Beyond Broccoli is a very thorough examination of the vegetarian and vegan diets and provides a comprehensive list of arguments against both. I wish someone had given me this book when I was in college, before I embarked on 5+ years of being a vegetarian in my 20s. I often wonder how my health would be different if I had never done that. Just because a diet does not include meat does not mean it’s a healthier diet. I know that it personally made me sick, weak, and anemic.
The book also explores the various myths revolving around the raw vegan diet. Again, I wish I would have read this book before embarking on a 6 month raw foods diet several years ago that messed up my thyroid, my metabolism, my body chemistry balance, and made my hair fall out - and I wasn’t even raw vegan because I ate raw cheese and raw fish. In fact, the author is a former raw vegan advocate and had even written a book on the topic only a few years ago, extolling the virtues of a raw vegan lifestyle. It seems that in the two years since, she has come to the realization that her body functions better with some meat consumption.
The one part of the book that does not resonate well with me is when the author advocates for raw meat consumption and maintaining a mostly raw diet. Some raw meat consumption doesn’t bother me. I like raw fish in sushi and sashimi, beef carpaccio is delicious as is a rare burger or steak, but the thought of eating raw poultry of any kind is terribly unappealing to me.
Also, while I think including a good portion of raw foods in your diet is healthy, those of us who have dealt with digestive issues in the past know that it is much easier to digest cooked foods than it is to digest raw foods. When starting the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, only cooked foods are allowed for just that purpose. We also know that just because food travels through the digestive system faster does not automatically mean that’s better. Those of us who have suffered from really severe colitis can attest to that. For several months leading up to my initial diagnosis, my body wouldn’t hold on to anything that I ate. It all passed through me with incredibly great speed, too fast for most of the nutrients to even be properly absorbed and assimilated. So food transit time is less important than quality and quantity of nutrient absorption. Also, cooking fruits and veggies can release many nutrients that are not readily available in raw foods and can substantially raise the level of phytochemicals and antioxidants in in those foods. Here’s a link to an article in Science Daily that discusses that fact in relation to tomatoes - http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020422073341.htm
In addition to everything mentioned above, the book includes information about the various and very real nutrient deficiencies that can be caused by vegetarian and vegan diets, it includes information about the toxicity of soy, it explores the ethics behind meat eating, sustainability issues, the nutritional benefits of meat eating, and it includes anecdotes from former practitioners of vegetarian and vegan diets who are now consuming animal products for health reasons. And that really just skims the surface of all of the topics covered in this book. It’s truly a veritable compendium on everything you could ever want to know about vegetarian and vegan diets but were afraid to ask.
Some of the most interesting bits in the book for me included:
Information about Dr. Weston Price who “combined cod liver oil with butter as his protocol for reducing dental caries. This not only stopped tooth decay, but caused the dentin to grow and remineralize, sealing the once-active cavities with a glassy finish.”
A discussion of different metabolic types which included information about a Dr. Melvin Page DDS, who “later observed that coastal Nordic meat and fish eaters had short guts, while inland mid-Europeans who ate grains as well as animal foods had long guts.” And that in 1885, English surgeon Frederick Treves “found that human intestinal lengths from fresh male cadavers ranged from 15.5 to 31.1 feet.” For some strange reason, I had always assumed everyone had the same sized intestines as far as length was concerned. It’s amazing to me to think that some people’s digestive tracts can be twice the size as others!
The chapter on burning fat instead of sugar which notes that “body fat cannot be metabolized when insulin is present in the bloodstream.”
In the section on grains and lentils as protein sources: “The lectins in wheat, kidney beans, soybeans, and peanuts are known to increase intestinal permeability and allow partially digested food proteins and remnants of resident gut bacteria to spill into the bloodstream. (Alcohol and hot chili peppers also increase intestinal permeability) Usually, special immune cells immediately gobble up these wayward bacteria and food proteins. But lectins are Trojan horses. They make the intestines easier to penetrate, and they impair the immune system’s ability to fight off food and bacterial fragments that leak into the bloodstream.”
Also “Grains, wheat especially, also contain opioids, leading to brain fog in some cases so severe that it is diagnosed as schizophrenia. Wheat sensitivity sometimes leads to a form of dementia often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease.” That helps to explain why I get brain fog when I eat too many wheat products!
The chapter on sustainability practices in food production talked about a woman who was determined to grow her own food. What she learned in the process was that “plants eat animals - they need the nitrogen from dead bones, manure, or fossil fuel (which experts claim is dead prehistoric animals).” Isn’t that fascinating and doesn’t it make total sense when you think about the cycle of life? Plants eat animals.
Those are just a few of my take-away bits of knowledge from the book. It’s such a thorough read and explores the topic in such depth that it reads more like a textbook than any other health/nutrition related book that I’ve ever picked up before. While I can easily fly through most books in a few weeks max, this one took me a few months to finish.
I would definitely recommend this book if you know anyone who is thinking about becoming a vegetarian or going the raw food or vegan route. Or if you know anyone who is currently on any of those journeys. It’s always good to explore as many sides of a topic as possible, especially when it’s something that has as dramatic an impact on one’s health as diet.