Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition by T. Colin Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Does any of this sound familiar?: "That has too many carbs," or "I need more protein to build muscle," or "I need some vitamin C, I feel a cold coming on." If so, then you're familiar with the concept of nutritional reductionism. It's when the constituent parts of foods - macronutrients, micronutrients - are considered more important than the whole food itself. This concept is a result of nutritional science's discoveries about the health benefits of certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Bolstered by a supplement and food industry which has sought to capitalize on these discoveries by selling these constituent parts individually, our concept of nutrition and proper eating has been seriously skewed.
This is the argument made by Dr. T. Colin Campbell in his book Whole. That we've become so obsessed with carbs and fats and proteins and vitamins that we're unable to see that the real magic lies in the whole food itself. Of course, as this is a follow-up to his acclaimed China Study, Dr. Campbell is specifically discussing the nutritional power of whole plant foods. He argues that much is lost and a lot of confusion abounds in the public discussion of nutrition when we reduce foods down to their individual nutrients.
Chock full of cool information about foods (who knew that apples were so fascinating?), Dr. Campbell aims to steer the conversation about nutrition and health towards the notion that it is the whole fruit, the whole vegetable, the whole grain, the whole legume, and inevitably, the whole diet that matters most for health outcomes. This book rejects the complicated, commercialized rhetoric of nutrition science in favor of something much simpler, and much more intuitive: to improve health, eat a diet based primarily on plant foods in their whole, unadulterated forms. That's it.
This book was a pivotal, foundational text for my own whole food, plant-based lifestyle. I recommend it for anyone seeking to improve not only their knowledge, but also their relationship with food.
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Niv Mullings is a writer, poet, and plant-based health coach hailing from The Boogie Down Bronx.