There are a vast number of books on nutrition, eating and health. These include critiques of the standard American diet (SAD), overviews of medical research on nutrition and health, and specific eating plans. A few of my favorites are noted below, and more will be added. Note: Some of these authors maintain different emphases and have varying interpretations of nutrition and health data. These are offered here as informative contributions to the popular literature.
Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual states and explains 64 simple principles about food and eating. Comprising his well-known motto about eating, these rules address what to eat (real food), what kind of food to eat (mostly plants), how to eat (not too much). Instead of laying out a detailed philosophy of the best way to eat, Pollan here states such rules as “Avoid foods you see advertised on television” and “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.” Pollan explored these concepts in greater depth in his earlier book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, which is a great starting point for those who want to understand the modern American food system.
Walter Willett is the head of the Nutrition Department at the Harvard School of Public Health, and one of the leading researchers on nutrition and health. In Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, written for the general reader, he reviews major studies about the impact of eating on health. Dr. Willett’s comments on what guidelines have proved to be sound and which ones have had unfortunate consequences. His point here is not to promote one position on various controversies (meat vs. vegetarianism), but to report what the research shows. This is a good introduction to the research, just as the next title provides a skeptical review of this area of medical research.
The journalist Gary Taubes has spent years investigating the evidence of causes of obesity. In a series of articles and books, including Why We Get Fat, he rejects the conventional medical formula (obesity results from consuming more calories than we burn) and advances the proposition that carbohydrates are the primary problem for those struggling to lose weight or avoid obesity. He reviews the studies and other evidence and offers suggestions for those who seek to manage their weight. An appendix describes a “no sugar, no starch” diet.
By studying the places in the world that have the highest concentration of 100-year-olds–the “Blue Zones”–Dan Buettner discovered that these communities have some key factors in common. In his latest book, The Blue Zones Solution, Buettner lays out a plan for eating and living based on the lessons from the blue zones. This “solution” goes way beyond food; physical activity, a sense of place, and interpersonal relationships–among other factors–also play major roles. But the links between healthy eating and longetivity are compelling and suggest changes that most of us can make.
Fat Chance makes a compelling case for the close relationship between consumption of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates and obesity and related diseases, including diabetes. Dr. Lustig has been relentless in his advocacy for reduction of sugar in the American diet. Here, he goes deeply into biochemistry and the functioning of the human endocrine system to support his argument that sugar is the biggest problem in the American diet. This sobering book is recommended for those who want to delve more deeply into the science of obesity.