244 pages, 13 b/w illustrations
Vegan, low fat, low carb, slow carb: Every diet seems to promise a one-size-fits-all solution to health. But they ignore the diversity of human genes and how they interact with what we eat. In Food, Genes, and Culture, renowned ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan shows why the perfect diet for one person could be disastrous for another. If your ancestors were herders in Northern Europe, milk might well provide you with important nutrients, whereas if you're Native American, you have a higher likelihood of lactose intolerance. If your roots lie in the Greek islands, the acclaimed Mediterranean diet might save your heart; if not, all that olive oil could just give you stomach cramps. Nabhan traces food traditions around the world, from Bali to Mexico, uncovering the links between ancestry and individual responses to food. The implications go well beyond personal taste. Today's widespread mismatch between diet and genes is leading to serious health conditions, including a dramatic growth over the last 50 years in auto-immune and inflammatory diseases. Readers will not only learn why diabetes is running rampant among indigenous peoples and heart disease has risen among those of northern European descent, but may find the path to their own perfect diet.
"Gary Nabhan is one of the most important food writers we have in this country. In this eloquent and fascinating book, he shows us how our food and culture are so deeply rooted in our land and agriculture."
- Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse
"This exploration of the coevolution of communities and their native foods couldn't be more timely [...] Mixing hard science with personal anecdotes, Nabhan convincingly argues that health comes from a genetically appropriate diet inextricably entwined with a healthy land and culture."
- Publisher's Weekly
"Gary Nabhan writes in novel and always interesting ways about food and culture and the genetic underpinnings that may account for differences in taste. His reflections on how different ways of eating affect the health of human societies provides substantial food for thought."
- Andrew Weil, MD, author of The Healthy Kitchen and 8 Weeks to Optimum Health
"[Nabhan] takes the reader on a trail of discovery [...] thought-provoking [...] the book is well worth reading, for it should stimulate an important debate about what constitutes dietary adaptations and sensitivities."
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Gary Paul Nabhan holds the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona Southwest Center, and is the author of books including Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land; Where Our Food Comes From; and Renewing America's Food Traditions.