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Zest for Life: The Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet [Paperback]

Conner Middelmann-Whitney

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Book Description

May 1 2011
Zest for Life, the first anti-cancer health book with recipes based on the traditional Mediterranean diet (new international edition), provides all the guidance and practical advice you need to prepare delicious, easy and affordable meals to boost your defenses against cancer. Without prevention, one in two men and one in three women in the industrialized world will develop cancer. What many people don't know: at least a third of cancers could be avoided through a healthy diet and lifestyle. Zest for Life does *not* propose a short-term "diet" of hunger or imbalanced eating. On the contrary, it shows how easy it is to enjoy a wide variety of tasty, healthy foods every day and in doing so to reduce not only our cancer risk, but also the risk of heart disease, obesity or diabetes. The Zest for Life diet emphasizes vegetables and fruits, fish, olive oil, legumes, fresh herbs and spices, and highlights the importance of conviviality and the guilt-free enjoyment of food, thus nourishing both body and soul. The healthy, modern recipes are inspired by rich culinary traditions from around the Mediterranean: Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and others. Zest for Life comprises a 120-page science section outlining the principles of anti-cancer eating based on the latest scientific research, followed by 150 easy, family-friendly recipes (using US and UK measurements). Most of the recipes are plant-based, although healthy fish and meat dishes feature too, as do low-sugar, gluten-free cakes and other desserts. Author Conner Middelmann-Whitney, nutritionist, health writer, chef and mother-of-three, overcame early-stage cervical cancer 11 years ago. Pragmatic, not preachy, she shares her personal cancer story in an engaging style and suggests simple, tasty ways in which anti-cancer eating can fit into busy schedules and tight budgets. The book is supported by a website, www.zestforlifediet.com featuring photographs of many of the dishes featured in the book as well as frequently updated cancer-prevention news, healthy eating advice and culinary tips. Conner is donating 25 percent of her royalties (32 pence of every book sold) to Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres, a UK registered charity number SC024414 (http://www.maggiescentres.org/home.html).

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About the Author

Conner is a nutritionist, providing consultations, healthy-cooking classes and a wide range of food coaching services. Having overcome a host of health problems, including early-stage cervical cancer, she is a passionate advocate of healthy - and tasty! - eating for disease prevention. A former Financial Times journalist, Conner lives in France with her family. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual dishes from ordinary ingredients June 22 2011
By K. Chevalier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have to admit that I didn't read every line of the anti-cancer part of this cookbook because my diet is very healthy. The recipes, though, contain some quite original and delicious takes on standard fare, with the added plus that they can be served to friends or family members who have gluten or dairy allergies. My brother has a severe case of Celiac disease and went bonkers over the beetroot chocolate cake, which besides those two ingredients contains ground almonds instead of flour and replaces butter with olive oil. On paper it looks bizarre but it's delicious, especially if you are so sensitive to gluten that your nose bleeds from the smell of bread baking and you thought you'd never be able to eat chocolate cake again in your life.

She includes some clever and tasty substitutes for mashed potatoes and couscous (white bean mash and cauliflower respectively - a food processor is a must for the latter). A carrot and leek compote has become a staple in my house - the magic ingredient is a spoonful of cashew cream stirred in at the end.

Best of all, these recipes can be prepared from ingredients bought at an ordinary supermarket and don't require a trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's for anything - a very big plus for anyone living far from a major city.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tastier, healthier and more imaginative cooking April 15 2012
By C E Dawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Zest for Life is a cookbook with a difference. The first third of the book provides a well-informed, easy to read explanation of why we should eat more healthily. Conner Middelmann-Whitney focuses on good nutrition as a means of cancer prevention. She is not claiming that you will never get cancer if you follow her guidelines and recipes, but she is showing us a way to a healthier lifestyle that will certainly reduce our chances of developing cancer, as well as reduce our chances of being obese, and developing other diet related problems.

Enticing healthy recipes make up two thirds of the book. Some of my favourites include Artichoke heart snacks, to French staples such as Niçoise salad and Onion soup, Leek and salmon frittata, Garlic-crusted baked cod, Chicken and red wine stew, Roast asparagus, Pumpkin mash, and Almond waffles with blueberry sauce. There are recipes for all types of meals.

Conner Middelmann-Whitney's thorough and well-referenced research helps us understand why it is better to choose organic produce, how to choose cooking pots and utensils which will not add undesirable substance to our food, and how to use cooking methods that retain the optimum nutrition in our food. She provides tips on where and how to shop, and how to prepare healthy snacks to eat on the go.

Nearly all of the recipes are free of wheat and of cow/dairy products, so they are suitable for those with a celiac condition and gluten or lactose intolerance. The few that include cheeses use goat and sheep cheeses, which can be left out if you wish. Interesting alternatives for wheat include a Pizza base made of ground almonds and flax seed, held together with eggs. Dairy cream is replaced with Cashew cream.

If you are looking for a healthier, tastier, and more imaginative diet, this is the cookbook for you.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A healthy food joie de vivre June 5 2011
By Joan Dollard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Conner Middlemann-Whitney's Zest for Life: the Mediterranean Anti-Cancer Diet is a two-part food joie de vivre brimming with information on healthy eating, hopefully as a way to defend oneself against cancer, followed by delightfully tasty recipes.

I found Zest for Life well-organized for ease of use, extremely informative, and very readable. Ms. Middlemann-Whitney's personal voyage to a healthy diet in Chapter 1 and how she wards off junk food temptations are interesting in themselves but also instructive and useful. I especially appreciated her list of items to take on long plane or road trips. Chapter 3, A Cancer Epidemic, is scary but then Chapter 4, Eating for Life, gives hope along with practical information on herbs and spices, the colors of healthy vegetables and fruits and how they help to stay healthy as well as an easy way to measure portions. Those are only a few of the useful bits of information, not only found in Chapter 4 but also throughout the book. The appendices are full of practical information as well with, for example, a shopping list in Appendix 2 of fresh and frozen foods along with a list of staples to keep handy.

