on May 4, 2004
This is an excellent book as many other reviewers have noted but please be aware of the following:
1)It is not a "diet" book in the sense of magical ways to lose weight
2)It is not a book on "fitness" nutrition for people who want huge muscles and low body fat.
3)Health in the sense of the absence of disease, the optimum functioning of the organs of the body and a long-life has much more to do with body chemistry, blood pressure, cholersterol levels, the condition of your coronary arteries, the presence or absence of free-radical damage, etc than it does with the amount of lean muscle mass that sits on your frame or whether or not your body looks good in a bathing suit.
I make these points because many people complain the Dr. Weil doesn't look like John Bastow or the author of "Body for Life" so what can he know about "health". Get a clue!! While regular moderate exercize is related to longevity there is NO evidence that "Body for Life" types are healthier the way it really counts just because they have better looking bodies than Dr. Weill. Which do you think is healthier: a lean muscular body combined with high blood pressure, clogged arteries and a colon lined with intestinal polyps? or a body that looks pudgy in a bathing suit but with low BP, low cholesterol, clean arteries and an otherwise clean internal bill of health?
This book is about eating well for health and it is excellent. One of things I like most is that there is nothing "flaky" about it. Weill reviews what we know about nutrition from solid scientific research and is always clear to distinguish that from his own opinion about nutritional matters that may not be fully supported by current research.
Buy it and live longer.
on April 27, 2004
Eating Well For Optimum Health
Review by: Kehaulani Marciel
Eating well for optimum health is the concern of many Americans in today's society. The book written by author Andrew Weil is an outstanding book for obtaining optimum health. Dr. Weil draws out how exactly our body works and what our body needs to perform at its peak. Throughout the book you will learn how to improve your health, dietary advice for chronic ailments, as well as recipes to help you reach your optimum health.
Proteins, fats, micronutrients, and carbohydrates are all necessities of life. These are the three basics of human nutrition, which help us to obtain a healthy lifestyle. Yet, eating these things in large or uneven amounts can be very unhealthy likewise. It is important that we get proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in our diets because our body uses them and breaks them down and produces glucose, maltose, disaccharide, lactose and many other components that the body needs to maintain optimum health.
Dr. Weil lists the "Worst" and the "Best" diets that have been studied through many people's eating habits. He continues to pinpoint the benefits as well as the downfalls of each diet. He compares the United States to other countries and explains how and why that particular country is so much healthier. We see that here in America, we are constantly eating fast foods and grabbing a quick snack on the way out. In Asian countries, food selection is much different resulting in healthier life styles. When dining out, Americans often load up on bread and dive into oily and fattening dinner platters which offer a beautiful display. If we were to substitute our gourmet dinners for something a bit healthier, America would not be the top country for obesity.
Eating healthy does not only help you to look better, it helps you to feel better. Studies have shown that people, who consume fast foods, candies, sodas, as well as red meats, are more likely to not only have an obesity problem, but have health problems as well. Japan contained the healthiest people until recently. The average age for men was 77.2 while the women averaged 84.1 years. According to the traditional Japanese diet, there is a correlation with very low rates of coronary heart disease and hormonally driven cancers. Their foods are also prepared at an unusually low percentage of total calories from fat. It is obvious that in some parts of the world, traditional diets are no doubt better than those of today. If we Americans were to eat like our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors, most of our health problems including obesity and cardiovascular disease would disappear. This diet consists of no processed food and little to no carbohydrates. They ate meat from wild game, fish, wild fruits, nuts and tubers. They had no salt or vegetable oils, which made their foods a lot healthier than today's meals.
Through reading this book, you learn not only how to change your bad eating habits, but how to shop for them and order them as well. Dr. Weil shares a number of healing and inspirational stories of how people have changed their lives for the better. With just a slight modification of ones diet, we see a great improvement not only in appearance, but in long-term health as well. With the helpful and abundant recipes provided by Dr. Weil himself there is no reason to delay "Eating Well For Optimum Health."
on June 11, 2003
This is a great book. The author shares how the Western medical profession gets virtually no training in nutrition, and what a huge gap in medical knowledge this represents. By reading this book, you will know far more on nutrition than any doctor who has not made a personal effort to educate himself on this topic. The author states that studying this book is like taking a college level class in biochemistry. And, it is true. Because the material is presented in such a fun anecdotal style, you don't even realize you are learning rather dry technical stuff. He covers all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fats), and micronutrients (vitamins, and minerals) in scientific details. He explains how these interact with each other and our own metabolism to provide the necessary healthy fuel we need.
