Whether you’re a long-time plant-based eater, are just starting to transition to a plant-based diet, or you’re curious to learn a little more about what it’s all about, there’s tons of information out there on how to eat a plant-based diet — and do it optimally.
But since there’s so much nutritional confusion and misinformation out there as well, it can help to find a few trustworthy experts to serve as your guides. I’m talking about people with meaningful credentials and experience. People who keep an open mind and actively seek the truth rather than just looking for evidence to support their preexisting ideas. Those whose mission it is to make the world a healthier place. People like doctors, registered dietitians, and others who have been advocating for, engaged with, and sometimes carrying out the research on plant-based eating, often for decades.
That’s who we’ve turned to in compiling our list of some of the most well-respected books about plant-based diets, health, and nutrition — books that many members of the Food Revolution Network team favor. (Bonus: Learning from these experts will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes made when transitioning toward a plant-based diet.)
11 Plant-Based Diet Books to Put on Your Reading List
Whatever your “why” for going plant-based or being curious about this way of eating, these plant-based nutrition books will help inspire and guide you to choose a healthy diet that supports both the planet and the animals with which we share our home. In each of these books on plant-based eating, you’ll learn something unique about whole plant foods — and what makes them such powerful allies on your journey to a healthier diet.
1. Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, RD
Becoming Vegan is one of the all-time classics of vegan or plant-based literature. Food Revolution Network (FRN) team member Jessica Holden relates the impact Becoming Vegan had on her:
“After following a vegetarian diet for almost fifteen years, Becoming Vegan helped me make the jump to fully plant-based. It touches on the devastating realities of animal agriculture — the motivating force behind my choice to go vegetarian in the first place — and then dives into a meticulous overview of the science behind why plant-based is the best choice for human (and planetary) health. Whether you’re vegan-curious or a seasoned plant-based veteran, this book will be an indispensable addition to your library.”
Nichole Dandrea-Russert, RDN, is equally effusive in her praise of Becoming Vegan as one of the best books on veganism:
“If there’s one book I’d recommend to someone who wants to go vegan or gravitate towards a more plant-centric diet, it’s Becoming Vegan. Brenda and Vesanto provide a comprehensive guide to plant-based eating from macronutrients to micronutrients to special needs, such as plant-based eating for pregnancy, weight gain, and senior years. While their book focuses on optimizing nutrition through plant-based foods, they also discuss how being vegan impacts the environment and animal welfare. Becoming Vegan is a must-have for any vegan, veg-curious, or plant-powered library.”
2. The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution, by Dean Sherzai, MD and Ayesha Sherzai, MD
Doctors Dean and Ayesha Sherzai’s groundbreaking research has given hope to millions who want to avoid dementia in their later years. Despite talk of genetic inevitability, it’s clear that most cases of Alzheimer’s and other dementias are preventable through lifestyle. The Sheirzais’ books, The Alzheimer’s Solution and The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution, clearly explain the causes of dementia and show why the current medical approaches do not work and cannot work in the absence of lifestyle and diet upgrades.
The Drs. Sherzai offer a simple and elegant solution called the “NEURO” Plan — Nutrition, Exercise, Unwind, Restore, and Optimize. As health educators, as well as physicians, they guide readers to implement the steps of the plan in a straightforward and achievable manner. After all, the best strategies won’t work if they don’t get translated into habits. The Sherzais are experts in habit formation and will show you how to turn your goals into daily routines.
Dear friends of Food Revolution Network, who have also partnered with us to bring you our powerful course on this topic, Healthy Brain, the Sherzais are beloved by many in our community for their kindness, fierce advocacy for health, and Ayesha’s delicious recipes.
3. Eat for Life by Joel Fuhrman, MD
Dr. Joel Fuhrman is a long-time friend of Food Revolution Network. He’s presented at most of our annual Food Revolution Summits, and he wrote a wonderful foreword to my book, 31-Day Food Revolution.
