Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Texas Caviar

 Texas Caviar 

There are as many variations of this recipe online as there are food websites. But today, I want to share my version. It is one of my favorite recipes and it is totally compliant with my plant-based lifestyle. 


1 cup Roma tomatoes (chopped)
1 cup cilantro (rough chopped)
1/2 jalapeño pepper (seeded and diced)
1/2 cup red onion (diced)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 can black-eyed peas (rinsed and drained)
1 can corn (rinsed and drained)
1/2 tsp. salt
juice of 1 lime

Start by chopping your Roma tomatoes.

Next give your cilantro a rough chop and dice the jalapeño, red onion and garlic.

To a bowl, add the rinsed and drained corn and black-eyed peas.

Finally, add the chopped vegetables and gently toss with salt and lime juice.

It tastes best, if you chill it for an hour or so and allow the flavors to meld. 

This recipe makes a quart jar full and will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Well, that is if you don't devour it like I do. I toss two to three tablespoons on my salads or eat it over a plain baked potato.
OMG! It's so delish!


Health Journey Update:

Today's Exercise: Walk/Run - 3 miles
Duration: 45 min.
Weight Loss: Teetering between 16 and 17 lbs.
Blood Sugars today: 91 mg/dl (before breakfast), 88 mg/dl (before lunch)
Blood Pressure: 107/70
I feel great and have tons of energy!

Have a great week y'all!

Talk soon,

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Journey: Protein and Calcium

Hey y'all! I fully intended to post this Monday, but my internet has been out all week. This is probably the last post like this that I'm going to write, though. I still want to tell you about my plant-based journey, but my posts kind of went in a different direction than I envisioned. I didn't want them to sound like a science paper. Lol! However, I do want to give those of you who might be considering eating this way and was wondering about your protein and calcium sources, a few good options. Again, if you have any questions or would like more information, I would be happy to help.

So, today I'm going to talk about protein and calcium. The top two questions I get when someone finds out that I'm eating a plant-based diet is where do you get your protein and calcium.  And I say, plants. Yes, it's true. Plants have both and plenty of it.

There are two misconceptions about protein: #1..You need a lot of it to be healthy and strong, and #2..You can't get enough from plants. Both are wrong. According to the World Health Organization, at most 10-15% of your calories need to come from protein.....of that percentage, the higher end should be for pregnant women and athletes. And, the healthiest way to get it is from plants. Plant-based proteins contain all eight of the essential amino acids. Animal proteins, on the other hand, leaches calcium from your bones and the highly acidic animal proteins inundate your kidneys with acid, causing them to go into hyper-filtration mode. They get over worked as they continually filter out all the animal stuff from your blood.  Plant protein, however, has been shown to protect healthy kidneys and help sick kidneys become better by easing their burden.  And, I'll just throw out there that cancer thrives in an acidic environment. That's a whole other discussion that I'm not going to go into, but the bottom line is animal proteins are acidic, plant proteins are alkaline.

More on the acidic animal proteins in a minute, but first.....I was totally unaware, as I'm sure many of you are, how much protein we actually need. What I found in my research is that The Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, recommends that men consume 56 grams a day and women 46 grams. I read that the average man actually takes in more than 100 grams and the average female takes in 70 grams. That's getting close to twice the daily recommendations. If you are concerned about building muscle, the best way to do that is by exercising...either by lifting weights or resistance training, allowing for recovery time and then repeating the process. And the best things for muscle recovery and performance are whole-plant foods. They have the perfect amount of lean and healthy protein to keep your muscles strong. So knowing that I needed about 46 grams of protein a day, I went to my food diary and added up all the grams of protein I had taken in on a few given days and the totals was almost dead on...it was between 46 and 48 grams a day. A few examples are: oatmeal with 6 grams of protein, banana - 1.1 grams, broccoli - 3.7 grams, mushrooms - 3 grams, black beans - 7 grams, and whole-wheat pasta - 8 grams. There are many, many more, but this gives you a good idea of what you can count on in just one serving.

As I mentioned earlier, animal protein leaches calcium from your bones and here's why. If you've ever taken a Tums, then you've taken calcium carbonate and you know it's a great anti-acid, right? Calcium is so great that the body uses it to combat an acid environment. Animal protein is acidic. When you consume meat or dairy, the fluids in your body become acidic and is forced to compensate by taking minerals from your bones and tissues to bring the acid level down. And the mineral that the body uses for this is calcium. The constant leaching of calcium can, overtime, lead to brittle bones.

