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Real Food

What to Eat and Why
by Nina Planck

Real Food: What to Eat and Why

You won’t find any soy chicken, vegan cheese or nonfat frozen yogurt in Nina Planck’s kitchen. Instead, her favorite “health foods” include roast chicken, mashed potatoes with milk and butter, spinach salad with bacon and tart cherry pie with lard crust. Many would scoff at such dishes as not only quaintly traditional, but also as heart-clogging, cholesterol-raising indulgences. In Real Food, Planck makes a compelling case that the fats in such traditional foods like grass-fed poultry and butter as well as pastured pork and eggs are both essential for our health and utterly satisfying. She argues that industrial foods like sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils, powdered milk and eggs—not traditional fats like chicken skin and lard—are the true culprits in the nation’s epidemic of heart disease and obesity.

Real Food is a memoir of Planck’s transformation from farm girl to urban vegan to “real food” advocate. Raised on her parents’ vegetable farm, she rejected the meatloaf and bacon of her youth in favor of a more fashionable vegan diet in her teens and twenties. After years of fragile health and weight gain, she finally found her way back to the hearty fare of the family homestead. Surprised by the weight loss and improvement in health that ensued, Planck set out to survey the scientific literature on the benefits of traditional animal fats. What she found is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, saturated fat and cholesterol are not dangerous. Rather, industrial farming and processing rob animal and vegetable fats of their nutrients and can transform them into carcinogens. Real foods—old, traditional, unprocessed ones—may actually protect against cancer and degenerative diseases. Her recommendations include raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk; traditional fermented soy; ecologically grown produce; wild salmon; coconut oil; and grass-fed chicken, beef and pork. Though it is common sense that fresh, local foods are better for one’s health than processed ones, Planck backs up everyday wisdom with science and makes it safe to come home again.

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

(Updated: 12/11/08 SB)

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