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Vegan for the Holidays

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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 occupy significant positions on the vegan landscape. One shows the value of diet and lifestyle over medical procedures and drugs. The other shares appealing recipes for both raw and cooked foods.

Click here for a review of Soak Your Nuts

Food Over Medicine:
The Conversation That Could Save Your Life

By Pamela A. Popper, PhD, ND and Glen Merzer

BenBella Books, 2013
Hardcover, $24.95

Food Over Medicine If Dr. Pamela Popper had lived in 17th New England, she might have been brought to trial for her heretical views, found guilty of being a witch, and burned at the stake. Fortunately, this "dangerous" women lives in the 21st Century where her opinions may be shunned by some but embraced and welcomed by others.

Popper is definitely an iconoclast who offers blistering criticism of a number of respected institutions for promoting a lifestyle that encourages obesity and poor health.

In Food Over Medicine, Popper joins with co-author Glen Merzer in exposing the actions of the government, the medical profession, the business community, the media, and national health organizations whose agendas are strongly influenced by money and do not support good health. Throughout this volume Popper continually comes back to her theme that food is the most important aspect of good health.

Popper, a naturopathic doctor, prominently featured in the film Forks Over Knives, is the executive director of The Wellness Forum in Ohio. Her organization has helped thousands of people regain their health. She is also one of the co-authors of the best selling Forks Over Knives--The Cookbook with Del Sroufe, chef at the Wellness Forum.

Pamela Popper Her collaborator is Merzer who has co-authored Mad Cowboy and No More Bull! with Howard Lyman, Better Than Vegan with Chef Del Sroufe, and Unprocessed with Chef AJ.

Food Over Medicine is written in an interview or dialog format between Popper and Merzer where he poses the insightful questions and she responds with answers that often challenge generally accepted views on health issues.

When Merzer asks, "What's making Americans so sick?"the doctor responds, "Diet is clearly the problem." She explains, "We have strange ideas about food in this country. One is the idea that moderation is the key to success, that you can eat almost anything you want as long as you eat it in moderation." She emphasizes that part of the problem is the availability of too much calorie-dense, inexpensive food.

The medical establishment incurs her wrath because it downplays the role of diet in health. "Yes, because they don't see results from the minimal, half-assed dietary changes they typically recommend," she says. "So I found that when we make big changes, we see big results, and the motivation lasts."

In the chapter The Program, Popper outlines the daily eating program she recommends and is followed by people at the Wellness Forum.

  • A diet that emphasizes unprocessed plant foods
  • An upper limit of 15% calories from fat (no added oil)
  • An upper limit of 15% calories from protein (preferably plant based)
  • A lower limit of 75% calories from carbohydrates (whole plant, unprocessed foods including legumes, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains
  • Organic animal foods a maximum of two times a week
  • No dairy products
  • Mandatory intake of 64 ounces of filtered water daily
Wellness Forum Graphically illustrated in the book is the daily Wellness Forum's Eating Plan in the form of a triangular cone. See the accompanying image. Starting at the base and moving upward, the reader will see:

  • At the base the daily Mandatory Intake of 64 ounces of Filtered Water
  • Above it a Majority Portion of All Servings: Legumes, Whole Grains, Potatoes, and Corn
  • Next comes Substantial Portion All Servings: Steamed Vegetables, Raw Vegetables, Big Salads, Green Tea, and Sprouts
  • Above that 2 Servings of Fruit
  • Above that 1 Small Serving of Breads, Cereals, and Minimally Processed Grains
  • Still higher 1 Minimal Serving of High Fat Plant Foods: Nuts, Seeds, Olives, Avocadoes, and Nut Butters
  • At the apex of the triangle--Treats: Organic Animal Foods 3--2 Times a Week Maximum
  • Responding to people who feel this diet does not provide enough protein, she says, "It's all but impossible to design a diet that has enough calories every day that doesn't contain enough protein because protein needs are so low. So there's not much chance of protein deficiency in any diet of caloric sufficiency."

    Surprising is Popper's view on including a moderate amount of animal protein in her Wellness Forum's Eating Plan. "I've yet to see evidence that people who eat a low-fat, starch-centered, plant-based diet, while including up to three servings a week of animal foods, have worse health outcomes than people on a similar, but purely vegan diet. I believe, and my experience with The Wellness Forum, confirms that belief, that we will help more people convert to a healthy diet if we espouse a more moderate message, if we don't scare people away by insisting that they abstain from animal foods entirely."