One of the reasons we love Dr. Fuhrman is his no-nonsense, hard-hitting way of conveying the facts about nutrition and health. His first major book, Eat to Live, opened up many people’s eyes to the harms caused by their meat, dairy, and processed-food-heavy diets. And he armed his readers with principles, practices, and recipes to embrace and benefit from a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet.
In his latest endeavor, Eat for Life, Dr. Fuhrman dives deep into his knowledge, experience, and research as a nutritional scientist. Eat for Life provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of his trademarked Nutritarian Diet, showcasing a way of eating that’s optimal for disease prevention, graceful aging, and a healthy, vital life. In it, you’ll find lifestyle advice to get you on the path to health, along with nutrient-dense recipes and meal plans, and recommended foods for optimal health, which he simplifies with a fun acronym: G-BOMBS (Greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds).
4. UnDo It!, by Dean Ornish, MD and Anne Ornish
In the 1980s and 90s, Dean Ornish, MD, conducted some of the very first studies showing that a plant-based lifestyle could prevent and reverse cardiovascular disease. Later, he was able to show that a plant-based diet could slow and even reverse the progression of prostate cancer, too.
In his latest book, UnDo It!, Dr. Ornish and his wife Anne summarize decades of research and lay out a powerful plan for reversing the biological processes that lead to the majority of modern chronic diseases. While a plant-based diet is front and center (including 70 delicious recipes), the book takes a holistic approach, as evidenced by the four principles they lay out — move more, eat well, stress less, and love more. Dean and Anne theorize that these simple lifestyle changes are the keys to unlocking the powerful health transformations seen in Dr. Ornish’s lifestyle medicine program.
If you’re still not convinced, UnDo It! also includes powerful patient success stories that will give you hope and motivation that you, too, can “undo it” and recover your health.
5. The Microbiome Solution, by Robynne Chutkan, MD
Gastroenterologist and 2022 Food Revolution Summit guest, Dr. Robynne Chutkan, has a simple and powerful philosophy about how to enlist the trillions of critters that make up our microbiome as allies in good health —“Live dirty, eat clean.”
In The Microbiome Solution, she elaborates on both strategies. By living dirty, Dr. Chutkan means resisting the cleanliness obsession of modern culture — avoiding antibacterial lotions and soaps, minimizing antibiotics, being OK with getting dirty. These tactics ensure that we have a robust and diverse microbiome that can keep pathogens in check.
And by eating clean, Dr. Chutkan means, of course, a diet high in plant foods, many of which deliver prebiotic and probiotic goodness to gut microbes, which then reward us by producing short-chain fatty acids and other compounds crucial for good health.
Dr. Chutkan presents her comprehensive gut plan for the first time outside of her practice to help people everywhere recover from chronic health issues. Her book provides a detailed look at the world of gut bacteria and the factors that can cause either health or disease. As she says in The Microbiome Solution, “You’re only as healthy as your gut bacteria.”
Anyone who suffers from digestive problems, or just wants to live a life in balance with nature, will be inspired and instructed by this plant-based look at gut health.
6. How Not to Die, by Michael Greger, MD
When Michael Greger was a little kid, his beloved grandmother Frances was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease. Her doctors “sent her home in a wheelchair to die” at the young age of 65. Instead of giving up, she enrolled in a brand-new lifestyle medicine program, adopted a plant-based diet, and started exercising. Dr. Greger writes, “They wheeled my grandmother in, and she walked out. I’ll never forget that.”
And he didn’t. Michael devoted his life not just to tending to his own patients, but to sharing the science behind lifestyle medicine, so more patients and healthcare providers could take advantage of the healing properties of a plant-based diet. His YouTube channel and website, NutritionFacts.org, have millions of views. And he put together his findings on treating and preventing the leading causes of death in his encyclopedic, heavily referenced, and funny masterpiece, How Not to Die.
