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Book Review of "Real Food: What To Eat and Why" by Nina Planck

April 27, 2008

Ashley was interested in learning more about this book so I figured rather than add it to the list of books that will be on an upcoming post of book reviews, Nina Planck’s book deserved its very own post. First follow the link and check out Ashley’s great blog. Then (please!) come back and read this post because this book is absolutely wonderful (and if you’d like some other recommendations for health books, check out these reviews here and here).

This book is my new bible of healthy food. I love love love it. When it first caught my eye at the bookstore I was a little wary, as I usually am, because Nina Planck has no academic, scientific background in regards to nutrition. But actually, as I learned from reading this book, she’s got something that could arguably be considered to be even better: she has real-life experience.

Planck grew up on a farm and opened up the very first farmers markets in London, and then she went on to host a tv show and was involved in a bunch of other farmers markets and that type of thing. This book was exactly what I was looking for and as I read through it, I was really amazed at just how perfectly it fit what I am trying to do. It has been incredibly useful to me in my non-processed quest and because she’s a regular person, she explains everything in such a way that the average person can understand the complex science behind food and remain completely fascinated by it all.

She likes to talk about herself a lot and her experiences on the farm, and at first I couldn’t decide if she was being pretentious or not, but after having read it I’m really glad that she filled the pages with little anecdotes like that. It makes it so much easier to relate to and comprehend, and it adds a little extra spice to maintain the readers’ interest. She explains the differences between grass-fed and organic, extols the virtues of real butter, milk, and cheese, discusses cholesterol, explains industrial fats and real fats, praises eggs (yummy!), and provides a wealth of external information. She cites a magnitude of studies, provides a clear glossary and bibliography, and also offers a list of websites and stores of where to find “real foods”. She’s also got a great “Furthar Reading and Resources” section, some of which I’ve taken a peek at and most of which looks intriguing.

Nina Planck has done her research and she has conducted it very well. I’d say that she’s a hell of a lot more credible than a lot of the other people out there writing books and jammering on about goodness knows what (it’s probably a bad thing that university teaches you the art of bullsh*tting and gives you letters after your name for it).

Naturally, I don’t agree with absolutely everything that Planck writes. She is very much pro-saturated fats, and with all of the information she gives I’m partly convinced that saturated fats are pretty good but I’m still not one to want to go out and fill up on a huge mound of them. She also is all about the full-fat milk and cheeses, and after reading her book I can understand why she is and it makes a lot of sense but I really just can’t bring myself to switch from skim milk to even 1% (but that’s partly taste, to be honest… I’ve been drinking skim for such a long time that other types have a fatty sort of taste. It’s funny how you get used to something after you’ve developed such a habit). However, while I still like part-skim mozarella and reduced-fat when it comes to regular, more boring varieties of cheese, when it comes to quality and unusual cheeses I think I’d prefer the full-fat real stuff and enjoy it to the max.

The author of Real Food grew up drinking milk from the cow that they kept and eating fruits and veggies from their family farm. She admits to having turned vegetarian after leaving home and then quickly realizing that vegetarianism isn’t for her (she’s rather against it- but as for myself, I think that if someone really wants to be vegetarian, then by all means go for it. Just make sure that you’re getting in all of your nutrients, because it is very difficult to get the right balance if you’re a vegetarian. I don’t think I’d do it unless I’d consulted a nutritionist and had lists of all of the essential nutrients and corresponding foods etc and had done really thorough research. But that’s just me. I likes my research!). I like that she confesses her short period of getting away from the way that humans have been eating for thousands of years before returning to this “real” way of eating, because it not only makes it more easy to relate but she also talks about the difference in her health and how her body reacted to the different ways she ate. Very interesting indeed.

If you enjoy cooking, real food, farming, research, and/or learning about contamination and the way our ancestors ate, then this is an easy-to-understand guide to eating more naturally and getting away from a processed diet that will be perfect for you. I adore it. It’s a solid read, filled up with lots of little tables and lists amid the anecdotes, studies, and explanations. Real food is the way to go!

5 comments

  1. I have the exact same problem with milk!! After reading Pollan’s In Defense of Food, I decided to go full-fat dairy all the way. Nope. I just love skim milk. Glad to know I’m not the only weirdo;)

    And hey – I wouldn’t say it’s “very difficult” to get all your nutrients as a vegetarian. Being the research buff that I am (and the vegetarian that I am), there’s plenty of info out there to show that vegetarians – that actually eat vegetables (I have no patience for “vegetarians” who subsist solely on boxed crap) – are quite healthy, strong and long-lived. I think the human body is amazingly adaptable to a wide range of diets.


  2. Sagan, thanks for the review of this book. The Bag Lady will have to keep an eye out for it – it sounds very interesting.


  3. Thanks for the review! I’ve had several books queued at the public library for a long time and I think this is one. I’ll look forward to reading it now.

    I always feel real-life experience makes for a better argument than listed off scientific facts. The personal side of experience makes an author more believable and likable for me.


  4. Charlotte- ditto! And you’re right about the vegetarian thing; I’m more referring to the number of people who will live off the boxed crap. And also there’s the issue with heme and non-heme iron. But I agree with you that there’s lots of healthy, strong, long-living vegetarians who DO know what they’re doing (the human body IS pretty amazing like that!).

    Gena- there’s something very reassuring when the author has real experience in their field. And then they also share the perspective of the reader rather than having the scientific perspective that comes with being a doctor or similar.


  5. […] I’m going to state right now that I adore all three of these sources and really respect each of them. It is wonderful to hear each of their opinions and the reasoning behind their perspectives. It’s also a good reminder that there is a wealth of contradictory information out there in the research studies. I did some research nearly a year ago about the benefits of calcium in milk which you can read about here (and if you want to see what I thought about Planck’s book, read this post!). […]



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