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Inexpensive Nutrition Kindle eBooks Reviews
By Gary F. Zeolla
In this article, I will review three inexpensive or free Kindle ebooks on nutrition that I downloaded from Amazon and read using the Kindle app on my Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone.
Nutrition for Dummies
By John Harper
Nutrition for Dummies: An invaluable guide to healthy eating by John Harper was a rather inexpensive ebook available on Amazon. But interestingly, it is now being published under a different title and by a different author. The new title is The Nutrition Bible: An invaluable guide to healthy eating. The new author is Shaun Harper. Maybe Susan is John’s wife, but whatever the case, I wrote this review before the change in cited author, so I use masculine pronouns throughout. But whoever the actual author is, this was the worst book on nutrition I have ever read. It is filled with false “facts,” outdated information, and outrageous claims.
The reason it is so bad can be seen right at the beginning: Harper writes, “Do you really need to know about Epidemiological studies. I could have written a 200 page book with many facts and case studies, but that is not what this book about.”
What he (she?) is saying here is he is not going to cite any scientific studies or research to back up anything he says. With that attitude, he can say anything, without having to back it up. That is a far cry from what I do in my book God-given Foods Eating Plan, in which I cite hundreds of scientific studies showing that what I am saying has scientific backing. As such, I will refer to studies that can be found in my book in this review of Harper’s book.
Harper writes, “Fact. Did you know that 80-90% of people in developed countries have become deficient in crucial nutrients?” No I did not know that, and I would like to know where he gets that “fact” from. Yes, the diets of many in developed countries like the USA are very poor, but 80-90%? I seriously doubt that.
Harper writes, “The two types of carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates (such as sugar or honey) and complex carbohydrates (grains, beans, potatoes). Complex carbs are preferred because these foods are more nutritious.” It is true that whole grains, beans, and potatoes are more nutritious than refined sugar, but white bread would be less nutritious than fruit, which contains simple sugars but is very nutritious. He seems confused on the sugar content of fruit throughout the book.
Next he writes, “Clean food. What is clean? • Predominantly plant-based.” Throughout his book, Harper pushes a mostly-plant based diet. But as I demonstrate in my book, animal foods can and should be a part of a healthy diet. In my book I provide evidence for why this is so, while Harper just repeats the claim over and over again, without citing any such evidence.
Harper writes, “Antioxidants and phytonutrients include Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium. The best sources for those are brightly coloured vegetables.” Yes, brightly-colored vegetables are excellent foods and excellent sources of vitamin C, but the best sources for vitamin E are vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, peanuts, and eggs, while the selenium content of foods is highly variable, dependent on the selenium content of the soil. But by far the best source is Brazil nuts. This mistake is inexcusable, as all it takes is checking a resource that lists the nutrient content of foods.
Harper writes, “Organic food is important, but it doesn’t have to be certified organic, as long as it’s been grown without herbicides and pesticides, that’s the key, certification isn’t necessary.” This idea actually came up at a family get-together I attended the day before writing this review. A relative said you could not trust the word “organic” on the label, as food producers can put anything they want on a label. I pointed out that to put the “certified organic” term and the little green and white circle on a label requires proof that the food is organic, and food producers will get in trouble if they do so without that proof and approval. So yes, certification is necessary, as it is the only way you can know for sure a food is herbicide and pesticide free.
Harper writes, “Rather than buy everything organic one simple rule is: If you can eat the skin, go organic.” This simply is not true. Pesticides get into produce by being drawn up through the roots into the plant and thus inside of the fruit; it is thus irrelevant whether you eat the skin or not. What matters is how heavily sprayed the produce is throughout its life. That is why I present in my book lists of the most contaminated, moderately contaminated, and least contaminated produce. Cantaloupe and nectarines are among the most contaminated fruits, while oranges and honeydew are in the moderately contaminated list (all of which are pealed before eating), but asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are in the least contaminated list, which are not pealed.
Harper writes, “If you eat acid forming foods or highly processed foods, wheat flour, meat, dairy, synthetic vitamins, synthetic drugs, all of these types of food cause your body to pull calcium from your bones and into your blood to maintain the neutral PH. Over the course of time your bones are going to get weaker, and this will most likely lead to osteoporosis later in life.”
