Grow yourself healthy: gardening to transform your gut health all year round by Beth Marshall
For the most part, I like this book but there are areas that bother me, some more than others. The author focuses on fruits & vegetables, what I'll call "plants" that she feels are the most beneficial to ones microbiome. She touches on issues one can have with food restrictions & even mentions low FODMAPs. The mention here is that people who follow a low FODMAPs diet or similar type of diet are unhealthy & likely to suffer from more diseases. I was left with the impression that the author knows very little about low FODMAPs, nor that it is an actual medical diet, not a fad diet. Basically anyone who doesn't eat a diet rich in plant foods is likely to be sickly & the author seems to have no empathy as to the why behind the reasons some people cannot safely consume certain foods.
This lack of empathy & flat out lack of real knowledge about the medical realities as to why some people need to eliminate certain food groups was a real downer & left me feeling chastised by the author. I have endometriosis. The more nightshades I eat (tomatoes, eggplant, goji berries, peppers, etc.) the more pain I am in. I learned this the hard way. I love many nightshades & was growing a lot of them on my Eco farm. I was also eating them in abundance. Trying to work on my farm on some days was impossible. I was taking over the counter pain pills & watching the clock so I could get my next "fix." The pain was relentless; stabbing, twisting, horrible agony. Since quitting nightshades, my pain is cut by an easy 75%. That's nothing to turn my nose up at. So what if my microbiota like nightshades? If consuming them make me wish for death, I'm not eating them.
Regarding growing food crops. This is a tricky area. The author is UK based & "Manages the gardens on a 57 acre estate in Berkshire." This is important because the author & her family have a unique life in comparison to the majority. I am a full time Eco farmer. My farm is also my home. I'm also an American. I want to make it very clear that Eco farming is very hard work. It is a full time job. The author depicts an easy breasy lifestyle that I'm sick of seeing in so many gardening & back to the land types of books. They love to make it look so simple. Just sit back & watch the plants grow - not! The author even says, "Gardening is fun & relaxing..." To be fair, it can be. The smaller your garden, the more fun it is likely to be or if it's on the large size, the more help you have, the more you might enjoy it. But no matter the situation, gardening is dirty & back breaking. The weeds are relentless. The sun beats down on you & you are drenched in sweat, no swimming pool needed. The bugs bite you & destroy your crops. It. Is. Work. However, with the right attitude it can be worth it. There really is something deeply satisfying about growing your own foods.
Should you decide to jump in to grow all the plants the author suggests, I want you to go into it with your eyes wide open. It wont be easy. Not at all. It doesn't end with the growing of things either. You must also harvest, clean, cook, & preserve what you grow. If you don't have time to cook your families meals, you will never have time to grow your families food. This is reality. Take a good hard look at yourself before you dive in.
Of course, you don't have to grow it all. The author provides some cute option for growing in pots. Heck, you might just have one big pot on your balcony that you grow a small assortment of plants in to supplement your diet. Good for you. Whatever you decide, start small & take it from there. Take on what you can handle, & stop when you realize you've reached the limit as to what you can comfortably handle.
You have picked what plants you'd like to grow. Now it's time to plant right? Maybe not. You need to find out what your growing region is & figure out what plants can be grown in it. For example, I cannot grow a lemon tree, the winter will kill it. Or how about Swiss chard? The author says it grows through winter. Maybe for her it does, but it doesn't for me. Mine is dead come winter. Some plants roots will survive, but most don't. I cannot even harvest cold hardy kale in the winter months. It survives, but it's not pretty & it's not worth trying to eat.
In the beginning of the book the author lists the nutrition information for various foods. What I almost immediately noticed was that the lists of foods that contain particular nutrients was incomplete. At first I thought this was a push for Veganism, but I did see some animal food listed, so I was a little thrown. I went into my book Paleo Principals which is a bible on food facts & nutrition. Sure enough, certain foods were left out of the equation. I don't know if this is due to a lack of knowledge on the authors part or a deliberate omission. I have been studying & reading up on health & nutrition for over 20 years. Out of the many books I've come across I have found The Paleo Approach & Paleo Principals to be the most useful. If you are Vegan, I understand you not wanting to bother with these books. I'm sorry I don't have a Vegan book suggestion for you. I was Vegan for many years & I was very sick during that time. Switching to an AIP diet provided an immediate improvement. It was & still is rather incredible to me.
The author also includes a few fermentation recipes that require fermentation tools. I know some people get hung up on thinking they need all sorts of doodads to make stuff. Fermentation isn't always like that. Sauerkraut is one of the most basic & simple of ferments. Check out Sandor Katz's book Wild Fermentation for in depth recipes. Really all you need is to shred the cabbage, massage in salt, pound it into an non porous vessel or crock (I like glass mason jars) roll up clean outer leaves to press the cabbage under the brine & cover with breathable cloth that bugs can't penetrate. Let it ferment until it tastes how you like it. Then refrigerate for up to 6 months. Or, if you must, water bath can it (this will kill a lot of those beneficial critters but not all of them) using a Ball Blue Book recipe on canning sauerkraut (check your pricing & version on the Ball Blue Book before ordering, it could be cheaper elsewhere & it's updated often). It really is that simple.
I want to mention FODMAPs again. If you are following a low FODMAPs diet note that the majority of the plants in this book are high in FODMAPs. What the author doesn't understand is that this is a temporary diet. As you work through what you can & cannot tolerate, you will see which high FODMAPs foods you can once again enjoy. Not only that, but remember, it's the quantity at each meal that contains high FODMAPs & your personal tolerance. The author says it's not healthy, but really with diligence & food challenges, it is healthy. Consuming foods you cannot tolerate is not healthy, no matter the authors opinion. I also want to mention the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). After a little over a decade of suffering, I finally mostly healed while on a AIP diet for 2 years. I then learned about FODMAPs & discovered which I could safely add & also learned the hard way about just how vicious nightshades are on my body. Always trust your body. Don't do something if it makes you feel awful, no matter how much someone tells you it's the healthy thing to do. It might be healthy for them, but it could be akin to poison for you.
With all of this said, I'm keeping this book as a reference. It has a lot of useful information focusing on how to get the most nutrients out of plants. I will not grow everything the author recommends. That's fine. I'll grow what I can eat & tolerate. I will also feel no shame if I must get some of my produce from the grocery store. I know that growing my own is healthier all around, but for what I can't/wont grow, I'm going grocery shopping, especially in the winter. I do love my fresh baby greens.
I am fascinated by our microbiome. If you would like to explore the microbiome further that what's in this book, I highly recommend Gut by Jill Enders.
Overall, this is a decent book as long as you understand growing regions, micro climates, & trust what your body tells you. It absolutely is worth having. Just make sure it's not the only book you read on the topic.
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