This leads me to healthy calcium sources. Once again, it is plants! Plants offer plenty of calcium and the calcium from plants is absorbed twice as well as the calcium from milk. Only about one-third of milk's calcium is absorbed by the body. The other two-thirds simply passes out with the wastes. In addition, milk contains animal protein and sodium, both of which tend to increase calcium loss through the kidneys. Now don't get me wrong, we need some calcium in our diets, but it should come from healthful sources, namely green leafy vegetables and beans. While there is somewhat less calcium in broccoli than milk, the absorption fraction is higher for broccoli and nearly all other greens than milk. The only exception I read was spinach and although it's high in calcium, for some reason the absorption fraction is low. It's important to remember, that to maintain calcium balance, it is important not only to take in an adequate amount but also to minimize losses like I explained earlier. So, how much calcium do we need? The recommended daily intake of calcium is around 1,000 mg. This isn't hard to do. Greens and beans will give you all the calcium your body needs. If you are looking for extra, for some reason, you can find it in fortified juices and soy or almond milks. A few examples are: boiled collards, which has 266 mg calcium per cup. Others are kale, navy beans, great northern beans, oranges, chia seeds, broccoli, bok choy, even black strap molasses. And once again, there are many, many more options to get your calcium in the plant-based world.

In a week or so, I'll try to summarize all the important points. For now, let's call it a day. But first, let me give you an update on my progress. My energy levels are still off the charts.  Last week, I cleaned the front porch, the screened porch and patio of pollen. I vacuumed the cushions, washed the furniture and even mopped the front porch floor. I vacuumed window screens, removed them and washed the windows. And if that wasn't enough, I planted my summer vegetables and even started a new raised bed. I, also, planted a few pots of zinnias and marigolds from seeds. This week, I've ridden my bike 44.73 miles and walked over 6.5 miles. It seems like the more I do, the more energy I have.  I continue to check my blood sugar levels daily and they are continuing to come down. This last week, they have been below 100 mg/dl, consistently.....with a couple of exceptions. The weight loss is starting to slow down a bit. The first few weeks, I was averaging about 3 lbs of weight loss per week. Now, I'm losing about 1 lb per week. Hallelujah, I'll take it! I've now lost a total of 16 lbs.

I hope you check back in a couple of days....I'm going to share a favorite recipe with you.

Take care....talk soon,
 Oh wait! There is a Food Revolution Summit coming up that you might be interested in . There will be many doctors, experts and researchers to listen to in daily videos. Some of these are ones that I've already learned from and can't wait to hear what they are going to bring to this food summit. Dr. Neal Barnard, Kris Carr, and Dr. Dean Ornish to name a few. It will take place online from April 29 - May 7 and it's free. If you would like to sign up to be able to watch these incredible videos, click on this link.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kale Chips

 My sweet neighbor, Doris, gave me a huge bunch of kale from her garden yesterday. We both agreed that kale chips would be a good thing to make.

So, this morning I began stripping the leaves, keeping the larger pieces for kale chips and the smaller pieces to add to my salad. I also kept the stems to add with a few other vegetables to make vegetable broth for stir frying. The bulk left after making the vegetable broth will go into the compost. Kale is such a power house vegetable that I let nothing go to waste! 

Did you know that 1 cup of chopped kale has only 33.5 calories, 0.5 grams of good fats (121 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids and 92.4 mg of omega-6 fatty acids), 2.2 grams of protein and 1.3 grams of fiber? Kale also has tons of vitamins and minerals, including 90.5 mg of calcium. 

Pass the kale, please!


I preheated the oven to 300 degrees F.

Since I'm not using oil, I lined a sheet pan with parchment paper to avoid the kale from sticking and then layered on the kale. I sprinkled on a little salt and popped it in the oven for about 10 minutes. 

The first batch turned out okay, but it needed something. 

So, I decided to sprinkle the next batch with a little white balsamic vinegar. That did it. The vinegar added just the right amount of flavor. They were delicious and healthy.

