With as many as 10 percent of those 25 to 34 years old never eating meat, vegetarian lifestyles have entered the American mainstream. This volume in Lucent’s Nutrition and Health series offer young people seeking to explore vegetarianism straightforward health information related to plant-based diets. The volume pulls health and nutritional information from a range of primary and secondary sources, uses personal anecdotes from teens sharing why they choose vegetarianism, and juxtaposes statistics to explore the effect of eating in a way that is gentler to the planet.
Vegetarianism includes cultural, social and historical contexts for vegetarian diets, as well as discussing the political, moral, and health components of the decision-making process. Sidebars and pull-out text boxes discuss famous vegetarians in history, including Benjamin Franklin and Adolf Hitler, and look at the changing demographics of vegetarianism, a lifestyle described as attracting more females than males, more individuals on the west coast than elsewhere in the U.S., and an equal number of conservatives and liberals.
Among the book’s persuasive evidence that plant-based diets are more healthful: controlling for exercise, alcohol consumption, and other lifestyle factors, only six percent of vegetarians were overweight compared with 45% of non-vegetarians. The book does a good job of balancing discussions of vegetarianism as both a health decision and as an extension of an ethical commitment to nonviolence. The spiritual component to diets that avoid flesh is fully explored, particularly plant-based diets in India and ancient Greece and among certain religious groups today.
The book also explores the range of vegetarian diets. Veganism is presented as an extreme on the continuum with attention also paid to lacto-ovo distinctions and pescotarian and fruitarian variants. There is an alternative food pyramid emphasizing beans, soy, nuts and dairy for protein, a discussion on how vegetarianism counterbalances the ills of modern diets, and an exploration of cultural variations on vegetarianism, such as in Japan where the largely plant-based Okinowan cuisine is credited for the islanders’ longevity.
There is valuable logistical support for beginning vegetarians searching for offerings in fast food outlets and grocery stores, as well as sample diets, quick meals, common substitutions, pantry and refrigerator staples, and practical advice for braving both casual and more formal restaurants. Illustrations are bright and appealing. The volume offers endnote citations and a keyword index.
In Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher describes vegetarianism among teen girls, like eating disorders, as a way of establishing control over their bodies. This volume reflects the wider range of rationales underpinning the decision to sharply restrict one’s diet and the impact such a decision will have on the day-to-day lives of young people. It will be a valuable resource for students experimenting with different lifestyle choices. Recommended for school and public libraries.