Here’s what Food Revolution Network’s dietitian and recipe developer, Nichole Dandrea-Russert, RDN, has to say about it:
“Dr. Greger’s research-based, comprehensive, and entertaining book (he’s very funny!) presents the latest groundbreaking plant-based nutritional science in an easy-to-read and sensible way. He translates the scientific literature, so it’s straightforward and simple to understand how plant-based eating prevents lifestyle diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. He also lays the groundwork by presenting a practical roadmap so that you can easily start incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet for optimal health and disease prevention. How Not to Die is an indispensable resource if you’re serious about your health.”
7. Your Body In Balance: The New Science of Food, Hormones, and Health, by Neal Barnard, MD
Neal Barnard, MD, has been leading the charge to put plant-based nutrition to the test in the real world for decades. He and his colleagues at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the Barnard Medical Center have, among many efforts, run clinical trials that have documented the powerful effects of plant-based eating on conditions as diverse as diabetes, obesity, menopause, COVID-19, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Not content with just sharing the plant-based message with medical professionals, Dr. Barnard is also known for generously sharing his knowledge and passion with the rest of us through countless speaking engagements, including many appearances as a guest at our annual Food Revolution Summit. And he has written many books that help us understand and implement his cutting-edge findings for better health. Your Body in Balance is his latest accomplishment, exploring the relationship between food, hormones, and health.
In Your Body in Balance, Dr. Barnard shares how many common hormonal conditions, including fertility issues, menopause, sex hormone-related cancers, thyroid conditions, and type 2 diabetes are impacted by (and can be improved with) what you eat. The book uncovers the impact animal products versus plant-based foods have on your hormones and offers suggestions on the types of foods to eat for optimal, hormone-supporting nutrition.
Dr. Barnard also has practical lifestyle tips sprinkled throughout that will support healing from various hormonal conditions. And you’ll find a whole section of recipes and preplanned menus from Lindsay Nixon of the plant-based blog (and cookbook series of the same name), Happy Herbivore.
8. The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell – with a Foreword by John Robbins
The China Study is arguably one of the most influential health books of all time. Published with little fanfare in 2004 by a small imprint, BenBella Books, after every major publishing house rejected the manuscript or requested changes to make it more “commercial” and less “science-y,” it slowly gained word of mouth attention to become a perennial bestseller.
The title refers to a comprehensive study conducted by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, in conjunction with scholars from China and Oxford University, a study the New York Times heralded as “the grand prix of epidemiology.” It found that the more animal products a population consumed, the greater their risk of diseases such as cancers and heart disease.
In The China Study, Campbell, and his coauthor, Thomas M. Campbell II (his son), place this study in the context of the senior Campbell’s decades of bionutritional research that implicated dairy protein as a potent carcinogen. And it confounded policy makers by showing that high animal protein diets made children in the Philippines more susceptible to liver cancer.
All in all, the book paints a stunning picture of whole food, plant-based eating as the most powerful tool ever discovered for promoting individual, communal, and planetary health. My dad, John Robbins, was honored to be asked to write the foreword. Here’s how he concluded it:
“I’ve read The China Study twice already, and each time I’ve learned an immense amount. This is a brave and wise book. The China Study is extraordinarily helpful, superbly written, and profoundly important. Dr. Campbell’s work is revolutionary in its implications and spectacular in its clarity.
“If you want to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast and then take cholesterol-lowering medication, that’s your right. But if you want to truly take charge of your health, read The China Study, and do it soon! If you heed the counsel of this outstanding guide, your body will thank you every day for the rest of your life.”
9. Fiber Fueled, by Will Bulsiewicz, MD, MSCI
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, or Dr. B as he’s known by his myriad fans, has a simple message — eat a wide variety of whole plant foods to feed all the different microbes that make up your gut microbiome. In a world of increasingly restricted diets, his message is a refreshing one.
Eating is like lifting weights, and your gut is a muscle, he explains. If you have trouble handling high-fiber foods like legumes, the solution typically isn’t to avoid them. Instead, he encourages you to build up your tolerance and your gut’s capacity to digest them, so you can derive the benefit of a high-fiber diet.
