Celebrity health advice has its ups and downs—here’s our take.
Having conquered the world of music, movies or TV isn’t enough for some stars—more and more seem to want to shine brightly in the world of health, too. We rounded up the latest celebrity health advice books to give you the good, the bad and the bottom line.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s second cookbook, It’s All Good, was inspired by an incredibly restrictive diet she went on under doctor’s orders—no meat, sugar, dairy, tomatoes, potatoes, soy, grains and on and on—which she says now forms the baseline of what she eats. It’s hard to imagine most folks cooking like this regularly, especially since her recipes often call for obscure or expensive ingredients like Manuka honey, but there are some valuable nutritional nuggets within.
Best: Is your quinoa always overcooked? Try this: “use a less-than-two-to-one ratio of water to quinoa, and tuck a paper towel between the pot and the lid while the quinoa is resting.”
Worst: While taking an almost militant stance on using only fresh, organic food, Gwyneth says one of her pantry staples is processed vegan mayonnaise: “we spread it on just about everything …”
“Do It Scared” is Sherri Shepherd’s inspiring motto, and she applied it to making drastic lifestyle changes after being diagnosed with diabetes in 2007. Her “Plan D” is solid, with lots of practical celebrity health tips, including a week in her life with diet and exercise suggestions. But the chapter explaining diabetes, while not inaccurate, might have been better outsourced to a medical expert.
Best: Have trouble getting tons of veggies in your diet? Steal Sherri’s trick: “I keep a big bowl of my favorite chopped green salad in my fridge [and] never let this bowl become completely empty.”
Worst: When Sherri tries to get technical, her descriptions can be awkward and confusing, like, “Think of complex carbs as anything you have to chew—other than meat, which is a protein, and taffy, which is candy for God’s sake.”
A lifelong battle with asthma and severe allergies has informed Jessica Alba’s green lifestyle, and she’s clearly done her homework, which she shares in a thorough but digestible format. Some sections of this celebrity health book read as little more than a catalog for her Honest Company’s products, but the beauty and skincare chapters are especially dishy, fun and—yes—honest about the compromises she makes for the sake of her career.
Best: Eco-friendly cosmetics can be pricey (and are still a work-in-progress), so just concentrate on eliminating the most toxic offenders in your stash. “Red is the lipstick color most likely to contain high levels of lead according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,” she says, so invest in one from safe brands Hourglass, Tarte or 100% Pure.
Worst: Jessica admits she sometimes needs something stronger than all-natural deodorant for big events, but her solution—layering the chemical-laden antiperspirant over the nontoxic deodorant to keep it from absorbing into her skin—seems illogical. Doesn’t antiperspirant need skin contact to work?
A longtime yo-yo dieter who in recent years seems to have settled in to a very consistent healthy lifestyle, Valerie Bertinelli preaches an extremely sensible approach to eating with occasional splurges in this book. Not everyone will appreciate the blatant shilling for Jenny Craig on some pages, but in truth we were hard-pressed to find any truly bad celebrity health advice here.
Best: The Italian-American satisfies herself with less pasta by serving it up fancy restaurant style: “plunge a pair of tongs into the pot of pasta, grabbing some of the strands with it, and start twirling until there’s a serving size amount…”
Worst: Overall, Valerie’s approach to indulging is very healthy, but she does confess a serious attachment to one very fatty treat: “Whenever I can make something that’s a vehicle for bacon, I will.”
TV’s “Blossom” is just one of a handful of ‘90s child stars remaking themselves as hippie-dippie parenting gurus, but Mayim Bialik is the only one with a PhD in neuroscience, which lends some credence to her advice. Still, if the hallmarks of attachment parenting—like the “family bed”—make you squirm, her extra-crunchy approach isn’t likely to change your mind.
Best: The book is more anecdotal than academic, but when she breaks out her neuroscience know-how, Mayim’s arguments can be compelling. In particular, she explains that instincts and intuition are an actual physiological function and not just “hocus-pocus”—so parents should not be afraid to trust them.
Worst: Mayim is careful not to oversell her anti-vaccination stance, saying only (and vaguely), “this is a very personal decision that should be made only after sufficient research.” But presenting it as a parenting choice with equally weighted pros and cons ignores the fact that every major medical organization in the U.S. advocates strongly for childhood vaccines—both as a matter of personal and public health.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Deliciously G-Free: Food So Flavorful They’ll Never Believe It’s Gluten-Free
While Elisabeth Hasselbeck has been clinically diagnosed with celiac disease, throughout this celebrity health book she repeatedly sings the praises of a gluten-free diet for all, vaguely citing “energy” and “great health reasons” without sourcing or elaborating. That said, this is a very thorough guide to gluten-free cooking clearly based on years of trial and error—which can’t be said about many celiac-friendly cookbooks.
Best: Since even a tiny amount of gluten can cause a reaction, it’s important to avoid contaminating g-free spaces. Her catchy rule of thumb—“Gluten goes low, g-free flies high!”—will help you remember to put the possible contaminants on lower shelves to prevent them from dripping or spilling down.
Worst: It’s hard to buy into the health benefits of a g-free diet when she touts so much junk food: “Try storing a supply of deliciously g-free cupcakes, muffins, g-free pizza dough, the double batch of chicken fingers and cookie dough [in the freezer].”
Eva Longoria, Eva’s Kitchen: Cooking With Love for Family and Friends
To be fair, Eva Longoria doesn’t sell this as a healthy cookbook—it’s primarily an ode to cooking in the Tex-Mex tradition she grew up with. But being a high-profile actress, she can’t help but offer celebrity health tips on weight-conscious eating throughout, to mixed effect.
Best: Do your salads leave something to be desired? Ditch the boring romaine for a more gourmet green. “Tender butterhead lettuce is my absolute favorite …. On the other side of the spectrum is peppery arugula.”
Worst: Eva admits her potentially calorie-laden secret for getting reluctant diners to eat veggies: “I hide nutritious vegetables under generous amounts of cheese or sauce so everyone will eat them.”
Since her successful battle with breast cancer, Sheryl Crow has proffered some good health tips (get your mammograms) and some not so good (hot bottled water causes cancer) in interviews. Fortunately, for her first cookbook she mostly leaves the advice to her chef Chuck White and dietitian Rachel Beller, popping up pretty rarely to share her own celebrity health shortcuts.
Best: Sheryl admits she wasn’t a fish lover at first, but she’s come around. Her favorite? Low-mercury trout: “It’s often easy to find locally caught or raised, and therefore super-fresh.”
Worst: Without citing any medical expert or research, Sheryl notes that she doesn’t like her kids to eat gluten because “it bogs down the immune system and contributes to chest colds.”