Book Review: The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.: Recently I received a copy of this book to review. With its wonderful insight and knowledge regarding health and nutrition, this book had me hooked right from the beginning. The first paragraph of the Foreword is profoundly thought-provoking; it reads in part:
Today we are faced with unprecedented challenges for the health of our bodies and of the planet. And the most powerful tool we have at our disposal to change our health, our environment, our politics, and our economics is our fork (emphasis added)…Putting six ounces of meat on our table from a commercial livestock feeding operation takes sixteen times as much petrochemical fuel and produces twenty-four times as much greenhouse emissions as growing a cup of broccoli, a cup of eggplant, a cup of cauliflower, and a cup of rice.
That right there made me want to put down my fork to think about that for a minute! While this book is focused on bone health, it’s no surprise that bone health and overall health are inextricably linked. This book is helpful no matter what your age, since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In this book, Dr. Colbin discusses risk factors leading to bone fractures and the causes of osteoporosis, the nutrients need for bone health, and the factors that deplete calcium and other minerals. I thought it was very interesting to learn that factors such as sugar consumption, caffeine consumption, lack of (or excessive amounts of) exercise, and even consumption of some vegetables (those known as nightshade vegetables, including potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, chile peppers, and tobacco) can lead to depletion of calcium and other necessary minerals!
Dr. Colbin goes through the standard suggestions for strengthening bones (such as milk and soy consumption, bone density testing, medication, and hormone replacement therapy) and explains what works and why. It’s fascinating to learn what the most nutritious foods are for bones…and believe me, you might be surprised!
Something I’ve always thought was interesting is that many people believe eating large quantities of meat is necessary for bone health, and health in general. This book contains quotes at the beginning of each part, and at the top of Part I was the following quote, which I thought was pretty enlightening:
One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with;” and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle. Some things are really necessaries of life in some circles, the most helpless and diseased, which in others are luxuries merely, and in others still are entirely unknown. – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
This book provides a fantastic explanation as to how various aspects of health, including physical (such as diet and exercise), mental, emotional, and spiritual all come together to affect our health. Through a case study, Dr. Colbin even shows how it is actually possible to regain lost bone.
The Recipes: While this book isn’t primarily a cookbook, it does contain 85 nutritious, well-rounded recipes for good health. I was surprised to see that very few of the recipes include dairy products…this really helped to dispel the idea that I had that dairy was the best source of calcium. I think this really goes to show that nutrition for good bone and general health may be different from what is expected!
There are quite a few recipes that I’m familiar with (like basic garlic greens, baked buttercup squash, simple roasted chicken, French tart with greens and leeks (this looks similar to quiche, but without milk or cream), chicken soup, and creamy polenta), but I was very excited to see so many recipes and ingredients that are new to me. There are quite a few recipes that call for Asian ingredients that I’ve never cooked with before (but am excited to try!), like agar (a flaked, colorless seaweed product), kombu (another form of seaweed), and shoyu (a sauce similar to tamari, except that it contains wheat).
Looking through the recipes, there were quite a few that I’m interested in making: stir-fried bok choy with shrimp, salmon frittata with fresh dill, portabella beef stroganoff, Mediterranean herbed chickpeas, tempeh in coconut milk curry, cilantro egg drop soup, miso soup with wild mushrooms and garlic, oat-dulse crackers, coconut cream, cashew cream, and sardine spread.
The Recipe I Made Right Away: I decided to try the sardine spread first. Let me first tell you that in general I am not a big fan of sardines. Actually, I don’t like them at all…they’re just so fishy (I know, what do I expect considering they’re fish, right?…ironically, I really enjoy most other types of fish). Also, to be 100% honest, the looks of them scare me a little…and by scare me, I mean they make me shudder just to think about them.
Anyway, I really wanted to push out of my comfort zone and give them a try because my husband loves sardines and eats them regularly. Plus, I thought that all of the other flavors in the recipe might help to mellow out the sardines’ flavor. I’m happy to say that once this recipe is made, the spread looks quite appetizing (it looks like a tuna fish and mayo salad more than anything else). Since there are quite a few other strong ingredients in this recipe (like the grated onion, lemon juice, and tahini), the sardines’ flavor is definitely mellowed (hubby said that this spread is much less fishy tasting than plain sardines). I wouldn’t say that I now love sardines, but I would say that I did enjoy eating this spread and at least I got to try something new!
Sardine Spread (Adopted From The Whole-Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach by Annemarie Colbin, Ph.D.)
1 can (about 4.5 oz) sardines (packed in oil or water)
1 TB grated onion
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB tahini (optional)
1 1/2 TB chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp sea salt
About 1 TB chopped black olives (optional; this is my addition)
Crackers, for serving
Drain the sardines and transfer them to a bowl; add the onion, lemon juice, tahini, parsley, and salt and mash with a fork until blended. Serve on top of or alongside crackers, with a grinding of pepper and the olives (if using) on top.