Please note: This article was first published on The Vegan Tourist and last updated January 20 2013.
I want to follow up Wednesday’s book review with the review of another book, Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. I consider this book essential reading for all vegans who want to stay healthy.
I became a vegetarian in 1982, and tried to go vegan twice in the following years, once in the late 1990s, and again in the early noughties, both times failing miserably. The reason for my failure was a lack of knowledge about vegan nutrition. I ended up eating mostly simple carbs, as I didn’t know any better, and as a result constantly craved dairy products. I didn’t know much about protein at the time, and that my body was really just craving protein – any kind – and not necessarily dairy. I also didn’t know how important B12 supplements were for vegans, or anything else about vegan nutrition. I just ate what I liked, and as a result didn’t feel well. Both times, I quit the vegan diet and returned to a lacto-vegetarian life-style.
Then I read Becoming Vegan, and subsequently made smarter food choices. It took a few more years before I felt confident enough to commit to a vegan diet – this time for good – as I was scared of failing once again. So I took the time and effort to learn as much about nutrition as I could. When I switched from a lacto-vegetarian diet to a vegan diet about two years ago, it was no big deal. By that time, I’d already gradually changed my diet, and I knew that any food cravings could be satisfied with plant-based foods.
Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina are both registered dieticians, and the wealth of information you’ll find in this book is staggering. The authors address health and environmental aspects of various diets, but the book focuses on nutrition: how to give your body what it needs, and what happens to it if you don’t feed yourself properly.
There are risks involved, if you don’t plan your vegan diet properly. You need to make sure that your plant-based foods contain all the essential amino acids – easily done, if you know how to do it; you need to learn about bioavailability (the proportion of nutrients in certain foods that the body can utilize), the digestibility of plant protein, the difference between heme and nonheme iron, and you’ll need to study up on essential fatty acids (omega-3 is vital for vegans). There’s important information about B12 vitamins, calcium (absorption and retention), and other vital minerals and vitamins.
These are just some of the subjects covered in Becoming Vegan – you’ll find a lot more nutritional information in the book. Everything’s covered, really.
In addition, there are separate chapters in the book about the nutritional needs of pregnant women, babies and children, seniors and athletes, as well as tips for over- and underweight people. A basic vegan shopping list is also provided, as are several meal plans.
If you want to go vegan and stay healthy, you really should read this book.