‘Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health’ (or why my Mom was right all along) Book Review

    Ultimate Foods For Ultimate Health Book Cover

    Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health
    … and don’t forget the chocolate
    Liz Pearson and Marilyn Smith
    $29.95, 334 pages, 2007 (Amazon $19.77)
    Rating: 9 out of 10

    An Apple a day keeps the doctor away?  Right?

    It may be true, perhaps less so, because like many things these days, it’s just more complicated. Or interesting. Or fun. It depends on your perspective, and your outlook on life.

    The excellent book, Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health, speaks to me now in a language I could never ever comprehend even just a few years back. Like my friends and family, I realize we need to keep ourselves on the level when it comes to sweets and deep fried indulgence, but in this great land of ours there is sin at every corner (see specimens: Cold Stone Creamery and Cinnabon). When my wife travels, it’s worse — my bachelor days return in all their nacho, steak, burrito and Haagen-Dazs (an American brand by the way) driven glory. How else could you have enough energy to watch three back-to-back 4 hour long NFL Sunday games?

    So about this book then by two healthy looking, highly educated Canadian women (my first warning sign?). First off, it’s not as approachable as Car & Driver or Road & Track. There are no glossy photos, burn-outs or exotica here. Or those expecting stylistic pictures of glorious, decadent buttery meals (like a certain exuberant Food TV chef we know) will be disappointed — this is a cold shower of useful, important and cleverly written information on… healthy living.

    I didn’t read it cover-to-cover, and I suspect most people won’t. Rather I left the book on our sideboard in the family room hoping that I could slowly absorb it’s wisdom without a drastic makeover. Surely enough, I found myself reading a chapter here and there. A 5 minute coffee break to check the introduction, and then back again to check some of the recipes. Before you know it, I had read through most of it (still working on the recipes although that’s so much my department).

    When my wife travels, it’s worse — my bachelor days return in all their nacho, steak, burrito and Haagen-Dazs driven glory. How else could you have enough energy to watch three back-to-back 4 hour long NFL Sunday games?

    The book is simply organized, effectively I thought, into 3 sections. The first, ‘Ultimate Foods for Ultimate Health’, gets down to basics. We learn moderation is key, there are good fats and bad fats, and that soft drinks are the work of the Devil. Yes, even my vice of choice Diet Coke, although much better than a regular soft drink (“liquid candy”), is on the two servings per day list; here I am at noon already on my first (while finishing a coffee on the side).

    My spirits were lifted in the next chapter where we discover red wines (yes, in moderation) can be good for you, reducing risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

    And more good news — the book’s subtitle urges “…and don’t forget the chocolate” — chocoholics unite! The authors reveal that “based on a North American study, chocolate is craved by more people (especially women) than any other food”. It turns out that, yes again only in small quantities, chocolate can be good for you. This is because cocoa bean is extremely rich in something called flavanol, a plant compound, which acts as a powerful antioxidant.

    The next section reads like a playbook. Now that you know the plays, your health coaches put together the game plans. This includes eating checklists, a seven-day planner, and how to eat healthy while on the

    I’m convinced that my Mom used to hide vegetables in my meals as a kid. Cauliflower in the mashed potatoes. Broccoli underneath the liver.
    And Carrots coated with brown sugar sauce.

    go. This part of the book is a good reference, with easy to read charts and lists. I particularly liked the food label decoder and tips on what to look for when grocery shopping.

    The final section contains about 150 healthy recipes, from salads, chicken dishes, fruits, and yes even cookies, cakes and deserts. Again, no photos, just simple easy to use recipes. Of the ones we tried, I found the flavors to be good, and most of the time, did not miss the higher fat and sugar content.

    This is an excellent book on healthy eating. It’s concise and easy to read, and provides a practical array of recipes, checklists and tips. The book never takes a condescending tone.

    I’m convinced that my Mom used to hide vegetables in my meals as a kid. Cauliflower in the mashed potatoes. Broccoli underneath the liver. And Carrots coated with brown sugar sauce.

    Now maybe I can let the vegetables stand alone, center stage (my steak looking on from the wings), and smile with the realization that living well is all about the everyday little things.

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