BBQ Jackfruit Sliders

To Eat, or Not To Eat…

As a society, we are collectively bound by our traditions.   And this Missouri girl is no stranger to how deeply those traditions are woven into my Midwestern fabric. Missouri is a political bellwether state. We are known for smiling and waving to complete strangers. The word “honest” is something we live and die by. A person’s word and a firm handshake are all we need to seal a deal. But we also hold steadfast to our traditions and our bullheadedness has earned us the nickname “The Show Me State.”   Creatures of habit, we like things the way we like ‘em, and change is not welcomed here.  That said, change evolves as slowly as a Bootheel drawl.   Now it’s not said that we can’t change, but you’ve got to show us why we should! Particularly when it comes to what we eat.  

Kansas City, my hometown, sits on the far western edge of the state, and has had a long history of determining what we eat.  And what we eat…is meat.  The cattle industry, a thriving industry for over 120 years, began in the west bottoms of KC in 1871 where the Livestock Exchange & Stockyards operated for 12 decades.  In 1899, the National Hereford Show was founded as a cattle show in the Kansas City Stockyardsand was later renamed the “American Royal” after a 1901 editorial in a entitled, “Call It The American Royal.”It’s also why my city would eventually name their baseball team, The Kansas City Royals.  Twice a year in October and November, The American Royal is host to livestock and horse shows, a rodeo and a barbecue competition, all of which are held in the former stockyards.  

Though the stockyards closed in 1991, the meat industry in KC still reigns as King…the King of Barbeque.  From the Atlantic to the Gulf coast, bordered by the western outposts of Texas, my hometown lies in the middle of an area of the United States called the “Barbeque Belt”, an area that houses four distinct barbecue traditions – Carolina, Texas, Memphis and Kansas City.   BBQ is as ingrained in me as any Midwestern heritage could be.  And when I decided to stop eating meat, BBQ was a difficult task to master.  I missed the smoky flavor and the unmistakable smell of BBQ pulled pork.  Until now…

This recipe comes via Tasty and is one of the best recipes for making jackfruit I’ve found. Simmered in a ranchero sauce of sorts, the jackfruit is then slowly roasted in a 350° oven for 25 minutes. The crispy jackfruit is then added back to a skillet and doused with bbq sauce. It’s truly heavenly and it satisfies my craving for all things BBQ.

BBQ JACKFRUIT SLIDERS

Ingredients

for 12 servings

BBQ JACKFRUIT

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
  • 20 oz young green jackfruit, 3 cans, in brine or water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons liquid smoke
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
  • 1 ¼ cups barbecue sauce

Preheat oven to 400° Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit. 
  • In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until semi-translucent.
  • Add the garlic, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the jackfruit, chili powder, paprika, cumin, and liquid smoke, and mix well. Add the vegetable broth, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, until the jackfruit is soft enough to be mashed and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Mash the jackfruit with potato masher or a couple of forks, until it looks pulled or shredded.
  • Transfer the jackfruit to the baking sheet and spread in an even layer.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, until the jackfruit is slightly browned and crispy.
  • Remove the jackfruit from the oven, and pour the BBQ sauce over. Mix well.
  • Return to the oven, and bake for another 10 minutes, until the edges are slightly crispy.
  • Use a large bread knife to cut the whole sheet of slider buns in half, spread the BBQ jackfruit on the buns, then top with any additional favorites (pickles, slaw, more sauce!).

Enjoy!

The Road Less Traveled

The Road Less Traveled

Next week, I have been asked to speak to a group of middle school girls about body image and self-esteem. Lately, these buzzwords have gained momentum in our culture, a culture laden with false narratives and inaccuracies about value and self-worth. Many expert responses to this narrative, while encouraging, often lack depth and therefore do not resonate or connect with their intended audience. So I knew my words had to be carefully chosen, intentional, and authentic. In other words, they had to come from the experiences gleaned by traveling down a dark and winding road called self-actualization.

