Published on August 10th, 2021 | by James Wright
So You Think You Know What’s Good For You Review
We all want to be healthier, but do you know what’s good for you?
Dr Norman Swan is a physician and medical journalist (7.30, Four Corners, The Project) who provides down to Earth information on a variety of topics, particularly from a health perspective. He is also the co-host of Coronacast with Tegan Taylor and has become one of Australia’s go-to people on all things COVID-19 thanks to his knowledge and charisma… not to mention no BS talk. So when he talks people listen and his new book is no exception to the rule as it was quite a challenge to put it down due to the wealth of relatable facts included in his latest title, So You Think You Know What’s Good For You.
Additionally, this book is not about COVID (although it is in there) but rather a collection of different subjects that he has heard throughout his career from millennials to baby boomers and all the generations between that is answered in classic Norman swan fashion. It’s basically your health and lifestyle guidebook to 21st century living as he delivers the facts and shatters the misinformation that sometimes surrounds these topics. In terms of topics, there’s a wide gamut of interesting subjects from fitness (even Pilates), diet, sex or how much sleep do we really need. Is too much coffee bad for you and what about screen time?
Expresso: Again, a declaration. I’m a hopeless coffee addict but I have tried to be dispassionate about the evidence. Coffee is actually pretty good for you. People who drink up to five cups a day, and – importantly – don’t smoke, have a reduced chance of dying prematurely and a lower incidence of heart disease, kidney stones, Parkinson’s, diabetes, perhaps some cacners, and mental health issues like depression. (Page 95)
Further, Dr Swan presents the information in a very easy to read fashion, including snippets so you can quickly get his overview if you’re time poor or need a reminder and not only does the text flow very well but So You Think You Know What’s Good For You is very well presented, including finding that particularly topic you want to learn more on.
Are we wrecking ourselves by using screens?
… A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that undergraduates who limited their social media use to ten minutes on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (half an hour all up) showed reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group who were allowed to use their social media as usual. (Page 274)
Another interesting element of the delivery of this book is that Swan discloses into his own past that makes the content even more relatable opposed to the sometimes authoritarian books by other medical specialists. One part of book has Swan disclosing about his daughter’s horrible bike accident in Italy and how this trauma personally affected him. Additional he informs the reader that as a teenager, he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when a bus that he was on unexpectedly exploded which hammers the fact that like you and I, Norman Swan is only human. Given that, the section on PTSD and mental health in the book is quite fascinating and quite relevant in today’s day and age, particularly with the COVID-19 lockdowns.
He also goes into considerable detail about food and diets, including why red vegetables are so important or that our kidney’s relate to our actual biological age opposed to our chronical age. What about that ‘important’ work-life balance? Swan commences this section with #morebullshit and discusses how being in work reduces health related issues and he highlights that the work-life balance is never taken into consideration for unpaid work. Dr Swan ends the book on a reflection and how the pandemic has increased the understanding of many people and while we may know more on a molecular level, never lose sight about the importance of those healthy people and structures that support us day to day.
So You Think You Know What’s Good For You is a must read for all Australians that I simply cannot fault and also a book that I could not put down. Not only is it well written and presented but Dr Swan has an aurora of charm around him that is also infused into this book as you read about all sorts of topics and more importantly, become more informed.
About the Author
Trained in paediatrics, Dr Swan was one of the first medically qualified journalists in Australia, with a broadcast career spanning more than 30 years. He currently hosts Radio National’s The Health Report and co-hosts Coronacast. He also reports on 7.30 and is a guest reporter on Four Corners; appears on The Drum and is an occasional host of Radio National Breakfast. In addition to being an active journalist and health broadcaster, Dr Swan has a deep strategic knowledge of the Australian healthcare system and is committed to evidence-based approaches to help young people, which is why he sits on the board of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. He was also the co-founder of Tonic Media Network, a health channel that plays in GPs’ waiting rooms.