Australian chef, TV personality and author Pete Evans is famous for his take on the paleo way, but his newest cookbook deals with another important topic that some people are embarrassed to talk about: your gut.
“The Complete Gut Health Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know about the Gut and How to Improve Yours,” written in collaboration with nutritionist and neuropath Helen Padarin, includes more than 100 recipes focusing specifically on how to improve your gut health.
Evans has worked in television for 15 years, creating his own shows and documentary films, and also hosting programs including “My Kitchen Rules.”
“This book is for every person that is passionate about their health and their family’s health,” Evans said, adding that he has even seen the effects a paleo diet has had on his own children, Chilli and Indii Evans.
“Their bloating issues and constant illnesses have been virtually non-existent since we have adopted the paleo way of life,” Evans writes in the cookbook.
“The goal with all my books is to help [readers] reclaim their health through delicious recipes and the correct information,” Evans said.
Though it’s often said that “we are what we eat,” Evans said that really “we are what we absorb.”
“You need to absorb the nutrition in the food you’re eating. If your gut isn’t doing that, then you need to improve that function, which is what I focus on in the book,” Evans said.
Evans recommends ditching the dairy, grains and toxic oils, and instead incorporating more meat, seafood and fermented vegetables into your diet. His book refers to these (as well as spices, enzyme-rich fruits, herbs, even certain plants and flowers as “star ingredients”).
“When I first heard about fermented vegetables I was shocked that as a chef I had not learned about them through my training and my own pursuit of my craft,” Evans, who has been a chef for close to 30 years and has cooked one million plates of food, writes in the cookbook.
Fermented vegetables include live sauerkraut or kimchi, which you can get at a health food store. Evans recommends introducing between 1/4 teaspoon to one teaspoon a day to your diet, and gradually increasing to one or two tablespoons with every meal. If you feel bit bloated or as though you have a hangover after eating them, then he recommends slightly reducing the amount.
The more your body reacts to a fermented food can be an indication of how much you need them, according to Evans. The better health you’re in, the faster you’ll be able to increase the amount you can have. Some of the benefits of fermented vegetables include aiding gut health and giving a youthful glow.
In addition to fermented vegetables, Evans recommends adding bone broths to your diet, and they serve as the base for many of the cookbook’s recipes.
“Bone broths were something that I was taught at culinary school, but only as a base for sauces our soups; never once was it mentioned that these nutritional powerhouses have the ability to heal in such a delicious way,” Evans said.
Evans makes his own bone broth in a slow cooker at home, but it can also be made on a stockpot on the stove. It can be consumed as is, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper, or it can be made into nourishing soups and stews. The broth can also be added to smoothies or homemade ice blocks. The cookbook includes recipes for beef, fish, chimichurri and bone broths, and even bone marrow pho.
“You can’t go wrong with the soups or ferments,” Evans said. “They are so good for the gut and bloody delicious too!”
Evans also recommends eating a palm-sized portion of animal protein at every meal such as grass-feed beef, wild-cough seafood and free-range poultry and pork. Organic, non-starchy vegetables should also be on your plate, along with good-quality fats like avocados, olives, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Other than dietary changes, Evans recommends good sleep and rest for gut health, as well as sunshine and low-impact movement.
He also recommends gargling three times each day for about 30 seconds to stimulate the vagus nerve, which is a long and wandering nerve that originates in your cerebellum and basically acts as a communicator between your gut and brain.
Below are two recipes from the “The Complete Gut Health Cookbook”:
MISO SOUP WITH CHICKEN MEATBALLS (SERVES 4)
Here, I have taken the classic miso soup and swapped out the bland pieces of tofu (yes, tofu is about as exciting as watching golf on the TV) and replaced it with something that will please the whole family – meatballs! I use chicken, but any ground protein, such as pork, shrimp, or beef, will work well. You can even gently poach a fillet of fish if you prefer. You can also leave out the miso paste, if you like, so it becomes a simple chicken broth base.
1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 red Asian shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos*
1⁄4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart (4 cups) Chicken Bone Broth (page 116)
3 teaspoons dried wakame seaweed*
7 ounces cauliflower, roughly chopped 3 green onions, thinly sliced
10 okra pods, sliced (optional)
1⁄2 cup miso paste
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
(optional) sesame oil
To make the meatballs, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Shape the meat mixture into 18 to 20 balls, depending on how big or small you like your meatballs (a small ice-cream scoop is perfect for this).
To make the soup, bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the wakame and meatballs and simmer until the wakame has expanded, 8 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the miso – the best way to do this is to push it through a strainer into the pan (this evenly distributes it in the broth). Simmer until the miso has dissolved, stirring gently if required, 1–2 minutes.
Spoon the soup into warm serving bowls and nish with the sesame seeds (if using) and a drop or two of sesame oil.
CLASSIC KIMCHI (MAKES 1 x 1 1/2-QUART JAR)
Kimchi is the national dish of Korea and Koreans eat close to 20 kilograms of it per person each year. They say their good health and vigor comes from having this fermented superfood every day. There are regional and seasonal variations, but at its heart kimchi is very similar to its European cousin, sauerkraut. I am a huge fan of kimchi and enjoy it on the side with many Asian dishes; it also works well with eggs for breakfast and with burgers when mixed with homemade mayonnaise.
½ napa cabbage (about 1 3⁄ 4 pounds)
1 yau choy (choy sum) or 1–2 bok choy, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 bunch of cilantro, stalks and leaves, finely chopped
3 long red chiles, 2 seeded and finely
chopped, 1 halved lengthwise and seeded
1 teaspoon sea salt (or 3 teaspoons if not using the vegetable starter culture – see below)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, cut into thin strips
1–2 tablespoons Korean chile powder (gochugaru) (see Note)
2–3 tablespoons fish sauce
½ packet vegetable starter culture* (optional)
You’ll need a 1.-quart preserving jar with an airlock lid for this recipe. Wash the jar and all utensils in very hot soapy water, then run them through a hot rinse cycle in the dishwasher to sterilize.
Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage. Choose one, wash it well, and set aside. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces, discarding the root end.
Combine the cabbage, choy sum, green onions, cilantro, and chopped and halved chiles in a large glass or stainless-steel bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and mix well. Add the garlic, ginger, chile powder, and fish sauce. Mix well, cover, and set aside.
Dissolve the starter culture in filtered water according to the packet instructions (the amount of water will depend on the brand). Add to the vegetables and mix well. Fill the prepared jar with the vegetable mixture, pressing down well with a large spoon or potato masher to remove any air pockets. Leave 3/4 inch of room free at the top. The vegetables should be completely submerged in the liquid; add more filtered water if necessary.
Fold the clean cabbage leaf, place it on top of the cabbage mixture, and add a small glass weight (a shot glass is ideal) to keep everything submerged. Close the lid, then wrap a kitchen towel around the jar to block out the light.
Store in a dark place (e.g., a cooler) at 60–73°F for 8–15 days (add another 5 days if not using the starter culture). Chill before eating. Once opened, the kimchi will last for up to 2 months in the fridge when kept submerged in the liquid. Unopened, it will keep for up to 9 months in the fridge.