Tag Archives: David Perlmutter

Has Grain-Free Gone Mainstream?

Grain Free LogoIt used to be very difficult to find great low-carb recipes, and older low-carb cookbooks tended to rely on artificial ingredients, often sold by companies that had a corner on the market. We’ve all gotten smarter over the years, including the chefs. No longer do we switch to low-carb for a short time to lose weight. Many of us are living without grains for the rest of our lives, sometimes because The Grain Formerly Known as Wheat is making so many people so sick. Now the market is filled with cookbooks that have low-carbohydrate recipes that feature whole foods and healthy ingredients. For a diabetic, it is still necessary to analyze a recipe carefully for sugar and starch, but most Paleo and some gluten-free cookbooks can be very useful. Here are three new cookbooks for your perusal.

Stella Complete Low CarbFirst of all, one of my favorite low-carb chefs from years ago is George Stella. I have many of his cookbooks, and some of my favorite recipes are his, such as Anaheim Shrimp Scampi, Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, and New York Style Cheesecake. Mr. Stella and his family, particularly his son Christian, have been evolving over the years away from artificial ingredients and soy toward a more holistic, health-conscious approach. Christian Stella is a co-author of the latest offering, The Complete Low-Carb Cookbook. George starts off by telling the story of how his family of four lost a total of 560 pounds, and since I had read this inspiring story in the past, the best part for me is that they have kept it off for over ten years! George is a professional chef, so he had to completely change the way he cooked, while being able to create dishes that still pleased his discriminating palate. In this new cookbook, he has included some of the classics mentioned above, but he has also tweaked some old recipes to make them even better! For example, I love his Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese recipe and make it all the time, but now he has the Ultimate Mock Mac and Cheese Casserole recipe that adds chicken and bacon to the original recipe, turning it from a side dish to an entree. We loved it. Furthermore, there are loads of brand-new recipes that look scrumptious: Reuben Chicken Roulade, Claire’s Stuffed Pumpkin, and Chocolate Walnut Bon-Bons, just to name a few. He includes a nutritional analysis for each dish. One of the best things about the recipes in George Stella’s cookbooks is that, as a diabetic, I can make all of them without any changes. My old Stella cookbooks are falling apart, I’ve used them so much, and I’m sure this new one will soon be spattered and covered with notes, too.

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Ultimate Mock Mac & Cheese Casserole

 

Meals Made SimpleDanielle Walker, of Against All Grain fame, has been reviewed in this blog when her first cookbook was released. Now she has a new one out called Meals Made Simple. I have tried a few of these recipes with excellent results. As a young mom, Ms. Walker does not have time for exotic ingredients or fussy preparation, so her Paleo dishes are possible for busy people everywhere. Since Ms. Walker has struggled back to vibrant health after nearly dying from an autoimmune disease, she has done a great deal of research and is a wealth of information on how the food that we eat affects our bodies. She shares some of her knowledge in the generous extra pages filled with notes on the various special diets her readers may follow, meal plans, ingredient lists and suggestions, lists of tools needed, grocery lists, and more. This is all incredibly helpful, of course, but this book truly shines in the recipes she offers with a beautiful picture for each one.

Ever since I sank a ridiculous amount of money into a waffle maker, I have been searching for the perfect low-carb waffle recipe. It is not easy. Most are too eggy. I can make eggs in a skillet, so that doesn’t work. Others are too heavy and soggy. Danielle Walker’s Freezer Waffles are the best I have found. I did use the coconut oil, as suggested, and they came out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Delicious. This recipe calls for 2 cups of her pancake mix, which is on another page. 2014-09-09 17.15.45I have made waffles twice so far, and I still have a zip-lock bag of pancake mix in my freezer. Very handy! I have not actually put any leftover waffles in the freezer, since, if I leave them in the refrigerator for a day or so, they seem to disappear.

Following that success, I made the Lemon-Roasted Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts. This very simple recipe combines two of my favorite vegetables and adds a light, zesty flavor that goes perfectly with fish. The Brussels sprouts were shredded in a food processor, but you could do it by hand with a sharp knife and a great deal of patience.

After that, we went Asian with her Ginger Chicken and Broccoli. We seem to have a lot of ginger in the house these days, what with our tailgating Ginger Bourbon Cocktails, so I am always on the lookout for recipes with ginger. Again, this is a very simple recipe that is cooked entirely on the stovetop in one skillet. Since I am not gluten-sensitive, I used soy sauce—which I had in the fridge—in place of the coconut aminos, and the results were fabulous. In this dish, Ms. Walker uses tempered egg yolks to thicken the sauce, and it worked! I will certainly remember that trick for the future.

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Asian Chicken & Broccoli

Dr. David Perlmutter comes from an entirely different direction from Danielle Walker, although I’m sure they’d agree on the need to ditch grains from one’s diet. While Ms. Walker takes the digestive disorder perspective, Dr. Perlmutter presents pretty terrifying scientific evidence concerning grains’ effect on the brain, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. If you haven’t read his original work, Grain Brain, I highly recommend that you do so, especially if neurological issues or dementia are hereditary for you.

Grain Brain CookbookThe doctor gives a quick summary of his medical research in the first section of his new book, The Grain-Brain Cookbook, and then explains how to set up a new pantry, trying along the way to help the reader change his mindset about what one should or should not eat. The recipes that follow are easy and often basic. Dr. Perlmutter’s aim seems to be to show the nervous patient that she can continue to live happily and stay healthy while eating familiar foods that are naturally gluten-free or have been easily modified to become gluten-free. There are not as many pictures in this book as in the first two I’ve reviewed, but there are occasional sections with glossy, color pictures. Nutritional analyses are offered for each recipe. This book is an excellent place to start for anyone switching to a low-carb or gluten-free diet, and since the man is, after all, a doctor, he relies completely on fresh, whole foods.

