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As a Paleo and ancestral health blogger, I get loads of books in the mail for review. There are dozens of new books coming out every year, and while I love the fact that there are so many voices out there sharing the word about the benefits of a real food diet, I also believe that there are a few basic books that everyone should read if they plan to turn their Paleo diet into a long-term sustainable lifestyle.
In this blog post, I’m going to make my recommendations for the five best books to buy (and read!) if you want to become very well educated about the principles of a healthy ancestral or Paleo diet. I’m not going to talk about cookbooks, and I won’t discuss any disease-specific books since many of those are not the types of books I think everyone should read. I’ll likely write separate blog posts for those, since there are many that I’m not including on this particular list but are ones that I frequently use with clients who have specific health concerns.
For now, here are the five books that I think everyone should have in their nutrition and health library.
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Diane Sanfilippo’s Practical Paleo is a great place to start for anyone who is new to Paleo and wants a great, highly visual overview of the best way to implement the diet, along with the reasoning for many of the main principles of Paleo including why we eliminate vegetable oils and refined grains. This book has been a crucial tool for many of my clients, especially those in the Raleigh area, and Dr. Dishman, the naturopath I work with, frequently has her patients purchase this book as an invaluable guide to the diet recommendations she makes to them.
What’s great about this book, and Diane’s work in general, is that there are multiple easy-to-follow guides on how to do everything from find Paleo carbohydrates, to stocking a pantry, to finding hidden gluten. Diane always makes her information extremely easy to follow and implement, and this book may be the most helpful for anyone who is new to Paleo and doesn’t know where to start. She also provides information tailored to several different common health conditions in order to help individuals make the right decisions for their particular health concerns.
Practical Paleo is at the top of my list because if I could only give one book to someone looking to get started on a more ancestrally-inspired diet, this would be the one I tell them to get. If you don’t have it in your library already, order it on Amazon today!
Chris Kresser’s Your Personal Paleo Code is second on my list because I consider it to be required reading for people who have already bought into the idea of Paleo, and maybe have been trying a version of the Paleo diet for a few months, but realize that they need to understand more about the science behind the diet recommendations as well as the rationale for making certain food decisions to address their unique health needs.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Your Personal Paleo Code is #2 on this list is because Chris walks readers through his step-by-step method for reintroducing foods that they’ve been avoiding to determine if the food is truly an issue. I can’t emphasize the importance of this process enough: so many of my clients are unnecessarily avoiding certain foods that either a) don’t cause them issues at all or b) are an important component of their health progress.
One of my biggest concerns with the way Paleo is generally interpreted is that people tend to make excessive, unnecessary restrictions because some blogger said that’s what they should do, and their health and overall vitality declines. That’s why I think everyone who follows a Paleo diet, even if you’re a multi-year veteran of this lifestyle, should get Your Personal Paleo Code and read it to ensure you’re not making unnecessary, potentially harmful food restrictions.
Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet is another voice of reason in a sea of arbitrary food restrictions, and he’s got the research to back up his claims. While most Paleo books espouse a very low carbohydrate, 100% grain-free approach, Paul makes the claim that a certain amount of “safe starch” is usually necessary for optimal health, and that certain non-Paleo foods like white rice and dairy can be highly nourishing and health promoting when consumed appropriately.
Perfect Health Diet is a great book for folks who are somewhat skeptical about the way most people interpret a Paleo diet, as well as those who are looking for more scientific reasoning about why certain components of the diet (for example: limiting omega-6 fats) are so important for good health. The level of detail that Paul goes into is just enough to keep both scientists and normal folks interested and educated.
This book is another indispensable part of a well-rounded ancestral health library, and I strongly recommend reading it if you’ve been eating a strict Paleo diet for a long time but haven’t gotten the health results you’re looking for. It may be that you’re missing some key nutrients (and yes, carbohydrates are a nutrient!) that are preventing you from reaching your optimal vitality.
No Paleo library could be complete without Liz Wolfe’s enormously entertaining Eat the Yolks. This book is perfect for those who are happily following a Paleo diet, as well as those who don’t believe that a Paleo diet could ever be healthy – after all, why would the government recommend completely different foods if they weren’t the correct foods to be eating for good health?
Liz uses humor, pop culture references, and a slew well-researched facts to help explain why our culture has been entrenched by low-fat dogma, and how we went from eating real butter and egg yolks to Country Crock and Egg Beaters. Having the historical background for why Americans eat such a terrible diet is not only important for our own reasoning when it comes to eating, but it’s also enormously helpful when trying to convince friends and family that we’re not crazy for cooking our steak in butter.
If nothing else, Liz’s book is just downright entertaining, so if nothing else, the book is worth a read for the amount of pleasure you’ll get from reading it!
I had to include Nutrition and Physical Degeneration on this list simply because of the wealth of information it provides to those who are brave enough to read it. This book by Dr. Weston Price is one of the major references that many of us ancestral health promoters use as background information for the advice we give, as it’s possibly the most accurate portrayal of the commonalities between all ancestral diets that exists.
Since the book was written in the early half of the 1900s, Dr. Price was able to glean information from non-industrialized cultures that don’t even exist in our modern times. The coolest part about this book is that Dr. Price traveled the world to document the diets of the most drastically different cultures, from the Aboriginal Australians to the Lötschental Swiss, to demonstrate that while these people could be eating entirely different foods, they were getting the same nutrients that all humans needed for optimal health and vitality.
While Nutrition and Physical Degeneration might not be the most entertaining book to read, I do think it’s an important book to round out your well-stocked Paleo library. Knowing the wide variety of diets that can support good health is essential information when trying to decide what type of diet you’ll follow. After all, there are hundreds of variations on the so-called “Ancestral” diet, and it’s important to find the variation that works best for YOU!
What do you think about the list I compiled? Do you agree with me, or is there a book (or two) you think I’m missing? Share in the comments below!