The claim that eating animal foods leads to osteoporosis has long been made by vegetarians and others, who, like Harper, push a plant-based diet. The idea sounded good, and I even made this mistake in my first book on nutrition and the Bible titled, Creationist Diet, published in 2000. But then this idea was tested and proven to be false. As such, I correct my mistake and cite this new evidence in my Eating Plan book, published in 2007. In it, I cite a study done in 2003. As such, it is inexcusable for Harper to continue to make this false claim in his book which was not published until 2014. It is even more inexcusable to claim “synthetic vitamins” do so, without providing any evidence, as such a claim is simply outrageous. Basically, his whole section on “balancing PH” is worthless, as there is no evidence for any of it.
Harper then makes the claim that eating tryptophan-rich foods will help you sleep. This idea sounds logical, since tryptophan is converted into serotonin. But again, actual research has proven this to not be true. This has been known for a long-time, but this worn-out claim still gets trotted out every Thanksgiving in regards to tryptophan-rich turkey, so I cannot fault Harper too much for also continuing to make this false claim.
Harper next writes, “I am a firm believer in taking time out and giving your body a rest. Our body needs time to flush out the toxins that have built up in our body, and we also need to give our digestive system a well earned –break.” He may be a “firm-believer” in this, as many are. But again, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is true. As such, his whole discussion on detox is worthless. Actually, the following line from his book is even worse than worthless; it is just plain outrageous, “Fasting also prevents cognitive decline such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”
After his bashing of animal foods throughout the book, it is rather strange he then recommends “Protein rich foods” (including turkey, chicken, eggs, and low fat dairy products) near the end of the book. Similarly, early in the books he derides the claim that people should drink eight glasses of water a day, but near the end of the book, he recommends it himself.
He then provides a long list and discussions of “superfoods” and how they supposedly help with various health conditions. Most of these foods are healthy, but there is no such thing as a “superfood.” It is the overall combination of foods in one’s eating plan that will determine your overall health, not the consumption of one or even several specific superfoods. But I find it especially interesting that he includes yogurt as one of his superfoods, even citing its calcium content as a plus, given his bashing of animal foods elsewhere, especially his claim that animal foods leach calcium from the bones.
He then indicates that high fructose corn syrup is even worse than sugar. This is another often heard claim that simply is not true. Sugar is a disaccharide, composed of one molecule of glucose and one molecule of fructose. It is thus 50% fructose and 50% glucose, while high fructose corn syrup is 55% fructose and 45% glucose, so there really is little difference between the two. Neither is healthy; that is true. But there is no reason to single out HFCS as being worse.
To close, Harper does give much good advice in his book, but also much false information, and it is difficult to separate the good from the bad. As such, despite the low cost, I would not recommend it. The change in title and author was probably to separate this book from previous negative comments about it.
Harper, John (2014-06-21). NUTRITION FOR DUMMIES: An invaluable guide to healthy eating. Kindle Edition.
Clean Food Diet
By Jonathan Vine
Clean Food Diet by Jonathan Vine is a free Kindle ebook. Being free, I did not expect too much from it. And as soon as I started reading it, I knew I would not be pleased with it. At the start of the book are ads for other books by the author, introduced as “More books in ‘Special Vegetarian Diet’ series.” I did not know that this book would promote a vegetarian diet. If I did, I would not have downloaded it, even with it being free. To me, lean red meat, poultry, and fish are part of a “clean diet,” with some stipulations about the kinds of these foods to be eaten. But by being vegetarian, this book eliminates even the healthy forms of these foods.
Second, there is a typo in the very first sentence of the book. I will freely admit that you will find typos in my books, so I know they are hard to avoid. But still, one in the first sentence just looks bad. I assume the word “preserves” should be” preservatives.”
Vine begins his book by explaining that to him, “Clean” means “minimally processed foods.” Since baked and grilled steak, chicken, turkey, and fish are minimally processed, then they should be included in his list of clean foods, but of course, being vegetarian, they are not. But what is included is: whole foods, canned foods, foods that have ingredients you can recognize easily, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, farm range eggs, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, dairy products, and healthy sweeteners.