All of these new resources make low-carb, Paleo, and gluten-free cooking so much easier than they were just a few years ago. The low-carb crowd, in particular, seems to have moved in the same direction that we have, going away from using artificial ingredients to create fake versions of the foods we used to eat and transforming our diets with more non-starchy vegetables and less bacon or cream. Someday I hope to reverse my diabetes to the point that I can give up the little bit of artificial sweetener I use now and use honey or maple syrup instead. I have not gotten there yet, but it’s a goal!

But wait, there’s more! One of the next books I plan to read will be Wheat Belly Total Health, where we will tackle the other issues beyond eating. This may require getting off the couch, but we’ll see.

Disclaimer: I own a copy of George Stella’s cookbook, and I read library copies of Meals Made Simple and The Grain Brain Cookbook. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. As I am a reader and reviewer, not a doctor, nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice.

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Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter, M.D.

ImageWhen new books on diabetes or low-carbohydrate diets are published, I will almost always read them, as you know from following this blog. However, you may not know that my father died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2004, so my siblings and I are always on the lookout for new research on dementia, as well. Little did I know that the two were interconnected, but Dr. David Perlmutter has put forth some very controversial and fascinating new research in his book, Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain’s Silent Killers. Dr. Perlmutter is a neurologist, as is his 96-year-old father, who now has Alzheimer’s, so the author has a vested interest in his subject. In the long run, this is very hopeful information, since it is the first time that anyone has stated that Alzheimer’s and other neurological problems are actually related to the food you eat, and, therefore, preventable!

Until very recently, scientists believed that neurological problems were almost all due to genetics. However, with the explosion of both diabetes and Alzheimer’s in the past few decades, they began noticing that the two diseases were tracking together. Why? Although patients with diabetes and other digestive issues tend to show symptoms years before the final diagnosis, the damage wrought in the brain by grains is silent until it is too late. Dr. Perlmutter began drawing connections between the rapid increase of carbohydrate consumption since the advent of the low-fat, high-carbohydrate government dietary guidelines and the increase of inflammation-related neurological disorders, including dementia, ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson’s disease, migraines, and even autism. We consume much more gluten in our diets today than we ever have before, both because of our dietary guidelines and because of the change in our wheat, as outlined in Dr. William Davis’ Wheat Belly*, quoted often in Grain Brain. Gluten contains substances that connect directly to the opiate receptors in the brain, resulting in a very real addiction. But it is not only wheat, but all kinds of carbohydrates that cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. Even people who are not showing gastric signs of gluten sensitivity are being affected.

Just as the medical establishment has decided that 40% of the population should be on statin drugs just on general principles, Dr. Perlmutter sets out to convince us that cholesterol is not bad for us. I have not heard that opinion since Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, who wrote Protein Power in 1999, published a graph showing how cancer rates rise much more precipitously under 140 total cholesterol than heart disease rates do over 200 total cholesterol.  Cholesterol is a substance that maintains the integrity of the cell wall throughout the body and is necessary to form the synapses between brain cells. Perlmutter notes that the Framingham Heart Study shows that people with higher cholesterol also have higher cognitive strength. Although he is not a fan of statin drugs, since cholesterol is obviously important to brain health, he does acknowledge that inflammation is the root cause of many of our most dangerous chronic illnesses today (thereby agreeing with Dr. David Agus in The End of Illness*), but he believes that the inflammation is caused, in large part, by what we eat. For most of history, scientists believed that brain cells were fixed, and although they could be damaged, they could never be repaired or replaced. The very encouraging news that the human brain can, in fact, regenerate is a real motivator to follow Perlmutter’s guidelines to maintain and improve your habits early in life so that you can avoid serious consequences later in life.

There is not even room in this review to tell you all that Dr. Perlmutter has to say about movement disorders, depression, fructose vs. glucose, how exercise affects your brain, and so much more, but about two-thirds of this book sets out the research and reasons for changing to a low-carbohydrate diet. The final third is a very practical guide to help you make that change. Dr. Perlmutter lays out a four-week plan to change your diet, exercise, and sleeping habits, and follows with menu ideas and recipes. The recipes, compared to many of the fabulous cookbooks I’ve reviewed, are quite basic, but when you’re new to the idea of giving up bread forever, basic can be very helpful. He also has charts of recommended supplements, good vs. bad oils, lists of gluten-containing substances, and more.

By this time, I hope that our culture is waking up to the fact that carbohydrates are not contributing to optimum health. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to find healthy choices in restaurants, and I still have to shop online or in more expensive stores to find some of the basic items in my pantry. I suppose eating well has always been more expensive, but I hope that almond flour, grass-fed beef, and a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables will soon be more mainstream. There are many restaurants out there whose side dish options extend to baked potatoes, fries, or rice. No wonder we’re all so sick.

I highly recommend Grain Brain to everyone, because we all know someone suffering from ADHD or depression right now and we all need to help ourselves to avoid dementia in the future. Add it to your pile of books on the carbohydrate-diabetes connection, and before you know it, you’ll put away the chips and soda. Just switch to red wine and dark chocolate!

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*These titles are also searchable in this blog. Sometimes they were discussed within wider posts on the topic.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. My opinions are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Diabetes, Food