Health, fitness, and, even more, nutrition are minefields
To begin with, science is relatively underdeveloped compared to other fields of study.
And, most importantly, the field is chuck full of quacks. Including quacks who do actually hold a “doctor” title, which allows them to be even more “successful” in their quackery and manipulative marketing.
Keep in mind that I removed most nutrition book summaries and reviews from the website.
The reason being, that there are very few that are really good and provide a broad overview.
So here’s an overview of the best books on nutrition, and which to avoid
7. The Omnivore’s Dilemma
by Michael Pollan
Summary | Kindle
A frightening, eye-opening account of the modus operandi of industrialized food production.
Reading of animal livestock given other dead animals as pasture might not make you sleep more nicely, but it provides a strong wake-up call on how seriously you need to take your nutrition.
Quote: “You are not what you eat. You are what your food eats”
6. Younger Next Year
by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge
Summary | Kindle | Audiobook
If you were to get Younger Next Year looking for a secret formula to eternal youth, you might surprised.
You might be surprised that you already know the “secrets”: great food, constant exercise (cardio + strength training).
The groundbreaking idea of this awesome health book though is that you can preserve your vitality, strength, and independence well into your old age if you take care of yourself.
Quote: “Aerobic exercise saves your life; strength training makes it worth living“
5. The Whole 30
by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig
Summary | Kindle | Audiobook
The Whole 30 cracks the top 5 of the best nutrition books for a simple reason:
The “troubleshooting approach” to nutrition supports your individual needs and preferences.
The idea is to stop eating ALL food that can cause allergies or bodily harm for a month and then see how you feel.
If you can get rid of some pain or skin rash, or if you will feel better, then you know you weren’t eating well. And that you can do better.
Then you can restart to add foods one by one and monitor the results, so you can reach the perfect diet for you based on what matters most: results.
Quote: “You cnnot out-exercise poor nutrition“
4. Eat Fat Get Thin by Mark Hyman Summary | Print There have been a few books in the last years that re-rehabilitated (saturated) fat as a positive contributor to our health. However I have chosen Hyman for this best nutrition books list because Hyma says that also grain can be a part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderate quantities.
People like Hyman have the potential to change your life in the negative.
Mark Hyman does not provide any overview and, starting from the title of this book, his approach is highly misleading.
He sells a specific diet as “superior”, he demonizes whole classes of food and over-hypes others.
As such, he fits the definition of a… Well, read below.
3. In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan
Summary | Print | Audiobook
I loved Pollan’s anti-geek approach.
He says that most people who fancy themselves as “health-conscious” end up being geeks and “food label hunters”.
Such as, those people you see on the supermarket aisles reading and comparing labels (I’m one of those :).
If you are doing the same, that’s a poor approach, says the author.
Food labels are misleading (to say the least).
Eat more whole food, and you won’t have to worry about labels.
The only limitation of this book might be that the author proposes to eat less meat in favor of more plants.
That might be the only downsides since I don’t see how the leaner cuts of meat would be bad for you.
Still, generally speaking, a ver well-balanced approach.
And that’s exactly what you should be looking for in any book or nutrition coach.
2. Food Rules
by Michael Pollan
Summary | Print
I give another top spot on this best nutrition book list to Pollan.
Food Rules ends up this high for its groundbreaking simplicity.
Because of the many gurus, pundits, and dogmas around health and nutrition, you quickly realize this:
The more you read, the less clarity you gain.
Food Rules embraces no single diet, does not quote a hundred studies to legitimize itself, and doesn’t ban any food or classes of food.
Food Rules gives you a few general and simple guidelines which you can start applying right away to enjoy a healthier life.
Quote: “If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re not hungry”
1. Fat Loss Forever ( Layne Norton)
This is my #1 go-to resource.
A true “no BS scientist”, it’s also the #1 nutrition guy TPM can endorse.
Layne Norton is the guy. He holds a Ph.D. in nutrition and is an award-winning bodybuilder.
And Biolayne is his YouTube channel.
I’m truly grateful to Layne because he rescued me from the sea of zealots, quacks, and fake gurus.
And I’m certainly not the only one.
Says a very telling message in one of his “debunking videos” (aimed at Hyman, BTW):
I actually developed an eating disorder from watching all these people talk about how bad food is.Max Mills, a commenter on Layne’s channel
I was terrified to eat anything and as a result i ended up pushing this on my wife and son. It’s taken me a couple years to accept that there are no bad foods and now I have a pretty healthy relationship with food. Part of that is thanks to people like you Layne. Thanks so much for combating these ideas and thanks for the content
I haven’t yet read his book which seems to be tailored to fat loss and it’s not something I’m interested in right now.
Update: I have now, plus we reviewed it here.
But I’ve watched almost all of his YouTube videos.
And I can tell you: for a balanced, open-minded, and scientific overview on nutrition, look no further.
Avoid anyone who pushes a single specific diet or anyone who hypes up any specific fasting schedule.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s keto, carnivore, paleo, vegetarian, 16:8, one-day meals, or whatever.
Nutrition is very individual dependent, and anyone who pushes a specific type of diet for everyone else is, at best, misguided.
Many are proselytizing to feel better about their own choices. But the worst ones are conmen seeking to line up their pockets.
How to spot quacks:
- Pushes one particular diet
- Oversells the benefits of a specific diet
- Pushes / oversells the benefits of fasting, or whatever latest fad is being popular
- Does not mention the limitations of their favorite approach
- Rarely or never mentions the all-important “individual factor”, such as what works for some might not work for others
- Makes nutrition sound complex, while instead the best approach is to simplify things. But the more complex he makes it sound, the more of your time, attention, and money he can grab
- Lists “superfoods”
- Bonus points if those “superfoods” come with a long list of miraculously-sounding benefits
- Lists “terrible foods” (demonizing helps sell)
- Bonus points of if those “terrible foods” are responsible for the “cancer pandemic”, “obesity pandemic”, “heart disease pandemic”, or whatever
- Talks about “hacks” and “bio-hacking”, nothing wrong with “‘hacks”, it’s just that they often come with the obsessive-compulsive approach of the geek measurer, the charlatans, and the over-hyping of “superfoods” or “new techniques” (and, of course, the other side of the coin: the demonization of this or that food or chemical compound that you must absolutely avoid)
- Lists some (obscure) research that backs their argument, without mentioning methodology or limitations
- Never mentions research that might disprove their point of view
- Uses vague but complex-sounding or “alarming” terminology, such as “toxic”, “poisonous”, “mitochondrial”, etc.
- Speaks in definitive terms, because confidence is the conmen’s name of the game to manipulate you (and the opposite of what an actual scientist does)
Nutrition Quacks to Avoid
It’s too many to list.
But just to name some of the most popular:
- Mark Hyman, a keto zealot, and there are many like him
- Sadguru, just avoid him in general, and even more for nutrition
- Tom Bilyeu, Lewis Howes, + all other hosts. They’re about VIEWS, not reliable information, so they chase the latest fad and hype.
Specifically, those two both give space to any popular quack they can find, without ever asking the tough questions that a good host should ask.
See here why you want to avoid Bilyeu.
- Tim Ferris, lower quality advice and an even worse attitude. He will take you down the dark rabbit hole of the geek approach to food and nutrition (eat X of this, X less of that other one, cheat day on Sunday, fast when on full moon, add 0.1 grams of that one… )