I have a number of college textbooks on my shelf that I use as references: basic biology, physics, chemistry. I don’t consult them often, but when I do they’re very helpful, usually putting things in a clearer context than more fundamental references might.
I’ve just added another to the shelf, and I’ll probably be consulting it more than all the others combined.
Frustrated with the existing nutrition textbooks, WSU nutrition scientists Michelle (Shelley) McGuire and Kathy Beerman decided to write their own.
“We had used the other three big books on the market,” says McGuire. “They seemed too preachy and didn’t seem based on science.” Most of the texts was not even written by nutrition professions, she says. “It was kind of shocking.”
So McGuire and Beerman approached the publisher who publishes the top-selling text, which at the time was in its 36th year and 12th edition.
“We said we think we can write a better book,” says McGuire. “And they took us on.”
Little did they know what they were getting into.
They started writing that better nutrition text in 2004 and have been working on it ever since. The result, Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food (Thomson Wadsworth), was recently released in its second edition.
Writing the book was “an amazing experience,” says Beerman. “I went into it feeling we could bring a lot to it because of our experience teaching. What I got out of it is I’m now a much better teacher.
“It was like studying for prelims again,” she says. “It forced me to go back and re-learn everything.”
Indeed, the book is exhaustive in its information. It is also beautifully, and purposefully, illustrated. And a good read.
I admit that I have not read it straight through. And probably never will. But I have read the sections on carbohydrates, the pH scale, and other subjects—and filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge. I will go back to it often.
The book covers “nutrition” from every angle, including, for example, a brief but excellent explanation of how photosynthesis captures energy from sunlight and transfers it to chemical bonds of glucose.
So how does one carve out the time to produce such an information-dense and exhaustive work? Not only do the authors have heavy teaching loads, they both have research programs. Beerman specializes in dietary practices of college students and the effects of isoflavones on health parameters—immune response, thyroid function, memory, and metabolic profile—in postmenopausal women. McGuire’s research involves breastfeeding and linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid, which is of course covered thoroughly in Nutritional Sciences.
“We had this full-time job all day,” says Beerman, “and then would go home to another full-time job evenings and weekends.”