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Book Reviews

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

This is a very good book. A must have for anyone wanting to improve their health and the health of their family by learning to cook more naturally. The first 70 pages are worth the price of the book alone.

One of the best, modern-day books on whole food nutrition available today. Based on the historical work of Dr. Weston Price. Founder and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, nutrition researcher, lecturer, mother of four, and author, Sally Fallon takes us through the ages, breaking down how our present food system has been corrupted and what the individual can do to make it right again. Hundreds of facts and recipes to inspire us back to our ancient roots of eating raw and fermented, nutrient dense, whole foods. Clear, concise, understandable information for everyone: from the person at the beginning stages of nutritional learning to the longtime nutrition practitioner. This book covers all the important areas and puts to rest the numerous dietary myths we have been programmed to believe.


Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health

This book is an impressive review of the science and the politics behind our ideas about good nutrition and healthy diets. Taubes took 5 years to write this, and says it wouldn't have been possible without the ready access to original resources that the Internet makes possible. It does indeed have an incredible amount of information about the subject.

One of the sad and infuriating themes of this book is that much of the currently accepted wisdom about healthy diets has a political basis, that recommendations were made and marketed before the science was solid, or in many cases before the science was even done. The people pushing their ideas strongly believed that they were doing the right thing, that their recommendations would save lives and wouldn't hurt anyone. Unfortunately, as the science gets better and better, it looks like they were wrong -- they may have helped a small percentage of people, but at the expense of greatly increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer for large numbers of us.

Taubes opens his book by reminding us of the "diseases of Western civilization", that diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cancer were relatively unknown in the third world until they adopted a more Western diet. Albert Schweitzer didn't treat many cases with these problems when he started practicing in Africa, but at the end of his service was seeing a lot of them, as local diets changed during his practice.

One hypothesis for why a typical Western diet is so unhealthy is that we eat a high level of refined carbohydrates: sugars, white flour, polished white rice. Taubes does an excellent job of supporting this hypothesis.

The basic model is that refined carbohydrates are absorbed very quickly by the gut and result in large blood sugar (glucose) spikes that require large insulin surges to keep blood sugar in a healthy range. Over time, many people develop metabolic problems and are not able to cope with these repeated glucose surges and keep their blood sugar under control. As average blood sugar and insulin level levels go up, they cause a cascade of increasing metabolic problems, leading to higher weight or obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflamation, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and dementia.