Book Review: BEYOND BROCCOLI: Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work

BEYOND BROCCOLI: Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn’t Work
By Susan Schenck, Lac
Reviewed by Rosalind Michahelles, Certified Holistic Health Counselor

For those who are, were, or might become vegetarians, this is a useful book. Written by a woman whose earlier book The Live Food Factor extolled the nutritional benefits of raw plants. Courageous woman! When she found after six years of raw veganism that she didn’t thrive, she looked “beyond broccoli,” and, once her health was restored, she wrote this book.

After those six years eating no animal products and nothing cooked, Schenk added 6 ounces of raw meat a day and quickly felt better. “My blood sugar stabilized, and I never had food cravings. I was no longer bloated, often a sign of high blood insulin levels….I slept better….” She is candid about the symptoms that led to her change in persuasion: bloating, weight gain, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and fatigue. Her change was not big, more of a shift, really, to include some meat, fish, and eggs. She still eats most food raw and recommends we all do so as well.

Chapter 2 engages the reader in what the author calls the vegetarian myths. One is that we should eat like our primate cousins. It turns out, however, that they are not strictly vegetarian and that they have longer intestines, to deal with all the roughage they consume. We are differently equipped, partly to accommodate our larger brains, which do well with more protein and more fat, especially the omega-3 fats from fish and grass-fed mammals.

Another myth is that vegetarians get less cancer. According to Schenk’s sources, that holds for some cancers but not for others, like endometrial, prostate, brain, skin, and pancreatic.

Whatever the fat ratio in a vegetarian or vegan diet – and there are plenty of plant oils, like coconut and olive and seed oils – the proportion of carbohydrates is bound to be high. The author reminds us that carbs –> insulin –> weight gain, and also that the fuel we get from carbohydrates burns up faster than that from protein or fat and so we get hungry quicker, leading to more eating.

For some, eggs will represent their farthest frontier, i.e., the only animal product they will eat. Schenk lists what eggs have to offer us: protein, lecithin (an emulsifier), vitamin B-12, selenium, and, when hens are pastured, then also omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, lutein, and xanthin.

In the chapter, which is dedicated to what meat provides us with, the author quotes Weston Price who visited many “pre-Westernized” communities around the world in the 1930’s, but could find none that were vegetarian to the exclusion of all animal products. Can we therefore conclude that all human societies eat at least some? That may be because vitamins A and D abound in cod liver oil; the B vitamins abound in meat; vitamin K-2 comes from grass-fed animals; omega-3 fats come from them, as well, and from fatty fish like salmon. Heme-iron from animals “is more readily absorbed by the body than the non-heme iron of plant sources.”

Finally, there is the question of morality and sustainability. Schenk’s recommendations on both counts involve animal husbandry on a small, local scale. Animals with outdoor careers will fertilize the ground while leading natural lives — unlike the factory animals, inhumanely cramped and poisoning the environment with lakes of excrement. Eliot Coleman, sustainable Maine farmer, author, and lecturer, compares eating “my own grass-raised steer” to “a vegetarian eating tofu made in a factory from soybeans grown in Brazil [who] is responsible for a lot more CO-2 than I am.”

Some people think a vegetarian diet is more slimming than an omnivorous diet — but they should see the cartoon at the front of the book with thiscaption: “If a vegetarian diet is good for losing weight, how come they use grain to fatten pigs and cows?”

This book is very clearly organized so that a reader can pick and choose the relevant chapters and topics. This is good because as a 247-page paperback in 8” x 10” format, it is hard to hold for any length of time. I recommend it to anyone who has doubts about whether to eat meat and then which meat and from what source. The author is categorical about the need to find sustainably raised meat and gives this helpful website: Go to the Food Guide to find outlets by zip code.