This interesting and educational book by James Wong reveals the facts behind the nutrition hiding within our garden produce, with facts backed by science rather than fiction. In it, James Wong reveals not only the best produce to eat to obtain certain vitamins but also the best way in which to eat them, from lightly cooked plum tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil to how to prepare a chilli. James Wong tells us a bit about his past and to find out more about what How To Eat Better is all about.
James Wong is often asked what first made him interested in plants. In fact he gets asked this question so often by taxi drivers, journalists and mates down the pub so comes to expect it as a given. Funnily enough, this kind of question is one my football-mad brother has never, ever been asked about his passion. So it seems almost as if dedicating your life to studying what many non-geeks see as just a leafy, green backdrop to everyday life is considered surprising. Yet to him is a lifelong plant obsessive, what I find surprising is quite the opposite. I just can’t understand why everyone isn’t as fascinated by plants as him. Whether we are aware of it or not, plants still underpin the food we eat, medicines we take, the air we breathe. Everything from our basic anatomy, to our most deeply hard-wired instincts are direct result of collaboration with the plants. Therefore understanding plants is key to understanding who we are.
James Wong How To Eat Better – published by Mitchell Beazley, £20 http://www.octopusbooks.co.uk
How does Wong gather research for your books to ensure reliable facts?
Well, starts by trawling through peer-reviewed studies in scientific journals to find promising leads. Of course, sound science is all about reproducibility, this does require quite an exhaustive search and some pretty late nights! So findings from one study needs to be reflected by a good number of other papers before it can be deemed reliable. Scientists look at a body of research as a whole when drawing conclusions not just individual papers. For last two books the number of papers read is well into thousands, which is why it takes so long to research and write each new book. Always works with other experts to peer review all the findings and give much-needed second or third pair of eyes to query and fact check. For example, previously worked with the RHS heads of horticulture and science to review the entire text of his gardening books. For book worked with a brilliant doctor in nutritional science.
The most surprising interesting thing learnt writing How To Eat Better?
Perhaps the most surprising discover was something quite counterintuitive and it was about coffee. As a scientist used to often hearing claims coffee is disastrous for your mood, heart and maybe a risk factor for cancer assumed they must be true. However when you actually look at the objective, scientific evidence, not only are the claims poorly supported, but in fact quite the opposite may be true. In fact coffee is one of the richest dietary sources of a group of naturally-occurring compounds called polyphenols believed to prevent a wide range of so many degenerative diseases, contributing up to 50% of antioxidants in the famously healthy Mediterranean diet. Thank you science.
Do you always employ own tips and tricks in kitchen as a chef?
A lifelong obsession with food and come from a family of people who worked in restaurants, so absolutely! Inherently quite lazy though, so included tips from the research thought were genuinely practical and accessible for real people. For example, storing tomatoes on the counter is just as easy as popping them in the fridge but gives you measurably more flavour, phytonutrients. Serving them with avocados can improve the absorbability of antioxidant lycopene (believed to have cardio protective effects) by 400% too. Really needs very little excuse to eat more avocados! This book is not about obscure ingredients or restrictive diets. It’s just about taking the food you already love and making it even better. Personally tested all recipes in the book three times, which explains why many are based around shortcuts and cheats! Love of good food is from his Love of eating! Guesses when you are fascinated by plants this conspires to make you obsessive about food. On a recent filming trip in Japan spent long using the translate app on phone to find dishes that featured weird veg on every menu (hostas, bracken, ferns, cherry and oak leaves are the common foods there) colleagues ended up ordering without him every time.
Most important message to take from How To Eat Better?
Eating healthily in our society is often wrapped up in the notions of expense. Somehow food that costs more, sounds more exclusive or is tracked down from some far flung place is often thought to be instantly better for us. The research tells quite another story. In fact very often the cheapest, most accessible option can be better for you. Tinned tomatoes have twice the phytonutrient lycopene of fresh tomatoes. Frozen blueberries, despite being half the price, have the same level of antioxidants as fresh. Instant coffee also has twice the potentially heart-healthy polyphenols of ‘artisan brewed’ coffee. So empowering, especially at a time when many can simply not afford to fill their trolley with the latest ‘superfood’. The single best thing you can do to improve your diet is simply to eat more fruit and veg. Full stop. The tips and tricks researched might make the fruit and veg you love even better for you. You can purchase your copy of How To Eat Better by James Wong here.
Want to find out how to grow some of your own super-veg? Click here.
To see more great garden books, click here.