This list of 10 amazing health-related books will help optimize your physical and mental health, and provide you with a well-researched roadmap to unlock a vibrant life. Endless books are published each year on the best diet, the best way to exercise, the “super secrets” to living longer, but let’s be honest, few of them deliver. All too often, books that promise to provide answers, fall short, ending up in yard sales and donation boxes.
This time, I’ve done the legwork for you. Each of these health-related books has a permanent place on my personal bookshelf, with countless sentences underlined, dog-eared pages, and Post-it® Page Markers stuck to the pages so I can easily refer to them again and again. I have found each of these books to be invaluable in my mission to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. I have no doubt you will too.
Top 10 health-related books you need to own
Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health
By: Jo Robinson
When most of us venture into our local grocery store, no matter where we are in the country, we see the same produce all year long—apples, iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, spinach, potatoes, celery, etc. Sure, on occasion we’ll see short-term appearances by some more “seasonal” items, as well as fruits and veggies that are considered “local.” But, the unfortunate fact is that we regularly see the appearance of variety in the produce section, not actual variety.
In Eating on the Wild Side, author Jo Robinson argues that the farmed fruits and vegetables we eat today are a far cry from the wild ones we ate in the past. Over the course of generations, we’ve been selecting and breeding plants based on their starch and sugar content. Over time, this has produced the considerably sweeter fruits and vegetables you now see in produce bins, all with significantly lower levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. While this selective breeding may be appreciated by our sweet tooth, it’s left our bodies crying out for nutrients.
Today, we are surrounded by highly processed, nutrient-devoid “foods”, and a serious lack of diversity in the produce section. This has resulted in more chronic disease, higher susceptibility to illness and invaders like bacteria and viruses, and fewer of us able to obtain optimal health. Eating on the Wild Side will be your go-to guidebook for navigating the produce section to find the most nutrient-dense produce and includes easy methods to prepare these foods to enhance their flavor and improve nutrient absorption.
Herbal Antivirals: Natural Remedies for Emerging & Resistant Viral Infections
By: Stephen Harrod Buhner
Viruses are billions of years old, giving them an evolutionary jump on considerably younger species like us humans (who came on the scene only a few hundred thousand years ago). All that time has given viruses plenty of time to inhabit just about every place on Earth—from the coldest mountain tops to the hottest hot springs. As much as we’d like to think we can, we cannot escape them. And while humans are well equipped with the natural defenses to deal with the majority of them, there are some particularly nasty strains out there. One particularly dangerous group is coronaviruses, with SARS-Cov-2 the most recent player on the scene.
Herbal Antivirals by Stephen Harrod Buhner is a fascinating read that presents an exploration of what viruses are, the history of our relationship with them, and the efficacious role herbs can play in treating those infected. The book starts by taking a deep dive into how both common and emerging viruses spread and affect the human body once they infect a host. The book then provides extensive information on the various herbs that are effective against viral infections as well as those that have been shown to strengthen and optimize the immune system.
In this era of COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to take proactive steps to ensure our immune systems are not only functioning properly but optimally. Herbal Antivirals is a top choice when it comes to health-related books for anyone looking for more natural solutions to help ward off inevitable viral infections. (Bonus! Click here to download a free PDF of herbal treatment for coronavirus infections from Stephen Harrod Buhner.)
Life, Incorporated: A Practical Guide to Wholehearted Living
By: Halley Bock
Life, Incorporated does an exceptional job laying out the reasons it’s so important to create and nurture a deep, real relationship with ourselves—without building a life that is self-authentic, it’s virtually impossible to foster meaningful, deep connections with others.
“No amount of money, fame, Facebook likes, Instagram followers, or pats on the back can act as a long-term surrogate for nourishing our soul. If we wish to experience long-term well-being, then we must work on every aspect of our life . . . from the inside out.”
Modeled on a tree, the book’s sections build, starting with your head, physical health, and environment (the soil); cultivating your purpose and core values (the roots), dividing your time between play, work, and relationships (the branches), and how to live with intention (the canopy of leaves). Each section ends with practices and exercises, to better understand your ideal life and gain a road map to get there.