Talk soon, 


Monday, April 10, 2017

Journey: Essential Fats

Hey everyone! Hope you had a good weekend. It was especially beautiful here in SC. The sun is shining, things are blooming and the birds are singing. And.....I'm going to plant my summer vegetables on Good Friday. I am so excited about that. My earlier plantings have emerged and are growing strong. I'll be picking lettuce and maybe radishes next week. Holler! 😀

I want to thank everyone for your comments and questions on my last few blogs about my newfound way of life. What a way to start a conversation about health, right?  I would like to reiterate, though, that this journey to health is my chosen plan. It's what I've chosen, after many months of research. I'm not trying to talk anyone into anything they don't want to do or feel conversely about. I realize everyone and every body is different and that what may work for me may not appeal to you.....although, I believe that eating a low-fat plant based diet really will work for everyone. I'm so sorry, but I really do.  I'm trying to solve medical issues that are unique to me. I just wanted to share what I've been learning and if I can be an encouragement to someone who might be interested in this way of life, then heck yeah, I'm glad to do it. 😀😀 For real!

Although I didn't know my cholesterol and blood sugar levels before February, I have known, for some time, that I needed to lose weight to be healthy and feel healthy. I've tried so many ways to lose weight and nothing has ever clicked with me the way this low-fat plant based way of eating has. I'm finally able to lose weight and I know that for me, the change that I made in eliminating added fats and oils has made the difference. I've lost a solid 15 lbs., so far. Holler, again! 😁

Today, I would like to share with you where I get my daily requirements of essential fatty acids. Originally, I was going to include protein and calcium sources, but these posts have been long, so to keep them shorter and avoid reader overload, I'm just talking about fats, today.

Again, I urge you to do your own research. Do what feels right for you. That's what I'm doing. I welcome your comments and questions. They challenge me to look deeper or they may bring something to light that I haven't thought of or read before. Or, if you are interested in a low-fat plant based way of life, I'll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or direct you to the expert's material where I've done my research. Isn't our bodies amazing? It is mind boggling how all of our systems work together and how just one deviation can change our whole make-up.

After my last post, some questions came up that made me look deeper into fats. Here's what I found.....

Some fats are necessary in the human diet, however, not all fat is created equal. There are two types of fat that our bodies actually need. They are alpha-linolenic acid and linolenic acid. We only need a small amount of them. Our body really only needs 2 to 3 percent of our daily calorie intake of these essential fats. We can find  these fats in plants. Plant foods are naturally low in fat, but the traces they do contain are "good" fats.....the alpha-linolenic acid. This is the basic omega-3 fat that our body uses to produce other good fats.

Fish oil is a source that some people take for their omega-3's. However, fish oil also contains saturated fat and sat fats are something I'm trying to avoid. Sat fats cause plaque-promoting inflammation in your arteries, which leads to heart disease, and also encourages insulin resistance in your muscle cells, which leads to diabetes. Sat fats are also associated with cognitive decline. There are healthier options.

Plant based omega-3 and omega-6 fats are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer among many other chronic diseases. If you don't have any medical issues and feel comfortable increasing your oil intake, other healthful sources of omega-3's include walnuts, soy products, flax seeds (need to be ground) and chia seeds, which unlike flax, don't need to be ground to make their nutrients available to the body.

In addition to my vegetables, fruits and beans, I eat 2 tsp. of chia seeds in my oatmeal every morning and I'm trying to work up to more than that.  Ultimately, I would like to include 2 tablespoons a day into my diet. But, 2 tablespoons is a lot for my morning bowl of oatmeal. I also add it to my salads, sometimes. It has a nutty texture, but not much taste. Chia seeds are also a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, iron, niacin, zinc and more.

Today's take-away: Plant-based fats are the healthiest choices. They contain no sat fats and are a great source for omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. 

Take care, talk soon!

Today's book recommendation: 

The Engine Seven-Day Rescue Diet 
Eat Plants, Lose Weight, Save Your Health
by: Rip Esselstyn

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Journey: Diabetes

Let food be thy medicine.

Hey y'all! Hope everyone is doing well. I'm back with some information regarding diabetes. Now, let me just say that even though my doctor did not diagnose me with diabetes, I feel sure I have a problem. Or should I say...had a problem. My sugars are staying down close to 100 and I feel like they will go even lower over the course of the next 2 months.  It is truly amazing how quickly your health can go south and how just as quickly, you can see major improvements.  I'm excited to tell you a little of what I've been learning about diabetes. 
What, exactly, is diabetes? Most people will tell you that you have too much sugar in your blood and they would be right to a degree. But, it actually goes further. Yes, you have too much sugar in your blood and when it sits there, it can cause damage to your blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, legs, feet, etc. Usually, when a person is diagnosed with diabetes, they are put on medication to bring the sugar levels down. Medicine works for that purpose, although, over time your condition can worsen and even more medications are needed. This line of defense, in my opinion, is no defense at all. That treatment plan treats the symptoms - too much sugar. 

