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For Beginners, Healthy Body, Plant Proteins

Beans Are The Answer: An Introduction To My Third Video Series


I am so excited to share my third video series with everyone! I chose to focus the series entirely on beans. Why? Because I believe beans address a number of concerns and misconceptions people have about adopting a plant-based diet.

Misconception: “I won’t get enough protein.”
Reality: Beans are a fantastic source of protein. Just one cup of cooked soybeans has 29 grams of protein, one cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams, and 1 cup of cooked black beans has 15 grams. Adult men need about 56 grams of protein per day and adult women need about 46 grams per day.  If you make beans a regular part of your diet it would be difficult not to meet these requirements. After all, if you are consuming enough calories, it is almost impossible to be protein deficient. (Note: Not only do most people consume much more protein than they need, they actually consume more protein than is safe. See here.)

Myth: “I won’t ever feel full enough.”

Reality: What could possibly be heartier and more filling than beans? Beans are rich in fiber which means they will satisfy hunger and keep you feeling full for hours. (The soluble fiber in beans also helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.)

Myth: “There’s not enough variety.”

Reality: Do you know how many things you can make with beans? This series barely skims the surface of the options. You can make everything from casseroles to salads to burritos to curries to jambalayas and more. You can even make brownies and blondies from beans! Beans are featured in distinct ways in cuisines all across the globe. Plus, there are many different kinds of beans, from lentils to chickpeas to kidney beans and beyond, each with their own distinct flavors and textures.

Misconception: “It’s too expensive.”
Reality: Nothing is cheaper than beans. If you can afford anything, you can afford beans.

Misconception: “I don’t have time to cook.”
Reality: If you have time to get out your can opener, then you have enough time. All you need to do is open the cans, dump the beans into a bowl, and season. That’s it. If you are feeling extra fancy, you can even heat the beans. Voila! Dinner is served. It would probably take you longer to order and pay for a meal at a drive-thru. (See my recipe for “Incredibly Easy Pumpkin Chili”)

Misconception: “I don’t know how to cook.”
Reality: If you are able to use a can opener, you have what it takes. See above.

Misconception: “I don’t have access to ‘specialty vegan food’ where I live.”
Reality: One of the great things about beans is that they are accessible in all parts of the country, rural and urban alike. They are sold at every grocery store, quickie mart, and even at many gas stations.

Misconception: “I won’t get enough calcium.”
Reality: Beans are loaded with calcium! Although the dairy industry would like people to believe that cow’s milk is the only source of calcium, this simply isn’t true. (And, in fact, the higher a country’s consumption of cow’s milk, the higher their rate of osteoporosis.) Beans also contain magnesium, which the body uses along with calcium to build bones. Physicians Comittee for Responsible Medicine has a useful chart of the calcium and magnesium content in many beans here. In a recent study, researchers found that those who consumed more high-phytate foods (i.e. beans) had stronger bones. The researchers conclude that dietary phytate had protective effects against osteoporosis and that low phytate consumption should be considered an osteoporosis risk factor. (For more information on this study, see here.)

Misconception: “I’m gluten-free/allergic to soy so a plant-based diet would be too restrictive.”
Reality: Beans are gluten-free and there are many other types of beans besides soybeans. Also, see “There’s not enough variety.”

Misconception: “There are too many carbs in a plant-based diet.”
Reality: There is a lot of misinformation out surrounding carbohydrates. Be smarter than the urban myths and don’t get sucked in! Recently, researchers at Harvard looked at the diets of 100,000 people and found that low-carb diets were associated with higher all-cause mortality, higher cardiovascular disease mortality, and higher cancer mortality. True, muffins and donuts and cookies are carbohydrates and if you load up on those it’s quite possible you will gain weight, your blood sugar will spike, etc. However, there is a world of difference between refined carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, and beans are complex carbohydrates. To avoid complex carbohydrates because they technically fall under the same food group as refined carbohydrates is just silly. It would be like refusing to travel on an airplane because you are against war and in wars they use jet planes.
     Beans are truly one of the healthiest foods on the planet and anyone who cares about their health ought to make them a regular part of their diet.recent international study found that there is an 8% reduction in risk of death for every two tablespoons of daily legume intake. An 8% reduction from just two tablespoons! So, to paraphrase Dr. Michael Gregor of, if you want to increase your lifespan, eat beans. If, however, you’re suicidal and want to decrease your lifespan, enjoy a bean-free diet.

