foods, especially the packaged foods which contain any ingredient which we cannot pronounce, at all costs.
  2. If we are to eat red meat, we should prefer grass-fed cattle meat or none at all. Eating the meat of a GMO corn or soy fed animal’s meat harms our body more than the nutrition it provides.
  3. Processed and packaged food industry is worse than we imagine.  We should support organizations which are fighting for proper labeling and regulation of farming and animal industry in a sustainable fashion.
  4. We should not feed the processed and packed foods in question to our children, even in moderation because the impact of the food with all the synthetic ingredients, GMOs or petrochemicals are uncertain. Even though we don’t see an immediate reaction, there might be long term effects to our hormonal or neurological systems.
  5. The saddest part of all is that, all this nonsense is caused by greed. Greed by corporations as well as greed by individuals. It is a vicious cycle.

I have written a post about my dilemma on eating healthy, titled “Why is eating healthy so hard?” last year and asked how come we choose the wrong options even though we know they are wrong for us and our family. If you read this book, making the right choices will be much easier.

As I’ve reiterated in my post titled “Teaching our kids how to eat healthy?“, we have to provide healthy nutrition to our children and enforce avoiding junk not only a few meals a week but 7/24, year round. We have to set a good example and we have to make sure they don’t feel deprived.

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