My new favorite book on nutrition and health

perfecthealthdiet

I read a lot about health and nutrition. I mean a lot. Sometimes several books a week, along with papers from the scientific literature. I’m a total research nerd. I admit it.

One complaint I’ve had for a long time is that there hasn’t been a single book I can recommend without reservation to friends and family that reflects my views on nutrition. There are certainly some great books out there, but there’s almost always something relatively significant I disagree with that keeps me from giving my full stamp of approval.

I had come to the conclusion that I’d have to write this book myself, but I simply don’t have the time and don’t anticipate that changing in the near future.

That’s why I was thrilled (and relieved) to discover the Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet, Ph.D and Shou-Ching Shih, Ph.D. Paul was an astrophysicist at Harvard and Shou-Ching is a molecular biologist and cancer researcher at Harvard, and let me tell you, these folks are smart. Of course we know that being smart alone doesn’t cut it in the world of nutrition, but I’m happy to tell you that Paul & Shou-Ching combine broad and deep research, clear thinking and a direct, accessible writing style with a rock-solid grounding in evolutionary biology and nutrition.

Their book hasn’t been published yet, but it’s available as a PDF from their website. One of my readers linked to their blog, which I was unaware of. I read their series on healing gut problems, and it was so well done that I decided to check out their book.

I’m so glad I did. It’s broken into three sections: “optimizing macronutrition”, “eat paleo, not toxic” and “nutrition”. They cover everything from the ideal macronutrient ratio, to the finer points of fat metabolism, to the role of chronic infections in modern disease, to which foods are toxic and why, to the benefits of starch and the dangers of fructose.

It’s chock-full of well chosen studies to back up their arguments, but it’s written for the layperson so you don’t need a Ph.D from Harvard to understand it. I have not been this impressed by a book in this genre for a long time, and I’ve never found one that so closely reflects my views on nutrition.

They’ve got an A-list blog, too. Reading a few posts there will give you a good idea of the quality of their writing and research. The book costs about $25. Although it’s not yet in its final version, if you buy it now you’ll receive a hard copy when it’s finished.

Many of you have emailed me in the past asking me what book I would suggest as an introduction to the nutritional principles I write about. Well, this is it. Head over to their website and check it out.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Stabby says

    Whoa, why didn’t I know about these guys before? Thanks for the tip. Looks like I won’t be needing The Healthy Skeptic anymore! jk

  2. says

    I enjoy their blog very much. Thanks for the link Chris. I like that they tweak our notion of the ancestral diet in ways not often talked about, like protein restriction for example.

  3. Jeremy says

     
    I also read this book and am modifying my diet to add more starchy carbs and fruit based on it. It is the best book I have read.

  4. r-marie says

    @ Jeremy: “I also read this book and am modifying my diet to add more starchy carbs and fruit based on it.”
    I haven’t read the book but adding starchy carbs and fruit would not seem to be wise for someone with pre- or full diabetes. Are they addressing this?

  5. Chris Kresser says

    The book isn’t geared toward diabetics.  In any event, they recommend very little fruit and only 400 calories total from carbohydrate.  That is 50 grams, which is still relatively low-carb.

  6. says

    Hi r-marie,

    In the final version of the book we have a section on how to tweak the diet for diseases such as diabetes that may benefit from lower carb consumption. Because there is a danger of glucose deprivation at very low carb intakes, we recommend eating plenty of ketogenic short-chain fats from coconut oil as carbs are reduced. We also think 200 carb calories per day is a good minimum to respect. 

    Because every diseased person is a little different, we can’t make categorical statements about calorie counts in diabetes. However, we try to present the science behind the issues in a way that enables you to make informed judgements and self-experiment to find what works best for you.

    As Chris says, the book is targeted to a general audience and we only give a few pages to handling diseases like diabetes. There will be more material on the blog over time.

    Best, Paul

  7. Taylor says

    400 calories is 100 grams of carb (as I’m sure you know), which still isn’t a lot.  I’m just curious – Why do they recommend not supplementing with fish oil?  Its really hard to get that much oily fish AND there are contamination issues with mercury and PCBs.
    Also – this is fairly similar to the Rosedale diet – although he’s more anti-saturated fat.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Taylor: thanks for catching my math glitch. Yes, of course 400 calories of carb = 100 g. This is consistent with a paleo diet.

