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Many popular diets call for avoiding some foods or eating others exclusively. But as The Good Karma Diet reveals, the secret to looking and feeling great is actually quite simple: Treat our planet and all its inhabitants well. In this revolutionary book, bestselling author Victoria Moran reveals that by doing what’s best for all creatures and the planet, you align your eating with your ethics—a powerful health and wellness tool if there ever was one!
The Good Karma Diet shows readers how favoring foods that are karmically good for you will help you:
- Sustain energy
- Extend youthfulness
- Take off those stubborn extra pounds
- Reflect an enlightened outlook
This book also includes the inspiring stories of men and women across the country who have made this simple mealtime shift and reaped “good karma” in every aspect of their lives. Follow this wise diet and lifestyle program and you will find yourself waking up in a good mood more often and having a luminous look that bespeaks health and clean living.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Victoria Moran is the author of twelve books, including Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World and Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know. An obesity survivor, certified holistic health counselor, and much-sought-after speaker, Moran hosts the Main Street Vegan podcast on Unity Online Radio and directs Main Street Vegan Academy (mainstreetvegan.net), training vegan lifestyle coaches and educators.
Read an Excerpt
Praise for The Good Karma Diet
Please Read the Introduction
This is an incredibly important introduction. I feel as if I’m introducing you to the man or woman you just might fall in love with, or to the CEO who’s going to make you vice president and richer than you’ve ever been. I’m introducing you here, of course, not to another human being, but to a remarkable way of life that you may well fall in love with. If you do, you’ll know very soon that things have taken a decidedly upward turn. Nothing will ever be the same.
You’ll be doing something revolutionary: making food choices based on kindness and love instead of preferences formed in childhood, or opinions about calories, carbs, and fat grams that developed later. Those judgments disregard the law of karma that states that every action (and word and thought, too) has a consequence. If we acted as truly rational beings, we’d take only those actions, dietary and otherwise, that result in positive consequences, the proverbial “happily ever after.” But we don’t—at least, not all the time.
Karma is a fascinating concept. The word comes from the Sanskrit (it literally means “action”), and this principle of “what goes around comes around” is central to the worldview of spiritual teachings with Indian origins—Hinduism, yoga, Buddhism, Jainism. Sharon Gannon, cofounder of Jivamukti Yoga, explains it: “What we do, no matter how insignificant it may seem, affects everyone else, including ourselves. Our present reality depends on how we have treated others in our past. That’s good news because it means we can change what we don’t like—our karma—by changing our actions.”
And karma isn’t exclusively Indian. Jesus expounded on it clearly when he said, “. . . whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Even the physical world reflects this postulate. Remember learning in high school Newton’s Third Law, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”? Newton was thinking physics, not that eating peanut butter out of the jar in front of the TV would make us feel bad, but it’s fascinating that life on earth is, to a large extent, a ceaseless dance of cause and effect.
What does this have to do with your dinner? Plenty. When you make food choices that you’re proud of, that meet your own high standards, the meal will be uniquely satisfying. Of course you’ll want it to look and smell and taste good. You’ll be sure there’s enough of it and enough substance to it that your body and brain will get the message that you ate. It will be in line with what you know about health and nutrition, so you’ll feel that you’ve genuinely done your body good. And it won’t have hurt anyone else. You will have done the research to know that the exquisite square of dark chocolate putting a perfect period at the end of your meal didn’t come from slave labor, as a great deal of chocolate does. And you’ll know that no sentient being suffered or died in order for you to nourish yourself.
“So that’s the catch,” you might be thinking. “Vegan propaganda!” (Definitions: vegetarian = no meat or fish; vegan = no animal products of any kind, including dairy products and eggs.) Let me come clean at the outset: I can’t even envision a diet connected with good karma that includes animal foods. Can somebody be healthy and eat some meat and eggs and dairy products? Of course. Unless someone is dealing with heart disease or kidney disease or gout, conditions known to be directly impacted by the consumption of animal protein and fat, the body can handle some animal foods. I don’t say this as a health professional—I’m not one—but as an observer of life.
However, I contend that only a vegan meal is capable of producing in the person who consumes it the deepest level of well-being, satisfaction that comes without any glimmer of conscious or unconscious guilt. Only a vegan can honestly look a cow, pig, sheep, turkey, or chicken in the eye. Fishes count, too. It was while observing them that Franz Kafka commented, “Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you anymore.”
