The Lose Your Belly Diet

If you’re suspicious of books trying to convince you to eat better, I’d invite you to direct your attention this way. Dr. Travis Stork explains how what we eats affects the microbiome that lives within us and that a healthy microbiome leads to a healthy weight and less illness. Seems simple right?Belly

Well it is. He first begins by breaking down what our microbiomes are and how they relate to our overall health. Then, he explains how different foods affect these microbiomes. He rounds out the book by showing how to put healthy eating habits into practice which will result in a healthy microbiome.

I first noticed that the tone of this book was a lot less preachy than some of the diet books I’ve read have been. He doesn’t make me feel guilty for not already eating how he suggests nor does he present his own triumphs as examples for why we should eat this way. Instead, he uses science and nutrition facts to explain the what, hows, and whys.

I also feel there’s a lot of common sense in this book. He’s not asking readers to cut out specific food groups. He’s not asking readers to eat massive amounts of a certain food group. And he’s not asking readers to do anything other than what a lot of health professionals have been saying lately.

The most valuable part of this book is his guidelines for healthy eating and the suggestions for what these guidelines look like in real life. He helps me take the theory and put it into practice. There’s also a lot of ways I can adjust these guidelines to individualize my diet. To me, this means I have a higher chance at eating healthier and maintaining healthy eating habits.

The Bulletproof Diet

I first heard of The Bulletproof Diet on a podcast. Supposedly, it works with your body’s chemistry to help you think clearer and to jump start your metabolism.  It’s key foundation is to eat more fat. What intrigued me is that it was an actor (of course) who said he followed this diet and it seemed to help him think better and look good without having to spend hours in the gym.  I’ve not heard of a lot of actors talk about how eating fat can help them, and if I can avoid hours at the gym (which I already seem pretty good at avoiding) and still look good, then I’m intrigued.Bulletproof

Sadly, after reading The Bulletproof Diet, I’m not too impressed by Dave Asprey’s outline for a healthy diet. He advocates for more healthy fats, no nuts, limited fruits, certain veggies, lots of proteins, and no carbs. On the whole, I don’t disagree with him. I believe that everything in moderation is good. However, he cuts out a lot of foods making the diet very restrictive.  There’s just no way that I can actually make this a daily habit.  It’s so restrictive that you’d have to scrap all of your recipes and basically buy his cookbook.  I just don’t see how people sustain this type of diet.  Oh wait, I guess if you’re wealthy enough I supposed you could hire someone to cook these restrictive meals for you (I’m looking at you podcast actor).

The other piece that bothered me is that he’s not a big proponent of cooking things,
i.e. raw food. Sure, somethings may be better raw and eating raw from time to time is good, but it’s expensive to buy the organic foods Asprey advocates.  And frankly, an Illinois winter is not a great time to be eating cold soups.  It’s just not going to happen.

All in all, there’s nothing too crazy about what Asprey proposes. There’s several healthy principles he incorporates into his plan, but I just didn’t find it was anything new, revealing, or sustainable.

Running to Lose

I like to run, but I’m not big on running outdoors.  Unless it’s for an official race.  Part of the reason is that I don’t like running on sidewalks, I’m afraid of dogs, and I’m more motivated if I head straight to the gym after work.

RunningI saw this book in a book store and I thought it might be a good resource to have and a nice addition to the other books I own on running and fitness.  Specifically, I thought this was going to be specific workouts to help get runners in shape.I get bored just racking up mileage.  I like runs that are structured around changing incline and speed.  It keeps my mind active and it helps the time go by.  Unfortunately this book doesn’t have any specific workout plans other than your typical long runs, tempo runs, and speed runs.

What is a good aspect of the book is the break down of how much food affects your body and your fitness goals.  Taking each food group like sugars, proteins, carbs, vegetables and fruits, the authors explain the effects of each on runners and suggest how runners can effectively use the best of each group.  I found the suggestions very achievable and easy to remember.  They’re small things like not consuming food that has more than 10g of sugar per serving. 

