This month we review a book that shows that a vegetarian lifestyle is not only beneficial for personal health but also essential in creating and maintaining a healthy environment.
The Vegetarian Solution: Your Answer to Cancer, Heart Disease, Global Warming, and More
By Stewart Rose
Healthy Living Publications, 2007
Stewart Rose, vice president of Vegetarians of Washington, has a mission. As he puts it, "I want to provide health-related information of concern to as wide a cross-section of people as possible." To carry out that mission he has created The Vegetarian Solution: Your Answer to Cancer, Heart Disease, and More, a sprightly volume of fewer than 160 pages that detail those solutions in ways to "Improve your health and the world you live in."
Laced with charts, graphs, tables, and drawings, the book presents compelling evidence to persuade the reader to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. One table called "Components of a Healthful Diet," for example, is the type of chart that could be photocopied and placed on a refrigerator door. It lists the common foods in a vegetarian diet, provides recommended amounts, and shows common examples. For vegans "Calcium Content of Various Foods" proves that not all calcium needs depend on dairy products. Revealed here are calcium values for various foods showing the percentage of calcium actually absorbed by the body.
In The Vegetarian Solution Rose succeeds in his goal of relating how a vegetarian lifestyle can benefit personal health as well as be a boon to the environment. He anticipates many of the questions the average person would ask about vegetarianism and presents a wealth of information supported by extensive research.
Anyone with a non-vegetarian friend can confidently give this book as a gift and know that the recipient will be receiving accurate and authoritative information. "The food we choose to eat is usually the single most important determinant of our health and longevity," Rose writes. Almost half of this volume is devoted to common chronic diseases that can be traced back to the Standard American Diet loaded with animal protein.
One of the most useful chapters is for new vegetarians, offering them information about what to eat and suggestions on ways to transition to vegetarianism. He presents seven rules for people switching to vegetarianism. "Whenever you give up eating any dish, be sure to substitute an even better-tasting one in its place," he writes.
He suggests that a vegetarian program "is a lot safer than the diet you left behind." On the program is the admonition to take a multivitamin with B12 daily and eat several servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes daily. He also advises a gradual transition and cautions not blaming personal health difficulties on this new dietary program.
Reading food labels carefully is important to understand what is really in the product. "Knowledge is power. Know thy food!" Rose says. Finally, he cautions new vegetarians to be diplomatic toward non-vegetarians. Even if others don't respect your food selections, vegetarians should not demean the choices of omnivores. "Instead, live by example and be ready to help others, if they ask," he advises.
Brief chapters of the book are devoted to global hunger and the impact of factory farming on the environment. The same farm products that are used to feed animals for meat production could feed the world's hungry instead. The fossil fuel used in animal protein production and the wastes accumulated by that production have contributed to many of the environmental problems the world faces today.
In a chapter titled "Food and Faith" Rose examines various religions and their views on the spiritual aspects of food. Here he notes various religious leaders who have advocated vegetarianism.
In The Vegetarian Solution Stewart Rose proves that presenting the vegetarian message does not require thousands of pages. In this compact, fact-filled volume the author tells you almost everything you need to know about adopting a safe and sane vegetarian lifestyle. This book is a valuable guidebook for anyone interested in vegetarianism. If you are a vegetarian, it's a great gift for anyone contemplating making that lifestyle change. Better yet, keep one on your home bookshelf and open it occasionally to remind you of all the positive benefits of your own lifestyle.
Reviewed November 2007