Archives for category: Plant-Based Diet

Behold! The Vitamix!

This, my friends, is the best appliance in the known universe. After a year of easing into a primarily plant-based lifestyle via the inspiration of Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Diet, I have been rewarded (after much saving of the money) with a much desired gift, a Vitamix.

To call this appliance a “blender” would be an injustice, even slander. The Vitamix is a blessed hunk of power that can turn a handful of almonds into smooth almond butter, gently shop veggies into salsa-ready shape, and grind chickpeas into restaurant-grade hummus (FYI: many store-bought hummus brands use vegetable instead of olive oil, which is how they get a smooth consistency without charging $15 a tub).

For the past couple of months, my husband and I have used our Vitamix nearly every single day. We usually each make some kind of smoothie for breakfast, and I can drop kale, celery, or cashews in the mighty Vitamix and still end up with a straw-compatible, nutrient-dense creation. No lie or exaggeration here. I literally dropped an entire salad with seeds and nuts into the Vitamix one day and, seconds later, had a green smoothie. (You might find that gross, but you have to admit it’s impressive.)

So, to honor the appliance that encourages my domestic side, here are a couple of common recipes my husband and I make.

Breakfast Protein Smoothie

  • 1-2 tablespoons hemp protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon flaxmeal
  •  1 tablespoon maca root
  • some fruit juice (no specific amount)
  • some fruit (sometimes I drop in a cored apple or pear with some frozen berries, or a banana with some frozen mango and a whole peeled orange)

Instructions: Drop everything into the Vitamix and blend.

Carrot, Orange, Ginger Juice (from the Vitamix recipe book)

  • 1 whole carrot
  • some orange juice (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • a small hunk of fresh ginger

Instructions: Drop everything into the Vitamix and blend til liquefied.

Pure adrenaline.



My painfully slow journey from vegetarian to plant-basedetarian over the past few months has resulted in some pretty interesting transitions, the least of which being the contents of my refrigerator. While it was never completely unusual to find an odd item now and again in the ole’ icebox, I’ve discovered that my progression to a totally new food plan has reached a humorous level.

Guests to my house practically need an instruction manual to put together a meal.

I discovered this little gem of truth when we had family in for my husband’s graduation last month. Although we did provide “regular” food for everyone, most of that was of a snacky nature and left reason to open the fridge and make something more substantial. Whence opening the door, that little fridge-light shone on some version of this:

The open drawers contain weird leafy greens and pounds of various nuts and seeds. The countertops and cupboards don’t offer much help either, unless one is well versed in cooking with quinoa, amaranth, nutritional yeast, or dried sea vegetables.

Watching our poor family struggle to piece together a discernible meal reminded me of how absolutely lost I was when I first started trading my processed fare for bulk grains and nuts. All of my research seemed to direct me to ingredients I had never heard of, never mind having any sense of how to use, like dulse or maca root or chia seeds. I was completely overwhelmed.

Now, though, I’ve become fairly agile in the kitchen. I am much more comfortable experimenting with ingredient pairing than I was at the fore. As I write this post, in fact, I’m sipping on a smoothie composed of several ingredients I had never put together before. My husband’s reaction to tasting this latest concoction was, “Wow. That’s earthy,” but I took that as a compliment. Earthy is good.

While my refrigerator has transitioned, so has my food literacy. I find that I approach food in a totally different way. Instead of eating according to cravings, I try to eat according to nutritional density. This means always wondering how I can make what I’m eating nutritionally optimal. For example, I started sprinkling hemp seeds on my peanut butter toast, adding chia seeds to my shakes, and dulse to my salads. The convenient benefit to this approach is that any cravings I do have are usually for raw, whole foods (although I can’t say that this is completely true yet).

All this is not to say that I am 100% plant-based. Not at all, in fact. I still sometimes eat pizza, cheese dip (my Achilles heel of food), or even ice cream, but those indulgences are rare and occur when dining out, not when eating at home. Also, I do not mean to imply that our families eat poorly. Quite the contrary. Compared to the average American diet, they are pretty healthily.

What this all does mean, though, is that my food repertoire is expanding, and I’m slowly starting to develop a new conceptualization of meals. Hopefully making the full switch isn’t too far away, but in the meantime I’ll make sure to stock a little more for my guests.


