Food For Thought: A Guide to Wellness and Plant-Based Nutrition

Last updated on January 6, 2020. Originally published on March 13, 2017.


In May of 2015, my friend Amy, a fellow pianist and running enthusiast, introduced me to the plant-based ultra-endurance athlete Rich Roll, and his podcast, aptly titled, The Rich Roll Podcast. At that time, at the age of 42 and with a few Chicago Marathons under my belt, I was becoming increasingly passionate about long distance running, and questioning my diet as my gym workouts grew more and more intense.

Amy's introduction was timely, and I soon read Rich's excellent book, Finding Ultra, and subsequently began tuning in to his podcast. More than anything else, these two items set me afoot on a lengthy exploration of diet and nutrition that has led me here today.

From the start, my journey was rooted in the exploration of a plant-based, or vegan, diet. As a vegetarian for the first 20 years of my life, I already had reason to question the necessity - if not the efficacy - of meat. Combine that with the increasing frequency of anti-dairy articles appearing on my social media feeds, and my hypothesis was born. Did I need all of those eggs to fuel my gym workouts? Could changes in my diet help my running? Did milk make sense?

After months of study, I felt confident that I had found the answers to these questions and more. But, it was one thing to read and listen to the thoughts and experiences of others; I was ready to put my findings to the test. So, on January 1, 2016, I committed - 100% - to a plant-based diet.

In his book Eat and Run, Scott Jurek, seven-time consecutive winner of the 100 Mile Western States Endurance Run and one of the greatest ultra-runners of all time, wrote:

"I'm healthier and I can run longer and faster because I eat a plant-based diet. But I don't preach to my carnivorous friends or lambast anyone who eats a baked potato slathered with butter and sour cream. Anyone who pays attention to what they eat and how it affects them will naturally move toward plants, and toward health."

After four years on a vegan diet, I wholeheartedly agree with Scott's assessment, and it is in this spirit that I offer the resources below. They have informed and inspired my journey, and I hope that you will find value in them too.

A final thought. Though health was the impetus behind my exploration, environmental sustainability and animal welfare - the two other pillars of the vegan movement - quickly made a powerful and lasting impact on me as well. In fact, though I'm healthier, stronger, and faster than ever, when asked if I feel better on a vegan diet, I can honestly answer that I feel best knowing that I've positively contributed to our world on these two fronts.

Whatever your dietary choices, you can never go wrong with more of these!

I took this picture at Pike Place Market during a recent trip to Seattle.

Note: The books, films, podcasts, and websites listed below touch on much more than veganism. Topics include diet and nutrition in general, the food industry, the environment, animal welfare, health, fitness, running, inspiration and motivation, entrepreneurship, and wellness. Most of the books - specifically Finding Ultra, Eat and Run, and Born To Run - are inspiring non-fiction works that incorporate diet, but at times on the periphery. The films are all documentaries, and topics of the Rich Roll Podcast are as diverse as his impressive guest list.

I will add to the list as I discover new and exciting material. Enjoy!

Books

Finding Ultra - Rich Roll

“Finding Ultra is about a journey we all take as human beings, when we decide to pursue the impossible and live a life of mission. When I need to dig deeper, push harder, and find a little boost, Rich Roll is the guy who comes to mind. He is inspiration embodied.” Sanjay Gupta, M.D., Emmy Award-winning Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN and New York Times bestselling author

Eat and Run - Scott Jurek

“Scott Jurek has revolutionized the sports world—not just with his astounding feats of speed and endurance, but with his flashes of brilliance in how to power our bodies. Whether you are an elite athlete or just want more energy and vitality, this book will inspire and equip you, and will forever change the way you think about fueling your body.” Neal Barnard, M.D., President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart

Born To Run - Christopher McDougall

“A tale so mind-blowing as to be the stuff of legend.” The Denver Post

How Not To Die - Dr. Michael Greger, M.D.

“Michael Greger, M.D., scours the world's scholary literature on nutrition for the most interesting, groundbreaking, and practical new research. His work on nutritionfacts.org and in How Not To Die features the latest science on nutrition and health to show how to treat and prevent disease." Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Eat to Live

Films


The Game Changers - Louie Psihoyos


"Directed by Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos and executive produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul, The Game Changers tells the story of James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance.


Showcasing elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons, and everyday heroes, what James discovers permanently changes his understanding of food and his definition of true strength."



Food, Inc. - Robert Kenner

"For many people, the ideal meal is convenient, low-cost and delicious. Food, Inc. looks into the true cost of putting price and convenience over nutritional and environmental considerations, presenting the findings in a way that is engaging, informative and accessible to all." (From Documentary-Movie.com)

Food, Inc. Trailer on You Tube

Watch Food, Inc. Free on Documentary-Movie.com

Forks Over Knives - Lee Fulkerson

"The bottom line: I am convinced this message is true. A plant-based whole foods diet is healthy. Animal protein is not necessary, or should be used sparingly as Asians did, as a flavoring and not a main course. This adds the advantage of allowing us to avoid the chemicals and carcinogens pumped into livestock and poultry. Fast food is lethal. Parents who feed it to their children are helping them get hooked on fat, salt and sugar addiction. The facts are in. Didn't I warn you to stop reading?" - Roger Ebert (click here for full review)

Forks Over Knives Trailer on You Tube Watch Forks Over Knives on iTunes | Netflix |Amazon

Website

Cowspiracy - Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn

"Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it." (From Cowspiracy.com)

Cowspiracy Trailer on You Tube

Watch Cowspiracy on Netflix

Website

What The Health - Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn

"What the Health is a ground breaking feature length documentary from the award-winning filmmakers of Cowspiracy, that follows the exciting journey of intrepid filmmaker, Kip Andersen, as he uncovers the impacts of highly processed industrial animal foods on our personal health and greater community, and explores why leading health organizations continue to promote the industry despite countless medical studies and research showing deleterious effects of these products on our health." (From imdb.com)

What The Health Trailer on You Tube

Watch What The Health on Netflix

Website

Podcast

The Rich Roll Podcast

With over 20 million downloads and close to 300 episodes at the time of this writing, the RRP has something for everyone. As described on richroll.com, "each week Rich delves deep into all things wellness with some of the brightest and most forward thinking, paradigm busting minds in health, fitness, nutrition, art, entertainment, entrepreneurship & spirituality. Intimate, deep and often intense, these are not interviews. They are conversations. A weekly aural dance designed to provoke, educate, inspire and empower you to discover, uncover, unlock and unleash your best, most authentic self."

To get you started, here is one of my favorites, Gary Vaynerchuk (Podcast #217). A Belarus-born entrepreneur, social media sensation, and the CEO of NYC-based VaynerMedia, Gary delivers a barrage of infotainment as applicable to the artist and athlete as the businessman and entrepreneur.

Website

Nutritionfacts.org - simply put, this site is amazing! The brainchild of Dr. Michael Greger, nutritionfacts.org is a "strictly non-commercial, science-based public service, providing free updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating, with new videos and articles uploaded every day." (from nutritionfacts.org)

A few favorite videos to sample:

How Smoking in 1956 is Like Eating in 2017

Click here to view "How Smoking in 1956 is Like Eating in 2017" on

nutritionfacts.org, which includes additional information and related videos.

Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein?

Click here to view "Do Vegetarians Get Enough Protein" on

nutritionfacts.org, which includes additional information and related videos.

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