Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: The Wheat Belly Cookbook

Book Title: The Wheat Belly Cookbook

Author: William Davis, M.D.

Author's blog:

Date: 2013

Publisher: Rodale

ISBN: 978-160961-936-7

Length: 322 pages

Illustrations: some photos

Quote: "No food manufacturer or author of a gluten-free cookbook I know of yet understands the principles of healthy wheat-free, gluten-free eating sufficiently to craft truly healthy gluten-free food."

All healthy-diet doctors agree: most of us, especially if we want to lose weight, need to consume fewer simple carbohydrates, empty calories, and prepackaged food. Natural food is better suited to our, well, nature. But there's considerable disagreement about the details. Should we try to avoid even natural whole grains, or avoid concentrated fats and proteins?

Most "gluten-free" cookbook writers assume that what we want is recipes for bread-y and cake-y things that don't use wheat gluten. Unfortunately, in trying to get as close to the taste and texture of wheat products as possible, they're likely to rely on combinations of grain products that some gluten-free people can't use either.

The good news (for some readers) is that Davis favors the low-carb approach and relies on combinations of nut, seed, and bean "flours." That's also the bad news (for other readers). When we read through the 150 recipes, I found half a dozen I could safely try; Grandma Bonnie Peters said there wasn't even one recipe she could use as it appears in the book. Most gluten-intolerant people have other food allergies and sensitivities, and have to watch recipes and lists of ingredients for other things as well as wheat. I can't keep cheese down. I don't digest coconut any better than I do wheat. If you avoid cheese and coconut, don't buy The Wheat Belly Cookbook. If greasy foods work for you like over-the-counter laxatives, only more efficiently, your use of The Wheat Belly Cookbook may be severely limited.

Then there's the stevia issue. Stevia is an herbal extract in which the natural sugar is so incredibly concentrated that a few drops sweeten a full-size dish. Stevia is native to South America, where the indigenous women used it as a birth control drug. Personally, I don't even want to handle stevia.

But you probably should read the long introductory section (pages 2-94). Not all gluten-intolerant people use a great deal of corn (maize) or rice, and most who do aren't noticing harmful effects. Davis explains why, in a few years, we probably will--if the craze for splicing genes is not checked--because corn and rice are being genetically modified in ways that make them more chemically similar to wheat than they already are, and they're already close enough to upset some gluten-sensitive people. You may want to limit your corn and rice consumption, buy only organically grown corn and rice, or preserve genetically natural breeds of these crops in your garden, after reading this book.

Who will like and use this book? People who can digest cheese, coconut, and tree nuts. For them, the 150 recipes in The Wheat Belly Cookbook meet several important criteria: most are simple, many appeal to children, they're flavor-rich, they resemble popular "treat" and "comfort" foods, and they don't cost as much as the recipes in The Gluten-Free Gourmet.

If you want to go gluten-free and low-carb just to find out how much better you can look in a swimsuit, you don't absolutely have to have a cookbook. You could just eat only raw or steamed fruits and vegetables for a few weeks. You'll feel full (plenty of fibre), your sweet tooth will be satisfied (grapes, berries, cherries), you can satisfy any oral cravings you feel (with celery), and far from developing nutrient deficiencies, you'll probably be meeting some pre-existing nutrient deficiencies. And here I stand to testify that (after the first three days or so) you'll feel annoyingly perky, with a natural urge to exercise before breakfast, and the weight you lose will come off the right places.

When you've reached your target weight, will The Wheat Belly Cookbook be part of your maintenance eating plan? Try it and see. For some people these recipes will help maintain that fit and fabulous condition. If you're not one of those people, you'll probably know it right away. Intolerance of cheese (casein), tropical oils, milk (lactose), sugar/alcohol, onions, nuts, soy, ginger, citrus fruits, eggs, and other foods, are separate issues from gluten intolerance. If you already know you have one or more of these other food tolerance conditions, you'll want to preview this book carefully to find out whether it's worth taking home.

But is worth visiting...a lot of people apparently share Davis's food tolerance pattern, and they contribute to an interesting web page.