Many people give up certain life behaviors in observing Lent as a sign of sacrifice and to develop self-discipline.
This can mean refraining from specific foods or drinks (often animal products, alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or other favorites). If you are one of these people and have been successful with your withdrawal during this time, congratulations! You can feel very proud of yourself.
Hopefully, all the healthy changes you’ve made become routine. Change is difficult for those who have lived their entire lives eating animal products, but every little change we make has an impact on our bodies and, when you consider the fact that animal farming accelerates global warming, potentially the whole world.
Dr. Michael Greger, who specializes in clinical nutrition, has written a book called “How Not to Die”. It contains information on how the food we eat affects our health, both for better and for worse.
It is divided into two parts; the first focuses on the most common diseases that people have today. If you’re like me, you probably have family members dealing with heart disease, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, brain disease, and others.
Fifteen diseases are examined in this section. When I read each of them, I was shocked to learn how food can make you sick and how most diseases can be prevented, reversed, or at least controlled by following a healthy diet.
The book is packed with relevant nutritional information and I want to mention several key points in Part I. Greger argues that “Most deaths in the United States are preventable and related to what we eat. Our diet is the number one cause of death. premature and primary cause of disability “.
The Center for Disease Control website shows that for 2020 the top three leading causes of death in the United States were: 1) heart disease: 696,962, 2) cancer: 602,350, and 3) COVID-19: 350,831.
Stop and think for a moment that COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic was the third leading cause of mortality, yet it’s only half the number of all heart disease-related deaths over the same time period.
Greger states, “To become virtually heart attack proof, LDL cholesterol needs to be at least below 70 mg / dL.”
One study mentioned in the book involves patients with advanced heart disease who were put on plant-based diets in the hope that a healthy diet would prevent disease progression.
Greger states: “Instead something miraculous happened. Their patients’ heart diseases have started to reverse. These patients were improving. As soon as they stopped eating a diet of arterial-clogging foods, their bodies were able to begin dissolving some of the plaque that had built up. The arteries opened without drugs or surgery, even in patients with severe three-vessel disease. This suggests that their bodies have always wanted to heal, but they were never given the chance.
In Part 2 of the book, Greger discusses his concept of “The Daily Dozen,” a list that includes 11 foods we must eat every day to stay healthy. (Number 12 on the Daily Dozen list is exercise.) These are the various food categories, along with the recommended number of servings: Beans: 3, Berries: 1, Other Fruits: 3, Cruciferous Vegetables: 1, Vegetables: 2, other vegetables: 2, flax seeds: 1, nuts and seeds: 1, herbs and spices: 1, whole grains: 3 and drinks: 5.
Each of these categories is described in great detail. There is a free app available that makes it easy to track your daily dozen. I started using it a couple of months ago and the first thing I thought was “How hard can it be to eat this in one day?” (I wasn’t even thinking about the exercise, which is the hardest for me.)
So on day one, I was ready to give it a try and decided I wouldn’t eat anything else until I finished the list. As it turned out, I still lacked two servings of beans and exercise that day.
I can’t say I get it all, but I still try to check out as many Daily Dozen as possible. It’s a challenge, especially on weekends. It keeps me responsible for how healthy (or unhealthy) I am eating.
Try the Daily Dozen app. It will be interesting to see which foods are easy or difficult for you.
For me, the berries are still tough. Unless you make a smoothie or have fresh strawberries, I don’t usually eat them.
I told a cousin how I struggled to eat berries and she said, “You’re crazy! This is the simplest! ” So, you see, every person is different. I think in general most people want to eat healthier and take care of their body.
I also highly recommend the Greger’s Nutrition Facts website (https://nutritionfacts.org/). You will find a lot of interesting information on a variety of health-related topics. A free, digital subscription will provide you with research-based information presented in short, easy-to-understand and entertaining videos.
