What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part IV of ?)

Read Part I
Read Part II: Our Journey to Better Eating
Read Part III: We’re not THAT weird

Part IV: Recommended Reading and Watching

Lots of people ask me what books we’ve found helpful, and it’s definitely worth a post.

Great Reads

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 πŸ˜‰ ).

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! πŸ™‚

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.

Other books I’ve enjoyed: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell Esselstyn, The China Study by Colin T. Campbell, Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

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.


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! πŸ˜€

Still to watch:
King Corn – I’m waiting for this at the library and have high hopes it’ll be great.


About beanland

Scott is a family practice doctor and Anne is a full-time mother and teacher to three beautiful girls and one boy.
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10 Responses to What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part IV of ?)

  1. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part V of ???) « Adventures in Beanland

  2. Linda says:

    Great blog! Loved finding ww bread recipes. Loved seeing another homemade recipe for Dr. Fuhrman’s PopEms (he has a revised recipe out in the new Eat to Live, I believe.) Can’t wait to try this one!

    Forks Over Knives is another ‘must see’ that just hit the stores and amazon this week. Truly, this film could save your life. Excellent coverage and explanation of “The China Study” and the incredible work of T. Colin Campbell, Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University & Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. Includes Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians for Responsible Medicine, Dr. John McDougall, The Engine 2 Diet author Rip Esselstyn, and many others (curiously it does not include Dr. Joel Fuhrman) This film demonstrates how the plant-based nutrient-rich way of eating is backed by multitudes of sound studies, proven by science that it is possible to reverse and even prevent the diseases becoming epidemic in America today. Includes moving case studies of those who had no hope – including those told by their doctors to go home to wait to die – and who survived for decades more due to this nutritional advice that could save the lives of millions who die unnecessarily in America.

    The workshops given by The Cancer Project (not just for cancer survivors but for everyone) are very good – often offered at Whole Foods Markets. The workshops include use of some excellent videos of Dr. Neal Barnard of Physicians for Responsible Medicine. (Their cookbook uses a bit more grain than Dr. Fuhrman recommends.) Dr. Fuhrman’s recipes are more yummy (my family has found) than The Cancer Project’s or “The Fire Engine #2 Cookbook” (those I’ve tried from that cookbook were very very bland)…. probably because Dr. Fuhrman’s recipes in Eat for Health and Eat to Live makes liberal use of more flavor-rich ingredients such as herbs, spices, fruit and vinegar (which I had not thought I liked until his recipes.(Although my family prefers very mild vinegars such as rice vinegar.) You can, of course, season to your taste.

    On another note, a great alternative to tamari, soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos is Coconut Secret Liquid Aminos (far, far, far less sodium than tamari, soy and Bragg’s!)

    Dr Fuhrman is the featured physician in the “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” film, which my friends are encouraging everyone to watch. I have not watched it yet myself.

    Hopefully, far fewer individuals will suffer and die and their families lose their loved ones. Millions can reduce or eliminate their medications. One by one we can help change the course of the world’s declining health as we enjoy delicious whole foods.


    • beanland says:

      Linda –

      Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I want to see Forks Over Knives. I’m glad to hear it’s so well done! I enjoyed Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead though I didn’t find the subject’s life change as compelling as the truck driver he helped. It was cool to see Dr. Fuhrman in there with some very clear information. I’m also planning on watching CNN’s “The Last Heartattack” soon.

      I actually didn’t appreciate Dr. Fuhrman’s recipes when I first changed my diet, but I went back to his cookbook just recently and have loved several of the dishes I tried. I think I needed to change my palette so I actually enjoyed vegetables first. πŸ™‚ I recently tried Dr. Barnard’s cookbook and unfortunately the handful of recipes I tried didn’t wow me. They were healthy, but not very tasty.


  3. Tracey says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the wealth of information on your blog! I decided to check out Dr. Fuhrman’s books over on amazon, and I noticed in the reviews that it states that Dr. Fuhrman only recommends one grain serving a day? Is this mainly for weight loss reasons or his philosophy in general? I don’t think I could live on a diet with so few grains πŸ™‚ I am a mom to 4 kids (ages 3 to 9), and my husband has Type 1 diabetes (has had it since he was 14… he’s 35 now). I’m just really trying to take charge of our families health and get us on a better path. I’m curious as to how my husband w/ Type 1 would do on a vegetarian diet. His doctors have all recommended a low carb/high protein/high vegetable diet for him, but along w/ the diabetes he has very strong family history of heart disease. To top it off he works for a major cheese company (here in Wisconsin)… and loves loves loves his cheese! I think I’ll have to see what kind of research I can come up w/ with how a vegetarian/low to no dairy diet works for Type 1 diabetics… Thanks again for your great blog!!


    • beanland says:

      Hey Tracey,

      I’m glad you stopped by. I believe Dr. Fuhrman is pretty down on grains mainly because he feels that they are low in nutrient density. Many of his patients are overweight and already have a chronic disease they are trying to reverse so they really need to make the most of every calorie. My family is healthy, and for my part, I have no problem with whole grains as long as they don’t carry with them all the junk you usually find in processed food. (I make my own whole wheat bread, and we don’t eat cereal from a box, even whole grain, with great frequency).

      I don’t have much experience with Type I diabetes, but the majority of what we eat would be (I think) a no brainer: beans, lentils, veggies, unprocessed fruit. Unfortunately, a high protein diet brings with it risks of other diseases. The more I learn about nutrition the more I realize that for great health, meat and dairy have to take a back seat to plants.

      Best of luck with the changes you’re making for your family! Change can be hard but there are few things that affect quality of life more than health, so it’s well worth the effort.


      • Katrina says:

        Dr Valter Longo recommends only a small amount of grains too. Approx 40grams of pasta or rice in a meal with the majority of the meal made up of legumes and veggies.


  4. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part VII of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

  5. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part VIII of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

  6. Pingback: What is a Healthy Diet and Why Should I Eat One? (Part IX of ?) | Adventures in Beanland

  7. Katrina says:


    I think you would really appreciate Valter Longo’s first book, The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease, and Optimize Weight.


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