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Book Review: Secrets of a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About

I recently read Secrets for a Healthy Diet: What to Eat, What to Avoid, and What to Stop Worrying About by Monica Reinagel (2011).  It’s aimed at the general public rather than people with diabetes or overweight.  I give it five stars on Amazon’s rating system (I love it). 

♦   ♦   ♦

This indispensible book cuts through the malarky of nearly all recent nutrition fads, sharing with us the science-based nutrition ideas that prevent disease and prolong life.  If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), you need this book.  The author gives highly practical suggestions on how to make your diet healthier immediately. 

In short, Ms. Reinagel focuses on minimally processed, whole foods, and preparing your own meals.  But there’s so much more here.  As you might expect, the Mediterranean diet was discussed very favorably.

I’ve been following Monica Reinagel’s nutrition writing carefully for the last three years.  She knows the nutrition science literature as well as anyone, if not better.

The book starts with an unusually detailed table of contents that helps you find what you’re interested in without wasting time.

As promised by the subtitle, the author tells you what you DON’T need to worry about.  Is mercury in fish a problem?  What about bisphenol-A in plastic containers and canned foods?  Does red meat cause cancer?  Is pesticide residue on our food a problem?  Is salt a killer?  

I stay up to date on nutrition much more than the average physician, but the author introduced me to several new concepts, such as hemp milk, oat milk, and the idea that “pregnant women and small children should avoid cured meats altogether.”  I was particularly interested in her thoughts on the intersection of nutrition and exercise since I recently started an exercise program called Core Performance.

She successfully debunks many nutrition myths, such as 1) the need to eat every 2-3 hours, 2) saturated fat is bad for your heart and arteries, 3) eggs are bad for you (too much cholesterol, you know), 4) grain products are essential for health.

Any deficiencies in the book?  The font size is on the small side for people over 45.  On page 150, vitamin K is confused with vitamin D – undoubtedly a simple misprint.  No mention of the raw milk controversy.  When discussing potassium chloride as a salt substitute, she doesn’t mention the potential risk to people with kidney impairment or taking certain fluid pills. Tips on how to select fresh fish would have been helpful.

In summary, this is a great book for anyone wanting to get healthier via nutrition, but who’s confused by all the recent controversies.  The book is without peer.  If everything you learned about healthy eating was acquired over 10 years ago, you’re way out of date and need this book.  I hope the author does an updated edition every five years or so.

Steve Parker, M.D., author of Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet and The Advanced Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight, Feel Better, Live Longer.

Disclosure: Other than a free advance review copy of the book from the publisher, I received nothing of value for writing this review.

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