A new cookbook offers guidance and recipes for maximizing gastrointestinal health. Cooking for your body can mean avoiding some foods and adding others. It hinges on ingredients, and having a diverse diet.
“Cook for Your Gut Health,” is a new cookbook produced by America’s Test Kitchen with dietician and nutritionist Alicia A. Romano ($29.99).
Dan Zuccarello, America’s Test Kitchen’s executive food editor, discussed the new book during a recent interview. His team publishes 17 cookbooks a year, regularly working on two books at the same time.
The topics are specific to the needs of their readership and current trends, he said. Gut health is a subject relatable to a wide swath of the public who suffer from bloating and gas and other digestive issues including irritable bowel syndrome, IBS.
Plus, people are more conscientious about what they are eating, Zuccarello said.
The gut is vital to helping us absorb nutrients and it plays a role in supporting our immunity and emotional health, he explained.
“It’s a big part of our health, aids with our digestion, strengthens immunity and improves mood,” he said.
His team of chefs worked with Romano, the nutritionist, for guidelines of what they needed to know and address. One part of the puzzle is that Americans only eat 50% of the suggested amount of fiber. The team sought to find creative ways to add fiber to recipes in the book.
“We went to the kitchen to develop a collection of easy, satisfying ways to get in the vibrant vegetables, hearty grains, and optimal fiber that support the gut in meals,” he explained.
“Eating for your gut shouldn’t be restrictive,” said Zuccarello. “It should be abundant.”
For example, for the Taco Salad recipe, the spin was to swap in quinoa for protein and texture and to use escarole instead of a lettuce like romaine or red leaf. The greens switch added 7 grams of fiber to the nutritional value instead of the 2 grams that would have come with red leaf.
Processed wheat is also to be avoided for gut health. The solution is reach for the whole grain pasta and brown rice over white rice. Canned beans and canned lentils are another easy way to add in fiber.
Zuccarello also noted that the book adapts the recipes to be lactose-, dairy- or wheat-free if that’s what a cook needs. The recipes can also be gluten-free.
The 130 recipes are for breakfast, lunch and dinners. No desserts are in the book.
The recipes also serve those who suffer with allium allergies from garlic and onions by eliminating them from recipes. The cookbook team created a garlic oil recipe, easily made with canola oil and smashed cloves, to substitute for garlic.
Zuccarello said he makes it a cup at a time and stores in the fridge to use up within a week. You can add pepper flakes to add some zest.
Allium allergies are also the reason Zuccarello says for home cooks to make their own chicken broth since store brands are loaded with allium.
Pesto and chimichurri sauces also have garlic at their base, so the recipes in the cookbook have been re-engineered to take both garlic and onion out.
The recipes can also be modified for a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates bothersome fermentable carbs that do not digest well.
“A large portion of the recipes in this book satisfy the requirements of the complete elimination phase of this diet to support you if you need it, while still getting adequate fiber,” he explained.
Zuccarello, by the way, has some Providence roots. He worked with Matt Jennings when he opened La Laiterie and then cooked with Bruce Tillinghast at New Rivers. He’s been at America’s Test Kitchen for 12 years.
Here are three recipes shared from the book.
One-Pot Chicken with Braised Spring Vegetables
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 teaspoon table salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons garlic oil (see recipe)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
12 ounces red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 radishes, trimmed and halved if small or quartered lengthwise if large
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 cups frozen peas
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Cover chicken breasts with plastic wrap and pound to uniform thickness as needed. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken skinned side down and cook until browned on 1 side, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate browned side up.
Add thyme sprigs, pepper flakes, if using, and 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty pot and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in potatoes, radishes, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Place chicken browned side up on top of potato mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 10 minutes.
Transfer chicken to plate, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest while finishing vegetables. Stir asparagus, peas, lemon zest, orange zest, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt into potato mixture. Cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, 7 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove from heat.
Discard thyme sprigs. Slice chicken on bias 1/2 inch thick. Place chicken browned side up on top of vegetables in pot, adding any accumulated chicken juices. Sprinkle with tarragon and drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Serve.
Per Serving: Dietary Fiber 7g Cal 430; Total Fat 15g, Sat Fat 2.5g; Chol 125mg; Sodium 680mg; Total Carb 27g, Total Sugars 6g, Added Sugars 0g; Protein 46g
Blackened Red Snapper with Sautéed Spinach and Black Rice
1 1/2 cups black rice
3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided, plus salt for cooking rice
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice
3 tablespoons garlic oil (see recipe), divided
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
18 ounces (18 cups) baby spinach
4 (4- to 6‑ounce) skin-on red snapper fillets, 3/4 to 1 inch thick
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add rice and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until rice is tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain rice, transfer to bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste; cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, combine yogurt and lemon zest and juice in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste; refrigerate until ready to serve. Microwave 1 tablespoon oil, paprika, coriander, fennel, cayenne, cloves, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in small bowl until fragrant, about 30 seconds; set aside to cool slightly.
Microwave spinach and 1/4 cup water in large covered bowl until spinach is wilted and decreased in volume by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove bowl from microwave and keep covered for 1 minute. Carefully remove cover and transfer spinach to colander. Using back of rubber spatula, gently press spinach against colander to release excess liquid.
Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pat red snapper dry with paper towels and brush flesh side evenly with spice mixture. Arrange snapper skin side down on prepared sheet. Broil until snapper flakes apart when gently prodded with paring knife and registers 130 degrees, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer snapper to individual plates or serving platter.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12‑inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add spinach and toss to coat. Season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and continue stirring with tongs until spinach is glossy green, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with snapper, rice, and yogurt sauce.
Note: You can substitute halibut, mahi-mahi, striped bass or swordfish for red snapper.
Per Serving: Dietary Fiber 8g Cal 480; Total Fat 16g, Sat Fat 2.5g; Chol 45mg; Sodium 710mg; Total Carb 57g, Total Sugars 2g, Added Sugars 0g; Protein 33g
1/2 cup canola oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Heat oil and garlic in small saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and starting to bubble, 3-5 minutes. Let cool completely. Strain oil through fine mesh strained into airtight container and discard solids. It can be refrigerated for 3 days.