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Dr. Monali Y. Desai, Cardiologist & Founder of If We Were Family, Learned Finance & Investing by Reading Books

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What books should you read if you’re interested in nutrition? What are some basic principles and common myths related to healthy eating? That’s what we wanted to find out from our book-talk with Dr. Monali Y. Desai, a quadruple board certified cardiologist.

Through the platform she founded, If We Were Family, Dr. Monali helps people learn how they can lose weight and prevent heart disease with science backed information. Her articles are tailored especially for busy professional women, who want to easily learn how to lose weight by making realistic changes, while still enjoying eating, traveling, and going out with friends and family.

We interviewed Dr. Monali and talked about her favorite books and reading habits, how she learned about personal finance and investments from books, where she gets nutrition information from, and more interesting insights related to nutrition.

Estimated reading time for this interview is 6 minutes. If you'd rather listen to it, you can do it on iTunes, Google Play or Stitcher.

What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.

Currently, my favorite business book is The Charisma Myth (Olivia Fox Cabane) because I feel it has so many small but impactful takeaways about improving how you communicate with others, I try to reread it once a year.

My favorite non-business book is The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor) because it reminds me of the importance of surrounding myself with positive people.

Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?

Many years ago I was trying to figure out how to invest my Roth IRA (retirement account). I went to Barnes & Noble and happened to read Rich Dad, Poor Dad (Robert T. Kiyosaki) and my major takeaway was that I needed to start reading 1 hour a week about personal finance and investing. After I started medical school, I had stopped reading about everything outside of medicine. But after I read that book I read a lot of books about personal finance and investing and learned how to manage my own finances and investments.

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What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad as I mentioned above. Also, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey) and How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie) had a big impact on how I interact with other people at work and in my personal life.

What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)

I get most of my information about nutrition from medical studies. I haven’t read any books about nutrition that I agree with 100%. These are a few nutrition related books that I’ve read recently that I thought were interesting: Eat to Live (Joel Fuhrman), Why We Get Fat (Gary Taubes), and The 4-Hour Body (Tim Ferriss).

I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?

I usually read for 10-30 minutes most days; I read one book every 1-2 weeks. I prefer audiobooks; I like to change the speed depending on the complexity of what I’m listening to. I don’t take notes, but I keep a spreadsheet with one takeaway I want to implement from each book I listen to and if I think I should listen to it again in the future.

As a doctor, you have an extremely tight schedule. How do you make time for reading?

I put it on my calendar to read for 30 minutes before I go to sleep, I don’t always have 30 minutes so even if I have 10 minutes I’ll do that. I travel a fair amount, so I listen to books when I’m on the plane or subway too. I also always have a few audiobooks downloaded on my phone, so that I can listen to something any time I unexpectedly have some free time.

What book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?

I’m currently listening to Shoe Dog (Phil Knight) and I Can’t Make This Up (Kevin Hart). I started listening to Shoe Dog because several friends recommended it to me. So far I’ve gotten out of it that starting Nike was much more complicated than I thought it was.

I’m listening to I Can’t Make This Up because I think Kevin Hart is a really funny comedian.

There’s an abundance of contradictory advice related to nutrition – and health overall, even from seemingly trustworthy sources. What are three basic principles for healthy eating habits that anyone should follow? (assuming that they don’t have any medical condition)

  • Start with one small change to eat healthier that you can maintain instead of making drastic changes that you’ll find difficult to maintain long-term.
  • Try cutting back on eating sugar earlier in the day, you’ll crave it less later in the day.
  • Try switching high glycemic index foods to low glycemic index foods, for example switching from white bread to wheat bread, this will help keep your blood sugar levels more stable.

What common myths related to healthy eating do you encounter on a day-to-day basis?

  • That eating healthy is all or nothing. There is a whole spectrum from eating chocolate cake every day to being vegan (probably the healthiest diet for your heart). Even if you do one more thing to eat healthier today than you did yesterday you’ll be helping yourself long term.
  • Another more recent trend that I’ve seen is that people seem to think that every meal they eat should be fun or provide some type of emotional support. You should try thinking of the purpose of food 80% of the time as being for fuel, nutrition, and energy and 20% of the time being for enjoyment or emotional support.

Links where you can follow Dr. Monali Y. Desai or find out more about her projects:

All books mentioned by Dr. Monali Y. Desai in this interview:

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