Nothing fills us with deep and lasting joy the way that doing a good turn for someone else does. Saving somebody’s life, human or animal, is that “good turn” in spades, and you can start precisely where you are. I don’t expect you to go from zero to Moby in nothing flat, but I invite you to consider the possibility that nothing will more readily bring about a state of peace with your body and your food than making sure no one else’s body is your food.
Upping the Radiance Factor
When I ventured veganward more than thirty years ago, doing this was (1) really weird and (2) really healthy, because there were almost no vegan junk foods or convenience foods. We ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds almost exclusively. New vegans routinely lost weight (I dropped the final fifty of a sixty-pound excess after making the switch, and it’s still gone). Even though we’d never heard of antioxidants, and the first brave soul to put greens in a smoothie had yet to surface, everybody seemed to either take up a sport or adopt twins because we had unbelievable energy. In those days, being vegan protected a person from baked goods. And ice cream. And pizza.
Those protections are no longer in place. There are vegan versions of nearly every snack food and comfort food known to humankind, and that’s good. We’ll save more animals when potential vegans don’t have to fear the loss of chicken-like nuggets. Nevertheless, if you want to dazzle onlookers with your state of health and the way you look now and as time goes by, you’ll need a more enlightened take on food and self-care. You’ll be heading toward “vegan with lots of produce and minimal cupcakes.” And you’ll get to grow into it at your own pace.
The Good Karma Diet, which is, in all honesty, the Good Karma Life, is a process of moving from doing fine to doing splendidly, or from not so healthy and not so happy to vibrant health and the unshakeable conviction that there’s a miracle hiding in this day somewhere and you’re going to find it. It puts you in harmony with the needs of your body and the calling of your spirit. It’s living in a way that requires you to treat yourself like the divine being you are, and eating in a way that lets you choose from foods that are as beautiful as you yourself have ever wished to be.
This way of living and eating has been around awhile—some would say since the Garden of Eden—and it has a growing body of admirers and adherents, with some celebrities and illuminati sprinkling glitter on its reputation. Right now, however, the only person who matters is you, learning what you need to and getting as much support as you require to do this joyously and successfully from now until forever.
If you stick with me on this, you cannot fail. Nothing is perfect except the spirit within you and the Power that got you here. Everything else, including the choices you make about eating and exercise and the rest, is an attempt to replicate that love and beauty and energy. The closer you come, the more incredible you’ll feel. And on days when you’re not as close as you’d like to be, that essence of you is still perfect, and that Power loves you as much as ever. Unlike old-fashioned diets characterized by on and off, or lose and gain, this is an invitation to live a more momentous life than most people believe is possible. It is a gateway to a growth experience that will get richer and deeper and more magnificent as you go along.
I’m offering you an opportunity to upgrade the way you eat, live, see yourself, and relate to those around you. You can expect to lose weight if you have weight to lose. You’ll find yourself waking up in a good mood more often. Your skin will have that luminous look that bespeaks health and clean living. And you’ll get compliments.
You may overcome a pesky health complaint. People who nourish themselves with plant foods—mostly whole and unprocessed, with a lot of salads, fresh fruits, colorful smoothies, and green juices in the mix—report leaving behind everything from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) to eczema, depression to migraines. I can’t tell you how your body, mind, and spirit will work together to heal some specific ailment. If you have medical concerns, you’ll want to work with a reputable health care provider, ideally one who is open to this way of eating, and chart together what improvements you’re making, and what medications can be decreased or eliminated.
Dealing with pathologies is beyond the scope of this book, and I’m not recommending self-diagnosis or self-treatment. If you’re under a doctor’s care, consult with him or her about what you intend to do and proceed with that guidance. (To find a compatible physician in your area, check out VegDocs.com.) Everyone else, start today!
Getting the Most from This Book
Are you excited yet? Either way, that’s fine for now, because I’m excited enough for both of us. I’m excited that you’ll be healthier, but I’m more excited that you’ll be happier. Happy people do healthy things. Customize your Good Karma journey to your own life and circumstances. If you’ve tried something similar before and it didn’t seem to work for you, give this a shot. You wouldn’t be in this philosophical neighborhood again if there weren’t something here for you.
In addition to this book’s twenty-five chapters, you’ll find sprinkled throughout “Good Karma Stories,” vignettes from men and women whose lives changed for the very-much-better as a result of altering their food choices. In some cases, this looks like pure cause and effect, i.e., they lost weight or got healthier as a result of their dietary changes. More often, the good karma is more far-reaching. It’s a whole-life turnaround ignited not only by eating whole foods but also by realizing the dignity and essential worth of every being who has, or had, life on earth and the desire to keep it. In addition, you’ll find here and there Good Karma Tips (GKTs) that offer practical suggestions you can start to implement right now.
