The Un-Constipated Gourmet Book Review and Giveaway

Warning: this punny book is seriously funny.

Warning: this book is not 100% gluten free, but there are plenty of gluten-free recipes.

The whole title is The Un-Constipated Gourmet: Secrets to a Moveable Feast; 125 Recipes for the Regularity Challenged. Author Danielle Svetcov writes a lighthearted cookbook full of fiber, taste, and creativity. How many cookbooks have you laughing out loud? Come on, that is one funny title!

Key foods

The Un-Constipated Gourmet includes no less than 55 foods and fluids that will keep constipation away.  A variety of beans, nuts, veggies, seeds, and fruits are featured. A few gluten free grains are included too, millet and rice bran.

Recipes using wheat, barley, and bulgur are glutinous and off limits for those on a gluten-free diet. Recipes using oats are OK for most gluten-freers if you use only certified gluten-free oats. (For even more info on oats click here, scroll down to the Nourish column).

You might not think of some of the key foods as constipation preventers. Chocolate for one. But I am not going to argue with an expert, err personal experience. And I grab any excuse I can to eat more chocolate.

Plagues of the gut

Disregard this section, it is not written for gluten intolerant folks. Some of the foods listed here are plagues of the gluten free-gut. For example, white flour biscuits.

Some folks will get constipated from these foods. But some will get very ill, requiring prolonged time in the bathroom or bed.

And some of the foods listed are safe and saviors in the gluten-free diet, potatoes for example.

The Go-Meter

Each recipe has a Go-Meter icon, a starred roll of toilet paper with a number, telling you the relative constipation prevention strength of the recipe. The scale is from 1 (poor) to 10 (powerful). No recipe in the book scores below a 5.


I encourage you to read this book just for the fun of it. But at it’s heart, it is a creative and flavorful cookbook. Using real food.

Start your day with Corn Cakes. Made with masa, whole kernel corn, eggs, cream, and green onions.  7 on the Go-Meter scale. Optional topping ideas include: smoked salmon, dill and crème fraiche. I could wake up for that.

Or Dried Fig, Apricot, and Cherry Compote over Yogurt. Go-Meter 10! Another winner.

Try a Nut Shake. Almonds or cashews, dates, apple juice, bananas, and milk or yogurt. Go-Meter 7.

After breakfast, the recipes continue through snacks-dips-spreads, soups, salads, sides, entrees, to desserts. There is plenty to keep you going. *wink*

Svetcov has done her research

Wordy quotes from historical books with windy titles add to the fun. Titles like: Mediations on Transcendental Gastronomy, 1825.

And this one is a doozy: The White House Cook Book, A Comprehensive Cyclopedia of Information for the Home Containing Cooking, Toilet and Household Recipes, Menus, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts Worth Knowing, etc. 1905. That ought to cover it, don’t you think?

Full disclosure

I checked this out of the library to see if I liked it. I luved it. So I asked the publisher to provide a free giveaway book, they obliged.

Giveaway instructions

It is so easy.

1. Leave a comment below by February 21, 2010.

2. Carefully enter your email. More than once a giveaway winner has had a nonfunctioning email, and I have had to choose a second winner. That isn’t fun for you or for me. Please make sure I can contact you.

3. A winner will be announced February 22, 2010. I’ll update this post with the name of the winner.

Update 2-23-2010 Patty was the lucky winner, and the book is on it’s way to her now.

K is for Kefir

Thick and creamy, sour and tangy, sometimes slightly effervescent. Kefir is a fermented functional milk product. That means it offers health benefits beyond the basic nutrition of calories, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?

Kefir is fluid enough to be drinkable, and the brand available in the U.S. contains 10 bacterial and yeast cultures. These include several kinds of tiny organisms with scary sounding names. Yogurt is thick and spoon able, and usually has only 1 or 2 kinds of bacteria.

Both kefir and yogurt come in many forms, full fat, low fat, no fat, organic or not, with added fiber or not, sweetened, flavored, or plain. Some kinds of yogurt come with granola or cookie toppings that are not gluten free.

kefir 002

plain-kefir-with-garden-raspberries-added photo by lsimon

What about those bacteria?

Both kefir and yogurt often claim to contain probiotics. The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Those live microorganisms are bacteria and yeast, the host is us.

