Part IV: Recommended Reading and Watching
Lots of people ask me what books we’ve found helpful, and it’s definitely worth a post.
The following books are my very favorite about nutrition. They are spot-on, have their claims supported by reputable research, and really helped me understand how I wanted to feed my family:
Eat for Health, by Dr. Joel Fuhrman – It is a follow-up to the first book I read of his, “Eat to Live” and they are both excellent reads. However, I felt like Eat for Health was better at the “how” of healthy eating, not just the “why”, and it is a two book set with the second book packed with recipes. (As I write this, it’s like $22 on Amazon, which is insanely inexpensive for such a valuable resource.) The subtitle of the book is specifically directed at people wanting to lose weight, and I’ve seen dozens of people achieve a healthy weight after reading it, but it’s a book for absolutely everyone who cares about health. I have been at a healthy weight my whole life, but the food I was eating 4 years ago was not doing good things for my body. The food clearly matters when it comes to heart disease and cancer, and just everyday energy levels, even at a healthy weight. This book is very clear, simple, and encouraging when you want to improve your diet (or just want to want to improve your diet 😉 ).
Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan – For whatever reason, this book took me a while to read. probably because it’s fairly dense and I was a sleep-deprived new mom at the time. However, it’s certainly well-written and worthwhile. Reading it was incredibly eye-opening about where my food comes from and it made me more aware of the choices I was making at the grocery store. Understanding the illusion of variety in the colorful shelves of processed food was a smack on the forehead for me. It’s all the same! It’s designed to be addicting, unhealthy, and cheap, NOT to keep our bodies functioning and healthy. I have not read his more recent book, “In Defense of Food”. I hear good things about it but I understand there is a lot of overlap with Omnivore’s Dilemma. Full disclaimer: I lost interest in the last chapters when he went foraging for food in the woods, and it was due back to the library so… I can’t vouch for that part of it! 🙂
Disease Proof Your Child, by Dr. Fuhrman – I can’t recommend this book enough. Being by the same author, it shares the same philosophy as “Eat for Health” but applies it to childhood nutrition, which is a bit different. It covers things like preventing ear infections, overcoming pickiness, and the importance of feeding kids properly. I understand that as a parent, you have to choose your battles and where to spend your time and efforts, but knowing that 1 in 3 children born this year are projected to have early-onset diabetes (a condition pretty much unheard of a few decades ago)… I feel really strongly that this is an area that is worth our best efforts. I may have digressed a little there, but the book is a must-read.
Still on my list:
The End of Overeating, by David Kessler – I’ve heard great things about this and with my chemistry background, I’m especially interested to read how we’ve designed food to be addicting at the expense of nutrition.
If You’d Rather Watch
Food, Inc. – This one isn’t so much focused on what constitutes a healthy diet, but does a great job of illustrating what is not. We did not switch to vegetarian eating because of concern for the welfare of animals, and I didn’t feel like this movie focused too much on that aspect either (though it does show typical conditions at feedlots). What it DOES show is something I was oblivious to a few years ago: Where your food comes from. When you buy “boneless, skinless chicken breast” or “all natural bacon” or a McDonald’s hamburger, how did that food come into existence? For me it’s a bit like the scare about lead in Chinese-made toys. Suddenly everyone was checking toy labels because it mattered where your child’s baby doll was made. I spent 20 years of my life not even glancing at the ingredients on the breakfast cereal I ate every morning. Now I know what’s in everything I buy, and that’s naturally shifted towards buying more local, in-season food. We’re far from perfect on this, but the more I learn about how broken our food system is, the more I’m glad I don’t eat most of what’s sold in a supermarket anymore.
Long Now, Michael Pollan – There are a bunch of great talks online about health and nutrition. This one is more focused on the politics of our current agricultural policies and consequences of the current American diet. I’m including it here because I happen to be watching it while writing this post and there are some really staggering points that jumped out at me so far:
– The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1.5 trillion out of 2 trillion total health care costs in America each year goes towards the treatment of *preventable* chronic diseases. Say what?
– As our health care costs have risen from 5% to 18% in the last few decades, the percent of our income we spend on food has dropped from 18% to 9.5%, suggesting there are hidden costs to eating cheap food.
– If you want to grow corn, the government will pay you to do that. If you add a row of broccoli? You will be permanently ineligible to receive subsidy. We make it illegal to diversify your farm and we subsidize 5 crops only.
– Taking cows off a farm and putting them on a feedlot is taking a brilliant solution and neatly dividing it into two problems. We now have to dump fertilizer (and then pesticide) on the crops, and simultaneously try to figure out what to do with all the nasty waste coming from a feedlot because it’s no longer suitable for putting on crops.
UPDATED TO ADD:
Two cool clips about a totally vegetarian/vegan firehouse in Texas:
coverage on the Today Show and coverage on “network tv”. The main instigator for the change is a man who just set a world record for 200yd backstroke in his age group. Not bad! 😀
Still to watch:
King Corn – I’m waiting for this at the library and have high hopes it’ll be great.