9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of food for thought for us all
This book is as the description says, 'part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto.'
Lots of books talk about the harm eating processed foods and high levels of sugars and grains on our health, but this book is one of the few that combines this with information about the effect all these many grain crops have on our environment and on many...
Published 22 months ago by Jodi-Hummingbird
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit dodgy on the research
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is well-written and appears to be well-researched, on the surface.
The book makes a lot of points about our food system, but the one that Keith most wants vegans to accept is that a decision to not consume animal products out of a desire not to kill anything is a dishonest one. Every means of feeding ourselves requires that...
Published 15 months ago by Melinda Vale
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of food for thought for us all,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)This book is as the description says, 'part memoir, nutritional primer, and political manifesto.'
Lots of books talk about the harm eating processed foods and high levels of sugars and grains on our health, but this book is one of the few that combines this with information about the effect all these many grain crops have on our environment and on many different ecosystems.
The author talks about all the hidden death that is involved in the production of foods such as grain crops, and why vegan meals may involve far more death than the more obvious death of a single animal to provide a meal for an omnivore. Many animals are made extinct when land is cleared for grain crops and billions of small animals such as mice and rabbits are killed every year by harvesting equipment, for example.
The book explains that buying a soy burger may give you an emotional quick fix but it does nothing at all to deal with any of the bigger issues, is terrible for your health, and gives money to some of the biggest corporations that are causing some of the worst problems in worldwide hunger and so on. To be truly moral in our eating habits involves more than just extending morality to a few animals who are most like us. The rest of the world, all those billions of other lives, count too.
The author also writes about how our soils need to eat and what they need to eat is either fossil fuels or animal products such as manure, and that there is no way around this. That we are part of a circle of life and trying to separate ourselves from this cycle is causing a lot of problems for our environment.
The author explains that we are designed to eat meat and that the shocking figures often quoted about the huge use of resources to produce meat are not only inaccurate but also misleading as they are always based on grain-fed animals that are factory farmed. Grass-fed and free range meats are a different matter entirely.
"Soil, species, rivers. That's the death in your food. Agriculture is carnivorous; what it eats is ecosystems, and it swallows them whole."
"A vegan agriculture is an ecological wasteland."
This book warns against the very real health dangers of a low-fat and low-protein vegan diet. Despite the title, this book talks little about vegetarianism, and is really discussing issues around veganism, mostly.
The Weston A. Price Foundation, which I agree with the author is the best website on nutrition that is available, says that one can be healthy eating a vegetarian diet that includes liberal amounts of healthy fats such as saturated fats from coconut oil, organic/free range eggs and good quality fresh milk. A vegetarian diet can be done healthily, they explain, although you do still miss out on some of the most nutritionally dense and important foods such as liver and bone broths. So it can be done healthily but isn't exactly the same.
It is also true that some of us really can't feel well eating purely a vegetarian diet while for others, done right, it seems to work for them. People have biochemical individuality and just because some can be vegetarians it doesn't mean we all can.
Veganism is different to vegetarianism, nutritionally speaking, and is not supportable particular when it comes to pregnant women and children. (More information on this in the brilliant book 'Deep Nutrition.')
Some of the personal memoir parts of the book were very well done and very moving. The most moving was the author's description of the day she started eating meat again. I admire the authors writing style as well as her immense bravery in writing such a book and I'm sad she has had to cop so much unfair criticism. This book is not harshly written and the authors deep compassion for people and animals and all forms of life shines through every part of this book.
The sections on nutrition were excellent. The author discusses lectins, the problems of a high carb and high sugar diet, how little difference there is in eating sugar or grains - which the body turns into glucose just as it does with sugar, the cholesterol and saturated fat myths, the problem of opiates in grain and dairy products, the lack of vitamin A in plant foods and the need for fat in the diet to absorb fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, the huge problems with soy and especially pregnant women and babies, and small kids eating soy, and the importance of fat, protein and animal foods. The author also summarises the work of Weston A. Price and Sally Fallon, Gary Taubes, Schmid, Eades and Marg Enig PhD very well.
For more information on nutrition I'd recommend readers check out the books by all those authors, they are all excellent.
This book is essential reading if you are following a low-fat vegan diet, if you think any type of low-fat diet is healthy, or if you think eating lots of wheat or soy foods such as soy milk, soy burgers and soy shakes is a healthy and highly moral choice and makes you part of the environmental solution rather than the problem. Read the book with an open mind and then make up your own mind.
I'd also recommend this book to everyone who eats food as you are bound to get something useful from this book, whether it is a new way of thinking about food or the environmental impact of our food, or some new ideas on making different food choices. This book doesn't discuss every issue surrounding this topic, and isn't all you need to read all on its own, but does make some very valuable contributions to the wider discussion of this topic.
