‘We now recognize that what you eat can influence how you feel, your ability to concentrate, your ability to enjoy life, your resistance to infection, and your risk of developing serious diseases.’ Dr Ian W Campbell, President of the National Obesity Forum.
A central message of Nutrition for Life is probably summed in these words from Deen and Hark: ‘Those who eat healthily throughout their lives are more likely to remain disease free than those who follow the typical North European diet, which is high in artery-clogging fat and low in nutrients.’
Dr Darwin Deen is Professor of Clinical, Family and Social Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York; and Lisa Hark is Director of the Nutrition Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
They have organised Nutrition for Life under eight main headings ie Assess your health and lifestyle; Food for Life (covering good and bad fats, proteins, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals); Elements of a Healthy Diet (including the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet); Eating for the time of your life (including the middle to later years of life); The Truth about Weight Control (diet, exercise and weight management); Food as Medicine (with sections on how diet can help prevent or alleviate a range of illnesses, from cancer and cardiovascular disease to digestive and respiratory disorders); The Food you Buy (including storing, preserving, preparing and cooking food); and Food Analysis (the calorie, fat, protein, carbohydrate and fibre content of almost 500 foods, as well as the vitamins and minerals they supply).
The top 15 superfoods, according to Deen and Hark are: blueberries, broccoli, linseeds, low fat yoghurt, nuts, oil rich fish, olive oil, oranges, peppers, pulses, porridge oats, quinoa, red grapes, spinach and tomatoes.
Nutrition for Life also includes a range of case studies, several questionnaires, vitamin and mineral directories; a BMI chart; and an analysis of how healthy 45 different slimming diets are.
Nutrition for Life makes frequent reference to ‘scientific studies, ‘ ‘researchers’ and government health ‘guidelines’ but usually doesn’t quote the source or nature of the research. However, much of the content seems to have been derived from materials used by the authors to teach medical students and doctors, so there is presumably a reasonably strong evidence base.
Deen and Hark recognize that it is one thing to know how to eat healthily, another to make the sustained behaviour change often needed, and devote several pages to ‘Making changes’ as well as suggesting a range of practical tips, including menu planners, within a well set out and attractively illustrated format. Given the importance and challenge of achieving behaviour change this is probably an aspect of Nutrition for Life which would have benefited from fuller coverage. Overall, though, this is a comprehensive but never overwhelming guide to healthy eating.
Nutrition for Life Lisa A Hark PhD and Darwin Deen (Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN –1–4053–0306–9)