Aug 242010
 

batgirl I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the title. The name Alicia Silverstone rang a bell, but I really didn’t remember who she was. One of my kids reminded me. “Batgirl” (in the “Batman and Robin” movie). Suddenly I was impressed. While Silverstone was pretty enough in that role, the girl on the cover of “The Kind Diet” was thinner and more radiantly pretty – so much so that I hadn’t recognized her. A good endorsement for any diet.

The diet is “Kind” because it’s vegan – kind to animals and kind to the earth. Actually, it’s three diets in one. She includes instructions and recipes for “flirting” (adding vegetarian and vegan alternatives to your diet), “vegan” when you eliminate animal products entirely, and “super-hero”, where you add more macrobiotic ideas and ingredients, such as more whole grains and sea vegetables. Obviously she hopes to entice you into eventually trying out “super-hero”, but has a lot of help for people who just want to make small improvements.

The book is beautifully done, and includes her personal story, and her well-written arguments against meat, dairy, processed foods, etc. There are also mini-bios of vegan “super-heroes” – athletes and activists who embrace vegan principles. Alicia herself is apparently quite well known as a vegan activist. I suppose I’m not well informed on vegan politics.

blog-alicia-silverstone The photography is very good, and the recipes look great. Some folks commented on Amazon that the ingredients were too exotic for them to find. This applies primarily to the “super-hero” recipes, where the macrobiotic principles call for a lot of Asian (especially Japanese) ingredients. People living anywhere near a metropolitan center or anywhere with a good Asian market should do fine. For all the aspiring trendy vegans in the Midwest, a number of the ingredients are available online. And the vegan and “flirting” sections use an ingredient list that is more familiar.

If you want an attractive introduction to vegetarian/veganism with explanations, recipes, and photos of  celebrities, this is the book you want to pick up. It performs the service of making a radically healthy diet seem normal and mainstream instead of fringe and quirky. Give it a try.

Feb 102010
 

In writing his latest two books, Food Rules and the earlier In Defense of Food, author and professor Michael Pollan had a surprising revelation. With most of his previous (well-researched) books, he found that subjects that seemed to be simple on the surface turned out to be more complx and ambiguous when you looked into them deeply. But when

investigating the question “What should we eat?” Pollan was surprised to find just the opposite. For all the complex and contradictory diet advice coming out of nutritional and food science, all the parties agreed on two very simple facts.

1. The traditional Western, highly processed diet will kill you. It causes obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a host of other troubles. Every culture that adopts it suffers drastic increases in these diseases.

2. Cultures that do NOT eat a Western diet manage to live on a wide variety of traditional diets, ranging from high-carb to high-fat to high-protien – all without high rates of these chronic Western diseases.

And a related truth:

3. When Westerners stop eating a Western diet – their health improves quickly and dramatically.

You would think that agreements on these points would make diet choices easy and nutritional research simple. But instead of focusing on dropping the Western diet, nutrition and food scientists spend all their time squabbling about exactly what  isolated nutrient or lack of it is the issue. Is it processed carbs? Omega 6 vs Omega 3 fatty acids? Dairy? High fructose corn syrup? Artificial colors and sweetners?

Why this confusion over a simple subject? In a word, money. Food manufacturers don’t get rich by selling you a few cents worth of corn. They get rich by taking a few cents worth of corn, processing it into high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, xanthan gum, malto-dextran – combining it into some unnatural monstrosity of a breakfast cereal, squirting the latest “fad” ingredient into it,  and then selling it to you for four bucks a box. They want to isolate the “good” things in a traditional diet so they can artificially add them to their processed foods, slap health claims on the label, and still make enormous profits. And the health industry isn’t doing too bad either selling us expensive maintenance drugs for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and the like.

So, putting aside the deliberately confusing and self-promoting diet “recommendations” of food “science”, Pollan reaches back into traditional cultures and produces a book of “rules” for how to eat well. They are actually more personal policies. This is an expanded version of the rules he outlined in his previous book, In Defense of Food. This book doesn’t have all the meticulously researched history and science of the previous book. It’s a short, simple guidebook that you can read in an afternoon, full of wisdom that will stick with you.

The rules are divided up into three sections – What to eat (food), what KIND of food to eat (mostly plants) and HOW to eat (not too much). Here are a few examples from each section.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

…so much for xanthan gum.

Don’t eat  breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

…no, “Fruit Loops” are not fruit.

Do all your eating at a table

…no, a desk is NOT a table.