What we need to do is treat the root cause. The problem is with our insulin. Insulin is the hormone that helps our cells take up glucose (sugar) to use as energy. If you eat a diet high in fats (animal products....meat, dairy and oils), over time your cells start storing that fat, taking up space that is designed for glucose. Now that your cells are gummed up with fat, your insulin can't unlock the door, so to speak, to allow glucose to enter. Therefore, the glucose just hangs out in your blood. This is called insulin resistance and we may end up having to take insulin just to keep up.

So, what's the solution? Well, if eating animal fats gummed up your cells to start with, then wouldn't it be wise to stop eating the fats? Yes! Not only should we stop eating animal fats, but olive oil, avocado oils, and vegetable oils, etc. Oils, whether considered healthy or not, are still 100% fat.

Not only does eating animal fats affect how our insulin works, but eating animal fats and oils also raises your cholesterol levels, in particular your LDL cholesterol, which puts you at a greater risk for heart disease.

Popular diets are low in carbs and high in protein. Initially these diets will work to help you lose weight. Losing weight will bring your cholesterol and sugar levels down, but eventually they stop working and you regain some of the weight, if not all. Because of the high fat content, they will raise your LDL cholesterol levels. And because they are high in protein, these diets can be hard on your kidneys.

The better option, a low-fat plant based diet with no oils.....this includes carbs.

So, let's talk about carbs. Our body uses carbohydrates for fuel. That's what it's designed to do. If you don't have diabetes, after eating, your pancreas secretes insulin to go grab those sugars from your blood and help them into your muscle cells. Everything works fine, insulin does a great job and now you have all the energy you need to go about your day.

I have been reading Dr. Neal Barnard's book for reversing diabetes and I don't know all the science behind it, although he explains things very well. I think anyone concerned about diabetes would benefit from reading his book. I'll give you the title at the end of this post.  Dr. Barnard says that eating carbs is not the problem, we need carbs, he encourages them. I'm not talking about simple carbs like sugar, cookies, cakes, etc., but complex carbs. By eating complex carbohydrate rich foods, we are not putting the fats into our cells that gums them up and makes insulin's job nearly impossible. We are putting fuel into our cells. Examples of complex carbs are, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, oatmeal, fruits and veggies.

Dr. Barnard's guidelines are this:
Choose foods from plant sources. Avoid all animal products and keep vegetable oils to a bare minimum. Favor food with a low glycemic index (GI).

He focuses on what he calls the 'New Four Food Groups':
Whole Grains: Whole grain pasta, brown rice, bran cereal, oatmeal, pumpernickel or rye bread, couscous, bulgur wheat, millet, barley, etc.  Suggested servings: 8 per day.

Legumes: Beans (black, pinto, or kidney beans, chickpeas, baked beans, soybeans, etc.), peas, split peas, lentils, fat-free soy products (fat-free veggie burgers, fat-free tofu), etc. Suggested servings: 3 per day

Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, squash, green beans, bok choy, etc. Choose those with a low GI. Suggested servings: 4 or more per day.

Fruits: Apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, oranges, kiwifruit, berries, etc. Choose those with a low GI. Suggested servings: 3 or more per day.

Other permitted foods:
  • Fat-free dressings and other fat-free condiments
  • Coffee (with fat-free nondairy creamer, if desired)
  • Occasionally, alcoholic beverages
  • Rarely: sugar, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate (made without milk), full-fat soy products such as tofu, tempeh, soy cheese, etc.

Foods to Avoid:
  • Meats, poultry, fish, eggs (whites and yolks), and all dairy products (regular and fat-free), including milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, cream, sour cream, butter, etc.
  • Added oils, such as margarine, salad dressings, mayonnaise, cooking oils, etc.
  • Fried foods, such as potato chips, french fries, onion rings, doughnuts, etc.
  • Avocados, olives, and peanut butter
  • Refined foods and/or foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread and white potatoes. 
He also recommends taking a daily multivitamin as a source of vitamin B12 and vitamin D, which you may need if you rarely get exposure to natural sunlight.