The idea that we need to eat the foods our genes evolved to eat to be healthy makes so much sense. It also makes a lot of sense that this applies to animals as well and that feeding cows grains, which make them ill, is a very bad idea - as is growing food in ways which aren't sustainable and which negatively impact our health, so many other living things and the health of our planet.
Despite its imperfections this book well and truly deserves 5 stars.
Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional,
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This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)This book features an incredible body of research, it is well written and easy to understand. Any negative feedback is due to a lack of understanding or ignorantly hanging on to desired believes. It is a must read for anyone concerned about their health as well as the health of our planet. The author masterfully covered a variety of different subjects and concepts.
This book is thoughtful, thought provoking and well thought off .... in one word exceptional.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong Medicine,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)This book was written by a very courageous woman. It clearly shows the detrimental effects of BELIEF. In her case the belief that vegetarianism is good for you and all humanity. The consequence was that she wrecked her health. Her exploration into the effects of agriculture on our planet and on society at large is a painful eye opener. It explained to me the state of the world and society and the future looks grim until we ALL together make a choice for change and act on it.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Top Pick of the Year. Incredible.,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)It takes a brave and honest soul to write a book like this, not to mention a sharp and inquisitive mind. Lierre Keith should be applauded for her courage, curiosity and insight. I was blown away by this book; I could not put it down. I have never been a vegetarian, but her story is one everybody needs to hear. Vegetarians and vegans will find her approach very understanding and sympathetic towards those beliefs, even as she explains why they are misleading and destructive.
This book is exhaustive in its research, heart wrenching in its honesty, and mind blowing in its brutal truths. Keith deomolishes the animal-products-are-bad-for-us-and-the-planet diatribe with reason, heart, science, and personal experience. She examines the 3 major philosphies behind veganism (moral, political and nutritional) and shatters them one by one. She then explains her views on what might work to feed the planet and keep us healthy, and it is not by growing monocrops of wheat, corn or soy. My mind and eyes were opened wide by this book. I am amazed at how much I learned from Ms. Keith.
Despite my overwhelming applause, I must admit to having to brush away several spots of male bashing now and then. Keith has very strong feminist views that cloud her otherwise clear voice in a few places. But these spots are very brief and easily skipped over. The information she offers is sound, she has researched her topics thoroughly and her writing style is fluid and captivating.
As I said above, this is my #1 pick for the year, and I read a lot of books on a wide variety of topics. Give this to someone you care about, especially if they are thinking of going vegan or care about the planet and sustainability.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit dodgy on the research,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is well-written and appears to be well-researched, on the surface.
The book makes a lot of points about our food system, but the one that Keith most wants vegans to accept is that a decision to not consume animal products out of a desire not to kill anything is a dishonest one. Every means of feeding ourselves requires that organisms die. Monoculture, particularly as applied to the production of grain, relies on herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. This results in the degradation of soil and the death of every living organism that lives in it or creates it. Vegans, according to Keith, rely on grains as a staple and therefore their lifestyle is just as damaging as a lifestyle that relies on animals for food.
That's an indictment of agriculture, and not of plant-based nutrition. I think people are increasingly aware that monoculture is degrading to the earth. Plants consume more than just nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Feeding plants with commercial NPK fertilizers starves the plants as well as the soil. People are also increasingly aware that the grain we eat in North America is overly refined, hybridized and genetically modified, to the extent that it's not a healthy food. In terms of solutions, it would be more reasonable to look at sustainable and natural methods of growing plants (and of raising livestock).
When Keith writes that all food choices mean that something must die, her argument against veganism loses momentum because vegetarianism or no, something must always die. In that regard, it doesn't matter what you eat.
Keith then goes on to assess the human digestive system and its bearing on our ability to eat plants.
There is a table in Keith's book that shows the physical characteristics to support her argument that we are not meant to eat plants. It's taken from Walter Voegtlin's book The Stone Age Diet. Many of the data points in the table are simply incorrect.
- The table shows that the human jaw is capable only of vertical (crushing) motion and not rotary (grinding) motion. Our jaws move in both a vertical and a rotary fashion. We close our jaws vertically until the teeth make contact, then we rotate slightly to grind the food.
- The table shows that mastication is unimportant to human digestion. On the contrary, mastication is the first step in human digestion; it breaks the food into smaller particles and mixes it with salivary amylase which converts starch to sugar. Humans who do not properly chew their food have a myriad of digestive ailments.
- The table shows that gastric acidity in human stomach is strong yet the digestive activity in the stomach is weak. That's like saying the acid has no purpose.
- The table shows that food absorption in the human stomach is non-existant and that's true but irrelevant because we absorb through our small intestines. However the table skips the small intestine completely, which is necessary if you want it to support a claim that we are not meant to ingest plants.