So, in conclusion, when the little voice of doubt creeps into your head, just remember: BEANS. They are health-promoting, filling, protein-rich, fiber-rich, calcium-rich, versatile, simple, cheap, accessible and delicious… what’s not to love?

Further notes:
All the recipes in this series will be gluten-free, oil-free, and as always, 100% plant-based.

For those concerned about gas, know that a) studies have shown that this concern is largely overblown (ahem, excuse the pun) and that b) if you eat beans on a regular basis, your body adjusts and gas stops being an issue. I highly recommend reading this entertaining and informative article by Dr. Michael Gregor of Also see my past post on how to soak dried beans as soaking beans can ease digestion.

Check out these short but informative videos on the health-promoting benefits of beans:
Increased Lifespan from Beans
Beans, Beans Good for Your Heart
Beans and the Second Meal Effect
Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis

* If you have ever heard that plant proteins need to be combined in specific ways order to be “complete,” rest assured that is an outdated nutritional theory from the 1950’s that is nothing more than a myth.

Autumn, Casseroles & Lasagnas, Entrees, Essential Fats, Gluten-Free, Holiday, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables, Videos, Whole Grains

eHow Video: “Butternut Squash Lasagna with Ricotta” (vegan, of course!)


Need a dish that is guaranteed to impress? This is definitely the one.
I love this recipe because it includes everything we love about lasagna–the warmth, the comfort, and the heartiness. But, unlike traditional lasagna, my version is incredibly healthful. Not only does it leave out all animal products, it’s also made entirely of whole foods! Rather than using pasta noodles made with processed white flour, I instead use very thin slices of butternut squash. This makes the lasagna more healthful, more flavorful, and more colorful!

     This recipe can be a bit time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. My tip: Make the sausage and the ricotta ahead of time (they can easily be frozen and de-thawed when needed), then all you’ll have to do on the day-of is assemble and bake. If you aren’t able to make the sausage and ricotta ahead of time, it’s really not that big of a deal, and the extra time it takes is still absolutely worth it because this dish is so spectacular. I would just recommend making doubling the sausage and ricotta to freeze and use for next time. This dish is too good to only make once, and the easier it is to prepare, the more likely you are to make it again and again.
     Plus, as those of you who follow Goldhouse Gourmet on Facbeook know, I am a HUGE fan of dishes that can last for several meals. They mean you don’t have to cook every night and/or can have healthful leftovers to bring with you for lunch. This lasagna definitely fits that bill, and is one of those dishes that only gets better day after day. That is, if you manage to have any left 🙂
1 butternut squash
1 jar marinara sauce (I like Eden Organic’s No Salt Added Spagetti Sauce)
Sausage Ingredients:
1 chopped carrot
1 chopped onion
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 cups cooked lentils
2 tablespoons marjoram
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fennel
2 tablespoons ground flax
2 tablespoons thyme
4 cloves garlic
Ricotta Ingredients:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes
1/3 cup nondairy milk (I like soy or almond milk)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend

1/3 cup fresh basil

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

1. To make the sausage: Saute the carrot and onion for 10-15 minutes. Once browned, place vegetables into a food processor along with all the spices and flax. Add cooked quinoa and lentils and pulse just till ingredients begin to stick together (about 10-15 times). Place mixture in a pan and brown.
2. To make the ricotta: Place cashews, nondairy milk, lemon juice, garlic, and maple syrup in a food processor and blend till just smooth (remember, ricotta is somewhat grainy rather than completely whipped). Add in the basil, Italian herb blend, salt and pepper and pulse until blended in.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
4. Spread a thin layer of marinara onto the bottom of a glass dish.
5. Layer the squash on top. Avoid overlapping pieces as much as possible.
6. Place a layer of ricotta on top.
7. Spread a layer of sausage crumbles on top.
8. Add another layer of squash and then another layer of marinara sauce.
9. Start again at step 6 and repeat until near the top of the dish. Top with any remaining ricotta.
10. Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted all the way through.

Autumn, Entrees, Essential Fats, Gluten-Free, Holiday, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables, Videos

eHow Video: “Acorn Squash Stuffed with Sausage and Ricotta Cheese” (vegan, of course!)


