janet @ the taste space

Vegan Nutrition Books You Should Read

In Book Review on January 18, 2014 at 7:28 AM

With the excitement of the new year and new resolutions, you told me you are enjoying a change with your meals. More vegan meals, less processed foods, more vegetables, whatever it may be. A vegan diet can mean a lot of things and without the proper knowledge, may seem as a restrictive and potentially nutrient-poor choice. Obviously, once you are well-versed in a nutritionally-sound vegan framework, it is a healthy choice.

While I usually keep it on the low-down, my long-term readers know I am a physician. I am board-certified in my specialty in two countries. This year marks my 14th year of schooling after high school. Suffice it to say, I have an analytical frame of mind which is routed in science and evidence-based medicine.  I may be a doctor but am I a registered dietician? No.

I do not pretend to be anything I am not. Instead of focusing on studies and nutritional benefits here, I prefer to share my joy for good, healthy food.  Wading through the mounds of pseudo-science (and real science) is an onerous task even for those working in the industry. As this is a hobby blog, it is more fun for me to lead by example, sharing my recipe successes. Thankfully there are others who have made it their mission to share scientifically sound nutritional advice for people who have adopted a vegan lifestyle. Consider reading the latest books to connect with the most current available vegan-centric knowledge.

1. Vegan For Life

vegan for life cover

Around this time last year, I shared my recommendation for Vegan For Life, a book routed in the science of living a healthy vegan lifestyle. If you have read that book already, my new recommendations may not necessarily share new information with you. They are a bit more in-depth, though. However, an annual nutrition refresher may be just what you need, no matter which book you read.

The chapters are short, but highlight the important nutrients vegans have to work harder to eat: proteins, vitamin B12, calcium, vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, minerals such as iron, zinc, and iodine. Their vegan food guide suggests eating whole grains and starchy vegetables (5+ servings a day), legumes and soy foods (3-4+ servings a day), vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (2+ servings a day), nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) and fats (2 servings a day) along with supplementation (including whole food sources) for vitamin B12, iodine, vitamin D and omega-3 fats.

Shorter chapters highlight key points for vegan pregnancy and breastfeeding, raising vegan children, eating properly if you are over 50 years of age, managing weight, heart disease and diabetes, and sports nutrition. This is actually a quick and engaging read for anyone wanting to learn more about vegan nutrition. Highly recommended.

2. Becoming Vegan, Express Edition

becoming vegan express

Possibly one of the first books focusing on vegan nutrition was Becoming Vegan, initially published in 2000. Davis and Melina updated their classic book and despite streamlining it into an “Express Edition”, it boasts 86 more pages. This is an Express Edition, because it presents the information in a readable digest geared to a person learning about nutrition. It touches on the basics. There are pages dedicated to each and every vitamin and mineral and chapters outlining vegan sources of carbohydrates, fats and protein. There are readable chapters for people wanting to lose weight or gain weight on a vegan diet as well as chapters how a vegan diet may change over a lifestyle (athletes, pregnant women and the elderly are highlighted). A cursory last chapter is dedicated to a properly balanced vegan diet. Their balanced daily Vegan Plate includes vegetables (5+ servings a day), fruits (4+ servings a day), legumes (3+ servings a day), grains (3+ servings a day) and nuts and seeds (1+ servings a day), along with other essentials such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine. The chapters are well laid-out with headings, bullets, tables and quite high-yield if you know what you want to learn about.

It is a comprehensive book and one with which I agree with their message, but it fell short for me. There are lengthy textbook-like tables highlighting the nutritional composition of different foods and suggestions to make proper choices at meal-time (only 2 recipes are included as the companion cookbook is Cooking Vegan), but the scientist in me wanted more. I missed their citations. Where did they base their recommendations? My review may be a little premature, though. An updated comprehensive version, with 624 pages, will be published in June 2014, which may very well have all the information I seek. In any case, I still think this is a valuable resource. A sample snippet from the book about coconut oil can be read here and a nice Q & A with the authors here.

