Gutgastronomy

Revolutionize your Eating to Create Great Health
by Vicky Edgson & Adam Palmer
Published by Jacqui Small @ £30.00

My initial reaction was that £30.00 is a lot to pay for a self-help book on eating disorders but that is because I was in no way prepared for a volume as sumptuous as this one. Further, when I realised that as well as beautifully presented recipes, it contains a three-week eating Plan based on a regime devised by Elaine Williams and Stephanie Moore for use at Grayshott Manor & Spa, which, if you follow it on site costs almost £1500 for one week, I could see it might well represent good value for someone in digestive distress.

Fortunately at the moment I am not that person but at once stage in my life I would have tried almost anything to improve my malfunctioning digestion, so on the understanding that there may well be people out there who can afford the £30 rather than the £1500 and would like to give it a go, I offer this brief resume of what it involves. I would add that for reasons which follow, if followed faithfully, is it guaranteed to reduce weight.

The emphasis is on the fact that your digestive system has more impact on your overall well-being than almost any other factor. It is also claimed that most disease begins in the gut and to improve a wonky digestion the system should be cleaned and healed. Good nutrition and healthy gut bacteria are key.

Throughout the book everything is clearly explained with sections on how the digestive system works, antioxidants, the food groups and their value, fermented foods and much more.

There is no denying that the Plan is tough; no grains (so no bread), no coffee, no tea, no dairy or soy milk, no alcohol, no fruit juices, no sugar, no cheese other than cottage cheese, no potatoes, no corn, no sweet potato, no parsnips, no celeriac – and these are but some of the foods at first prohibited while on the Plan.

It is also suggested intermittent fasting – taking just a bowl of broth at night and nothing until lunch time next day – will rest the gut and lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Main meals should start with a little organic cider vinegar or couple of teaspoonfuls of fermented vegetable such as sauerkraut as these are packed with healthy pro and prebiotics and will kick start your digestive juices. Salad vegetables should be blanched to deconstruct the cellulose structure and make it easier for the gut to take up the nutrients and all nuts and seeds and pulses should be soaked for 24 hours prior to cooking to eliminate enzyme probiotics inhibitors which can weaken the digestive function.

Protein is essential at each meal and it is suggested that animal protein from good organic grass fed meat is preferable to vegetable protein which is harder for the gut to break down. Further that a certain amount of animal fat is beneficial and that visible fat should always be left on meat and poultry.

I was surprised to learn that no less than 60% of our brain is comprised of fat and that amongst the benefits of consuming it are enhanced mood and better concentration. It is common knowledge that organic produce is better for you as it contains fewer additives but this book offers many less well known but fascinating food facts. Green vegetables, for example are the most nutrient- dense; fruit is best eaten on an empty stomach; canned fish should only be eaten from lined tins and only if preserved in brine, and fish preserved in tomato sauce should be avoided as the acidity of the tomatoes can carry aluminium into the fish; tuna however, should never be eaten as it can contains mercury; chia is hailed as a wonder food and coconut heralded as the best vegetarian fat of all.

The initial restrictions do seem rather harsh but there is some relaxation as the Plan progresses over the three weeks and of course it does leave enough permitted alternatives to make good, healthy and delicious meals. The bulk of the book in fact contains over a hundred recipes all extremely well displayed and looking very tempting ( one imagines that this is how they are presented to the Spa clients, as clients paying the amount they do probably want something more elaborate that a blanched lettuce leaf and a handful of nuts.)

Most of the recipes in fact feature dishes which would grace any dinner party table. They are divided into Plan and Post-Plan recipes and range from breakfast dishes like summer fruit cooked en papillote, soups such as shitake bean & fennel soup, everyday meals such as beef carpacicio with pepper chilli, ginger and sesame dressing, vegetable side dishes such as pak choi with lentils and lime, blanched salads and salad dressings and special occasion meals such as halibut with grey chanterelles, parsley root and blood orange.

There are a good number we shall add to our repertoire but initially we chose to cook almond and coconut pancakes with roasted spiced plums. We are particularly keen on the taste of almonds and coconut and as these pancakes can be made and frozen and contain no gluten, they would make a handy a tea time treat – or as is suggested, something to take to work when following the Plan. The recipe was easy to follow and the results good. The only surprise was that in the picture the pancakes didn’t look much bigger than plums and yet it was it claimed that the considerable amount of mixture would make 4 pancakes – of course it made many more, a good bakers dozen, so it just as well they could be put in the freezer.

This is a very attractive book filled with information which could be a crucial to sufferers from digestive problems but which also offers plenty of interest and some excellent recipes for more general readers.

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