Book Review: “The World’s Healthiest Foods, Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 11:41am

By Allison Stevens, MS, RD

Would you like to eat better, but feel that eating healthy will limit your food choices? Pick up a copy of The World's Healthiest Foods and you will have no more "I don't know what to eat" excuses. This 880-page reference book lists 100 of the healthiest foods and how to store and prepare them (and do not worry, they are familiar, available, and affordable!). It is refreshing for me to finally read a book that provides a wealth of information not only on what foods to eat, but why we should eat these foods and how to eat them.

The George Mateljan Foundation

Author George Mateljan, founder of Health Valley Foods, has long been a proponent of eating for health, and this comprehensive reference book is just one of his many contributions to the world of nutrition. All profits from the book go to Mateljan's non-profit foundation, The George Mateljan Foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to provide unbiased scientific information about how the world's most nutrient-rich foods can promote vibrant health and energy and fit into a busy lifestyle.

The George Mateljan Foundation supports The World's Healthiest Foods website,, a comprehensive site devoted to helping readers eat the healthiest foods possible. I must admit, I have used this site when looking for reliable nutrition information on the web. This actually biased me before reading the book, thinking the book was perhaps unnecessary, since the website is such a wealth of information on its own.

Although there are some redundancies, overall I find the book complements the website. The book, like the website, provides an in-depth look at the nutrient profile for the healthiest foods. However, the book is also an at-hand resource for practical information on how to eat these foods, including over 500 recipes and an eating plan that demonstrates how you can fill your day with the most nutrient-rich foods.

100 World's Healthiest Foods

The bulk of this book (over 600 pages!) is devoted to providing information on the top 100 healthiest foods. Defining the "world's healthiest foods" may seem subjective, but I was impressed with the well-thought-out evaluation system used to rank the foods. The following is the criteria a food must meet to be included amongst the ranks of The World's Healthiest Foods:

Criteria for The World's Healthiest Foods

1. The World's Healthiest Foods Are the Most Nutrient-Dense

Nutrient density, a measure of the amount of nutrients a food contains in comparison to the number of calories, was used to determine which foods have the highest nutritional value. Basically, a food is more nutrient-dense when the level of nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and essential fatty acids) is high in relationship to the number of calories the food contains.

2. The World's Healthiest Foods Are Whole Foods

Whole foods have not been highly processed nor do they contain synthetic, artificial, or irradiated ingredients.

3. The World's Healthiest Foods Are Familiar Foods

The foods are common "everyday" foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean meats, fish, olive oil, herbs, and spices that are familiar to most people.

4. The World's Healthiest Foods Are Readily Available

These are foods that the majority people can easily find at their local market.

5. The World's Healthiest Foods Are Affordable

The foods are not only familiar and available, but also affordable, especially if purchased locally and in season--the time when they are the freshest and of the best quality.

6. The World's Healthiest Foods Taste Good

Enough said!

Healthiest Way of Eating Plan

A mere 15 pages of this massive book are devoted to meal plans. Although making up only a small portion of the overall reference, I found the four-week sample eating plan gives several options for each meal, providing readers with choices and an overall idea of what a healthy eating plan looks like. Keep in mind that no meal plan should be "one-size-fits-all." Instead, use the sample plans for guidance and inspiration, but do not feel you need to stick to the portion sizes in recipes as needs vary from person to person. 

And More!

This book has more to offer than recipes and meal plans. For example, one section discusses the healthiest way of cooking for optimum nutrient retention, proposing cooking with water as an alternative to cooking with oil. There is also an entire section on nutrients, with everything you ever wanted to know about nutrients such as iron, phytoestrogens, and vitamin B6. And not to be missed is the shopping list on the last page of the book. Simply copy this list of the 100 top-ranked foods and take with you to the grocery store--healthy choices made easy!

Bottom Line

This book has so much to offer. Although it takes some time to figure out how to effectively navigate through the hundreds of information-filled pages, overall, I found The World's Healthiest Foods to be one of the most comprehensive food and nutrition books around!