I wanted to briefly acknowledge a book I just finished that was pretty excellent. It’s called Born to Run, and the author is war correspondent-turned-Me’s Health contributor Christopher McDougall. The book is an interesting weave of narrative storytelling and pseudo-investigative journalism about running, ultra marathons (like, running 100 miles), and the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico who are affectionately terms the “Running People.”

While McDougall does incorporate some questionable “science” that is no more than speculative mythology at best, he is a prime storyteller and creates compelling sketches of some pretty interesting folks. He discussed his book at a TED conference last year.

What I found particularly interesting was the myriad of ultra athletes who run ultra marathons, including the Tarahumara, who subsist on basically plant-based diets. One such American soul is Scott Jurek, one of the most elite ultra runners in known history who munches adzuki beans and pita on the trails while his peers gobble down expensive energy gels and Power bars. Jurek is rarely beaten in a race.

Running has never been my “thing,” but this book and the whole culture of ultra marathons is pretty fascinating. Even prompted me to jog a bit with the dogs this morning.


“Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.” ~Hippocrates

The wisdom Hippocrates offers about food as medicine is precisely the foundation behind the documentary, Forks Over Knives (which I still have not seen), and popular food plans like the macrobiotic or vegan diets. Celebrity vegan advocate Alicia Silverstone opens her book, The Kind Diet, with this quote from the B.C. physician, there’s a website called Food as Medicine, and there are even ripples of interest and support from the medical community.

Take, for example, Dean Ornish, a clinical professor at UCSF and founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Ornish argues that the villain par excellence mercilessly taking lives globally is cardiovascular disease, which is largely preventible simply by “changing our eating habits.”

Sounds radical, I know. When I’m nauseated, I want Zofan or Compazine, not ginger tea and water crackers, right? Silly B.C. wisdom. Surely Dr. Ornish is simply lazy, wanting his patients to treat themselves so he can sit back on his yacht with all that spare time we know doctors have.

(Please sense the sarcastic tone).

We are a prescription nation, which is why I’m skeptical that the trends towards looking to diet as a treatment for poor health will stick. If given the chance, it’s pretty clear that we will choose injections over leafy greens and surgery over treadmills.

Allow me to offer some support for my cynicism.

A few months ago I heard about this creepy craze called the hCG diet. hCG, as many of you probably know, is the hormone that triggers a positive answer on a home pregnancy test. While my research tells me that hCG is present in both men and women, it’s pregnant woman who grow the good stuff.

hCG is a common treatment for fertility, but it’s also become quite popular as a weight loss drug. “Patients” take either daily injections of the hormone or oral ingestion from a dropper or pill, adhere to a 500 calorie a day diet, and reportedly lose a pound a day.

(I know what you are thinking, and I will get back to the obviousness of taking in a mere 500 calories a day as the mermaid tear in this magical brew later).

When I first caught wind of this little miracle plan, my first thought was, “Where do they get the hCG in the first place?” (Well, after feeling queasy at the thought of where the hormone is “harvested,” that is.) While I can’t find detailed information on the process, I did discover that hCG is extracted from the urine of pregnant women, processed into an injectable/ingestible product, and then sold at exorbitant amounts to individuals just desperate to drop those pounds after, I’m sure, trying absolutely every other method. (I apologize for more sarcasm here).

The most effective and sterile way to get ahold of some of this, ahem, “golden liquid,” is through catheter, but a “clean catch” method is also used (think sample in a cup). There are plants in Asia, Singapore, India, and the U.S. I still have yet to determine if there are “donation sites,” if Obstetricians have a little racket going with pharmaceutical companies where they pocket a little extra cash by selling their daily samples, or if pregnant women can sell their “substance” to make a little dough of their own.

Regardless of how the hCG is acquired (which, shockingly, no one really seems too concerned about), a simple Google search will lead to thralls of people who lay there lost poundage at the alter of hCG, and many of their defensive maneuvers are suspect at best. One such individual, for example, asserted that only people who have actually tried hCG are worthy to comment, as those of us who haven’t are speaking out of ignorance. Obviously, that’s absurd logic. I’ve never tried heroine or marijuana (both of which are used medicinally), but I can assure you with much confidence that I’m not a fan of either.

