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https://www.gillbooks.ie/AcuCustom/Sitename/DAM/074/9780717169269.jpgThe Ketogenic Kitchen

By Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly

Published by Gill Books, 22nd of April 2016, €27.99, Hard cover, 450 pages, ISBN: 978 07171 6926 9, four colour photographs throughout.

I was very excited to get an advance review copy of the Ketogenic Kitchen soon to be published by Gill. Priced at €27.99, it is both a beautiful and valuable addition to the kitchen cookbook armamentarium.  Hard cover and 450 pages in length with many full colour photos sprinkled throughout, it is a joy to peruse.

But what is a ketogenic kitchen?  That’s a rather scientific term for the average household to encounter.  Essentially, it’s a high fat, low carb way to induce your body to burn stored fats instead of sugars.  It was developed in 1924 by Dr. Russell Wilder at the Mayo Clinic primarily to treat children with refractory epilepsy. The diet fell out of favour when new epilepsy medications were introduced. This diet prescribed adequate protein intake and a minimum of 1:1 and as much as 4:1 fat to carbohydrate ratio. 

I happen to be a protein metabolizer and carbs just don’t get along with me. I have learned that I can exercise all I want, but to lose weight, I need to eliminate carbs from my diet.  I was introduced to this concept via the South Beach Diet, which was quite a fad in the US and still has a good following. The South Beach Diet essentially eliminates processed carbs then reintroduces complex carbohydrates while maintaining adequate protein and fat intake.  I had tried the Atkins diet, which was similar but required a very high fat intake, but I felt unwell on the Atkins.  Most of the ketogenic diets require medical supervision to ensure adequate nutrition and monitor metabolic rate. 

Ketogenic diets improve the insulin resistance and increase the HDL (good cholesterol) level, thereby potentially reducing risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. And as cancer cells rely heavily on glucose for growth, there is a growing body of evidence that some cancers may be metabolic diseases and can be controlled with a strict ketogenic diet.

In The Ketogenic Kitchen, we learn that the authors are both cancer survivors and credit much of their success in overcoming cancer to their change in diet. Domini Kemp is an award-winning chef, food writer and entrepreneur, while Patricia Daly is a nutritional therapist specializing in cancer care and the ketogenic diet. It’s a good team for promoting this concept.

The concept of a ketogenic kitchen was very appealing to me because it suggests a change of lifestyle not just a temporary diet.  When the book arrived I started eagerly flipping through the pages and admiring the recipes, but where was the rationale behind the diet?  I eventually found it half way through in the third section. I thought to myself that the second half should have come first. Explain the concept, then show the recipes. My impression was at first that this is really two books glued together instead of integrated into one cohesive product.  Think about how one uses a cookbook. You flip through it to see what interests you or you look specifically for a recipe for ingredients you have to hand. You don’t necessarily read a cookbook like a novel.

I went back to read the introduction on how to use this book and indeed found the statement that “this is really two books in one…”  The first part is a chef’s rendition of a moderate carb restricted diet. The second part is a nutritionist’s creation of a precise ketogenic diet in which carbs are restricted to no more than 4% of intake and fat often makes up 70% of a recipe’s content. This diet represents a radical departure from the “normal” diet that we have all been taught to consume with the food pyramid.  It would take a good deal of effort to make such a dramatic change. So indeed this is two books in one glued together by a solitary concept, that of using nutrition to optimize health and reduce risk of chronic disease.  Each part is written by a different author rather than collaboratively.

I understand the concept, but I still would have liked to have seen the rationale up front.  After all, the term ketogenic does not live in most people’s vocabularies. This is where I would have expected the publisher to edit the whole for the benefit of the reader, not taking the easy route of gluing two separate works together into one.

In any case, it’s a really good thing to be getting the word out that our current concept of diet and nutrition is just not doing what it should. The world is getting heavier and sicker, and any attempt to solve the puzzle is a welcome one.  Now that I’ve spent some time with the book, I understand that the recipes up front will help me now and the ones at the back will be put into play if and when they’re needed. Hopefully, the moderate low carb diet will do the trick and I will never have to face the diagnosis these two brave women have fought.

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