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Book review: The Complete Gut Health Cookbook – Pete Evans

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guthealthcookbook
RRP: $44.95 (paperback)

Most of us know his face as the co-host of popular cooking game show My Kitchen Rules, but did you know that Australian chef Pete Evans is dedicated to improving peoples’ lives through education about nutritional food and wellness?

With an increasing amount of research pointing to gut health as a leading factor in overall wellbeing, the way we eat has never been more important. With this book, Evans aims to prove this doesn’t have to be difficult; injecting some super-charged broths, tasty ferments and medicinal spices into your diet is a simple way to put you and your family on the path to optimum gut health.

He teams up with naturopath and nutritionist Helen Padarin to outline everything you need to know about gut health.

What’s inside it?

More than 100 recipes for gut health, a four-week meal plan, and a lot of educational info to ensure you understand the reasoning behind incorporating these recipes into your diet.

This book goes relatively in-depth into the biology behind it all from a naturopathic perspective, as well as naming specific health conditions that may be alleviated by practices aimed at promoting healthy gut function. These include anxiety, autism, depression, ADHD, asthma, PCOS, IBS, hayfever and diabetes.

There’s a note at the beginning of the book acknowledging that the science of gut health is still relatively new and they make an effort to provide the latest relevant references that they can. Interestingly, a number of ancient holistic medical systems including Ayurveda have touted the benefits of gut health for thousands of years, often referring to the digestive system as the key to our health and immunity; Western society is only just starting to play catchup. I have studied Ayurveda a little as part of my yoga course, and many of the concepts in this book can be related to the practices I learned.

While I generally don’t advocate diets as such, much of what is recommended here are fairly standard holistic health practices; essentially eat plenty of fresh fruit and veges (that your body doesn’t react to negatively), add spices for flavour and special health qualities, use real ingredients, fermented foods for probiotics (good bacteria), and soups/broths for concentrated nutrients.

The downside of strictly following meal plans such as the one recommended, however, is that it would require not just a compete overhaul of most peoples’ diets but also a full pantry/fridge revamp. I consider my kitchen to be pretty well stocked and there are very few recipes in this book that I have all the ingredients already available.

The recipes are healthy but may be an acquired taste as there are a lot of broths, soups and fermented foods. This means there is a lot of prep work required, so you are unlikely to stick to this 100% unless you are serious about it. That said, even if you don’t choose to follow the advice religiously there are many simple things that can be scattered throughout your normal daily routine (such as gentle detoxification methods, breathing exercises and ingredients to add into your food).

Of course I also have to mention there are plenty of delicious recipes here that can be used as standalone meals even if you don’t want to follow the gut health plan. Favourites include Helen’s Lavender Panna Cotta, Lemongrass and Turmeric Pork Cakes with Thai Herb Salad, and Cauliflower Fried Rice with Sausage. The more interesting ones that give you an idea of the kind of alternative recipes you may end up trying include Coconut and Turmeric Kefir with Ginger and Cayenne, Pig’s Head Pate, and Stewed Apple with Licorice Root and Flaxseed Meal.

Many of the recipes require you to already have made the fermented products or broths to incorporate them into the meals (recipes are also provided for these), or include ingredients you will need to seek from a healthfood store or specialty shop.

Read it if…

You have a special interest in holistically healing your body from the inside out, and are prepared to put some serious time, energy and effort into your cooking in order to achieve it.

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Ange is a personal trainer, yoga teacher, wife, and mother (with second bubba on the way!) based in Auckland, New Zealand.

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