“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” With that seven-word maxim, journalist and author Michael Pollan distilled a career’s worth of reporting into a prescription for reversing the damage being done to people’s health by today’s Western diet.
In Defense of Food, a new documentary based on Pollan’s #1 New York Times bestselling book, will have its New York premiere at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on Monday, Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Pollan, director Michael Schwarz, writer Ed Gray, and celebrated food and health advocate and NYU Steinhardt professor Marion Nestle. Krishnendu Ray, chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU Steinhardt, will moderate the discussion.
In Defense of Food shows how common sense and old-fashioned wisdom can help us rediscover the pleasures of eating and avoid the chronic diseases so often associated with the modern diet.
Pollan’s journey of discovery takes him from the plains of Tanzania, where one of the world’s last remaining tribes of hunter-gatherers still eats the way our ancestors did, to Loma Linda, California, where a group of Seventh Day Adventist vegetarians live longer than almost anyone else on earth, and eventually to Paris, where the French diet, rooted in culture and tradition, proves surprisingly healthy. Along the way he shows how a combination of faulty nutrition science and deceptive marketing practices have encouraged us to replace real food with scientifically engineered “food-like substances.”
Pollan argues that many of our troubles stem from thinking about foods in terms of the nutrients that are in them — a tendency fueled by the food industry’s practice of making health claims on their products based on which nutrients they’ve added (for instance vitamins, fiber or Omega 3s) or taken away (most famously fat). But science shows that a wide variety of diets can be healthy, provided they consist of the kind of whole foods our species has evolved to eat, which include all the nutrients we need.
Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for NYU students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and may be purchased online at nyuskirball.org or in person at the NYU Skirball Center Box Office: Tuesday-Saturday, 12-6 p.m. The NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts is located at 566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square South. The screening part of NYU Steinhardt’s 125th anniversary celebration.
In Defense of Food recently won the Grand Prize at the International Life Sciences Film Festival in Prague, and was named an official selection at the Sedona International Film Festival, Austin Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival. The documentary will air nationwide on PBS on Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 9 p.m.