Over the past 100 years, our diets have radically changed as Americans. Our grandparents and great-grandparents bought food from small grocers, farms, and butchers. Milk was delivered to the front door. Meat and sugar were novelties. Our parent’s generation was introduced to TV dinners, SPAM, and packaged foods. Along the way, we all began drinking soda: corn syrup made pop cheaper and more available, so more was consumed. As obesity, cancer, and diabetes rose, we began to pay attention to diet. The food pyramid was illustrated on every cereal box, and science as well as nutritionists began to single out fat, then carbs, recommending a variety of supplements in pill form. Major food companies responded with enriched and fortified foods adding fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
As a result, nutrition has become remarkably confusing. Recently, a government committee effectively overturned its decades’ long admonition against over-consumption of fat and cholesterol. This drew nothing less than an outcry from the confused public, doctors and health professionals. Every late December, the bookstores feature an endless sea of diet books, arguing for any combination of low-fat, low-carb, high-carb, low-sodium, low-sugar, low-calorie, no-counting-calorie diets imaginable. So who do we believe?
The following books intelligently inform, and sometimes invite the reader to fall in love with the sacred ceremony of eating food that nourishes the body.
The China Study– T. Colin Campbell, Thomas M. Campbell II
The China Study is the book based on the China-Cornell-Oxford Study findings conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventitive Medicine, published in 2005. Over twenty years, the study followed counties in China where traditional diet was maintained, and other counties where Western diet was introduced. The comprehensive study discovered a direct correlation between animal products and cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. The study further shows that genetic predisposition may or may not be expressed due to diet; that everything that the human body needs can be found in plants; that supplements are not as efficient as whole foods; and that disease can be slowed or possibly cured by a (plant based) diet. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Some highlights can be viewed on the documentary Forks Over Knives, but this book is worth reading for its profound evidence. Also, check out Whole Rethinking Nutrition, also by Dr. Campbell.
The Omnivore’s Delimma– Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan is no doubt one of the best known and most beloved food writers of our generation. The Omnivore’s Dilemma investigates our relationship with food throughout recent history, and where we are now–at a cross roads of endless variety while considering ethical, environmental, and health implications. Pollan makes a case for small farms, eating local, and above all, being conscious of where your food comes from. This book is eloquent and engaging, and it just might make a foodie out of you.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle– Barbara Kingsolver
Barbara Kingsolver, the novelist (The Poisonwood Bible, etc), moved her family from Tuscon, Arizona to Pennsylvania to live a sustainable life, eating only from their garden and buying food grown or raised from no farther than fifty miles away. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara takes us through the process of planting, growing, tending, harvesting and canning, in her engaging prose. Her husband and daughter share stories, essays, and recipes, interjecting Kingsolver’s story with their own experience and information throughout the year. The book examines how our food travels great distances, utilizing fuels and energy, as well as acknowledging responsible use of water and irrigation. Throughout the book she expresses the labour of love that goes into a backyard vegetable garden. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will inspire you. You might find yourself considering how difficult it may or may not be to live without bananas, pouring over seed magazines that feature heirloom varieties.
Crazy, Sexy Diet– Kris Carr
Kris Carr was diagnosed in her late twenties with stage IV, incurable cancer. Kris, like many twenty-somethings, was not living the ultimate healthy life, yet after she was diagnosed, she committed to her health and well-being. Upon her grim diagnoses, she became a vegan, a yogi, and a certified nutritionist. Ten plus years later, her cancer has not grown. She is thriving with cancer, emphasizing a lifestyle that encompasses spiritual and physical practices with a plant-based diet as her touch-stone, and Crazy, Sexy Diet is the blueprint. Not only does this book include fabulous recipes, it also encompasses lifestyle stories to nurture the mind, body, and soul. Kris is uplifting, and speaks directly to your heart.
Botany of Desire– Michael Pollan
Another Michael Pollan book (can you tell I’m a fan?). Botany of Desire demonstrates an elegant and engaging history of the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. He observes our relationship with each of the four, how we depend on them, and how they on us, how we have evolved because of them, and they because of us. This book will cultivate a new appreciation for our natural world, and how we are interconnected in each other’s evolution. Also, check out the PBS special.
If I am missing a book that you think should be on this list, please add it below on comments!
More on the Book List: Must-read Books for Vegans
Also by Jessica: Vegan Paleo Chocolate Silk Pie
Photo: Michael Yan via Flickr