Weekend Cooking: Small Bites

For this week’s contribution to Weekend Cooking, I thought I would offer you what I’m calling “small bites” – a few fun-sized book reviews that are shorter than regular posts but ones that you might enjoy sampling nonetheless.

Grain BrainGrain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent KIllers
by David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg 
Little, Brown, 336 pages, 2013

As a child, I remember my dad having frequent headaches (they run on that side of the family). When I got my first headache in first grade, I knew that I inherited this trait.  One of the reasons I decided to go gluten-free two years ago was to see if dietary changes would help with my migraines – and they absolutely have. They’re not completely gone (I doubt they ever will be) but they’re much better than they ever have been…so much so that I was able to discontinue the daily migraine prevention medication I took for several years.

Neurologist David Perlmutter’s belief is that we have the power to change our genetic destiny. Inflammation – particularly in the brain –  is a major culprit for many chronic diseases and he offers a 4 week plan for potentially reversing the course of Alzheimers and other conditions by addressing our consumption of wheat, carbs, and sugar.

“How often do we hear people say things like, ‘I’ll probably get [insert disease here] because it runs in my family.’ No doubt our genetic heritage does play a role in determining our risk for various health conditions. But what leading-edge medical research now understands is that we have the power to change our genetic destiny….We now know that the food we get or avoid, the quality of our sleep, and even the relationships we choose actually choreograph to a significant degree which of our genes are active and which remain suppressed. Here’s what is most compelling: We can change the expression of more than 70 percent of the genes that have a direct bearing on our health and longevity.” (pg. 126-127)

Salt Sugar FatSalt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss
Random House, 446 pages, 2013

It’s fitting that the cover of Salt, Sugar, Fat looks like a ransom note because in a sense, the food giants that Michael Moss calls out by name in his Pulitzer Prize winning look at the industry are holding the health of millions of Americans hostage with obesity, high blood pressure, skyrocketing cholesterol counts, diabetes, and much more.

What makes Salt, Sugar, Fat especially eye-opening is how deliberate and strategic these efforts have been on the part of nearly everyone involved in getting food on our plate. This is a very well-researched book, with countless examples of how the food manufacturers, chemists, and marketers have exchanged one crappy ingredient for another (reducing fat but increasing the sugar, for example) and how government incentives (who remembers free government cheese?) exacerbate what is an epidemic and major health concern.

Pandoras LunchboxPandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
by Melanie Warner
Scribner, 267 pages, 2013 

Pandora’s Lunchbox is similar to Salt, Sugar, Fat, but with a little more of a “just-a-regular-mom-like-you” kind of tone. Inspired by Ms. Warner’s quest to discover how long a slice of processed cheese really does last and other similar experiments. Like Michael Moss’ book, Pandora’s Lunchbox also is incredibly well-written and well-researched (Ms. Warner has a background as a reporter writing about the food industry) while shedding a light on the marketing of processed food and the chemicals in some of the most common things we (and our kids) are eating.

Animal Vegetable MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Perennial, 2008 (audio)

My first reaction was that this didn’t seem any different from other books and blogs promoting eating locally-grown, in-season food  – and then I remembered that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was published in 2008, before concepts like farm-to-table and eating what’s currently available were household words.  Seven years later, it’s still relevant and worth reading because there are still people who don’t understand this – although, chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably do.

The Kingsolver family decided to eat locally for a year, either by growing their own food or purchasing very locally, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles their efforts by the seasons. While this tends to get a little preachy and repetitive at times (you kind of feel bad if establishing a vegetable garden that’s the equivalent of a small farm operation isn’t for you) but it’s well-written and includes brief sections by Ms. Kingsolver’s husband and daughter.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

6 thoughts on “Weekend Cooking: Small Bites

  1. Laurie C

    I didn’t get a Weekend Cooking post up again this this week, but at least I can still read everyone else’s! I’ve been avoiding reading Salt, Sugar, Fat (and all Michael Pollan books so far, actually) because I have a moderately good diet that I already know isn’t the best. I already avoid most processed food and cook mostly from scratch with fresh produce, etc. but I know there are more adjustments I could and should make and I don’t want to make the effort right now! I heard that Grain Brain popularized the science a little too much to the point it was inaccurate. With celiac disease in our family as of a few years ago, we have been learning a lot about gluten. Have you heard about the Low FODMAP diet? Some studies seem to show that people who feel better on a gluten-free diet may actually be responding to the reduced FODMAP diet that stems naturally from cutting out wheat, barley, and rye!

  2. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I love the concept and the name you chose for it! And – Grain Brain sounds really interesting! I definitely believe diet can have a huge affect on chronic diseases. Have you ever read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food? I read that years ago and it changed the way I ate…really opened my eyes to all the bad stuff in processed food and the government’s role and incentives, etc.

  3. Kay

    I haven’t read any of these but have heard of all of them except Pandora’s Lunchbox. I think I have the audio for Salt Sugar Far and have not listened to it. All are relevant. Thanks for sharing a short review of each of them!

  4. Vicki

    I’d like to read all those books! My daughter suffers from migraines so I’ll ask her to try going gluten-free to see if it helps.

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