Books that will change the way you see nutrition

Since putting my books out at a super-low price this week, people who are reading Heavy Brain and the Fat Loss Guide have also been asking if I have more diet book recommendations. The answer is ‘yes and no’. I certainly have suggestions for books that are in a related field, but few (if any) that are actual diet books (i.e., ‘eat these foods’). The reason for this is because diet books suck—all of them. I have read at least twenty, and I am yet to find one that isn’t the same old recycled, dogmatic garbage that has been in print since the 1970s.

These days I find the most valuable books in the world of nutrition are philosophical in nature and take the reader beyond surface-level food considerations. And to be honest, you probably don’t need to be told what to eat anymore. Knowing what healthy vs. unhealthy foods look like is probably a skill you already possess. You want further food advice to be the answer, so you don’t have to address the complex behavioral problems that stand between you and success.

What most people need is books that can change your mind. It would be best if you had exposure to philosophies that are going to unravel a new way of thinking that changes your relationship with food. These are five books that I believe can do that for you.

The Story of the Human Body (Daniel Lieberman)

The story of the human body is the first book I read that forced me to see behavioral eating issues in a different light. It changed my perspective from ‘a person is unsuccessful because s/he is lazy and uncommitted’ to ‘a person is unsuccessful because s/he is a human being.’ I would never have written Heavy Brain if I did not first read this book in 2013 while in New York City. I first learned the concept that human beings struggle in their diet because we evolved in times of scarcity and now live in a world of food abundance while reading this book. It changed everything for me and sent me on an unforeseen journey to the bottom of the obesity epidemic. Everyone should read this book. For fitness professionals, it is a must-read.

Bad Science (Ben Goldacre)

I don’t have a research background, and chances are, neither do you. But with all of the battles fought in the nutrition science world, it seems like you need to have one to make sense of all the health and disease claims. For someone interested in reading beyond the headlines and understanding what a study actually can and cannot tell you about food and your health, this book is a great start. After reading this book, you’ll know how to respond the next time you read a headline, and it says ‘red meat increases your chances of heart disease by 36%’.

Diet Cults (Matt Fitzgerald)

I assume that most of the poor reviews this book has received come from offended readers who did not like the suggestion that their diet is silly—an act which proves the point that Matt Fitzgerald was aiming to make in his book. Diet Cults points out the issue with ever-growing diet tribes, which people will defend even in the face of the most solid contradictory science. If you are slightly annoyed by pseudo-religious groups like Keto, Paleo, and Carnivore crowds, check this book out.

In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan)

This was one of the first meaningful books I had ever read regarding food, and it came at the perfect time. When you are newer to fitness, taking courses, and immersing yourself in all things nutrition, you tend to overcomplicate the process. Food becomes broken down into micronutrients, ratios, and other often meaningless specifics. Food gets turned into a reductionistic science experiment rather than stuff that grows out of the ground. This book did a great job of reeling me back into what matters in our diets. Whole foods that are consciously prepared and mindfully enjoyed.

The Art and Science of Low Carb Living (Phinney and Volek)

My last pick is the only book that you could categorize as a diet book, although it is more of a research novel than anything else. I read this book right when it came out (2011), and it began to change my mind regarding carbohydrate intake. I don’t think everyone needs to follow a low-carb diet. I also believe that carbohydrates are thoughtlessly thrown into one category (i.e., table sugar, broccoli, and blueberries are equally problematic). The low-carb crowd has left much to be desired. In fact, there are many things that Phinney and Volek believe today that I would heavily push back on. On the other hand, many North Americans are addicted to starch and sugar, and any person who struggles with obesity, type 2 diabetes, or insulin resistance should likely be following a low carb approach. If you are interested in the non-diet book version of this way of eating, this is the book I would suggest.

There you have it. I have many other book suggestions that led me to where I am today in my thoughts on nutrition, but these five recommendations are easy reads and deliver a clear, helpful message to the bookworm. I hope they serve you well.

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