New Years, Resolved: 4 Science Books to Back Your Resolutions

Things we know about health-related New Year’s resolutions: 1) January is a terrible time to embark on an all-kale diet. 2) Jogging in the sleet on icy sidewalks sucks. 3) We’ve abandoned them by Valentine’s Day. 4) Yet we make them all over again each year.

Things we don’t know about health-related New Year’s resolutions: 1) Is sugar the devil? 2) Or is the culprit fat? 3) Or maybe it’s all about portion size? 4) What do our bodies really want us to put in them?

It’s not hard to be confused to the point of futility; to just ignore all the conflicting studies and reports and guidelines and food pyramids and let Seamless and the microwave be our diet gurus. But before we give up hope entirely and resign ourselves to another year of looking and feeling worse than we’d like, let’s consider some books that take a no-hype, hard science approach to the topic of what we should and shouldn’t eat if we truly want a healthier 2017.

  • The cover of the book The Case Against Sugar

    The Case Against Sugar

    Oh, sugar. Remember back a few years ago when everyone thought fat was what was making us, well, fat? Turns out, a lot of those studies were sponsored by the industry that produces that delicious white substance we spill into our coffee, pour over our cornflakes, and ingest with our vitamins. In this book, health writer Taubes traces the history of sugar, and the sugar industry, in America, detailing how it became an additive in everything from pasta sauce to cigarettes, and offering some guidelines for how much we should be eating if we want to stay healthy and fit (hint: not a lot.)

  • The cover of the book The Secret Life of Fat

    The Secret Life of Fat

    The Science Behind the Bodys Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You

    The message of this book can be summed up in three words: Know Your Enemy. In order to defeat fat, Tara writes, we must first understand it, and this slippery, wily foe is much more than last night’s mozzarella sticks rematerializing on your thighs. Fat is in fact an endocrine organ that helps us think, fight disease, and reproduce. How much of it we need, how much excess we produce, how quickly we make it and how hard we have to fight to get rid of it are all determined by a combination of genetics, hormones, family history (and, yes, diet and exercise.) Too much of it can kill us, but without it, we’d die, so before we spend another billion dollars trying to eradicate it from our lives, we should first make peace with its critical role in the evolution and survival of the species.

  • The cover of the book If Our Bodies Could Talk

    If Our Bodies Could Talk

    Operating and Maintaining a Human Body

    Your body sends you a ton of information every second of the day, yet its inner workings remain a mystery to most of us. Why do our stomachs rumble? Why am I tired all the time? What exactly are all those double espressos doing to me (and why am I still tired all the time?) In this lively book, Hamblin sets out to debunk much of the conventional wisdom about how our bodies run, and what we can do to help (or harm) them. He looks at the immune system, the digestive system, the process by which we age, and the effects of everything from caffeine to multivitamins on our own health and happiness.

  • The cover of the book Food Rules

    Food Rules

    An Eater's Manual

    “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” With these three sentences, food writer Pollan seeks to cut through most of the blather, argument, and hyperbole about what we should eat and why. In this volume of basic, easy-to-follow precepts for preparing your next meal, he encourages readers (and eaters) to let simplicity, tradition, and common sense guide our choices of what we put in our bodies. For example, the fewer ingredients on the package the better; if you can pronounce all of them, better still; and if it doesn’t come in a package to begin with, best of all.