Self-image is simply the story we tell ourselves about who and what we are.  Our stories define our self-esteem, (the manner in which we evaluate ourselves), and our self-worth, (the belief that we are loveable and valuable despite how we evaluate our traits). To make things more complicated our stories are usually co-written by those around us, people who may have the best intentions, but are likely struggling with their own confusing falsehoods.  Add to the fact that human nature is inherently geared toward the negative for survival purposes, and it’s no wonder we are sometimes left feeling insecure and at odds with the world.  All of these elements perpetuate the inaccuracies of our true selves; this leads us to internalize and criticize ourselves, generally culminating in some kind of unwanted behavior.   In some, this may mean eating disorders, drug abuse, and in extreme cases, suicide.

So what is a girl to do?   The first and most important step is to be present and not unconsciously respond to stimuli.  Life is not about what happens to you, but how you respond to life.   Being present allows us to analyze our behavior; it helps us assess our feelings and thoughts, and allows us to take a much-needed breath or two.  Frankly, it is the most powerful tool in the box.  The next step is to realize that we have a choice to rewrite the script.   The words we choose to use, the ideas that we embrace about ourselves are ultimately up to us.   We are not what others say we are unless WE choose to embrace it and believe it.  We are no longer fighting saber tooth tigers; we are fighting against ambiguous texts, simulated fantasies on social media, and trying to adhere to the impossible task that we must be all things to all people.  

What is my suggestion to these young girls? Instead of trying to be something…just be. Be your imperfectly perfect selves, work hard, be honorable, and stay humble. Don’t worry about being good or being right. In fact, don’t worry at all. Have faith and fear not, because fear will hold you hostage. Be brave and explore the paths less traveled. Do hard things. In fact, seek out things that make you afraid and uncomfortable and do them. Then you will begin to see what you’re truly made of. We are not confined to a future that has yet to be written. Our destiny and fate can change from moment to moment. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Because for better or worse, what you believe, you will achieve.

Cashew Bechemel–White Sauce

Big thanks to KSDK “Show Me St. Louis’ for having me back! This recipe is one of my favorite dishes in the whole world! So easy to make and so hard to believe that there is NO cheese, NO cream, No Butter, No Oil! Some may think that is equivalent to no flavor. I say to them…Make IT!


Vegan Pasta Con Broccoli

There are only a few meals that truly delight my heart and my palate more than a good pasta. This vegan version of the famous recipe is no exception.   It’s almost hard to believe that there is no cheese, no butter, no cream, and no oil!  The cavatelli pasta is light and creamy and is a perfect medium for this mouthwatering sauce. It’s creamy, delicious, and heart-healthy.  And best of all it can be ready in under 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

 

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Serves 4

  • 8 ounces uncooked cavatelli pasta
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup small chopped broccoli
  • 23  cup thinly  sliced fresh Cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups white Béchemel sauce

Cook pasta until nearly done, about 8-10 minutes.

While pasta is cooking, heat large 12-inch rimmed skillet over medium heat, add mushrooms, season with oregano. Dry sauté mushrooms, stirring frequently.  If mushrooms begin to stick, add 2 Tbsp of water/veggie stock and deglaze pan.  Cook until caramelized, season with salt and pepper.   Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add tomato paste, nutritional yeast, garlic, and Béchemel sauce. Stir to combine; cook for 3-5 minutes to warm through, add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

When pasta is nearly done, add broccoli to the pasta water, reduce to medium heat and cook covered, for 2 minutes. Reserve 1-cup pasta water, set aside and drain the remaining water (Do not rinse pasta).  Return pasta and broccoli to the pot.  Add Béchemel sauce and warm through.

**If the sauce is too thick, add reserved pasta water one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Remove from the heat; add vegan Parmesan (optional) and serve.

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Hearty Veggie Lasagna—Test Kitchen Style!

Hearty Veggie Lasagna—Test Kitchen Style!
Before Kevin and I became vegan we loved consulting America’s Test Kitchen for recipes.    Their recipes are full-proof and delicious—always the result of hours and hours of testing various methods and ingredients.  ATK recipes are truly the best examples of culinary science!   Each recipe has a “What Makes This Work” abstract that walks you through various ingredients and attempted methodologies before they give you their final version of perfection.   That is very appealing to my “But, I need to know why” personality.  So all of that aside…THIS. LASAGNA.