3. Vegan For Her

vegan for her cover

Authored by Messina, who co-authored Vegan For Life, with help from JL Fields for the recipes, Vegan For Her focuses on the special nutritional needs of vegan women. The basics of vegan nutrition are covered along with the basics of female physiology like hormones throughout a woman’s life. Messina looks specifically at the changing nutritional needs of enhancing fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding, aging, athletes, dieting to lose weight, as well addressing how a vegan diet may help prevent breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, pain, depression and stress and how to increase and/or maintain bone density. The second half of the book is dedicated to recipes created by JL Fields.

While Becoming Vegan reads more like a textbook, Messina’s approach to Vegan For Her is more engaging in a novel-type of book. Without being too dry, Messina is still able to cite the scientific literature to strengthen her recommendations. However, instead of bogging down her reader with numbers and tables, she has introduced her Vegan Food Guide, highlighting vegetables (5+ servings a day) and fruits (3+ servings a day), whole grains and starchy vegetables (4+ servings a day), legumes and soyfoods (3+ servings a day), and nuts and seeds (1-2 servings a day) with special attention to calcium-rich foods, ALA, vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine.

Instead of empowering the reader by educating them about ingredient staples (Vegan For Life is a bit more list-heavy), there are recipes geared for a beginner, transitioning vegan without any nutritional information. I will be a bit critical of the recipe portion, as I found it quite perplexing to find so many specialty items listed as ingredients. I understand the need for transitioning recipes, finding common ground with familiar favourites. However, the recipes span the gamut of convenience foods like fake ground beef substitute,  fake cheese, TVP, soy curls, “chicken style” seasoning, marinara sauce and vegan mayonnaise to harder-to-find specialty ingredients that might make a beginner intimidated such as ume plum vinegar, fresh coconut water, hemp seeds, chickpea flour, vital wheat gluten, amaranth and millet. Even as a seasoned vegan (almost 3 years of a whole foods based vegan diet here), I have tried to keep my pantry smaller and thus found it difficult to connect with the recipes. There was a lot of variety, though. Some were appealing. I have previously shared Fields’ Mediterranean Beans with Greens and I enjoyed some of her dressings. Next time, I recommend a more focused theme for recipes along with a plea to number the directions and space them out for easier reading.

4. Never Too Late to Go Vegan

never too late to go vegan cover

My Mom may claim otherwise but it may be more of a challenge for older people to change their diet. To help burgeoning vegans over 50, Messina recently penned a vegan help book due out at the end of January 2014.

I probably should get my Mom to review the book for a more accurate view from the target audience. In any case, with a similar tone and style as Vegan For Her, Adams, Breitman and Messina explore why one would want to make the change to a vegan diet even later in life (it is never too late, as the title suggests). Not only does she highlight the important aspects of a diet for those over the age of 50, she helps one navigate relationship dynamics and issues surrounding being a vegan caregiver, all with  stories from successful over age 50 vegans peppered throughout the book.

The last part of the book is dedicated to 78 recipes which are geared to transitioning vegans with recipes for basic hummus, Portuguese kale soup, mushroom pate, spicy collards with ginger, mashed potatoes and gravy, quick enchiladas, Texas chocolate sheet cake.

If you are the target audience, this may be a great start to begin introducing yourself to the vegan community.


As you can see, each book is different. Make no excuse to educate yourself about a proper vegan diet and try to find the one that resonates best for you and your needs.

For a few lucky readers, you will have a chance to win your own copy of these books. I have copies of Vegan For Her and Becoming Vegan Express up for grabs for those living in the United States.  Please let me know if you have a preference for either book in a comment below. Have you read any of these books before? Any other books you recommend? I will select 2 winners at random on January 28, 2014. Good luck!

  1. I’d love to win either book! We got started as plant based eaters based on “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell Esselstyn, so it’s my favorite. So grateful for your work.

  2. Thanks for sharing these great resources! I already have Vegan for Her (and agree it’s fabulous) but would love to get my hands on a copy of Becoming Vegan Express too! I also am a big fan of Joel Fuhrman and his take on plant-based nutrition. My favorie books of his are Super Immunity and The End of Diabetes – which actually explains more of his dietary recommendations beyond just for diabetes.

