December 18, 2013

Natural Foodie: Four books about food and health rise to top as gift ideas

These four writers provoke thought and offer practical ways to take better care of ourselves.


With Christmas a week away, it’s time to get serious, get to the store and grab your last-minute gifts. If you have a foodie on your list, consider one of these books, which your local bookstore likely has in stock – meaning you could have it wrapped and under your tree in no time. I selected these four from all the food books published this year because each has something important to add to the national conversation about the connection between food and health.

“VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health … for Good,” by Mark Bittman, $26

Want to go vegan? But don’t want to give up cheese, or bacon, or fresh oysters, or fill-in-the-blank-with-your-must-have-food? Mark Bittman has a solution.

In his new book,“VB6,” Bittman says it’s possible to eat vegan and eat your oysters, too. Bittman devised the VB6 weight-loss plan six years ago, after years of eating his way through New York as a leading food writer caught up to him in his doctor’s office. He was overweight, had high cholesterol and was suffering from sleep apnea. His doctor told him he should go vegan.

Even Bittman – who’s written for The New York Times about meat’s toll on society and authored a cookbook called “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” – knew he wasn’t capable of being a full-time vegan. So he came up with the compromise of eating strictly vegan before 6 p.m. and then eating whatever he wants after that.

Within four months of following this style of eating, he had dropped 35 pounds, rid himself of sleep apnea and lowered his cholesterol and blood sugar.

Recipes in the book include breakfast pilaf, corny hoecakes, scrambled tofu with spinach, lentil salad, greens and beans soup and chickpea ratatouille. Dinner recipes include steak and broccoli stir fry, loaded fried rice, shrimp tabbouleh and fisherman’s stew.

Bittman’s plan shows how to gain the benefits of a vegan diet without totally giving up meat. Looking at the trends, Bittman says, “eating fewer animal products is the inevitable future.”


“Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition,” by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., with Howard Jacobson, Ph.D., $26.95

T. Colin Campbell is less optimistic. He says big money fat cats don’t want us to know food is capable of curing disease. The author of “The China Study” and one of the stars of the influential film “Forks Over Knives,” Campbell wrote “Whole” in an effort to expose the “powerful interests who make money from our collective ignorance.”

Among these interests he counts the medical and scientific research establishments, the media, the pharmaceutical industry and the food industry. In the book he takes each to task for its role in keeping Americans in the dark about nutrition.

“The China Study focused on the evidence that tells us the whole food, plant-based diet is the healthiest human diet,” Campbell writes. “Whole focuses on why it’s been so hard to bring that evidence to light.”

Campbell is a distinguished nutrition researcher, who during his long career served on government panels, authored more than 300 research papers and is currently a professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University. As an insider, he tells why the world of medical and scientific research is held back by an obsession with reductionist thinking and how this prevents most studies of food from getting at the truth.

He calls the health care system the “disease-care system.”

With little money to be made selling whole plants (compared to billions to be made selling processed junk), Campbell doubts additional government or private money will be spent researching whole foods.

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