Vegan for Life (read this book!)

My beach reading for this week was Vegan for Life, from Jack Norris and Virginia Messina. It’s a quick, easy, informative read.

I’ve been following Messina (@TheVeganRD) for a while now and have appreciated her informed, articulate takes on various issues related to vegan nutrition. As I’d hoped, this book is a well-organized collection of just that sort of information, identifying and correcting misinformation popular among those advocating omnivorous or vegan diets, and offering context and well-researched data for the authors’ conclusions.

How much of which nutrients are important to include in your diet and why? And how can one best include them in the diet or with supplements? When is too much of a good thing a problem? How do dietary needs change in different phases of life or types of activity? What about soy? Should I listen to the people critical of soy in one form or another? Is tofu bad for me after all?

It’s all in there. As I got toward the end, I wished I’d been taking notes as I went through the book, keeping track of tweaks to how I eat and what supplements I take, but it’s so put together in such a straightforward way that it will be easy to flip back through and write up a little list for myself.

There are only a couple things that I would have liked to see a little different: the information on calcium was very helpful, but since I fall into the group of people who probably don’t get quite enough from diet alone, I would have appreciated more help in choosing a supplement. There are so many types of calcium supplements on the market, often mixed with other nutrients, that a little guidance would have been helpful (even if it was simply “it doesn’t matter–buy whatever you can swallow!”).

Also, at the end of the book there are some basic instructions for cooking beans, grains and vegetables. I was equally puzzled and amused there to learn that I cannot prepare greens by steaming them, and that I should instead boil them and drain off all the nutrient-rich cooking water. Indeed, the book even mentions “steamed kale” earlier, so I’m not sure what that’s about. I will continue to saute and steam (and dehydrate raw) my greens.

All in all, though, it’s a great book and a very worthwhile read, whether you’re looking into a vegan diet or have been vegan for years.

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