  3. I would enjoy reading ‘vegan for her’. I’m also going to pick up ‘never to late to go vegan’

  4. I’d love to read Becoming Vegan (I’ve already read Vegan for Her) – I’m always interested in learning more about healthy, especially since I think science continues to advance with new information!

  5. I would love to own Becoming Vegan Express! I think it would be helpful as I am the mom in a “mixed” family – 3 of us are vegetarians and 3 are carnivores.

  6. I’m interested in Vegan for Her.

  7. What a neat giveaway! Either one would be useful for me; Vegan for Her for obvious reasons, and Becoming Vegan Express as I continue to look for ways to encourage my loved ones to join me in my eat-for-best-health quest.

  8. I would love to win either book. I am 65 and have been vegan for two years. I love it! I’m going to look for Never Too Late at the library.

  9. I’m like you but with no science background! I tackle the food and leave the nutritional details to the experts. I would like to learn more though and do have a copy of becoming vegan (the original) which I’d like to read more thoroughly. I love the concept of “never too late to go vegan”. I’d get it for my Mum but she pretty much ignored the 30 day vegan challenge book I bought her 😦 She really enjoys eating vegan food but doesn’t have much inclination to actually go vegan herself.

  10. These books sound wonderful. Sound nutritional advice, unlike some of our meetup friends!

    He doesn’t have a book—just a blog like you, with almost-daily videos, but I love the scientific studies that Michael Greger, MD, does at nutritionfacts.org. Took a meditation class today and the instructor mentioned that he spoke to them at Kaiser—I was so envious! Love that guy…

  11. I would love to read Vegan for Her 🙂 I haven’t read any of these books yet!

  12. I would love to give the last book to my parents! I’m already vegan but would love them to adapt as well 🙂

  13. Thanks for these reviews! Vegan for Her sounds great and of the ones you discuss, is the book I’ll me trying to read at some point 🙂

  14. Im so into the science behind plant based diets right now! I recently read “not on the label”, “Whole” and “the china study” and its amazing how warped society has become by the traditional way of eating. Id love to read “vegan for her”, next!


  15. It really is quite a task to weed out the books that have an agenda from those that are actually just stating helpful facts. Thanks for this!

  16. Either sounds like a great addition to my health/food book collection!

  17. I would love to win Vegan For Her. I am a vegan with multiple health issues and feel like this book would really help keep me informed and help me with those issues.

  18. I’ve never actually read any of these books, crazy right? I read Becoming Vegetarian when I first went vegetarian but when I switched to vegan I never read a book, I just researched online and BAM done. I like the idea of the Vegan For Her book though! As women we have so many more complex issues so I’m glad a book addresses this in an accessible way!

  19. Delicious vegan food is one reason why the number of vegans has doubled in less than 3 years. Here’s a video to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE

    Join the revolution! 21-Day Vegan Kickstart http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/kickstart/kickstart-programs

  20. Vegan for her sounds like an awesome book! Personally, i’ve never read any of these books before, but I feel like they would be really awesome to share with my family, starting with my mom. Most of my family doesn’t understand veganism and thinks of me as “the one who doesn’t eat anything but vegetables.” Which is rather annoying, I think informing them more will allow them to see what you can eat on a vegan diet and how it is so abundant and nurturing to your body 🙂

  21. Great book reviews! I already have Vegan for Her (my favorite). No need to enter me in your giveaway. I just enjoyed reading your reviews!

  22. I would love to win either one. Thanks for giving us a review on the books and for a chance to win one.

  23. I would love to win a copy of Vegan for Her.

  24. The Vegan For Her book looks terrific. Thanks!

  25. I would love to win either of these! I want to learn more about balance in my eating habits!
    Thank you!

  26. I think either book would be wonderful. I am trying to control high cholesterol and blood pressure and think these would be a great help.

