Power Foods For The Brain by Dr. Neal D. Barnard

by Don
(Toronto, Canada)

Don's question...

I'm hoping you can do a brief book review for me. I just started reading Power Foods For The Brain: An Effective 3-step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory (2013) a few days ago.

The author recommends vitamin supplements more than mineral supplements. The author warns readers there is no need to take in extra minerals, such as copper and a few other potentially toxic minerals commonly found in multivitamin and mineral supplements. The author recommends that people should buy vitamin supplements and mineral supplements separately, using only the minerals necessary to maintain optimal health. The author says nonheme iron supplements correct deficiencies faster, and human bodies are better at preventing a toxic build up of iron for people who use nonheme rather than heme iron supplements.

What concerns me is soil depletion. It seems nowadays more people are speaking out about the nutritional deficiencies that are widespread due to soil depletion. Magnesium and boron are widely touted. If you get a chance, let me know what you think of about this book.

Suzy's answer...

Hi, Don,

Thank you for your book recommendation. We are always interested in what visitors to our website are reading about nutrition and your input is appreciated.

I am familiar with Dr. Barnard’s work, and he provides some good information, especially for those wishing to pursue a vegan lifestyle. However, I don’t go along with everything he says, particularly his position on eggs in the diet and his low fat approach to healthy eating.

The more we know…

There is so much we still do not know about the complexity that is human physiology and we can’t even agree on what we think we know about human nutrition! The latest research about saturated fats has made us think that we may have been wrong in the last thirty or so years to promote a low-fat diet for good health, but not everyone agrees with that finding.

May years ago, Dr. Linus Pauling maintained that sugar is the real culprit in many diseases and I tend to agree with him. Of course, eating too much fat and even the wrong fats (trans-fat, for example), is not conducive to good health, but severely restricting even the healthy fats may not be advantageous either.

Soil depletion

You mentioned the concern about the depletion of minerals in our soils causing a corresponding low quantity of nutrient minerals in the foods we eat. I have read the literature on both sides of this issue, and nutritionists seem to agree that the general population is deficient in some minerals, particularly iron. However, most attribute this more to the poor quality of foods consumed in the form of junk foods and fast food, than to severe depletion of soils. It would stand to reason that plants need a certain basic level of nutrients to grow into the foodstuff they ultimately become.

I can't really address the issue of "heme" versus "non-heme" iron supplements. Mainstream nutritionists tend to say that heme iron is more accessible to the body than non-heme, which may be why it doesn't build up to toxic levels as easily, but it may also not be as effective if a true iron-deficiency exists.


The issue of supplements is dicey due to the wide range of products available, the lack of regulation as to what is in the products, the controversy on how much is enough and how much is too much as well as the differences in how each person responds to them. Since vitamins are more easily destroyed by handling (light and heat, specifically), and minerals are not, there could be an argument for vitamin supplements over mineral supplements. Entire books have been written about the advantages of each approach.

I still think that it is best to get most of your nutrients from real food but many health practitioners recommend supplementation. This is something you will have to decide for yourself, possibly with the help of testing to check for deficiency if it is available.

A formula for success

The goal of our website is to help the average person sort through all the information out there and to come up with the best eating plan they can. We believe that eating a diet of whole foods, with emphasis on vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats, while limiting or avoiding highly processed foods, added sugar and empty calories is the best advice we can give with the information we have.

Having said that, the standard diet in the U.S. and Canada is appallingly high in sugar, low in nutrition and loaded with processed chemically-laden foods, so Dr. Barnard’s approach would be monumentally better than that, whether we agree with some of the details or not.

I hope this answers your question, and thank you for visiting our website.

Warmest regards,


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