Now, I’ve made vegan lasagna before.  Many times, in fact.  But never, ever, like this.  I had always used tofu ricotta, and while the flavor was good, the texture was lacking and it was always too dry.  This recipe skips the tofu and uses cauliflower and cashews that are cooked and blended together.  SO simple, and it gave my lasagna a moist creaminess that it had been missing!  No joke, this is the BEST lasagna I’ve ever had.  I didn’t have any eggplant (we used the last of it for an amazing Baba Ganoush) so I used broccoli (about 12 0z) instead.  It was perfect.  I added the broccoli during the last 15 minutes of roasting the veggies, and it was scrumptious!   So, without further ado…I present this amazing America’s Test Kitchen “Vegan for Everybody” recipe.

You’re welcome.

  • For the Tomato Sauce:
    • 1(28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
    • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 teaspoon organic sugar
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

    For the Filling:

    • 8 ounces cauliflower florets, cut into ½-inch pieces (21/4 cups)
    • 11/2 cups raw cashews, chopped
    • Salt and peppers
    • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

    For the Vegetables:

    • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
    • 1 pound white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
    • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • salt
    • 1 pound zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces

    For the Lasagna:

    • 12 no-boil lasagna noodles
    • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
INSTRUCTIONS
    1. For the tomato sauce: Process tomatoes, basil, oil, garlic, sugar, salt and red pepper flakes in food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 30 seconds. Transfer sauce to a bowl and set aside. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
    1. For the filling: Bring 3 quarts water to boil in a large saucepan. Add cauliflower florets, cashews, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook until cauliflower is very soft and falls apart easily when poked with a fork, about 20 minutes. Drain cauliflower mixture in a colander and let cool slightly about 5 minutes.
    1. Process cauliflower mixture, 3 Tablespoons oil, and ¼ cup water in clean, dry food processor until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 2 minutes (mixture will be slightly grainy). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer ¼ cup mixture to bowl and stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon oil and basil; set aside for topping. (Mixtures can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
    1. For the vegetables: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss eggplant and mushrooms with 2 Tablespoons oil, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl, then spread on rimmed baking sheet. Toss zucchini with remaining 1 Tablespoon oil, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the empty bowl. Roast eggplant-mushroom mixture until beginning to wilt, about 15 minutes. Remove sheet from oven, stir zucchini into vegetables, and continue to roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are lightly browned, eggplant and zucchini are tender, and most of the juices have evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside. (Cooked vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
    1. For the lasagne: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Spread 11/3 cups tomato sauce over the bottom of the of the dish. Arrange 4 noodles on top. Spread half the cauliflower filling over noodles, followed by half of the vegetables. Spread 11/3 cups tomato sauce over vegetables. Repeat layering with 4 noodles, remaining cauliflower filling, and remaining vegetables. Arrange remaining 4 noodles on top, and cover completely with remaining tomato sauce.
  1. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until edges are bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking. Dollop lasagne evenly with 8 to 10 spoonfuls of reserves cauliflower topping, and let cool for 25 minutes. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 Tablespoon basil and serve.
NOTES
Feel free to substitute a jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Keep in mind, if you do, you will use a full jar plus 1/3 of another.

Photograph via: Pamela Salzman

It’s Easy Being Cheesy!

What an awesome day on Show Me St. Louis.   Dana and Anthony were fantastic!  Here is the Chili Cashew Queso recipe that I made on today’s show.  The recipe is a variation of a Dana Schultz recipe from “The Minimalist Baker.”    Love her and love her recipes!

Just because you give up dairy doesn’t mean you have to give up cheese!   Many things can make milk!  You just need milk with higher fat content to make good rich cheese.  Hence, cashews!  We use this particular cheese as a sauce for macaroni and cheese, in bean dip, a Rotel dip, and in a 7 layer dip!  But one of my favorite things to use it for is the base for a broccoli potato soup!  To heat or reheat microwave, covered, in 30-second bursts, whisking at each interval and thinning with water as needed.  Or re-warm on the stovetop, whisking occasionally and thinning with water as needed.

