Welcome to my book review for Cooking for Your Genes by Debbi Nathan and Helen Nathan. Cooking for Your Genes is out now from Thread Books. It’s available in ebook, audiobook and paperback (links below).
Cooking for your genes is all about eating your way to better health by using cutting edge science. This science is called Nutrigenomics and provides the foundation for the advice and recipes featured inside. Before I launch into the review and synopsis though, I want give a basic introduction to the science. This helps set the book in context and highlight it’s value. I’ve split this review into two sections: the science and the book. So, you can skip straight to the book if you want to!
Genetics can be challenging to understand, especially if you didn’t study it at school. Genes are segments of DNA that contain the code for a specific protein that functions in one or more types of cells in the body. The human genome project was an international collaboration to map all the genes in humans. It ran from 1990 until 2003. It’s completion has huge implication for our understanding of how genes influence our health. It was previously thought that our genes had 100% control over our future health. However, we now know that we can strongly influence our health with diet and lifestyle in spite of the genetic hand we’ve been dealt.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how nutrition and genes interact. The aim is to prevent or reduce health problems. This include both how nutrients affect an person’s genes and how their genes affect their reaction to food (e.g. lactose intolerance).
Genetic testing can help you tailor your diet to get the best health outcomes. For example, 38% of people carry a variant of the ACE gene which makes them salt sensitive. This means their blood pressure (BP) rises as a result of high levels of salt in their diet. Over the long term, increased BP creates greater risk of cardiovascular disease. If you know you have this gene variant you can lower the salt in your diet, thereby lowering your risk. Genetic testing and advice is offered by author Debbi Nathan at her clinic Your Gene Team.
Epigenetics is the scientific study of how our behaviour (including what we eat) and environment can cause changes that affect the way our genes work. Genetic changes are not reversible but epigenetic changes can be reversed. Epigenetic changes do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. This book is focused around 4 key areas; detoxification, inflammation, oxidative stress and methylation. Each of these biological processes has an impact on our health and can be affected by the food we eat.
Cooking for Your Genes Synopsis
Combining cutting-edge science and stress-free, delicious recipes, Cooking for Your Genes explores how food ‘talks’ to our genes. It looks at the interaction between biology and our genes, and how we can eat our way to better health.
Expert nutrigenomic practitioner Debbi Nathan and chef Helen Nathan guide you through the key biological pathways including:
Detoxification – Our internal cleaning system
Methylation – Energy production of our cells
Oxidative Stress – Plays an active role in the ageing process
Inflammation – Can lead to weight gain and more serious illnesses
With over 65 simple, nutritious recipes packed with flavour, you’ll find a range of dishes whether you’re cooking for one or a family of five.
Your environment, lifestyle choices and the food you eat all react with your genes. By personalising your nutrition, you can empower yourself to better understand any underlying health risks and eat to live a healthier life.
Cooking for Your Genes Review
There is a lot packed into just under 200 pages. There are a few short introductory sections, then the book is split into five chapters. Each chapter has two sections; one section with the science and the second section with recipes. This reflects the specialist areas of the two authors. The recipes include breakfast, main meals, drinks and sometimes snacks or treats. The first chapter explains genetics and antioxidants, it also gives suggestions for larder and kitchen equipment essentials. Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 deal with: inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification and methylation. There’s a reference section at the end with further reading for each chapter. This is followed by a great glossary explaining scientific terms. Finally there is an example of a DNA health report showing results of genetic testing and their significance.
I particularly like that the recipes are easy to follow and most only have 3 steps. For someone with chronic illness that makes them less challenging. Portion sizes for the recipes vary from 1 to 6. Each recipe has a short paragraph highlighting the benefit of specific ingredients featured in it. They are also colour coded to show which of the four health areas they address (inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification and methylation). Most recipes address 2-3 areas, some hit all 4. Personally I would have preferred if the recipes were all together or if there was a full contents list split by breakfast, main meal, drink with the colour coding alongside. That would make it easier to find a meal which addresses the right areas compared to flicking between chapters.
The authors have done a truly fantastic job at making a difficult subject easy to understand. You might be tempted to ‘skip the science bit’ but I think you’d be loosing out. You’re more likely to incorporate the advice and get the full benefit if you have some understanding how it works. As someone with a science background, some of the processes weren’t new to me, however I still learned a great deal. I think the diagrams are particularly well done, with clear explanations.
The recipes are wide ranging in cuisine type, so I think there’s something for everyone. There is also a good variety for different times of year (e.g. strawberry and basil lemonade v Mexican chilli hot chocolate). I have coeliac and a couple of allergies, so a few of them aren’t suitable for me. Some recipes are highlighted as naturally gluten free and some have suggestions for alternatives (e.g. using gluten free flour). I found this very helpful. I have asked my Mum to make a few for me and I’ve really enjoyed their taste. I’m enjoying lots of the soups at the moment!
Are you interested in nutrigenomics and epigenetics? Would you tailor your diet to ensure better health outcomes? Let me know in the comments below.