Greger’s team also wrote the “How Not to Die Cookbook”. If you want to try out some recipe ideas, most local libraries have copies.
The Nutrition Facts website is also a resource; just enter the word “recipes” in the search bar. Below are the recipes from the cookbook.
From red to lentils with vegetables
This warm, comforting and delicious dal can be served on its own or over cooked brown, black or red rice.
Yield: about 6 cups
- 1½ C of red lentils
- 3 tbsp vegetable stock (recommended: Better Than Bouillon, vegetable flavoring)
- 3 tbsp. Spinach or other vegetables, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 1-14.5 oz can (without PBA) of diced cherry tomatoes without salt
- ¼ C of fresh coriander
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. finely chopped fresh ginger (or ¼-½ tsp ground)
- 1 small hot green pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 Teaspoon. white miso paste
- 1 Teaspoon. cumin powder
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- 1/4 inch fresh turmeric, grated (or ¼ tsp ground)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Brown, black or red cooked rice (optional)
1. In a large pot, cook the lentils in the vegetable broth. Whole lentils will take 15-20 minutes; for broken lentils, the time is 5-7 minutes. (Don’t overcook or the lentils will get mushy.)
2. Add the spinach, tomatoes and cilantro, stirring to let the spinach wilt. Reduce the heat to low heat.
3. In a small pan heat 2 tbsp. water over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli. Cook until softened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add the nutritional yeast, miso, cumin, coriander, turmeric and lemon juice; mix well. Add the spice mixture to the lentils and toss to combine. Keep on low heat for a few minutes so that the flavors come together.
4. Serve with toasted vegan naan or pita bread if desired.
Dozens of daily servings: beans, greens, other vegetables, herbs / spices (and whole grains, if used)
No-bake cookies with oatmeal and nuts
Yield: 30 cookies
These delicious treats can be prepared in minutes.
- 1½ cup soft, pitted dates
- 1 cup of pieces of walnuts
- 1 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 tbsp. date sugar, to taste
- 1 tablespoon. ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 2 tbsp. hot water
- 1 Teaspoon. vanilla extract
- 1 Teaspoon. cinnamon powder
- Water if needed
1. In a food processor, combine the dates, walnuts and oats; work until it is crumbly. Add the date sugar (if used), the flax mixture, the vanilla and the cinnamon. Knead until the dough holds together. If the mixture seems too dry to dry, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the desired consistency.
2. To form the biscuits, take about a tablespoon of dough and squeeze it between your hands to form a ball. Arrange the balls on a flat container. Use a fork to press them down to flatten them slightly.
3. Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.
Dozens of daily servings: fruit, flax seeds, nuts / seeds, herbs / spices, whole grains
Banana and chocolate smoothie
This creamy, chocolatey smoothie tastes so rich and delicious you’ll forget how healthy it is!
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 ripe banana, frozen
- ⅓ cup of frozen blueberries
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon. ground flax seeds
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon. almond butter or peanut butter
- 2 tbsp. date syrup or maple syrup
- 1 cup of raw spinach leaves
- 1 cup of water
- 3 to 4 ice cubes (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender. Blend until you get a thick and smooth cream. For a thinner consistency, add more water or decrease the number of ice cubes if using. Serve immediately.
Servings daily dozens: berries, other fruits, vegetables, flax seeds, nuts / seeds, beverages
Note: A good smoothie strategy is to combine super delicious foods with perhaps less tasty ones, like mangoes with raw kale, so that they balance each other out. Smoothies allow you to consume foods that you might not otherwise fit into your daily diet and are easy to prepare and affordable.
Maria Mendizabal has been a vegetarian for 14 years and a vegan for five. She comes from Guatemala and lives in Marion. She is chairman of the board of trustees of the Eastern Iowa vegan community.
For questions or comments about the Eastern Iowa vegan community, email email@example.com or visit www.veganeasterniowa.org. Everyone is invited to participate in the VCEI on Facebook and MeetUp.