Saturday, February 27, 2016

Just Hear Me Out

Some don’t want to consider the possibility until it’s too late. Some prefer to spend their time on other matters, perhaps considering it tedious to give it too much thought. It’s a subject as important as life and death, yet we can’t bother to give it the time of day. 

I want to talk about your diet, what you eat on a daily basis. 

This is a topic folks get vehemently defensive about for various reasons. Our nutrition is tied to our essence, our identities, stemming from our cultures, ethnicities, and thus sensitive pride and ego. What we eat has defined us for so long, through the entirety of our lives in fact, that we find it impossible to open our minds to other ways of living. Family traditions and national holidays consistently reinforce these poorly established eating habits. 

What if I told you that the link we’ve formed with our food does not just adversely affect our day-to-day living, but it can slowly (or sometimes even quickly) kill us? This killing happens by means of the many afflictions that mark our society, such as heart disease, cancer, blood ailments, mental illness, and ironically even malnourishment. Our country is one of uncontrollable excess, inflating not just ourselves, but the increasingly rich pharmaceutical companies that profit from our overindulgences. It therefore becomes critical that we at least consider other ways of eating and living. 

I get it. It’s not easy. Being born in Puerto Rico in the 1970s, my family’s meals consisted of pork, white rice, and dairy laden desserts. However, Puerto Rico during the 1970s had a wealth of organic produce growing throughout the island with much of its agriculture preserved and cultivated for personal use. As a child, I had free access to trees overabundant with ripe mangoes, many different banana species, coconuts, and other rich, tropical fruits. Plates were served with heaps of greens, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Once we moved to New York City though our diet took a 180 degree turn. We still had our rice and beans, but instead of fresh greens, we now had full, unlimited access to sugar overload in our breakfast cereals, processed sweets, candies, and artificially colored waters and sodas. The 1980s wasn’t a time for parents to consider how this could pose serious detriments to their families’ health. 

It seemed that from one day to the next, multiple family members got identical diagnoses: diabetes came in first, followed closely by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Friends from similar cultures were also struck by cancer, heart attacks, and obesity.  

I don’t think any one of us ever made the connection between diet and health. It is only now that I am realizing how preventable all these ailments could have been. 

Here is the major contributor of disease in our country: animal products and processed food. 

Here is the easiest solution: Eat whole, plant foods. 

Simple enough yet many claim it is simply not possible, not attainable, and certainly not realistic. Others say it is too extreme to give up meat, dairy, processed food and eat ‘just’ whole, plant foods. 

Do you know what I consider extreme? Dying from a disease you could have prevented by making simple life changes. Popping pills to feel better and having side effects such as gangrene, coagulation, diarrhea, constipation, and suicidal thoughts. Feeling like crap every single day of your life.  That is what I would deem extreme. 

I don’t like the term vegan too much because the focus is on what you CAN’T eat. A much better term is plant-based nutrition, which encompasses all the fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains you can nourish yourself with. It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet of fresh abundance!

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
― Hippocrates

Truth be told, we humans are not omnivores, we are scavengers much like rats and roaches. In evolutionary terms, our digestive system is not equipped to process artificial modifiers, pounds of meat three times a day, and milk from other mammals. The fact that we can survive for so long despite the garbage we eat is incredible. But our quality of life has diminished to the point that as we age it’s no longer a life worth living. 

There is a direct and scientifically studied correlation between our diet and the health of our insides. 

When people argue against a vegetarian or vegan diet, they point to what they perceive as a lack of protein, vitamin B-12, and calcium. Besides the fact that we overinflate the importance of protein in our diet thus leading to many kidney issues, what many don’t realize is that the majority of people who eat the standard American diet are already deficient in these vitamins and more. 

Plants will heal you, if you let them. 

There is plethora of equally valid reasons for you to consider when deciding whether you should go plant-based. Our world cannot sustain factory farming, animals suffer miserably and needlessly for sustenance that we can seek elsewhere, and their products come to us contaminated with alarming levels of chemicals, antibiotics, and hormones. 

I am asking you to consider just one reason: eat whole plants for your Health

Can I challenge you to 1 month? 1 month of fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains. At the end of the month, evaluate how you feel and then decide. 

Here is a sample menu of what 1 day could look like: 

Oatmeal (gluten free) cooked with almond milk and served with fresh berries, bananas, and/or peaches.

Midday Snack
3 ingredient smoothie (6 cups raw spinach, 2 speckled bananas, 1 medjool date, 3 cups water)

Protein sandwiches (Gluten free bread smeared with hummus, and filled with raw, sliced cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes. Served with a side of roasted pumpkin seeds)

Midafternoon Snack
Fresh fruit (sliced apples or oranges)

Lentil soup with ¼ avocado, served with sprouted brown rice, and strips of a raw cruciferous vegetable.

1 piece of dark vegan chocolate or frozen fruit pureed.

Here are some reads that helped me. I hope they can help you:
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
How Not to Die by Gene Stone and Michael Greger, MD
The Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD
The Campbell Plan by Thomas Campbell, MD

Here are web-based links for plant-based recipes and nutrition facts:

Let me know what you think. I always welcome your opinions, contrary or not! 

Enjoying a crisp whole apple and a cold day at the beach.


  1. Thanks for the book list and the links. I think I could do this if I had very specific menus to follow. Definitely not the way I was raised or learned to eat!

    1. I agree! I unfortunately did not learn how to eat well as a child either, and had to learn through much trial and error. Many trips to the doctor for common ailments that they were not able to help with inspired me on this journey. I hope you enjoy the reads, and they inspire you. Thank you for reading!

  2. Hi! Thought I'd leave this article in your comments. It could be helpful to you as you continue sharing your journey with others.

    1. How fascinating! I am currently reading 'The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga' of which a big part is practicing acceptance and non-judgment. I struggle with that one daily. Thank you for link and for reading.

  3. You offer a lot to think about here. I'm a little confused though. I thought they had to process out the gluten from oatmeal and breads. Those processed foods are OK?

    1. Yes! Absolutely. Also gluten free bread. It's all relative though, and when compared to the instant oats of artificial flavors in the supermarket, Bob's Red Mill is a much better choice. I think it's all about comparing and going first for the whole fruit or vegetable, and as a 2nd option for the minimally processed grain. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  4. You offer a lot to think about here. I'm a little confused though. I thought they had to process out the gluten from oatmeal and breads. Those processed foods are OK?