Life Incorporated is well-written, offers plenty of light-bulb moments, and provides countless opportunities to pause and reflect. In my opinion, it’s required reading for anyone looking to experience true health and contentment in all areas of life.
Nutrition in Crisis
By: Richard David Feinman
No one knows how to eat anymore. A big part of the problem is flawed scientific studies showing weak associations and the way these studies are conveyed to the public through the media. Today, with social media and character limitations, we are reacting to headlines only, without taking the time to read any accompanying article—let alone reading an actual study. I’ve noticed that far too often articles don’t even bother linking to the actual studies anyway. Unfortunately, failing to take a deeper dive, especially when it comes to health topics, is having an increasingly negative impact on our overall well-being.
In Nutrition in Crisis, Dr. Feinman goes into detail about how to critically interpret studies, with the hopes that readers will gain the ability to really read and understand scientific publications. The takeaway for everyone—including scientists—is you need to always look at these things with a critical eye.
While some of the science-heavy parts of Nutrition in Crisis may feel intimidating to a non-scientist, Dr. Feinman is incredibly helpful and addresses that in his introduction. Read what you can, skip over the parts that feel too “bumpy,” and go back later. That advice, along with his conversational style of writing, makes the book surprisingly accessible and helps mitigate any fears about not understanding the scientific material. In the end, it’s a wonderful lesson in how our bodies process what we eat.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
By: John J. Ratey
In January of 2019, bookstore chain Barnes & Noble reported that a notable shift was taking place. The regular darlings of the new year—those related to exercise and dieting—were being outsold by titles covering the topic of mental health. Less than two years later, our collective stress level is arguably many magnitudes higher than it was then. Now, the need to maintain optimal mental health should be an even bigger priority, for all of us.
Usually, when we think of lowering stress and improving our mental health, we think of exercises such as meditation or deep breathing. There is, however, another effective tool we tend to not think of that can play a much more powerful role in helping us regain some calm, better handle stress, and quiet our brains. Exercise.
While most of us equate regular exercise with benefits like weight loss, cardiovascular health, and building abz, we often fail to recognize the vital role it plays in helping improve a wide range of mental health conditions. Numerous studies have demonstrated that anxiety, depression, ADHD, and stress can all be positively impacted by regular exercise. Moving regularly exerts a profoundly positive effect on neurotransmitters, neurogenesis, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and HGH levels, and the inflammation that can trigger plaque accumulation in the brain.
Spark does an excellent job of explaining the critical role exercise plays in optimizing our mental health. It provides actionable steps to help incorporate more movement in your life – whether it’s to improve a specific condition or enrich cognitive capabilities such as memory and learning. Spark will definitely light a fire under any reader and get you moving more!
Stillness Is the Key
By: Ryan Holiday
Today, it’s much too easy to get caught up in the busyness of day-to-day life and we can quickly find ourselves exhausted, overstimulated, and stretched way too thin. Most days the ability to be present is not only difficult, but it’s also simply non-existent. With the endless, constant barrage of stimuli that surrounds us now, it’s far too easy for even the most “healthy” among us to fall prey to the dangers of the fast pace of modern life and the FOMO that often accompanies it.
Stillness Is the Key acts as an excellent reminder of these dangers, with instructions on how to overcome them and create more peace, discipline, meaning, and happiness in your life. Ryan does an outstanding job of using lessons from individuals in the distant, and not-so-distant, past to remind readers of the importance of stillness—“the ability to slow things down. To clarify your thinking. To center your soul.”
While it may not seem to fit on a list of health-related books in the traditional sense, this one definitely works from the standpoint of overcoming stress and quieting your mind. Some of the information and ideas in the book aren’t new, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are applicable to just about everyone’s life. With all the distractions today, we can all use reminders now and then, especially when they’re packaged in such an easy and enjoyable-to-read format.
The Alzheimer’s Antidote
By: Amy Berger
More and more of us are recognizing that our modern diet and lifestyle are having profoundly negative effects on our bodies, which we experience in the form of weight gain, lack of energy, and stiff joints. Unfortunately, these harmful effects are also impacting an especially vulnerable area of our bodies that we can’t see—our brains.