He speaks of low and high glycemic index (GI) foods. The GI is a number that indicates how rapidly any given food releases sugar into the bloodstream. A food with a high GI releases sugar into the blood quickly. A lower GI food has less effect. You can easily google those. Examples of a high GI would be: white bread...a lower GI option would be pumpernickel or rye bread. Examples of low GI foods would be: beans, green leafy vegetables, nearly all fruits with a few exceptions and even pasta. Choose lower GI foods. I'll admit, I have eaten white potatoes a couple of times, but it was before I read about the GI Index. And I eat rice, but it is brown or wild rice as opposed to white rice. I haven't been eating bread except for whole wheat pita pockets, occasionally. I bought a loaf of rye today to try, though.

So, my diet is high in complex carbs. And the only fats I'm getting are what occurs naturally in plant based foods. Plant based fats don't gum up your cells like animal fats and the fat content in plants is very, very low. Yet, it is enough to give us the amount of fat our body needs.

The other day, I mentioned that my beverages are water and coffee. But today, I remembered to tell you that if you drink milk, an excellent alternative to cow's milk is Almond milk, Soy milk, Rice milk, etc. Make sure it's fat content is no more than 2 to 3 grams per serving. The milk I choose is Almond milk. Rarely do I drink it and I'm not a cold cereal eater. But Cliff does, so I buy it for him. The brand I buy is Silk, the unsweetened one. It's NON-GMO, has no saturated fats, no cholesterol, no added sugars and has 1 gram of protein and 50% more calcium than cow's milk with only 30 calories per cup.

Whew, that was a lot of information. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask or comment. Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this. In my next post, I'll tell you where to get other key nutrients, such as protein, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.  It is a lot of information, but the more you read, the easier it gets to understand and retain.

How am I doing? Fantastic! I have so much more energy than before I started eating vegan.  I've already ridden my bike 25.74 miles this week and I've walked 3.05 miles. I don't dread getting out there and exercising at all. And as far as my diet, it's not hard at all. I love the foods I'm eating. I don't feel deprived and I don't have cravings. I feel completely in control and I know that the end result will be complete health.

Take care and we'll talk soon!

Book recommendation of the day: Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes

Monday, April 3, 2017

Journey: The Numbers

 My typical breakfast: Oatmeal, chia seeds, cinnamon and fruit.

Good morning, everyone! This post is another long one. Sorry. But, I'm sure I'll get to the point where my posts are pared down, yet still full of information. Hang in there and please be patient with me as I delve into and sort out this new journey.

Have you ever heard the saying..."nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers"? Well, that's how I feel this morning. I'm nervous about sharing my medical dilemma with y'all. I guess I'm afraid of being judged. But, here's the deal. How can I help anyone, if I don't tell you where I've been and how I'm doing, right? So, I'm sucking it up and hope it doesn't hurt as much as I think it's going to. I have to say, though, those of you who commented on my last post were so gracious. I thank you so much for your encouraging words. I love y'all!

Here's another cliche for you....."this is where the rubber hits the road". Yep, I'm about to spill my guts.

In my last post, I told you how this journey of mine came about. I started with a new doctor and he ordered blood tests to get a baseline measurement as part of getting started in his practice. Lord y'all, when I got those results, it was shock and awe. I wanted to go into denial, but I knew that wouldn't do any good. So I had to hit this thing head on. I couldn't believe how high the numbers were. There's no telling how long they have been that high and if I have any residual damage. However, I am confident that my new way of eating will heal me. I know it will bring my numbers down into the normal range and I know I will lose weight and feel better. I know this because I've already been experiencing it.

Okay, here we go....let's get to the numbers. Now, I must tell you that I'm not going to share all of my numbers. I will NEVER tell you my how much I weigh, not even when I get to my goal weight. That would be like the ultimate vulnerable thang, y'all! So don't even ask! But, I WILL tell you how much I lose.

