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834 of 862 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mix of science and recipes to help people help themselves, July 8, 2011
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This review is from: Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health (Paperback)
The book "Forks Over Knives" does a wonderful job of performing two disparate tasks:
It provides concise explanations of why a whole-foods, plant-based diet is healthiest for people, the planet, and the animals, and
It offers a wide range of amazing recipes to help people get started.

The editor pairs these tasks to perform one goal: to help people live healthier lives through their food choices.

The book does this in three parts: (i) why a plant-based diet is best for your health, the planet, and the animals (37 pages); (ii) basic facts on plant-based foods (19 pages), and (iii) recipes (133 pages). While the bulk of the book is for recipes, there is a lot of powerful information in the first two parts that has appeal for anyone from the newcomer to the most informed, with topics as diverse as the environmental impact of food choices to nutrition labels. Even after having read literally dozens of books on plant-based foods and having finished Campbell's eCornell course in plant-based nutrition, I became more informed after reading the first two parts. The third part is filled with tempting recipes from some of the top plant-based chefs who refuse to compromise on health to sell meals.

The writing style is, for lack of a better word, "comfortable". You can almost imagine yourself having a casual discussion with 11 experts on healthy eating, with insights that would surprise your general practitioner, but with language suitable for the layperson.

My only qualms with the book are with the image quality of the graphs and people, which are technically disappointing, although still discernable, and with the arrangement of the bios, which seems out of order with their contributions.

As a result of the dual tasks, some of the Amazon reviewers were negative. I've summarized them here, along with some counterpoints:

Claim: The educational part of the book was too concise and contained bios

If you are interested only in Dr. Esselstyn's work, try Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure. For more on Campbell's work, turn to The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health. For the impact of our food choices on the environment or animals, there are hundreds of books that describe the effects in chilling detail. This book is not the most comprehensive, authoritative guide on any one of those subjects, but it is a very readable and compelling guide on what is arguably the most important topic for most readers: healthy eating. And it holds something for every nutritionist I've ever met, as well as for the overweight Wal-Mart shopper whose cart is filled with chips and soda, or laboratory-manufactured foods from aisle 17. I have yet to find a book that does a better job of balancing the tasks of enlightening readers and facilitating changes in diet.

The book does offer bios on the people who are trying to help us live more healthy lives. At first, I thought that this was a bit too much of a stretch for an already ambitious book...if I read a book on yoga, I'm not necessarily interested in the backgrounds of the leading proponents of yoga. But here I think the bios are justified because they offer a much needed perspective. The bio on T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., explains how he grew up on a dairy farm and was preparing to continue working with animal-based foods, how he discovered that animal protein was a problem rather than a solution to health woes, and then how certain factions in the food industry tried to smear him to stop him from sharing his findings. Dr. Neal Barnard found that the ribs on his cafeteria tray looked and smelled eerily similar to the ribs he had just examined from a human cadaver, which led him to think differently about food. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn tells of how he saved cardiovascular patients who had been told to "go home and prepare for death". I know of dozens of people with cardiovascular problems and one person who was also told to give up hope, so this latter bio may serve as a wakeup call where all else has failed. Collectively, these bios show how the leaders in the field came to the same conclusions from different perspectives, in spite of the traditional food and health industry pressures and tactics.

Claim: The book offered nothing that couldn't be found on the Internet.

I've been a student of plant-based nutrition for 10 years and I've read everything I can on the topic, yet I found pieces here I'd never seen before: Bios that contain insights obviously drawn out from first-hand interviews with the subjects; success stories from people who chose to adopt this healthier approach to eating; a very concise and thoughtful summary which compares whole, plant-based foods to animal products (styled like black box warning labels for food), and some great recipes from leading chefs.

Claim: The book contained no bibliography and few footnotes.

This comment, especially when juxtaposed with the above comment, shows the difficulty in pairing disparate tasks: it's impossible to please everyone. If everything could be found on the Internet, why would someone need a bibliography and dozens of footnotes? Actually, there is a bibliography--called a "bookshelf" on page 199, as well as a list of online references on page 198. There are few footnotes, which will disappoint the purist, but this is a guide, not the definitive source on every topic covered.