I basically agree with this list with the stipulations he provides, except for one caveat. He includes honey and agave as “healthy sweeteners.” I discuss in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book why agave is not healthy due to its very high fructose content. Some would now disagree with the idea of “healthy fats” only including plant fats and say saturated fats from animal foods are not a problem, but I detail in my article Adjusted Values for Macronutrients, Electrolytes, and Water that such claims go beyond the recent evidence.
Also, he says that dairy products are included, “as long as they are hormone-free, come from a safe source, and are also low in fat.” I would say that red meat, poultry, and fish should be included with the same stipulations, except for fish, as fatty fish is very healthy and one strong evidence that a vegetarian diet is not ideal.
Vine next writes, “Clean eating doesn’t necessarily mean choosing certain foods or ingredients. It also assumes cooking at home for yourself.” These two sentences are a bit jumbled. I think he meant, “Clean eating doesn’t ONLY mean …” But I agree with his premise. By cooking your own food, you can control exactly what goes into it, while if you eat restaurant food, you can never be sure exactly what is in it, while processed foods often contain artificial ingredients. So yes, whenever possible, cook your own food.
Vine writes, “Another great concept of clean eating is keeping your body hydrated. This means drinking at least two liters of water daily and removing soda and carbonated drinks from your diet for good.” I absolutely agree with removing soda and other carbonated drinks from your diet, as such are about the worst form of “food” you can consume, but the worn-out line about drinking eight cups or two liters of water is a bit tiresome. It is impossible to give blanket recommendations on water intake, as I address in detail in the aforementioned article.
He next recommends, “… reducing the amount of salt you use in cooking.” This is another tiresome recommendation that personally I have found to be counter-productive. I have seen an improvement in my health by increasing my salt intake. Again, see the aforementioned article for details.
And that is it as far as content for this ebook. The rest of it is recipes. So there really is not much to it, unless you really like collecting recipes. But then for free, you cannot expect much. My only caveat on the recipes is the common ingredient of “low fat cream cheese.” To reduce the fat requires adding artificial fillers, and such is not “clean.” So I would say, go with full fat natural cream cheese if you must use cream cheese. But personally, I avoid cream cheese due to its high fat and low nutrient content.
Vine, Jonathan (2014-09-27). Clean Food Diet: Avoid processed foods and eat clean with few simple lifestyle changes. Kindle Edition.
Paleo Diet Made Easy
By Scarlet Atkins
Paleo Diet Made Easy by Scarlet Atkins is a free Kindle ebook. It is an introduction to the Paleo Diet. The basic premise of the Paleo Diet is to eat the way our Paleolithic evolutionary ancestors did. Or to put it in common terminology, to eat like a caveman. The idea is that we evolved over millions of years and still have the digestive system of our ancient evolutionary ancestors and thus that is the most natural way for us to eat.
I first heard about this dietary philosophy back in the 1990s. It was the impetus for my first book on nutrition and the Bible titled, Creationist Diet. Since I believe in divine creation and not evolution, I wanted a book and eating plan based on that theory of origins. And that would be my basic disagreement with this Atkins’ book and the Paleo Diet in general. But for the purposes of this review, I will put aside my personal belief and accept the evolutionary theory.
Note also, I tried a low carb diet back in 2006. I followed it for several months, and my diet during that time would have been very similar to a Paleo Diet, so I do have some personal experience with it.
With that introduction, Atkins begins her book by writing, “The rules and guidelines of this diet are simple: you eat what your hunter-gatherer ancestors ate.” She then claims, “They lived to a ripe old age beyond their 90s. They did not suffer from modern lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol level and heart diseases. Instead, the most common causes of death then were accidents, animal attacks and old-age.”
Not being a paleontologist, I’m not sure if these claims about “cave men” are true or not, but I find them highly suspect. I would guess it is difficult to determine from fossilized remains the age of death, at least often enough of sufficient remains to make a generalized statement that cave men lived beyond their 90s. Many people today do so, but many also die much younger than that. It would seem to me that the same would be true of ancient populations, and an average lifespan would be hard to determine.
It would also be much harder to know from fossilized bones whether ancient humanoids had the problems mentioned or not. I mean, how can you tell from bones if someone had high blood pressure during their life? And it would seem to me that the most common cause of death would be infectious diseases, which would kill off ancient humanoids before they developed chronic problems like heart disease. As such, I question the premise that ancient humans were so healthy that we should imitate their habits.
