The Plant-Powered Diet and Best Resources for Vegans

I’ve been a quiet blogger lately. Yesterday’s post on eating disorders was probably my first in a couple of months. It’s mostly because I’m in workaholic mode these days—lots going on in my personal life (nothing bad) and professional life (all good). The big thing that has me glued to the computer some 60-70 hours a week right now—and waking up at 3:00 a.m. to email myself ideas and reminders—is a book that is due to the publisher later this year. I’m excited about this book for a number of reasons, not the least is that it’s going to include recipes (and some additional content) from my friend and wonderful vegan activist JL Fields of JLGoesVegan and StopChasingSkinny fame.

This is a project that is requiring a ton of research and so I’m slogging through piles and piles of studies on diet and health.  I’ve also been struggling to find my voice and message for this book. I want to be a cheerleader for veganism, but also want to be honest in how I represent the science. It would be fun if it sold well, too.

That’s all sort of a tricky combination to achieve. I peruse a lot of popular nutrition books and it seems like the key to success is to make extravagant claims, gloss over how complex the research is, and assure readers that you know the one and only diet to prevent all disease and ensure permanent (and easy!) weight loss.

On the other hand, there really are some great resources out there for vegans and vegetarians or anyone looking for solid advice on healthy eating. One that came across my desk recently is The Plant-Powered Diet by fellow RD Sharon Palmer. It’s a book that makes the scientific case for eating fewer animal products and more plant foods while admitting that there is no precise definition for “plant-based diet.” The information in the book is balanced, honest, and practical, and the recipes—which appear to all be vegan—look really nice. In the forward to the book, Dr. David Katz, of the Yale University Prevention Research Center says this about Sharon’s book:  “So much of modern health advice is about marketing a particular perspective that such a balanced and moderate approach is a truly surprising and welcome departure.”

I agree, and it’s the thing that made this book stand out for me. Admittedly, I wish the book had included more perspective on making compassionate food choices. When animals are part of the discussion (and I think they should always be part of the discussion) a vegan diet is the one and only best way to eat. When the focus moves away from animals, then diet-related issues become somewhat less clear. So far, no one has proven that a vegan diet is healthier than other plant-based ways of eating, and it’s unlikely that they ever will. So, this isn’t a book I would use to promote veganism—it presents a vegan option, but not a vegan imperative—but, it is one I would use to promote healthy plant-based eating for those who are looking for that type of information.

Coming across this book inspired me to update my list of recommended resources. I’ve kept the focus mostly on books and websites aimed at vegans but I’ve also included Sharon’s book and other useful plant-based references that contain good information for vegans. As always, I’m super-picky about recommended resources. They have to come from people who understand that the scientific research is complex and that some types of studies provide stronger evidence than others. They have to be honest about both benefits and potential risks associated with vegan diets. And, happily, the list of resources that meet these criteria is getting longer.

 

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33 Responses to The Plant-Powered Diet and Best Resources for Vegans

  1. Paula August 9, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Ginny, I’m so excited that you’re writing another book. I love your approach to real evidenced based vegan nutrition. I just finished my MS and my dietetic internship this week, and you’ve been a real inspiration to me in this process. Thanks so much for all the work you do!

    • Ginny Messina August 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      Thank you so much, Paula. And wow–congrats on finishing your MS and internship. The hard part is behind you–you’ll breeze through the exam!

  2. Jerusha August 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Keep us updated on your book, and when it is available for purchase…I’m in line now! :D

    This post is the reason why I have your site bookmarked and visit it often, and share so many of your posts online with others – you make scientifically-grounded claims…and I feel that you won’t just change your mind at some new “fad” that comes along. I like that you are reliable. Thank you for all your hard work, and keep it up!

    • Ginny Messina August 9, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

      Thanks so much, Jerusha! It will be out next spring, and I’ll start sharing more info about in late fall.