You get the idea. A lot of the rules are deliberately redundant. Pollan hopes that of all his rules, a few from each section will be memorable enough to stick with you. All it takes is a few rules from each category to drastically improve the way you eat.

This is the shortest book you will ever read on diet, but it’s all you need. Carry it with you. Memorize as many of the rules as you can, and this small book will make huge changes in your health.

Jan 262010
 

I’ve mentioned Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat To Live in several posts, but I realize I’ve never actually written a full review of it. That situation needs to be fixed, because this is my favorite diet and nutrition book of all time (so far at least).  I ran into this book when I was having health problems. After a period of largely raw foods, I fell back on Joel’s diet for more long-term eating and it’s wonderful.

Dr. Fuhrman is the doctor that other doctors send their patients to when their lives depend on losing a lot of weight. And his diet does the job for them. But it’s  not simply the diet that makes the book a must-have. Dr. Fuhrman’s explanations of nutrition and the kinds of food that cause weight problems is simply brilliant. Light bulbs went off all over my head when I read it. In brief, Dr. Fuhrman is concerned with the nutrient density of foods.  Our body is well equipped with “detectors” in our stomach and digestive system that can sense the density, calories, and basic nutrients in our food. Using this information, the body can make sophisticated calculations about when it is full and what it wants us to eat that keep us at the perfect weight. At least, that’s how it works with real food – with the kind of food human beings have been eating for thousands of years.

Our body’s sensory equipment is completely overloaded when when fill our stomach with foods that contain enormous amounts of calories with almost no nutrients. It’s like putting a 50 lb sack of sugar on a postal scale. It completely sabotages the body’s regulatory mechanism. As a result, you think you are still hungry. And you ARE. You are hungry for nutrients. You are suffering malnutrition while packing away huge numbers of calories.

Dr. Fuhrman’s plan, then, is to fill yourself with nutrient-dense foods. These foods will make you feel full and satisfied, because your body can properly  sense that it is getting all the nutrition it needs.

Dr. Fuhrman’s diet has a few simple rules. You eat a lot of greens and vegetables, some cooked and some raw. You eat a lot of fruit. And you eat a little whole grain or starchy food and nuts. You minimize other fats and meat. How strict you have to be with these depends on how much weight you need to loose. The plan is not completely raw-food, but it incorporates much more raw fruits and vegetables than most of us are used to. Fuhrman is one of the experts involved in the “Raw for 30” program for reversing diabetes, so he understands the value of raw food.

Fuhrman has other books that expand on the recipes and diet choices of this first book – but this one is where you learn the nutritional facts – all meticulously researched – that are the basis of his programs. Highly recommended.

Dec 312009
 

The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First by Mark Hyman MD is a book that I had included on my earlier list of gift suggestions for the health – conscious (The Gift of Health). The book piqued my interest because I have several friends and family members who struggle with such issues as depression, anxiety and insomnia, but who have had poor results with orthodox medicine and are looking for alternatives.

The premise of the book is simple – the brain is a part of the body, and problems in the brain are the result of problems in overall health. By using the latest in science and holistic medicine, Dr. Hyman gives you a program for finding your body/mind problems and fixing them with a total program of mental and physical health.

You can hop on over to Dr. Hyman’s website to find a complete down-loadable set of diagnostic tests that will help you decide which areas of body/brain nutrition are your weak areas. Then the program in Hyman’s book will give you the steps to follow to correct the problems, including balancing nutrition and hormone levels, detoxifying , fixing digestive problems, increasing energy levels and working on calming the mind directly. These suggestions are packaged into a six week program.

Some of his diet suggestions are radical, but some of the results reported are nothing short of miraculous. If you are struggling with mental issues and are strongly motivated to try  a solution that is guaranteed to make you feel better in every way, this is an excellent program.

Dr. Hyman’s website is found at www.ultramind.com. Below is one of a large collection of videos Dr. Hyman has on Youtube explaining the principles of his program. Dr. Hyman is the kind of author who doesn’t stop at just a book, but puts out videos, guides, nutrition supplements and everything but the kitchen sink. The good news is that a lot of his information on the site and on Youtube is free. At the very least, you can get a good idea of what he’s all about before you plop down your money for his book. But when you’re ready to buy, we’d love it if you’d use our link above, so your purchase can help support our site. In any case, check out his materials and see if this is the kind of program that appeals to you.