After building on the food groups, they then help you decided how to put all of the food groups into a healthy diet.  They recommend recording your calories and keeping track of how much and of what you consume.  I started it for one week and couldn’t believe how little some foods had and how much others did.  It definitely made me more cognizant of the foods I was eating and helped me be more strategic regarding what kinds of food I chose to eat.

Overall, this book helped change how I look at food. This is definitely a good guide that I’d keep around my house.

The Cuisines of Germany

Who doesn’t love history, culture, and food?  Having already reviewed a book about the history of American foods, I happened across this book, combining actual recipes and the history behind the dishes from each region of Germany.  Apparently this is my year of reading historical cook books.

GermanyThe Cuisines of Germany by Horst Scharfenberg is different from other books on the dishes Germany.  First off, Scharfenberg begins by giving a brief history of the influences on each region’s typical cuisine.  I’m turning into a bit of a food history nerd, so this immediately grabbed my attention.  I find it fascinating how dishes develop due to climates, geography, flora, and fauna.  A little anachronistic, but still intriguing is that the regions now no longer considered part of Germany: Silesia, Pomerania, and East Prussia are also included in the list as well as references to East and West Germany.  None of this distracts from the succinct and purposeful explanation for how each region developed a certain palate.

Scharfenberg then divides the book into sections like soups, stews, desserts, beef, poultry, game, etc.  With each recipe under each section, Scharfenberg gives a note on the history of the dish, where the recipe came from, and on what occasions the dish would’ve been served.  Sometimes the recipe is actually taken from a historical diary/cookbook from several centuries ago.  And let’s just say that I’m grateful today we have standard measurements.  Some of those old recipes clearly assume you’re an established cook.  With directions like, “a pinch of salt”, “enough flour”, and “amount of sugar to your choice”, it drives me crazy!  Luckily, Scharfenberg gives a modern recipe to accompany the antique one.

While some of the recipes are typical “meat and potatoes”, there’s actually a lot of diversity within each category.  Amongst the soup recipes, there were several fruit soups as well as bean and barley soups.  So if you’re a vegetarian or just not big on having meat in every dish, there’s still recipes for you.

If you like a good serving of history and culture with your food then I do recommend this book for you.  Guten appetit!

The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites

I love food.  And history.  So any book that can tell me the history of the food that I eat or am aware of is of interest of me.  The American Plate by Libby O’Connell is a book that does just that.  Beginning with the Native Americans and the staples they consumed through the debates over GMO’s and other ethical topics in today’s epicurean debates, O’Connell explains the relationship between food and history.  On top of that, she includes recipes for some of the principal dishes of each era.

American PlateWhat’s amazing to me is that the foods we eat today still have many of their roots in the Native Americans’ diet such as corn, squash, and beans.  Think about a lot of our holiday food or the food we prepare for special occasions, there’s usually some form of corn, squash, or bean. And being good Americans we have a lot of food dishes that are a consequence of our innovative spirit, Wonder Bread and Tang anyone?

It was surprising to me the influence the government and economics has had on our palate.  From the rationing in WWI and WII which spawned crazes in canning and meatloaf to the soups of the Great Depression, these two factors have played a factor in the next generation of food innovations.  We also have to take into consideration the influence of immigration on our culinary choices.  Many of the foods we consider part of the American diet other nations would consider “foreign food”.  Bagels, Meatballs, Chop Suey, these are all made by immigrants in the U.S.  Thanks to the proliferation of meat and the limitation of geographic-specific ingredients, many immigrants groups changed their native diets to fit what they found in America. For examples, spaghetti and meatballs and chop suey are all made by Italian and Chinese Americans but are not necessarily the same recipes you would find in Italy or China.

Who knows what the next evolution of food will be?  We still see fad diets telling us what to eat and not eat and Veganism and Gluten-free diets seem to be determining what super markets advertise, but history teaches us that these fads won’t last long.  I don’t know about you but I’m excited to see what we will be adding next to our American plate.