The American Paradox Essay Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Food, Health, Vitamins, Nutrition, People, Eating, Choice, Breakfast

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/07

The supposed “Western Diet” has taken on a life of its own, as the population begins replacing nutrients with food like substances in an attempt to attain a god-like sense of health. Essentially, we are all going insane with the need to be healthy. Michael Pollan points this out in his novels, as well as the fact that Westerners are no longer even consuming real food, but instead scientifically engineered substances that appear to look like food. This, he claims, is “the American Paradox: a notably unhealthy population preoccupied with nutrition and diet and the idea of eating healthily (Pollan 9).” The more Westerners worry over nutrition, the less we realize we are not eating real food; consequently, the unhealthier we make ourselves. The real question is whether Pollan is grasping at straws with his theory, which he is not. Westerners are fanatic about their quest toward health, and will do anything to attain it, even eat food-like substances if it promises them more nutrients. Pollan wanted to express in his book that there are problems with the way Westerners eat, and there are. We are overwhelmed with options, thus forgoing real food for genetically modified food in a quest for nutrients. Furthermore, we choose food-like substances so often; we sometimes do not even recognize what real food looks like, disabling our ability to choose the truly healthy, from the truly unhealthy.
One of the primary issues with Pollan’s argument is that Westerners cannot possibly be spearheading the campaign for health, nor health fanaticism, because so many are obese. While it is true that over 50% of the population is considered obese according to the their average weight on the BMI scale, this fact only makes them that much more fanatic about getting “healthy.” In fact, it creates a type of obsession with health. Obese people do not only want to be healthy, they want to be thin, and they want to be thin now. Any food or scientifically engineered food-like substance advertising more nutrients, lower fat, less salt, or a smaller amount of carbohydrates will immediately be purchases in the hopes of not only attaining better health, but also a leaner frame. However, individuals with smaller frames are also prone to this fervent quest to health, eating anything and everything promising them a higher volume of nutrients or vitamins. What is the secret behind this? How are so many people being tricked into eating scientifically engineered food that offered no real value to the human body, and sometimes makes us unhealthier? The scientific community has been able to prey on this as the obsession has grown. The more desperate people become, or the more divorced the become from real food, the more anxiously they seek out food-like substances to quell their need for nutrients, vitamins, and their idealized standard of health.
Pollan has a few simply answers as to why so many people are gullible in these situations. To begin with, people are often blinded by their choices. Scientific engineering has put too many choices on the market, and people forget the nutrients and vitamins needed to sustain a healthy body and lifestyle are often found in foods that can grow out of a garden they plant themselves. Specifically, he states, “Eat food. Not too much, and mostly plants, (Pollan 76),” to those who forget or become overwhelmed by choices. Simply put, it can be easy to forget that vegetables and fruits can give our bodies needed nutrients and vitamins when there is delicious food being processed that states it can do the same. Which would one rather choose: a carrot freshly dug from the dirt, or a sugary cup of strawberry yogurt? One would probably choose the yogurt, and the yogurt would likely yield some nutritional benefit. Calcium is important for bones. However, a cup of yogurt is not the same as a carrot, and the sugar will likely cancel out any nutritional benefits. I have personally been in this situation several times, having been blinded by options, thus choosing the tastier one that promised nutritional gain. Yes, I should have bought lettuce, bananas, oranges, asparagus, or any other number of fresh foods. Nevertheless, at the time overly sweetened breakfast bars, which promised half my daily dose of needed fiber, sounded like a much better deal.
It is also stated in Pollan’s writing that we as a population, have so many scientifically engineered choices that are similar to food, we no longer recognize real food when we see it. Our grandparents or even our parents would recognize a pomegranate immediately. They grew up in a different time, when real food that was grown from the ground was all they ate. I, conversely, have grown in an age where some food has been grown in a lab. The first time I came face-to-face with a pomegranate I did not know what it was, or what nutritional benefits it offered me. Therefore, when Pollan states Westerners do not even recognize real food when we see it anymore, he is correct. We cannot be expected to choose real food for its nutritional value if we are not even sure what real food is, or what nutritional value it is offering. The real problem then, appears to be we have created a generation of individual who have begun to think the genetically modified food is the real food, while the real food that is grown out of the ground is the foreign food that should not be trusted. In fact, it should be the other way around. We should be approaching breakfast bars promising half our daily fiber with trepidation, not pomegranates.
When I purchased my box of breakfast bars, I did not question how they had infused so much fiber into a one by three inch square block of material that chewed like hardtack in my mouth. I simply tore off the wrapping and chewed like a good Western dieter. When I saw the pomegranate, it was as if I was being asked to disarm a bomb. “What is that?” I wondered. Should those scenarios not be reversed? The breakfast bar tasted as though I was chewing drywall, but I did it because I was getting much of my daily fiber in three bites, supposedly. Did it help my regularity? No, it did not. According to Pollan’s writing, the quickest way to change something like that is to eat real food, which I did. Pollan insisted the only way to eat healthy was to eat “nutrient by nutrient,” using a method he aptly dubbed nutrionism, wherein we eat unprocessed food, rather than genetically modified food (Pollan 56). It was not the tastiest endeavor at first, perhaps because my taste buds, along with the taste buds of millions of other Westerners had been desensitized to real food. However, eventually I grew to like the taste of asparagus, spinach, lettuce, and many other vegetables. I do not eat them with the regularity I should, but I understand now what Pollan meant about the problem with Western dieting, as well as the issue with eating real food.
In sum, Pollan is correct about the Western diet. He is also correct that there is something wrong with how people are eating. I have lived the mistakes first hand with my purchases and my failure to recognize real food. I am confident that I am not the only one failing to see that genetically modified foods hold no extra nutritional value for me, or that I would be better off buying unprocessed foods. Who can blame us, though? When we see a box promising the contents will give us seventy-five percent of our daily needed iron, we would be crazy not to buy it! It seems we have forgotten when something looks too good to be true, it normally is. Essentially, we have forgotten what healthy looks like, having been blinded with the vast amount of choices we now have. Health does not come in a box, nor is it scientifically engineered. It would also help to remember just because something is edible does not mean it is healthy to eat. Most often, health, or the things that will keep us healthy, will grow out of the ground, or be plucked from a tree. If we do not attempt to recognize that soon, however, we will forget these foods and be left to suffer with nobody to blame but ourselves.

Works Cited

Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto . Westminster: Penguin Books, 2009. Book.

Cite this page
Choose cite format:
  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver
  • Chicago
  • ASA
  • IEEE
  • AMA
WePapers. (2020, December, 07) The American Paradox Essay Examples. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from
"The American Paradox Essay Examples." WePapers, 07 Dec. 2020, Accessed 17 April 2024.
WePapers. 2020. The American Paradox Essay Examples., viewed April 17 2024, <>
WePapers. The American Paradox Essay Examples. [Internet]. December 2020. [Accessed April 17, 2024]. Available from:
"The American Paradox Essay Examples." WePapers, Dec 07, 2020. Accessed April 17, 2024.
WePapers. 2020. "The American Paradox Essay Examples." Free Essay Examples - Retrieved April 17, 2024. (
"The American Paradox Essay Examples," Free Essay Examples -, 07-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 17-Apr-2024].
The American Paradox Essay Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 07, 2020. Accessed April 17, 2024.

Share with friends using:

Related Premium Essays
Contact us
Chat now