Top Health Books I Read in 2013

Thursday Jan 2 | BY |
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Last year has been an amazing year for me. I was so busy that I didn’t have time to read as many books as usual. But I nonetheless came across some very interesting books that I wanted to share with you. Most of those books were released last year.

Say Goodnight to Insomnia
by Gregg D. Jacobs

I had a problem with insomnia earlier this year. I was waking up in the middle of the night, around 2 or 3 a.m., unable to fall back to sleep completely. I tried all the standard advice about sleep (sleep in total darkness, in a cold room, create a nighttime routine, etc.), but nothing worked. This book is the only one that made a difference, presenting a more realistic approach to insomnia and essentially making me realize that it’s mostly our thoughts and attitudes about insomnia that turn a small issue into a big problem. I’m happy to report that in the last two months I’ve had only one night of insomnia!

Salt, Sugar, Fat
by Michael Moss

I wrote a review of Salt, Sugar, Fat a few months ago for Renegade Health. This book is a fascinating account of how the entire food industry (including all food makers and chain restaurants) have hooked the American public on tasty food that isn’t good for us, using complex science, controlling the public’s hunger like laboratory animals. You may already know why junk food isn’t good for you — this book will explain exactly why. Essentially three substances are used to drive people to eat more: salt, sugar, fat. These three substances are not only used and abused in junk foods, but I would dare to say by all chefs and fancy restaurants of the world. Liberate yourself from the influence of those substances and you can change your life.

The First 20 Minutes
by Gretchen Reynolds

The subtitle of this book is: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer.

I must say that this book is now my all-time favorite book on exercise! It’s truly a book that everyone should read. It summarizes the most recent and cutting-edge research on exercise, debunking a lot of myths around the way. And some of those myths are truly surprising — I didn’t know most of them myself. Here are a few highlights:

– The first 20 minutes of moderate to intense exercise gives you 90-05% of the results when it comes to health and longevity.
– You can exercise for a total of six minutes of very intense exercise using interval training and get the same benefits as three hundred minutes of basic fitness activities like jogging. Sadly, those six minutes will have to hurt! (Details in the book)
– Static stretching before exercise does not prepare muscles for activity. It does the opposite.
– Massages after exercise don’t help with recovery. They impair it slightly. (The benefits are psychological).
– Exercise, in general, is not a good way to drop the pounds.
– “A great deal of the physical effects that we once thought were caused by aging are actually the result of inactivity.”

I highly recommend reading The First Twenty Minutes. It’s definitely one of the best books I have ever read on health and fitness.

Take a Nap! Change your Life
By Sara Mednick, Ph.D. and Mark Ehrman

Still on the topic of sleep, this is a great book that has been around for a while and that summarizes the science between napping, and outlines the multiple benefits of napping.

Did you know that by timing your nap you can obtain different benefits? For healing and muscular recovery, try a long nap of about 90 minutes. To improve your memory, you need a short nap of about 20 minutes.

There are a lot of misconceptions about napping in our cultures, for example the belief that taking a nap during the day will interfere with your nighttime sleep. This book goes into the real science of napping and why it works, and how to use it for different purposes.

The Starch Solution
by Dr. John McDougall

This book actually came out in May of 2012, but I finally read it last year. If you are already familiar with the work of Dr. McDougall, you probably won’t learn anything new (although I learned some interesting new facts about vitamin D I didn’t know about).

If you’re new, here’s a quick summary:

Starches (or “Carbs” as they’re often known to the public) don’t make you fat. It’s the stuff that people eat with them that does. All large, successful, trim and healthy populations of the world eat a starch-based diet, and Dr. McDougall goes in great length to show that this diet promotes health and longevity. In many Asian countries, the starch of choice is rice. In Peru, it’s potatoes. For the ancient Mayans, it was beans, squash and corn.

McDougall promotes a diet based on starch, with the addition of fruits and vegetables, and outlines the many health benefits of this way of eating. This flies against the popular bias against “carbs” in our culture, as well as the “paleo” style of eating.

You can choose from two programs: one is for healthy people and adds a few rich foods, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, etc. The other is for maximum weight loss and also avoids all fatty foods, as well as more concentrated foods such as anything made with flour (breads), dried fruits ,and so on.

Two years ago I put my mom on this program and she lost over 60 pounds in eight months, and hasn’t gained it back since. If you want a different message, check out the Starch Solution!

Daily Rituals
By Mason Currey

This is not a health book per se, and doesn’t really fall in the category of “personal development” either, but it’s nonetheless a fascinating book that led to some very interesting insights for me. It details the daily working routines of over 200 famous artists, philosophers, writers and inventors in history. Nikola Tesla, Woody Allen, Stephen King, Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin — they’re all in there.

When Woody Allen needs some inspiration, he takes an unnecessary shower in the middle of the day.

Voltaire — the famous French writer — would spend the entire morning in bed, reading and dictating his work to one of his secretaries.

Stephen King writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and has abides by a strict quota of at least 2000 words a day.

Beethoven made his coffee every day by counting exactly 66 beans — not more, not less.

The book goes on and on with fun trivia like this, but in a much more interesting way that I could summarize here. What was interesting to me was to see how artists differ in their creation process. Many of them are very disciplined, waking up at the same time every day and working whether they feel like it or not.

The other bunch are completely neurotic night owls, most of them complete alcoholics, and eventually burn the candle at both ends and die an early death, after leaving us with an amazing body of work.

It seems that 90% of the famous creators have something in common: 3 or 4 hours a day of pure creation (writing, etc.) seems to be the maximum that most of them can do.

What were your favorite books of last year? Share them below!

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

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