While this is a living book, not a cookbook, you will, nevertheless, find as Appendix A “Life Can Be Hard, So Food Should Be Easy Recipes,” from Toronto recipe creator, culinary photographer, and raw food chef Doris Fin, CHHC, AADP. These recipes are beautiful and easy to make, and Doris’s style of food prep—very fresh, very colorful, mostly raw—makes for the instant karma of feeling amazing not long after you swallow. You don’t need to become a full-time “raw fooder”—I haven’t done that—but the more alive the food you eat, the more alive you’ll look and feel.
In Appendix B, you’ll find suggestions for books to read, and some with which to cook, after you finish this one. Books are the great renewers, connecting you again and again with the passion you feel when a novel idea first ignites your imagination.
I also wanted to insert a note for anyone who follows my work and knows that this is not my first book with “diet” in the title. You might be wondering how many diets one woman is entitled to come up with! Here’s the explanation: that earlier book, The Love-Powered Diet, is about overcoming food addiction; it gives any reader dealing with compulsive eating a way to restructure from the inside out. It also suggests and details a vegan foodstyle, just as this book does, but The Good Karma Diet is designed to appeal to everyone, not just people who have had an unusually troublesome relationship with food. This book also leans toward a high-green, high-raw, youth-preserving way of eating that I had not fully discovered when I wrote my other “diet” book.
So, here we are: poised to sparkle and shine, to feel exquisitely alive, and to make a genuine difference in this world. I’m humbled and grateful that you’re trusting me as a guide on your journey. I honor where you’ve already been and what you already know, which I’m betting is considerable. I promise to tell you the truth as I see it, recognizing that others may see it differently. And I’ll tell you what I do myself, because it is apparently working.
There’s no need to overhaul your life overnight, but don’t dawdle, either. You’re offered something here that goes far beyond the soulless rhetoric of the weight loss industry, the food giants, and the “Oh, dear, dear, we mustn’t be too radical” nutritional establishment. We’re not talking about doing a little better and feeling a little better, but rather about regeneration. It starts in your kitchen but it expands to touch every aspect of your life. This is dietary yoga, transformation for body and soul. If these ideas resonate with you and you’re ready to make this shift, you’re in for a divinely delicious adventure.
I didn’t know it was possible to feel this good.
I woke up not long ago thinking, “This is the craziest thing: if I had a real job, I’d be retiring this year, and yet I feel more alive and more energized than when I was twenty.” I knew it was what Arnold Ehret, a nineteenth-century “food reformer,” had called “Paradise Health.” I had it, physically and emotionally.
I’d been on a pretty good path for a long time. Although I spent the first thirty years of my life bingeing and dieting—always gaining or losing weight, and conversely losing and gaining my flimsy self-esteem—I finally got so tired of that un-merry merry-go-round that I gave up the fight and was open to recovery from the inside out. Food was my drug, so I went to meetings like any other addict. I put my appetite in the hands of God, and God gave me my life back, only better.
Once I wasn’t eating for a fix anymore, I was able to move toward plant-based eating, and despite fits and starts and goofs and lapses, I ultimately ended up at profound, committed veganism—nothing from an animal, not fish or low-fat yogurt or eggs, even when hidden in a banana-walnut muffin.
I made the veg choice, as Isaac Bashevis Singer said that he, too, had done “for the health of the chickens.” I knew a little of the horrors of factory farming, and that even small, local farmers, as dedicated as they are to doing things better, are caught up in the economic necessity of having to separate mother dairy cows from their babies and sending the unneeded boy calves off for veal. Small farms acquire the chicks who will be laying hens from the same hatcheries that serve factory farms and ruthlessly kill the boy babies shortly after they break free from their shells. And, of course, the slaughterhouse ends things for all farmed animals, usually while they’re still young.
With my vegan conversion, it was easy to keep the weight off and avoid the heart disease and diabetes that plague both sides of my family of origin. I raised a beautiful vegan daughter, Adair, wrote several books, and enjoyed some breathtaking moments of speaking for large audiences and going on TV. I had trials like everyone else, and even some tragedies. My first husband, Patrick Moran, suffered from an anxiety disorder and took his life when our daughter was only four. In 2007, my sixteen-year-old stepson, James Melton, died from a freak illness. These were devastating experiences, to be sure, and yet, like everyone else who loved Patrick and James, I muddled through.