Now, a comment on some of the "reviews": A review should summarize the content, offer a critical assessment (e.g., Was it noteworthy? Understandable? Persuasive?), and an argument as to why prospective readers might or might not enjoy the book. Some of the comments for this book are simply mean-spirited attacks on a book that aims to inform, persuade and help those who want to live longer, healthier lives in making better food choices--all for the low price of $6.40, or less than one-tenth the cost of a doctor's visit, where the topic of whole, plant-based foods will likely never come up. Such attacks are to be expected when someone challenges long-held, but unjustifiable beliefs with extensive clinical and epidemiological evidence. Still, more thoughtful reviews would benefit Amazon customers.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 9, 2011 6:14:22 PM PDT
shannon lear says:
Wow! thanks for the time you put into this review. I couldn't have dreamed of a smarter, more thorough or definitive ESSAY:) You mentioned the Campbell's eCornell course, so as soon as i finish this comment i'm rushing to find out what that is. ~hoping its an online free or low priced ecourse~ I became vegan almost instantly during the C-section birth of my only child about 5 years ago. But with out any cooking skills and pathetically little nutritional knowledge my diet is based mostly on starch/cereal, peanut butter, a few fruits and few skimpy salads, and most veggies and fruits stuffed in the blender. I've just begun reading up on proper vegan nutrition (so far just Skinny Bitch and Veganist and the movie from Raw for 30 days ). Although i didn't find those books all that compelling they did convince me it was the right thing to do and especially that my son should also eat a vegan diet too. Initially he happened to be allergic to regular milk formula and had to go on the soy based stuff. And until he turned 4 years old he basically was vegetarian--unless he visited his father or someone else's house. But about a year ago a friend (has 4 kids), mentioned to me he was a little pale and skinny and should be eating meat. So thinking she was right I started buying him meat~thinking it was just my lifestyle and he should be able to choose what he wants when he's older... kinda like religion!! LOL But now with just a tinsy bit more information on the health benefits and what I've learned about the horrors of factory farms, I've decided to decide for him again! I'm going to look at any other reviews you've written and check out the other books you listed above to learn what and how to prepare the right food for a healthy, animal and environmentally compassionate lifestyle. If you have any other suggestions please let me know- if you have time. And thank you again for such a great review on this book, I've ordered it because of you!! sincerely, Shannon

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 10, 2011 7:14:24 PM PDT
NYVegan says:
Thank you for the kind and thoughtful reply.

The eCornell online certificate course in plant-based nutrition costs "as little as $1145.00" (see here: It is comprised of three parts. I found the first part (nutrition fundamentals) to be quite basic, for me, at least. Diseases of Affluence, the second part, was more interesting and useful than it was challenging. Principles in Practice required more discipline than the other two, but it rounded out the course well.
If the price is too high (or even if it's not), I'd suggest you start with growing your own garden, then read The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure, The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook: 125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Jump-Start Weight Loss and Help You Feel Great, The Pleasure Trap, or, for your son, the remarkable Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right or Healthy Eating for Life for Children.

My wife and I have made it fun to relearn how to prepare food, assuming nothing and starting anew. Our son loves to help, and we let him take the compliments to make sure he keeps up the enthusiasm and the help. If your son helps you prepare meals, he'll likely take more of an interest in, and he'll be better prepared to think about, what he puts in his own mouth.

Posted on Jul 21, 2011 11:53:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 21, 2011 11:57:48 AM PDT
Dear NY Vegan,
Thank you for your thoughtful, thorough, insightful review on the book. I wish more reviews were like yours. I have been a vegan since Jan 1, 2011. Prior to that I had been a Lacto-ovo Vegetarian. I spent the latter part of 2010 in the hopsital with some major health issues and underwent 2 surgeries. I couldn't believe my health took such a turn. I always exercised, ate right (or so I thought), hardly drank alcohol, ate sweets in moderation, so what happened? It was then I remembered I had purchased but never read Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Life. While recuperating, I read her book cover-to-cover. (Most of the info I already knew from having read AnneMarie Colbin's book: Food & Healing. Plus, back in the late 90s, I had tried being a vegan but it only lasted about 1 year.) Alicia's book convinced me to become a vegan again and I have never felt better. Giving up dairy had a positive impact on my health and appearance. My chronic sinsus issues went away and I am no longer bloated and puffy. Even my husband noticed that my face lost it's "puffiness". Being a vegan is a win-win for me. I feel great. I look so much better. I'm healthier and although people have been commenting that I've lost weight, I really haven't. I think what I lost was the bloat.

The hardest part about becoming a vegan was listening to all the narrow-minded negative diatribe from overweight, greasy, bloated, closed-minded people who think it's not healthy to give up animals products. Some people told me that I would become sick and wind up in worse shape than last year. Doubtful. I have never felt better. To test my theory, a few weeks ago I ate 2 tsps (seriously 2 teaspoons) of a creamed soup and immediately my sinuses became congested and I started to feel lousy. I felt fatiqued and achy like I was coming down with a cold. That was it for me, never again. Now more than ever I am convinced that being a vegan is the way to be. It's true what Alicia says in her book, you become more centered and I do feel that way.