Numbers before:
Glucose - 262 mg/dl............normal (according to my doctor) should be between 74 - 106
Triglyceride - 285 mg/dl.......normal should be less than 150
Cholesterol - 322 mg/dl.......normal should be less than 200
HDL - 45.........................................normal should be between 40-60
LDL - 220................................normal should be less than 130

(I don't know how this cholesterol thing works, because if you add my HDL and LDL values together, you sure don't get 322 mg/dl) Hmmm, I'll have to look into this. Also, I don't know what my Hemoglobin A1c is because I had to go back to get that done a week later than my original blood work and the doctor's office didn't give me the results. I have been afraid to call and ask for them. I know they are high, but I am still going about solving it the same, regardless of what the number is. So, I may just wait until we repeat and see the difference then. In the meantime, I check my daily glucose levels and it shows me progress).  

See!! I told you, I was a walking time bomb. Hearing my doctor's advice and seeing these numbers was enough to push me into panic mode. Like I told you in my last post, I went straight to the bookstore and bought Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn's book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease". I read it in two days, but on day one, I had enough information to begin my new life. I was about to become a vegan and I was resolved to that fact. Now, my doctor did not tell me that I had heart disease, he didn't even tell me that I had diabetes. But, I knew enough to know that even though he didn't diagnose me, that I was in trouble. We had already had a conversation where I explained to him that I was not the type of person to give up or give in and take medication. I just wasn't going to do it, unless I had exhausted all my options and there was nothing left to do except take medication. He was good with that. We were on the same page. He is allowing me 3 months to work on my numbers with diet and exercise. And, he prescribed a glucose meter for me to check my sugar levels daily. I was grateful for this and a little relieved because it told me that, #1 He believed that diet and exercise could possibly work, and #2 That I wasn't about to die from heart disease or diabetes, at least not in the next 3 months. Ha! I have to laugh because if you only knew how panicked I was.....! My doctor reassured me, though, that somehow, someway I would be alright. He would take care of me. Well, that was good to know. But y'all, if you know me, then you know I take matters into my own hands. I was on a mission and still am. I am determined that I will heal myself through diet and exercise. I know it can be done! So, there you have it.....my awful, nasty numbers. Oh but wait, here's the good news.....after one month (I began on March 1st) and as of this morning (drum roll please)......my blood sugar was down to 103 mg/dl and I have lost 13-14 lbs.

This new way of life is working for me. I believe with all my heart that this is the most healthful way of eating. 

My action plan......eat a low-fat plant based diet with no oil. That means no meat, no dairy, no oils. I eat all things plant based....fruits, veggies and whole grains. The exception is that I don't eat avocado and nuts, right now. They contain too much fat. I am concentrating on getting my numbers into the normal range. Once I do that and return to the doctor for repeat blood work at the end of May, I will decide then whether to add avocado and nuts back into my diet. 

You may be wondering what the difference for me was when I was eating vegetarian. Back then, I was eating eggs or egg sandwiches for breakfast every day and I was using mayonnaise, butter, cheese, olive oil and eating avocados. Some of these foods have good attributes, but they also have lots of fat. The eggs, cheese and butter also have lots of cholesterol. Cutting these foods out this time made a huge difference in my weight loss. I'm sure of it. I still have a cup of coffee every morning and when it's cold outside, I may even have a cup in the afternoon. I use organic stevia as a sweetener for my coffee. If you are going to use stevia, use this brand...SweetLeaf Natural Stevia Sweetener. It only has 2 ingredients....fiber and stevia. It doesn't contain erythritol, a sugar alcohol, like the brand Truvia does. Other than that, I drink water. I don't drink anything with artificial sweeteners at all. No diet drinks, no Crystal Lite, and no fruit juice. Artificial sweeteners are from the devil and fruit juice is full of sugar. Unless, you squeeze your own. That's okay. 

My sample menu:

Breakfast: Old fashioned oat meal, chia seeds, cinnamon (sometimes) and fruit

Lunch:  A huge honking salad full of green leafy vegetables and other veggies, most days....corn and beans, and the salad dressing is balsamic vinegar mixed with either brown spicy mustard or mixed with homemade oil-free hummus. 

Dinner: This is the meal that I cook and experiment with different foods. I usually have a carbohydrate like brown rice, quinoa, or potatoes.  I eat beans a lot. And, I usually have some cooked vegetables (there are so many choices).

Snacks: Fruit or raw veggies like celery sticks and carrots dipped in hummus

Beverage: Water (You can have infused water. Cut up some cucumbers, maybe an orange, lemon or strawberries and put them in a pitcher of water. This is very refreshing and gives you a little taste.)