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The Rain Barrel Effect

the-rain-barrel-effect-250x167This year for Thanksgiving we went to visit family in New Orleans.  If you’ve ever been, you know that New Orleans is one of the only cities in America that has its own dialect, its own music, and its own food—rich spicy fried deliciousness!   It is also a city that encourages day drinking and in fact, some might even say it is expected!  It is the Big Easy after all.  So as not to break with tradition, I jumped right in! I had a fried green tomato po’ boy, a veggie muffuletta sandwich, and the best filé Gumbo I’ve ever had. And that was just the first 2 days!  While I truly enjoyed myself, it was no surprise that at the end of my 8 days, I had gained 5 pounds and a wicked sinus infection!    Ah, love the holidays!

The next 6 weeks are a challenging time for most of us.    Between the holiday parties, eating out more often, drinking alcohol, many people celebrating and eating with more than one side of the family, the leftovers, the cookies, the candy, and the pies, we decide not to worry about any of that and figure we’ll start Weight Watchers and hit the gym in January 1st.  The thing is…gaining weight isn’t our only concern.  We have now increased our toxic load during cold and flu season.

Think of your body as a rain barrel.   When we drink alcohol, eat cheat meals, don’t get enough sleep, and are stressed, we are slowly filling our own personal rain barrel.  One day or two days of filling it won’t really matter, but if we spend 6 weeks filling our barrel, it will begin to run over.  And when it runs over—we get sick.  A cheat meal, or extra food you wouldn’t normally have, bread, alcohol, anything with high calories, raises our glucose levels.  And blood sugar spikes can lead to drink munchies and low blood sugar the next morning–leading to headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.   Alcohol can disrupt our circadian rhythms and our sleep.   And getting adequate sleep is imperative to not getting sick.

So how can we still enjoy all of the festivities this holiday season and not overfill our barrel?  If you go to a holiday party and drink a few, or a few too many, or if you enjoy a hearty cheat meal…give your body a rest.  What’s the best way to do that?  Do a “one-day reset” the next day.  Give your body some “quiet time” with nothing further coming in—so it can focus on getting rid of the effects of a cheat meal, the alcohol, or both!   The following PDF is my favorite naturopathic guru, Dr. Stephen Cabral’s 24-hour reset!

http://stephencabral.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/One-Day-Reset-Diet.pdf

You can also go out and have a great time with either no drinking or just one drink!  My favorite trick is to have a glass of water with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cranberry first.  It’s refreshing and hydrating.  And it’s one less drink than I would’ve had!  My first drink is water, the second drink is alcohol, the third drink is water, etc. And Sometimes I don’t drink at all.

Another great tip is to do a quick work out beforehand.  Just do Tabata, squats, lunges, push up’s, or a quick 5-minute circuit, twice.  This will allow your body to absorb sugar, not gain as much body fat, and reduce inflammation.  And it’s great to know that it doesn’t have to be an hour in the gym to be effective!

And finally, we need to stop pushing ourselves too far in one direction.  This time of year we tend to ask too much of ourselves. And constant stress can make us sick!  Everyone needs quiet time–alone time.  Meditate, do yoga, take a nap, or go for a walk.  Jesus spent time in silence and solitude.  It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of HIS ministry and cared for HIS soul.  By doing these things, we serve not only ourselves, but we also serve HIM when we remember that HE is the Reason for the Season.

Cooking Classes

DATE NIGHT FOR COUPLES: THE MEXICAN VEGAN-IZER (Kitchen Conservatory July 20, 6:00 PM)

Join me for a hands-on class perfect for couples class creating a Mexican spread with Spicy Jackfruit Tortilla Soup, a trio of dips served with tortilla chips – Choriqueso Fondue with Soy Chorizo, Molcajete de Guacamole, and Chile Morita Salsa, Walnut Empanadas with Avocado Lime Crema, Smashed Black Bean-Green Chile Taquitos, Potato & Mushroom Enchiladas smothered with Black Bean Guajillo Sauce, plus Churros with a Salted Caramel Sauce.

VEGAN NEW ORLEANS (Kitchen Conservatory–April 13th Couples Night) (SOLD OUT)

Join us for a night of feasts from the BIG EASY!  The menu includes Crab Cakes with a Creole Remoulade, a Crispy Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Po’Boy, Smoky Collard Greens with Coconut Bacon, Spicy Creole Gumbo with Gluten Free Jalapeno Cornbread, and Almond Banana’s Foster for dessert!