One of the things people worry about when contemplating going vegan is what the holidays will be like, particularly Thanksgiving. I recently received an email from a non-vegan friend who said that she had just learned about what happens to turkeys in slaughterhouses “and now Thanksgiving is ruined!”
Au contraire! The best Thanksgiving I ever had was my first vegan Thanksgiving. I felt that I was actually honoring the true spirit of the holiday, which is about giving thanks and celebrating life. Plus, putting aside the ethics and the health, it was the most delicious Thanksgiving I had ever had. After all, aren’t the real stars of the Thanksgiving meal the sides and the desserts?
One option for a vegan Thanksgiving is to have the meal be made up entirely of delicious side dishes. Personally, I think that would be absolutely fantastic, but I also know many of us are used to and enjoy having a main dish as a central focal point. Hence, this gorgeous stuffed acorn squash recipe!

     The sausage and ricotta can be prepared well in advance and then frozen. Then, on the big day, all you’ll have to do is assemble them into the squash halves and stick them in the oven as described. The combination of flavors and textures in this dish are so aromatic and comforting–the hearty, earthiness of the sausage; the lemony freshness of the ricotta; and the soft, candy-like sweetness of the squash. To my mind, the best way to truly honor this holiday is with food that celebrates life, peace, and joy 🙂

6 acorn squashes (recipe yields enough to fill at least 12 squash halves; any remaining can be frozen)
Sausage Ingredients:
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups cooked quinoa
4 cups cooked lentils
2 tablespoons marjoram
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fennel
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons thyme
4 cloves garlic
Ricotta Ingredients:
2 cups raw cashews, soaked in warm water for at least 20 minutes
1/3 cup nondairy milk (i.e. almond, soy, etc.)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/3 cup fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Slice the acorn squashes in half and scoop out the seeds. Place in the oven for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
2. To make the sausage: Saute the carrot and onion for 10-15 minutes. Once browned, place vegetables into a food processor along with all the spices and flax. Add cooked quinoa and lentils and pulse just till ingredients begin to stick together (about 10-15 times). Place mixture in a pan and brown.
3. To make the ricotta: Place cashews, nondairy milk, lemon juice, garlic, and maple syrup in a food processor and blend till just smooth (remember, ricotta is somewhat grainy rather than completely whipped). Add in the basil, Italian herb blend, salt and pepper and pulse until blended in.
4. To compose the dish, place a layer of ricotta at the bottom of each squash bowl. Then add some sausage crumbles. Top with more ricotta. Any remaining sausage and ricotta can be frozen and used at another time (perhaps for butternut squash lasagna).
5. Put squashes back in the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, or until they are soft and caramelized.
Breakfast, Calcium Sources, Entrees, Essential Fats, For Beginners, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables, Videos

eHow video: “Coconut Milk Tofu Quiche with Onions and Mushrooms”


People often complain that they don’t have time to make dinner every night. Well, guess what? I don’t make dinner every night! That’s right. And yet we never get take out, rarely dine out, and my husband always has a packed lunch to take to work.
How is this possible? Ladies and gentlemen, let me give you a life-saving tip: Make dishes in large enough portions that they will cover the next few days’ meals and/or can be frozen and eaten at another time. That, my friends, is how you can eat healthfully every night without having to spend all your time slaving away in the kitchen. It’s that simple!


This quiche is a perfect example of a dish that will last for multiple meals. Plus, it’s one of those special dishes that can be enjoyed at any time of day. I love preparing it for dinner and then enjoying it again the next day for breakfast and packing it up for my husband for lunch for the next few days. Because both the crust and the filling contain herbs, each bite is wonderfully aromatic and richly flavorful. Enjoy!

Crust Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 packages firm silken tofu
1/4 cup coconut milk (or any other nondairy milk)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 teaspoons of your favorite herbs (i.e. basil, thyme, sage, oregano, etc.)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Crust Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and rosemary. Add the water and stir until fully combined.
2. Gently press the dough evenly against the bottom and sides of a pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust looks dry and just toasted.

Filling Instructions:
1. Slice the tofu and wrap in a few layers of paper towels to drain out the excess moisture. Set aside.
2. Saute the onions and mushrooms in balsamic vinegar until the onions are caramelized, about 10 minutes.
3. In a food processor or blender, mix the tofu, nutritional yeast, nondairy milk, and herbs till smooth.
4. Combine the tofu mixture with the sauteed mushrooms and onions and stir till fully mixed.
5. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove and let cool.