- The table shows that humans can survive without a stomach, colon, cecum, microorganisms, and plants but not without animal protein. That claim is absurd and easy to ignore in light of the lack of data to support it.
- The table says the ratio of body length to digestive tract in humans is 1:5 and less than that of a dog. Keith has been badly mislead by Voegtlin's 'data'. Body length for purposes of comparing digestive systems refers to the distance from mouth to anus. A human's body is between 2 feet and 3 feet long, and our digestive system is about 27 feet long (with 23 of them taken up by the small intestines), which gives us a ratio that ranges from 1:13 to 1:9. The fact that most of the digestive tract is devoted to the small intestine, which Keith ignores in her data, very clearly shows that food is intended to take a long time to get through the system. This clearly supports the inclusion of plant matter in our diet.
Keith claims that 'vegan guru' David Wolfe writes books about diet without knowing a thing about how humans actually digest. Wolfe argues that you can get protein from plants as shown by the capability of gorillas, hippos, zebras, giraffes, rhinos and elephants to build muscle from plants. Keith argues that the gorilla can build muscles from plant protein only because of microorganisms in its gut that can digest cellulose. Keith argues that humans are not physically designed to eat grains (or even plants) because we cannot digest cellulose.
Keith's argument fails in several ways:
First, very little of the plant's protein is found in its cellular membranes (cellulose): most of the protein in plants is in the form of enzymes. Enzymes contribute to all chemical reactions in the plant, and after being consumed by animals, those enzymes contribute to the digestion, absorption, and utilization of the plant's nutrients inside the body.
Second, cellulose, or undigested fibre, promotes the movement of food through the human digestive system. Without it, we suffer from the effects of constipation. Without regular elimination of body wastes, toxins remain in the body longer and cause more damage.
Third, cellulose is found only in the outer membrane of the plant's cell walls. We can break the membrane in our consumption of the food, by chewing, and in our preparation of the food, by chopping, cooking, or fermenting. After the membrane has been broken, the macro- and micronutrients are easily accessed.
It appears that Keith has a poor understanding of both plant physiology and human digestion.
Keith's arguments also tend to be weighted heavily towards protein. Plants provide far more than just protein. There is a growing body of evidence to show that we need the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients in plants to stay healthy. More evidence is produced daily to show the effects of plant-based nutrients in the prevention of lifestyle-related conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
I don't advise people to avoid reading Keith's book. It is important to understand the arguments that people make against plant-based nutrition. After reading Keith's book, I deduced that agricultural practices are the issue here, and not plants as a food source. It might not be as easy for everyone to disregard the 'data' that Keith uses in support of her argument against eating plants. To that end, I suggest that you research digestion and nutrition yourself or consult with a qualified holistic nutritionist.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener of a book,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)For me, this is perhaps my top book of the last decade. It is elegantly written, passionately argued, full of information, and absolutely heart-wrenching. Like many of my fellow suburbanites, for me life was city life. I took it for granted as just "the way things are": the landscape, the buildings, the food I ate. But after reading Lierre Keith's book, I'm reminded of something a hero of mine once wrote (Kazimierz Dabrowski): There is far to little imagination in our world. If there was more, we would perhaps ponder on civilization, its nature, origin, and consequences a bit more often. We would see that it is based on consumption and destruction; that it has no place to go but down. That our very way of life, founded on agriculture, is perhaps the primary reason we started going to war with each other, the reason we are so sick in body and mind. And perhaps we would imagine new ways, a new world, and bring it into reality.
But there is too little imagination. Instead, we eat food we are not designed to eat. We get cancer, arthritis, heart disease - the list is endless. We get depressed, anxious, and traumatized, becoming disconnected from each other. We accept the propaganda of our leaders in politics, business, medicine, academia. We kill that which is necessary for life on this planet, and we kill that life as well.
This book is so much more than a book about vegetarianism or veganism. It is the story of a planet that is spiraling down the drain, a branch on the tree of life that is about to be pruned - dry, withered, and dead. Not a pretty picture. And yet, this book is beautiful. Lierre presents a small taste of what could be, what was. And I believe there's an inch of chance that we too can experience that: participation with each other and nature on the order of our Palaeolithic ancestors. But it will require a lot of change...
