Top 3 health and wellness books for your stocking this season

brain health environment healthy eating healthy living immunity mindful movement real food resilience sleep stress-free sugarfree Dec 15, 2023

One of my favourite leisure activities is reading books or listening to podcasts about health and wellness topics.  In fact one way I manage those longer books full of scientific discoveries is to listen to them on Audible!  When in the car or out for a walk, they are the perfect accompaniment.

So I thought it would be fun to give you a few recommendations for your holiday reading and gift-giving.  Here are three of my favourite books on health, wellness and longevity that I read (or listened to) this year:

1.  Outlive, by Peter Attia, MD

Outlive compiles the latest science on health and longevity, combined with practical advice anyone can use to live better today and beat four types of chronic disease with the four pillars of good health: exercise, nutrition, sleep, and emotional health.

Dr. Attia calls our current Western medical practices “Medicine 2.0.” and notes that for all its successes in acute and emergency care, it has failed to make much progress against the diseases of aging that kill most people: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. Too often, it intervenes with treatments too late to help, prolonging lifespan at the expense of healthspan (living with a healthy quality of life). Dr. Attia believes we must replace this outdated framework with a personalized, proactive strategy for longevity, one where we take action now, rather than waiting.

And so Outlive is an operating manual for longevity, where Dr. Attia draws on the latest science to deliver innovative nutritional interventions, techniques for optimizing exercise and sleep, and tools for addressing emotional and mental health.

Some highlights:

  • Exercise is the most potent pro-longevity “drug”— and offers what he calls the “Centenarian Decathlon.”  What’s that? It is a list of 10 exercises you’d like to still be able to perform when you’re 100 years old.  They could range from walking for 10 minutes to taking 20 stairs in one go all the way to completing a 3-hour hike. Take some time to think of cool physical feats for a 100-year-old to accomplish, and write them down.  Then start working on those exercises now!  After all, how can you expect to do something at 100 if you can’t do it at 60?
  • Forget about diets, and focus instead on nutritional biochemistry, using technology and data to personalize your eating pattern.
  • Learn when your sleep is strongest and what makes it weaker. Find out how caffeine, alcohol, and other substances might disrupt your recovery time. And start experimenting with blue light reduction, no-screen-time, and other techniques if you feel intrigued and want to do more.
  • Yes, physical health and longevity are important, but ignoring emotional health will be to your detriment.

Our genes are not our destiny.  With the right roadmap, you can plot a different path for your life, one that lets you outlive your genes to make each decade better than the one before.  

And so this book is suitable for anyone, at any age, who wants to live to 100.  If you’re looking for a down-to-earth source for good wellbeing advice, this is the book for you.

2.  Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food, by Chris van Tulleken

You may have heard the expression: You are what you eat.

Or this one: You are what, what you eat, eats.

But this is even more to the point: You are not just what you eat, but how what you eat has been manipulated and processed. In other words: what has been done to your food which turns it from Real Food into processed and even ultra-processed “food products.”

We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There’s a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you would find in a food lab but not in your kitchen, it’s UPF.

These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food.

But what is ultra-processed food? The term comes from a relatively recent classification scheme called NOVA.  Created by researchers in Brazil, in the past decade NOVA has been widely adopted by NGOs, activists and researchers.

  • Food Group 1 is defined as “unprocessed or minimally processed foods,” things like meat, fruit, flour and pasta. 
  • Group 2 is “processed culinary ingredients” — oils, butter, sugar, honey and starches. 
  • Group 3 is “processed food”: ready-to-eat mixtures of the first two, processed for preservation, meaning beans, salted nuts, smoked meat (and, notably, “proper freshly made bread”). 
  • Group 4, finally, is “ultra-processed foods,” defined as formulations of ingredients, “mostly of exclusive industrial use, made by a series of industrial processes, many requiring sophisticated equipment and technology.”

In other words, ultra-processed foods are what we also junk food: packaged snacks, soda, sugary cereals, energy drinks, candy bars. As van Tulleken explains it, in NOVA foods are grouped according to the purpose of the processing. UPF is processed mainly to maximize profit, with extremely low-cost ingredients and long shelf life. 

Ultra-Processed People is a tour of how the science of processing has allowed companies to produce goods that are no longer even faint echoes of the real food of which they are copies, and of what the evidence shows about the biology and psychology of eating in today’s world. 

Chris van Tulleken is a doctor, scientist and journalist.  He uses his own scientific expertise to help readers through otherwise unnavigable science, data and history, explaining with precision what we are actually eating.  And he writes that in addition to sickening us, ultra-processed food is destroying the planet, eradicating traditional cultures, shrinking our faces, possibly making us infertile and leaving us helpless against future microbial threats.

Ultimately, when choosing what we eat, we need to increase our awareness of the degree of processing, industrial manipulation and marketing that the food industry undertakes.

And consider what choices will be healthier both for our bodies and for the planet.

3.  Young Forever: The secrets to living your longest, healthiest life, by Mark Hyman MD

Aging has long been considered a normal process.  We think disease, frailty, and gradual decline are inevitable parts of life. 

But they’re not! 

Dr. Hyman believes that Aging is optional!  

Aging is not a predetermined fate, but a condition that can be prevented, slowed down, and even reversed!  While you can’t turn back time, you can rewind your biological clock. 

How?  By addressing the root causes of today’s chronic health issues (instead of focusing on alleviating the symptoms) we can not only increase our health span and live longer but prevent and reverse the diseases of aging—including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.

There is a lot of information on the science of aging, biological systems, and ways to improve your health. There is a quiz that will help you target where to start and ultimately--as the author recommends--try what resonates with you.

In Young Forever, Dr. Mark Hyman challenges us to reimagine our biology, health, and the process of aging. To uncover the secrets to longevity, he explores the biological hallmarks of aging, their causes, and their consequences—then shows us how to overcome them with simple dietary, lifestyle, and emerging longevity strategies.

He discusses how to optimize your body's key longevity switches; reduce inflammation and support the health of your immune system; exercise, sleep, and de-stress for healthy aging; and eat your way to a long life.

Basics of the plan

The key is to address imbalances in your diet and lifestyle—what you have too much or too little of—and in your seven core biological systems through changes that restore balance and health:

  • Eat a longevity diet (and minimize or avoid processed or inflammatory foods)
  • Optimize communication and hormonal balance
  • Clean up and boost your energy production system
  • Cool off inflammation
  • Restore the health of your gut and microbiome
  • Eliminate or reduce toxic exposures and learn how to optimize detoxification
  • Strengthen your muscles, bones, and cells
  • Support your circulatory and lymph systems
  • Restore balance in your mind, heart, and spirit

With dozens of science-based strategies and tips, Dr. Mark Hyman’s Young Forever is a forward-thinking, practical guide to creating and sustaining health—for life.

 Happy Reading and Listening!  And Happy Holidays to all.

For more info on this and other natural health topics:

Submit your questions here!

Sign up NOW for my weekly newsletter, and you'll also get the Sugar-Free Kitchen Recipe Club e-book #1!

If you're like me, you're often looking for new recipes to try.  

Every week I'll be sending out some recipes to everyone who subscribes to my newsletter!

Don't worry, your information will not be shared or sold in any way, for any reason. And you may unsubscribe at any time.