Review: How to Eat Better by James Wong

A new book by James Wong is always worth waiting for and so I was delighted to receive a review copy of his latest book – ‘How to Eat Better‘ by James Wong, published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 www.octopusbooks.co.uk

Between the rush to keep up with the latest miracle ingredient, anxiety about e-numbers and demonization of gluten/dairy/sugar, many of us are left in a virtual panic in the supermarket isle. I have always found that James talks a whole lot of sense when it comes to food and nutrition and certainly there has never been a more appropriate time for a publication such as ‘How to Eat Better‘.

There is plenty of information out there but a lot of it is conflicting and sometimes just plain wrong. As someone who was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in my sixth decade I know this only too well!

Tabloid headlines, ‘free-from’ labels and judgemental instagram hashtags hardly help matters either and it is no wonder that when we go food shopping we are left wondering exactly what we should buy.

As James points out in the Introduction, eating can be a confusing business and suddenly knowing how to eat healthily seems to have become enormously complicated. At last, ‘How to Eat Better‘, provides us with a straight-talking scientist’s guide to making everyday foods measurably healthier (and tastier) simply by changing the way you select, store and cook them.

There are no fad diets, no obscure ingredients, just real food made better, based on the latest scientific evidence from around the world. Consultant nutritionist for the book is Dr Emma Derbyshire and the book has excellent photography by Jason Ingram. All the illustrations are extremely clear and easy to follow, particularly useful if you are going to use the book while in the kitchen.

The book is presented in an easy, eye-catching way so the reader is able to grasp important and relevant information quickly. There is no jargon nor is there any complicated scientific information – everything is presented in easy to digest, straightforward text, backed up by easy to understand scientific fact. I particularly liked the stand-out circles highlighting specific nutritional information such as Green bananas contain over 20x the resistant starch of yellow ones and next to no sugar, and that purple sweet potatoes contain 3x the antioxidants of blueberries – simple yet effective.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was eating and how nutritional it was, but having read James’ book I have discovered a whole lot more that I didn’t know and some things that I was plainly misinformed about. There are also some brilliant recipes, (over 80) – for example, super grilled peach, beetroot and feta salad, apple crumble bircher and cauliflower mashed potato.

James (pictured right) even includes a section on ‘booze’ and yes when it comes to heart-healthy polyphenois red wine contains more of the good stuff than the white, in fact an astonishing ten times more!

He points out that as a botanist obsessed with food, he is forever surprised by how simple tweaks can radically alter the chemical compositions of crops, even when they are sitting on your kitchen worktop: “With just a few ridiculously easy hints and tips you could dramatically improve the nutritional value of everything from fruit and veg to carbs and coffee, thanks to the miracle of kitchen chemistry,” he says.

James is the author of a number of best-selling books as well as presenter of programmes including BBC2’s award-winning Grow Your Own Drugs. His small London garden serves as a testing station for all manner of crops and horticultural ideas from around the world.

There is no doubt that a wide audience are going to find ‘How to Eat Better’ a revelation. For me, it will be forever handy in the kitchen and I have every confidence that it will be in yours as well!

How to Eat Better’ by James Wong, is published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 www.octopusbooks.co.uk – on Sale April 2017 in hardback.

All illustrations © publisher, Mitchell Beazley.

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