    That message clearly contradicts the views on moderation she expresses previously.

    One chapter of the book is devoted to diseases that result from poor diet. Popper downplays the role of genetics by saying, "You have genetic predisposition, but those genes are switched on by diet and lifestyle choices." She places heart disease, strokes, cancer, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, osteoporosis, acid reflux, rheumatoid arthritis, gallstones, and kidney stones on the list of maladies influenced by diet and lifestyle.

    In Success Stories the authors share stories about people who have followed the diet and achieved remarkable results. Popper tells her version of the story, and then the person involved makes a personal statement in a sidebar. Included here is Chef Del Stroufe's story. Even though he is a vegan, his weight ballooned to 475 pounds. He lost 75 of those pounds in the first six months following this program.

    Glen Merzer In The Dietary Establishment, Popper castigates national organizations for their recommendations that toady to their contributors, namely the food and pharmaceutical industries, and have a negative effect on the health of Americans. On her roster of organizations highly influenced by corporate contributions are United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), American Medical Association (AMA), and American Diabetes Association (ADA).

    None of these organizations will say anything negative about foods because of generous contributions from large food companies. Their research grants do not focus on diet and nutrition, but instead are awarded to researchers who are looking for medications that alleviate but do not cure diet and lifestyle-caused diseases.

    Even more disturbing are research studies rigged to produce results that are beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry. Just as alarming is the number of hospital deaths caused each year by physician errors and prescription medications. Popper cites approximately 20,000 people per year die as a result of angioplasty, while another 10,000 succumb from bypass surgery. "We have many studies that show that cholesterol-lowering drugs don't significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death," she says.

    It's the Food, Stupid, the concluding chapter of the book, focuses on collective choices to make society healthier. Some options include:

    • Provide adequate nutrition education for doctors.
    • Remove school lunch and nutrition guidelines from the USDA's jurisdiction.
    • Serve nutritious food in hospitals.
    • Eliminate farm subsidies.
    • Avoid over-testing and over-treating patients.
    • Tell people the truth about what's making them sick, and many will take action.
    Popper ends the book with a statement that reflects personal responsibility: "This is the way our public health crisis ends. The government isn't going to do it. People have to do it. They have to take their health into their own hands. The job of the medical community is to give people the knowledge upon which they can act. If the medical community continues to fail in that responsibility, we in the plant-foods community will pick up the slack."

    Food Over Medicine is a seminal work because it clearly reveals the relationship between diet and lifestyle and degenerative diseases. Everything Popper says is supported by her research and the numerous citations listed in ten pages at the end of the work. The conversational style makes the book so accessible. Because Popper dares to challenge so many existing beliefs and practices, she is probably on the enemies' lists of several organizations and corporations. Hopefully, her whistle blowing will attract the attention of those who desperately need this information.

    Soak Your Nuts: Karyn's Conscious Comfort Foods

    By Karyn Calabrese

    Book Publishing Company, 2013
    Paperback, $19.99

    At first glance, readers will think their eyes are playing tricks on them when they look at Karyn Calabrese's new cookbook Soak Your Nuts. And it's perfectly understandable--the front cover looks almost like the back cover, except one is upside-down and there are subtle distinctions.

    Careful examination reveals two books cleverly assembled under one cover. One half of the book contains Karyn's raw recipes, while the other features recipes for cooked foods. Both sections feature a wide array of familiar dishes modeled after American comfort foods that have also been adopted as vegan comfort foods.

    Karyn's introduction to the kitchen began at an early age when she helped her great-grandmother prepare large meals for church friends. But it was her mother's battle with cancer that opened the door to her transition from the Standard American Diet to a vegetarian path. The dietary journey continued to going vegan, and eventually to adopt raw living foods as her chosen lifestyle. She credits raw foods for keeping her healthy and avoiding the need for doctor visits, hospitals, and drug stores.

    Soak Your Nuts Performing efficiently on four hours of sleep a night, this admirable author operates three successful restaurants in Chicago: Karyn's Fresh Corner, Karyn's Cooked, and Karyn's on the Green. She's also known for her appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show and being the winner of the first annual Raw and Living Foods Golden Branch Award in 2002.

