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17 Michael Pollan The Science Of Eating …well

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The Paleo diet is hot. Those who follow it are attempting, they say, to mimic our ancient ancestors—minus the animal-skin fashions and the total lack of technology, of course. The adherents eschew what they believe comes from modern agriculture (wheat, dairy, legumes, for instance) and rely instead on meals full of meat, nuts, and vegetables—foods they claim are closer to what hunter-gatherers ate.

The trouble with that view, however, is that what they’re eating is probably nothing like the diet of hunter-gatherers, says Michael Pollan, author of a number of best-selling books on food and agriculture, including Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. "I don't think we really understand well the proportions in the ancient diet," argues Pollan on this week’s episode. "Most people who tell you with great confidence that this is what our ancestors ate—I think they're kind of blowing smoke."

This week on the show, guest host Cynthia Graber has a wide-ranging conversation with Pollan that covers the science and history of cooking, the importance of microbes—tiny organisms such as bacteria—in our diet, and surprising new research on the intelligence of plants.

This episode also features a discussion of the new popular physics book Trespassing on Einstein's Lawn, by Amanda Gefter, and new research suggesting that the purpose of sleep is to clean cellular waste substances out of your brain.

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