Summer reading: Two best nutrition books
As you compose your summer reading list, consider placing near the top a book (or two) that has the potential to transform your life.
Of the numerous nutrition books I’ve consumed, I always refer clients to these two favorites: “In Defense of Food” and “Ultra-Metabolism.” Both are easy to read, provide practical tips, and take a comprehensive view of health and nutrition.
‘In Defense of Food’
The New York Times describes Michael Pollan, the author and a professor of journalism at University of California, Berkeley, as a “liberal foodie intellectual.”
The book is light, witty, captivating, and takes a commonsense approach to eating more “real food” and less “edible food-like substances.”
Pollan challenges us to question the widely accepted notion of “nutritionism,” the idea that foods are equal to the sum of their parts.
His point is that no matter how much beta-carotene you add to processed bars and cereals, they can never be as healthful as the carrot itself. While nutritionism is a huge win for processed foods, it’s an equally huge loss for the health of the consumer. You can easily avoid the shortcomings of “food science” by simply eating fresh, whole foods.
“You don’t need to fathom a carrot’s complexity to reap its benefits,” Pollan writes.
Pollan brings clarity and comedy to misleading food labels, such as the obvious contradiction of Sara Lee’s Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread. Bogus health claims are everywhere.
“The American Heart Association currently bestows (for a fee) its heart-healthy seal of approval on Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs … and Healthy Choice’s Premium Caramel Swirl Ice Cream Sandwich,” Pollan writes.
When purchasing packaged goods, ignore baseless health claims on the front and go straight to the ingredients list on the back. Choose products that contain fewer than five ingredients, all of which should be easily recognized as food.
Dr. Mark Hyman served for 10 years as co-medical director at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires and is now in private practice in Lenox, Mass.
Hyman teaches how to eat in a way that works with our body’s genes to naturally control hunger and “awaken our fat-burning DNA,” followed by an eight-week guide to detoxification, complete with menus, recipes and exercise tips.
The biggest take-away message from Hyman’s book is the importance of reducing inflammation in the body.
Inflammation “slows your metabolism, makes your body resistant to the effects of insulin, (promotes) weight gain,” he writes, and is a leading cause of degenerative diseases.
To reduce inflammation and support weight loss and cardiovascular health, Hyman recommends increasing our intake of omega-3 fats (found in fish and flaxseed oil), eating more vegetables and fruits (rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients), eating dark chocolate (70 percent or darker, yay!), and exercising regularly. He also advocates reducing consumption of sugar and omega-6 fats (found in grain-based oils), both of which have been found to promote inflammation.
Ultimately, “It is not just the calories you eat, but where they come from that is important in losing weight (and) creating a healthy metabolism,” Hyman writes.
As you expand your knowledge and are compelled to integrate healthier habits into your life, keep in mind that the first seven to 10 days will be the most challenging. Persevere, and you will be pleased to discover that before long, you won’t even think twice about it. Make this summer unforgettable with books that will benefit you for a lifetime.
n Julia Blanton is a nutrition, fitness and wellness coach. An avid runner, she keeps a health blog at www.juliablanton.com.