Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book or books that contribute to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review two books that reveal how a plant-based diet can achieve numerous health benefits.

Click here for review of Bravo

The Plant-Powered Diet:

By Sharon Palmer, RD

The Experiment, 2012
Paper $15.95

"Eat more whole plants" is the mantra and message of Sharon Palmer's The Plant-Powered Diet. In 400-plus pages this registered dietitian, who says, "I live and breathe nutrition," presents a detailed plan of how to improve personal health through diet.

Palmer has not strayed from the lifestyle in the Northwest where her family emphasized a plant-based diet that featured proteins derived from soy foods, beans, and nuts instead of animal foods. And there were always fresh fruits and vegetables. In the winter the family feasted on home canned foods they had bottled during the summer.

Now with her own family in California, Palmer continues many of these traditions that keep her brood healthy. Her goal in writing this book is to transition people away from "a processed, meat-obsessed diet to a simpler, more vital way of living. A plant-powered diet isn't a 'diet' that you are either 'on' or 'off''; it's a style of eating, for life," says Palmer.

Plant-Powered Diet By shunning plant-based foods and exercise, people are eating themselves fat and sick. Their diets are loaded with unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, and salt. Because of a diet that emphasizes animal protein, people have become susceptible to diabetes, heart problems, cancer, obesity, and antibiotic resistance. They are also increasing their carbon footprints and degrading the environment.

To move toward "plant-powered eating," Palmer recommends making a gradual shift along what she calls the "Plant Powered Diet Spectrum." The Spectrum is divided into three broad categories:

  • Plant-Powered Vegan
  • Plant-Powered Vegetarian
  • Plant-Powered Omnivore

In all three cases, the goal is to reduce consumption of animal flesh.

Palmer admits she was a semi-vegetarian most of her life, eating a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet with occasional meat. She decided to avoid meat five years ago, except for some fish. Today she has embraced a vegan dietary program with occasional weekend and holiday breaks as a vegetarian.

The heart of the book features seven separate chapters devoted to "plant foods in the most whole, healthful, and natural form."

  • Plant proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Healthy fats
  • Spices, herbs, and chocolate
  • Coffee, tea, and wine

She counsels choices in each category to create a balanced diet with nutritional power. At the end of each chapter are two Plant-Powered Action Alerts, activities to help the reader develop a "plant-powered eating style."

"After completing 14 days of Plant-Powered Action Alerts, you'll be equipped with the tools to get started on your individual plant-based way of eating for life," says Palmer.

Spices receive special attention and are labeled as an "Antioxidant Medical Chest." The author's list of health promoting herbs and spices includes turmeric, garlic, hot peppers, cinnamon, oregano, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, mint, basil, sage, cloves, and vanilla. She includes these in a chart that offers descriptions and culinary tips. That chapter concludes with some advice about chocolate and its heart-health benefits: "Enjoy up to 1 ounce per day of dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa content as a daily treat you can feel good about."

Sharon Palmer When it comes to beverages, the author recommends water instead of sugar-laden Frappucchino, energy drinks, or colas. Her chart listing calories, sugar, and fat in these drinks is a wakeup call for dieters. Her recommendations for hydration are a bit surprising. Women should drink 2.7 liters (about eleven 8-ounce glasses) daily from beverages and in foods, while men should consume 3.7 liters (about sixteen 8 ounce-glasses) daily from beverages and in foods. Her reference for these numbers is the Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board in their report, Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate (February 2004).

The challenges of eating out and the power of exercise are covered in two separate chapters offering hints, charts, and good advice.

To aid people in taking the plunge into the plant-powered diet, Palmer offers a Plant-Powered Menu Planner, a Plant-Powered Pantry List, a Plant-Powered Kitchen Equipment Essentials, and a Plant-Powered Food and Exercise Journal.

Her Plant-Powered Recipe Collection features 75 vegan recipes that she created and tested in her own kitchen. Recipes include appetizers; soups; salads; sandwiches, pizza, and wraps; pasta and grain dishes; beans and lentil dishes; tofu, tempeh, and seitan dishes; vegetable and potato dishes; breakfasts, and baked goods; beverages; and desserts. Each recipe includes a nutritional breakdown.

The book concludes with Notes (research sources), a Nutrients in Action chart (includes daily values and functions), and a Glossary.