Atkins then claims that these ancient ancestors lived for “millions of years” as hunters and gathers and that it was only in the past 10,000 years that agriculture developed and humans began eating grains. As a result, “As human beings, our bodies never fully adjusted to these new foods, namely grains and carbohydrates.” This is another basic premise I have reservations about. Were ancient humans really so stupid that it took millions of years for them to figure out that if you put a seed into the ground, it will grow into a plant with edible stuff on it?
Moreover, I remember seeing a paleontologist on a news show discussing the Paleo Diet, and she said that we really do not know for sure what ancient humanoids ate. Those who advocate the Paleo Diet are basing their ideas on unproven assumptions in this regard. Confirming this was an article I read a while back on my Google News page. It said that samples of fossilized stools (excrement) of Neanderthals showed they ate both animal and plant foods, but that is as far as the science could go. It could not determine exactly what animal and plant foods they ate.
But having said that, the basic premise of the Paleo Diet is that ancient humans only ate what they could kill with a pointy stick or find growing naturally in the forest. Any type of agriculture or processing of food was beyond their intellectual capacity. But that premise brings into question some of the foods Atkins and others advocates of this diet include in it.
Atkins list these foods as being: meat (beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and pork), fish and shellfish, free range and pastured eggs, fresh vegetables, fruits, tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips), nuts and seeds, (including peanuts), oils (only coconut, olive, avocado, plus lard).
Looking at this list, I have some questions. Why is turkey included, since it is native to the Americas while humans evolved in Africa or the Mid-East? Does “fresh vegetables” mean frozen veggies are not included? Such would seem logical since cavemen did not have the technology to flash-freeze stuff. They most definitely did not have the technology to can foods, so canned veggies are out.
Nuts seem logical, but cracking nuts in any measure seems beyond the intelligence of these seemingly stupid humanoids, at least as portrayed by Paleo advocates. Crushing olives and avocadoes to make oil also seems suspect, and even more so is getting oil from coconuts.
Again, I am not a paleontologist, so I am sure what the capabilities of ancient humanoids were, but if they were too stupid to know how to put a seed in the ground and wait for if to grow, then I find knowing how to do these things suspect.
Atkins next lists the foods not included in the paleo Diet: sugar of all types, grains, dairy, plus “anything that is processed, artificial or has trans fat in it.”
There is no doubt that processing say beets into sugar would have beyond the capabilities of ancient humanoids, so that is out, as is any kind of artificial ingredients and trans fats. I’ve already expressed my reservations about grains, but dairy? It does seem highly suspect that ancient humanoids milked animals. That would require keeping the animals in captivity. But then Atkins goes on to say, “Avoid dairy too, if you can, unless they are full-fat dairy. If you have to, consume dairy in moderation.”
In a discussion about yogurt and the Paleo Diet on Facebook, I was rather floored when some advocates claimed that it would be included, provided it came from grass-fed cattle. There simply is no way I can see these stupid Neanderthals keeping cattle on a range, milking them, and then fermenting the milk into yogurt. But such shows how hard it is to actually follow this diet, as many find a need to “cheat” and include things in it that really should not belong in it.
This becomes even more obvious when Atkins includes in the diet: red wine, dark chocolate, green tea, and black coffee. Cacao beans and coffee beans are again native to the Americans, and the processing required to turn the beans into these foods would have beyond ancient humanoids. Maybe they could have figured out how to ferment grapes, but simply boiling water to make tea seems suspect, for reasons I’ll express shortly.
But first, Atkins next gives “The Science Behind the Diet” by presenting three studies showing the benefits of the Paleo Diet.
The first study was on nine people, eight of whom saw an improvement in blood lips and blood pressure. In the second study, 14 participants saw a loss of 2.3 kg (5 pounds) in three weeks, but there was no control group. The third study was on ten women, who saw a loss of 4.5 kg (11.3 pounds) in five weeks, along with an improvement in blood lipids and blood pressure.
I have no doubts about these studies. Yes, if you eliminate sugar, processed foods, and trans fat from your diet, your blood lipids and blood pressure will improve. But it is my contention that you would get the same results if you put people on a similar diet, but one in which whole grains and low-fat dairy products are included.
