This week I read Eat & Flourish by food writer Mary Beth Albright, with audiobook narration by Caroline Shaffer.
Unlike books that emphasize weight and other aspects of physical health, this book examines the relationship between food and mental wellness. At various times a chef, a food attorney, and a journalist, Albright finds a wealth of medical information and makes it accessible for general readers. Some tidbits that stayed with me:
Taste is perceived beyond the taste buds. When Cadbury changed the shape of its chocolates from squares to circles, consumers were in an uproar about the sweeter formulation...even though the recipes were identical. This is why you should add a spring of fresh herbs to your plate. You will derive more pleasure from your meal, just from seeing a sprig of parsley or rosemary.
In a tightly controlled experiment, people in two groups ate food with identical caloric and nutritional compositions, but one group ate clean, unprocessed foods while the other ate ultra-processed foods. The people eating ultra-processed foods gained weight.
In another experiment, mice were fed identical diets, but some mice received injections of gut microbes from a fat twin, while other mice received injections of gut microbes from the slender twin. The mice with the microbes from the fat twin gained weight.
I mention those experiments not to hyper-focus on weight but to observe that there's so much to food and wellness beyond "eat less, move more." How food is prepared and processed, the microbes in your gut, how often you share meals: so many different factors contribute to your overall well-being.
Albright provides lists of foods that can help with specific emotional goals, such as eating to feel less angry or less anxious. There are also some recipes and a few high-level ideas to implement at the grocery story, such as a plan to focus on anti-inflammatory foods for a week. I consider myself well informed on food and nutrition, but I learned a lot.
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.