Smart new books on two hot topics, from Jonny Bowden and Chris Kresser
Authors and publishers strive to make their books stand out from the crowd.
So, they often feature bold new theories or push counterintuitive claims — often at the expense of credibility and utility.
When a book’s “groundbreaking” premise sounds exaggerated or implausible, that’s usually because it’s pushing an unrealistic, unfounded position to grab attention and garner big sales.
After reviewing them, we can wholeheartedly recommend two new books that offer great guidance on food choices and health care, respectively.
Both make good reading, and would make great gifts for health-conscious folks on your list.
The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, by Jonny Bowden
Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., CNS is the author of several best-sellers, including Living the Low Carb Life, Jonny Bowden's Shape-Up, and The Great Cholesterol Myth.
We've long admired his scientifically sound — and eminently practical — approach to weight control and preventive nutrition.
And we really appreciate that Bowden discourages cultish allegiance to health gurus, and encourages healthy skepticism.
These tart excerpts from his website typify his attitude:
- “Years ago, there was a popular book called If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him. It meant, basically, don't ‘follow' anyone — be your own Buddha.”
- “Don't ‘believe' anything I — or anyone else — tells you about something as individual as nutrition, diet and health. Instead, try it on, see if it makes sense, and see if it works for your life.”
His colorful, colorfully written compendium, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, has sold 250,000 copies since it first appeared in 2007.
Jonny recently revised and updated the book with loads of new information, and as its subtitle says, readers can expect to learn “The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why.”
From almonds to yucca, Jonny reveals the key nutrients and health-promoters in each food, which form or cooking method is best, and which diseases or risk factors it’s likely to prevent or improve.
His research is impressive, but Jonny is adept at simplifying complex subjects, so reading the book feels like chatting with a chum.
(Jonny’s breezy style may owe something to his artistic roots. Before earning a doctorate in psychology and becoming a respected nutrition expert, he studied piano with Herbie Hancock, attended Juilliard, and led jazz combos.)
The book is organized by food group, and the at-a-glance format — filled with fascinating sidebars — makes key information easy to extract. Helpfully, Jonny marks his top choices within each category with a big, red star.
Bowden’s revised edition of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth also features crisp photos and a clean layout that make it a pleasure to peruse.
And the content more than matches the promise of the aesthetics. In addition to the food entries, it includes three useful features:
- A glossary of key medical and nutrition terms.
- “Ask the Expert” top 10 food lists from nutrition-savvy physicians and practitioners.
- Mini-lessons on hot topics such as the glycemic index, dietary fats, and organic foods.
It’s gratifying to see that 30-plus foods offered by Vital Choice appear in the book, and that 12 bear the red stars indicating Jonny’s top food choices (see “Vital Choice Foods among Jonny's Top Choices”, below).
Our enthusiasm for Bowden's latest book is shared by some leading voices in the field of health and nutrition:
- “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth is simply delightful!” — Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom
- “Dr. Bowden provides a great tour through the best 150 choices.” — Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., co-author of You: The Owner's Manual
- “Jonny Bowden again shows why he is one of the best ...”. — Barry Sears, Ph.D., author of The Zone
For more about Jonny, visit his website at www.jonnybowden.com.
Vital Choice foods among Jonny's Top Choices ⭐
- Wild Alaskan Salmon
- Macadamia Nut Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil*
- Pecans (in our organic trail mix)*
- Walnuts (in our organic trail mix)*
- Turmeric (supplemental curcumin)
- Garlic (raw, cultured garlic flowers)*
*Certified organic products
Other Vital Choice foods found in The 150 Healthiest Foods
- Grass-Fed Beef
- Bison (free-range)
- Chicken (free-range)
- 80% Extra Dark Chocolate*
- Dried fruits* (in our organic trail mix**)
- Crustaceans (Prawns, Shrimp, Lobster)
- White-fleshed Fish (Halibut, Cod, Flounder/Sole)
- Mollusks (Clams, Mussels, Oysters, and Scallops)
*Certified organic products
**Raisins, Cranberries, Tart Cherries, Blueberries, Goji berries
Unconventional Medicine, by Chris Kresser
Chris Kresser M.S., L.Ac., became known for the superior quality of his ChrisKresser.com blog, now ranked as one of the most visited natural health websites in the world.
Kresser addresses complex, potentially confusing health topics in concise, well researched articles that include healthy dollops of common sense and skepticism.
He’s also the founder of the Kresser Institute — which trains healthcare practitioners in “functional” medicine — co-director of the California Center for Functional Medicine, and New York Times best-selling author of The Paleo Cure.