Calcium Sources, Casseroles & Lasagnas, Essential Fats, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Sauces & Dips, Vegetables, Videos

My eHow Video Series: Crescent Spinach Dip

Have you ever looked up the ingredients in traditional spinach dip? You’ll find things like butter, mayo, heavy cream, and dairy cheese. It’s not really fair to call it “spinach” dip. “Saturated fat” dip would be more accurate.
The really sad thing is that none of these unhealthful ingredients are necessary for making a fantastic dip. We just include them because we always have. But just because we always have done something doesn’t mean we always have to keep doing it. We need not be slaves to custom or tradition or habit. I think most people would agree that custom, tradition, or habit aren’t good enough reasons to continue causing harm to ourselves or others, ESPECIALLY when there are quick and easy alternatives out there.
My version of spinach dip takes the spinach seriously. And, in addition to using a whole package of thawed frozen spinach, I also use a whole head of kale. Like spinach, kale is loaded with vitamins A, C, K and folic acid, and it’s also a rich source of calcium and iron. Kale also contains carotenoids, which are potent antioxidants with natural inflammatory properties that help prevent some cancers.

     I use cashews to add a rich creaminess that we too often mistakenly think we can only get from dairy products. Plus, cashews have numerous health benefits. They are high in copper which helps defend against iron deficiency anemia, ruptured blood vessels, osteoporosis, joint problems such as rheumatoid arthritis, elevated LDL cholesterol and reduced HDL cholesterol levels, and irregular heartbeat. Because of their high antioxidant levels, nuts like cashews have been linked to lower risks of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease. For additional creaminess, I use beans, which also adds protein and even more fiber to this already fiber-rich dip. (For more on the wonderful world of beans, see here.)
     This is one of my favorite dishes in this whole series. I love this recipe because it demonstrates that you can eat in a way that reflects your deepest values of health and compassion AND feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven because it tastes so good. For me, the beauty of being vegan is that we can have both!

16 oz. organic frozen spinach, thawed
1 bunch kale, chopped
1/2 cup raw parsley
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in warm water about 20 minutes
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
5 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1-15 oz can white beans
(optional: Daiya cheese)

1. Add all your ingredients (except beans and cheese) to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Pulse in the beans.
3. Pour spinach dip into a heat-safe serving dish. Add the Daiya cheese on top if using and place in a 350 degree oven for 15 min.
4. Serve warm with veggie sticks, bread squares and rice crackers.

For Beginners, Healthy Body, Plant Proteins

“Where do you get your protein?”

Tell someone you’re vegan and without fail, the first question is, “Where do you get your protein?” Our culture is SO obsessed with getting enough protein, but this is the last thing Americans should be worried about. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007-2008, the average American man consumes 101.9 grams of protein per day and the average American woman consumes 70.1 grams of protein per day. This is almost double the recommended daily allowance!

How much protein do we need per day? 
Adult Men = 56g 
Adult Women = 46 g 

The technical term for protein deficiency is Kwashiorkor. There is a reason Kwashiorkor is not a household name. It is because protein deficiency is virtually NON-EXISTENT in America. It exists in countries where people experience extreme poverty and famine. What does exist in America, however, are diseases of excess. The following diseases and conditions are caused by TOO MUCH protein intake and, unfortunately, they are household names that we all know well:

In 2007, the National Cancer Institute revealed that meats, particularly red meats and processed meats such as deli cold cuts, increased the risk of many types of cancers. Lung, liver, esophageal, prostate, bone, bladder and colorectal cancers all increased for people with diets high in protein. According to the 12-year study by the National Cancer Institute, consuming large amounts of protein significantly increases your risk of getting cancer.

Bone loss, also called osteoporosis, happens when calcium is taken from the bones to help carry out bodily functions. Calcium is needed to process proteins, and if there is not enough calcium present in the body, it is taken from the bones. When calcium is removed from the bones, bones lose density; excess protein intake can lead to a 1% decrease in bone mass per year, which can quickly lead to severe osteoporosis. Side effects of osteoporosis include brittle bones that break easily and loss of teeth.

Kidney Damage Normal kidneys work to remove excess wastes from the body. Proteins create byproducts, such as uric acid, that needs to be eliminated from the body. When excessive amounts of protein are consumed, more byproducts need to be excreted from the body through the kidneys. Overworked kidneys can lead to irreversible, permanent kidney damage.

Severe Constipation Bowels utilize fiber to carry out excretion. Diets extremely high in protein generally have little-to-no room for carbohydrates and fibrous foods, such as grains, nuts and seeds. Cutting these foods out completely or eating very small amounts can be very dangerous and could lead to severe constipation and blockages in the bowels. While not immediately dangerous, severe blockages can cause anal fissures, hemorrhoids, impaction, obesity and suppressed immune system.

