Kale and Coffee by Kevin Gianni

Kale and Coffee is a very engaging personal memoir and diet book detailing the author’s journey into healthier living. From vegan diets to 7 day water fasts, climbing the Andes to discover indigenous diets to studying nearly every health/diet/fitness finding in the past 10 years, Gianni is a bulldog with a very big bone to grind. He shares his mistakes and gives thoughts/recommendations based upon his experiences.

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The book breaks down as follows: the first half of the book explores the meatier topics of diets, exercise, and raw/whole foods. The second part of the book tackles smaller subjects such as alcohol, stress coffee, gluten, and positive energy/thought processes. With each chapter, he starts with a personal story and then segues into the research he’s found about the topic and his conclusions.

Kale and Coffee is, at heart, a book on health. But the author’s winning personality and willingness to come forward about his mistakes make for an enjoyable read. Readers may be learning about all kinds of important health/living topics during the course of the book but they won’t realize it since the hard science topics are bookended by amusing bon mots. I enjoyed his exuberance – he’s gone out and done the things that we probably wish we could in order to discover the truths hidden beneath the food industry/health industry/holistic industry rhetoric. There is good out there but a whole lot of bad as well.

Probably the most important message of the book is that each person is unique and so finding a one-size-fits-all diet that works for you, personally, will be a lot like pinning the tail on the donkey while blindfolded. Genetics alone will ensure that no diet other than avoiding packaged foods will be universally effective for longevity or weight loss. Certainly, the author tried many diets to see the effects on his system and some were fairly damaging (vegan, probiotic, paleo, etc.).

Where the author lost me, and why this is a 4 star book despite the brutal honesty of the writing and engaging humor, is in the money, ironically. He is very curious and has his food tested (sent to a lab) frequently for metals/poisons, his brain scanned and then analyzed by a professional, blood work done every month, 1 week medically supervised water fasting, and more. Combined with the trips around the world to remote places and off hand comments about his personal assistants mailing things for him, and I soon recognized that this everyman really isn’t one. This fitness quest was a very personal thing for him and I just can’t see many people being able to afford any of those options – even blood testing to try different diets and determine how they work on a person is an expensive and daunting procedure. Celebrities have the connections and money to do those things – a 48 year old housewife with 4 kids in Muncie, Indiana, probably less so.

Admittedly, I also can’t help but remember we’re talking about a youngish fit male obsessed with health. Issues that face that 48 year old housewife such as emotional eating really isn’t covered (other than under a blanket stress topic). As well, we don’t get much in the way of more of the author’s history; e.g., past drug use is mentioned briefly but never explained. I would have liked the book much better if we had more of an introduction to his personal story and why he is so obsessed with food/health.

Where Kale and Coffee really shines is that there are so few books that really break down what is wrong with American food today, why diets do and don’t work, and why studies are so conflicting. To keep the book brief, Gianni smartly doesn’t go into detail about things like sugar dependency (as Hymen does in his book), or detailed sugar detox plans (as JJ Virgin does in her book). But he does quote them/reference them so there are places to read more. He’s really thought about the topic a lot – perhaps obsessively – and it makes for some startling conclusions when everything is put together.

At the end of the book, a simple diet plan is given for removing sugar, processed food, and feeling better. It’s based on Gianni’s own diet plan and what he’s learned over the years in his obsessive quest for health. The plan has two options – easy and renegade. It’s meant to get the bad stuff out of your system.

In all, this was an enjoyable read and although the author doesn’t take risks or make a stand, he does suss out the various claims, hidden issues, and problems facing anyone wanting to be healthier and live longer in the modern age. I just wish I had his contacts for all the testing and personal medical attention. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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