VEGANS LOVE IT AND LEAF IT  (Kitchen Conservatory June 15th, 12:00 PM) (SOLD OUT)

Spend a pleasurable afternoon in the kitchen with Stephanie Bosch creating a stunning spread of plant-based dishes that will taste as good as they look. This hands-on class will make mushroom-lentil faux gras with walnuts and a beet-root purée served with sourdough toasts, rich tomato bisque with spiced chickpea croutons, Mushroom Bourguignon with sweet potato mash, coconut creamed greens with toasted shallots, plus raspberry-elder-flower French macaroons.

VEGAN CHEESE MAKING (Bike Stop Cafe-Chesterfield–March 24th, 11:00 AM) (SOLD OUT)

Want to learn how to make some yummy vegan cheeses?  In this 2-hour demo class, we will make (and eat!) three cashew-based cheese’s including a delicious, mouth-watering queso cheese that will make even the most die-hard omnivore running back for seconds.  Next, a gooey, creamy, melty mozzarella that is perfect for grilled cheeses, a quesadilla, or melted on top of delicious veggie lasagna! And finally, we will make a delectable, firm pepper jack cheese that can be grated or sliced, and will shine as the main feature on your next CHARCUTERIE board!

 

VEGAN CHEESE MAKING (Bike Stop Cafe-Chesterfield–February 24th, 11:00 AM) (SOLD OUT)

Want to learn how to make some yummy vegan cheeses?  In this 2-hour demo class, we will make (and eat!) three cashew-based cheese’s including a delicious, mouth-watering queso cheese that will make even the most die-hard omnivore running back for seconds.  Next, a gooey, creamy, melty mozzarella that is perfect for grilled cheeses, a quesadilla, or melted on top of delicious veggie lasagna! And finally, we will make a delectable, firm pepper jack cheese that can be grated or sliced, and will shine as the main feature on your next CHARCUTERIE board!

DOWN TO EARTH VEGAN HOLIDAY (Kitchen Conservatory–December 15th, 12:00 PM) (SOLD OUT)

Give a warm welcome to a certified health coach and wellness blogger, Stephanie Bosch, as she shares a vegan holiday menu that will fool everyone at the table. This hands-on class will make celeriac-hazelnut-truffle soup, a sweet onion galette with cashew béchamel, impressive mushroom Wellington with a root vegetable mash, shaved sweet potato and Brussels sprouts gratin with Marcona almond-maple cream sauce, plus gingerbread cupcakes with a cinnamon cream frosting.

 

 

 

Mommy, I’m scared…

Mommy, I’m scared…
About a month ago our 5 year-old came into our room in the middle of the night.  As a parent of three I know these nights are not uncommon. Thunderstorms, nightmares, and the occasional fevers and tummy aches are going to happen.  So half asleep, I arose and wearily walked her back to her bedroom.  I turned on her light and a surge of adrenaline filled my body when I saw the look of panic on her face.  I quickly realized she was in the throes of an asthma attack.   The horror in those sweet little eyes is something I will never forget.   We ended up in the local emergency room, but we were soon taken to Children’s Hospital via ambulance.  There was no question about whether we were staying, we just didn’t know if we would be admitted to a general floor or the pediatric intensive care unit.   Thankfully, she stabilized and we got a bed on a general floor where she improved quickly.  We were released about 36 hours later, thanks to the help and attention of some pretty amazing people.   But it brings me to tears to thinking about the, “what-if’s,” because some kids aren’t so lucky.

The average number of deaths a year from asthma is between 3,000-4,000. And while it doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s innumerable if your child is one of its casualties. Along with lung cancer and COPD, asthma falls under the umbrella of lung disease, which is the second leading cause of death in the US after heart disease.  But for this week’s post we are going to talk specifically about asthma.

