The best books for improving your brain health

The Books I Picked & Why

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

By Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

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 This is a book that will never get old or outdated unless there is a truly cataclysmic change in our food environment.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.


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

By Mark Schatzker

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.


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

By Robert Whitaker

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.  


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Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss

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.  


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Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being

By Andrew Weil

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. 


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