Clean Protein by Kathy Freston & Bruce Friedrich

As a non-carnivore, I have had some concern about whether or not I am getting enough protein in my diet, how much protein a woman my size actually needs, and whether I really need as much protein as my husband keeps reminding me I do, so I was pleased to receive Clean Protein by Kathy Freston and Bruce Friedrich from Perseus Books/Weinstein Books (really?doubtful this imprint will last) and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I read that Freston is a well-known “author and vegan lifestyle expert,” and Friedrich is the Director of the Good Food Institute…which basically told me nothing. But I had read some of Freston’s work before  (including her blog), and I remembered that the GFI were the ones who had advocated for the addition of a veggie burger to the menu at In-N-Out, so I decided that for my purposes they were expert enough! This, of course, was as long as the book wasn’t just a load of what I think of as nutribabble—lots of words and advice about how to eat without anything to back it up.

I was happy to see how well sourced the book is, including peer-reviewed scientific studies and medical experts. When combined with the numerous personal stories they relate, the result is an information-packed handbook that will be a good resource for those interested in eating well without meat who don’t really need or want to wade through scientific literature. The book is extremely readable, and includes a plan, recipes, and tips for those who are moving toward a plant-based diet. Three and a half stars.

The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook by Patsy Catsos

COVER Catsos IBS elimiation diet

It isn’t a topic that is often discussed with strangers (if at all), but anyone who suffers with IBS knows there is SOMETHING going on in their digestive system that isn’t quite right. And that person has probably spent years searching for the answer. Thanks to Crown Publishing / Harmony and NetGalley, I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook in exchange for my honest review.

This book explores the relationship of FODMAPs to IBS. While IBS is a well-known term, we are only recently hearing much about FODMAPs. The idea of a low-FODMAP diet as part of the treatment for IBS has been gaining traction in the past year. Go ahead, Google it – a quick search for “fodmap” returns 31 million hits!

So what’s a FODMAP anyway? The word is an acronym for “fermentable oigo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols,” which are a group of hard-to-digest carbs found mostly in wheat, milk, beans and soy (along with some fruits and veggies). Not everyone with IBS is sensitive to the same things, so it’s important to find out just what your senstitivites are. This book, originally self-published as IBS—Free At Last, has been expanded to include recipes and is designed to walk you through eliminating all the FODMAPs from your diet, then adding them back one at a time to uncover your individual sensitivities.

It is estimated that there are over 60 million IBS sufferers in the U.S, along with many others who suffer from Crohn’s, celiac disease and ulcerative colitis. Monash University in Australia has led the way in learning about FODMAPs and providing hope for millions who are all too familiar with the problem (whether they choose to talk about it or not!), but easy-to-understand specific information has been somewhat scarce.

Written by Patsy Catsos, MS, RDN, LD, who is a medical nutrition therapist and FODMAP expert, as well as an author, this guide would seem to be a good starting point for those unfamiar with FODMAPs as well as a source for some recipes to help cope with the day-to-day reality of IBS. Four stars.

The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan by David Perlmutter, M.D.

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My husband was heavily influenced to modify his eating after reading Dr. David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain a couple of years ago. The follow-up title, The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, is a practical book—much less theoretical than his previous books. As he states: “The main purpose of this book is to help you put my ideas into practice in the real world and to show you that living your best life is about much more than what you put in your mouth.”

For those unfamiliar with the basic premise of his work, Dr. Perlmutter advocates eating more fat and fiber, lessening the emphasis on carbs and protein, and getting rid of gluten completely.

In Part I, of the book reviews, Perlmutter explains the “what, why, and how of the program. I’ll detail the ground rules, present new data, and offer a 3-step framework that will help you execute my recommendations.” Part II gets into the details on how to use his program, and spells out which foods to eat. Part III includes “final tips and reminders,” plus snack suggestions, shopping lists, and a 14-day meal plan with recipes.

I liked the fact that in Part I, when  he explores the sad state of American health, he includes mental health: “The United States is among the ten wealthiest Western nations where death from brain disease, most commonly dementia, has skyrocketed over the past twenty years . . . 5.4 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is predicted to double by the year 2030!”

I hate to call it a “diet,” so let’s go with “food plan.” This one provides 80 to 90 percent of calories from fat, and the rest from fibrous carbohydrates and high-quality protein. Instead of the traditional “old fashioned” meals with a big protein-packed entree and small side dishes, the Grain Brain plan swaps things around: the main entrée is mostly “fibrous, colorful, nutrient-dense whole fruits and vegetables that grow above ground, with protein as a side dish.”

There is quite a bit of information the role of nutrition in relation to Alzheimer’s, including the role of exercise. He cites studies showing a huge reduction in Alzheimer’s for those at high levels of exercise: “Those at the highest level of exercise activity experienced an incredible reduction of risk for Alzheimer’s of 50 percent when compared to those who were more sedentary.” We’ve heard it before, but he reminds us that the best thing to do is pick a routine you can sustain over time.

Personally, I have a problem with eating recreational sugar, but it’s a big deal for many people to include sweets in their food plan. They will be happy to see that the recipe section includes desserts and healthy snack ideas. But don’t get too excited: when it comes to snacks, he suggests things like “a handful of raw nuts, olives, and/ or seeds (no peanuts), a few squares of dark chocolate (anything above 70 percent cacao), chopped raw vegetables, or hard-boiled eggs.”

