(Cook) Book Review: The Happiness Diet

We are all looking for happiness. Is it possible that it’s as close as the end of our forks? Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey, MD, whose new book, The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body, features with a juicy burger on the cover, say it is. And the good looking burger on the cover of their book - meat, cheese, bun, veggies and all - are part of the prescription.

Eating burgers for happiness, with side effects like weight loss, a healthy brain and reduced cravings, sounds like what America has been waiting for. In The Happiness Diet, Ramsey and Graham teach us why the current Modern American Diet (MAD) has increased depression along with waistlines. Our diet has changed drastically over the last 100 years, and along with it, our brains. The MAD diet, which is made up primarily of industrially produced foods, has been stripped of the mood boosting foods that our brains need - fats, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. To improve our mental and emotional health, stabilize moods and improve focus, all which are needed for a good attempt at happiness, we need to eat better. But it’s not just about eating more or less carbs, or fat or protein. The Happiness Diet is calling for better food, dare we say... sustainable food. You can imagine that we are pretty happy just thinking about it.

Not many diets focus on sustainable food, which makes this book quite refreshing. The Happiness Diet sees that where our food comes from is as important as which foods we decide to eat. The industrialization of food has stripped away many of the nutrients our bodies and minds need. So in addition to the “diet” that we follow, we need to look beyond the processed and fast foods that have become a staple of the American diet and reconnect with whole, seasonal foods. And as a side, in the “Epilogue,” right in line with the philosophies that we find important, the authors remind us that our healthy choices have a ripple effect. These sustainable choices we make impact the land we live on and the people who produce and harvest it too (which can only lead to... more happiness!).

So what exactly is the Happiness Diet?

The Happiness Diet is one made up of healthy and delicious foods that will help to create and maintain a good mood. It is broken down in the book so that it’s easy to understand. What nutritional elements are we missing and why do we need them? What foods can we find them in? They even break it out into Focus Foods, Energy Foods and Mood Foods - and let us know how they work.

The book is sprinkled with the “Top 100 Reasons to Avoid Processed Foods” - and there are some good ones.

Reason 21: Old El Paso Taco Dinner kits contain ethoxyquin, a chemical invented by Monsanto in the 1950s and originally registered as a pesticide. There is very limited human safety data, but in a test tube it damages the DNA of human immune cells.

Reason 59: The FDA allows 5% of any jar of maraschino cherries to contain maggots.

Reason 64: More than eighty thousand chemicals are approved for use in the United States. The vast majority of these have not been studied for their safety -- many are found in processed food.

Vegetarians and vegans beware! This book is for meat eaters. But if you have an open mind there is solid information about what vitamins/minerals/fats/etc. are essential for a healthy mind. With some substitutes, you could follow what they have outlined.

Graham and Ramsey have not only introduced the principles behind The Happiness Diet, but they tell you how you can make it happen. They outline a meal plan and even talk you through shopping and stocking your kitchen. With delicious recipes such as Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Barley Tabbouleh, Slow Pork and Mexican Breakfast, I don’t know why you wouldn’t give happiness a chance.

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