So we are eating bacteria and yeast. My sister, a nurse, will not eat foods with probiotics because of those bacteria, no matter how friendly they may be.

How do probiotics help us?

They help to normalize bowel function, whether the problem is constipation or diarrhea. Some doctors and dietitians recommend taking kefir with antibiotics to prevent diarrhea.

Many other health claims are made too. But often the research is on mice. Do you think mice like dairy as much as cats do? Or the research tests pills of specific strains of microorganisms, not the food product we would eat.

Are you lactose intolerant?

You may be able to enjoy kefir or yogurt. Those friendly bacteria breakdown the lactose and digest it for you.

Are you cultured?

You do not really know how active your cultures are when you eat yogurt or drink kefir. A research article from the Journal of Nutrition in 2000 states:

The National Yogurt Association allows yogurt manufacturers use of its "Live Active Culture Seal" on products that contain 10×8 viable cultures per gram at time of manufacture. However, no distinction is made between yogurt starter cultures used primarily for acid production (S. thermophilus and L. delbreuckii subsp. burglarious) and probiotics species (L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. reuteri, Bifidobacterium species, among others). Therefore, this seal is of little value in assuring consumers of effective probiotic levels.

I do not want to imply your yogurt or kefir does not have active cultures when you eat it. But the fact is, we simply do not know how lively those bacteria are after they have been stored for a while.

Raspberry-plant photo by mwri

Still, I enjoy a glass of kefir many mornings. I buy plain organic kefir and add flavoring to it. By itself, it is too sour for me. But I can control the amount of sweetener I add. So I add berries and honey, or blend it with peanut butter and brown sugar. I sometimes top fruit crisp with sweetened kefir instead of ice cream too.

Kefir is a very important part of my regimen to prevent constipation. I have found it works much better than yogurt and I have happily been able to stop my prescription medication, GlycoLax. 🙂

Kefir also provides significant calcium and vitamin D. Reasons enough for me to keep enjoying it and recommend it to you.

Have you tried kefir? How did you like it?

F is for Flax

field of flax photo by recursion_see_recursion

I eat ground flax pretty much everyday. Summer, winter, spring and fall. It is easy to sprinkle a tablespoon or two on cereal, hot or cold. The flavor is pleasantly nutty and it provides good nutritional benefit to start the day right. While there are many health benefits that I appreciate, I eat flax for one very important reason. Regularity. There, I said it. Flax does an awesome job of combating constipation.

It takes an arsenal of tactics to keep me going. Including pre and probiotics, lots of fiber and fluid, and regular exercise. Flax is a tasty part of the regimen.

If you are new to ground flax, I must caution you though, start slow. Start with just a teaspoon and increase the amount slowly. More is not better to start.

whole flax seed photo by AlishaV

The whole seeds are difficult to digest and may go right through you. The healthful fats are very perishable and spoil quickly. So grind small amounts in a coffee grinder and store in the fridge or freezer. And the color does not matter. Brown or golden seeds offer the same nutritional benefit.

Ground flax seeds are often used as an egg substitute in bakery goods. The common recommendation is to put 1 tablespoon in a small dish and add 3 tablespoons of hot water. Stir until the mixture thickens, when the soluble fiber has soaked up the water.

whole and ground, brown and golden flax seeds photo by AlishaV

I find this works sometimes and sometimes it is too “wet”. When I mix 3 tablespoons ground flax with 3 tablespoons hot water, I get a very very thick paste. This thick mixture works really well in my usual waffle recipe. I need to vigorously whisk this paste into the other wet ingredients to mix it well. The finished waffles are super crispy on the outside and perfectly moist inside. They do stick to the waffle maker more, so be sure to oil it well, every time.

Nutritionally, flax is almost 30% fiber, a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber lowers blood cholesterol, and insoluble fiber combats constipation. Flax seed is about 40% fat, over half is the very important omega3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Flax is by far the richest source of lignan, a specific type of antioxidant.

Research is underway. Flax fiber, ALA, and lignan may work together to reduce or treat numerous health problems. These include inflammation, type 2 diabetes, heart and vascular disease, cancers (particularly breast and colon), the immune disorders of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus, and even hot flashes.