Top positive review
14 people found this helpful
Lots of food for thought for us all
on January 29, 2012
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.