Though often overlooked, diet and nutrition can be enormously helpful in managing the symptoms of chronic illness. Many patients attest to reduced pain, increased energy, and a general improvement in well-being when they find an eating plan that suits their body’s needs.
If you have a chronic illness and are wondering if changing your diet can help you, these cookbooks may hold the answers you’re looking for. And rest assured, healthy food doesn’t have to taste yucky! In fact, in my experience, fresh, healthy food has far richer flavor than the processed stuff.
Nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice for chronic illness. Remember to always consult your doctor before starting a new eating plan!
Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore & Adam Bannon
If you currently eat a lot of processed and fast food, need to lose some weight, or are usually too busy to cook your own meals, this is a great book to start with. It teaches you how to prepare all your meals for the week in just one afternoon. The result is healthy, delicious, inexpensive home-cooked meals with the convenience of takeout.
Further Reading: The Complete Meal Prep Cookbook for Beginners by Lynda Rhodes, Meal Prep by Gareth Jaiden, The Everything Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook by Tina Chow, Healthy Cookbook for Two by Rockridge Press, The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook by Laura Lea Goldberg
The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, up to 18 million Americans may suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity. If you’re one of them, a gluten-free diet could help you feel better. The problem is that gluten-free alternatives can seem kind of…gross. Sad. Lifeless. I get it. I’ve been there. That’s why this cookbook is so great. The good people at America’s Test Kitchen have tested all sorts of gluten-free flour blends, recipes, and baking techniques. They know what really tastes good and provide delicious recipes so you can skip the long walk down the depressing gluten-free aisle at the supermarket.
Further Reading: The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook Volume 2 by America’s Test Kitchen, The Grain Brain Cookbook by David Perlmutter, M.D. & Zoë François, The Easy Gluten-Free Cookbook by Lindsay Garza, The Gluten Free Cookbook for Families by Pamela Ellgen, Gluten-Free on a Shoestring by Nicole Hunn
The Real Paleo Diet Cookbook by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
If you’re already gluten-free and your symptoms are still out of control, the Paleo diet might be worth a try. The Paleo (short for Paleolithic) diet mimics that of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, eliminating all grains, which were only introduced to the human digestive tract when we settled into agricultural societies. The Paleo diet has exploded in popularity in recent years, especially among patients with autoimmune diseases. This cookbook was written by the original creator of the modern Paleo diet.
Further Reading: The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain by Danielle Walker, Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations by Danielle Walker, One-Pot Paleo by Jenny Castaneda, Paleo Slow Cooker Cookbook by Shon Brooks
The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook by Mickey Trescott
While many autoimmune patients find symptom relief on the Paleo diet, some need to go a step further. The autoimmune Paleo diet (AIP) also eliminates eggs, nuts, seeds, and nightshade vegetables, which can trigger hyper-sensitive immune systems. Though restricted, you’d be amazed at how much flavor and variety can be packed into this diet with just a little creativity.
Further Reading: The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook by Mickey Trescott & Angie Alt, The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook by Angie Alt with Jenifer Beehler, The Essential AIP Cookbook by Louise & Jeremy Hendon, Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook & Action Plan by Rockridge Press, The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls, M.D. with Eve Adamson
Pure Delicious by Heather Christo
If you have a lot of food allergies, but don’t want to go full Paleo, this cookbook is for you. It contains 150 recipes free of gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, and cane sugar. It also provides detailed instructions on how to do an 8-week elimination diet, which can help you identify food allergies and sensitivities.
Further Reading: Allergy-Free and Easy Cooking by Cybele Pascal, The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal, The Allergy-Free Pantry by Colette Martin, The Allergy-Free Family Cookbook by Fiona Heggie & Ellie Lux, The Complete Allergy-Free Comfort Foods Cookbook by Elizabeth Gordon
The Wicked Good Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Amanda C. Hughes
The Ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that forces the body to produce ketones, which are burned for fuel in place of glucose. Though some people use it to lose weight, the Ketogenic diet has been most studied for its unique ability to reduce seizures in epilepsy patients, especially those who do not respond well to anti-seizure medication. The Ketogenic diet is fairly extreme and should never be implemented without the oversight of a doctor and/or nutritionist. It is NOT safe for people with diabetes or high blood pressure, or for breastfeeding mothers.
Further Reading: The Keto Instant Pot Cookbook by Urvashi Pitre, Keto by Maria Emmerich, Quick & Easy Ketogenic Cooking by Maria Emmerich, The One-Pot Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Liz Williams, The Easy 5-Ingredient Ketogenic Diet Cookbook by Jen Fisch
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton & Mary G. Brackett
This cookbook contains recipes compatible with the GAPS diet. GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome and was developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Her theory is that many psychiatric disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, autism, addictions, depression, and OCD are caused or exacerbated by intestinal dysbiosis and/or leaky gut. (Studies have already revealed a link between anxiety and gut bacteria.) The GAPS diet emphasizes foods that help heal the gut lining and restore microbial equilibrium.
Further Reading: Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, M.D., Heal Your Gut, Change Your Life by Andre Parker, GAPS Introduction Diet Cookbook by Andre Parker, GAPS Diet One Pot Delights by Andre Parker
The Quick & Easy IBS Relief Cookbook by Karen Frazier
This cookbook contains recipes compatible with the low-FODMAP diet. FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols) are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. Reducing FODMAP intake has proven beneficial in some patients with IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Further Reading: The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet by Sue Shepherd, Ph.D. & Peter Gibson, M.D., The Low-FODMAP Diet Cookbook by Sue Shepherd, Ph.D., The Low-FODMAP Diet for Beginners by Mollie Tunitsky with Gabriela Gardner, The Low-FODMAP Diet Step by Step by Kate Scarlata & Dédé Wilson, The Low-FODMAP Cookbook by Dianne Benjamin
The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon
Most of the eating plans on this list are very heavy on animals fats and proteins, but some people thrive on a more plant-based diet. This cookbook includes over 100 colorful, nutrient-rich vegan recipes. Adding some of these recipes to your diet can help ensure that you’re getting enough fiber. Before you hop on the vegan bandwagon, though, just remember that there are some critical nutrients you can only get from meat.
Further Reading: The Power of Greens Cookbook by Dana Jacobi, The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis with Kathleen Squires, The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini, Meat on the Side by Nikki Dinki, Simple Green Smoothies by Jen Hansard & Jadah Sellner
Kombucha, Kefir, and Beyond by Alex Lewin & Raquel Guajardo
Bacteria were long demonized by 20th-century medicine, but we actually need bacteria to survive and thrive. Most Americans don’t have enough healthy bacteria in their gut because of stress and overuse of antibiotics. And the good news is you don’t need to take an expensive supplement to restore some of those friendly critters! Many fermented foods and beverages naturally contain probiotics. This cookbook teaches you how to make your own delicious fermented beverages.
Further Reading: The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz, Home Fermentation: A Starter Guide by Katherine Green, Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten & Christopher Shockey, Traditionally Fermented Foods by Shannon Stonger, The Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum & Alex LaGory
If you’re still hankering for more recipes, I recommend checking out Nourished Kitchen, which includes dairy-free, GAPS-friendly, gluten-free, Paleo, vegan, and vegetarian options. Also try Empowered Sustenance, which has Paleo and AIP recipes. (The Flourless Plantain Cake is one of my favorites!)