As you can tell, I am going through a “reading lots about healthy eating” phase. This is the second book I’m reading about the matter, borrowed from the local library. It’s not exactly a gripping read, as it’s one of those hardback illustrated books with full-colour pictures and cute little borders on every page. I suspect many people bought it and never opened it. It is not a recipe book, however – or at least recipes are not its main focus.
Wong attempts to synthesize the latest scientific studies on healthy eating. Instead of just taking the latest newspaper article about test-tube studies, he focuses mainly on systematic reviews: reporting clinical trial results, but hedging them with the qualification about their doubtful reliability. I feel this is a very useful approach: as many of the news headlines regarding healthy eating are simply contradictory.
Wong gives advice on the specific varieties of vegetables that are regarded as healthiest (ie. baby plum tomatoes contain more phytonutrients than beefsteak tomatoes) and on storage methods that are supposed to bring out the best in them- tomatoes stored on the counter contain far more healthy lycopene than those stored in the fridge.
A simple rule of thumb here is that usually (there are exceptions) the darker the vegetable, the healthier it is. The rule applies to:
- salad leaves (kale is super healthy)
- broccoli (purple broccoli contains more nutrients)
- berries (blue or blackcurrant is best)
- grapes (black is better than red or green)
- sweet potatoes (purple is again best)
- onions (purple rules),
- peppers (red),
- mangoes (orange)
- cherries (Morello)
- apples (red: ie. in descending order of nutrients: Braeburn, Red Delicious, Pink Lady, Royal Gala)
- beetroot (red) and last but not least,
- wine (red)
The exception to the rule is asparagus, as green seems to be healthiest there. I have also learned that jumbo oats are apparently much healthier than instant oats, which means I shall probably have to spend some time and try to find a place that sells them.
All in all, part of the value of the book is reminding you about the sheer variety of vegetables and fruit available. I have promised myself to try to consume more beetroot and blackcurrants and get started on mango, plum, and pineapple. Far from always opting for the expensive option, Wong often has tips for healthy eating on a budget. He reminds us that frozen raspberries and blueberries have the same nutritional content as fresh.
The recipes are more of a mixed bag for me, though I am going to try a few of them (I am particularly curious about beetroot crisps and orange crisps).
Firstly, some of the photos feature all of the ingredients separately in a pan instead of the final dish result, which confuses me.
Secondly, in one of the recipes, he suggests cooking pasta in milk??? Which sounds outrageous and wrong. Maybe it’s a thing, but I’m not sure I can accept it.
Last, but not least, most of his recipes include nuts. I know they’re super healthy, but my boyfriend is allergic… so these are not really an option for me.
One thought on “James Wong’s “How to Eat Better” – book review”
As someone also allergic to nuts, I definitely find that frustrating as well!! Sounds like an interesting book, though. I could definitely use a reminder that more fruits and veggies exist besides apples and carrots sometimes…
Anyways, great review!
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