Let's Eat

This book 
will give you a good gut feeling

Top Israeli chef Omer Miller and gastroenterologist Professor Dan Turner are behind a healthy cookbook


You've got ten for dinner. One suffers from coeliac disease, another guest has IBS and two more are lactose intolerant. You want to make something everyone can eat.

A new cookbook aimed at sufferers of a variety of digestive disorders could have the answer. Tasty &Healthy sold in its thousands when first published in Israel in 2014. It has now been reprinted in the English language so we can enjoy it here.

The book — which offers a range of recipes, from light bites and dips to fish and meat mains and even a handful of desserts, cakes and cookies — has a clever recipe colour key system, which identifies which condition the recipe is suitable for.

Behind the book is Professor Dan Turner, paediatric gastroenterologist at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek medical centre. “Tasty & Healthy addresses a significant gap for people who have all kinds of intestinal disorders. In the past, even expert gastroenterologists have often advised patients to ‘just keep eating what you like’. That advice was based on a lack of proper clinical trials on the effects of nutrition on certain disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)”.

Knowing that good nutrition is especially important to sufferers of debilitating bowel conditions, Turner and his colleagues established a scientific board of experts from around the world in all areas of digestive disorders. “Over a period of six months, we worked out a consensus of what they wanted to see in terms of diet.” The results of those findings were presented to chef Omer Miller and food writer, Elinoar Rabin, who set about writing recipes within the ingredient parameters they had been given.

Miller is an Israeli celebrity chef and television personality who has been very public about suffering from Crohn’s Disease. “Omer told me the reason he’s a chef is because he wasn’t allowed to eat as a child” explains Turner, who says Miller was only allowed liquids for years because of his Crohn’s was and therefore happy to assist with the project.

It wasn’t straightforward. “I made the chefs’ lives difficult” admits Turner, who says he and the dieticians made them redo recipes without certain ingredients. The whole process took five years, plus another two years to complete this English edition, which includes new photography. With new research findings made available along the way, some of the original recipes were also revised. The proceeds of sale will fund workshops for children and teenagers suffering from IBD to help them learn about the foods they can eat.

The paediatric centre at which the workshops take place and of which Turner is Director, is named for Turner’s late grandparents Anne and Joe Turner. “My grandmother, Anne, died in her 40’s from complications caused by Crohn’s disease. That was in 1968, at a time when doctors hardly knew how to treat digestive disorders at all. My middle name is Chanan — for her — and after my grandfather died, some of his estate was donated to create the centre.”

“I think she would have been proud that her memory led to a project that will help so many patients.”

Both England and Israel have high numbers of sufferers. “The UK is in the top three countries in the world for IBD, particularly in Scotland. In the north of England, the numbers can be as high as 0.7% of the population” explains Turner. In Israel, there are some of the highest incidences in the world of Crohn’s and Colitis. “There’s a higher rate of Crohn’s and Colitis in Jews generally and specifically, Ashkenazi Jews” says Turner.

What’s surprising is that, according to Turner, until 100 years ago, neither disease existed. “No one suffered from Crohn’s in the shtetl” he says, explaining that although the diseases have a genetic component, it is the change in our environment — to the food we eat, the bacterial composition of the gut (the microbiome) and the chemicals in the world around us — that may have triggered them.

“More than 50 of the additives used in food production can cause bowel issues to some people. Emulsifiers for example that may be used to give foods like mayonnaise or ice cream a smooth texture can have a significant effect on the bowel. Not everyone will be affected, which is why you need to take a personalised approach to individuals.”

That is what’s provided by the book, to some extent, with its traffic light system indicating which condition each recipe is suitable for; although Turner is quick to point out that the book should not replace proper medical advice.

You don’t need to be suffering to enjoy the recipes from the book. “The recipes contain no or low animal fat, no trans-fats, artificial flavourings nor food additives and there is limited frying. It is a healthy way of eating for everyone.”

In the forward to the book, Dr Mark Furman, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at London’s Royal Free Hospital recalls seeing a pot of chicken soup available for all the children on the ward at Shaare Zedek. Is it really the cure-all it’s reputed to be?

“There is definitely a lot of possible good in it. It’s very easy on the bowel, it’s low fat and contains no carbohydrates, so if you have problems with ingesting carbohydrates and want good proteins, it’s a great way of taking in nutrients. A chicken breast has similar benefits. Whether chicken soup cures influenza is another matter!”

The book itself is full of bright and colourful recipes, some contributed by restaurant royalty, Albert Roux OBE. Courgettes are clearly pretty benign as they make plenty of appearances as does chicken, potatoes and rice.

For sufferers of conditions like Crohn’s it could be an invaluable way of finding your way back to food. And for harassed hosts, it will save a whole lot of stress.


Tasty & Healthy by Omer Miller and Elinoar Rabin, Meze Publishing £18


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