Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Vegan Week of Dinners (And One Dessert)...Links to Recipes!

Important! Forks Over Knives is free on Hulu right now! If you haven't watched it, you need to. Just please trust me on this. This movie is based on the books The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and holds the answer for how diet and nutrition can prevent and cure so many chronic diseases. My 10-year-old son has watched it. As he sat in awe he said to me, "Mom, why don't they show this on the news?!" Indeed.

Next, I was so inspired by my meal plan this week (thanks to my friend Julie for the meal plan template that makes meal planning ridiculously fun) that I thought I would share. Since I always appreciate ideas of just what the heck to make for dinner I thought perhaps others might find some kernel of inspiration below. I know some of the recipes are a bit labor-intensive (Monday, Thursday), but others are totally quick and painless (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).

Monday: Chicken-fried seitan with sweet potato biscuits and gravy. Total comfort food!
Wednesday: Taco salad with black bean and corn quinoa
Saturday: Sushi night! (just get large sheets of nori, spread 1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice in the bottom portion, add veggies like julienned carrots, cucumber, sprouts, avocado, left-over seitan, and roll up! Dip in soy sauce mixed with wasabi.)
Sunday: Spaghetti with Meatless Balls (I use the premade frozen meatless balls and like them pretty well. I have been also wanting to try out a meatball sub using them with marinara sauce and vegan mozzerella (Daiya, fo' sho'). Mmmmm, meatball sub. that I think about it, Sunday night may be meatless ball sub night!

Dessert: Chloe Coscarelli's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles. Oh yeah, baby. Make this on Monday and enjoy one each night after dinner. Or eat them all in one sitting like I do. Either way, this recipe may change your life.

Additional note: I didn't include any salads on the menu besides Wednesday. This is because the taco salad is a main dish. On the other days I would make a nice large green salad to accompany the other dishes. Some favorite salads include this raw kale-avocado salad, a spinach and arugala salad with a balsamic dressing, or simply romaine and raw veggies with vegan ranch dressing.

Let me know if you have any must-try recipes!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Vegetarians Have Lower Risk of Cancer

Even after controlling for many variables such as BMI, smoking, vegetable intake, and other variables researchers were able to determine that being a vegetarian and avoiding meat leads to a lower risk of cancer. They compared vegetarians and meat eaters who were as similar as possible except for the fact that the vegetarians don't eat meat. For example, they found meat eaters and veggies that had similar BMI's, activity levels, smoking frequencies, vegetable intake, etc. so that they could control for all variables besides the experimental variable of either meat-eater or vegetarian.

Just one more reason why I *love* being a plant-eater!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Go Veg? Science-Based Arguments for Changing Your Eating Habits...

I am not interested in giving you my opinion on whether or not a plant-based diet is optimal for humans. I want to look at the scientific evidence for or against eating meat. Humans have the capability to eat meat, sure. We also eat lots of things that don't resemble anything found in nature (Twinkie, anyone?). The fact that we can eat it doesn't mean we should. When scientists are studying a new species or an extinct one they will often look to anatomical clues to tell them what the animal ate. For example, they examine the skull shape and teeth. Scientists can learn a lot about an animal's diet from these clues alone. Apart from that, if we wanted to learn what an optimal diet for a human primate is we could also look at our closest non-human primate ancestors, the chimpanzees.

In the wild, chimpanzees feed primarily on vegetation, fruit, nuts, seeds, insects, and occasionally meat. Can you imagine what would happen if we replaced the chimps diet with the standard american diet? Sodas, hamburgers, chips, long before the animal developed some sort of disease? In fact, can you even imagine a zoo feeding any animal the crap that so many of us routinely put in our bodies? I am not even talking about meat and dairy products least those count as food. Think "foods" loaded with sugar, fat, preservatives. Ugh.

Take a look at the diet the Houston zoo feeds their primates: lots of leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and some insects for protein. They take pride in giving their animals an optimal diet full of all the vitamins and nutrients the monkey could possibly need. No meat included at all! Isn't that interesting...If only we took the job of feeding ourselves and our families as seriously as the zookeepers there do. In fact, I consider myself a zookeeper of a quite adorable family of one incredibly large primate and 3 cute little ones!

Michael Bluejay does a great job of looking at the scientific evidence that supports eating a vegetarian diet for human primates, especially analyzing our body structures and comparing them to other herbivores and carnivores. You really cannot argue with that evidence.

Then there is the copious evidence that eating meat is harmful to your health...check the resources and websites listed on this website for starters. And if you haven't seen the movie Forks Over Knives yet, then that would be the first thing I would suggest. Plants are nature's perfect food for herbivores. And that is what human were clearly designed to eat. That is why when you start eating a plant-based diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds and low in meat, dairy, processed and refined foods that you will see weight just melt off your body, your energy levels will increase, you can reverse certain diseases and health conditions...actually the list of benefits is too long to name everything. But you know what's longer? The list of reasons not to eat animal products...

heart disease
auto-immune diseases
high cholesterol
Type 2 Diabetes
...and many more..,

...there are no benefits to eating animal products that are not found in better supply in plants. If you want to look better, feel better, and be better, than give a plant-based diet a try. Even just reducing the amount of meat, eggs, and dairy you eat per week is a good start. Try out a few recipes (I have many on this blog) and start building your repertoire of delicious plant-based food.