Dec 112009
 

health1What to get for the health-conscious or holistically-minded person on your gift list? Below are a few of my personal suggestions. Some are on the Amazon best-seller’s list. Some I simply LIKE.

If you’re a health-conscious person yourself, put them on your own list. Or play it safe and buy YOURSELF a present!

Learn the simple rules to healthy, happy eating for life! I recently read Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. While I hope to do a full review later, let me just say that this book lives up to the promise of Pollan’s masterpiece, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is a careful researcher with a captivating style. In this book, he presents the simple rules of eating well. The book starts out with the meta-rule: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants”.  Sounds simple, but it’s more involved than you might think. For example, high fructose corn syrup isn’t really “food” by Pollan’s definition. If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, says Pollan, or if it has more than about five ingredients – it’s not REALLY food. The book is a collection of excellent research, wonderful guidelines, and a stinging indictment against the “food” industry.

Reverse your diseases and lose weight effortlessly! I’ve reviewed Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live elsewhere on my site. It is, quite simply, the BEST book on diet and nutrition I’ve ever read. Dr. Fuhrman is the one that other doctors send their patients to when they HAVE to lose weight or die.  Fuhrman’s approach concentrates on foods with a high nutrition-to-calorie ratio, which includes a lot of cooked and raw vegetables and fruit, while keeping fat low. And the results are spectacular.

Fix your mind by fixing your body! That’s the promise of this new book, The Ultramind Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman. I recently reviewed a book on natural mental health called Herbs for the Mind. This book seems to take a different approach by taking you through a multi-week program to totally rejuvenate the body and the mind, undoing years of damage and balancing out everything in the process. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s certainly  on my list, thanks to endorsements by notables such as Drs Ornish and Oz. It has excellent reviews and intriguing comments.

I’ve known people in sever chronic pain, and relief from pain is one of the most wonderful gifts I can imagine. This book, Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain by Pete Egoscue has hundreds of enthusiastic reviews by people for whom Pete’s method was the key to ending their chronic pain. Pete Egoscue developed this method after experimenting on relieving his own chronic pain. He is now has a thriving pain relief practice frequented by celebrity athletes among others.  If you know someone struggling with pain, this would make a wonderful gift.

reiki_master_ebooks

Finally, if you’ve wanted to pursue a path as a healer, let me recommend Reiki – a well-respected system of energy healing. I am a Reiki Master myself and I give it my wholehearted endorsement as a healing system. The Reiki Store has a wonderful self-study program that gives you everything you need to study and receive attunements up to the master level. Their program includes certificates, information on running a business, and everything else you need to know. It would also make a great gift. You can find it at this link, or by clicking on the picture.

Nov 112009
 

diet2Just to give you fair warning, this is a negative review. I picked up the audio copy of You on a Diet, by Mehmet C. Oz and Michael F. Roisen with interest. I’m always looking for good diet and nutrition information, and Oz and Roisen seemed loaded with information.

And indeed, the book is FULL of excellent information. The science is both fascinating and compelling.  Oz and Roisen really know what they are talking about, and their explanations of how your body works to digest food will leave you alarmed and awe-struck.

But… as interesting as the information was, I couldn’t finish the book. It was the writing style. It just stumbles over itself trying to be witty and cute. Here’s an example from the first few pages:

“Our ancestors never thought about a diet in the way we do – and their bodies had the approximate density of granite. Us? We obsess about diet more than red-carpet reporters obsess about designer dresses, and our bodies have the consistency of yogurt.”

The writers pile on metaphor after metaphor, simile after simile, cute analogy after cute analogy until I just wanted to scream. I had to stop listening. I’ve still included a link to the book. It got excellent reviews overall. For some people, the writing style might be very attractive. It’s certainly a… peppy book.

And the content is excellent. The doctors explain how hunger, digestion and nutrition work at a cellular and chemical level. They point out all the modern pitfalls that can hijack our nutrition. After all, our digestions were perfectly evolved for the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of our early ancestors, and haven’t really had a chance to adapt completely to pizza and coke.

The book (what I managed to endure of it) is full of excellent tricks for resetting the body’s appetite and digestion to the correct levels with food changes, supplements and exercise. The detailed knowledge of the terrible damage that bad nutrition does to the body at the the molecular and cellular level is scary, and very motivating.

Perhaps you can get through the corny writing style of the book and enjoy it. I wish you luck. If you do, there are other books by Oz and Roisen, no doubt written in the same cheery style.

If you’ve read the book, and had a better experience than I did, by all means let me know.

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