Exercise: Well, yes I have to put this in and yes, you really need to exercise. But, it can be as simple as walking around the block a few times. I walk/run, ride my bike, do planks, lift light weights, and garden. I spread these out over the course of the week. I love walking and riding the bike the most as far as cardio. And you know I love to garden....it can be almost yoga'ish because of all the stretching and bending and moving in weird ways and it's a great upper body workout, especially when you haul 10 bags of wood chips to the garden weighing in at 25 lbs each and you chop a snake to death with a hatchet. Yeah, I did both of those things last Thursday. Gah! Snakes! And there's another one riding around in my flower beds. He's a King Snake, so Cliff won't let me kill him.

Now, if you are interested in doing your own research or reading some of the websites or books that I've delved into, I'll share those. I have my favorites and each one touches on a different aspect of health. For example, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Colin Campbell talk about heart disease and vegan diets. Dr. Neal Barnard talks about diabetes. James Colquhoun deals with all things healthy and has a website called Food Matters. A few others.....Dr. Josh Axe deals with gut issues. Dr. Eric Zielinski deals with essential oils and how they can play a vital part in our health. And there are others that I'll tell you about, along the way.

This is just the beginning.....I will share so much more with you. I'm excited about my new life and I hope I can be an encouragement for you.  

More later,  

Today's book recommendations: 
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn
The China Study by Dr. Colin Campbell and Thomas Campbell

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Journey to Health and Wellness

Get ready, y'all. This is going to be a little long.

I am a fifty-something woman who grew up in the south eating some very amazing, deliciously sinful foods. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers and french fries, pizza, barbecue chicken and coleslaw were the norm. Basically, a typical western diet. Years of eating this way took it's toll. In 1983 my father started experiencing heart problems. He had his first open heart surgery that year…. a bypass. Daddy’s journey of battling heart disease had begun. Mama changed how she prepared meals and cut sugar from their diet. Daddy tried to eat right, but longed for those good foods he grew up eating, too. In the end, he fought long and hard. After his second bypass surgery, a stroke, angina, diabetes, copious amounts of medication, and thousands of dollars in health care he finally succumbed to his long battle with these chronic diseases. In May of 2008, he drew his last breath. Daddy’s struggle and death ingrained in me the will to do life differently. At the time, I was in x-ray school. I had gained weight and my blood pressure was getting high. I remember one day after clinicals, one of my classmates and I stopped to have our blood pressure taken. Mine was 150/80 something. I was taken aback. This blood pressure reading definitely got my attention. I had just lost my father to heart disease and here I was about to go down the same path. I declared I wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and started searching for a better way. However, I was so busy with school, studying and clinicals that I didn’t give it my best effort. But after graduation, there were no more excuses. 

One afternoon around that time, I was watching the Oprah Winfrey show and her guest was Kris Carr. Kris was a young woman diagnosed with a rare cancer that was incurable. She had multiple tumors in her lungs and liver. Given this news, Kris was determined to live the best life she could live with cancer. The short story…..she began a research journey that led her to some amazing discoveries in the area of nutrition. Using the grocery store as her pharmacy, she arrested her cancer. She had found a way using nutrition and then wrote a book about it. Kris' book is what led me to become a vegetarian in the fall of 2008. I remember thinking that if eating a plant-based diet can do this for her with cancer, what would it do for me without cancer. 

So, I began eating a vegetarian diet a week before Thanksgiving.  Wow, what a time to start something so new. I ate about a 2 oz. piece of turkey that Thanksgiving and then that was it for years. The first thing I noticed was how amazing I felt. My skin looked dewy and my blood pressure had returned to normal. Within 2 weeks, I had lost 4 lbs. That was a nice benefit since I had struggled with weight issues for many years. I never seemed to be able to lose more than 5 lbs. on any diet or at any given time. I was hopeful that this way of eating would not only keep me from having the same health issues that my father had, but that I would also, finally, be able to lose the weight. Unfortunately, the weight didn’t come off like I thought it would. The other benefits, however, were outstanding.