There is also no doubt that if you put people on a restrictive diet, they will lose weight. But that is mainly due to not having a sufficient variety of foods to eat. But the problem is, such restrictive diets are hard to follow long-term, hence, why so many who claim to follow a Paleo Diet actually eat foods that ancient humanoids would not have eaten, and prepare foods in ways that would have been beyond their capabilities. This later point is seen in the recipes included in the book.
The first recipe is for a vegetable omelet. Now such is great, and I eat a spinach omelet a couple of times a week myself. But how would have a Stone Age man have prepared an omelet without a metal at least or clay pan? Note the “stone age.” That means, before the invention of metalworking or even pottery. They did not have clay or metal pots and pans. Thus pan frying foods would not have been possible.
The next recipe is for “Paleo Chicken Stew.” But making a stew requires a metal or at least clay pot, which again, ancient humans did not have. Then comes “Bacon with Turnips.” Bacon? Really? How is that Paleo? It is a highly processed food.
The next recipe is for “Pumpkin Brownies.” The ingredients include: almond flour, flaxseed meal, cinnamon (ground), and coconut palm sugar. These are all highly processed items. Then these brownies need to be baked. But earlier in the book, Atkins says, “they certainly did not bake or process food.” And throughout the recipes, Atkins includes salt. Did Paleo humans really have salt?
Atkins ends the book with an excerpt from two of her other books. These are basically ads for books that are not free. That is no problem, as I do the same in my books. In fact, this is actually a good idea. Give a short ebook away for free and use it to advertise your real books. I may try that myself someday. But here, within these excerpts are a few quotes that would be worth commenting on.
The first book is The Ultimate Survival Guide for the Paleo Diet: Why is the Caveman Diet Making Me Tired? The excerpt is from “Chapter 2: Low-carb flu.” In it Atkins writes, “You might already know that the first two weeks on the diet are difficult for most people as they attempt to eliminate all forms of carbs and comfort foods. Like a drug addict who tries to go cold turkey, you start feeling tired, lousy, irritated and maybe, even tempted to go back to your unhealthy ways.”
There are two reasons for this. The first is your body is converting from utilizing carbs as its primary energy source to using fat. While in-between that changeover, you basically have no energy. I experienced this when I tried the low carb diet, but it clears up after a few days.
The second reason would only apply if you are going from eating lots of junk food to eating a “clean” diet without such. Your body is detoxing, eliminating the toxins that were found in your former diet. This was not a problem for me, as I was switching from a healthy moderate carb diet to a low carb diet.
Atkins makes another correct observation, “The point here is to find that sweet spot at which you are eating enough carbs to fuel your muscles, mind and body without ruining your diet or gaining weight.” I agree with this, but in a way she probably does not have in mind. My “sweet spot” is 40-45% carbs, far more than you could ever consume on a Paleo Diet, but less than the 60% carbs that is generally recommended by health authorities.
The second book is Is the Paleo Diet For You? 10 Paleo Principles you should know, with the excerpt being from “Chapter 3: You need to love meat.” She writes, “If you want to be successful on this diet, you have to get used to the fact that you would be eating lots of meat on this diet.”
This is very true and one reason I did not like the low carb diet. Now understand, I like meat and eat lots of it, at least a couple of servings a day. But when I was following the low carb diet, I was eating much more than that, and it seemed like all I was doing was cooking and eating meat. It really got tiresome after a few months and thus was one reason I stopped the low carb diet.
That is it for the advertised books, so to conclude on the free ebook, the Paleo Diet’s basic principle of eating unprocessed, whole foods is great and one that I follow and recommend in my books. But to follow the principles of the Paleo Diet strictly is simply too difficult for most. That is why even Atkins in her book deviates from it, and those who claim to follow it most often do so as well to one degree or another. That is why the eating plan I advocate in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book is far less restrictive, but I believe it would give the same beneficial results. Unlike these books, my book is much longer though not much more expensive and is available in other formats in addition to Kindle.
Atkins, Scarlet (2014-06-14). Paleo Diet Made Easy: Basic Paleo Diet Facts for Beginners to achieve weight loss using proven Paleo Recipes and Paleo Eating Habits in just one week!. Kindle Edition.
Disclaimer: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet or exercise program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.
The above reviews were posted on this site October 3, 2015.
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