There are plenty of books about healthy eating on the bookstore shelves, but it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate which of those books are actually worth reading. With the rise of nutrition misinformation and pseudoscience “experts” it’s important to ensure the information you consume is legit and backed by evidence.
Why most books about healthy eating aren’t worth reading
Let’s start off this article with an unfortunate truth – most nutrition books aren’t worth reading. And why is that? Well, unfortunately the nutrition world is plagued with “experts” who don’t have any formal education in the field of nutrition.
They believe personal experience or poor mechanistic and animal studies are enough evidence to dismiss the scientific consensus. They also tend to sell overpriced, unnecessary supplements and/or books about healthy eating.
Now, if you choose to go down that path, I won’t stop you. But, as someone who fell for a lot of nutrition misinformation and had to unlearn years of poor advice during school and my subsequent career in the field of nutrition, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Instead, it’s best to be equipped with the knowledge of how to differentiate what’s worth reading versus what belongs on the dusty bookstore shelves.
Green flags: Signs the book is legit
Usually a good place to start is ensuring the author has some sort of background in nutrition. This could be a registered dietitian, certified nutrition specialist or something with a masters or doctorate in nutrition.
While you don’t necessarily need a degree to understand nutrition, having a degree ensures the author has a solid understanding of nutritional biochemistry, anatomy, research methods and food science.
The research is cited and from reputable sources
The first requirement is that research studies are cited when claims are made. But, I would take it a step further. What kind of studies is the author citing in their work?
If the author is only citing animal studies or mechanistic studies, they are leaving out important bodies of research. If the citations are mostly review papers that take into account the totality of data, this is a good sign.
Studies that are labeled as “meta-analysis” or “systematic review” would be examples of review papers. These are considered the highest level of evidence.
The advice is reasonable and attainable for most people
So often nutrition books will offer advice that is unattainable for most people. For some this looks like cutting out most of the foods you like, doubling (or even tripling) your food budget or having to skip out on social events.
They make the advice difficult on purpose. When you inevitably fail (and believe me 99% of people will), they can blame it on you instead of themselves. Instead of admitting their advice doesn’t work, they can blame you for not following it closely enough.
Unfortunately, many of these authors care more about making a profit than actually helping people succeed and reach their goals. While I don’t think all of these authors are ill-intentioned, I don’t think it matters considering most readers are left hopeless and discouraged.
The 8 Best Books about Healthy Eating
Now that I’ve gone over the green flags to look for when trying to find a book about healthy eating, let’s go over my top recommendations for nutrition books.
#1: Eat, Drink, Be Healthy by Walter Willet
This is a great read if you are looking for some basic, evidence based information on what a healthy diet looks like. It’s incredibly well researched and has been updated several times to reflect the current scientific consensus.
It also contains easy to follow meal plans and recipes so that you can apply your newly acquired knowledge to your current diet. If you could only read one nutrition book, I would absolutely recommend this one.
#2: Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole
If you struggle with an all or nothing mentality, jumping from diet to diet (just to gain back the weight) or just have a poor overall relationship with food, this book is a must read. This book has helped hundreds of thousands of people view food and nutrition in a whole different light.
It outlines ten actionable steps to break the diet cycle, learn to follow your internal hunger cues, cope with your emotions without food and create a healthy relationship with diet and exercise. This is a must for every chronic dieter out there.
#3: The Proof is in the Plants by Simon Hill
This is a well researched nutrition book focusing on how a plant based diet can improve your health and overall wellbeing. Even if you have no interest in being a vegetarian or vegan, I still think there is a lot to gain from reading this book.
It discusses the importance of fiber, the differences between animal and plant protein, the impact of agriculture on the environment, as well as eating to prevent chronic disease. The author also provides actionable steps to take to transition to a more plant-rich diet.
#4: The Good Gut by Justin Sonnenburg
If you are interested in gut health and how to optimize the gut microbiome, this is the book for you. I think this book is particularly important considering how many conflicting viewpoints you see on social media about gut health.
This book is incredibly well researched, which makes sense considering the authors are researchers in the field of gut health. Along with this, this book provides reasonable advice on how to improve your digestive (and overall) health.
#5: Fiber Fueled by Will Bulsiewicz
Similar to The Proof is in the Plants, this nutrition book encourages a plant-based diet to improve your weight, health and gut microbiome. It has a particular focus on how a plant rich diet can change your gut microbiome in a positive way, which I love.
The author also goes into detail about how the gut microbiome affects your overall health and how certain conditions can be improved by working on your gut health.
#6: Flexible Dieting by Alan Aragon
If you are looking to lose a few pounds and have tried several restrictive diets with no success, this book may be for you. The author outlines a program to help you lose weight without giving up the food you love or over restricting.
He also goes into detail about how to navigate the endless maze of nutrition misinformation as well as how to interpret scientific literature. Overall the author is very knowledgeable and this book is definitely worth a read, even if you aren’t trying to lose weight.
#7: Fat Loss Forever by Layne Norton and Peter Baker
This is another great nutrition book on fat loss. It goes into detail about energy balance (calories in, calories out), why diets so commonly fail, how to determine a good macronutrient ratio and how to troubleshoot along the way.
I love how this book discusses the long history of fad diets and why they repeatedly fail. The method for fat loss outlined in this book is similar to Flexible Dieting, but I believe both are worth a read.
#8: The Plant-Forward Solution by Charlotte Martin
This nutrition book is more like a cookbook, but includes lots of great information on the basics of nutrition, common nutrition myths and the importance of a plant-forward diet.
What I really love about this book is how the author outlines a plan on how to transition to a more plant-based diet. Plus, her recipes are incredible and nutritious!
I do make a small commission if you purchase any of these books using the links provided above.
The Worst Books about Healthy Eating
To avoid making this article too long, I won’t go into detail about why each of these books are problematic. But to sum it up, most are written by unqualified authors who use poorly interpreted, weak research is used to support claims and the advice given is unrealistic for most.
- The Carnivore Code by Paul Saladino
- Eat Right 4 Your Type by Peter J. D’Amamo
- Grain Brain by David Perlmutter
- The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry
- The Obesity Code by Jason Fung
- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
If you would like me to go into detail about each of these individual books about healthy eating, please let me know. Comment down below or contact me at email@example.com.
If you are looking for more information about the best books about healthy eating, here are some additional resources to check out: