Click here to read reviewer Tanya Boudreau's take on Vegan for Life.
There are all sorts of reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle – to support animal rights, concern for the environment, to achieve better health—but it’s a tricky business, and almost everyone who considers it will need to research the facts before diving into a plate of carrots and spinach.
Jack Norris and Virginia Messina have made it a lot easier. Their collaborative work, Vegan for Life, pulls up the myths and debunks them soundly, then goes on to provide fact-based advice for vegans about the nutritional requirements and how to meet them without animal products.
If you want to live a life that is kinder to animals, a vegan diet is a great place to start. In the past five decades, fresh food straight from the farm has been disappearing at an alarming rate (along with the farms), and the industries that produce the vast majority of food today are designed for profit, not health.
“The changes have given birth to factory farms, where animals are crammed into sheds and cages with virtually no room to move. Modern farming ignores the basic instinctual needs and welfare of individual animals. Many die before they ever make it to the slaughterhouse from disease or injury or because they couldn’t access food or water.”
If your interest is strictly health-related, you probably already know that the standard diet in the 21st century is an artery-clogging, nutrient-deficient nightmare. Again, a plant-based diet is the first choice of the cuisine Resistance. “Vegans have lower cholesterol and less hypertension and are less likely to develop diabetes. And vegan diets have been used as part of successful programs for treating chronic disease.”
Maybe you’ve been scared off by the thought of having to plan every meal down to the teaspoon level in order to get the vitamins you need. And there’s always that question about protein, isn’t there? It’s the first question every vegan or vegetarian will get from omnivores who have heard the term ‘complete protein,’ but who apparently imagine it to be a single mineral that can only be found in meat. Norris and Messina don’t deny that planning is required, but point out that “Any diet, vegan or not, has to be well-planned.”
Vegan for Life is not a cookbook, although there are some favorite dishes offered by a number of people you’ve heard of (Dr. Neal Barnard and Jane Velez-Mitchell, for example), but it is a user’s manual full of charts that explain how much protein, lysine, vitamin B12, and other vitamins and minerals are needed by an individual at any given stage of life. They do provide sample menus, and they also address specific needs of pregnant and nursing women, baby vegans, children and teens, seniors, and athletes. You’ll also find in this book some easy steps for making the transition to a vegan diet as well as a vegan food guide with five new food groups (yes, new ones!) to help you get your bearings. Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up the French fries or convenience foods, either. There’s a page full of suggested entrees that anyone can whip up in a jiffy.
Whether you’ve been enjoying a plant-based diet for years or are just starting on the adventure, Norris and Messina will prove to be outstanding mentors. Even if you don’t plan to eliminate meat and animal products completely, there’s valuable information here about incorporating foods that help you fight disease, build the immune system, and feel better in general. Vegan for Life is one of those books that you’ll pull off the shelf for inspiration and consultation time after time.