Cookbook review: Prescription for nourishing body and mind

"The Wellness Principles: Cooking for a Healthy Life" by Gary Deng, MD, PhD (Phaidon, $29.95)

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"The Wellness Principles: Cooking for a Healthy Life" by Gary Deng, MD, PhD (Phaidon, $29.95)

‘The Wellness Principles: Cooking for a Healthy Life’ by Dr. Gary Deng (Phaidon, $39.95)

Doctors of every discipline are accustomed to answering questions about what to eat to get well and stay healthy.

Dr. Gary Deng goes far beyond the boilerplate tips of cutting out sweets and lightening up on salt. As Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Deng has pioneered a nutrition-based program that melds evidence-based science with Eastern and Western holistic philosophies of self-care. He’s also an enthusiastic cook who prepares creative meals based on those principles for his family almost daily.

Now he’s written ”The Wellness Principles: Cooking for a Healthy Life” (Phaidon, $39.95), where he lays out his upbeat, flavor-forward approach to health with streamlined, user-friendly recipes for every meal.

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He begins with a layperson’s guide to the macro- and micronutrients our bodies need. He also includes tips for eating mindfully, stocking a nutritious kitchen, and building flavors with the five basic tastes of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami.

The recipes that follow largely revolve around plant-based foods supplemented with high-quality animal proteins such as fish, shellfish and eggs, along with a smattering of poultry and meat, and a handful of light desserts. Deng advocates gentle cooking methods such as steaming and sauteing rather than grilling and barbecuing, which he says can produce harmful compounds, although “a quick broil is fine.” Baby Bok Choy Braised with Oyster Sauce, Edamame with Roasted Cauliflower Steaks, Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Shrimp, and Kiwi and Honeydew Sorbet with Cashew Milk all sound good to me.

To complement healthy eating habits, he addresses other elements we need to take charge of to stay in top shape: physical exercise, stress management, sleep routines and our social environment.

To ensure your spiritual well-being also gets the TLC it needs, he offers this advice: “Make sure you take your ‘Vitamin L’ every day — love, light, and laughter!”

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at

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