But life likes pushing us to more and better, and a few years ago I felt the nudge to clean things up. Less food made in factories and more that grew in dirt. Less delivery food, even though I live in New York City, where delivery is an inalienable right. And a higher percentage of raw food—not slavishly or fanatically (as a compulsive overeater with a daily reprieve, I don’t do well with fads and tangents); but my soul or my cells or something deep inside pressed me to take this turn. And so much is better because of it.
It used to be that when people asked, “How are you?” I’d say, “I’m okay.” And that was true. Unless I’d picked up a cold or pulled a muscle at the gym, I was absolutely okay. Now I say, “I’m fabulous.” And today that’s true. Of course, I can still get a cold or pull a muscle or feel dramatically down when something disappointing happens, but my overarching sense of how it feels to live today in this body is some kind of wonderful. The only thing that’s changed is that the food I eat today comes in brighter colors with less packaging. And I use my juicer and blender every single day.
Fresh foods—vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and sprouts—are my mainstays; and I look to legumes and whole grains for concentrated protein and a money-saving, low-fat way to get the safe and satisfied feeling that comes from something warm and hearty. I eat more cooked foods in winter, more raw foods in summer.
The approach detailed in chapter 5, “High-Green, High-Raw, High-Energy Eating,” is, to my mind, the best of all dietary worlds—and it’s doable by mere mortals. People can be tyrannical with themselves about their food choices, but life is too glorious a gift for that. Swami Vivekananda, the first Indian yogi to travel to America way back in the 1890s, said, “Don’t make your kitchen your church.” Good plan.
The first thing I noticed after making the switch to more fresh food was how positive I felt. Greater contentment showed up even before energy and strength and clarity, but those have come, too. Strangers tell me nice things—that I have good skin or good posture or that I look younger than my age. Now, I know we’re talking vegetables, not miracles, but the aging process is slower than I’d expected. I find that green juices, exercise, eight hours of sleep, regular meditation, and adventures invite youthfulness. And lethargy, worry, getting stuck in ruts, and eating too many manufactured foods exacerbate the negative aspects of age. (There are positive aspects to later life, by the way. Learning how to live can take some time, but once you get it down, it can be pretty fabulous.)
Empty-nesters at this point, my husband, William, and I live with our rescue dog, Forbes (his name is a reminder that the greatest wealth comes from those we love), and we both work from home. Our children—Adair, and William’s daughter, Siân, and son, Erik—are making their way uniquely and creatively in the world. I’m blessed to be able to write about what I believe in, travel as much as I can stand, and host an Internet radio show that allows me to converse in depth with people I respect and admire.
I also have a bouncing baby business, something I never dreamed would be part of my destiny. It’s Main Street Vegan Academy, an in-person immersion course that trains and certifies Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators (VLCEs). There are now alumni in nine countries and I’m proud as punch of each one of them. They’re part of a far larger vegan community with which I feel honored and lucky to be associated. This is a movement toward unprecedented compassion, greater health for more people, and, because of the environmental issues gravely exacerbated by animal agriculture, catastrophe-averting good sense. Being part of a groundswell this momentous is, as far as I can tell, about as good as it gets.
Good Karma eating is as simple as can be: comprise your meals of plants instead of animals and, most of the time, choose unprocessed plant foods, meaning that they got from the garden or orchard or field to your kitchen with minimal corporate interference. This way of choosing foods is not the norm in our society, but it is what comes naturally to us.
Harvey Diamond, coauthor of the 1980s mega-seller Fit for Life, used to challenge his audiences with: “If you give a small child a bunny and an apple, and she eats the bunny and plays with the apple, I’ll buy you a car.” I’ve always loved this because it’s so obvious: deep inside, we know that animals are friends and that fruit—and vegetables and grains and beans and nuts and seeds—are food. Accept that, and act on it, and you’ve got yourself a Good Karma Diet.
Right off the bat, this way of eating gives you good karma in two distinct but complementary ways. The first is self-explanatory: by eating foods of high nutrient density and avoiding the animal products and processed foods that your body can have trouble dealing with, you’ll reap the rewards of improved health. The second is a bit more mystical: you do good and you get good back.
As is true for life in general, it’s probably better to do this with unselfish motives than with rewards in mind, but even if your motivation is to become thinner, healthier, or more youthful, you’ll be doing something modestly heroic at the same time. This way of eating and living could, with enough people doing it, lessen the suffering of billions of animals. I know it’s hard to think in terms of billions, but if you imagine counting the individual beings one at a time, you get some of the impact. In addition, 98 percent of the animals raised for food suffer horrifically on factory farms before being slaughtered. Every time you eat a vegan meal, you’re voting for something different.