Weight Gain Your body is simply not capable of storing extra protein that comes from your diet. If you consume an excess of calories and protein, you will convert the unused protein into fat stores.

The notion that we need to eat animals to get protein is a total myth. Where do you think cows get their protein? Plants! ALL the nutrients we need are plant-based, so when we eat animals, we are going through them to get our nutrients. Let’s skip the middleman (or middle-animal) and go directly to the source ourselves.

As long as you eat a diet centered around whole foods and consume enough calories, you will almost always be getting enough protein. Even those who have higher protein needs, such as nursing mothers or extreme athletes, have an abundance of plant-based protein options available.
Here are a few examples of plant-based protein:
Lentils (1 cup) = 18 g rams of protein 
Black Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Chickpeas (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Pinto Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Lima Beans (1 cup) = 15 grams of protein
Black-eyed Peas (1 cup) = 13 grams of protein 
Quinoa (1 cup) = 11 grams of protein 
Tempeh (4 oz) = 24 grams of protein 
Tofu (1 cup) = 18 grams of protein
Oatmeal (1 cup) = 6 g grams of protein
Peanut Butter (2 tablespoons) = 8 grams of protein
Almonds (1/4 cup) = 8 grams of protein
Frozen Peas (1 cup) = 9 grams of protein
Cooked Spinach (1 cup) = 5.4 g grams of protein
Broccoli (1 cup) = 4 grams of protein

A personal side-note: I recently completed a course on nutrition and disease-prevention in which I had to keep a food diary and calculate my daily protein consumption. Much to my surprise, I learned I was consuming a lot more protein than I need, over 80 grams per day! This is without any protein supplements whatsoever, just pure whole foods– vegetables, beans, fruit, grains, and seeds. I’m tall for a woman and do cardio and lift weights 5 days per week, so I have a higher than average caloric intake, but 80 grams was still way more than I was expecting to be taking in. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense. There’s protein in practically everything I eat, even in foods that I don’t think of as “protein rich.” Sure, I knew there was protein in my hummus because of the chickpeas, but I didn’t really give much thought to the protein in the carrots that I dip in my hummus. Or the dressing I put on my salad. Or the greens I put in my smoothie. Over the course of a day, this really adds up.

So instead of being obsessed with protein-deficiency, let’s worry about something that is actually plaguing our nation, like heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes, or our deficiency in vegetable consumption.

Further reading & listening:

For Beginners, Plant Proteins

Dried Beans!


There is so much to love about beans.
They are nutritional powerhouses. Not only are they loaded with protein, fiber, and tons of vitamins and minerals; they also reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar, and have anti-cancer properties. (I aim to have at least a cup a day.)
They are widely available and incredibly versatile; you can use them in everything from soups to spreads to salads to sweets.
AND, they are ridiculously cheap.
While canned beans are great for putting a last-minute meal together that’s inexpensive and healthful, dried beans provide even more bang for your buck, financially and nutritionally. Buying dried beans from the bulk section of the grocery store is probably the cheapest food you can buy (which is why I stock up, as you can see above) and the soaking process makes beans’ glorious nutrients more easily absorbable. Plus, there’s no denying that beans made from scratch just taste better. The process may seem time-consuming at first, but once you get the system down, you’ll realize just how easy and convenient it is.

Step 1: SOAK
Pour the dried beans into a large bowl and cover with water. Soak them for at least 8 hours. Dried beans will expand in water so make sure the water covers the beans by several inches. A good time to put your beans to soak might be either at night before bed or in the morning before heading off to work.

Drain the beans from the soaking water and transfer them into a large pot. Fill the pot with enough fresh water to cover the beans by at least 3 inches. Note: People often complain that beans make them undesirably musical (if you catch my drift). This is why we soak and drain. Soaking the dried beans in water allows them to release the indigestible sugars that cause people to feel gassy. When you discard the soaking water, you are also discarding the beans’ gas-causing elements.

Step 3: COOK
Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and cook at a simmer until the beans are tender. See time chart below.

Step 4: STORE
Here’s my favorite part: when the beans are done, whatever you don’t use right away can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for several months. What I do is make a very large batch of beans and then store recipe-size portions in zip-lock bags in the freezer. This way, they are there whenever I need them and I can get all of the health and cost benefits of making my own beans without having to spend hours ahead of time soaking and cooking them each time I want beans.


