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National Nutrition Month: Reading roundup

With a third of all adults in the United States being classified as obese and children as young as 9 getting gastric bypass surgery, America has a desperate need to redefine its relationship with food. In honor of National Nutrition Month, we’re bringing you three thought-provoking books.

Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss

Salt Sugar Fat
Michael Moss

In Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss claims that, just as the tobacco companies misled the public about the health effects of smoking, the major food brands have misled consumers about the health effects of their products. More than that, Moss asserts that these companies rely on the salt, sugar and fat that are killing Americans with obesity-related illnesses and have actually harnessed these ingredients’ addictive properties to hook consumers. Take a peek inside the food industry with this remarkable work of investigative journalism.

The takeaway: Salt Sugar Fat will turn you into an informed consumer, able to discern the health risks communicated by food labels.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThe Omnivore’s Dilemma
Michael Pollan

As omnivores, humans can eat nearly anything, but we as a culture are so removed from where our food comes from that we have a hard time knowing what we should eat. In The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan takes his readers through four meal options: “conventionally” grown (the factory farm–sourced food you find in most supermarkets; “industrial organic” (such as the selections at Whole Foods), “beyond organic” (locally sourced and produced by people with whom you have a relationship); and personally foraged. The Omnivore’s Dilemma is incredibly revealing about the nature of our food supply and will make you look at your grocery store in a new way.

The takeaway: Even if it is not realistic for you to buy your food from the farmer down the road or forage for it yourself, The Omnivore’s Dilemma will inspire you to follow Pollan’s famous dictum from his In Defense of Food: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle
Barbara Kingsolver

Tired of water shortages and the lack of locally grown food, Barbara Kingsolver and her family packed up their lives in Tucson, Arizona, and moved to their land in Appalachia to experience a year of eating locally. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is primarily a tale of mindful and deliberate eating. Kingsolver and her family plan their garden, the chickens they will raise and where they will obtain specialty items. They take into account not only harvest times but also having sufficient food for the off-season. Unlike the authors of the other two books on this list, Kingsolver brings a background in fiction — you’ve likely read The Poisonwood Bible in your book club — to her food memoir, and it shows in her beautifully lyrical prose.

The takeaway: Most of us don’t have the time, resources or energy to experiment with self-grown food to the extent that Kingsolver does, but her story is inspirational and might just have you heading to your local farmers’ market when it opens for the season.

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