Approximately 1.7 million people like my daughter are taken to the emergency room every year because of asthma.  Usually beginning in childhood, asthma affects over 7 million kids, and the number of little ones diagnosed every year is growing.  In his book “How Not To Die,” Dr. Michael Greger defines asthma as “an inflammatory disease characterized by recurring attacks of narrowed, swollen airways, causing shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.”  And it turns out that the prevalence and the increase of asthma is strongly correlated with where you live and what you eat.   Greger cites a groundbreaking study by the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood which followed more than a million children in nearly one hundred countries around the world.  Researchers discovered a striking “twentyfold to sixty fold difference in the prevalence of asthma, allergies, and eczema” depending on where a person lived and what they ate.   Greger said that “while air pollution and smoking rates may play a role, the most significant associations were not what was going into their lungs as much as what was going into their stomachs.”[1]

Researchers in Sweden tested out a strictly plant-based diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants on a group of severe asthmatics that were not getting better despite the best and most advanced medical treatments.  Of the twenty-four patients who stuck with the plant-based diet, 70% improved after four months, and 90% improved within one year. [2]  Within just one year of eating healthier, all but two patients were able to drop their dose of asthma medication or get off their steroids or other drugs, all together. [3]  Greger goes on to cite other large-scale studies showing the effects of diet on asthma and says, “The restorative powers of the human body are remarkable, but your body needs your help.  By including foods that contain cancer-fighting compounds and loading up on antioxidant rich fruits and veggies, you may be able to strengthen your respiratory defenses and breathe easier.” [4]   However, in a study of over 100,000 people in India, those who ate meat, dairy and eggs showed a significant increase in asthmatic symptoms.  “Eggs, (along with soda) have been strongly associated with asthma in children.” Removing eggs and dairy from a child’s diet has shown significant improvements in lung function in as little as 8 weeks.  [5]

But what about taking a pill loaded with vitamins?  Isn’t that just as good as eating vitamin rich foods?  No. A Harvard nurses study found that women who obtained high levels of vitamin E through eating whole foods (not supplements) like nuts appeared to have nearly half the risk of asthma of those who didn’t. But those who took the vitamin E supplement showed no improvement at all.

Food has always been a trigger for my daughter.  When she was a baby she had severe eczema.  For two years her doctor prescribed creams and other medications that helped, but it never went away until we removed dairy, eggs, and wheat.  A few weeks before her attack I thought I could be a little less restrictive about her diet and give her “just a little cheese, or just a little bread” and it turned out to be a really bad idea.  However, since this last attack I have been very mindful of what she eats.  Because if I don’t, the inflammation that begins in her nose will eventually move to her lungs and then the cough begins.  It’s tough and she gets really sad when she can’t have a slice of cheese pizza.  But I hope some day, at some point, she will understand why she needs to eat her fruits and veggies and that certain foods are not worth a trip to the emergency room.

 

 

 

[1]How Not to Die, Pgs. 38-39

[2]How Not to Die, Pgs. 40

[3]How Not to Die, Pgs. 40-41

[4]How Not to Die, Pg. 41

[5]How Not to Die Pg. 39

Heart Disease

Heart Disease
Famed cardiologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn once called heart disease a “toothless paper tiger that need never ever exist.  And if it does exist, it need never, ever progress.”  Yet heart disease kills more Americans every few years than ALL of our previous wars combined.  Most alarming, people who die from a heart attack get no warning sign whatsoever.  In fact, in his book “How Not To Die,” Dr. Michael Greger says of sudden cardiac deaths, “you may not even realize you’re at risk until it’s too late.” And for some, “their very first symptom may be their last.” Here one minute…and gone the next.  It’s scary, and unnecessary.  Yet a heart attack is also the number one reason that most of us, and those we love, will die.  In fact, every 40 seconds an American will die of a heart attack, which equals 610,000 annual deaths from heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.  So what is coronary heart disease, or CHD? Is it preventable? And if so, how?

Heart disease is a catchall phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and function.  It falls under the umbrella of a disease referred to as Cardiovascular Disease, or CVD.  According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, “CVD is the term for all types of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels, including coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, congenital heart defects and peripheral artery disease.”  Thanks to our Standard American Diet, or SAD (diet high in fat, low in fiber), fatty deposits build-up in the wall of our arteries and create what are called atherosclerotic plaques.  According to Greger, “the majority of people with this cholesterol-rich gunk” develop atherosclerosis (athere-meaning “gruel”) and (sclerosis—meaning “hardening”).  The build-up of these plaques, accumulate in the coronary arteries (arteries crowning the heart) and narrow the path for blood to flow to the heart.   Greger cites William C. Roberts, the editor in chief of the American Journal of Cardiology, “there are only two ways to achieve low cholesterol, put 200 million Americans on a lifetime of medications or recommend they all eat a diet centered around whole plant foods.”

