This month we review a book that extols the virtues of a whole-food, plant based diet.
The COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE to Plant-Based Nutrition
By Julieanna Hever, M.S., R.D., C.P.T.
Alpha Books, 2011
Julieanna Hever is not an idiot, and her audience is definitely not made up of complete idiots. Those who come to The COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE to Plant-Based Nutrition will find an intelligent and thorough discussion of the merits of a whole-food, plant-based nutritional lifestyle. With her master's degree in nutrition, Hever has practiced as a registered dietitian, nutrition coach, and health counselor in Southern California for the last twelve years.
In the introduction to the book she writes, "Health is not merely the absence of disease, nor are the symptoms of poor health to be medicated and ignored. Instead, it's time to redefine health and nutrition. Fortunately, a movement is well underway, confirming that what you eat can and does prevent, and even reverse chronic disease."
The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 emphasizes the The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet. Part 2 describes Living a Plant-Based Life. Part 3 discusses Special Considerations. Part 4 features the Plant-Based Recipe Box.
In extolling the virtues of a plant-based diet, Hever explains that it is neither vegetarian nor vegan. Both are plant-based but define themselves by what is excluded. " A whole-food, plant-based diet boasts a wide range of choices, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds," she writes.
Following this program, one reduces the risk of degenerative diseases, achieves "optimum weight," and avoids damaging high cholesterol. She debunks protein myths surrounding a total plant-based regimen and counters critics who claim it does not supply sufficient vitamins and minerals. She also focuses on the benefits of antioxidants in a plant-based diet and the dangers inherent in antinutrients like trans fats, oils, sugar, sodium, msg, and artificial sweeteners.
Hever reaffirms The Power Plate developed by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine. The Power Plate emphasizes the ideal diet by dividing the plate into four quadrants: fruits, grains, legumes, and vegetables. To supplement The Power Plate, she has designed the Plant-Based Dietitian's Food Guide Pyramid to reflect her own dietary program. Shown on page 73 of the book, her pyramid is also available on The Plant-Based Dietitian website.
In Hever's plan for living a plant-based, whole-foods lifestyle, there is no need to count calories for weight loss. It is important to recognize hunger and to eat only when hungry and then eat nutrient-dense foods. Other Tricks of the Trade include chewing food slowly, minimizing consumption of fats, avoiding concentrated sweets like fruit juices and dried fruits, and not eating right before bedtime.
Based on her research, the author has determined, "Dairy does more harm than good when it comes to your health, contributing to cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases." She is pro soy but wants people to eat soy from minimally processed sources like soymilk, tofu, tempeh, and soybean sprouts.
In Shopping Savvy, Hever surprises when she recommends no reading of Nutrition Facts labels because they are confusing and misleading. "Nutrition Facts Labels are superfluous when you eat a whole-foods, plant-based diet." she says. Instead, she advises closely scrutinizing the ingredients list to know what's in the product. She also recommends products with the fewest ingredients and antinutients and no ingredients difficult to pronounce. Also provided are tips for selecting fresh produce and a discussion about the nutritional benefits of eating frozen foods.
The whole-foods, plant based lifestyle is supplemented by one valuable component--exercise. Hever champions Plant-Perfect Fitness by discussing the physical and emotional benefits of an exercise program. "To achieve optimal health, you need a clean diet, plenty of rest, and relaxation or stress-management skills," she says. "Exercise completes the equation and adds quality to your life, pep to your step, and clarity to your mind."
In Special Considerations, Hever makes specific dietary recommendations for children, pregnant women, seniors, and athletes. She also presents a winning formula for weight loss. Most important here is her chapter on Dodging Disease with Diet. "A vast majority of illnesses can be prevented and will respond favorably by eating a diet high in phytochemicals, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals," she concludes.
In the final section of the book, The Plant-Based Recipe Box the author offers tips on dining out and attending social gatherings. She tells what is needed in the plant-based kitchen and then proceeds to give 38 recipes to help get the plant-based newbie started.
Sprinkled throughout the book are numerous sidebars in four categories.
Julieanna Hever really "knows her onions" -- the fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds that are the focus of the unprocessed whole-foods lifestyle. The COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE to Plant-Based Nutrition is a vast compendium of information and the best guidebook currently available on a plant-based lifestyle. It's everything you want to know about nutrition even before you ask. Julieanna Hever has created a guidebook that will be hard to equal in coming years. We will all be savants, not idiots, after reading this book