He goes on describing the worst diet in the World. Some of us may be horrified, as it describes a very average American diet that some of us have to eat (otherwise it would not be the average American diet). This includes plenty of very convenient, tasty, processed foods that have their share of saturated fats, partially hydrogenated oils, and few nutritive calories of any kind. In any case, this is a pretty healthy wake up call for some of us. The author indicates what this diet leads to if maintained over a life time. This includes a far greater incidence of cardiovascular diseases and greater risk of numerous cancers.
The author also covers what are the various diets that could qualify as the best in the World. There is no great surprise there. Such diets are rich in fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), avoid most processed foods, sugar, excessive salt, and saturated fats. They can run from Asian to Mediterranean style(s) with a wide variety in between. So, there are plenty of healthy and delicious ways to eat.
on January 15, 2003
This book is not only a great work on nutrition and heath, it's also one of those books that are written with such matery that they contain gems of shared wisdom about human nature. To illustrate, let me quote Dr. Weil from chapter 7, on page 205:
"...Mastery of that art [cooking] requires that you develop your powers of observation and the clarity of your imagination. You have to learn how to manage time, deal with unexpected developments, and not fall into states of frustration and despair when the objects of your efforts fail to develop the way you want them to. Being able to cook with other people is an ultimate test of human compatibility. In short, training in the kitchen is good preparation for life in general"
This is so true to, among other things, software development efforts.
Another quote, on the same page: "The very worst recipes are complicated and laborious and then fail to produce promised results."
This can be used, without alteration, to define, again, among other things, the worst software development methodologies: Painfully difficult to follow and if implemented at all, often fail to deliver promised benefits.
Lately I've found a few such authors: Steve McConnell in software devlopment (his Code Complete was written 10 years ago and still ranks around 1000 at Amazon.com); Christopher Alexander in architecture (his book A Pattern Language has inspired a new generation of software designers"; Peter Drucker in management (he mostly writes on business management, but even a software developer can benefit from his writing.); and of course, Dr. Andrew Weil.
on November 16, 2002
Dr. Weil's graceful and reasoned prose tends one to serenity and contemplation. What I found myself contemplating as I was reading this beautifully presented book about food was Dr. Weil himself. I recall him as the enfant terrible author of the bourgeois-shocking The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness (1972), a book that helped to persuade a generation of Americans to question the establishment's anti-drug mentality. The theme of that book, if I recall correctly, was that human beings have a natural drive to explore other states of consciousness.
Now Dr. Weil is a middle-aged man like myself, and the fires of youth have turned to...extra-virgin olive oil and tofu! Who says that wisdom does not come with age? As I absorbed Weil's ideas about how to eat properly I couldn't help but notice what has changed since the balmy days of our youth, nutritionally-speaking, and what Weil has, in his diverse travels, both on the surface of this planet and within, learned about how to eat.
He is a vegetarian who loves food. The simple, but inviting recipes on pages 209-260 attest to that. He will eat dairy products in moderation and fish, but he prefers to get his proteins from plants. He believes that refined and highly processed carbohydrate foods (those with a "high gylcemic index"; see his table on pages 56-57) can have disastrous effects on the health of many people, pointing to native Hawaiians and Native Americans as examples (p. 63). Surprisingly he doesn't see dietary fat as the bugaboo it once was as long as one limits the intake of saturated fats and returns to the shelf any product including the words "partially hydrogenated" on the label (192-193). He touts olive oil and makes a very close distinction among saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated oils, opting for a balanced intake in the ratio, respectively, of 1:2:1 (p. 262). He believes that we need to incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids from primarily fish oils, soybeans and walnuts into our diets as opposed to omega-6 oils.
