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I have always had a keen interest in diet and nutrition, particularly due to the fact that my family has a history of heart problems, diabetes and cancer. Due to this fact, from a very young age my mother has kept a close eye on our diets, encouraging us to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and limiting our intake of junk foods. She would encourage us to try a variety of fruits and vegetables by telling us the nutritional benefits of what we were eating. Some of these were made up - like 'eating apples will give you rosy cheeks like Snow White!' I religiously ate an apple everyday but alas my cheeks remained as colourless as ever! As I grew older I started to take an interest in the health benefits of what I was eating and a few years ago spotted the book 'Nutrition for Life' in the WHSmith post Christmas sale. The book is published by Dorling Kindersley who are well known for producing many high quality reference/non-fiction books. Ordinarily this retailed at £16.99 but I picked it up for the bargain price of £5!
Nutrition for Life claims to be 'the definitive guide to eating well for good health'. There has been so much in the media in recent years about healthy eating, vitamins, anti-oxidants and various diet fads. Written by a couple of qualified nutritionists, this book aims to explain in simple terms how to use your diet to prevent and treat diseases. It looks at the various diet programmes that are being promoted, identifying positive and negative points about each so that you can decide which one would work best for you.
The book is split into several chapters. The first few chapters start by getting you to assess your lifestyle and explain the importance of nutrition and how getting the right balance is important. The components of a healthy diet - fruits, vegetables, dairy produce, fish and meats and fats (good and bad) are all analysed in detail and the impact each of these has on your health. There is also quite a bit around the digestive system and how it works. I thought that this was well written and clearly explained without getting too technical. There are also various questionnaires, which enable you to assess how healthy your lifestyle is and determine whether you need to make any changes.
The book also contains a section called the 'Vitamin Directory'. I found this to be fascinating and something which I kept referring back to again and again. This lists each vitamin, the daily requirement, what role it plays in the body and what good food sources are.
The layout of each page is clear and easy to read. There is a lot of information contained on each page but these are balanced out by some lovely photographs of various delicious looking foods. Alongside the text and pictures on the more 'sciency' aspects of each nutrient there are also various recipes using that particular nutrient. For example there is a delicious looking whole-grain pilaf in the section for 'wholesome grains' and a yummy crunchy vegetable stir fry in the vegetable section (I did try this and it came out a treat!). There are also plenty of suggestions on how to make some of our favourite dishes healthier.
There is also a section that looks at various diet plans that are being marketed today. All in all 45 different plans are studied in detail including the Atkins diet, the Food Doctor diet and the South Beach diet. The authors look at how each diet claims to work, how it is implemented and the types of things you can have to eat for each meal. Although I am not following any particular diet, I found this section to be very interesting. I think it would prove very useful for those people who are considering going on a diet and trying to decide which would work best for them.
The final section entitled 'Food as medicine' was one that I found absolutely fascinating. This chapter looks rat the key role that food can play in the prevention and treatment of a variety of diseases and medical conditions. Every so often there is a new 'superfood' that is hyped in the media and this chapter looks at a variety and how they function. It also explains the nature of various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, digestive disorders and cancer. This is again explained clearly with illustrations without getting too technical so that it can be understood by the 'layman' who has no scientific background. For each ailment there are suggestions on what nutrients to include in the diet to prevent or 'treat' it. There are also 'Case Studies' of real people, outlining real problems and real dietary solutions.
Nutrition for Life is a book that really serves as a reference - a guide to be dipped into from time to time rather than be read all at once. There is a section at the end which is entitled 'Food analysis' and lists various food items (such as the good stuff like rice, wheat, cherries, cabbage etc and the not so good stuff like cola and ice-cream) and nutritional information about it such as how many calories it contains in a serving, how much fat, protein and fibre it contains and what vitamins and minerals are found in it. This is great for a quick browse through and also makes you feel good about the foods that you eat (or don't eat). I also find that it motivates me to eat healthily. I think this is a really handy book and one that I enjoy reading from time to time. If you have an interest in what goes into your body then this is definitely one to look into getting.