This is a list of books about food and nutrition that I’ve found helpful and informative. I’m putting the books roughly in order in this list, from easiest to tackle (content and/or application) to most complicated to tackle.
I’m not posting these because I agree with every piece of information or advice found in each of these books, but taken together they provide a great overview of the state of the American food supply, where the “Standard American Diet” has landed us (namely, cancer, obesity, allergies & autoimmune issues, and mental disorders, just to start the list), and what we can do about it for ourselves & our families.
This is a great practical, step-by-step book for those who’d like to help their families “eat better,” but don’t really know where to start. It’s particularly great for those who are dealing with daily meltdowns during dinner prep, constant snacking, or kids who Just Want Sugar (cereal / crackers / chips / etc.). And even though it’s not a particularly crunchy book (she doesn’t hate McDonalds <gasp!>), it’s a good book to read for those of us who, while deep into the “real food” thing, have kids (and selves) who are not immune to carb and sugar cravings and crashes.
- Publishers Weekly review of Little Sugar Addicts
- Review of Little Sugar Addicts from The Book Lady Online, with results from her own family
The N.D.D. Book: How Nutrition Deficit Disorder Affects Your Child’s Learning, Behavior, and Health, and What You Can Do About It – Without Drugs
by Dr. William Sears and Martha Sears (yes, the parenting-book Dr. Sears)
Dr. Sears describes how he went from looking at “pure food” moms with detached tolerance to recognizing that their kids were consistently healthier and less prone to have allergies, ADD/ADHD, learning disorders, digestive problems, etc. He then explains why this is the case, and what to do about it. Again, a great book for those looking at a better diet for their families. It’s a very practical book with tips on introducing real food, and recipes. It primarily addresses Omega 3 Fats, Attention Disorders, Sugar, Food Additives, Artificial Sweeteners.
- American Nutrition Association review of The N.D.D. Book
- “N.D.D.” on AskDrSears.com (or the Cliffs Notes version of the book)
The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It
by Robyn O’Brien with Rachel Kranz
A good introduction to the problems with the U.S. food supply, written by a mom about her discoveries after she found out that one of her kids (and then another of her kids) had allergies. More conversational, less technical; she has a lot of endnotes, but opted not to litter the text with endnote numbers. She primarily addresses Allergies, hormones in Milk, Genetically Modified Corn and Soy, Aspartame, and Artificial Colors
Real Food: What to Eat and Why
by Nina Planck
An engaging book written by a former vegetarian who rediscovered the foods she grew up on – full-fat milk, eggs, butter, and red meat (among others) – and discovered that they’re actually pretty darn good for you. She primarily addresses Full-Fat Milk, Pastured Meat, Wild Fish, Vegetables, Saturated Fat, Processed Fats & Oils.
- “A convincing case for getting ‘real'” – Los Angeles Times review
- “The Farm Girl’s Paradox: Nina Planck takes on the industrial-food juggernaut and the Greenmarket Goliath, all in the same week.” – New York Magazine interview with Nina Planck
Discovering real, unprocessed food for moms & babies
by Nina Planck
More of the above, focused on reproductive, prenatal, and infant health.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
by Michael Pollan
Pollan’s focus is on combating “Nutritionism” – for instance, the idea that a given processed food is at least as good as its unprocessed twin because it “contains the same nutrients” (or better ones!) – never mind that those nutrients were added in afterward, piecemeal from different artificial sources, and don’t affect the body the same way as the nutrients in whole, real food do at all.
He gives a good run-down of how our food supply became so heavily processed – in short, because it’s cheaper to sell food that tastes like real food (ish…) but is full of nutritionally void (at best) artificial fillers than it is to sell the less-shelf-stable, nutritionally dense real thing.
- “What’s eating at Michael Pollan?” – Seattle Times review
- New York Times review of In Defense of Food
- OregonLive.com review of In Defense of Food
Potatoes Not Prozac: Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity
by Kathleen DesMaisons
If the author’s name rings a bell, it’s because she wrote the first book on this list, Little Sugar Addicts, after she wrote this one. This is the book for adults – more information, more depth, more nuance. Read the Amazon.com reviews for testimonies.
The Schwarzbein Principle II: The “Transition” – A Regeneration Program to Prevent and Reverse Accelerated Aging
by Diana Schwarzbein and Marilyn Brown
In short, a low-fat, high-carb, processed approach to food makes people hypoglycemic (& ultimately diabetic), fat, tired, and age faster. It’s a very practical book, focused on real food and achieving balanced health. The other Schwarzbein books are also worth checking out for more information.
- A review of Diana Schwarzbein’s books from The Nourished Life
- A review of The Schwarzbein Principle from Wise Traditions
Ross addresses depression, fatigue, stress, and anxiety from a nutritional standpoint. She also suggests a wide range of supplements.
- Book review from The Nourished Life
- Book review from Publishers Weekly
- www.MoodCure.com (with Mood Type questionnaire)
Discovering real, unprocessed food; What’s wrong with American food; Food affects general health and well-being
Sally Fallon addresses food theory & practice. Whether or not you subscribe to the science in the book hook, line, and sinker, the bottom line is that cooking using the techniques in this book will make food more digestible – and therefore healthier. Unprocessed saturated fats are good for you; processed oils are bad for you; grains are hard to digest; traditional techniques yield far better nutritional results than modern processing.
If you’re looking for a “crunchy” take on food, look no further – this book and Weston Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration are the two testaments of the crunchiest segment of the Real Food movement.
Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet
This is a lower-carb approach than the one contained in the Schwarzbein books. The authors are very familiar with the contents of Nourishing Traditions, and locate themselves somewhere in the middle of traditional-paleo-primal territory. As an astrophysicist (Paul) and a molecular biologist and cancer researcher (Shou-Ching), they have a personal commitment to staying on top of relevant research, and believe in passing it along to their readers. (Their blog is worth following.)
Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet
by Elaine Gottschall
This is a book aimed at those suffering from digestive disorders ranging from chronic indigestion to Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. The premise is that different carbohydrates are digested (or fail to be digested) differently, and that by limiting one’s diet to those that can be completely digested, the gut can absorb nutrients more effectively and begin to heal. The diet outlined in this book is more permissive than that of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) Diet found in the book by the same name below, which was developed as a refinement of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) found in Breaking the Vicious Cycle.
- Book review from Crohns.net
- “The Specific Carbohydrate Diet: Does it Work?” – Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
This book covers a lot of territory, from identifying nutritional problems and digestive disorders in kids with autism-spectrum disorders, to choosing appropriate diets and supplements, to recipes and strategies to make difficult transitions in diet easier.
Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders
by Kenneth Bock, MD and Cameron Stauth
Kenneth Bock provides both explanations for the rise in the rates of autism-spectrum disorders, ADHD, asthma, and allergies, and he provides avenues for treatment based on his own experience working with patients. Nutrition is just one aspect of the cause and the solution.
The human gut is intricately connected to the brain via neurotransmitters found in both the gut and the brain. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet (GAPS diet) is based on this connection, working to heal psychological and other imbalances through healing digestive problems. The diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, but it is more restrictive. It is not intended to be a permanent lifestyle change – but the recommended two years is not a short commitment. This is a rigorous diet designed for those who need it, not just something for those who are looking for the next cleanse.
- “Let’s demystify the GAPS Diet” by GNOWFGLINS.com
- “GAPS Diet Myths” by Cheeseslave
- “Mainstream Dietition vs. GAPS Diet” by the Liberated Kitchen
- Related reading: “Think Twice: How the Gut’s ‘Second Brain’ Influences Mood and Well-Being” in Scientific American