I’ve been fortunate to have amassed a large collection of health books over the years (thanks to some great PR people and publishing houses), but there’s only a handful that have a special place on my bookshelf.
These books have been dog-eared, highlighted from cover to cover, and kept as constant reference pieces that have either helped me understand a more holistic approach to health, the importance of good food, or have inspired me to take better care of myself. I hope they inspire you as well:
1. Spent by Dr Frank Lipman
Did you know we’re built to sleep when the sun goes down and wake when the sun rises? No kidding, right? But many of us are so far removed from our natural ways of functioning that we need to be reminded of why we need to live like our ancestors did. There are so many more good nuggets of information in this book that might seem like utter common sense (cut out refined sugars, get more sleep and just enough appropriate exercise), but Dr Lipman digs deep for the reason. In short, the book is a big lesson to teach the body to slow down, to relax and recover from our hectic lifestyles.
“Our bodies were not built to be sedentary or run marathons, exist on nearly no sleep, live without sun and nature, eat bizarre combinations of processed foods, or subsist on no-fat or no-carb diets. Nor were our brains wired to handle profound amounts of mental and emotional stress. We get spent because our modern lifestyle has removed us from nature and we have become divorced from its rhythms and cycles.”
2. Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra
I’d never heard of Ayurvedic medicine before I read this book. Ayurveda is basically a system of preventative medicine and health care that has its origins in India. While western medicine sees disease as something to be treated with medicine or surgery, for example, Ayurveda sees disease as a sign of an underlying imbalance in the body – that something is out of rhythm. It looks at the root causes of a condition instead of just treating the symptoms. This book opened my mind to how the body and mind are intrinsically linked and why some people can heal themselves from disease simply because of the power of belief.
“Rather than relying on conventional drugs or surgery to unblock their arteries, Dr Ornish’s group used simple yoga exercises, meditation, and a strict low-cholesterol diet. Why was this finding considered so remarkable? Because mainstream medicine had never before acknowledged that heart disease can be reversed once it has started.”
3. Food Rules by Michael Pollan
This is an absolute favourite. You can read all the diet books, nutrition books, foodie cook books and ‘how-to-eat’ books in the world, but none have succinctly put the most straightforward and invaluable food rules – taken from our ancestors, folk wisdom and science – into one definitive pocket-sized book. It’s funny (Pollen says: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t), super-easy to read (you can probably read it in an hour or two) and really makes you think of what and how much you really eat. If you want to master the art of conscious or mindful eating, this is exactly what it helps you to do.
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
4. Supercharged Food by Lee Holmes
Long before I met and interviewed Lee Holmes for Prevention, I read and instantly fell in love with this book because of it’s ‘why-didn’t-anyone-tell-me’ nutritional advice – for instance, I wish I knew earlier that eating fat helps your body absorb nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K! And Lee’s story of how she overcame her autoimmune disease with wholefoods (i.e. foods as close as possible to their natural state or how they’re found in nature) just spoke to me. If you want to understand what all the fuss around clean eating and eating foods without gluten, wheat or diary is about, then this is a must-read.
“I discovered foods that I could use as ‘medicine’ to heal my body at a cellular level and restore my health. I realised that for myself and many others, there is a direct correlation between what we eat and how we feel.”
5. Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook by Irena Macri
Paleo was introduced to me by the delightful Irena Macri (who was working in the corporate digital world and gave me the job at Prevention at the time). I love her philosophy of sticking to the diet 80 per cent of the time, then the other 20 per cent eating the foods you love to indulge in. This is such a fun book full of food porn it’s hard not to want try the Paleo diet– which is essentially about cooking and eating a variety of nutrient-rich, whole foods that you’re not even tempted to eat anything that’s processed, packaged or bought from a store. Since Irena introduced it to me with her blog I rarely have to worry about what I can or can’t eat, my weight or my health because I know that if I’m eating real food, everything else takes care of itself.
“People get into Paleo for different reasons and experience different effects and changes in their bodies, mood and energy levels as a result. Some of the reported and known benefits include improved metabolism and digestion, increased energy levels, sustained weight loss, improved sleep, mental clarity, clearer skin, feeling of vitality and overall wellbeing.”