Thursday, May 3, 2012

Body: A Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet

I don’t know about you, but my body speaks to me. It tells me all sorts of things, especially when I neglect and mistreat it. My sore muscles and joints tell me when I over do the yard work and that I’m not really in the kind of shape for such physical exertion. My upset stomach and aching head tell me when I have enjoyed a night out with friends just a little too much. My aching back tells me when I have spent too long hunched over artwork, and my body tells me when I have been over indulging and eating and drinking a lot of junk because I feel full, heavy, lethargic, and just plain blah.

Food is fuel for the body, and here lately I’ve been fueling up with a lot of junk.

I am vegan, but a vegan diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. (I’ll let my chunkiness speak to that.) There are a lot of heavily refined and processed foods that are made as vegan substitutes for meat like Tofurky and Bocca, and there are a lot of foods, especially junk food, that are vegan by accident - potato chips and Oreos are just a couple. It is very easy to rely on convenience and throw a couple of Bocca burgers in the over, serve them with a side of chips, and finish it up with a dessert of Oreo cookies. And though it's not terribly unhealthy, it's not the healthiest, and I’ve been resorting to too much of this kind of eating lately.

As a first step in what I am dubbing The Change Initiative, I am rededicating myself to a whole-food, plant-based diet. I first got into this type of diet a year ago when I saw the wonderful documentary “Forks Over Knives”. You can visit the website here. I had been vegetarian for nearly 9 years at the time, but had constantly been struggling with my weight. Given these weight issues and the fact that I have a family history of cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes, the movie spoke to me.

The key point of the film is summed up in its opening quote by Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine.” It goes on to cite the careers of Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and their research on the effects of diet and nutrition on cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. I won’t go into the details, and I strongly encourage everyone to watch the film - it’s even streaming on Netflix. Citing a lot of research, the movie draws the conclusion that a whole-food, plant-based diet is the best treatment for combating these common diseases, and often can completely reverse some of these conditions. It recommends removing animal proteins and the heavily processed foods from one’s diet and switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet.

I left the movie theater, and immediately began eating a primarily whole-food, plant-based diet cutting out all dairy, eggs, refined sugars, oils, and prepackaged or processed foods. For several months, I ate only fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and whole grain breads and pastas. I felt great, and I lost about 15 lbs. I had more energy, felt lighter, and got so much accomplished.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to maintain that diet as travel and convenience have interceded. The junk food has regained its hold on me, and I’ve gained some weight back and feel just really blah. I am ready to change back to the whole-food, plant-based diet.

Now eating in this fashion is much more work with the actual preparing and cooking of food, but I have discovered and developed some very quick, easy, and tasty recipes. The best part is eating the leftovers the next day for lunch. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of these recipes.

Today, I’ll share one of my favorites, and it is one of the simplest (see the above picture). It takes about 15 minutes. It’s a simple pasta and vegetable dish using whole grain pasta and frozen vegetables.

Boil the pasta according to the package.
Throw a bunch of frozen veggies in a pot. I love corn, peas, carrots, and broccoli. Cover with water and bring to a boil while the pasta boils.
Drain the pasta when it’s done.
Combine the the pasta and veggies in bowl, season to taste. I usually use salt, pepper, and some italian seasoning.

Notice there’s no oil and no butter or margarine (not even vegan margarine), so the vegetables taste fresh and crisp.

I would love if more people turned to a more whole-food, plant-based diet and embraced a vegan lifestyle. I understand the realities though, and if I can get people to eat more fruits and veggies and limit their intake of meat, eggs, and dairy, I'll consider it a small victory. Also, I'm not a doctor or nutritionist, so please consult your physician before undertaking any radical lifestyle change. But I hope that some of you will consider some small changes in your diet that will lead to better health and well being.


Unknown said...

Awesome! If you are looking for fast and easy, but plant based recipes and ideas, especially for traveling, look up Jeff Novick. He travels often and takes his "burgers" to eat with him. I am hoping to get out of my depression and get back on my plant based way of eating so I can be well again! Thanks for sharing!

Eric said...

Thanks, I'll have to check him out.