This choice also lightens the burden on the planet. Raising animals for food in the numbers we do today calls for an exorbitant amount of water and fossil fuels. It leads to vast “lagoons” of animal waste, and the release into the atmosphere of tons of greenhouse gases, mostly in the form of methane. (Chapter 17, “If Mama Ain’t Happy,” goes into more detail.)
In addition, we’ve known since Frances Moore Lappé’s Diet for a Small Planet back in the 1970s that eating plant foods ourselves, instead of raising grain and soybeans to feed animals destined for slaughter, can make more food available for hungry people around the globe. And the yogis knew three thousand years ago that eating as a vegetarian was conducive to spiritual growth and inner peace. Moreover, by simply living your life and shining your light—this includes not coming off as preachy or superior—you’ll inspire others to get healthier and open their hearts to more compassion.
What you have here is holistic dining at its finest, with body and soul onboard. Eating whole, plant foods is scientifically validated as being both nutritionally adequate and anti-pathological. In other words, it cures stuff. Not everything. But reversal of such scourges as coronary disease and type 2 diabetes among people on this kind of diet has been repeatedly reported in the scientific literature; and the preventive potential of this way of eating is supported by ample research. (Michael Greger, MD, follows the publication in credible journals worldwide of studies related to nutrition and health; he reports on these in short daily videos on his site, NutritionFacts.org, and sends them without charge to subscribers.)
Making It Happen
If this sounds great but going all the way seems impossible right now, go partway. Americans’ consumption of animal foods has, as I write this, been decreasing annually for several years, primarily because non-vegans are making vegan choices some—or much—of the time. They fix a veggie burger or black beans and rice, or they order their latté with soy, or have a green smoothie for breakfast so they’ll look prettier and—what do you know? The statistics get prettier, too.
A bring-along emergency kit for Good Karma diners might be an apple, a bag of raw nuts, and some high-cacao-content dark chocolate. These are easy to transport lest you find yourself in a food desert.
Whether you’re going vegan today or taking an incremental approach, you’ll start to intercept cruelty and killing from day one. Every step in this direction—doing Meatless Mondays, or eating vegan before six p.m., as food journalist Mark Bittman’s book title VB6 suggests—is important and powerful. Just keep moving forward. Here’s a sample step-by-step plan that does the job within a year:
• January 1—As of today, I no longer consume chickens and eggs. (This includes the invisible eggs in conventional cookies, pancakes, etc.) Once you cut out chickens and eggs, you’re a hero, saving the lives of birds—birds who can recognize flock members and humans, birds who can know their own names when someone cares enough to give them one. How many? “An average American meat-eater is responsible for the death of twenty-eight meat chickens, one laying hen, and one discarded male chick every year,” says Nick Cooney, author of Veganomics. See: you’re a lifesaver and you just got started.
• May 1—As of today, I eat no fishes. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say, “I’m vegetarian, but I eat fish.” A fish is not a vegetable. Fish can indeed feel pain, a fact documented repeatedly by recent science. “Fish are fast learners with a keen sense of time,” says Mary Finelli, director of FishFeel.org. “They recognize other individuals, can keep track of complex social relationships, and work cooperatively with other species.” You’ll save the lives of fishes when you stop eating them, obviously, but you started this process when you stopped eating chickens, because fish meal is a large part of the feed given to chickens and other farmed animals. When you make it to vegetarian (eating no animals), you’ll save a substantial 225 fishes per year. (This number was calculated from government statistics for the intriguing blog CountingAnimals.com, “a place for people who love animals and numbers.”)
• September 1—As of today, I eat no flesh of any kind. Congratulations: you’re a vegetarian. Like Albert Schweitzer and Benjamin Spock, Charlotte Brontë and Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ellen DeGeneres and Paul McCartney, you have opted not to eat anybody who had a face. You’re in good company. If you miss the texture, flavor, or dinnertime ritual of certain meats, there are high-quality veggie-meats out there from companies including Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Gardein, and Tofurky.
• December 1—As of today, I ingest no dairy products. By now, this should be easy. You already may be making your own nut milks, or the place in your fridge where the cow’s milk used to be is now reserved for soy or rice or almond or coconut milk. Sold in most supermarkets, these are low in calories and equal to or higher in calcium content than cow’s milk. If you haven’t checked out the commercial nondairy cheeses, try them. Daiya melts and is ideal for pizza; Miyoko’s Kitchen and Treeline are gourmet dairy-free cheese brands you could proudly offer a French person. Or try your hand at making your own cheeses, cheese spreads, and cheese sauces with the recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Schinner, and The Cheesy Vegan, by John Schlimm.
