Quote: Michael Pollan on Nutritionism

Everyday Life Sociology Quotes: "Like so many ideologies, nutritionism at bottom hinges on a form of dualism, so that at all times there must be an evil nutrient for adherents to excoriate and a savior nutrient for them to sanctify."

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“Nutritionism”: Nutrition refers to the science of nutrients. Nutritionism, meanwhile, refers to the ideology behind this science. It manifests from the unexamined assumptions of the science.

“Dualism”: The construction of concepts into two opposing poles.

“Evil” / “Savior”: This is the intrinsic dualism in nutritionism. When science studies food in terms of its components, it falls into the trap of classifying specific nutrients as better or worse for our bodies. We then “sanctify” or “excoriate” them. This allows food manufacturers to tweak the nutrient contents in whatever foods they process and market them as “healthy” options.

“Adherents”: Not just food scientists and manufacturers, but all of us who have inadvertently taken the nutritionist logic for granted in our everyday lives.

More Food for Thought

What do you think about the ceaseless stream of health fads in recent decades? Does fat make you fat, or only particular kinds of fat? Should we blame carbs instead? Have you seen how the avoidance of evil nutrients have coincided with our populations getting more fat?

Have you considered the possibility that food cannot be reduced to its nutrient numbers? Is it possible that the quality of nutrients matters? Is it possible that our bodies need wholesome diets of foods rather than processed doses of nutrients?

Have you wondered why the distinction between ‘real’ and ‘processed’ foods cannot be drawn with nutrition studies? Is this not an important distinction to make? Who do you think benefits from obscuring this distinction?

Do you eat biotin, fiber, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, folate, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, E, K…? Or do you eat carrots?

Nutritionist Logic in Everyday Life

Rabbit: This looks like it does not have enough biotin and vitamin B3. [Credit: Flickr]


Pollan, M. (2008). In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Penguin.


Socio Empath

Hi, my name is Eugene. I am a Sociology graduate from the National University of Singapore. This blog is an invitation: To see our selves as colored by cultures, and to brighten the colors of our society. I seek to help you create freedom in everyday life, with empathy and the sociological imagination.

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