Black –  1.5 hours
Black-eyed peas* –  1 – 1.5 hours
Cannellini –  1 hour
Fava, skinned –  1 hour
Garbanzo –  1.5 – 2 hours
Kidney, red –  1 – 1.5 hours
Lentils* –  30 – 45 minutes
Lima –  1 hour
Mung –  1 hour
Navy –  1 – 1.5 hours
Pinto –  1 – 1.5 hours
Split peas, green* –  30 – 45 minutes

* These dried beans don’t need to be soaked beforehand. You can just skip ahead to Step 3.

Read more about the health benefits of beans HERE.

Breakfast, Calcium Sources, Essential Fats, For Beginners, Fruit, Gluten-Free, Healthy Body, Healthy Mind, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Vegetables

Disease Prevention for Breakfast


Google image search “American breakfast” and you’ll see a pretty sorry state of affairs. You’ll see bacon strips, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, sausage, fried hash browns, fried ham, pancakes with butter, waffles with butter, toast with butter, buttered croissants, bagels with cream cheese… you get the idea. Google image search “healthy american breakfast” and you’ll see practically the same thing. You’ll get a couple more shots of orange juice (which by definition has been entirely striped of fiber) and some shots of highly refined cereal floating in bowls of dairy milk, but essentially the same thing. No greens, almost no fresh fruit, and A LOT of meat, dairy, eggs, refined flour, refined sugar, and salt.

This is absurd when diet is responsible for four out of the top five leading causes of death in America. As Dr. Mark Hyman explains, “the research clearly shows that changing how we live is a much more powerful intervention for preventing heart disease [currently the number one killer of Americans] than any medication.” The “EPIC” study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied 23,000 people’s adherence to 4 simple behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours a week, eating a healthy diet [fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts seeds, and limited amounts of meat], and maintaining a healthy weight. In those adhering to these behaviors, 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes, and 36% of all cancers were prevented.
We know Americans don’t want to suffer and die from these diseases; after all, we spend an exorbitant amount of our personal and national finances on prescription drugs, medical procedures, and research to treat them. So why do we continue to eat in a way that contributes to the very diseases we are spending so much money to treat? It’s as if we believe our only chance at good health is to sit around and wait for cures to be discovered. This hopelessness and helplessness leaves us completely dependent on doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and research labs–which is very nice for them and their wallets but not so nice for our health, our wallets, or the country.

Why have so many of us been led to believe we have no power over our own health? Why are too many of us still tragically unaware (as I was for so long) of the role diet plays in determining whether or not we get cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and a number of other diseases?

In hindsight, it would be way too easy for me to say, “well, the information is out there. If people really cared about their health, they wouldn’t be eating meat, dairy, and eggs.” But I don’t think it’s that simple. While, indeed, research has proven time and time again that animal products promote disease while fruits and vegetables prevent disease, not many people know this. We hear mixed messages from advertisements (“Milk. It Does a Body Good.”), from fad diets (Atkins), from our parents (who were misled by their parents), and from myths passed amongst our peers (“Humans are meant to eat animals. Look at our pointy fangs!” ). Most insidious, though, are the messages we receive from the medical industry itself which consistently plays down the power of eating for disease prevention.

Why are doctors all too eager to write us prescriptions for high cholesterol, screen us repeatedly with expensive medical equipment for cancer (which is NOT prevention, just detection), perform surgeries to unclog our hearts, or put us through chemotherapy, but they’ll rarely advise us to drastically change our diets? I find the explanation that “most people refuse to make drastic lifestyle changes” to be both patronizing and false. Perhaps some people may refuse to make changes in their diet, but we all deserve to make an informed choice. Plus, I believe most people would prefer not to spend gobs of money unnecessarily, or get their chest cut open unnecessarily, or get cancer and endure chemo unnecessarily, or DIE unnecessarily. Based on my experience, I believe plenty of people would much prefer to make dietary changes if the truth were pushed on them even half as much as prescriptions are.

Why is the link between diet and disease so rarely mentioned?

We cannot forget that the medical industry is a business. A massive business whose tentacles reach not only doctors and hospitals but also drug companies, insurance companies, research labs, universities, supply and equipment manufacturers, marketers, lobbyists, and beyond. It is like any other business in that the goal is to make a profit. Profits, grants, funding, and salaries depend on people being sick. When people are sick, the medical industry flourishes because we require its services–researching, testing, inventing, manufacturing, and administering treatments. That’s not to say that individual people go into the medical field to prey upon sick people, but the industry at large simply does not grow and succeed when the people it is meant to serve are in good health. Telling us how to prevent diseases would make us less dependent on the medical industry’s services which means less money in their pockets. (See #3 for more on this.)

