KOSHER LOW-CARB LIFESTYLES: BEGINNER’S PATH TO BETTER HEALTH

By Marika Sboros

If you are Jewish and kosher then this book is for you. Even if you aren’t Jewish or kosher, it’s still for you. Tasty Healthy Easy LCHF Kosher Low-Carb Cooking for Beginners is a reader-friendly, basic introduction to the world of low-carb lifestyles.

The author is Israeli Dina David. Never was it more needed as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease rates are rising rapidly in that country.

David is a rare breed in Israel, a trained low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) nutrition therapist. She is one of few voices advocating for LCHF lifestyles.

David has yet another innate advantage that makes her book attractive: She was born in Sweden, a country that leads the fight against fat demonisation and carb glorification. That gives her a dual perspective on adapting Jewish cuisine and tradition to LCHF lifestyles.

Opponents of LCHF seem to bridle at any suggestion that Sweden was one of the first countries to ditch fat phobia as unscientific. The fact is that Sweden is a leader in the field of nutrition to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Sweden’s ‘diet doctor’ Dr Andreas Eenfeldt

That’s thanks to pioneering work by Dr Annika Dahlqvist and “Sweden’s Diet Doctor”, physician Andreas Eenfeldt. Both are staunch supporters of the benefits of LCHF lifestyles to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease and much more. David takes inspiration from them and others.

In the book, David details her LCHF journey. She was in the thrall of conventional low-fat, high-carb dogma when she moved to Israel in 1985. She worked in a variety of fields, from hotels to high-tech before deciding to become a professional pastry chef. Her dream was to open a café and serve authentic Swedish specialities.

Along the way, she married and had children. Like many women, she also gained a few extra kilos that she found hard to lose.

“I thought I knew all about healthy eating and weight loss,” David writes. Thus, she ate “healthy whole-grains”, lots of fruit and veg and “low-fat-everything”. She also drank plenty of water, exercised occasionally, and felt well. The extra kilos, however, refused to budge.

Her doctor urged her to pay attention to her cholesterol and blood-sugar levels. By chance, she came across information about the LCHF “diet”. The Swedish LCHF version sounded “too good to be true” David writes.

It meant she could eat butter, eggs and cheese without counting calories. She could also have a piece of chocolate and a glass of wine occasionally. All she would have to do was ditch bread, pasta and potatoes from her diet.

David took to it like the proverbial duck to turbulent waters of nutrition science. Her dream of serving authentic Swedish pastries gave way to a very different, healthier journey.

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Her book is an idea whose time has come for Israel. Health authorities follow the conventional fat-phobic line of low-fat, high-carb dietary “wisdom”. They also actively promote bariatric surgery for obesity. The invasive logic of that escapes me.

David realised the need for a book when friends asked her: “How do I make schnitzel without bread crumbs?” It’s a breeze as she shows in the book.

Traditional Jewish foods are not exactly low-fat. She restores schmaltz (rendered animal fat, usually chicken) to its former glory. However, the cuisine can also be about as carb-heavy as it’s possible to be. You have only to think of staples such as bagels, perogen (dumplings), matzah (unleavened bread) and challah (kitke).

Kitke is the plaited bread that is the staff of life of the Shabbat meal every Friday night. Shabbat is Judaism’s most important ritual observance. And as David points out, the bread that welcomes Shabbat must have grains in it. Grains are “persona non grata” in the LCHF for various scientific reasons. She touches on the basics of that in the book.

It’s, therefore, impossible to replace traditional kitke with an LCHF alternative. But David emphasises that LCHF is not a  one-size-fits-all diet. It is a lifestyle. Thus, there are ways to overcome all perceived “obstacles”.

In this case, David does what I do. She has a tiny piece of challah to welcome Shabbat and for the rest, observes basic LCHF rules.

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For the rest, David’s focus is specific. It is a kosher, low-carb aid for Jews who want to observe all the rules of “kashrut” (Jewish dietary laws).

She covers LCHF for vegetarians. If you are a lacto-ovo-vegetarian, that is, you eat eggs and dairy products, David said there’s “usually no problem”. Vegans are another kettle of fish, if you’ll forgive the intended pun.

Interestingly, Israel has become one of the vegan capitals of the world.  However, if you are a vegan, David says that you will have to monitor your vitamin and mineral intake carefully. Thus, she advises that you choose starchy vegetables (such as. sweet potatoes), over grains. And you should avoid whole grains as they will inhibit mineral and vitamin uptake in the gut.

The recipes David offers are an intriguing mix of her and those she has found on the Internet with variations.

She has a great bread recipe, for a za’atar loaf. Za’atar is an umbrella term for a traditional Middle-Eastern spice. It’s a combination of sumac, thyme, roasted sesame seeds, marjoram, oregano and coarse sea salt.

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She has recipes for sweet and savoury pie crusts, and rolls. The latter can be made with a hole in the middle to resemble a bagel.

One of the intriguing recipes she offers is called “Oopsies”. She writes that it’s great for when you just “have to” put your butter and cheese on something. According to her research, Oopsie originates from a recipe by Dana Carpender. She was making a low-carb “bread” and by mistake doubled one of the ingredients but not the other. “It came out even better and the Oopsie was born”, David says.

She gives the recipe she found with her variations at the end. Oopsies can be used as a jelly roll or even as an alternative pizza crust, she writes.

No recipe book for Jews would be complete without a cheesecake recipe. It’s one that easily fits in with LCHF rules. David gives her aunt’s recipe that became a family favourite. She has adapted it to LCHF.

An added bonus is that all LCHF recipes she gives are automatically kosher for Passover.

David doesn’t say so in the book, but she has developed her own line of low-carb crackers as a sideline. The crackers are currently only available within Israel. (For more information or to order you can email info@lchf-israel.co.il)

She also shows that LCHF advocates are not an “echo chamber” as critics suggest. David has her own take on it. She includes some of the “no-no’s” on stricter LCHF manuals.

For example, on sweeteners, she’s happy enough for readers to include honey, as long as it’s kept to a bare minimum. Classic LCHF has no room for honey. Some of her baking recipes include baking powder that has corn starch or other grain fillers. Amounts are minimal and easy enough to leave out.

And if you are looking for a ketogenic diet, you’ll need different help from that she offers in this book.