  3. JL August 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    I certainly understand why you haven’t been able to blog as much! :) I’m so honored to be working with you on the book, Ginny!

    One of the many reasons that I admire you is that you focus on the research – and that you never lose sight of your personal perspective when it comes to compassion and animals.

    It’s great that you updated your resource list…but YOU are my number one resource!

    • Ginny Messina August 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Thank you so much, JL <3. I’m so thrilled to be working with you–someone I admire a LOT!

  4. Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy August 10, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    what a great post! i agree, animals definitely should be part of the conversation. Thanks for sharing! can’t wait for your book!

    • Ginny Messina August 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks, Caralyn! I will definitely keep you posted via this blog.

  5. Matt August 10, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    “I peruse a lot of popular nutrition books and it seems like the key to success is to make extravagant claims, gloss over how complex the research is, and assure readers that you know the one and only diet to prevent all disease and ensure permanent (and easy!) weight loss.”

    Say it isn’t so, Ginny!
    ;-)

    • Ginny Messina August 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      LOL, Matt. I know you’re shocked. ;)

  6. betsy shipley August 10, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Ginny, so good to hear that you are writing another book. I do wish you many successes with it. We will keep you posted on our news also. Gunter applied for a patent for a tempeh incubator which would be useful in restaurants and small shops producing healthy food for the local community.
    Dreams do come true and this after 30 years!
    Betsy

    • Ginny Messina August 10, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Betsy, it’s always so lovely to hear from you. And I”m glad to hear you are still active in the world of tempeh. You and Gunter have done so much for us tempeh lovers!

  7. Jona August 10, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    “So far, no one has proven that a vegan diet is healthier than other plant-based ways of eating, and it’s unlikely that they ever will.”

    I don’t understand that sentence. What would a non-vegan plant-based way of eating include that a vegan diet excludes?

    • Ginny Messina August 10, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

      No, there is nothing about a non-vegan plant-based diet that would make it healthier. My point is that there is a range of plant-based patterns that support health and it’s unlikely that one is any better than another.

      • Janine August 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

        I was wondering about that statement, too. When you replied about a range of plant-based patterns, do you mean diets such as macrobiotic or raw vegan diets? It seems to me that The China Study has shown that a vegan diet is healthier way of eating, but as far as I remember it does not discern between plant-based diets such as raw or macrobiotic. Can you clarify a bit further?

        • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

          Janine, see my comment in response to Jona below. Plant-based means “mostly plant foods.” A vegan diet is one type of plant-based diet. Lacto-ovo vegetarian is another, and the Mediterranean diet or traditional Japanese diet are also plant-based, although not completely vegan or meat-free. The diets studied in the China Study were plant-based but not vegan. None of the subjects ate a vegan diet.

      • Jona August 11, 2012 at 1:34 am #

        No, I meant I don’t even understand the phrase “non-vegan plant-based diet”. How can a diet that is based on plants be non-vegan? What type of plant would count as non-vegan? Or is the term plant-based used loosely to mean “mostly plants but also some meat”? (I’m not a native english speaker so I’m not so familiar with this plant-based talk; I’d up until reading this taken it to be a synonym for vegan)

        • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 8:02 am #

          I understand your confusion now. The term “plant-based” is generally used to describe a diet that has plant foods as a foundation, but it doesn’t mean that it is 100% plant foods. For example, the Mediterranean diet, which includes fish and some dairy foods, is generally described as “plant-based.” So there is a whole spectrum of “plant-based” eating. Most nutrition professionals recommend a “whole foods plant-based” diet, but it doesn’t mean that they are all talking about a vegan diet.

          • Jona August 11, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

            Thank you, that clears things up for me.

