Food & Drink

Cookbook provides suggestions to aid in digestion and immunity functions

According to the authors of Prebiotic and Probiotic Health Guide, our “gut” contains over 100 trillion bacteria and that is mostly a good thing!

Lead author, Dr. Maitreyi Raman, a gastroenterologist and physician nutritionist posits that prebiotics (non-digestible carbs that are food for probiotics) and probiotics (healthy live bacteria and yeast in your gut) are essential for our health. All three of the authors have impressive qualifications. Dr. Raman is a physical dietician, and Angela Sirouis and Jennifer Shrubsole are both clinical dietitians at the Foothills Medical Center in Calgary, Alberta in Canada.

This book provides a detailed explanation of how to encourage the growth of these bacteria and an explanation of how they function to aid digestion and to assist our immunity functions, generally keeping us healthy. The plan these authors propose for “feeding” these healthy little gut workers is a vegetarian one. Granted, you do not have to become a vegetarian to enjoy good probiotic health, but if you are starting out the new year with a resolution to eat more vegetarian meals, this book will provide many helpful menu suggestions.

There are two sections to this guide. The first is a thorough, plain language but scientific explanation of how prebiotics and probiotics act in our systems. There are special call outs for the effectiveness of attention to these elements for people suffering from diet-related problems such as Crohn’s disease, the links to diet and mental health, to recovering from problems caused by using antibiotics (and more). Simply put, if you have any “issues” with regularity, immune system and digestion, give the book a read. However, as with any book that wants to deal with a health matter, I advise you to consult with your own physician before enacting any of the overall recommendations—even those that sound very sensible. That said, I must acknowledge that this is one of the best I have seen dealing with the need for probiotics in one’s diet.

A lot of the recipes call for greens and nuts, like pecans. Others rely on squashes, and even polenta, which is an Italian corn product so similar to grits that ground corn grits can easily be substituted one for another with good results in most recipes, including the recipe below.

One word of warning: Many of the recipes call for tofu. I hate tofu. I have given it more than a fair shake over the years, flavoring it with everything from soy to tomato sauce. No go. Tofu is a good protein source for many people, but it is a soy product and there can be health complications for some from soy—as always, know your own health issues and consult your physician before accepting any dietary recommendations or introducing a new ingredient into your diet. There are some possible substitutions discussed (for the tofu) but it is in quite a few things and the authors note the recipes will not turn out quite the same with substitutions. That said, this book is a good source of inventive, interesting, and from what I have seen so far, tasty vegetarian recipes that will have the additional benefit of acting directly and positively on your health.

We have permission to share the Polenta with Fried Tomato recipe with you. However, I found many others, including my top four after the Polenta — Calabrese Swiss Chard, Squash with Quinoa and Apricots, Grilled Vegetable Lasagna and Bulgar -Asparagus salad. I have pages turned down for several others. Moreover, these interesting ones ranging, from breakfast foods that have pecans added to main courses, to sides to desserts. The book meets one of my criteria for purchasing a recipe book—at least 10 recipes, just from leafing through, that make me want to run into my kitchen to try them. The health information is a bonus! I think you will find a lot to like in this book, ideas for improving our health overall by paying more attention to the prebiotics and probiotics in our diet, and a plethora of recipes to assist in healthy eating.

Polenta with Fried Tomato

Reprinted courtesy of Robert Rose, publishers of The Complete Prebiotic & Probiotic Health Guide by Dr Maitreyi Raman, Angela Sirounis and Jennifer Shrubsole


2 -1/2 cups water

½ tsp salt

1 cup polenta or yellow cornmeal

¼ cup olive oil

2Tbsp butter

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

½ green bell pepper cut into strips

2 ripe tomatoes cut into eighths

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tsp dried basil

4 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled

A few sprigs fresh basil and or parsley, chopped

4 black olives, pitted and chopped


In a large saucepan, bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add salt. Add cornmeal in a thin but steady stream, stirring constantly, preferably with a wooden spoon.

Reduce heat to medium-low and continue stirring for two-three minutes until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Transfer polenta to a medium bowl and cover with an inverted plate,. Let sit for about five minutes.

Holding the bowl and plate together, turn the polenta onto the plate. It will come out (with a small tap) onto the late like a cake. Quarter it and cut each quarter into three slices.

In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter over high heat for one minute. Stir in salt and pepper,

Add onion and green pepper in a layer. Add polenta in a layer on top of the onion and pepper


Cook about four minutes. Flip the polenta over, along with the onion and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and fry on the other side for four minutes.

Flip the polenta again and fry another two minutes or until all ingredients are slightly browned.

Push polenta and veggies to the side of the pan, increase heat and add the tomato wedges to the vacated pan center. Fry for two to three minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften, Sprinkle all with garlic and basil. Then, gently fold the tomatoes and polenta together for two-three minutes until saucy and messy.

Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese evenly over the mixture and fold into the polenta once or twice. Remove from heat when cheese begins to melt (usually one minute) Serve garnished with chopped herbs and bits of chopped olives.

Title | Prebiotic and Probiotic Health Guide, A Vegetarian Plan for Balancing Your Gut Flora

Authors | Dr. Maitreyi Raman, Angela Sirounis and Jennifer Shrubsole

Publisher | Robert Rose Press

Price | $24.95