There are, however, many detractors, such as the FDA, which still has not approved hCG for weight loss. Or Dr. Louis Arrone from the NY Presbyterian Weill-Cornell Hospital, who remains in disbelief that anyone would take the hormone for weight loss, or that doctors would prescribe it, as he stated in a March interview with CNN. Dr. Arrone also offered that there are no legitimate studies that support the claim that hCG helps weight loss, or leads to better weight loss, and that even placebo studies have been done with practically no difference between the placebo and “real stuff” groups. He also made the compelling point that no one who takes the drug just for fertility loses weight in conjunction. Intriguing, no?

As Dr. Arrone and countless others argue, including R.D.s from the Mayo Clinic, it’s the restrictive 500 calorie a day diet that causes the weight loss, not the hormone. And eventually a person’s body will pull protein from muscle in addition to “burning” fat, so people with little to lose are putting their overall health in danger for the sake of, well, vanity and a touch of laziness. (Ok. I added that last part.) To adhere “properly” to this diet requires physician supervision. So, every time someone gets, say, a headache, they have to run to their physician to get their sodium and glucose levels checked.

One of the most common complaints about weight loss is time. “I simply do not have time to follow a new plan or exercise.” I would argue that anyone who has time to hotfoot it to their doctor with a headache has time to go for a walk, or even the gym. And everyone spends some time buying groceries anyway, so taking healthy food to one’s home is not a time issue, it’s a choice and self-discipline issue.

I know I sound harsh, and I can say with confidence that I do not follow a healthy food plan consistently. Developing a healthy lifestyle takes self-discipline and perseverance, two character traits I’m desperately trying to develop. But as long as there is a mass willingness to go to extremes rather than developing a work ethic for health–taking a hormone extracted from the urine of pregnant woman, follow an absurd calorie plan, daily injections, etc.–then I simply cannot put much confidence in our society making a more difficult lifestyle choice as trendy as a medicalized, quick fix approach to weight loss, an approach that privileges aesthetic over health.

To appeal to a hyper-medicalized society, perhaps we should change our jargon when it comes to the “antidote” (otherwise known as actual food). Instead of encouraging a certain number of servings of, say, whole grains or vegetables, we could “prescribe doses.” The food pyramid could be reconfigured to resemble a list of medications. Doctors could use their scribbly John Hancock for food instead of pharmaceuticals.

It could work. But I’m not holding my breath.


P.S. I do not mean to offend anyone who has tried the hCG diet, but I am entitled to my opinion as well. I also do not mean to imply at all that I am consistently healthy. Quite the opposite. I put a lot of time and energy into researching healthy lifestyle options, but I haven’t developed the self-discipline necessary to follow that lifestyle completely. Hopefully I will. 

So, I’m officially adding a new pursuit to this blog. While I will still prattle on about sailing, yoga, and learning Italian, I figured I might as well offer an official category, nay, even a page (now that’s commitment), to a goal that takes up a good bit of my time, plant-based diets.

That’s right, folks. No more apologizing for getting sidetracked with posts about my ideal food plan! Au contraire. I now embrace and legitimate this topic that I spend so much time reading and researching. Brendan Brazier, you and your Thrive diet are now welcome.

What compelled this decision, you may ask?

Well, I am thoroughly excited about a new documentary that will probably reach the land of bacon-is-not-meat-it’s-merely-a-condiment by the time I retire. It’s called Forks Over Knives, and it’s now playing in theaters across the country, just not locally…Anywho, this film examines claims about the power of plant-based diets to possibly reverse diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Lofty claim, no?

I’m more than intrigued about this topic as I’ve been trying to get to a plant-based food plan myself, and I’m already pretty convinced that this type of eating behavior is beneficial, both from personal experience and other research. Most of us have probably seen Supersize Me that ended with the filmmaker’s liver recouping after he ate a vegan diet after poisoning himself with Big Macs. Pretty sweet.

Everyone chooses a lifestyle that works for them and their tastes and habits, so my intent in talking about plant-based diets is not to judge or force this issue. I’m just interested in it, and I spend a lot of time and energy learning about it. I might as well write about it to.

Here’s to plants.