Doctors for a Better Food System

4 minute read

Michael Pollan Challenges Doctors to Be Agents of Change.

Last year I had the chance to attend IFM's International Conference: Functional Perspectives on Food and Nutrition: The Ultimate Upstream Medicine. There was one conversation that was totally worth the price of admission for me. Dr. Mark Hyman sat down with Michael Pollan for a long and thoughtful discussion about the American food system. Imagine two New York Times best-selling authors sitting in front of you, just chatting casually about their favorite subjects: Food & Medicine. Priceless.

I scribbled notes furiously.

Here are a few of my favorite Pollan quotes from the conversation:

"Nutritionism is the official policy of the American food industry. They’d rather we talk about nutrients than food. Because a breakfast cereal can get a makeover every year, while an avocado is always “just" an avocado."

"Don’t eat foods with loud health claims on the label; eat the quiet ones.”

(Note: Pollan defines Nutritionism as our frantic preoccupation with individual nutrients at the expense of whole food. This makes Americans easy prey for Big Food science projects that look like food but are actually just comboblulations of food extracts and lab materials with a few vitamins thrown in. Nutritionism is why we constantly fall for food-like substances with labels and health claims instead of choosing real foods, like avocados and arugula, which do not need labels or health claims.)

“If you eat real food, a lot of things will take care of themselves.”

“Processed food doesn’t necessarily feed the world any better than whole food does.”

“We’re going to need an agriculture that focuses on resilience rather than efficiency.”

“Those of us who want to change the food system are up against some formidable foes.”

“Right now, our administration is playing both sides; it’s subsidizing sugar on the one side and paying for insulin pumps on the other side.”

“I think doctors have more political influence than they realize, or are willing to exercise.”

“To the extent that the medical world becomes an alley in the attempt to change the food system, it becomes a true advocate for its patients.”

To the extent that the medical world becomes an alley in the attempt to change the food system, it becomes a true advocate for its patients. —Michael Pollan.

“We are seeing more innovation in other countries than we are here. That’s because we are the home of industrial food. As Mark Bittman says, 'We created the world’s worst diet and then exported it to the rest of the world’”.

“They (politicians) want to be pushed; they don’t want to lead. ‘Show me the movement’, they say.”

“A revival of home cooking has the power to completely reform the food industry. Because, think about it, what’s at a farmer’s market? Ingredients. Not meals.”

“Maybe doctors need to give up their white coats and put on white aprons.” (Dr. Hyman said this.)

Maybe doctors need to give up their white coats and put on white aprons. —Dr. Hyman.

“The thing that fills me with the most hope is that my audiences now on book tour are really young—there is a generation arising: young people who are cooking because they like what is happening at the table. It isn’t just about the ingredients; it’s about a whole way of life.”

Culinary Translation.

Let's turn this whole meta-conversation into meals for your wheels. Stop letting Big Food cook for you. Put your future in safer hands—your own.

Head down to your local farmer's market and pick up 8 simple ingredients, starting with carrots.

Shredded Carrot and Beet Salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup peeled and shredded carrot
  • 1 cup peeled and shredded red beet
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, ginger, and salt together until thoroughly combined.
  2. Put the carrots in a mixing bowl, drizzle with half of the dressing, and toss until evenly coated.
  3. Place the carrots on one side of a shallow serving bowl.
  4. Put the beets in the mixing bowl, drizzle with the remaining dressing, and toss until evenly coated.
  5. Place the beets in the serving bowl next to the carrots for a beautiful contrast of red and orange.
  6. Top with the chopped mint before serving.

Yours in Health and Resilience,

Marc Wagner, MD, MPH.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world. —Thorin, The Hobbit.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery. Copyright 2009 by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson, Ten Speed Press, a division of the Crown Publishing Group, Berkeley, CA.

As shared at the IFM International Conference © 2014 The Institute for Functional Medicine

More on food, by Michael Pollan (I've enjoyed every one of these books):

What to Read Next: Farm to Table Like You've Never Seen It.

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