While we have had our bad eating habits explained to us before, vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier brings a new perspective to the topic and breaks the elements down into measurable chunks in his new book, Thrive Foods, lending real weight to his theory that a plant-based diet is better for the planet and our personal health. Thrive Foods starts off on a downer note with a detailed description of the toll industrial food production takes on our planet and the toll our current eating habits are taking on our health, but finishes off with a delicious plant-based cookbook to help us counteract the first three chapters.
This isn’t Brazier’s first book about foods that help us to thrive. His interest in food to fuel his body for its maximum output started early on when he was training for his passion - running, swimming and biking in the form of triathlons. As he experimented with foods to help him recoup after workouts, he discovered that the more nutrient dense foods he ate, the better his body performed, advice he shared in his first two books - Thrive Fitness and Thrive. But what came out of that research (and into this book) was more than a diet, but an appreciation and deep understanding of how much our food choices as individuals impact the world around us, mostly in a very negative way.
Since health has been Brazier’s main topic for many years, it makes sense that he begins his new book, Thrive Foods, by explaining where our nutritional deficits are coming from: stress, lack of sleep and nutritionally deficient food. He takes an extra step in this book by incorporating nutritional information with environmental issues in what he calls the "nutrient-to-resource ratio." A simple way to see where you can get the healthiest foods while taking into consideration the drain their production has on arable land, fresh water, fossil fuels and air quality.
While part of the book reads like those old train math questions - for any science or math geek or for anyone who wants serious proof that changing your diet can help to improve climate change, it does the job.
A Brazier math problem:
By weight, 232 times more kale than cattle can be produced on the same amount of land (38,400 pounds of kale per acre compared with 165 pounds of beef). And since beef has a nutrient density of 20 and kale registers at 1000, which is 50 times greater, for every calorie you get from kale, you'd have to eat 50 from beef to match the micronutrient level. Since beef has about four times the amount of calories per pound as kale, to gain the equivalent in micronutrients from beef as from kale would require 2900 times more arable land.
To help drive it all home, the last two chapters before the recipe section explain the key components of good nutrition and which foods are the most nutrient dense and why. Then the last 2⁄3 of the book is made up of 200 plant-based recipes for peak health. Brazier has tapped into North America’s best vegan/vegetarian chefs and restaurants to gather the tastiest recipes - from a very simple Mexican Salad Bowl to a more involved Raw Zucchini and Carrot Lasagna with Almond "Ricotta." The recipes are simple enough that anyone could follow along, and interesting and tasty enough that they could also entertain the most seasoned cook.
Brendan has cast a wide net of appeal with this book. Interested in nutrition? He’s got it covered. Sustainable agriculture your thing? Check. Love to cook? Recipes galore. Want to geek out on facts? Done. Want to be inspired to make changes to your diet? Keep reading. Are you a meat eater and don’t think the book is for you? Try again; these principals can even be applied one meal a week. If you are undecided, I say pick it up and give it a try, you will learn something and maybe even change your eating habits (and help the planet!) in the process.