But while the medical industry makes enormous sums of money pushing treatment rather than prevention, the rest of the country suffers financially. In 2006, U.S. health spending exceeded two trillion dollars, with three-fourths of that spending directed at treating chronic diseases. Almost two-thirds of that growth in spending is attributable to Americans’ worsening health habits. A 2007 study at the Harvard Medical School found that 62% of U.S. bankruptcies were a result of medical expenses.

This is complete insanity.

What do have to show for all this money we’ve spent? What has all this money accomplished in the name of human health?
Not much.

Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Now it is the number one killer of Americans. In the future, it’s likely that more people will die of heart disease. According to a recent report by the American Heart Association, the prevalence of heart disease is set to increase by 10% over the next 20 years.

Similarly, while research suggests that only 5-10% percent of all cancers are hereditary–meaning that 90-95% of cancers are attributable to lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol intake, sun exposure, etc–the World Health Organization expects cancer rates to increase by 50% by 2020.

And yet, we still throw money at treating diseases. For example, our government funds cardiovascular disease research over $2 billion PER YEAR even though we already know that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease. Just imagine what we could do with the massive amount of money that goes into trying to create and test drugs for diseases that already has a proven means of prevention. We could use the money to educate people about nutrition, improve access to fruits and vegetables, subsidize organic vegetable farmers, create more walking paths and bike lanes. Imagine how many fewer people would be sick, bankrupt, or prematurely dead! But the loudest voices come from the medical industry (who has spent more than FOUR TIMES the lobbying money than what the oil and gas industry spends!) and we listen and follow not only with our wallets but also our lives.

To say I find this whole system infuriating would be a major understatement. Nothing breaks my heart more than needless suffering and that is exactly what is going on here on a massive scale. Just think about it. Animals suffer and are killed unnecessarily for humans’ appetites. Humans suffer and die from diseases caused by eating the flesh and secretions of animals. In their suffering, humans seek out cures and treatments, fueling an industry that captures or breeds animals merely to infect them with diseases, overdose them on drugs, infest them with tumors, slice open their bodies, or deprive them of their most fundamental needs. Humans pay for the drugs, which often times don’t work as expected precisely because they were tested on nonhuman animals and also because drugs, surgeries and other treatments only address symptoms of disease and not the cause. We then sit around and wait for the next cure or treatment, while we get sicker and continue practicing our habits and passing them on to our children and encouraging them amongst our peers. It’s a tragic cycle that begins with suffering and ends with suffering.

In our state of suffering we excuse the horrific practice of performing drug tests and medical experiments on living animals. We claim that it is a necessary evil, that it will benefit humanity, that fewer people will have to suffer. Even if that were all true I still believe testing on anyone–human or nonhuman–without their consent is deeply wrong.* But these claims are false. If more people are getting sicker, if more people are spending more of their savings managing chronic illness, if our country is spending more money on researching and treating preventible diseases, we cannot possibly argue we are creating less suffering. Our infliction of needless suffering on animals has caused us to suffer needlessly as well.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
-Albert Einstein
Cancer, heart attacks, diabetes, stroke and many other diseases are much easier and less expensive to prevent than to treat. That’s not to say no attention should be paid to alleviating the suffering of those already ill, but if we don’t want to bankrupt our country and our families, if we want to see fewer of our loved ones suffer and die needlessly, and if we want to be the ones in control of our own health, then I think we must give prevention more of a voice. It’s the only way to stop this madness.
Go to the US National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health’s online search page here and search “fruits vegetables heart disease” or “fruits vegetables cancer” or “fruits vegetables” and any other major disease and the studies you’ll find say the same thing: fruits and vegetables help prevent chronic disease. (I highly recommend reading Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. I am currently reading this book for the second time and I just cannot emphasize how valuable it is.)
What would be the best thing to eat to promote good health and disease prevention for breakfast? You guessed it, fruits and vegetables! Robert and I love green breakfast smoothies because they are easy to prepare, loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals, and so so so tasty. (Note: For those of you wary of drinking something that tastes “too green” (I get it, I used to feel this way too), rest assured that dates and bananas are a great addition to smoothies because their sweetness really masks the “green” flavor that some find difficult to adjust to initially.)
Here’s our current favorite:
1 large handful of spinach
1/2 – 1 banana
1/2 apple
2 dates
1-2 scoops almond butter
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
2 cups almond or soy milk
(Other things we like to add in or swap: kale, blueberries, carrots, oats, canned pumpkin)
1. Mix in a blender till smooth. Drink and feel good!

