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There is a wide range of books available on the subject of nutrition.
While some of them offer valuable insights, a significant proportion of nutrition bestsellers are often more rooted on the author’s opinion than in providing factual information.
With this in mind, this article provides recommendations for eight of the best nutrition books to read.
These options encompass everything from evidence-based nutrition literature to cookbooks and even academic textbooks.
1) ‘The Hungry Brain’ by Stephan J. Guyenet, Ph.D.
‘The Hungry Brain’ is a book authored by Stephan J. Guyenet, a researcher with a PhD in neuroscience (1).
Excessive food consumption is an issue affecting many people in various countries.
For instance, a 2022 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicated that the global average calorie intake is 2,990 calories per day. In the United States and Europe, this daily energy intake stood at 3,540 calories (2).
Overeating over the long-term can lead to overweight and obesity, as well as an increased risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Given the negative impact of food overconsumption on our health, a crucial question arises: why do we overeat? Is it simply a matter of choice, or is there more to it than meets the eye?
‘The Hungry Brain’ seeks to address this based on the available evidence. The book explores how our brains can undermine our efforts to eat healthily in an environment where food is readily accessible at every turn.
Moreover, it explores whether we can outsmart the natural instincts that drive us to overindulge. The book provides some useful tips in this regard, too.
‘The Hungry Brain’ is a scientific book in nature that aims to relay scientific research findings in a relatively straightforward manner. In other words, it is not a typical ‘diet book’ that prescribes a particular way of eating.
It is an interesting book, suitable for anyone interested in learning more about the science behind why we overeat.
2) ‘The Good Gut’ by Justin Sonnenberg and Erica Sonnenberg
‘The Good Gut’ is a book authored by Justin and Erica Sonnenberg, who are researchers at The Sonnenburg Lab of Stanford University (3).
This book is a treasure trove of research-based information, and stands as one of the best nutrition books for those interested in gut health.
While the book delves into various topics, it provides valuable guidance into how we can strengthen our gut microbiota, which comprises the population of ‘beneficial bacteria’ residing within each of our intestines.
According to the authors, a healthy gut microbiota has the potential to improve our overall health and may even reduce the risk of various conditions and chronic diseases.
Although research into the gut microbiota is an emerging field, the book presents a wealth of information based on current findings. It accomplishes this by distilling the latest research into relatively easy-to-understand information.
If you’re curious about how individual foods, nutrients, and our overall diet impact our gut health, then this book might be the ideal choice for you.
3) ‘Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism’ by Sareen S. Gropper, Jack L. Smith, and Timothy P. Carr
Unlike the previously mentioned books, ‘Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism’ is an academic-style nutrition textbook.
The book was authored by Sareen S. Gropper, Jack L. Smith, and Timothy P. Carr, all of whom are current or former Professors (4).
‘Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism’ isn’t light reading; it is better suited for individuals pursuing a career in Nutrition. In this regard, this book is commonly used as a textbook for nutrition courses.
The book is also a valuable resource for anyone truly seeking to understand how food impacts our bodies, how we metabolize it, and the resulting health effects.
With well over 600 pages, this book provides extremely detailed coverage of nearly every aspect of human metabolism.
For individuals eager to deepen their knowledge in this field, ‘Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism’ is an essential nutrition textbook.
4) ‘Flexible Dieting: A Science-Based, Reality-Tested Method for Achieving and Maintaining Your Optimal Physique’ by Alan Aragon
Flexible Dieting is a book authored by Alan Aragon, a nutrition researcher whose research interests focus on nutrition and body composition (5).
The book primarily explains how nutritional choices impact our body composition. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject, there’s a wealth of knowledge for everyone here.
In addition to guiding those with specific body composition goals, Flexible Dieting is equally valuable for anyone just wanting to enhance their general nutritional knowledge.
Despite being rich in the latest nutritional science findings, the book is written in a straightforward manner, relatively free from scientific jargon. It also provides lots of practical and actionable information, making it suitable for a wide audience.
While the book centers on diet diet, it doesn’t prescribe a rigid, one-size-fits-all eating plan; hence, it’s name, ‘Flexible Dieting.’
If you have specific body composition goals and wish to gain a deeper understanding of how to attain them, this is one of the top nutrition books.
5) ‘Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: 600 Super-Easy, Time-Saving and Weight Loss Recipes For Smart Meal Preppers’ by Emma Barnes
‘Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook’ is a no-thrills cookbook, but it’s a brimming with easy-to-prepare recipes. With preparation times as short as just ‘2 minutes,’ it’s an excellent recipe book for those in search of quick and convenient meal ideas.
Anything that promotes home-cooking and simplifies the process can be a significant step toward eating better.
