Scott Jurek. Brendan Brazier. Robert Cheeke. These and a handful of other vegetarian and vegan athletes are the people we point to when someone challenges us on whether it’s possible to be a successful athlete without eating meat.To our stockpile of animal-friendly ammunition we have a new name to add: Rich Roll.
Maybe this ultra-endurance athlete (more on what that means in a minute) isn’t new to you, but I discovered Rich’s story only recently, in my search for an overlap between veganism and the Paleo diet. And what a story it is. Rich was a competitive swimmer at Stanford, but he gave it all up in 1989, subsequently battling a drug and alcohol addition and becoming 50 pounds overweight.
Fast forward to 2006, when at age 40, Rich went vegan. Two years later, he became the first vegan to complete an Ultraman. That’s a three-day race consisting of a 6.2-mile swim and a 90-mile cross-country bike ride, a 174.1-mile road bike ride, and a 52.4-mile double marathon! And a year after that, Rich finished 6th overall at the Ultraman World Championships.
How cool is that? Even with all that my own experience of going vegetarian has shown me, with the Boston-qualifying and running four ultras this year after never having run more than a single marathon in any given year before I changed my diet, it’s still really comforting to hear that there are people at the very top of the endurance sports universe who are doing it with a plant-based diet. And not just vegetarian—most of these athletes are vegan.
Makes you want to go out there and do something special, doesn’t it? Check out Rich’s blog and be inspired.
Rich’s New Jai Seed Cookbook
Rich has a brand new e-cookbook called Jai Seed, which he co-authored with his wife, Julie Piatt. Rich was generous enough to send me a copy to review, and I was surprised when he described it to me as a “coffee table type” cookbook. You know, big, colorful photographs with a very artistic feel—not standard e-book fare by any means.
But you know what? It really works well. The book is beautiful; you can see this in the video preview Rich made for the book.
Now, art is great and all. But for me, what really matters in a cookbook is the recipes. So what are they like?
How Jai Seed is Like (and Unlike) Thrive
The best way I can describe Jai Seed is in comparison to Brendan Brazier’s Thrive. You probably know that I’m a huge fan (like, stalker-level) of Thrive for the wealth of information it contains and the smoothies and running fuel recipes. Thrive introduced me to so many new ingredients and dietary principles for maximizing energy, like taking it easy on the gluten, incorporating raw foods, and sprouting beans and seeds. And that’s why I always recommend it when people ask me for a good vegan nutrition resource.
But what I don’t love about Thrive is the actual lunch and dinner food in the recipes section. I can appreciate the meal plan as a benchmark of health to which to compare my diet, but the fact is that I just love cooking too much to enjoy the Thrive food day-in and day-out.
Jai Seed is like Thrive in that it incorporates powerhouse ingredients like kale, chia, beets, pumpkin seeds, maca, coconut oil, and little (if any) wheat. And it’s clear that Rich values cooking foods in a way that retains their nutrients, just like Brendan Brazier does.
The difference is that in the spectrum which has health at one extreme and taste at the other, Jai Seed sits slightly closer to the “taste” side than Thrive does. The use of some higher-temperature cooking, even grilling, and more common ingredients makes for food that’s approachable to new vegetarians and vegans, and very family-friendly.
An obvious example that jumped out at me immediately: In Jai Seed, the salad dressings are based on organic olive oil, rather than on a healthier-but-definitely-less-tastebud-pleasing EFA oil blend or hempseed oil. I realize the shift is slight and that one could easily make substitutions, but I think this little distinction really captures the difference in feel between the recipes in the two books.
At 10 bucks, Jai Seed is an absolute steal. If I had bought this book for 20 or 30 dollars, I’d probably be a little disappointed to find that many of the smoothie recipes rely on a Vitamix, the 450-dollar blender that’s on my wish list but which I haven’t been able to justify the purchase of just yet. But if you’re willing to use a juicer in conjunction with a normal blender, you can probably approximate most of Jai Seed‘s smoothies that way.Yesterday I made Holiday Mixed Grain Pilaf with Red Chard. Hearty and healthy, and easy to make. Today it’s Veggie Burgers, with Veggie Nachos and Lasange also on my to-make-soon list. Jai Seed has me more excited about cooking than I’ve been in a long time since I went vegetarian, and that fact that it’s vegan is icing on the cake.
Jai Seed is available for instant download at Rich’s website, Jai Lifestyle. No affiliate relationship here, just a cool cookbook from a vegan Ultraman that I figured you’d want to know about.
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