New to me is Weil's contention that vegetarians need not be concerned about the notion of "complementary protein" that we learned about years ago. No longer do we have to combine vegetable foods, corn with beans, for example, to get all the necessary amino acids that our bodies need. He says that Frances Moore Lappé, who brought the concept to a large readership in the seventies with her very popular Diet for a Small Planet (1971), is mistaken and that "the body is clever enough to find missing essential amino acids...from the vast numbers of bacteria that inhabit the lower intestinal tract or from the vast numbers of cells that slough off the lining of the digestive tract every day" (p. 104). I wonder. I do know that when I eat a meal of complementary protein, say tortillas and beans, it tastes especially good, exponentially good in fact, compared to eating just one of those foods alone. Also getting essential amino acids by eating your own cells begs the question of where the essential amino acids came from in the first place. If they really come from intestinal tract bacteria in significant amounts-an intriguing and delightful concept (we farm within!)-perhaps we ought to know more about how such a system works. Does intestinal tract length matter? Are there bacteria cultures we might imbibe? (Maybe this is Weil's next book!)
I also wonder about the significance of the distinction he makes between basmati rice from India and other kinds of rice. He claims that the rice usually eaten in China and Japan is mostly amylopectin starch that is "much easier to digest" than the mostly amylose starch in basmati rice (p. 39). His point is that how fast we digest a starch affects "blood sugar levels, which, in turn, affects our energy, our tendency to gain weight, and our general health" (p. 39) He claims on the following page that "Even if you are carbohydrate sensitive, you can enjoy some white rice if you choose a lower-glycemic-index variety like basmati."
My confidence in Dr. Weil is not shaken by the inclusion as an appendix the fantastic notion that people might be able to exist without eating. ( See "Appendix D: The Possibility of Surviving Without Eating.") I am not concerned because Weil slyly makes it apparent (but only apparent) that he doubts it is possible. Still one wonders why he included something like this in first place, particularly when one of his seven basic propositions about food is "WE HAVE TO EAT TO LIVE" (his caps on page 9).
His discussion of the various cuisines and their characteristic foods is very interesting and just the sort of thing we need to focus on and appreciate. I have always thought of the Chinese and the French cuisines as monumental edifices of gastronomic art. In this book is an appreciation of the richness of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines as well. His identification of a Mediterranean cuisine (he calls it a diet, pages 162-165) that includes Middle Eastern foods as well as Italian, Greek and others is particularly significant since that is the part of the world in which our first agriculture-based civilizations began.
In the usual Knopf style this is a beautifully edited and presented book. I didn't notice a single typo, although sweet potatoes are mistakenly identified as roots and not tubers on page 39. Bottom line: Weil is a very persuasive and readable man whose food preferences inspire confidence and imitation.
on August 24, 2002
For all the late nights pouring over boring textbooks filled with biology and chemistry data almost made me wish I came across this book sooner. I was surprised (and impressed) at how much time and research he put into his work and how well it corresponded to what I all ready have learned in medical courses. But he is right, the medical field often concentrates soley on correction and not prevention. But quite honestly, all the things I've learned in my courses compared to his book is essentially right on, no bull. Sure, there are a few debatable issues as there always are in the field of medicine but I found that he made no attempts to hide these issues. How refreshing! He doesn't pretend to know it all and gives you a mix of extensive research and his experience. He also provides you with an accurate account of how the body works.
Because of his extensive medical background, I'm actually recommending this book in an audio format. This way you are not crunching over it like a textbook trying anxiously to figure out molecular structures and getting frustrated or bored. His voice is very easy to listen to while driving and makes hectic traffic or bad days easier. Plus, if you find yourself getting lost in all the medical terms, he sums everything up in the chapter conclusions.
I found this book to be very lively and thought it well worth the money. Even though I've had extensive bio/chem/nutrition courses, there were other things I've learned from Dr. Weil that my courses just brushed over before. Give a try, I think you will find it very enlightening.
on April 6, 2002
I read this book shortly after my book "Creationist Diet" was published. If I had read Weil's book while I was still working on my book I probably would have used several quotes from Weil's book in mine as our ideas on food, diet, and nutrition parallel greatly.
Weil's begins his book by looking in detail at the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). He concludes that low carb are faulty in recommending the reduction or elimination of all carbs. Weil correctly notes that the complaints low-carbers raise against carbs actually only apply to high-glycemic carbs (i.e. carbs that quickly raise the blood sugar).
He then states that carb foods in their more natural and traditional states have much lower glycemic responses than more recent foods (like stone ground whole wheat bread vs. refined white flour bread). And one of the main points of my book is that foods should be eaten in as natural a state as possible. So whole wheat is to be preferred to processed white flour.
Weil then notes that as with carbs not all fats are "bad." Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and their associated omega-3 fatty acids are actually very healthy. Foods sources of such fats are fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and avocadoes. And in my book I present studies that show that diets high in MUFAs reduce heart disease risk more than traditional low fat diets.
