Book Review: The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body by Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, M.D.
The human body is intricate beyond our wildest imaginings. Even with the vast knowledge science has accumulated about the human body’s inner workings we’re still in our infancy of discovering how food acts upon our bodies.
That’s why diet advice is eternally changing, more often served up by celebrity television chefs than scientists. Sometimes even the scientists get it wrong.
For instance, from the 1970’s until very recently, it was treated as a fact that vegetable fats were healthier than animal fats. A vast array of studies were trotted before the public to support that claim. Now scientists have discovered that many vegetable fats, especially the hydrogenated fats are in fact deadly, a great contributor to heart disease, the very thing they were marketed to prevent. For those of you who ate butter on your toast and passed on the margarine, you win.
In The Happiness Diet, authors Tyler Graham, health editor at Details Magazine and Drew Ramsey, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, build on Michael Pollan ‘s best sellers which conclude that eating whole foods and avoiding anything that’s produced in a factory is the best diet advice. After all, human beings ate whole foods for the vast majority of our existence and only since the introduction of refined carbohydrates have we seen increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Where The Happiness Diet compliments Pollan’s books is by compiling new research which indicates that the modern American diet (or as they call it, MAD), also affects our mood, creates anxiety disorders, and increases the likelihood of depression, ADHD and dementia.
“MAD is characterized…by simple sugars and refined carbohydrates now found in everything from cereal to pasta… The second largest source of calories in the MAD are added fats-refined vegetable and seed oils that have high amounts of omega-6 fats as well as trans fats… A third critical aspect…is the factory farming of cows, pigs, chickens, and even fish. Not only are these creatures pumped full of antibiotics and hormones to promote their growth, but they are fed an unnatural diet of grain, which leaves their flesh deficient in many of the very fats and nutrients our brains [require]. With the MAD, you can expand your waistline and starve your brain at the same time.”
Sugar cultivation and refining began about 500 years ago. On the time scale of our bodies’ ability to adapt to a new substance, 500 years barely registers. Before the invention of sugar refining, we only consumed those sugars which occurred naturally in fruits, grains, vegetables, dairy products, and fermented beverages.
But during the last two hundred years, we’ve increased our refined sugar intake by three thousand percent, when we total the natural sugars, the sugar we intentionally add to our food, and the hidden sugars in packaged foods. We now consume as much sugar in one week as we used to consume in one year. Americans have an insatiable appetite for the sweet stuff and it’s wreaking havoc on our health. Not coincidentally, according to The Happiness Diet,
“countries with the highest per capita intake of sugar are the countries with the highest rates of depression…[and] experts now even propose calling some types of Alzheimer’s disease “diabetes type 3″.
Studies show that a diet heavy in refined sugar actually shrinks the sections of your brain which control mood, memory, anxiety and cognition. As for the Modern American Diet in general,
“A six week experiment involving children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder revealed that a diet restricted to simple whole foods like meat, rice, vegetables, pears and water resulted in significant behavioral improvements for 78 percent of the children. Once they were placed back on a MAD, 63 percent suffered worse ADHD symptoms.”
Those excerpts make a very strong case for eliminating packaged snack foods, white bread, white sugar and sodas from your daily menu.
Whole food combinations, Diet Meal Plan and recipes
But The Happiness Diet isn’t just about the health threat of your current diet. It also includes an escape plan – chapters with tasty whole food combinations, a Diet Meal Plan, and recipes for cooking with whole foods. Appearing throughout the book are the “Top 100 reasons to avoid processed foods”, some of which will definitely surprise and even shock you.
After reading The Happiness Diet, it appears that my grandmother was right: drink your milk, the meat fat won’t kill you and always eat your fruits and vegetables.
(FTC Disclosure: book provided by publisher for review)