Once the dairy products are gone, you’re likely to feel amazing. In fact, if you’re prone to fatigue, congestion, allergy symptoms, frequent colds, or GI upsets, you might want to let go of dairy milk, cheese, and yogurt first. It’s anecdotal, but many people report relief from such ailments as soon as they part ways with what Michael Klaper, MD, likes to call “baby cow growth formula.” But isn’t milk nature’s perfect food? Yes—for calves. The majority of humans—and the vast majority of those of African or Asian descent—don’t tolerate it well at all.
Once you’re fully vegan, celebrate! The only thing you need to “do” nutritionally is take a vitamin B12 supplement of about 100 micrograms a day as a tiny, tasty, melt-in-your mouth tablet. B12 is not reliably found in plant foods unless they’ve been fortified with it, and a lack of B12 is dangerous.
You’ll read more on this in chapter 14, “Numbers and Letters and Science, Oh My!” This single missing element in a plant-food diet pains many vegans. If this is the perfect diet, it ought to be, well, perfect. But this is life on earth: extraordinary, magnificent, and absolutely not perfect. Bacteria in our mouths and intestines do make some B12, and maybe at some point in evolutionary history we all made enough, just as our long-ago ancestors made their own vitamin C and now we don’t. I look at taking B12 as a tiny surcharge for the privilege of being vegan.
Yes You Can
Phasing out animal foods is the most important aspect of Good Karma Diet. If you hear yourself saying “I could never give up ice cream” (or something else), realize that you may just be short on vegucation. There are lots of rich, luscious nondairy ice creams on the market, and you can make exquisite homemade ice cream, both vegan and raw, with only a DIY gene and an ice cream maker.
Be prepped and ready. If you’re eating a lot of raw food, you’ll probably want to shop twice a week to keep sufficient fresh foods on hand.
If you have the necessary information and you’re still saying “I could never give up . . . ,” listen to yourself. You’re affirming weakness. There you are, created, the Bible says, in the image and likeness of God, and you’re brought to your knees by a scoop of French vanilla. You’re bigger than that. You can eat plants and save lives. You can give your life exponentially more meaning by living in a way that decreases suffering just because you got up and chose a kind breakfast.
Without this commitment, the Good Karma Diet would be, as much as I hate to say it, just a diet. To me, a diet is: “Eat this and don’t eat that, and feel guilty when you screw up, which of course you will because you’re only human, for heaven’s sake, and nobody can be on a diet forever.” That doesn’t really make you want to say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
But understand and embrace the compassion piece, the soul-deep conviction that you’re here to make life easier for others, regardless of species; and then everything else—whatever tweaks you might make because of an allergy, a digestive peculiarity, a personal preference—will come with little effort. This lifts that word “diet” from the deprivational depths and restores its original meaning from the Greek diaita, “a way of life.” And this particular way of life is one replete with meaning and fulfillment and joy.
Brenda’s Good Karma Story
The year was 1978. I was a first-year nutrition student and an omnivore fascinated by vegetarianism, the topic of today’s lecture. Our professor spent ten minutes teaching future dietitians all we would learn about vegetarian diets while attending university: that vegetarian diets with dairy products and eggs were risky, and pure vegetarian (vegan) diets downright dangerous.
I began my career as a public health nutritionist, espousing the benefits of the Four Food Groups; yet every time the “v-word” appeared in the scientific literature, my heart skipped a beat. There was something attractive about a diet driven by compassion. Many childhood memories were of animal encounters—moving worms from sidewalk to grass, talking to turtles, and passionately cheering for the bull at a horrific bullfight in Spain. Somehow, even with all my “knowledge” about the “necessity” of meat and dairy, these products were being squeezed out of my own diet by lentils and tofu.
In 1989, a friend who was an avid hunter stopped by for coffee before a hunting trip. I asked him how he could feel good about pulling the trigger on a defenseless animal. I asked him if killing made him feel like more of a man. His response changed the course of my life. “You have no right to criticize me,” he said. “Just because you don’t have the guts to pull the trigger doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for its being pulled, every time you buy a piece of meat camouflaged in cellophane. You’re simply paying someone else to do the dirty work for you. And at least the deer I eat had a life. I doubt you can say the same for the animals on your plate.”