In regards to protein, Weil presents some very sound recommendations. Included among these is to substitute vegetable protein (from soy, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds) for some of the animal protein in ones diet, to eat animals foods only from organically raised or game animals, to avoid cured meats (like bacon and lunch meats), and to avoid shellfish (due to their high contamination rates). I make all of these suggestions in my book.
Weil then concludes this section by recommending the following split of the macronutrients: 50-60% carbs, 10-20% protein, 30% fat (mostly from MUFAs). I give very similar recommendations in my book, through with somewhat larger ranges. So both Weil and I disagree with both very low carb and very low fat diets and recommend more moderate percentages.
Weil states that he consumes a lacto-pesco-vegetarian diet. This means he eats dairy products and fish but no other animal foods. The fish part is in line with Weil's recommendation for the consumption of MUFAs. And Weil puts some qualifications on the dairy part. He states, "I eat modest amounts of dairy products, mostly cheeses" (p.133). Weil discussed some of the problems with heavy dairy consumption and correctly notes that one does not need to consume dairy to attain sufficient calcium. There are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium available.
Given the controversy there is surrounding dairy (with the dairy industry saying it is an necessary food and the anti-milk crowd saying it is a horrid food), I spend three chapters on the subject of dairy in my book. And my conclusion is similar to Weil's: if you consume dairy it should only be in limited amounts.
Weil then surveys different proposed diets to find "the best diet in the world." He looks at the Paleolithic diet, raw foods diet, traditional Japanese diet, Asian diet, vegan diet, Mediterranean diet, and the USDA food pyramid. He discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each of these diets.
I discuss several of these diets in my book as well. In fact, it was the Paleolithic diet (which is based on the theory of evolution) that got me thinking as to what a diet based on the theory of creation would look like, and hence was the impetus for my book.
Weil then discusses the problems of rampant obesity in the United States and presents suggestions on weight loss. And all of his suggestions are very sound. First among them is that calories count. To lose weight one must reduce caloric intake and increase expenditure. This means eating less and exercising more. But he emphasizes that doing so one should not follow "fad" diets or drastically change the proportion of carbs, protein, and fats in ones diet.
Rather than follow some fad diet, Weil recommends, "you need to change long-term patterns of eating and physical activity" (p.185). What is needed is to follow the same recommendations for healthy eating that he presents throughout his book but to adjust the amount of calories consumed and to add exercise to ones daily life. I make the same recommendations in my book.
Weil then gives some recommendations on "buying food and eating out." He recommends the reading of labels to avoid the consumption of unnatural ingredients like hydrogenation oils, artificial colorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and nitrates. Given the emphasis of my book on eating foods in their most natural states, I wholeheartedly agree with these recommendations and make the same recommendation in my book.
Weil concludes his book with a section of recipes. This is one place where Weil's book and mine differs as I don't have such a section in my book. But I do recommend a couple of cookbooks that I have found helpful.
Another way in which my book differs from Weil's is that along with citing numerous scientific studies supporting various dietary recommendations, my book is also filled with Biblical references. In fact, the full title of my book is "Creationist Diet: Nutrition and God-given Foods According to the Bible." But given the parallels between our books, this shows that whether one looks to the Bible or scientific studies similar conclusions will be drawn in how to go about "eating well for optimum health."
And given how much Weil's book parallels mine, I can't help but give his book five stars. I would highly recommend it. And my book would provide further details and reinforcement on the appropriateness of Weil's recommendations.
on January 14, 2002
This book has changed my entire outlook on eating.
If the human body came with a handbook, this would be it. I thought I knew a little bit about nutrition, but after reading this book, I realized I knew nothing. It is absolutely incredible the things that we really need to know about nutrition that we just don't know or hear anything about. And to make things worse, the things we do here are either half-truths or just wrong. Dr. Weil clears up everything. He is on at the cutting edge of research into nutrition and well-being, and he is very quick to tell you which studies hold merit and which do not. He presents all sides to every point he makes, and gives you his opinion and why he feels the way he does. This is THE book for diet and nutrition, even if you don't have any weight or health problems. You owe it to yourself to understand what foods do and how the body uses them.
The bonus is that this book is fascinating and very well-written. It isn't a "doctors only" book that is impossible to understand, yet it also isn't watered down.