    Karyn's says, "With some inspiration from my teachers and a lot of creativity, I have created thousands of recipes for uncooked versions of the foods we all grew up on and love." She offers transition tips, an ingredient guide, and a description of helpful equipment for a raw kitchen.

    The breakfast section features Karyn's recipe for Rejuvelac she describes as "Gatorade of the health-conscious." Her version is adapted from Dr. Ann Wigmore's classic recipe. The fermented drink can be enjoyed as is, or added to other beverages. Other treats in this section include Almond-Berry Muffins and Sprouted Wheat Toast.

    The extensive salad, dressings, and condiments chapter offers an impressive array of creative salad combos, but the unique dressings and condiments make the salads exceptional. A simple cabbage salad comes alive with Ginger-Miso Dressing, while raw sandwiches make great partners with homemade raw mustard, mayo, or ketchup found in this section.

    Luscious and hearty entrees like Zucchini Pasta with Raw Marinara Sauce, Wild Rice and Barley Pilaf, and Spinach-Stuffed Ravioli with Raw Marinara Sauce are examples of raw foods that mimic familiar foods, while offering a fresh approach to dining.

    Among classic recipes for raw foodists are nut and seed cheeses. Cashew Cheddar, Nutty Pimiento, or Beet and Seed Cheese are easy-to-prepare, versatile recipes that can be enjoyed as spreads, dips, or in salads. Snacks feature familiar items like hummus, bruschetta, and nacho chips along with unique treats like Onion Crisps made with cashews, walnuts, and onions and accented with nutritional yeast flakes and sea salt.

    For the foodie adventurer, there's Curry Ice Cream for dessert! Sometimes it's possible to compose a dish of familiar items, and then, bring it into the limelight with nothing more than a single ingredient. Yin-Yang Cheesecake and Tirawmisu are among the exceptional desserts in the raw section that concludes with an index.

    Turning the book over reveals the cooked vegan fare that contains a different ingredient guide. Items like Bragg Liquid Aminos, egg replacer, seitan, tofu, and za'atar, a Middle Eastern herb blend, are typical ingredients included in many of the cooked recipes.

    Soak Your Nuts This section features exceptional recipes like Coconut French Toast for breakfast or Deviled Tofu to share at a dinner party. Soup lovers will find comforting choices like Chipotle Tortilla, French Onion, and Creamy Sweet Potato-Cashew.

    What's for dinner? Perhaps delicious Vegan Meatloaf, a wholesome mixture of brown rice, tofu, seitan, vegetables, and a mountain of herbs and spices pressed into a loaf pan and baked. Karyn suggests it's ideal for a family meal or even a holiday gathering. Other mouth-watering main dishes in the extensive entrée section include Shepherd's Pie with Red Wine Gravy, Veggie-Potato Potpies, and Mushroom-Pinto Burgers.

    There are side dishes galore like the delicious Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Mustard Vinaigrette or the Thanksgiving favorite Cornbread Stuffing with Mushrooms, Corn, and Black-eyed Peas.

    And no matter how hearty and filling the delicious salads, soups, or entrées are, there's always room for dessert. Temptations in the dessert section put the spotlight on Blueberry Pie pictured opposite page 64 and Carrot Raisin Cake on the following page. Not pictured but also inviting are Bread Pudding with Coconut Cream Sauce and Pecan Pie.

    The book is graphically attractive with several full-color photos displaying gorgeous foods and restaurant scenes interspersed throughout the pages. Several black and white photos of Karyn and her restaurant staff add additional eye appeal.

    Karyn Calabrese's Soak Your Nuts is an exceptional cookbook that focuses on two dimensions of vegan cuisine--raw foods and cooked dishes. Over the many years as Karyn has nurtured her Chicago restaurants into success, she has developed a banquet of recipes and shares many of them in this book. Most of the recipes are easy to prepare at home and have been kitchen tested to perfection. Those who turn strictly to raw foods have plenty to chew on in the raw portion of this volume. And, people who prefer some or all of their foods cooked have a truly rich collection of recipes to enjoy with Soak Your Nuts on the kitchen cookbook shelf.

    Click here for past book reviews

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