      The reason they don’t recommend fish oil supplementation is that it can easily oxidize both outside and inside of the body. I wrote about this in my fish oil series. Whole fish is by far the best source of EFAs. Mercury is not an issue with fish as long as they have more selenium than mercury (most do), and PCBs and dioxins are a nonissue. The cardiovascular benefit of eating whole fish outweighs any potential harm from PCBs and dioxins by up to 3,000-fold. Not to mention that fish aren’t a significant source of PCBs and dioxins when compared to meat, dairy and even vegetables. See my series on EFAs/fish oil for more.

      That said, I do recommend Green Pasture fermented cod liver oil as a supplement. It’s cold-processed to avoid oxidation and has D, A, K2, E and other quinones in addition to EPA & DHA.

  8. Merritt says

    From reading that blog series it looks like it will be an excellent book.
    I find much of your research jibes with Natasha Campbell-McBride’s GAPS teachings, and was wondering the faults you find in that book as opposed to this one. Do you find her protocol harmful or overkill? To me they both seem to be addressing similar circumstances.
    Thanks. A million, billion thanks to you for your blog, sharing your research publicly. And your replies to comments, which is a very rare thing to do in this time.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I did the GAPS diet myself for a year and I use it with my patients. And I’ve personally consulted with Dr. Campbell-McBride and have tremendous respect for her. But it’s not a diet that I recommend for everyone – just those with gut and neuro-psych issues. Granted, this is a large population, but I don’t think everyone across the board needs to avoid healthy starches, for example.

  9. Tim says

    Chris, what do you disagree with in Primal Body, Primal Mind? After just reading The Perfect Health Diet summary they look similar.

    • Chris Kresser says

      PB, PM is a fine book, and as you pointed out very similar to PHD. I also recommend it to my patients and readers.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Because like many plants, they have anti-nutrients that prevent their digestion and impair the absorption of other nutrients. It’s part of their survival strategy. These can be de-activated to varying extents by certain preparation methods (i.e. soaking and sprouting).

  10. Taylor says

    What about fish oil with sesame lignans and olive fruit extract (that’s what is in my Life Extension brand fish oil supplement).  Does that prevent oxidation?

  11. Chris Kresser says

    It may help, but I doubt it prevents it. The truth is that fish oil still shows benefit in clinical trials, so the benefit of the EFAs may outweigh the harm of oxidative damage it causes.  That balance may depend on the antioxidant status of the person taking them.

  12. Todd S. says

    I’ll have to take a look at this.  100g of carbs would be a weight-maintenance level.  If you are trying to shed pounds on a high-fat diet, you’ll want to keep carbs well below 100g.  Still, I hope to drop down to a weight I’m comfortable with soon so I might take a look at this when it hits the store to see what they have to say.

  13. Sandra says

    I have had digestive issues including severe constipation for over 30 years. If I don’t take a several capsules of senna and cascara I don’t have a bowel movement.  Do you think that the GAPS diet or the Perfect Health Diet would be better for me?  Do you think that it is possible for me to ever get off of these herbs and have normal digestion and bowel patterns?  Any recommendations on finding a health professional in Alabama to work with.  I am seeing a chiropractor that uses muscle testing and nutrition, but I need someone who has more knowledge about GAPS if I decide to do this.  I Also have adrenal fatigue and am taking many whole food supplements (Standard Process) for this. Thanks so much!  I really enjoy reading your blog!

    • Chris Kresser says

      Sandra: absolutely the GAPS diet would help you. In most cases people can get off senna, but the longer they’ve been on it, the harder that is. Constipation is almost always related to poor gut flora, so that’s an especially important area to address.

      I will be working with people at a distance starting in 1-2 weeks. Please contact me if you’re interested in that. I’m sorry, I don’t know a single soul in Alabama.

  14. Jerry says

    I just received the E version of PHD. I was surprised of the recommendation of 400 calories of carbs. Do you think it would be more optimal to reduce this amount to 200 calories or less to maximize fat loss?

  15. Chris Kresser says

    Jerry: the PHD isn’t a weight loss diet, although many who need to lose weight will if they follow it.  If you want to be more aggressive, lowering carbs to 200 is certainly an option. Make sure to eat enough protein for gluconeogenesis – although most low-carbers eat plenty for that.

  16. Cathy says

    Is patterning an adult diet after the macronutrient ratio of breast milk really a good idea?? It is a superfood designed to support the rapid physical growth of an infant. Adults are no longer growing rapidly (unless you count sideways) so perhaps our macronutrient ratio should be different from that of infants. Thoughts?

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