This was the first Dr. Weil book I owned, and because of it, I now own everything he has written, and I'm a happier, healthy person because of it.
on January 13, 2002
Of the various nutrition/diet books I have read, this one is the most sensible and in-depth. Weil tells you not only his guidelines on how to eat but the whys behind it.
Weil's book goes into both basic and more advanced nutrition theory. For example, he tells you not only to avoid high fat, but also which fats to eat. The same for carbs. This will sometimes become too scientific for some. I, for instance, found it hard to concentrate when he went into the exact molecular structure of fats and starches. Most of the stuff that got too heavy was not essential to understanding the main point.
Weil also explains, in a sometimes irreverant and humorous fashion, the evils behind most of the fad diets and why they are at best temporary, short-term solutions. He then goes on to say what he thinks the best diet is. He also makes short recommendations and modifications in response to certain health ailments.
Weil believes that eating should be an enjoyable event, as part of eating is not only taking in nutrients but also a social pasttime. He does his best to put together a diet that people can eat and enjoy as long as they're alive. And he does a good job.
Some people, however, won't be ready for this sensible diet. I wasn't ready for it a couple of years ago. Weil's diet is not for you if you're not ready to eat more fruits and vegetables, give up junk food, cut down on refined starches (white flour and potatoes), and eat less fat, especially saturated fat. You'd probably enjoy something like Atkins much more. You're probably also be coming back after a couple rounds of regaining weight or finding out the serious health consequences of such diets.
On the other hand, if you're ready to start eating sensibly for the rest of your life, get this book. It's worth much more than the cover price.
on October 29, 2001
The way to use this book is to read it, straight through, at a moderate pace. Like a good meal, it cannot be rushed. And, like a good meal, its particulars should be savored.
Enough simile! What I want to emphasize is that, while this is a book about diet, do not jump around to sections that interest you (omega-3's, low-carb diets, whatever) as if you already knew the book's basic message, and just needed a specific fact or two.
I admit I was tempted to do just that; diet seems so obvious, somehow. We all know about the food pyramid, and saturated fats, and roughage, and yogurt, all that stuff. But still, lately, my confidence in the simplicity of it all had been shaken by the advocates of the high-protein, high-fat diets. I knew it was nonsense, somehow, but no voices of reason in the medical community were making themselves heard. What if steak and eggs, hold the bread, three times a day, was actually good for you? Suddenly that scene in "Sleeper" didn't seem so funny: Woody, the former health-food store owner, finds that in the future world he now inhabits medical science has determined that junk food and ice cream sundaes and so on are the real health foods ...
The first thing to remark about Dr. Weil is that he likes food. This is important: he is NOT a cultist who would reject the pleasures of eating and replace them with the virtuous feelings that come from suffering through some odd diet. He is trying to take what we know about good nutrition from years of research, and apply it in the lives we lead: semi-sedentary, having to buy much that is highly-processed, and much mysterious restaurant food. He wants to teach us about nutrition and preparing nutritious food, at a level that is high enough to be easy to follow without a degree in physiology, but low enough to enable us to make intelligent choices from the supermarket's tainted cornucopia to put together meals that combine tastes and textures we enjoy with the nutriments we need.
The big three - fats, carbohydrates, and protein - are treated systematically, fairly, and thoroughly, as are the essential micronutrients. By far the most startling section (to this reader, anyway) is on carbohydrate. Dr. Weil is taking advantage of some recent Australian research on the "glycemic index" of carbohydrate foods to recommend some fairly radical changes in the way we take in carbohydrates. It turns out that it makes a big difference how fast starches are digested. We always knew that sugar can give you a rush, but it turns out that starches can, too. Moreover, this sugar flooding into the system from easily-digestible starch (such as our finely-milled flours provide) turns readily to fat. (That ought to get people's attention!)
And the recipes look pretty good, too. My only gripe with them is that there are no applications there of our new-found knowledge of the glycemic index. I would like to see some baked goods done with coarsely-milled flour (e.g. corn meal, graham flour). All seems rather standard in that line (though olive oil is used). However, with what I have learned, I have been able to do my own experimenting (with interesting results!).
I won't go into any more detail here, but just observe that I would never have noticed much of importance that he said, nor really absorbed his humane, sensible message if I had not simply sat down and read the book systematically. If this book does nothing but get you to read the labels on those foods you eat that HAVE labels, it will have changed your life for the better.