A New Vegan Cookbook from an Ultra-Endurance Athlete

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.

Rich at the 2009 Ultraman World Championships

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.

Holiday Mixed Grain Pilaf with Red Chard

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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  1. Thanks for pointing this out. I love Thrive, but a book with more emphasis on flavor and variety sounds great!

  2. I came to leave a “Never Gonna Give You Up” joke comment and left excited to read a new book 😉 Thanks for the review!

  3. I just made the black bean chili yesterday from Jai Seed and it’s AWESOME!!! A really super recipe. Only thing I’d do differently next time is maybe add a little more onion and fresh red pepper to the saute pan. Other than that it was just super. My picky husband also loved it! We are both happy and super healthy vegan athletes and this is great stuff.

  4. Daniel Donovan says:

    Someone posted an interview about this guy on the 30bananasaday forums like yesterday. I checked his site out and it’s always awesome to see vegan’s dominating in sports. We need more of us!

  5. Not entirely on topic but –
    You don’t have a Vitamix or Blendtec!!! I rate the $450 I spent 3 years ago on my Vitamix as a way better use of money than the 10 odd pairs of running shoes I’ve bought during that time. I have made over a thousand smoothies in this thing. My father loved it so much that I bought him a Blendtec (slightly smaller) for him to take with him to India (he had to buy a voltage converter to make it work) and now he reports that he is making all kinds of smoothies.

    • I second this, and my GF thirds it. Just friggin’ buy the Vitamix already. You WILL buy one some day, so buy it now. By the way, Costco occasionally has Vitamix for about $100 less than elsewhere. Between the smoothies, the hummus, and the banana ice cream (each of those is worth the price of admission), we use it at least 5x/week, and have for over a year with no end in sight.

  6. Thanks for the great review. I feel the same way about Thrive (and the vitamix) so I have a feeling I’m gonna love this cookbook.

  7. You don’t have a Vitamix??!! This was the absolutely best money I ever spent. It doesn’t leave my counter. Useful for so much more than just smoothies (soup, hummus, salsa, nut butters, etc). Go to their website and buy a reconditioned one. It’s cheaper and just as good. My reconditioned one has been going strong for more than 4 years now and I have put it to the test.

  8. Thanks to your tweet I found out about Rich Roll-his story is AMAZING!! I’m definitely planning on buying the cookbook, especially after reading your review! Thank you!

  9. I might have to check this out. My fiance (wife in 16 days) isn’t even vegetarian, so I’m sure she will appreciate more cooked meals, as I’m already doing. Oh, and if you ever decide to buy the VitaMix, I can get you free shipping 😉

    Oh, and btw a nice, simple dressing that doesn’t taste too bad is just a blend of olive oil and flax seed oil. Actually found it quite pleasing.

  10. I need to check this book out, looks like it’ll have more recipes that appeal to my non-vegan hubby. I was very weary about spending that much on a Vita-Mix especially when I had a decent blender and I’m a cheap person. But it’s worth every dime, there’s no comparison for the smoothie texture and I use it at least 3 times a day lately with smoothies, veggie based sauces, seed grinding and now coffee grinding since my coffee grinder died. 😛

  11. I agree with the other comments, and now even my husband does too, get the Vitamix, you will never look back.

  12. Fergus Gemini says:

    I got here from your “seven links”. It caught my curiosity because of the apparent controversy behind it. I felt like contributing to the topic.

    One could say that the concept of “moderation” has a bad reputation in a world culture where everybody is struggling to be “special”, to stick out from the crowds, to be praised, talked about and some even wish to be envied. The need of attention is a fundamental “feature” of the self-centric person. Needless to say that selfishness brings about a barrier in communication to other humans, tilts the behavior towards other earthlings and alters the respect towards the surroundings and ultimately this planet. The desire to be “special” brings inevitably suffering. Why? It’s simple. You are only one of 7 billion persons on the planet. It stays in the odds that if everybody aims to be special, then causes and conditions dependent or independent on you will ruin the plan for most of these fellow humans. I want to emphasize here that by no means the conclusion that I want to take is that we should all aim for mediocrity. Let’s not aim to be special at all and if it happens that we are (most likely randomness is a key player anyway) then let’s treat that specialness with modesty, which in other words means that one should not consider oneself special even if it is. And actually we all are special by default, so no need to aim for that.

    You might think that I deviated from the subject at this point. It was an essential point to make that being “moderate” has nothing to do with restricting your potential, as many people around us consider.

    You are mainly taking passion, which in itself is a wholesome and wise undertaking. Still, it has to be done in moderation such that it does not lead to the harm of oneself or the persons around. Take the classic example video games. It’s interactive, entertaining, stimulating and can become a passion for many kids (even adults). On the short term it might seen an innocent way to spend time. In the long term we know it is likely to become an addiction that causes more suffering overall than the insignificant temporary joy of playing. Same with sport, nutrition or anything really as long as the borderline between passion and dependence becomes fuzzy.

    I elaborated more than I initially wanted, but maybe it was worth it. In ending, “moderation” is just another synonym for balanced, centered or grounded.

  13. Question: Is the Jai Seed cookbook easier to navigate in eBook form than Thrive? I HUGELY regret buying thrive as an ebook; in that form it’s a disaster. No way to navigate pages, or refer to prior pages, and it goes mostly unused, because in its ebook form it’s unusable! I read it cover to cover, but… not happy with that purchase. Should have gotten it in paper.

    Soooooo, back to the question: is Jai Seed usable in eBook form?

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