The best books for improving your brain health

Who am I?

During my career, when someone asked if I had read a particular book on mental health, my reaction was “why would I read interpretive books when I already read the actual studies on which those books are based?” Eventually, I began to discover what I had been missing. There are many excellent books that enhanced my knowledge of mental health and nutrition, and I am grateful for many more than the five listed here. But even so, in 2020 Julia and I concluded that there was a huge gap in the books available --- so we wrote The Better Brain to educate people about what micronutrients do in our brains.


I wrote...

The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition

By Bonnie Kaplan, Julia J. Rucklidge,

Book cover of The Better Brain: Overcome Anxiety, Combat Depression, and Reduce ADHD and Stress with Nutrition

What is my book about?

One in five Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness, even though antidepressant use has risen 65% since 1999. Clearly, the psychopharmacology ‘revolution’ is not solving the epidemic of mental health problems. But what if the key cannot be found in the pharmacy – what if it lies in the foods and nutrients we consume? 

Our book is the first to explain why nutrients are critical every minute of every day for optimal brain function, why a whole foods diet is important, and when and how to add supplementary nutrients. Written by two scientists who have contributed many studies to this evidence base, the book will motivate you to optimize your brain function, as it gives you the information you need to do so. 

The books I picked & why

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The Omnivore's Dilemma

By Michael Pollan,

Book cover of The Omnivore's Dilemma

Why this book?

Like me, you will love this book for many reasons. It was one of the first to raise everyone’s consciousness about the richness of the meaning of food. What we choose to eat has implications for our own health (of course), but also for society and for the environment. You may not agree with all the book’s conclusions, but it provides such a wake-up call to all of us to look at what Pollan calls ‘America’s national eating disorder.’ And….to understand that just a few companies control the majority of what we consume! This is a book that will never get old or outdated unless there is a truly cataclysmic change in our food environment. The style is serious, but it is always entertaining.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Omnivore's Dilemma as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller that's changing America's diet is now perfect for younger readers

"What's for dinner?" seemed like a simple question-until journalist and supermarket detective Michael Pollan delved behind the scenes. From fast food and big organic to small farms and old-fashioned hunting and gathering, this young readers' adaptation of Pollan's famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.

In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore's Dilemma serves up a bold message…


The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor

By Mark Schatzker,

Book cover of The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor

Why this book?

Do you wonder why your tomatoes taste like cardboard? Do you want to motivate yourself to take a good look at what you consume and/or provide to your family? This book tells the fascinating story of how the industrialization of our food and the production of ‘fake food’ began. The story of the progression from corn chips to tortilla chips to Doritos, and how that progression helped to train the American palate, is fascinating. Why do I recommend a book like this for the category of nutrition and brain health? Understanding these origins helps us appreciate the importance of returning to true food.

The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth about Food and Flavor

By Mark Schatzker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dorito Effect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively argument from award-winning journalist proving the key to reversing health crisis lies in the overlooked link between nutrition and flavour: "The Dorito Effect is one of the most important health and food books I have read" (Dr. David B. Agus, New York Times bestselling author).
We are in the grip of a food crisis. Obesity has become a leading cause of preventable death, after only smoking. For nearly half a century we've been trying to pin the blame somewhere, fat, carbs, sugar, wheat, high-fructose corn syrup. But that search has been in vain, because the food problem that's…


Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

By Robert Whitaker,

Book cover of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Why this book?

This book may keep you up all night – it is hard to put down! Robert Whitaker challenges us to take a cold hard look at whether conventional psychiatric medications really deserve our respect. If not, why has the public been led to think that the psychopharmacology ‘revolution’ that began in the 1970s would solve mental problems

Why would I suggest this book for people interested in brain health and nutrition? Because it illuminates the progression over the last 50 years, during which all the previous knowledge of the role of nutrition in brain health was suppressed. And of course, my own book The Better Brain reviews some of that prior knowledge, as well as many modern studies.  

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

By Robert Whitaker,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Anatomy of an Epidemic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Updated with bonus material, including a new foreword and afterword with new research, this New York Times bestseller is essential reading for a time when mental health is constantly in the news.

In this astonishing and startling book, award-winning science and history writer Robert Whitaker investigates a medical mystery: Why has the number of disabled mentally ill in the United States tripled over the past two decades?

Interwoven with Whitaker’s groundbreaking analysis of the merits of psychiatric medications are the personal stories of children and adults swept up in this epidemic. As Anatomy of an Epidemic reveals, other societies have…


Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss,

Book cover of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

Why this book?

Have you ever thought of our current food environment in terms of the tobacco companies? You will after reading this book. Moss goes behind the scenes of the industrialization of food to show how intentionally these companies have tried (and succeeded!) to get everyone addicted to their products. Although some of his other books are interesting too, this one had a huge impact on how I think about our food environment – and what that has done to lower our nutrient intake.

The latest government data shows how important this is: North Americans are now consuming ultra-processed products for more than half of their dietary intake. This means we are voluntarily choosing to consume less than half the micronutrients our parents and grandparents ate.  

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Salt Sugar Fat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No.1 New York Times Bestseller

In China, for the first time, the people who weigh too much now outnumber those who weigh too little. In Mexico, the obesity rate has tripled in the past three decades. In the UK over 60 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children are overweight, while the United States remains the most obese country in the world.

We are hooked on salt, sugar and fat. These three simple ingredients are used by the major food companies to achieve the greatest allure for the lowest possible cost. Here, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter…


Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being

By Andrew Weil,

Book cover of Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being

Why this book?

Dr. Weil is a true pioneer of trying to educate both the general public and health clinicians about non-drug approaches to improving health. He has published a couple of dozen books to share his knowledge about botanicals, nutrients, true food, inflammation  --- as well as other integrative skills and knowledge (breathing, meditation). The reason I selected this book to highlight is because it reminds us of the range of human emotions that are ‘normal’: as he says, it is not realistic to expect to be happy all the time. But eating a diet of healthy whole foods, avoiding ultra-processed products, and using supplements as needed --- these steps can improve our society’s mental health. 

Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being

By Andrew Weil,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Spontaneous Happiness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dr Andrew Weil charts a new path to finding lasting happiness
Everyone wants to be happy. But what does that really mean? Increasingly, scientific evidence shows us that true satisfaction and well-being come only from within.
Dr Andrew Weil has proven that the best way to maintain optimum physical health is to draw on both conventional and alternative medicine. Now, in Spontaneous Happiness, he gives us the foundation for attaining and sustaining optimum emotional health. Rooted in Dr Weil's pioneering work in integrative medicine, the book suggests a reinterpretation of the notion of happiness, discussing the limitations of modern medicine…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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