The past decade has brought a huge surge of interest to the vegan diet, and for good reason, vegans have some good legs to stand on. Animal rights and the environment come to mind first, but some vegan authors are beginning to recognize that many of us are a bit egocentric, and to really hit home it may be best to target a more personal angle – health.
Mark Bittman of vegetarian cookbook fame has jumped on this bandwagon by promoting his “Vegan before 6pm” concept, but simply cutting out animal products isn’t going to guarantee you a healthy diet. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually quite easy to follow an unhealthy and less environmental vegan diet. Those vegan cupcakes, loaded with sugar and dairy-free margarine will do little to reduce your risk for diabetes or widdle your waistline. And, why do you think there is such a big demand for packaged vegan convenience foods? Sure, some are relatively virtuous, but many pre-packaged goodies lack substantial nutrition and may even contain other evils such as hydrogenated oils and loads of processed ingredients. To gain the full health benefits of the vegan diet, consider starting with (or advancing to) one of these informational books:
Vegan in 30 Days: Get Healthy. Save the World. – This is really just a book for vegan newbies. It does lack much of the “how” component, but coupled with some of the more dense books and cookbooks below, I think the step-b-step approach in this book can be highly effective for many. Read my full review
Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet – I haven’t actually read this book, but if it is half as useful as Becoming Raw (my notes below), then Brenda Davis RD has created another excellent book. It is likely a must-read for anyone interested in the vegan diet. Read Sarena’s full review
Becoming Raw: The Essential Guide to Raw Vegan Diets – If you think this book is only for those considering a strict raw vegan diet, think again. After reading this book I was actually convinced that a 100% raw diet is not the healthiest way to go, but the detailed information did encourage me to shoot for the baseline “raw” level of 50% of my diet or higher (by weight). There is tons of useful nutrition information in this book that makes it worth its weight in gold. Read my full review
Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life – For the ultimate on how to live vegan healthfully, go to the expert. Brendan Brazier is a professional Ironman triathlete and he wrote the book on it … literally. If you are new to healthy living and the vegan diet, then the diet in this book could seem extreme, but on the contrary, it may provide the motivation you need. If you are looking to gain peak performance from veganism, then this is the book to get. I have read this book, but haven’t completed a full write-up / review on it as of yet.
Thrive Fitness: The Vegan-Based Training Program for Maximum Strength, Health, and Fitness – I have to be honest, as an active woman, but not a triathlete, this book had little draw for me. However, if you are looking for some inspiration as a vegan athlete (say a marathon runner?), then you will likely enjoy this second read from Brendan Brazier. Read my full review
Each of the above books provide a smattering of recipes, but their real focus is on providing you with information. Once you are ready for some more recipes, I recommend the following health-oriented vegan cookbooks:
- The 30-Minute Vegan: Over 175 Quick, Delicious, and Healthy Recipes for Everyday Cooking
- Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan: Everyday Recipes Worth Celebrating
- Sweet Freedom: Desserts You'll Love without Wheat, Eggs, Dairy or Refined Sugar
There are many others, but these are cookbooks that I personally use and recommend.
Article by Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide & Cookbook.
Photo by Hannah Kaminsky of Bittersweet Blog