To illustrate this point, Greger describes how western doctors in 1930’s and 40’s, working in African missionary hospitals, found that most of the diseases of the western world were virtually non-existent there.   Thinking they might be on to something, the doctors decided to compare the autopsies of Africans to those of Americans.  Amazingly, out of 632 Ugandans autopsied in Africa, there was evidence of only one single heart attack.   But out of 632 patients autopsied in Saint Louis, MO, doctors found evidence of 136 heart attacks…holy pork steaks!   Baffled by the results they opted to study another 800 Ugandans.  Out more than 1,400 bodies autopsied, there was still only that one person with a small “healed”lesion of the heart, meaning, that’s not even what caused their death.”  So it’s got to be about their genetics, right?  No. In fact, large-scale immigrant studies in China and Africa both showed how rates of certain diseases like heart disease, characteristically coincided with where one lives.  In other words, if you move to an area where there are high rates of disease your risk goes up.  But if you move to an area where there are low levels of disease your risk of disease goes down.   These are what they called lifestyle diseases. So what can we do to prevent heart disease?   Just focus on treating the cause and the symptoms will go away?  No, not when there is money to be made.  In 2017, Pfizer’s Lipitor generated 1.8 billion dollars in annual sales.  Greger jokes (or is he?) that because Lipitor, a cholesterol reducing drug, and the best selling drug of all time, “garnered so much enthusiasm some US health authorities reportedly advocated they be added to the public water supply like fluoride is.”   Statins like Lipitor are known to cause memory loss, increase the risk of diabetes, and may also double a woman’s risk of invasive breast cancer

Modern day Africans have extremely low cholesterol in their blood because their diets are comprised mainly of plant-derived foods, such as grains and vegetables.  That means a lot of fiber and very little animal fat.  Our western diet is mostly the opposite; comprised mainly of animal fat, and little or no plant fiber. Most of the fiber we do consume is processed (yeast breads and rolls, flour and corn tortillas, bagels, English muffins, etc.).  And why is fiber so important, you ask? Found in plant foods, soluble fiber binds to the cholesterol particles in our digestive system and moves them out of the body before they’re absorbed.  Insoluble fiber, aka, “roughage,” is also found in plant foods and essentially cleans out our intestines and keeps us feeling fuller longer.    Yet the average American consumes about half of the recommended amount of fiber per day and more than double the recommended amount of fat.

So how come our doctors don’t give us nutritional prescription?  Maybe because they don’t know any better.  Or maybe they have no interest in knowing any better.  Nutrition is not a requirement in most medical schools across the country.   Physicians are taught to look for a set of existing symptoms (dis-ease) and write a prescription(s) for those symptoms… That’s it.  Even if those pills do nothing to correct the underlying cause.  And even if the drugs cause other health problems to occur.  Medical practitioners have their required continuing education subsidized, if not entirely paid for, by the pharmaceutical industry.  In a recent poll, Dr. Marcia Angell, a Senior Lecturer from Harvard Medical School, observed a “staggering 94% of physicians surveyed acknowledged receiving financial compensation of some form from pharmaceutical companies.”  It has also become entirely standard practice for pharmaceutical companies to have a direct hand in both the design and analysis of medical research, as well as conducting clinical trials, and in the publication of those results.  And finally, many doctors themselves are not healthy people.   Overweight and out of shape, many doctors today parallel their cigarette smoking predecessors of 50 years ago.  Dr. Neal Barnard of The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, observed that doctors finally realized they were “more effective in counseling patients to quit smoking if they no longer had tobacco stains on their own fingers.”  Barnard also likened a plant-based diet as the nutritional equivalent to quitting smoking.

Greger finishes the chapter on heart disease by further explaining why more doctors don’t counsel their high cholesterol patients about nutrition as an option for treatment.  Aside from not having enough time to counsel their patients on diet (this was the case as explained by my own physician), most of them said they didn’t want their patients to feel “deprived” of eating the foods they loved.