I stayed committed to eating a vegetarian diet for a few years. But then, when we moved to the lake, we found this great little hamburger joint that made the most amazing hamburgers. I began eating meat again. This little hamburger addiction only happened on the weekends. I would eat healthy during the week.  I was still struggling with weight issues and desperately wanted to lose a few pounds. Back in 2008, I had signed up to follow Kris Carr’s newsletter and blog and last summer, she announced that there was going to be an online health summit hosted by James Colquhoun of Food Matters taking place and that I just needed to sign up online to be a part of it. I signed up and began watching the numerous videos and interviews and became intrigued by all the health information I was hearing. I mean, I thought I knew so much about health and nutrition, but this health summit opened my eyes to so much more. This health summit focused a lot on people dealing with cancer, but the science behind it just made so much sense to me. I could feel a change taking place in my outlook on food. As a result of that summit, I was beginning to think that eating some meat wasn’t so bad. They recommended that if you ate meat, to eat wild caught fish and grass-fed animals. They also recommended that you cut out gluten and sugar. So, I did. Deep down, though, as I was eating the grass-fed bison or wild caught salmon, I just felt like this was not the way I should be eating. 

And then, almost simultaneously, I began going to a new doctor that wanted to do blood work for a baseline measurement as part of getting started in his practice and I watched a video by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. where he talked about reversing heart disease. He wrote a book called Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. As it turned out, I would need to read that book. When my blood work came back, I was shocked and so disappointed in myself. I felt like I was a healthy eater. And, although my exercising had been sporadic all winter, I still exercised. Yet, my numbers were high……high cholesterol, high blood glucose, high triglycerides and I mean really high. All I could see was my father’s journey of poor health, but this time it was happening to me. After my initial shock and a few tears, I went straight to the bookstore and purchased Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s book and devoured it in two days. He made sense…..a lot of sense. He performed a study on a group of heart patients, some of which had angina and some had already had bypass surgeries. They were sick! This study was conducted to see how the patients would do on a low fat, plant-based diet. Basically, they would not eat meat, dairy or oils (which included nuts and avocado). They would eat only plant-based…whole grains, legumes, beans,  vegetables and fruits. The result...every one of the participants improved dramatically and over time reversed their heart disease. They lost weight, their cholesterol levels came down, their angina went away and 20 years later they are still alive and well. 

Well, I thought, that’s it! I am going to have to be one of those people that eats a vegan diet. Vegan sounds radical, it sounds restrictive and depriving. Low fat, plant-based sounds better, doesn’t it? Anyway, that week, I turned a corner. I made the commitment to get healthy. I am committed to eating in such a way that it results in weight loss and good health. I heard someone say this and I feel exactly the same…I don’t want to grow old being fat, sick and medicated. I want to grow old as healthily as I can. 

So, why am I sharing this with you? I can tell you that I thought long and hard about it. If you have been a follower of my blog, you may have noticed that my trend is to be upbeat and light-hearted as well as fun. I would rather tell you good things than dwell on the not so good. It has almost given me the shivers to share my state of health with you. LOL!  But, just the other day, one of my favorite doctors that I follow online shared a verse of scripture. When I read it, it resonated with me. I felt like I had done all this research, watched countless videos, followed many doctors and their findings on health and realized that I shouldn’t keep it to myself. The scripture…. Matthew 10:8…..Freely you have received, freely give. So there you have it. I want to freely share what I’ve learned with you.

Over the next few weeks, I will share with you my journey back to health. I will share the names and websites that I’ve followed. I will give you the numbers from my original blood work, my progress along the way and finally, the new numbers on my follow-up visit for repeat blood work at the end of May. 

I know this has been long, I apologize for that. But I really felt strongly that I needed to give you a little background before proceeding. My hope is that the information I share will be of help or at least of interest and that I can be an encouragement to you, if you find yourself on a similar path or want to avoid it altogether. 

Take care and we’ll talk soon.


Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor nor am I a nutritionist. I am not here to tell you that my journey to health is the answer for everyone. I encourage you to do your own research and decide the best course for your health. But, if you want the short story…something to get you started toward better health, then maybe I can help. 

I’ve done the research according to my lifestyle and health concerns. Along the way, I may not tell you exactly how something works. I may not remember the details, but at the time of my research it made sense to me. So, I remember the main idea, the benefits, basically the thing that you are supposed to do. I will be writing these posts to tell you what I’ve learned about what to eat or not to eat and how it can affect your health.

Again, I am not a doctor. If you find information here contrary to what your doctor says, then by all means…do what your doctor tells you to do. I am not a professional, just someone who is truly interested in living healthy, for as long as I live. And, I would love to be that encouragement for you.