Best books on health: nutrition, fitness, sleep

Best Health Books: Nutrition, Fitness, Sleep (Updated 2022)

by Sven WoltmannJanuary 12, 2022

Physical and mental health are the basis for a happy and successful life.

In this article, I'll introduce you to some of the best books for healthy eating and nutrition and an overall healthly lifestyle that will not only keep your body fit, but your mind as well.

(Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Why we sleep - Book cover

by Matthew Walker, PhD

Link to the book at Amazon

Dr. Matthew Walker is a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology and one of the world's leading sleep researchers. In his book, he explains the enormous importance of sleep and its effects on physical and mental health in an easily understandable way. He draws on his own research findings and numerous studies.

He explains the different phases of sleep and what they are responsible for. He describes how the biorhythm is influenced by natural and artificial light and caffeine or alcohol – and what happens in the body when you act against its natural rhythm.

You learn how the biorhythm changes in the course of life. After reading this book, parents will understand why small children do not sleep longer in the morning when you put them to bed later ... and why teenagers are not fit for school at 8:00 am – no matter how early they went to bed.

But why is good sleep so important anyway? Sleep is essential for the transfer of knowledge from short to long-term memory. Sleep promotes creativity, makes you more attractive, strengthens the immune system, prevents diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, dementia, depression, and diabetes, and reduces heart attacks.

Of course, the author also gives practical tips on improving the quality of your own sleep (e.g., by going to bed regularly or by adjusting the light conditions a few hours before going to bed).

In summary, good sleep – and therefore reading this entertaining and stimulating book – is one of the best investments you can make in your health.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes, absolutely.

Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power

by Lisa Mosconi, PhD

Link to the book at Amazon

Lisa Mosconi is a doctor of neuroscience and nuclear medicine and an expert in Alzheimer's prevention and nutritional counseling. In her bestseller, she explains how our diet affects our brain and which foods we should (and shouldn't) eat to keep our brain fit for peak performance well into old age.

The author gives numerous practical tips and advice, such as what kind of olive oil to buy, which types of meat and fish and which dairy products are recommended (and which are not), and what to look out for in food labels.

She dispels common myths, explaining, for example, why most low-fat foods tend to be bad for us and why chocolate and wine (in the right types and amounts) are healthy.

The book is based on years of research and is written easily for laypeople to understand. The author does not expect readers to completely change their eating habits overnight but provides specific, prioritized recommendations for a gradual transition.

The book concludes with an extensive collection of healthy, delicious, and easy-to-implement recipes.

Suitable as an audiobook? Only limited due to the just mentioned recipe collection, which is unfortunately not supplied as a PDF.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

by John J. Ratey

Link to the book at Amazon

Exercise is not only good for the body but also for the mind. Regular aerobic exercise sharpens the intellect, promotes learning, and makes the brain fit for top mental performance. It reduces stress, lifts mood, boosts motivation, and protects against diseases such as depression, dementia, and attention deficit disorder - all from childhood to old age.

Why is that?

Aerobic exercise strengthens the cardiovascular system, thus ensuring the transport of sufficient nutrients to the brain and promoting the production of neurotransmitters and hormones responsible for the growth of brain cells ("neurogenesis") and their connections with each other.

Even though the author tries to describe the biological connections in an understandable way for laypeople, he sometimes delves deeply into the scientific background. You have to concentrate hard if you want to follow the explanations of which neurotransmitters are responsible for which functions. As a reading before going to bed, it is therefore only suitable to a limited extent.

I recommend the book to those who want to understand the scientific background in detail. To all others, I recommend regular exercise :-)

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

A Thousand Brains: A New Theory of Intelligence

by Jeff Hawkins

Link to the book at Amazon

Jeff Hawkins is the founder of Palm Computing and Handspring – and is widely credited as the inventor of handheld computers. He uses the fortune earned through his computer companies to fund his primary passion, neuroscience.

In almost two decades of research, he developed a new theory about the functioning of the brain, human cognition, and intelligence. After numerous publications in professional articles, the author presents his "Thousand Brains" theory to a broad audience in a highly readable, popular-science form.

Hawkins reflects on how his discoveries may lead to the next breakthroughs in artificial intelligence – from purpose-driven to general AI – and whether it may develop consciousness and pose a threat to humanity.

Last, he explores the extent to which human intelligence itself poses an existential threat – by causing disasters, such as climate change and potentially nuclear wars.

The book is easy to read; a thoughtful structure and regular summaries of the completed thoughts make the profound subject easily accessible to non-neuroscientists.

If you, like me, attended AI lectures before Hawkins' time and think you know how the brain works, you will be surprised at how much has changed since then.

Suitable as an audiobook? Yes.

Sven Woltmann
About the author
I'm a freelance software developer with more than two decades of experience in scalable Java enterprise applications. My focus is on optimizing complex algorithms and on advanced topics such as concurrency, the Java memory model, and garbage collection. Here on HappyCoders.eu, I want to help you become a better Java programmer. Read more about me here.

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