What amazes me is how some people will never ever give up their red meat, their chicken, eggs or dairy -- never! I swear, some of the people I know are starting to resemble chickens due to all the chicken they eat. These are the same people who will go to their doctor asking for a pill to cure whatever is ailing them (or as one co-worker said to me once, "Put a pill on it.") rather than change they way they eat. I suppose some people just do not want to believe it. They would rather belive that following the South Beach Diet, or Atkins is the way to go -- you know those high protein, no carb diets. Stupid.

I take heart in knowing that I am no longer contritibuting to the meat/dairy industry. I am an animal lover and do quite a bit of volunteer work with animals. It makes me sad and upset to see and hear about animals suffering (this would include dairy cows, cattle, pigs and poultry). I am convinced that if everyone had to slaughter their own animals for food, there would be a lot more vegans in the world.

In closing, thank you again for your insightful review. I am looking forward to reading the book as I do believe the food we eat affects our health.


In reply to an earlier post on Jul 23, 2011 6:11:05 PM PDT
funbear says:
Susan, you response was even more enlightening than the OP's book review. Very interesting story, too bad you represent the tiny minority of humans on the planet... more people like you, surely the world would be healthier, more peaceful, and stop the animal abuses that make me sick, and yet, regrettably, somehow, I still consume some animal products... very frustrating, it leaves me in a state of conflict...arggggg. anyway, your post re-inspired me.... thank you for posting.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2011 3:41:08 PM PDT
M. Young says:
Thank you so much for your wonderful and thoughtful comments. I have recently become an animal activist. I've been a vegetarian for a long, long time but now I am also 98% vegan. I'm getting there but to be honest, it is kind of hard to give up the Greek yogurt I like. That's basically the only dairy product I eat -- and even that I limit. (Silken tofu is great!) The way animals are treated is appalling -- and all for products that we don't even NEED. It's all about profit and the animals suffer for it. I've watched documentaries on slaughterhouses and it is too horrific beyond words. I've read books by Eric Marcus, Pete Singer, John Robbins, and Joseph Keon, among many others. I wish people would educate themselves more about nutrition and animal welfare and rights. I can't believe people turn such a blind eye to the plight of animals by employing such cognitive dissonance. I applaud you in your efforts

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2011 3:52:03 PM PDT
M. Young says:
I keep all kinds of animal rights/welfare books around to help me in my resolve. I have no problem being a vegetarian and am fortunate that this choice is not considered so "out there" these days. However, being a vegan is a different matter. Animal products are such a part of our daily lives that is takes tremendous effort to avoid them. It is hard because family and friends continue to eat animal products and they get defensive (as perhaps they should!) But criticizing and adopting a "holier-than-thou" attitude will not bring about desired results. I think just by discussing veganism's benefits when people ask me about it will start to get people thinking. Having relevant books on my coffee table that guests pick up and leaf through also helps. Someone told me once that it didn't matter if I were a vegan because most people will continue to eat meat and consume animal products so what was the point? But it does matter. I know that by not committing murder I will not stop people from murdering -- but I can be true to my beliefs by not personally engaging in it. Also, just because we can't do everything and change everybody doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do something. And I choose not to support the for-profit-only meat and dairy industries. It is better for my health, for the environment, and for the animals. My best wishes to you as you resolve the conflicts you are experiencing. They are normal! But I'm happy to read you have been re-inspired. Keep studying and reading and make gradual changes if that is what it takes.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011 8:00:34 AM PDT
Rebecca says:
Funbear, I would like to meet you (no pun intended!). How refreshing to read a post from someone who still eats animal products but admits that he/she doesn't want to. I applaud your honesty, and willingness to read about vegan diets. I have been vegan for a year and a half now, and absolutely love it. I could never go back to eating animals, but UNCONSCIOUS omnivores put me into a tizzy. The people I am surrounded by don't want to know how to improve their health, and they certainly don't want to know how the animals suffer for their personal tastes. One thing that really strikes me as funny though is that it seems SO difficult for some people to contemplate eating a vegan diet, even for as little as a day or a week. Why is that? (I must confess, I think I felt the same way before giving up animal products, but for the life of me, I can't remember WHY it felt so hard!) It sounds like you just need to start making yourself some delicious vegan food -- there are so many excellent cookbooks out there to choose from. Just dive right in and give it a try! Blessings on your head :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2011 9:35:17 AM PDT
funbear says:
thx for the kind and insightful words Rebecca..... I was actually 100% vegan for 2 years, but just could not handle it, as muscle atrophy was terrible, and not all the vegan proteins agreed with me.
anyway, since we are so off topic vs. the book review, if you want, you can email me....
bglick at rioaccess dot com....

Posted on Sep 5, 2011 8:31:00 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 5, 2011 8:31:41 AM PDT]

Posted on Sep 8, 2011 5:32:45 PM PDT
JoCo says:
Dear NY Vegan,
Thank you!
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