More and more people are drawn to a plant-based diet for various reasons. Some want to live longer and healthier lives or do their part to reduce pollution. Others have made the switch because they want to preserve our planet’s natural resources or because they love animals and are compelled by their ethics to refrain from contributing to the cruelty of industrialized production of animal-based foods and other goods. And while not every aspect can be covered here, increasingly there are those who take all these matters to heart.
An abundance of scientific research demonstrates the health benefits of consuming most of our calories from grain products, vegetables and fruits. A plant-based diet reduces the risk for chronic degenerative diseases such as obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers including colon, breast, prostate, stomach, lung and esophageal cancer. By contrast, says Michael F. Roizen M.D., author of The Real Age Diet: Make Yourself Younger with What You Eat , “People who consume saturated four-legged fat have a shorter life span and more disability at the end of their lives. Animal products clog your arteries, zap your energy, and slow down your immune system. Meat eaters also experience accelerated cognitive and sexual dysfunction at a younger age.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 95 percent of the pesticide residue in the typical American diet comes from meat, fish, and dairy products. Fish in particular, contain carcinogens (PCBs, DDT) and heavy metals (mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium) that can’t be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products can also be laced with steroids and hormones. So even abstaining from meat once or twice a week (Meatless Monday springs to mind) can start you on the way to all those health benefits.
Behind the Barn Door, a fairly recent series on W5 that documents the treatment of animals in the industrialized production of food, left no doubt about the inhumane conditions “food” animals are subjected to. Ten billion animals are slaughtered for human consumption each year. The picture of the farms of yesteryear where animals roamed freely has become an illusion. Today’s animals are mostly factory farmed – crammed into cages where they can barely move and fed a diet tainted with pesticides and antibiotics. These animals spend their entire lives in crates or stalls so small that they can’t even turn around. Farmed animals do not enjoy the same protection under the law as animals who are considered pets and their “dwellings” are only accessible to employees. What is “common industry practice” would cause an absolute outrage if dogs or cats were involved (which in some countries they are). As Sir Paul McCartney said “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.”
Last but not least, it can be quite economical to consume a plant-based diet. Meat accounts for 10 percent of American food spending. Eating vegetables, grains, and fruits in place of the 200 pounds of beef, chicken, and fish each non-vegetarian eats annually would cut individual food bills by an average of $4,000 a year. In her book Eat Vegan On $4 a Day: A Game Plan for the Budget Conscious Cook , Ellen J. Jones shows a very common sense approach to economical cooking. Her book is packed with nutritional as well as cooking information. It can be recommended for anybody who wants to start a plant-based diet and save money at the same time.
One of my favourite cookbooks is the award winning The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out by Angela Liddon. It is beautifully illustrated and the recipes contain easy to acquire ingredients. The dishes are simple to make and very delicious. This cookbook is a must-have for anyone who longs to eat well, feel great, and simply glow!
I also very much enjoyed the “Happy Herbivore” series of cookbooks, especially Happy Herbivore Abroad: A Travelogue & Over 135 Fat-Free $ Low-Fat Vegan Recipes From Around the World. Happy Herbivore chef and author Lindsay S. Nixon shares her travel experiences and recipes from 35 places abroad and some from closer to home. In this particular title, Nixon combines traditional comfort foods from home with international inspiration and stories of her adventures. The food is so internationally delicious, effortless to make, and easy on the budget – I ended up buying this book!
Another series, the “Moosewood” cookbooks, is chockfull of homemade goodness. The one that stood out for me, (because the recipes are fast and easy) is Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes For Any Day. The only thing I miss in the “Moosewood” cookbooks is an abundance of pictures although you will find a great number of vegan friendly recipes here.
I recently borrowed Vegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies, and More. Living a healthy vegan lifestyle does not mean giving up shepherd’s pie, cheesy dishes, creamy soups and other traditional comfort foods. Julie Hasson took on the challenge to recreate flavors she loved, but without the cheese, eggs, butter, and cholesterol. The results look absolutely delicious! Of course there are also deserts to round out a healthful and yummy meal – with these recipes you can dig in and feel good about it to. I definitely found a number of recipes worth trying out in the future.
There are so many vegan and vegetarian cookbooks to be found at the Winnipeg Public Library, I have not managed to work my way through them all. And there are more coming all the time. Just by searching under the keyword “vegan” you will find over 200 suggestions for every age, every taste, every occasion, for fast preparation and slow cooking. There are even more under the keyword “vegetarian”. Right now I am excitedly looking forward to receiving the book Homemade Vegan Pantry: The Art of Making Your Own Staples by Miyoko Schinner, which will be a brand new addition to Winnipeg Public Library’s collection of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. It is definitely worth keeping up with the list of new titles to discover something new.
In addition to the collection at Winnipeg Public Library, I would like to recommend the website ChooseVeg.com. Enjoy your exploration of the world of plant-based cookery. Bon appetit!