I was silenced. I knew it was time to take responsibility for my food choices. What I learned filled me with shame, guilt, and outrage, but most important, it reconnected me with the animals I so mindlessly called food.
I faced some interesting personal and professional challenges. A young mom in Northern Ontario where vegetarians were as rare as Bigfoot, I was uncertain how my husband, Paul, would respond when I asked if he’d be willing to nix meat and dairy. Even though his closest friend was the deer hunter, he said, “I thought you’d never ask.” He always was a step ahead of me.
I considered changing careers. How could I, in good conscience, teach people that we need meat for protein and milk for calcium, and yet how could I avoid it when all our nutrition education materials were founded on these principles? I didn’t know any other vegetarians, and wondered if I was the only vegetarian dietitian on the planet. I imagined being forcibly ousted from the profession. But if I didn’t stand up for what I believed in, I risked betraying my own conscience.
Twenty-five years have passed. I did not leave my profession, and I learned that I have many vegetarian and vegan colleagues within it. I’ve written nine books on plant-based nutrition, published four peer-reviewed journal articles, and I’ve spoken at professional conferences around the world. I am the lead dietitian in groundbreaking research on plant-based diets and on diabetes in the Marshall Islands, and a past chair of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). When I think of how fear could so easily have shifted the course of my career, and my life, I am profoundly grateful that courage and conscience prevailed, allowing my life to unfold so naturally.
—Brenda Davis, Registered Dietitian, lecturer, and author of Becoming Vegan. BrendaDavisRD.com
There are as many ways to eat a vegan diet as there are people who discover it. Just about any way you do it, provided you focus on unprocessed foods, include vitamin B12, and make a few adjustments for your individual needs and preferences, can be viable and health-promoting.
Most people start by eating the same sorts of meals they’re used to, simply replacing animal foods with plant foods, i.e., scrambled tofu instead of scrambled eggs, plant meat—Tofurky sausages, Gardein sliders—instead of animal meat, or a veggie burrito or burger or stir-fry instead of the con carne version. Eventually, most of us move away from believing that every meal needs something resembling the foods we’re no longer eating, and we let delicious dishes made from vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds take on the entrée role.
While most vegans are free spirits and don’t follow a single dietary philosophy, there are “denominations” within veganism and near-veganism, and I’ll outline them here. If you don’t care about such distinctions, they’re not essential for your making a start. The various approaches are far more alike than different, each stressing the importance of natural, minimally processed plant foods. I personally am in awe of and in debt to the people behind each one.
The Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet (WFPB)
The whole-food, plant-based diet (WFPB) is the popular term coined by nutritional biochemist T. Colin Campbell, PhD, lead researcher of the China Study, the largest population-based nutritional study ever conducted. In The Low-Carb Fraud, Dr. Campbell and Howard Jacobson, PhD, define the WFPB diet as: “whole foods . . . as close to their natural state as possible. A wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds make up the bulk of the diet. It includes no refined products, such as white sugar or white flour; no additives, preservatives, or other chemical concoctions . . . no refined fat, including olive or coconut oils; and minimal—or better yet, no—consumption of animal products, perhaps 0 to 5 percent of total calories at most.”
The Starch Solution
John McDougall, MD, a California internist who’s devoted his career to healing people from the chronic diseases of Western civilization, takes a very low-fat approach and celebrates the basic starches—rice, wheat, potatoes, barley, taro, and so forth—that have supported humanity for eons. Vegetables, fruits, and beans comprise the rest of the diet. He named a book for this: The Starch Solution.
Grain-based diets can be low in the amino acid lysine. Make up for any potential shortfall by eating beans or sprouted legumes (lentils, peas, and garbanzos all make dandy sprouts) each day. Other foods high in lysine are peanuts, quinoa, and pistachios.
The Esselstyn Approach
The Cleveland Clinic research study done by Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., MD, showed how an oil-free, whole-food, plant-exclusive diet with plenty of greens was capable of reversing heart disease in patients whose cardiologists could no longer help them. He expounds on his long-term study and its results in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.
His son Rip, a handsome endurance athlete and former firefighter, takes the same approach and calls it “plant-strong” in his books, The Engine 2 Diet and My Beef with Meat. (The Campbell and Esselstyn plans are virtually identical, and the McDougall plan is very similar, all emphasizing whole, plant foods and no oil. This way of eating was showcased in the popular documentary and subsequent best-selling book Forks over Knives.)