* Animal research is a multi-billion dollar industry in which for-profit commercial interests have high stakes. This is one of the major reasons why the use of animals not only continues, but also is fiercely defended despite obvious limitations, angers, and the reality that it may not help our battle against human diseases, and might actually hinder it. As an example of such financial motivation for its continuance, consider for example that in 2010, The Jackson Laboratory– “a leading mammalian genetics research center– sold 2.9 million mice for a profit of $98.7 million. Investment n the procurement, handling, and upkeep of animals for labs is a highly lucrative enterprise for animal importers, breeders, dealers, cage and equipment manufacturers, feed producers, and drug companies. (See NEAVS for more information.)

If you really want to torture yourself and see just how much money we’re currently spending on researching cures for preventible diseases, see this NIH price listAlso, please see the links I used within the article.

Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Sweets

Chickpea Blondies!

    These kinds of recipes are my favorite because they really challenge conventional thinking. So often people assume “if it tastes good, it’s probably bad for you” and that eating healthfully is a tasteless sacrifice. Sometimes I wonder if this rigid mentality prevents people from even exploring healthful ingredients when making decadent desserts because they just assume the two can’t possibly co-exist. Well, it’s time to wake up! There’s more than one way to make a blondie, people!
     Did you know that a traditional blondie recipe calls for eggs and a whole stick of butter? A whole stick?! Eggs and butter don’t have magical super powers that make them irreplaceable. We use them in our baked goods for no other reason than because that’s what we’ve been taught. But there are many, many other options that are both better for our health and leave the animals alone. This blondie recipe, which uses chickpeas, peanut butter, and ground flaxseeds, is just as delicious and decadent as any non-vegan dessert anywhere. Make this and I guarantee you’ll wonder why in the world you ever thought you needed butter and eggs. You’ll turn to the heavens above and ask how you could have been so blind for so long. And just before you sink into deep despair you’ll remember you have these blondies to nourish your soul and all will be well.
(makes a 9×13 pan)
3 cups chickpeas (or 2 cans drained and rinsed)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2  cup ground flaxseeds
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend all ingredients except the chocolate chips.
2. Line the pan with tinfoil or a small amount of canola oil. Spread the batter into the pan. Sprinkle chips on top.
3. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool before eating. Store in the fridge. Enjoy! You are in for a treat!
Autumn, Calcium Sources, Entrees, For Beginners, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Plant Proteins, Soups & Stews

Incredibly Easy Pumpkin Chili


Believe it or not, I used to hate cooking. I resented having to follow directions for an activity that I believed was meant be creative. But every time I tried to get creative, tossing in a little of this, a dash of that, followed by a twirl, a curtsey, etc., the food was just a sorry disappointment. After too many failed dishes I knew I needed to follow instructions but I still wanted to feel like the dish was my creation. I was able to find a happy balance making dishes that called for just a few ingredients and minimal measuring. For those who are new to cooking, short on time, or just looking for a unique take on chili, this recipe delivers. It is so simple. All you have to do is chop a few vegetables and dump a few cans, but it also feels really creative and unusual because of the pumpkin. The result is a delicious chili that’s warm, comforting, and just a touch sweet.
Over time, you could also get more creative and try adding different colored peppers, other kinds of beans, or using sweet potato instead of pumpkin (see below for more ideas). With such good and simple flavors it would hard to mess this one up.

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 can (15 oz) organic corn, preferably sweet
1 large can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie puree)
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 cup vegetable broth or water (more if you prefer a thinner consistency)

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, and red pepper in 1-2 tbsp water or vegetable broth for about 10 minutes or until tender.
2. Stir in the remaining ingredients, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
3. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until heated through. Serve hot.

Variations to try:
– To make this chili thicker and heartier, add 2 cups cooked quinoa after step 2.
– Add fresh or frozen de-thawed greens, such as kale, spinach, collards, etc., while simmering during step 3.
– For a slightly sweeter chili, use canned sweet potato instead of pumpkin.

– Double or triple the ingredients to make several days’ worth of food. Leftovers can also be frozen.
– Try using just one kind of bean (for example, only black beans) or add several different kinds in addition to the beans already used (such as pinto, kidney, and white beans).