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My husband Phil and I chose to go vegan in 2012 after two years of vegetarianism and after viewing a film called Forks over Knives. This documentary made famous The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, an expansive dietary study conducted in the 1980s. Many thousands of Chinese were interviewed and their blood analyzed in an effort to understand why, after the Western diet was introduced on that continent, people began to exhibit the same disease states and causes of death as westerners—cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—when previously those diseases had been rare.
What was discovered was that people who ate closest to a ninety-five percent plant-based diet—in other words, the poorest who relied mostly on what they grew themselves—had the lowest incidence of disease. In fact, they were afflicted by virtually none of the big monsters that regularly kill Americans. As a former registered nurse, I knew of this study but had not thought of it since my years as an undergraduate science major. But Phil had been taking an oral hypoglycemic for several years to control his blood sugar, and we were looking for a non-pharmaceutical solution—not a treatment, but a cure.
On the spot we made a decision to explore the vegan life, deciding first to give up dairy products. Seemingly overnight, a rather amazing array of health-related troubles fell away. We both had suffered for decades—me with earaches, Phil with sinus infections and allergies—and had taken a riot of antibiotics. Not to get too personal, but for each of us, it took ten days for our heads to stop draining.
Once we had recovered from dairy detox, we lost our taste for eggs and eventually let go of those, too—although I did for a while continue to use them in baking, simply because I didn’t know what else to do.
Some folks choose the vegan path because they care too much about animals to eat them. We never thought about that part, since we had a habit of buying meat from local ranchers who put care into the creatures they reared and sold. Phil and I both cling to the idea that it is better to support our neighbors than big business. We’d like to see a return to commerce where the center of life is the community. We’d much rather help our neighbor buy a new car or boat than add more pennies to the pot of already-wealthy folks heading up large corporations.
But I will tell you that the lives and treatment of pigs, cows, and chickens meant for wholesale slaughter are deplorable. If you knew the truth about it, you’d never sink your teeth into grocery-store animal flesh again. One film that has opened the eyes of many is Food, Inc., and I highly recommend it, along with Deborah Koons Garcia’s Symphony of the Soil.
At this point, as much as possible, we eat raw foods. We focus on vegetables—and a wide variety of them—and then nuts, seeds, nut butter, legumes, coconut yogurt and coconut milk, and on occasion, grains such as certified gluten-free oats, millet, and quinoa. Five days a week we each drink a Phil’s Daily Hemp Shake (see recipe below), which is made with fresh or frozen fruit, kale or spinach, and hemp protein powder—a ritual that has helped us lose weight, although Phil more so than I. We try to keep dark chocolate on hand, for the heart benefits it is known to lend, and eat an ounce each most nights, especially during fall and winter. We both take a Vitamin B12 supplement—vegans have almost no other way of getting it and deficiencies can cause terrible damage to the spine—and I take calcium because of worries we women have about the quality of our bone structure as we age. We both take Vitamin D3, which is necessary to facilitate calcium absorption and which the body normally manufactures itself in response to sun exposure. Since we live so far north and have indoor jobs, we need to ingest supplements in order to avoid deficiencies. Phil also drinks aloe vera juice every day, which for several years now has kept his diverticulosis quiet….
What we have found across the board is that the flavor and texture is always superior in organically-grown produce because of the lack of chemical fertilizer, which makes fruits and vegetables grow too rapidly and too big. As much as possible, we buy from local farmers and growers in season and try very hard not to buy goods shipped from other countries, no matter the season. It makes no sense to me to pay for an apple to come half way around the world in the dark of winter. It does make sense to me to buy local and to either dry or preserve food so that we might enjoy it in the off-season.
Giving up commercially-prepared soda pop is a good first step toward improved health. But that doesn’t mean we have to limit ourselves to water, although getting enough of that is equally important. I believe liquid refreshment can be just as restorative as good food.
PHIL’S DAILY HEMP SHAKE
2 medium-sized bananas
2 cups berries, mango, or other fresh fruit
1 cup washed and torn kale or spinach, loosely packed
4 tablespoons hemp powder
1⁄2 cup plain coconut milk yogurt
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage
2 cups sparkling mineral water
This is what we take to work every day—and nothing else. A quart-sized glass jar of it is just enough for lunch and snacks. Phil lost about twenty-five pounds the first year he did this, which was the year before we switched to vegetarianism. I haven’t been so lucky, but we both agree that this is the change that made us recognize the relationship between food and health and taught us that hemp protein is one of our most potent nutritional sources.
Chop bananas and/or other fruit and add to blender with yogurt and coconut milk. Add hemp powder and blend for at least 2 minutes. Add sparkling water and blend for 1 minute. Adjust the ingredients to suit individual taste. Makes approximately two quarts.
From Blue Moon Vegan: Over 100 Plant Based, Gluten-free Recipes for Healthy Living by Paula Marie Coomer with Jan Calvert, published by Booktrope Editions. Published in Vox Populi by permission of the author.