By Marika Sboros
If you are Jewish and kosher then this book is for you. Even if you aren’t kosher or Jewish, 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. David is a rare breed in Israel, a trained low-carb, high-healthy-fat (LCHF) nutrition therapist. She is one of few voices advocating for LCHF lifestyles. Never was it more needed as obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease rates are rising rapidly in that country.
David has yet another innate advantage: 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 bridle at any suggestion that Sweden was one of the first countries to ditch fat phobia as unscientific. Yet Sweden is a leader in the field of nutrition to treat and prevent obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Following Sweden’s ‘diet doctor’
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 fully 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 LCHF and the Swedish version that sounded “too good to be true” David writes.
It meant that 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 need to do was ditch bread, pasta and potatoes from her diet.
LCHF for Israel
David took to LCHF like the proverbial duck to turbulent scientific waters. Her dream of serving authentic Swedish pastries gave way to a different, healthier journey.
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Her book is an idea whose time has come for Israel where health authorities follow the conventional low-fat, high-carb dietary “wisdom”. They also actively promote bariatric surgery for obesity.
When friends asked her “how do I make schnitzel without bread crumbs?”, she realised there was a need for a book.
LCHF is actually a breeze as she shows in the book as traditional Jewish foods are not exactly low-fat. David restores schmaltz (rendered animal fat, usually chicken) to its former glory. However, Jewish cuisine is also often carb-heavy. 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.
David emphasises that LCHF is not a one-size-fits-all diet. It is a lifestyle and 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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LCHF for vegetarians
Her focus in this book is specific. It is a kosher, low-carb aid for Jews who want to observe all the rules of “kashrut” (Jewish dietary laws).
She also 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 (pun intended). 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. She, therefore, advises starchy vegetables (such as. sweet potatoes), over grains.
The recipes David offers are an intriguing mix of her and those she has found on the Internet with variations.
She has a bread recipe, for a za’atar loaf. Za’atar is an umbrella term for a traditional Middle-Eastern spice that is 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 recipe she offers is “Oopsies”. These are for that time when you just “have to” put your butter and cheese on something. According to her research, Oopsie originates from a recipe by Dana Carpender who 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 has adapted Carpender’s recipe and her Oopsies can be used as a jelly roll or even as an alternative pizza crust.
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 adapted for LCHF.
An added bonus is that all LCHF recipes she gives are automatically kosher for Passover.
David has also developed her own line of low-carb crackers as a sideline. The crackers are currently only available within Israel. (To order you can email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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 minimum. 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.
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