Today I'd like to share with you all the books that forever changed the way I view food and the way I cook and eat. About two years ago I became far more conscious of where the food I eat was coming from, how it was produced and how it was affecting my body. You may have already seen (Food Inc.) or read (Skinny Bitch) some horror stories about the food industry. The four books listed below are different, in that they seek to educate, not scare.
1. The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Johnny Bowden
This is the first book I bought and the book that had the most impact on my diet. It was recommended by Lori, who affectionately refers to it as her "food bible". Rather than tell me what not to eat and why everything is bad for me (think Skinny Bitch), The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth tells me what I should be eating to get the optimum health benefits from food. Written by acclaimed health expert Johnny Bowden, the book contains a plethora of interesting facts about the food you love and explains why it is so good for our bodies. Bowden even encourages the inclusion of dairy (raw milk!) and red meat in our diets (organic, grass fed, pasture raised, of course). He's also big on the use of spices and promotes the consumption of chocolate & red wine (in moderation)! Marianne was pleased to see Bowden promote the healthy consumption of eggs - the whole egg - yolk and all. Another interesting thing is that Bowden is one of the few mainstream health experts to speak out against canola oil, saying that "high-temperature processing increases trans-fats in canola oil". Instead he favours butter, ghee, coconut oil and palm oil. Modern vegetable oils do not make an appearance in his list. Thank goodness!
2. In Defence of Food by Michael Pollan
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." And so begins Michael Pollan's look at how the food industry and the Western diet is killing us. He says food has turned into science. Low fat, low calorie, low carb, high fibre. The food industry is making a killing off diet trends and killing us in the process. Pollan refers to it as the American Paradox: "The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become". We are a society living off refined, processed foods full of preservatives, additives, fillers and very little nutrients. It's said that this is the first generation of children not expected to live longer than their parents. It's shocking and it's an eye opener - especially when you learn how little the Government intervenes in food manufacturing and how big business and corporate lobbyists control how our food is grown and produced. (The movie Food Inc. also discusses this but it's much more sensationalized.) Of course Pollan has an agenda of his own, but his message is worth consideration.
3. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith & James MacKinnon
From the book jacket: "When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born."
Endearing and enlightening, the tale of Alisa & James struck a cord for me. I watched every episode of "The 100 Mile Challenge" on the Food Network (a reality based documentary where Alisa & James recruited six families in Mission, B.C. to take on the 100 Mile Challenge) and really began to consider how important local eating really is to our health, our environment and our economy. The true 100 Mile Diet may not be practical for every day living (no wheat, no olive oil, no soy sauce!) but there are changes we can all make to incorporate some of the 100 Mile philosophy into our lives and our kitchens.
4. Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of ways to live to be 100 by Dr. Maoshing Ni
The author, Maoshing Ni is a world renowned doctor of Chinese medicine. Inspired by thousands of years of Chinese tradition Secrets of Longevity is full of wisdom and sage advise on diet, healing, exercise, relationships, and community. It's no surprise that some of the ancient secrets in the chapter on nutrition are echoed in The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth and some of the other tidbits on healthy living are touted by doctors and health experts all over the world. It's a quick and enjoyable read.
Of course there are dozens more books out there with similar messages as these four, but these are the ones that have had the most impact on me. I'm always open to new and interesting reads, so please, if you have any suggestions, share in the comments.
P.S. For those of you who have read Skinny Bitch and are wondering why I picked on it a bit, I really, really disliked the message in the book. Maybe you connected with the message and you consider it a book that changed your life, like some of the ones above changed mine. I, on the other hand, found it to be totally misleading and actually detrimental to those looking to live a truly healthy, well balanced life style. For those that haven't read it, Skinny Bitch, in my opinion, is nothing more than vegan propaganda and fear mongering at its best. I agree there are compelling reasons to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, but the arguments in Skinny Bitch do not help the cause.
P.S.S. All four books I posted are linked to their Chapters.ca listing in the side bar under "Required Reading". Click and buy!