The Plant-Powered Diet is an effective road map for anyone seeking optimal health. The trip is made easier because guide Sharon Palmer presents a trove of information to expedite the journey. Easy-to-read text, numerous charts, and numerous practical tips make this comprehensive book an outstanding plan for a gradual transition to a plant-based diet.

Health-Promoting Meals from the True North Kitchen

By Ramses Bravo

Book Publishing Company, 2012
Paper $19.95

Ramses Bravo is not the sort of chef who aims for the fame of TV chefs like Emeril Lagasse, admired for his shockingly unhealthful, high fat foods. Ramses Bravo's focus is 180 degrees in the opposite direction to create vegan dishes that help to reverse illness and restore health.

Bravo began his career studying hotel and restaurant management before enrolling in a three-year apprenticeship at Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. His next four years at Kenwood Inn and Spa gave him the opportunity to create simple, spa foods that prepared him for his present position as executive chef at TrueNorth Health Center in Northern California.

Bravo Cookbook Because the chef experienced his own health and energy transformation while learning on the job, he knew the foods he prepared were also helping the many people who come to TrueNorth seeking to restore their health.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell, coauthor of The China Study, contributes a powerful Foreword. Dr. Alan Goldhammer, founder of TrueNorth Health Center, sums up the basis of his program in the Introduction with a joke. "A man goes to his doctor and says, 'It hurts when I do this.' The doctor replies, 'Then don't do that.'"

Both Dr. Goldhammer and Chef Bravo team up to teach people how to stop putting harmful, addictive foods into their bodies. Instead, the two emphasize the benefits of consuming unprocessed, unrefined foods prepared without sugar, salt, and processed oils.

Getting Started is Bravo's detailed introduction to equipment, appliances, pots and pans, tools, and storage containers. The unexpected tidbit of advice to reuse pots and pans multiple times between washings may surprise many. The chef explains that cooking without oil makes it possible to merely rinse the pots between uses. This section also features two weeks of complete menus along with a calorie chart.

The Basics focuses on the chef's unique techniques for cooking, steaming, roasting, blanching, juicing, and preparing broth. Intriguing are the recipes for Polenta Crusts, Tamale Dough, and Nutty Dough.

While common breakfast dishes often lack creativity, Baked Plantains with Coconut Vanilla Granola is a wildly inventive dish of ripe plantains, fresh pineapple, pineapple juice, vanilla, and Bravo's recipe for Coconut Vanilla Granola.

The soup section is equally as appealing. Imagine a steaming bowl of Wild Mushroom Soup or Creamy Sunchoke Soup with Watercress, two of many delicious soups that beckon with creativity.

Salad is definitely one of the chef's specialties. His passion for incorporating uncommon vegetables along with fruits into one delicious bowl of salad is evident in the Hawaiian Salad or Mixed Sprouts and Kelp Noodle Salad. Dressings, too, offer unique flavor combinations using blended fruits, vegetables, herbs, tangy citrus, and pungent fresh ginger, but no oil.

Ramses Bravo One can almost taste the flavors and experience the textures of Hearts of Palm Salad, a medley of jicama, ripe papaya, ripe avocado, and pumpkin seeds that accompany the hearts of palm. This salad is even better when bathed in dressings like Mango-Ginger Dressing or Apple Mustard dressing.

Entrees are equally tantalizing. Forbidden Rice and Garbanzo Patties with Tomatillo Salsa would make dinnertime pure delight. Made of mushrooms, garbanzos, forbidden rice, and corn and seasoned with lemon, cilantro, and coriander, the patties are then baked and finally sauced with a blend of tomatillo salsa, kale, and celery root.

While desserts contain not a drop of refined sugar, they are deliciously sweetened with natural fruits and fruit juices. Difficult to resist are Fig-Pecan Bars, Sweet Yam Pie, and Apple Pecan Cobbler with a fluffy topping.

Four double-sided pages of full color photos feature some of the chef's specialties like Mango-Banana Pie and Bravo Pizza with Polenta Crust. Without question the photos almost sell the book. Making the book graphically exciting are black and white food photos for chapter divisions along with brief introductions to those sections.

Bravo! is a stand-apart cookbook that walks the walk and talks the talk of delivering recipes that are healthful and health promoting. None of the all-vegan recipes contains sugar, oil, or salt (SOS). Those three condiments are considered addictive and responsible for leading people to eat unhealthful foods resulting in poor health. While a visit to TrueNorth would be highly beneficial to anyone seeking better health, following the recipes in this book could be the next best thing.

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Vegetarians in Paradise