All in all, this is an excellent book that MIGHT influence some people to change their eating habits. At the very least, it should inspire hope that positive results will come to those who are willing to change. I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advance copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. With thanks to Little, Brown & Company and NetGalley, I give this five stars.

Good Sugar Bad Sugar by Allen Carr

Cover Carr Good Sugar Bad Sugar

OK, to start with, I am a hardcore sugar addict, and have been reading about my drug of choice for years, going back to Sugar Blues in the 80s, then on through Sugar Crush, Sugar Nation, Grain Brain, blah blah blah right up through Pure, White and Deadly. And yes, I admit I wanted someone to tell me how I could be like normal people who enjoy their sweet treats and then live life. Nope, that’s never been me: if I start dancing with sugar, I find myself obsessed, craving sweets, looking for excuses to go to the store for my next fix…in other words, this sounded like something I HAD to read.

Allen Carr is reputed to be a genius at helping people deal with addictions. His Easyway program (oooh, I loved the sound of THAT!) has helped tons of people in the U.K. quit smoking, quit drugs, lose weight, stop gambling, overcome fear of flying, etc. and he claims to have THE answer, a 90% success rate, and requires no willpower.

Sounded way too good to be true, but I felt open to listening to his answers. Seriously, almost every book I have read on the topic has given me SOME valuable insight. Well, no, I take that back…I remember reading Geneen Roth’s books back in the 80s and I loved the idea that my sugar thing was really a problem of me feeling that I would be deprived of sugar, so I did it. I ate everything sweet I wanted, all day long, and made sure my house had plenty of treats so there was no question of scarcity…and I did it for WEEKS. At the end, I had been sick as a dog but the craving never went away. I gained weight (big surprise), felt like crap, and never went to the place where I felt like I was secure in my ability to always find more. But that is how much I wanted to be different in my relationship with sweets. It never happened.

But maybe this Allen Carr guy had a new answer! His website seemed to promise something new: “Our approach focuses on why people continue to smoke, drink, take drugs, struggle with their weight or other addictions and fears, despite the obvious disadvantages. We aim to change how you feel about your issue so that getting free becomes easy, enjoyable and you do not miss anything.” I settled in to read.

I agree with him that “with BAD SUGAR there is no healthy level other than zero,” and that we are brainwashed from a young age to equate sugar and sweet treats with love and “see sugary foods as a treat.” To my dismay, I found that (according to his website) his “method works by unraveling the misconceptions that make people believe that they get some benefit from the very thing that’s harming them.” What, I wondered, did that even MEAN?

His answer to the issue of addiction is to “achieve a frame of mind whereby whenever you think about BAD SUGAR of a BAD SUGAR product you have a sense of freedom and relief that you don’t consume it anymore.” Carr’s own experience was as a smoker who had repeatedly tried to quit. But, as he explains it, “one day, a chance remark opened my eyes to the truth. I had gone to see a hypnotherapist…to find a cure and…a word the hypnotherapist used gave me the key. The word was “addiction.” It was like a lightbulb going off in my brain: I didn’t smoke because I wanted to I smoked because I was hooked. I knew there and then that I was cured.”

And that, my friends, was the point at which I wanted to throw my Kindle through the window. My thought was “Wow, this guy REALLY doesn’t get it!!” My opinion seems reinforced by his claim that the craving is 1 percent physical and 99 percent mental…and that the “actual physical withdrawal pangs from most drugs are actually extremely mild—almost imperceptible.” Seriously???

I dutifully read on, although IMHO, there are people who “get it” and those who don’t, and when it comes to sugar, he doesn’t. I am happy he found a way to quit smoking, and I am happy that so many people have benefitted from his workshops, courses, etc. as they have struggled with their addictions.

So, how many stars to give this book (provided to me by NetGalley and Arcturus in exchange for my honest review)? Good question! It does have wonderful information about the devastating effects of overconsumption of sugar, and it does have a positive tone and upbeat message (sort of “you can do it!!!”) so I figure those alone are worth three stars. But the actual worth of his “answer” to me, as a hardcore sugar addict, was minimal. (BTW, I am fully open to the idea that my own personal experiences are not the same as those of other sugar addicts, and I will be curious to read others’ opinions of the book and program. And I hope it provides five star answers for other people!)

Three reluctant stars.

 

The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow

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The title of Mike Dow’s book The Brain Fog Fix leapt out at me, and I was eager to read it for two reasons: I am always interested in general in the topic of behavior being influenced by nutrition (which I suspected was the core of the “fix”) and I happen to have a grandson who complains of suffering from “brain fog,” and I hoped we might be able to provide some (admittedly unsolicited) suggestions that might help him.

If you search for Mike Dow online, you will instantly notice the many pop culture links (Dr. Oz, TLC’s Freaky eaters, others) that might make you suspect this is just another media doc out for a quick buck…and admittedly, he is a doctor the same way Dr. Laura is a doctor: a therapist. But his advice is sound, and there is quite a bit of science to back up the opinions. And, let’s face it, I am a sucker for books that state the case for cleaning up your diet to heal your brain before you flood it with chemicals.

In addition to the nutrition, he advocates cognitive behavioral therapy, and seems to be interested in helping people as well as making a buck! It may often be a case of him preaching to the choir, as I am not sure how receptive people are to what can be a drastic change in lifestyle, and I suspect some people have to be REALLY desperate to try his suggestions…but it made sense to me.

It isn’t a scientific text, and it is pop culture, but there isn’t anything in the advice that could hurt and, as they say, it might help! I appreciate having the opportunity to read and review this book in exchange for my unbiased review. Five stars!