Idiot’s vs Dummies Guide to Nutrition (review)

I was recently asked me to do a side by side book comparison of the Idiot’s series verses the Dummies Series on a title of my choosing.  I decided to read about nutrition because it is a very popular and important subject that I felt my readers would like hearing about.

The nice folks at Alpha Books are also offering a code for my readers for 50% off any one order of regularly priced Idiot’s Guide Books of their choosing at

Now for the challenge:  Idiot’s Guide vs Dummies

First I would like to say that these were both very good books and each of them serves their purpose very well.  In my opinion, the difference between the two books lies more in layout and reading preference than it does the actual subject matter.  Both books did a good job in helping me understand a very complicated subject.  With that in mind I will attempt to outline the differences between the two books.

Both books were written by accomplished authors, both books gave comprehensive overviews of the basics of nutrition – what it consists of and how it all works together.  The Idiot’s Guide spent a little more time on the nutritional needs for specific situations where the Dummies book gave a more detailed description of fundamental nutrition terminology.  However, there was one exception where extra information was not necessarily better:  The Dummies book gave a very thorough description of proteins and Amino Acids.  I understood the importance of it, but it wasn’t until I read this same subject in the Idiot’s book that I truly grasped how it all worked.  For example: the Dummies guide explained the importance amino acids as the building blocks of protein as well as the importance of protein in our diet, but I really did not understand HOW an amino acid from a digested protein was converted into more protein in the body.  The Idiot’s book actually gave me a mental picture of the body “acting as a recycle bin” for amino acids and then distributing these molecules into various areas to build more proteins.  Suddenly I finally understood it!  So, in this case more definition (Dummies) was not necessarily better.

I interpret the Idiot’s Guide to be  guide to overall health with an emphasis and explanation of nutrition and how it applies to specific health needs and lifestyle. The Dummies book feels more like a reference guide to nutritional terms and descriptive process.  Both of them are helpful.  The idiot’s Guide uses one section to outline some nutritional terms that the Dummies book explains in three.  The Dummies book does not talk much about specific lifestyle needs and the Idiot’s Guide does.  For example:  The Idiot’s Guide contains several pages of information for vegetarians, an entire chapter for body builders and yet another section for parents with children.  The Idiot’s Guide also contains a number of recipes, where the Dummies book does not.

Both books contained nearly identical information about how to read a food label, calculating ideal body weight and body mass index.  Both books had similar information and advice regarding nutritional supplements and food allergies.

Both books were also broken up into six sections as described below:

The Idiot’s Guide to Total Nutrition, 4th edition

1.  Time for a Nutrition Tune-Up.  The fundamentals of food, including a detailed description of carbohydrates protein, fat, fiber, sodium, vitamins and minerals.  It also breaks down dietary guidelines and explains how best to incorporate all of the food groups into your life.

2.  Making Savvy Food Choices.  This section helps you to make more informed food choices at the grocery store by explaining how to read food labels, including Daily Percent Values.  It talks about the difference between organic, free range and genetically engineered foods.  Lastly it provides a number of different recipes designed for their nutritional value.

3.  The ABCs of Exercise.  Basic information about exercise and the effects it has on the body, weight and over-all health.  This section also contains a brief overview of gym equipment and a guide to sports nutrition.

4.  Beyond Basics:  Nutrition for Special Needs.  A basic guide of the nutritional needs and possible nutritional deficiencies as applied to specific diseases and conditions, including food allergies and intolerances.  It also covers a number of herbal remedies.

5.  Pregnancy and Parenting.  Special Nutritional needs and information for the pregnant mother, babies and children.  It also provides tips on how to incorporate healthy foods into your child’s diet.

6.  Weight Management 101.  This section provides nutritional information for healthy weight control, including diet supplements, diet types and eating disorders.

Nutrition for Dummies, 4th edition

1.  Basic Facts About Nutrition:  An overview of the human body, the digestive process, calories and supplements and how they are regulated.

2.  What You Get From Food:  A detailed description of protein, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol, including how it all fits together.   It also goes into detail about what vitamins and minerals the body needs and why.

3.  Healthy Eating:  Describes how the taste buds work and why we like certain foods, including cultural differences in food choice.  This section also outlines how to make smart food choices when shopping and eating out.

4.  Food Processing.  The effect various cooking methods have on the nutritional content of foods, including specific types of food processing – freezing, canning, etc.

5.  Food and Medicine:  Describes food allergies and food/drug interactions,  the effect of various foods on a person’s mood and how to use food as to prevent different diseases.

6.   The Part of Tens.  This section provides Nutritional Web Site information, describes ten of the most powerful nutritional foods and ten ways to easily cut calories from food.

So in summary I don’t think I could really recommend one book over the other.  Honestly, they are both helpful for different things.  My recommendation would be to use them both.

NEXT WEEK:  My review of Idiot’s Guide to Facebook vs Facebook for Dummies – how do they compare?


Posted by: on June 12, 2011 under Product Reviews & Giveaways


  1. Sounds like the Idiots guide is what I would like.

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