Much like Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS acronym, Dr. B also makes it easy for you to remember the most gut-friendly and plant-based foods with his own abbreviation, F GOALS — Fruits & Fermented foods, Greens & Grains, Omega-3-rich nuts and seeds, Aromatics (like onion and garlic), Legumes, and Sulforaphane.
Fiber Fueled is one of the clearest and most convincing arguments for the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Dr. B shows that fiber — which is only found in plant-based foods, not animal products — is truly the basis of optimal health. Without it, you may be fueling dysbiosis (or an imbalance in your gut flora), which can lead to inflammatory conditions, including chronic disease, gastrointestinal conditions, and food intolerances.
10. The Food Revolution, by John Robbins
The Food Revolution, my dad (and colleague)’s sequel to Diet for a New America, has probably inspired almost as many people as the original to embrace a diet that can heal the world. It’s a practical book of action steps; it’s a guidebook to political activism; it’s a prayer for the Earth and all her creatures, and it’s a wake-up call to the human conscience. The Food Revolution reveals the political, ethical, economical, and social effects of the modern food system — and the joys of eating in a way that doesn’t damage your health or the environment.
Whether you’ve been eating a plant-based diet for decades, or are new to this way of eating, there are so many valuable gems to uncover in this book. Originally published in 2001, in its recently updated edition, you’ll see why it’s still one of the most frequently referenced vegan or vegetarian books of all time.
You can read the kind and generous words people have for The Food Revolution on my dad’s website. You’ll see names of activists, actors, theologians, writers, spiritual teachers, athletes, physicians, and entrepreneurs. I hope you’ll pick up the book and find inspiration and energy to fuel your own commitment to a healed and abundant world.
11. 31-Day Food Revolution, by Ocean Robbins (me!)
OK, this is a little awkward, me telling you why my book is one of the books you should have on your reading list. But there’s a reason — I wrote it to help everyone to take simple and practical daily steps to implement and optimize a healthy, plant-powered diet. This is a good plant-based diet book for beginners, but also for anyone who needs a refresher.
The book is written so, if you like, you can read one short chapter a day for 31 days, and each day take some small action that builds on the previous day. From gaining knowledge to clarifying motivation to trying new foods to building new routines to engaging family members in important conversations — this book addresses all the needs and obstacles I’ve heard from thousands of FRN members.
And in keeping with the mission of FRN, 31-Day Food Revolution focuses not just on healthy eating, but on the things each of us can do to bring about a healthy, ethical, and sustainable food system for everyone.
While I love and appreciate all the kind words that people have shared about the book, I must admit one of my favorite quotes comes from a musician you may have heard of:
“I’ve been watching the work that Ocean Robbins and his father, John, have been doing with Food Revolution Network for many years now, and I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished. The more people who hear this message and move toward diets marked by compassion and respect for life and the earth, the better off our world will be. The book that you hold in your hands is lighting the way for the future of your health and that of the planet.” — Paul McCartney
Many of the books in the above list include recipes, so they should keep you covered for a while. But if you’re looking, specifically, for plant-based cookbooks, check out our article on 10 of the Best Plant-Based Cookbooks to Put You on the Fast Track to Health.
Among the authors featured in that list, you’ll find Toni Okamoto of Plant-Based on a Budget, Dr. Michael Greger, and nutrition coach Margo Borges.
Get Reading (& Eating!) Plant-Based
There’s a lot of information (and misinformation) about what diet is best for most people. But there’s a lot of evidence, as presented in these books, that plant-based eating is one of the healthiest ways to eat. And most experts agree that a plant-based diet is the way to go for people, animals, and the environment.
We hope you enjoy our plant-based diet booklist and choose to explore many of the books we love to recommend — happy reading!
Tell us in the comments:
- Which plant-based diet books on this list have you already read? Which one was your first?
- What books on this list would you like to read next?
- What other books on going plant-based would you include in the list, and why?
Feature Image: iStock.com/Eclipse_Images