While Unconventional Medicine is primarily aimed at health practitioners, it contains a wealth of information and insights useful to healthcare consumers.
The book’s subtitle summarizes its purpose: Join the Revolution to Reinvent Healthcare, Reverse Chronic Disease, and Create a Practice You Love.
People with chronic health conditions — and most of us are at risk — are typically given drugs, along with halfhearted lifestyle advice that doctors don’t expect patients to follow.
Chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease rarely receive the holistic treatment and advice that’s been proven most effective, and has become known as “functional” medicine.
Andrew Weil, M. D., blazed the trail in 1994, when he founded the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
Since then functional/integrative medicine has become a much more widely accepted concept, with the famed Cleveland Clinic organizing its own Functional Medicine Center in 2014 under the leadership of Mark Hyman, M.D.
Kresser’s book is divided into five sections: The Promise, The Problem, The Solution, The Vision, and The Transition.
It has plenty to offer laypeople, including instructive, inspiring stories of people who’d been failed by conventional medicine and then helped by functional medicine.
The book’s first example of the benefits of functional medicine is Chris' own experience, as described in Chapter 2, From Band-Aids to True Healing.
He'd acquired a parasitic illness and dysentery in Indonesia, which evolved into chronic fatigue, muscle pain, and insomnia — symptoms that persisted even after conventional medicine seemed to have cured the initial infections.
Chris finally found relief from three things:
- A traditional diet pattern as described by the Weston A. Price Foundation, featuring fermented foods, bone broth, slow-cooked meats, eggs, and fatty fish like salmon or sardines.
- Eliminating grains, legumes, and all refined/processed foods.
- Seeing an acupuncturist, who treated him from a holistic perspective.
This experience eventually led him to attend acupuncture school, and then to devise what he calls the ADAPT framework for healing:
- A functional medicine approach that focuses on preventing and reversing rather than managing chronic disease.
- An ancestral diet and lifestyle reflecting the fact that humans are evolutionarily mismatched to modern environments and diets.
- A collaborative approach that brings multiple disciplines to bear on health problems, from multiple angles.
In chapter 9, titled Realignment, Kresser focuses on the ways in which diet effects our genes, with special attention to the benefits of diets — such as the Paleo diet — that avoid processed, refined foods.
But Kresser stresses evidence that different cultures had very different “Paleo” diets, with the common thread being that all prehistoric diets relied entirely on whole, unrefined foods — and that the human genome became adapted to such diets.
Chapter 11 — Regarding Evidence — provides a cogent critique of the published studies, including clinical trials, upon which so much of conventional medicine rests.
As Chris points out, the most widely cited paper in the Public Library of Science is one written by John Ioannidis, M.D., of Stanford University, in which he convincingly rebutted the reliability of much of the published evidence.
Dr. Ioannidis’ detailed critique — which rocked the biomedical world — revealed that much of the published medical evidence is undermined by conscious or unconscious biases, financial conflicts of interest, and incorrect study design and/or statistical analysis.
Chris also points out two other major problems with conventional medicine:
- The benefits of some very widely used drugs — he uses statins as an example — can be matched by adopting diet and lifestyle changes.
- Many of the widely used drugs are not backed by solid evidence, and many — such as widely advertised Abilify — are used “off label” to treat conditions for which they’ve never been clinically tested or proven effective.
In Chapter 12 — Adapt in Practice: For Common Conditions — Kresser illustrates how functional medicine can be successfully used to treat heart disease, asthma, depression, and behavioral disorders like ADHD.
Unconventional Medicine provides a great overview of an emerging new medical paradigm, illustrated with case studies that bring the story to life.
Here’s what some practitioners and observers of the medical scene said about Unconventional Medicine — praise with which we fully agree:
- "Chris's book shines a light on why conventional medicine is failing to address the epidemic of chronic disease, and gives practitioners a clear vision and path for reinventing healthcare." — Mark Hyman, M.D., Director, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine & Chairman, Institute for Functional Medicine
- "Chris's book is both a visionary call-to-action to redesign healthcare, and a practical roadmap for creating an effective and rewarding functional medicine practice." — Kirk Parsley, M.D., Health Optimization Physician and Former SEAL
- "Chris Kresser has the revelatory vision and cogent analysis to create a new paradigm of functional and ancestral health for all." — Sara Gottfried, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Younger, The Hormone Reset Diet, and The Hormone Cure
- "Chris Kresser is doing a fantastic job leading the effort to bring the world of Functional Medicine into mainstream prominence." — Mark Sisson, New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet, and The Primal Blueprint