            I’m also looking forward to reading a new book next year. I like the approach of presenting veganism as a diet you can thrive nutritionally without making the much stronger claim that it is superior to every other possible diet involving at least large doses of plants. My experience is that people who are open to conversations on veganism mostly are interested in hearing just that. Very few I’ve talked to care much about nutritional optimality; but they’re interesting in tips on how to practically plan vegan eating so they eat at least as well as they did before. B12 worries and all that. Once those hurdles are passed they are very open to have a go at it and are more interested in the animal ethics reasons for veganism.

            • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

              Yes, I agree. People need to feel confident that a vegan diet will cover all of their nutritional needs. And that they’ll be able to find something to eat!

              • Nathan Nobis February 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

                I am late on this, but am happy to have found this page to use for an article on ethical arguments for veganism.

                My understanding of “So far, no one has proven that a vegan diet is healthier than other plant-based ways of eating, and it’s unlikely that they ever will,” was that a plant based diet with *some*, *occasional*, *small* amounts of animal products (including meat) would not be any worse for health than a comparable plant-based diet with no meat.

                To put it another way, if two people both ate a lot of vegetables but one had a very small amount of meat for one meal a week (or every two weeks, or whatever), there would be little reason to suspect that the meat-eater’s health would be worse – health-wise- on that diet, compared to the plant based vegan. Correct?

                Thank you!

                • Ginny Messina February 19, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

                  Right–we don’t have any reason to think that people need to eat 100% plant foods to be healthy–just that they need to eat mostly plant foods. That’s why the ethical argument is crucial to vegan activism.

  8. Diana August 10, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    I will do my best to get the word out on your new book and I appreciate the updated guide. When in question I turn to your work as well as Jack Norris because I know it is published with true integrity!
    Diana

    • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      Thank you so much, Diana!

  9. veganlinda August 11, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    I am so happy to hear you are working on a new book. You and Jack Norris are the sources I feel completely comfortable recommending to others. Thank you for all the work you do!

    • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 8:06 am #

      Thank you, Linda!

  10. Joseph Espinosa August 11, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    It is a long hard road out of the hell of trying to convince other vegans that their beliefs in the supremacy of THE vegan diet is unfounded and overstated. Having Messina RD and Norris RD to cite, rather than Espinosa BS, helps in obvious and immeasurable ways. Thanks Ginny!

    • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

      Thanks as always, Joseph!

  11. Annie Brown August 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Just found your site. Your work is amazing. I’m going to order you book on Amazon in a few minutes! Thanks for all your great info. Loved your post on eating disorders…thanks for setting the facts straight.

    • Ginny Messina August 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

      Thanks, Annie! Hope you enjoy the book–and please let me know if you have questions.

  12. Lindsay Loves Veggies August 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out! I love reading your evaluations of the science behind our diet choices, and I’m sure that your book will be great no matter what you come up with!

  13. Lea August 23, 2012 at 5:45 am #

    I am really looking forward to your book! I am such a science and nutrition nerd and a passionate sceptic, so a lot of the things claimed on very very popular blogs like happy herbivore, sexy crazy diet (or the other way round, I forgot), etc. always makes me raise an eyebrow. I love having someone I can actually refer to whom I trust to be sceptical about health claims.

  14. Christy August 27, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    I’m so excited about your new book and the research you are doing. You took the words right out of my month. So many people are becoming dogmatic, almost psychotic about their restricted diets when in fact there are no studies or scientific proof that a restricted diet helps prevent disease any more than a balanced vegan diet (or traditional diets). Any healthy diet based in plants and whole foods is likely to reverse health conditions and prevent future ones. Macrobiotic practitioners have been helping people reverse disease and cure cancer for a long time with a mostly vegan diet that does not eschew oil and includes fish. So for someone to say that only a restricted diet reverses and prevents disease is just not true. I believe that a vegan diet is best from an ethical standpoint, and when animals are left out of the conversation, it becomes about the ego and a self-centered choice to eat plant-based. Ok I’m rambling now. These kinds of discussions must be had. Thanks for having them and helping others find a sensible approach to their diet and lifestyle. :)

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