The Alzheimer’s Antidote presents the idea that Alzheimer’s disease is, at its most basic, a fuel shortage in the brain. After years of chronically elevated insulin, fatty acid imbalances, and micronutrient deficiencies, fuel consumption in the brain becomes increasingly impaired. Eventually, cells involved in the memory and learning areas of the brain starve, deteriorate and die, resulting in Alzheimer’s.
If this “metabolic origin” of Alzheimer’s is correct, there is hope for those looking to prevent the disease and support current treatment. Amy does an amazing job of laying out her argument, as well as nutritional strategies and lifestyle factors readers can implement now to reduce their risk. (The earlier you can start, the better off you’ll be!) As someone who has a family history of Alzheimer’s and dementia, out of all the health-related books I’ve read recently, I found this book to be particularly interesting, enjoyable to read, and an indispensable resource to assist me in my fight to keep my brain from breaking.
The Genius Life: Heal Your Mind, Strengthen Your Body, and Become Extraordinary
By: Max Lugavere
It’s no secret that modern life, while convenient, is wreaking havoc on our bodies and minds with poor nutrition, lack of sleep and movement, more time indoors, digital distraction, and exposure to chemicals and radiation. While we may not notice the negative health consequences right away, after years and decades, our bodies and brains cry uncle, and we’re left with conditions like heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
The Genius Life provides easy-to-follow steps to optimize your physical and mental health for the long run, with chapters on diet, fasting, syncing your body’s internal clocks, sun exposure, the benefits of hot/cold exposure, exercise, cleaning up your environment, and sleep. It culminates with a four-week framework and example “day-in-the-genius-life” to help you put it into practice.
With this guide, you will be better armed to tackle everything that modern life throws at you and come out stronger, healthier, and more resilient.
The Inflammation Spectrum
By: Dr. Will Cole and Eve Adamson
Inflammation has been a hot topic in health/wellness circles for a while now, and interest in the role chronic inflammation plays in various diseases is gaining a lot of attention. (As it should be.) Up till now, the status quo has been general suggestions like taking curcumin and managing stress to get inflammation under control. While some of these approaches have been shown to help, in The Inflammation Spectrum, Dr. Cole presents the notable idea that rather than an “on” or “off” type of condition, inflammation actually exists on a spectrum. That is, it’s possible to experience it anywhere and everywhere, localized to just one specific body system to system-wide.
The most difficult part is determining where your inflammation is. If you can do that, however, treating it becomes infinitely easier. While the book does an excellent job of laying out various lab tests to take and recipes to try, the real gold is in the Inflammation Spectrum Quiz that can help you pinpoint areas of your body that are likely experiencing inflammation, and where it falls on the spectrum. Once you take the quiz, Dr. Cole provides specific information and therapies, including herbs, supplements, exercises, and lifestyle practices, designed to target those areas.
If you are dealing with chronic health issues, you owe it to yourself to check out this book. It’s easy to read, fun to follow along, and provides a no-guessing roadmap to help you overcome inflammation once and for all.
The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer
By: Jonny Bowden, PhD
Dr. Jonny Bowden is 72 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him. Bowden spent the first half of his life, as he puts it, “fat, out of shape, a smoker, and an addict.” But then, after battling his addictions and making the difficult journey back to health, he went back to school, got a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition, and made the study of wellness and longevity the focus of the next stage of his life.
In his book, The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Do to Prevent Disease, Feel Great, and Have Optimum Health and Longevity, Bowden unpacks the latest research into the battle against aging and outlines a strategy of nutrition, supplementation, and other crucial lifestyle adjustments to help humans live a longer, more fulfilling life.
Broken into easy-to-read sections, the book can be read cover to cover, or used as a reference book, with sections specific to various systems of the body such as your heart, brain, joints, hormones, and immune system. Bowden takes the mystery and guesswork out of aging healthy and provides a clear roadmap to keep your body performing optimally, no matter how old you are.
Adding these health-related books to your own personal library can help you optimize your mental and physical health.