Moreover, the book caters to a wide audience. Whether you prefer plant-based, low-carb, high-protein meals, or even “healthier” desserts, it offers a diverse array of recipes to suit various tastes.
It’s worth noting that the book appears to lean toward a preference for low-carb meals, but it includes plenty of healthy recipes featuring a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables.
The recipes are split into nine distinct categories;
- Breakfast and Brunch
- Snacks and side dishes
- Salads and soups
- Lunch and dinner
For each recipe, the book provides:
- The necessary ingredients and quantities
- Simple step-by-step instructions
- Total preparation time
- Storage information: How long can you store the dish once it’s cooked?
- A basic breakdown of the nutritional profile (calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein)
If you’re searching for a cookbook filled with glossy photos of tantalizing dishes and a comprehensive nutritional breakdown for each recipe, this might not be the right book for you. As mentioned earlier, it is very much a ‘no-thrills’ offering.
However, if you’re in need of a cookbook could do with a cookbook full of simple and quick recipes without extensive ingredient requirements, this may be worth checking out.
6) ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy’ by Walter Willet
‘Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy’ is a book written by Walter Willet, a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health (6).
This book is one of the most evidence-based nutrition guides, offering comprehensive dietary recommendations for a healthier life. Originally published over 20 years ago in 2000, the latest updated revision of the book came in 2017.
One of the book’s strengths lies in its ability to clearly explain the effects different foods can have on our health. It effectively highlights the significant distinctions in quality among various food choices. For example, refined sugar and beans are both carbohydrate-rich foods, but each exerts very different effects on our health.
Although the book refrains from promoting a specific way of eating, it does align with current nutritional guidelines. In this regard, it encourages principles such as limiting sugar and refined carbohydrates while advocating the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
However, the book goes further than explaining just “what” to eat, and expands on “how” and “why” to make these dietary choices. Further, where known, the book delves into the associations between specific foods and long-term health outcomes, explaining the reasons behind the potential “good” or “bad” effects of different foods.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone, and people can thrive on a variety of dietary patterns. However, in general, this book’s recommendations consistently align with findings from nutritional science studies.
Furthermore, it’s important to note that the book’s guidance is relatively flexible, employing language such as “limit” rather than imposing restrictions on foods deemed less healthful.
7) ‘Introduction to Human Nutrition’ by the Nutrition Society
Similar to ‘Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism,’ ‘Introduction to Human Nutrition’ is not a simple book but a textbook on nutritional science.
In other words, it’s a more complex read, with highly scientific language rather than plain English. Consequently, the book’s intended audience is nutrition students rather than individuals with a general interest in diet and nutrition
That said, ‘Introduction to Human Nutrition’ is a foundational nutritional science textbook, offering essential knowledge for anyone looking to improve their understanding of nutrition.
This book is commonly used as a textbook for nutrition-focuses degree programs and encompasses over 300 pages of highly-detailed information, covering topics ranging from metabolism, nutrients, and food composition to the research methodologies used in the nutrition field.
‘Introduction to Human Nutrition’ is published by The Nutrition Society and features contributions from a variety of authors with backgrounds in nutrition. The book may be very useful for anyone working in the field of medicine or nursing wishing to expand their nutritional knowledge.
Furthermore, for individuals with a genuine interest in learning more about nutrition, reading this book provides the foundational knowledge necessary to better understand the complexities of human nutrition.
It is currently one of the best nutrition textbooks available.
8) ‘The Science of Celebrity…. or Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?’ by Timothy Caulfield
‘The Science of Celebrity… or Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?’ is a book authored by Timothy Caulfield, the research director of the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute (7).
The book delves into the prevalent trend of celebrities offering dietary and health advice, regardless of whether that advice is evidence-based, safe, or effective. In simpler terms, the book cautions over how people listen to influential celebrities, and many base their health decisions based on their recommendations.
Within its pages, the book examines and explains all the typical over-hyped diets and detox regiments frequently promoted by celebrities. Furthermore, the author candidly highlights the celebrity-endorsed products to avoid and explains what actually works.
In a world where influential celebrities use their social media channels to market health products, this book emerges as an important – and often engaging – read.
Within the nutrition literature, numerous popular nutrition books are crafted to promote the author’s personal agenda rather than provide impartial nutritional information.
Unfortunately, this trend is especially prevalent in books that advocate for specific diets, which often over-hype the author’s preferred diet while simultaneously demonizing alternative ways of eating.
However, on a more positive note, there are also many commendable nutrition books that stick to established evidence, offering unbiased guidance on improving our dietary choices.
Objective books such as these, alongside nutritional textbooks, can play a vital role in expanding our knowledge of nutrition-related topics. The books featured in this guide could be valuable in this regard.
Or see these articles on popular nutritional topics.