The recipes in Part II that follow the five chapters of Part I complete Zest for Life. They are easy to follow, healthy, and tasty. Since I'm forever looking for ways to prepare fish for my husband who would rather not eat it at all, I really like (and he does too) the Fish plaki and the Garlic-crusted baked cod. There are many other appealing and delicious recipes.

Most of the ingredients in the recipes are available in our small mid-western university town supermarkets but others are a bit esoteric. However, they can be found in our local health food store.

Zest for Life is well worth the read and the recipes.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eat This Way, And You'll Prevent More Illness Than Just Cancer Sept. 23 2013
By Steve Parker, M.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The lifetime risk of developing invasive cancer in the U.S. is four in ten: a little higher for men, a little lower for women. Those are scary odds. Cancer is second only to heart disease as a cause of death in Western societies. The Mediterranean diet has a well established track record of protecting against cancers of the prostate, colon/rectum, uterus, and breast. Preliminary data suggest protection against melanoma and stomach cancer, too. I'm not aware of any other way of eating that can make similar claims.

So it makes great sense to spread the word on how to eat Mediterranean-style, to lower your risk of developing cancer. Such is the goal of Zest For Life's author. The Mediterranean diet is mostly, although by no means excusively, plant-based. It encourages consumption of natural, minimally processed, locally grown foods. Generally, it's rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, olive oil, whole grains, red wine, and nuts. It's low to moderate in meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy products (mostly cheese and yogurt).

Note that one of the four longevity hot spots featured in Dan Buettner's The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest was Mediterranean: Sardinia. All four Blue Zones were characterized by plant-based diets of minimally processed, locally grown foods. (I argue that Okinawa and the Nicoya Peninsula dwellers ate little meat simply due to economic factors.)

Proper diet won't prevent all cancer, but perhaps 10-20% of common cancer cases, such as prostate, breast, colorectal, and uterine cancer. A natural, nutrient-rich, mostly plant-based diet seems to bolster our defenses against cancer.

Ms. Middelmann-Whitney is no wacko claiming you can cure your cancer with the right diet modifications. She writes, "...I do not advocate food as a cancer treatment once the disease has declared itself...."

She never brings it up herself, but I detect a streak of paleo diet advocacy in her. Several of her references are from Loren Cordain, one of the gurus of the modern paleo diet movement.

She also mentions the ideas of Michael Pollan very favorably.

She's not as high on whole grains as most of the other current nutrition writers. She points out that, calorie for calorie, whole grains are not as nutrient-rich as vegetables and fruits. Speaking of which, she notes that veggies generally have more nutrients than fruits. Furthermore, she says, grain-based flours probably contribute to overweight and obesity. She suggests that many people eat too many grains and would benefit by substituting more nutrient-rich foods, such as vegetables and fruits.

Some interesting things I learned were 1) the 10 most dangerous foods to eat while driving, 2) the significance of organized religion in limiting meat consumption in some Mediterranean regions, 3) we probably eat too many omega-6 fatty acids, moving the omega-6/omega-3 ratio away from the ideal of 2:1 or 3:1 (another paleo diet principle), 4) one reason nitrites are added to processed meats is to create a pleasing red color (they impair bacterial growth, too), 5) fresh herbs are better added towards the end of cooking, whereas dried herbs can be added earlier, 6) 57% of calories in Western societies are largely "empty calories:" refined sugar, flour, and industrially processed vegetable oils, and 7) refined sugar consumption in the U.S. was 11 lb (5 kg) in the 1830s, rising to 155 lb (70 kg) by 2000.

Any problems with the book? The font size is a bit small for me; if that worries you, get the Kindle edition and choose your own size. She mentions that omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are "essential" fats. I bet she meant to say that, specifically, linolenic and linoleic fatty acids are essential (our bodies can't make them); linolenic happens to be an omega-3, linoleic is an omega-6. Reference #8 in chapter three is missing. She states that red and processed meats cause cancer (the studies are inconclusive). I'm not sure that cooking in or with polyunsaturated plant oils causes formation of free radicals that we need to worry about.

As would be expected, the author and I don't see eye to eye on everything. For example, she worries about bisphenol-A, pesticide residue, saturated fat, excessive red meat consumption, and strongly prefers pastured beef and free-range chickens and eggs. I don't worry much. She also subscribes to the "precautionary principle" (see Wikipedia).

The author shares over 150 recipes to get you started on your road to cancer prevention. I easily found 15 I want to try. She covers all the bases on shopping for food, cooking, outfitting a basic kitchen, dining out, shopping on a strict budget, etc. Highly practical for beginning cooks. Numerous scientific references are listed for you skeptics; I've reviewed many of them at my Advanced Mediterranean Life blog.

I recommend this book to all adults, particularly for those with a strong family history of cancer. But following the author's recommendations would do more than lower your risk of cancer. You'd likely have a longer lifespan, lose some excess fat weight, and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease, stroke, and vision loss from macular degeneration. Particularly compared to the standard American diet. What are you waiting for? Let's get cookin'!

--Steve Parker, M.D.

Disclosure: The author arranged a free copy of the book for me, otherwise I recieved nothing of value for writing this review.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars healthy and delicious June 21 2011
By Lauren Meisels - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I've made a number of the recipes and each one was absolutely delicious. I'm not a seasoned chef so for me the instructions were very easy to follow and got me to try new herbs and combinations of ingredients. My kids who tend to be picky eaters also loved the meals. We especially enjoyed the garlic, lemon and herb griddled chicken and the mediterranean baked fish.

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