The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet
by Rip Esselstyn
If you want to go vegan, here’s your chance to hop on the Engine 2 seven-day challenge and try it out. Rip Esselstyn, former firefighter and world-class triathlete and still fabulously fit in his fifties, lays out all you need to know to get started. As a firefighter called to save lives, he saw first-hand the effects that what he calls the Standard American Diet, or SAD, has on people: everything from type 2 diabetes, to high blood pressure and heart failure, to obesity. From his own experience, and those of others he has influenced, switching to a plant-strong diet reverses, and can prevent, these diseases, as well as eliminate or reduce the need for medications.
Esselstyn prefers the term “plant-strong” rather than vegan, as there’s plenty of prepared foods available that are technically vegan, but not necessarily healthy, loaded up with salt and sugar and oils. The whole foods that he emphasizes are “foods in their natural plant form,” like whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, vegetables and fruits. Which means (gasp!) no meat, no dairy, and no processed or refined carbs. He stresses the importance of chewing our food, rather than drinking it in juices or smoothies, as you want the complete fiber to slow down the sugar load on your body. Oils are out on this plant-savvy diet; better to get fat from the whole olive, avocado, nut, etc, and Esselstyn explains why. Worried about all those carbs? According to Rip, as long as they’re the good kind, the more the better; they provide fuel for the body. What about salt and sugar? As you can guess, it’s eliminated or minimized on the seven days. But no worries, you’ll get plenty to satisfy that sweet tooth with fruits, and according to those who have done the challenge, your taste buds will change.
Okay, you might be convinced to give the Rescue Diet a try, but you need your protein, right? Surprisingly, whole foods offer all the protein we need, and Rip offers the evidence. Is meal preparation too time-consuming? Not if you build a bowl. You’ll find handy charts to show you how; it’s a matter of picking and choosing which foods and toppings to layer in your bowl. Or you can toss together any of the easy-peasy recipes listed on three pages, without sacrificing good taste. The best part: you can eat all you want because plant calories are lower than calories from meat, dairy and oil.
If you’re still on the fence, Rip offers this enticement: based on the challenges he’s held around the country for the past six years, participants have lost up to 14 pounds, lowered their total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides by an average of 22 to 75 points, and blood pressure by an average of 10/5 points. In seven days? Now that’s something to chew on.
The book includes meal plans, recipes, science to back up the claims, and links to online resources. I’m already plant-strong, so I didn’t need to be swayed, but I bought the book because I wanted new ideas for meals, and more in-depth nutritional information about fats, sugar, and salt. Grand Central Publishing, $27.00
–Reviewed by Diane Holcomb, EastWest Bookshop