Beyond Broccoli Book Review
This book should be required reading for anyone who is considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan, and would be a worthwhile read for anyone who is already vegetarian or vegan, and willing to read it with an open mind. Too often we choose a pathway from rhetoric we have heard, and don’t listen enough to other points of view.
It’s the “don’t confuse me with facts” syndrome at its’ worst.
The complete title, “Beyond Broccoli – Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work” pretty much sums up the premise of this book. It includes a lot of research, and some persuasive arguments for why being a vegetarian or vegan doesn’t work for everybody. Our bodies are not carbon copies, and with variations in hormones and other body composition, genetics, exercise and other factors, it only stands to reason that the exact same diet may not work for everyone.
The author, Susan Schenck, states in the introduction to the book that many people feel they have failed on vegan or vegetarian diets, but that the problem is the diet doesn’t work for everyone. She goes on to say:
“Vegetarians believe we are biologically herbivores but that some people have adapted to meat. Actually, the opposite is true: we are omnivores, and some of us have adapted to vegetarianism.”
The problem is that many people feel great when they start eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, but two to ten years later, when the nutritional reserves in the body have been depleted, many people begin to experience health problems. Vitamin B12 is an example of this. The liver can store this vitamin for up to 10 years, so it can be a long time for the deficiency shows up and harms a person’s health.
I think it is also worthwhile to note that the author was vegan herself for many years, and at the time thought it was the best diet available. She gives the reasons why she changed her mind in this book.
“Don’t delude yourself into thinking vegetarianism is always more healthful.”
Vegetarian Myths Dispelled
The second chapter of the book talks about common misconceptions people have about vegetarian diets and meat eating. Some of the myths are:
- We should emulate the diets of our mainly vegetarian primate cousins. Apes and chimpanzees are strict vegetarians. (They’re not.)
- We haven’t adapted to eating meat. (Actually, what we haven’t adapted to are grains and high-carb diets.)
- Vegetarianism is no fad – it has been around for thousands of years. (Fact: “Veganism has gained popularity in less than 100 years, really gaining momentum only in the last 40.”)
- You can get all the nutrients you need from a diet of plants alone. (Not true for everybody.)
- A vegetarian or vegan diet will help you lose weight. (This actually varies with the individual.)
- If a diet makes you feel good the first year or two, it will be good for a lifetime. (Sounds reasonable until you consider it can take years for some deficiencies to occur.)
There are many more myths included in this chapter, which in itself is quite an eye-opener.
Can a Vegan or Vegetarian Diet Give You Peak Health?
Here again, research and doctors and nutritionists are quoted on the affects of being vegetarian. The most common theme is reflected in this quote from Ann Louise Gittleman, MS,
“I think that a strict vegetarian diet (minimal use of dairy products) acts as a good cleansing program for people who come from a diet heavy in animal foods and processed foods, and for a time is therapeutic. But for some people, when it goes on too long, it seems to backfire.”
Bottom line here? While some people thrive on vegetarian diets, research is showing that vegan and vegetarian diets aren’t for everyone! It’s important to be aware of that fact and monitor your health should you decide to try it.
Other Factors to Consider Before Going Vegetarian or Vegan
Following chapters in the book discuss further factors a person should consider before going vegan or vegetarian.
For instance, Oxford University scientists used memory tests, physical checks, and brain scans to examine 107 people between 61 and 87. It was discovered that those on a meat-free diet were six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage.
Your brain needs DHA, and eating plant omega-3s is not enough for most people to get enough of this important substance. Nutritionist Patrick Holford says:
“Relying solely on nuts and seeds to make complex brain fats such as DHA is close to useless.”
Another chapter discusses metabolic types, and how this affects what we can eat. There are differences in how well people metabolize nutrients, so while one person may thrive on a certain diet, others will not do well.
There are chapters on:
- Plants As Protein Sources
- Meat: Correct Physiologically if Not Politically
- Dairy and Eggs (The Good, the Bad)
- The China Study
- And more.
Why Everyone Should Read This Book
One of our human failings is to seek out only those opinions that agree with our own, and close our minds to other viewpoints. Our mentality seems to be, “Don’t confuse me with facts… just tell me what I want to hear.”
But sometimes it is good to really listen to another point of view with an open mind, and be willing to test our own beliefs.
This is a very comprehensive book that obviously took a lot of research. It doesn’t matter if you are a meat-eater, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan or whatever diet you choose. This book is thought provoking, and needs to be on every health conscious person’s “books to read list.”
Whether you agree or disagree with what the author, Susan Schenck, has to say, it will make you think about what you eat and why you eat it, and perhaps even what you should be eating.
It’s definitely food for thought.
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