The 8 Best Nutrition Books of 2020, According to a Dietitian

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: How To Be Well at Amazon

"The ultimate simplified manual on nutrition and lifelong vitality."

Best for Science-Lovers: How Not to Die at Amazon

"Outlines lifestyle factors that can prevent leading causes of death."

Best about Food Politics: In Defense of Food at Amazon

"Draws attention to the way the industrialization of eating has driven us to eat products of food science instead of natural foods."

Best for Babies and Toddlers: Little Foodie at Amazon

"An excellent first resource to jump into pediatric nutrition, starting with how to start feeding your baby solids."

Best for Supplements: Fortify Your Life at Amazon

"Distills the supplement industry down to the essential facts and educates readers on how to consider what may benefit them."

Best Cookbook: The Clean Plate at Amazon

"Chock-full of health tips from nutrition experts... and offers specific meal plans based on health concerns."

Best Easy-to-Read: Dressing on the Side at Amazon

"Uses practical application of nutrition research to empower readers to take ownership of their health."

Best Food Industry-Focused: Unsavory Truth at Amazon

"Sheds light on how companies translate and conduct research to back products that may not be the healthiest options."

With so many cookbooks and diet-focused books on the market, it can be hard to find a book that’s devoted to discussion of nutrition and wellness without a ton of recipes. That said, some nutrition books read like a dense textbook and can leave you yawning after the first paragraph. However, there are lots of options for those seeking a nutrition-focused book with useful tips, evidence-backed claims, and educational commentary. In general, nutrition is a broad study that is constantly evolving, so there are many ways to approach it. Whether you’re looking for a top resource for decoding food labels or a book that jumps into the food industry politics and policy perspectives, there’s an option for you.

Here, the best nutrition books.

Best Overall: How To Be Well

If you're looking for the ultimate simplified manual on nutrition and lifelong vitality, look to Dr. Frank Lipman. His book, How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life, offers clear and actionable advice to improve health and strengthen day-to-day well-being. The manual touches on best practices for nutrition but extends beyond nutrition science and offers ways to nourish yourself in regard to sleep, movement, everyday toxins, stress management, and a sense of meaning.

The approachable guide offers over 100 simple steps to improve your overall life and nutrition, so it's easy to implement one or two changes rather than focusing on a huge lifestyle overhaul. It's meant to be used as an educational book that you can use at your own pace, making healthy changes one step at a time. Top nutrition lessons include how to "Compose the Perfect Plate," why healthy fat is your friend, and how to ditch sugar. Dr. Lipman breaks down complex nutrition theories into easy-to-digest mini-chapters that are interesting, educational, and fun to read.

Best for Science-Lovers: How Not to Die

How Not To Die

Courtesy of Amazon.com

With a catchy title, Dr. Greger begins with the fact that we may be living to older ages, but we’re living more of those years in sickness. So, he sets out to outline the lifestyle factors—most critically a whole foods, plant-based diet—that can prevent, stop, and reverse leading causes of death, including heart disease, lung diseases, some cancers, and diabetes. He offers his “daily dozen,” a list of foods—plus exercise—that buoy health best (flaxseeds, beans, and berries are just a few). His overall premise is to address the root cause of disease rather than treat the symptoms.

Unlike some books on the market that claim to boost longevity, How Not to Die uses scientifically proven nutrition advice that promotes consuming whole foods like fruits and vegetables, as well as evidence-backed spices, such as turmeric, which can help to block carcinogens. The book is rooted in science—as it contains a plethora of citations—and translates complex scientific research into comprehensive, easy to read, and actionable advice.

Best about Food Politics: In Defense of Food

In his book, In Defense of Food, the popular journalist Michael Pollan highlights the American obsession with food and points out how the nation tends to get less healthy as we worry more about food. Known for his famous seven-word maxim—"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."—Pollan is not afraid to draw attention to the way the industrialization of eating has driven us to eat products of food science instead of natural foods found in nature.

The focus of his book is "nutritionism," or the common American fascination with single nutrients (such as fiber or vitamin C) as beacons of health, rather than the overall enjoyment of foods that contain these healthy ingredients. He discusses how nutritionism has led to disease and then instructs how to break away from the Western Diet. Pollan empowers readers to choose "real food" for the health of the population, American land, and the US food culture. He invites people to step away from the packaged supermarket goods and embrace bountiful produce that's free to health claims, labels, or even colorful packages.

Best for Babies and Toddlers: Little Foodie

For many parents, figuring out how to best feed their babies and toddlers is an incredibly stressful feat. With her book, Little Foodie, blogger Michele Olivier arms readers with the knowledge and tools they need to give their children nutritious foods that will nourish their brain and body and help them stay healthy from the get-go. Little Foodie is an excellent first resource to jump into pediatric nutrition, starting with how to start feeding your baby solids.