You know what I say: "Once you go plant, if someone gives you meat you say I can't!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

William Li: Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? Dr. Gerson: Been There, Done That!


I watched a riveting TED talk today by a medical doctor and researcher named WIlliam Li. He is studying the effects of angiogenesis on cancer growth. Angiogenesis is blood vessel growth. It seems that cancer cannot grow big (big=harmful) until it gets a blood supply. What this means is that you may have a small harmless cancer growth right now in your body that could become dangerous at any time if angiogenesis begins. They have had some success in creating pharmaceutical drugs that can inhibit angiogenesis but William Li asks, can you eat to starve cancer? (I am betting the drug companies would rather you take their drugs and keep eating the cancer-causing foods...what do you think?)

So far they have successfully cancers in animals with anti-angiogenesis drugs. The next step was testing the effects of certain foods on cancerous blood vessel growth. It is no surprise to me that they found that a number of foods have effects comparable to the anti-angiogenesis drugs! And they have an extensive list of foods to try as well. Some foods that have shown remarkable anti-angio effects are: red grapes (resveratrol), strawberries, garlic, turmeric, and more. These foods all do very well inhibiting the growth of errant blood vessels without any side effects AND with all the other synergistic benefits of the plant food.

This is another reason to eat healthy, right? But Li doesn't stop there...they went past cancer blood vessel growth to something even more widespread in this country-obesity. Li wondered if they could achieve the same anti-angiogenesis effects on adipose (fat) tissue growth with the drugs they were treating the cancers with. He reasoned that fat tissue has the same need for blood vessels in order to grow as cancer does. They tested rats that were bred to be obese. What they found was that when they gave them the drugs they actually lost weight! Take them off the drugs and they gain it back. Put them back on and they get skinny. The same effect was observed in the adipose tissue blood vessels as the cancer tissue!

My next thought was, so if the drugs work equally as well as certain foods in inhibiting angiogenesis in cancer, then shouldn't these same foods work equally as well in inhibiting angiogenesis in fat tissue? Doesn't it make sense that if you are eating these natural foods such as berries, kale, turmeric, grapes, etc. that you will be skinny? Part of it could be from the inherent anti-angiogenesis components of these foods. I can speak from experience with myself that the more healthy foods I put into my body the skinnier I get. In fact, look at anyone that eats a large amount of natural plants: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, spices, and most likely they are slender. Does this mean that the properties of anti-angiogenesis are at work via the foods they eat? Yes. Can this also mean that via their diet people can effectively, "nip cancer in the bud?" I would say so. This is why I eat and feed my kids a diet high in plant-based foods and low to nil in animal based foods.

But is this a new idea? Dr. Max Gerson developed a therapy back in the 1930s to treat cancer patients (and other diseases) that included fresh raw juices and organic vegetables and fruits. His success rate with this therapy is amazing. There are many other doctors out there right now promoting the disease preventing properties of a whole foods, plant-based diet including T.Colin Campbell, M.D., Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Neal Barnard, M.D., Dean Ornish, M.D...

In conclusion, plants have many properties that are beneficial to our bodies. Adding anti-angiogenesis to the list of reasons to eat them is great. And by the way, meat and dairy were not on the list of anti-angiogenesis foods.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Healthy School Lunches...Mission Impossible? 5 Rules to Guide You

Kaylee, age 15 months eating a routine lunch including steamed broccoli.

It's hard to pack a healthy lunch for your school-age kids. Scratch that. It's easy to pack it. You just never know if they will eat it. What to do? Pack them healthy food they will throw away or pack them unhealthy food they will eat...

I have a 10-year-old son that gets the standard American Diet at his dad's house and then eats a plant-based diet with me. This means that some days his lunches are composed of chips, juice boxes, and "fruit" snacks. *shudder* Surprisingly I have been able to find things he likes that are actually nutritive to his body. If I can do that, anyone can! Here are some rules I have learned to live by when making his lunches.

Rule #1: Do not give them unhealthy options. They will throw everything else away and eat the junk. Don't think you are being a good parent by giving them junk. You are doing them a disservice. Growing bodies need vitamins and nutrients which means they need vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Most processed food that is marketed to kids is devoid of these vital nutrients and full of fat, salt and sugar.

Rule #2: Find things they like that are healthy and use them regularly. For example, my son loves nuts and seeds. He gets a custom trail mix in his lunch almost every day full of healthy protein and fats that his body needs. He also loves good old pb&j and cut up apples and oranges will always get eaten. He also likes soybeans or edamame. I make sure to buy organic, non-GMO.

Rule #3: Find healthy "treats" to replace the usual junk fillers. Instead of chips, try seaweed crisps. Instead of goldfish crackers try whole wheat or nut thins. Instead of fruit snacks use dried unsweetened fruit. Instead of cookies or granola bars make homemade granola bars or at least opt for a lesser processed and more nutritious variety.

Rule #4: Kids like dip. Apples and peanut butter. Hummus and carrots. Organic corn tortilla chips and bean dip.

Rule #5: Involve your kids in their lunch. Ask them what they would like (but only offer healthy choices.) For example, sometimes I am thinking of giving my son a bean burrito or some other non-pb&j option but when I ask him if he will eat it or throw it away he tells me the truth. Most days he prefers to have his pb&j. That's fine! It's much healthier than many other options and beats the heck out of cafeteria food by far.

Have any tips for getting kids to eat healthy? Please share!