  27. […] Not that I have ever been to a sport watching party before.. with game food. I imagine there would a lot a of nibblers and popcorn… and chips. While I am not sure how I could make this delicious bowl of black beans whipped into a dip look much better (perhaps a garnish or two.. and some colourful veggies for the photo.. or inside a pretty kale wrap), I am sharing it because it was delightful. A spin on hummus, but with nearly everything replaced: black beans instead of chickpeas, pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds, lime instead of lemon, and the icing on top: instead of garlic we used fire roasted green chiles. Fire roasted green chiles are much easier to find in the US, whereas I don’t think I ever noticed them in Canada. I have really taken a liking to them since they aren’t that spicy, either. In this dip, they were a perfect foil for the otherwise ugly dip. Eat it with some crackers or vegetables.. and get your leguminous protein fix. […]

  28. I haven’t read either of the books, but have seen several people right some very interesting articles on each. However the book that I am most interested in buying (or it would be awesome to win it!) would be Vegan for Her.

  29. I’d love to read Vegan for Her!

  30. […] a great giveaway on The Taste Space going on: a lineup of four vegan nutrition books you should read, with two up […]

  31. I would love to win one of the books! I have been gradually entering into plant based eating but it’s time for me to take the full plunge. But I know I need more info. I am 61 yrs old who had many health problems. I lost quite a bit of weight about 5 yrs ago and have kept it off but there are just too many genetic things going on and I know I need to totally be vegan to keep some of these things at bay. Thanks! 🙂

  32. I’ve been dying to read Vegan for Her for a year now!! Would love to read this book because I’ve been trying to transition to vegan after trying multiple times. I have several food allergies like soy and gluten, so I think this book would help me be able to do it for my body in a smart, balanced way. Thank you for this generous giveaway!

  33. Thank you for this opportunity and your reviews. I would love to receive, “Becoming Vegan Express”. With reference to your last book you reviewed on this blog, I have tried two recipes from this book and both have been stellar. I’m trying to get our local library to carry, “Never to late to go vegan” so other people can be exposed to this wonderful way of living.

  34. Vegan for Her sounds awesome!

  35. I would love either! And being real close to 50 (although vegan for a few years) I am planning on reading Never Too Late… especially since I am trying to be a healthier vegan.

  36. while I would welcome either, I have a preference for vegan express.

  37. This is a great resource (or resources!) 😛 Thanks for linking up to HVF!

  38. My mom and I have read vegan for her it is great!! But it was a library borrow, so I would love to win either because I love a new good vegan diet read I would also love a copy of my own of vegan for her. Looking forward to never too late as a resource for helping my over 50 friends/family.

  39. I’ve not read either book, but both look like ones I need to read.

  40. I would love to win Vegan for Her! Always been interested in that one.

  41. Since I’m 67 as of today, I should get a copy of the Never too Late book, but first I’d really like a copy of the Becoming Vegan Express book to acquaint myself with the basics.

  42. I’d love Becoming Vegan Express. 🙂

  43. I have dabbled at the idea of going Vegan for quite some time and while I have numerous Vegan cookbooks, I don’t have any “start-up” types of books. I would be so grateful if I won a copy of Becoming Vegan Express but Vegan for Her also looks fantastic. Crossing my fingers I am one of the two lucky people on January 28th. Thanks for adding to my “To-Buy” book collection and hosting a giveaway!

  44. […] on my review of vegan nutrition books, you can tell why I always try to eat a lot of beans. So much so, that when I travel and people […]

  45. […] vegan diet which is naturally high in carbohydrates (see my review of vegan nutrition guides here). Why harp on protein? For me, it can be the most difficult to obtain on a vegan […]

  46. I’ve skimmed through “Vegan for Her” numerous times at Barnes and Noble, and am SO tempted to buy it each time. It’s so awesome! I’ve never seen the “Express” book before though, but it looks just as good. I’m having a really hard time gaining weight to get to a healthy weight, and I need a plant-based nutrition book to help me reach my goal as the couple of dieticians I’ve met with have been zero help. Knowledge is power!

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