The resource is more than a cookbook—although it does contain over 100 recipes—it includes helpful answers for typical questions about infant and toddler nutrition and eating habits, as well as an in-depth how-to for creating purées and finger foods. The thoughtful, tasty recipes are perfect for the whole family and contain a variety of nutritious ingredients to create adventurous and healthy eaters.

Best for Supplements: Fortify Your Life

If you're curious about how supplements fit into an overall nutrition picture, Fortify Your Life is an excellent starting point. Integrative health physician Tieraona Low Dow walks you through key minerals and vitamins, gives simple instructions on how to read product labels, and talks about common nutrient deficiencies in our modern lives. While it's easy to be attracted to certain supplements because of their purported health claims and attractive labels, Dr. Low Dog distills the supplement industry down to the essential facts and educates readers on how to consider what may benefit them.

Commonly, physicians recommend supplementing with vitamin D or an omega-3; however, not many practitioners are familiar with top brands. Leave it to Dr. Low Dog, a trusted natural health physician, to help you navigate the complex and confusing world of supplements.

Best Cookbook: The Clean Plate

If you're looking for a cookbook that does double duty: provides healthy recipes and actionable nutrition tips, Gwyneth Paltrow's The Clean Plate: Eat, Reset, Heal is an excellent choice. The cookbook focuses on flexible and straightforward recipes with delicious flavor and clean ingredients. The collection of over 100 recipes includes everything from soups and smoothies to entrées, snacks, and even desserts.

The informative book is also chock-full of health tips from nutrition experts. The Clean Plate offers specific meal plans based on health concerns, including adrenal support, heart health, and candida that are created by doctors and nutritionists. Recipes range from vegan favorites like Butternut Squash Tacos to easy weeknight meals such as Sheet Pan Chicken Broccolini and sweet Chocolate Chia Pudding. Especially if you're a fan of Paltrow's other cookbooks or many of the recipes on GOOP.com, this food-lover's cookbook is for you.

Best Easy-to-Read: Dressing on the Side

Nutrition books can contain complex research and be challenging—and not to mention boring—to read. If you're looking for a fun, entertaining, and informative read that debunks diet myths, check out Dressing on the Side. Written by registered dietitian Jaclyn London, the former Good Housekeeping Nutrition Director, the witty, well-researched book reads like you're talking to your best friend. It's smart, funny, and conversational.

Each chapter begins with a few bullet points of what you'll achieve and then jumps right into well-thought-out discussion. Topics cover the top eleven "excuses" that people complain about when it comes to lifestyle changes, including lack of willpower, no time, and too much travel. Throughout the text, there are helpful "pro tips" and strategies (that are evidence-based, of course) to help you create life-long habits that lead to lasting change. This "anti-diet" book uses practical application of nutrition research to empower readers to take ownership of their schedules and eating habits to improve overall health.

Best Food Industry-Focused: Unsavory Truth

Look to Marion Nestle, America's leading public health and nutrition advocate, to decode how the food industry manipulates nutrition research to create highly profitable, easily marketed health claims. In Unsavory Truth, Nestle digs into the moral and ethical aspects of food marketing, shedding light on how companies translate and conduct research to back products that may not be the healthiest options. Nestle points to sugar-sweetened beverages and Olestra as examples of industry-funded studies that favor the sponsor.

If you're interested in food policy and manipulations of food science, Unsavory Truth is for you. The text opens readers' eyes to the unsettling fact that companies generally put profit before public health. For other food industry-focused favorites, check out Nestle's Food Politics and What to Eat.

Final Verdict

For an excellent overall nutrition and lifestyle book, check out Dr. Frank Lipman's How to Be Well. If you're interested in food politics, add Unsavory Truth and In Defense of Food to your list.

What to Look for in a Nutrition Book

Experience level: If you’re new to nutrition, you may need a bit more guidance and explanations of basic nutrition terms and theories. If you’re more advanced, you may prefer a book that discusses nutrition policy and science, as well as specific studies.
Guidance vs. Recipes:
Take a look at the table of contents to see whether the book is more focused on nutrition recommendations, in-depth policy discussions, or recipes. Then, consider how you will use the book. If you're looking to educate yourself, a book with tons of evidence-based nutrition recommendations, tips, and explanations may be best.

Topic: Nutrition is a broad and constantly-evolving science that has many subcategories, such as food policy, nutrigenomics, and food science. Consider your interests when choosing a nutrition book. For example, if you like to cook, you may prefer a cookbook or food science-based book, but if you prefer reading about food policy, a book on the food industry may be more attractive to you.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

A personal note on my recommendations written above. As a dietitian and author, I am careful to provide thoughtful and well-researched book recommendations when it comes to nutrition. It's important to find resources that are based on solid clinical research and offer constructive, health-promoting information rather than anecdotal, trendy fads. In compiling these recommendations, I spent time reviewing the best nutrition books on the market and considered what I have recommended to clients and patients in the past.Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

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