Heart Health

Thomas Rude is my very favorite artist. I was fortunate enough to meet him once, while I was visiting Portland. You can check out some of his prints here. I have the one of the American flag and the one of a heart. It’s the one of the heart that I’ve been meditating on a bit today.

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “good hearted” a lot  lately. To have a good heart is to be kind, decent, compassionate. It is to be emotionally generous and benevolent. I want to have a good heart, in every one of these ways, but I also want to have a strong heart – the kind that keeps pumping, well into my eighties. Maybe even my nineties. It’s why I spent the month of January trying out a whole-foods, plant based diet (which I loved, and promptly abandoned – it’s been ice cream and cheddar cheese at Casa Minify of late!)

Enough. I turn thirty one years old on Sunday. The love of my life is now thirty, with a family history of high cholesterol. It’s time we made a more permanent change. January went far better than I expected, but I don’t think I can commit to being a permanent vegan. Mostly vegan, yes, but not entirely. It’s not that I missed specific foods – I expected to miss them dearly, but cheese and ice cream weren’t even that desirable, within about a week of giving them up. The challenge for me is that a vegan diet requires a lot of thoughtful commitment to things like Vitamins D and B12, and in a household where one member can’t have tree nuts or soy, it was a bit complicated to plan balanced meals that met all of our nutritional needs.

I did a lot of reading, and the scientific evidence is piling up in support of the mediterranean diet.  (Side note: have we talked about my obsession with the Nurses Health Study? No? It’s the greatest long term observational research design OF ALL TIME. Let’s nerd out over research methods some other time, though.) Today I’m interested in one of the many findings that have come out of the Nurses Health Study – what you eat now matters later. And a diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, and low in saturated fats and transfats, predicts better long term health outcomes. The mediterranean diet is still mostly plant based, and focuses not on reducing total fat, but on eating better quality fats (olive oil in place of butter, for example, or more nuts and less red meat). I’m thinking seriously about committing to following a more mediterranean diet at our house. I was drawn to it because it’s evidence based, mostly plant based, favors whole foods, and is good for us and the planet. Also – who are we kidding – because it still allows a glass of wine with dinner, which frankly makes the whole thing about ten times more appealing. I’m not interested in dieting for my looks, or lists of forbidden foods, or temporary change. I’m interested in changing my long term habits so that we can live a longer, healthier, more sustainable life.

If you’d like to follow along or read more about the mediterranean diet, you can read more from the Mayo Clinic here.

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Tastiest, easiest vegan supper yet

Got home late from the gym and was delighted that Josh made this! (Serves 3 or 4)

1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1/2 bag frozen corn
1 cup mushroom broth
2 avocados
Chipotle sauce (whatever sauce you like, really).

Heat first 4 ingredients on the stovetop. While that’s heating, chop up an avocado or two! Drain warm corn & bean mixture, add sauce, top with avocado, season with salt and pepper. Dinner is served, in under ten minutes, and it contains whole protein (beans and corn) and healthy fats (avocado)!

I’m teaching my first real class this semester, and trying to propose my dissertation before the semester ends, so I’m on campus until laaaate these days. Tonight’s delicious bowl of goodness? Perfect for a week like this!

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What do you eat on a plant based diet, anyway?

This seems to be a popular question, so I thought I’d give it a go, with the caveat that I’m new at this and I’m not a registered dietitian, so for the love of your own health, people, don’t take this as advice. Rather, it’s intended as an illustration that I’m not subsisting off of salad.

Breakfast:

Oatmeal with smartbalance (it’s like butter, but plant based), cinnamon and almond butter; banana; COFFEE.

Cereal with almond milk; blueberry smoothie; COFFEE

Tangerine, protein bar, almond milk, COFFEE (always coffee in the morning. always).

Lunch:

Sauteed kale with mushrooms and pecans; quinoa; more almond milk

Bean and corn soup with spinach and tomatoes; tea

Avocado, walnut, hummus & tomato sandwich (I’m also fond of apple and almond butter as a sandwich combo)

Roast sweet potatoes; butternut squash soup

Supper:

Pasta (it’s quinoa based) with tomato basil sauce and mushrooms

Spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce on top! Or pesto! and yes, a salad.

Roast root veggies and a side of leafy greens

Homemade pizza with homemade pesto, portabellos and pine nuts (this is the BEST)

Quinoa with stir fried veggies, topped with soy sauce

Snacks:

I’m big on fresh fruit, dried fruit, hummus on veggies, guacamole and chips, and nuts. I have jars and jars of pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds and pistachios in my kitchen, and they’re my go-to snack and favorite source of fats and proteins. They’re also kind of pricey, so pro tip: buy them in bulk at Whole Foods or another market with bulk foods. Keep them in mason jars for cheap easy storage that will keep them fresh longer.

Desserts:

It turns out that dark chocolate is often vegan, and very easy to find, in my neck of the woods. I have a stash of it hidden in our cupboard where the non-vegan husband won’t find it (he can fend for himself when it comes to dessert, for the time being). So far I’m still taking a break from refined sugar, but on the day that I just need chocolate, it will be there waiting for me.

Yesterday was my one meal out to eat this week, and I went to brunch with friends. Remember, I’m only adhering to a plants-only diet at home – out and about, I’m still eating some animal products, until I get the hang of this new way of eating. I’m easing my way into it. So I had an omelette, with brie, and I loved it – but no more than the stuff I’ve been eating at home. How weird is that? All week I waited for cheese (and eggs. and butter. The lacto-ovo trifecta!), and it turns out that if you eat enough kale, you can grow to like it better than cheese. I think it has something to do with the way I feel after the last six days – I feel really good, and happy.

Also – I think I’m keeping honey, y’all. It turns out I miss it the most (every night while I drink my tea, and don’t even talk to me about stevia as if it’s the same, because no.it.is.not), and it’s not like I consume it to excess, so…I think honey stays. Apparently, this is a huge debate among vegans. I’m interested in improving my health and the state of the planet, not hard line adherence to a set of principles outside my own. So I’m going to stick with the term “(mostly) plant based diet” and avoid labeling myself vegan for the time being, because I don’t want to mislead anyone about how far I’m taking this. For the record, on the day that I think it no longer serves my health or the planet’s, I’m going to try something else. Remember: I’ve only committed through January. When it comes to the end of the month, I’m going to reevaluate and decide whether or not to keep going.