The Nutritarian Diet
Joel Fuhrman, MD, author of the New York Times best-seller Eat to Live, recommends a “nutritarian” diet built primarily around vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Whole grains are allowed, but not emphasized, and moderate consumption of nuts and seeds is encouraged. He suggests getting at least 90 percent of calories from whole plant foods, leaving up to 10 percent for the occasional indulgence and for animal products for those who aren’t going to part with them entirely. In my practice as a health counselor I found that clients did well with this approach that emphasizes “nutrient density,” getting the most nutrition for every calorie.
Eat Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “G-Bombs” every day. The author of Never Diet Again ensures a nutritional head start with Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries, and Seeds—true superfoods that boast major antioxidant power. In the laboratory, plain old white mushrooms gobbled up cancer cells like nobody’s business.
A newer player on the vegan field is a higher-protein, higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate rendition of a way of eating that is still, by definition, high in naturally occurring carbohydrate because that is the nutritive property that predominates in most plant foods. If you’ve read a lot of diet books, this sounds bad (“The carbs are coming! Run for the hills!”), but it’s actually good. We’re designed to function on a diet that derives most of its calories from the carbohydrates in unrefined plant foods. Attempting to avoid all carbohydrates because refined sugar and white bread aren’t good for you would be like avoiding marriage because some men beat their wives.
Despite the profusion of laboratory and epidemiological studies supporting the efficacy of the approaches outlined earlier, some people feel that they do better with a little more protein and fat. Their predilection was given scientific backup by David J. A. Jenkins, MD, PhD (he developed the concept of the glycemic index), who devised a plant-based diet favoring non-starchy vegetables, soy foods and mock meats, lower-carb beans (mung, great northern, lima, fava), nuts, seeds, and avocado, and low-sugar fruits, such as berries. This diet has been called “Eco Atkins.”
Ellen Jaffe Jones and Alan Roettinger take a similar approach in their book, Paleo Vegan, emphasizing unprocessed foods and designed to bring about some meeting of the minds between the high-protein/low-carb paleo diet folks and those of us who wish to keep animals off our plates.
Table of Contents
Please Read the Introduction ix
1 My Good Karma Story 1
2 The Good Karma Diet 5
3 Have It Your Way 15
4 Liven Things Up 25
5 High-Green, High-Raw, High-Energy Eating 33
6 21 Days to Good Health and Good Karma 43
7 Good Cheer and a Good Blender 53
8 Kitchen Contentment 61
9 Skinny Is Skinny. Healthy Is Happy 69
10 The Kitchen Is Closed 77
11 Pummeling Perfectionism 81
12 Before You Feed Yourself, Nourish Yourself 87
13 Put on a Happy Plate 93
14 Numbers and Letters and Science, Oh My! 99
15 Animal Stories 109
16 Do Unto Others ns
17 If Mama Ain't Happy 127
18 Food and Health and Price and Justice 135
19 But Everybody Says Something Different 147
20 Gimme a V! 159
21 Awesome Ancestors 169
22 Plant-Built Muscle 179
23 Beauty, Fashion, and Good Karma Shopping 191
24 The Body Electric 207
25 The Good Karma Life 213
Appendix A Life Can Be Hard, So Food Should Be Easy Recipes 219
Appendix B Books for Your Bedside and for Your Kifchen 275
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Main Street Vegan:
"THE VEGAN BIBLE: NEW TESTAMENT . . . Seasoned author of eleven books, [Moran's] writing is a true extension of herself: witty, fun, smart, charming, beautiful . . . Main Street Vegan overflows with heart and soul . . . She puts everything into it; anyone veg-curious or already plant-based would benefit from picking up a copy."
"A great read for vegans and aspiring vegans."
"Finally, a book that isn't preaching to the vegan choir, but to the people in the pews—and the ones who can't fit in those pews. This is a book for the Main Street majority who aren't vegans. Once you read this, you'll know it's possible to get healthy and enjoy doing it—even if you live in Paramus or Peoria."
"The new Main Street Vegan, a plant-based omnibus where spirit meets stomach and magic meets Main Street."
—The Huffington Post
“Moran’s feisty, fun and fearless guide to eating vegan on your own terms will win her many fans. As a primer on veganism, her effort touches all of the basics. Those eager to lose weight, increase energy, and offset stress and aging, while achieving optimum nutrition and not spending a lot of money on expensive organic ingredients will find numerous suggestions and easy recipes to help them reach their goals. As a comprehensive and highly motivating resource for upping the bar on quality of life, Moran’s book takes veganism to the next level.”