I can't help but think that a lot of the reviewers giving this book a bad review have missed the point. They nit-pick certain details but ignore the big picture: we are destroying our planet. Civilization as we know it is built on an attitude of control, domination, and sadism. Our creature comforts (and that includes our morning donuts and bagels) require the killing of entire ecosystems and our topsoil, keeping some nations enslaved in a corporate, bureaucratic machine. In short, our way of life is not sustainable, it is not humane, and it is not healthy. It is psychopathic, pure and simple. Perhaps that's why a lot of people can't accept this book. To do so would require them to totally reconsider their own way of life and change it. That's a tough pill to swallow, especially if your neurotransmitters and hormones are out of whack and your cell walls rigid as a result of the effects of a high-carb, low-fat diet. But that's the condition we find ourselves in, and we really need to do something about it.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking and important,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)Keith wears her heart on her sleeve and never holds back from inserting her personal opinions. She also thoroughly documents what she so passionately expounds. There's no stepping back or hiding from the implications. Agriculture has screwed up the planet. Every plowed field represents thousands of deaths and degradation of the soil on which we depend. Not eating meat does not make us innocent. We are all culpable, and there are no easy solutions, but we can still change.
I remember years ago seeing Joseph Campbell quoted as saying, "A vegetarian is someone who's never heard a vegetable scream." Keith honors all beings - plants, animals, stones, soil. One by one, she slashes through the practices and beliefs that are destroying the planet, then offers sign posts for a new path.
This is an important book that doesn't allow the reader to hide beneath any mantle of righteous action. Read it. Discuss it with friends. Be prepared to be uncomfortable. Be prepared to change.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read.,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)Despite disagreeing with Lierre Keith's take on religion and politics,I rate this 5 stars; her "de-mything" of vegetarianism is well-researched, well-written, eye-opening - excellent!
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only for Vegetarians, but for everyone!,
This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)Lierre Keith did not have to convince me to eat meat. I was a vegetarian for the puny number of 3 years, yet that was enough to compromise my health for many years to come. Consuming all those whole grains, the sugars, the tofu fries and tofu dogs, the soya milk and every other bad tasting "health" food that went with my new belief in vegetarianism, led me to feel for the first time at the age of 23 what pre-menstrual pain meant. And we are talking of debilitating pain. Nobody was able to explain to me why it started then - it's just hormonal imbalance, said my gynecologist. But what caused this hormonal imbalance that makes it feel like a war is waged in my ovaries, with a high number of casualties? Thanks to Lierre's thorough research, now I know. A decade later, and my hormones have yet to find their balance. But meat and fat are the staples in my diet now, so I am crossing my fingers.
Lierre did not have to convince me either, of the cycle of life and death. As a child, I've seen my mother kill our chickens and ducks, the ones that run free in our land behind the house in the Mediterranean village I grew up, and served them for dinner. The same fate followed my grandfather's goats and my aunt's rabbits. And we were strong children, me and my brother and our multiple cousins, playing out in the fields and by the beach all day, yet never throwing tantrums or crying for nothing. And I don't blame the children of today for their emotional fragility or their tantrums, I don't even blame their parents, for I am sure they want the best for their kids. But since this book is now available, it is their responsibility to read it and educate themselves, because big-pharma-paid doctors, ain't going to do it for you, sorry. And I can recommend a stack of books on nutrition, low carb diets, full of real information, from true studies and research too: Life Without Bread: How a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Can Save Your Life, Primal Body, Primal Mind, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, to name but a few. What really makes the Vegetarian Myth my personal favorite however, though it doesn't go in detail into the science and planning for a low carb diet, is that the author pours herself in her book and she takes me along with her. Not only did she do her studies before she presented them to us (13 pages of bibliography), she walked the bridge less traveled, the one spread between veganism and carnivorism, stretching from the grey land of the barely living to the land of sustainability and health, herself. And she now tells us, in a book that's half science and half prayer, sometimes speaking for the Earth herself to ask for our help.
What Lierre taught me that I didn't know, was the heartbreaking truth of the damage we have inflicted, as agriculture loving civilization, to the ecosystem, our Earth, our home. I cried for the dead rivers, the lost animal species, the sacred topsoil that is thinning away. I came out of the book with a profound respect for the intelligence of the nature that envelops us and sustains us, and yet we brutally maim it. I cried because I read that my homeland, a water depleted, desert-like island, used to be full of trees some centuries ago. And I got livid at the lies that our governments, the medical establishment and the media feed us with, along with poisonous food, so that they keep their pockets full of money. The sicker we get, the wealthier they get.
I don't know whether the world can change, but I know that this book changed me, and I will never forget to respect my food from now on, I will never again forget the evils of agriculture and I will always recognize the diseases of civilization. So I invite everyone, I actually plead everyone, vegetarian, vegan or not, to read this book, so that more of us know. And when enough of us do, perhaps the Big Corporation predators will grow smaller and poorer, while the Earth grows wealthier again.
5.0 out of 5 stars Food sovereignty,
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This review is from: The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability (Paperback)This is one of the best books atht I have read that connects food to health as well as to carrying capacity. I appreciate the evidence based approach with a layout that is in a very readible style.
I use it regularily as a refernce when developing postion papers and policy proposals.
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The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability by Lierre Keith (Paperback - May 1 2009)
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