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Eating Well for Optimum Health:
The Essential Guide to Food, Diet, and Nutrition
By Andrew Weil, M.D.
Book Review by Gary F. Zeolla
The book reviewed on this page,
Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, M.D.,
is available at a reduced price from Amazon .
I read this book shortly after my book Creationist Diet was published. If I had read Weil’s book while I was still working on my book I probably would have used several quotes from Weil’s book in mine as our ideas on food, diet, and nutrition parallel greatly.
Weil’s begins his book by looking in detail at the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). He concludes that low carb diets are faulty in recommending a severe reduction of carbs. Weil correctly notes that the complaints low-carbers raise against carbs actually only apply to high-glycemic carbs (i.e. carbs that quickly raise the blood sugar). He then states that carb foods in their more natural and traditional states have much lower glycemic responses than more recent foods (like stone ground whole wheat bread vs. refined white flour bread). And one of the main points of my book is that foods should be eaten in as natural a state as possible, so stone-ground whole wheat is to be preferred to processed white flour.
Weil then notes that as with carbs not all fats are “bad.” Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and their associated omega-3 fatty acids are actually very healthy. Foods sources of such fats are fish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and avocadoes. And in my book I present studies that show that diets high in MUFAs reduce heart disease risk more than traditional low fat diets.
In regards to protein, Weil presents some very sound recommendations. Included among these is to substitute vegetable protein (from soy, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds) for some of the animal protein in ones diet, to eat animals foods only from organically raised or game animals, to avoid cured meats (like bacon and lunch meats), and to avoid shellfish (due to their high contamination rates). I make all of these suggestions in my book.
Weil then concludes this section by recommending the following split of the macronutrients: 50-60% carbs, 10-20% protein, 30% fat (mostly from MUFAs). I give very similar recommendations in my book, through with somewhat larger ranges. So both Weil and I disagree with both very low carb and very low fat diets and recommend more moderate percentages.
Weil states that he consumes a lacto-pesco-vegetarian diet. This means he eats dairy products and fish but no other animal foods. The fish part is in line with Weil’s recommendation for the consumption of MUFAs. And Weil puts some qualifications on the dairy part. He states, “I eat modest amounts of dairy products, mostly cheeses” (p.133). Weil discussed some of the problems with heavy dairy consumption and correctly notes that one does not need to consume dairy to attain sufficient calcium. There are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium available.
Given the controversy there is surrounding dairy (with the dairy industry saying it is an necessary food and the anti-milk crowd saying it is a horrid food), I spend three chapters on the subject of dairy in my book. And my conclusion is similar to Weil’s: if you consume dairy it should only be in limited amounts.
Weil then surveys different proposed diets to find “the best diet in the world.” He looks at the Paleolithic diet, raw foods diet, traditional Japanese diet, Asian diet, vegan diet, Mediterranean diet, and the USDA food pyramid. He discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each of these diets. I discuss several of these diets in my book as well. In fact, it was the Paleolithic diet (which is based on the theory of evolution) that got me thinking as to what a diet based on the theory of creation would look like, and hence was the impetus for my book.
Weil then discusses the problems of rampant obesity in the United States and presents suggestions on weight loss. And all of his suggestions are very sound. First among them is that calories count. To lose weight one must reduce caloric intake and increase expenditure. This means eating less and exercising more. But he emphasizes that doing so one should not follow “fad” diets or drastically change the proportion of carbs, protein, and fats in ones diet.
Rather than follow some fad diet, Weil recommends, “you need to change long-term patterns of eating and physical activity” (p.185). What is needed is to follow the same recommendations for healthy eating that he presents throughout his book but to adjust the amount of calories consumed and to add exercise to ones daily life. I make the same recommendations in my book.
Weil then gives some recommendations on “buying food and eating out.” He recommends the reading of labels to avoid the consumption of unnatural ingredients like hydrogenation oils, artificial colorings, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and nitrates. Given the emphasis of my book on eating foods in their most natural states, I wholeheartedly agree with these recommendations and make the same recommendation in my book.
Weil concludes his book with a section of recipes. This is one place where Weil’s book and mine differs as I don’t have such a section in my book. But I do recommend a couple of cookbooks that I have found helpful.
Another way in which my book differs from Weil’s is that along with citing numerous scientific studies supporting various dietary recommendations, my book is also filled with Biblical references. In fact, the full title of my book is Creationist Diet: Nutrition and God-given Foods According to the Bible. But given the parallels between our books, this shows that whether one looks to the Bible or scientific studies similar conclusions will be drawn in how to go about “eating well for optimum health.”
And given how much Weil’s book parallels mine, I can’t help but give his book five stars. I would highly recommend it. And my book would provide further details and reinforcement on the appropriateness of Weil’s recommendations.
October 2014 Update
In the 12 years since I wrote the above review, some of my opinions have changed, especially in regards to the eating of animal foods. I now consider doing so to be beneficial, not detrimental, as long as the right kinds of animals foods are eaten. I discuss such in my newer book, God-given Foods Eating Plan. So now I would probably only give four stars to Eating Well for Optimum Health.
The above review was posted on this site April 6, 2002.
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