Home & Lifestyle, Wellness, Food

Eat Food

Michael Pollan

Lesson time 21:29 min

Michael explains why you should avoid ultraprocessed foods and how to distinguish real food from food-like substances. Learn how to smartly navigate a supermarket—then embark on a scavenger hunt.

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Topics include: The Dangers of Ultraprocessed Food • You Are Being Manipulated • Beware Hidden "Edible Food-Like Substances" • What Is Nutritionism • Finding Your Way Around a Supermarket


[MUSIC PLAYING] - So my little mantra, eat food, it's returning us to the idea of food. The focus should be on food, not nutrients. Food is what we eat, food is what gives us pleasure, it's what sustains us. In this lesson, we're going to be looking at the challenges of eating food. Real food. The difference between real food and edible food-like substance is the ideology of nutritionism that governs a lot of our thinking about food and gets us into all sorts of trouble. How to navigate the supermarket. And finally, we're going to have a kind of scavenger hunt. [MUSIC PLAYING] Many foods we eat, many perfectly wholesome foods, are processed. We have to grind wheat to get flour. That's processing. We squeeze juice out of fruit to get fruit juice. That's processing. But these are very simple kinds of processing that aren't adding ingredients, that are basically taking the things of nature, wheat, berries, or tomatoes, and putting it in another form. Ultraprocessed foods are foods that have been, as the name implies, processed a whole lot more. They've been taken to the point where they're ready to eat. They're not ingredients anymore, they're finished products. They're characterized by very long ingredient lists, and the simplest way to think about an ultraprocessed food is you can't imagine making it at home. You look at what it is, you look at what's in it, and you're like I don't have any of these ingredients. I don't even know where to buy them. The food scientists, their priority is making the food look better and more recently cooked than it really is. These foods have been made months ago in a factory halfway across the country, and you need a lot of chemistry to keep that food from looking really nasty. So it's artificial colorings and emulsifiers. They're all things you wouldn't have to do if you were cooking fresh food. It's a kind of chemistry that serves the interests of the industry for long shelf life more than it serves us. So ultraprocessed food is not good for you. What do we mean by that? Well, there was a study done by a scientist at the National Institute of Health who was very skeptical of the idea that ultraprocessed food was somehow worse than other kinds of food. He created two meals. One ultraprocessed food, like 80% of it is ultraprocessed food. 4,000 calories. Then another meal, whole foods, also 4,000 calories. And lo and behold, the people eating the ultraprocessed food ate 500 more calories than the people eating the other food. There was something about that food that made it very hard to stop. They ate beyond the point of satiation. So that's one problem. Ultraprocessed food will make you eat more. It's also absorbed by your body really quickly. All in the upper part of your intestines. So you get this really fast hit of sugar from the carbohydrates as they all convert into sugar. You want food that is absorbed more slowly, and that's food with lots of structure, lots of fiber, and that...

About the Instructor

For more than 30 years, award-winning journalist Michael Pollan has explored the intersection of humans and nature—including groundbreaking probes of the food we eat. Now the NYT bestselling author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” teaches you how to ditch fad diets and eat with intention. From following the food chain to fixing dinner, learn to make choices that reflect what’s important to you.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Michael Pollan

Acclaimed author Michael Pollan teaches you what he’s spent decades researching: how to eat more ethically, healthfully, and sustainably.

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