Last weekend was everything I'd hoped it would be; two days filled with education and motivation to encourage me to get back to healthy eating. Viewing photos of exactly what happens to the body's blood vessels when certain types of food are consumed makes hearing about the research have more impact. Even better is hearing just how much capacity the body has to heal itself when harmful substances are removed and it is nourished with health-promoting foods.
Whether I like it or not, the science shows that human bodies do not thrive on animal products, oil, or sugar. Sure, there are plenty of anecdotal tales of so-and-so living to a ripe old age on a diet of beer and sausages but that is not the norm. The norm is what is so prevalent in the U.S. right now, as well as other Western countries eating a rich diet of animal products, fat, sugar, and processed foods, and that norm is skyrocketing disease. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, the big three, all thrive on the rich Western diet. They are far more rare in countries that eat a primarily plant-based diet low in fats and processed foods.
The great thing is that plenty of research, both in the lab and in medical practice, show that heart disease and diabetes can be slowed down, stopped, and even reversed by adopting a healthier way of eating. Cancer's progression can often be slowed as well. I'll add more links to the sidebar for those who wish to read more from the experts. Yes, there are plenty of dissenting opinions. Remember, however, that the industries that produce the foods that are not really the best for humans are very big and have a great deal of money and power to throw around in advertising, lobbying, and other means of influencing opinion and policy.
In any case, I'm not here to try to get you to believe me. You are gonna believe what you want and that's fine. For me, though, it's time to go in the direction that always improves my health and that is eating a plant-based diet with no added oil and as little sugar as I can convince my tastebuds they can deal with.
For this month, my goal is to stick to 100% plant-based foods. I'm not worrying about the other aspects - fat, sugar, processed foods - quite as much although I am avoiding them much more than I had been. I don't use oil to saute my vegetables, dress my salads, or in my baking. However, I did make some coconut rice to use up one of my last cans of "lite" coconut milk. (Lite is in quotation marks because this product is still 80% FAT and mostly saturated. And yes, coconut oil is still hard on the heart despite the positive spin the coconut industry is trying to put on its products.)
I'm reducing my sugar intake. I've finally quit my Starbucks habit, a drink absolutely loaded with fat and sugar, but I am still drinking decaf coffee at home. Despite much preferring sweet creamy coffee, I've so far reduced the sugar to 3 1/2 teaspoons per large mug (about 2 cups of liquid). My goal is to eliminate the added sugar so the only sweetener is coming from the vanilla almond milk and lite vanilla soy milk I use in it. This week I also made an experimental batch of pumpkin muffins that normally contains a cup of brown sugar. I used half a cup and they are still pretty good. They are more like a bread than a sweet muffin but I can live with that, especially as they are made with a tasty whole-grain flour.
For optimal nutrition (and easier weight loss), sticking to whole, unprocessed foods is better than using processed foods. In other words, eating corn kernels instead of cornbread and a bowl of rolled oats instead of wheat flake cereal. And definitely brown rice instead of white. However ... like I said, I'm not worrying so much about that this month. My DH hates brown rice so I will sometimes eat his white rice rather than make two kinds of rice for a meal. I much prefer muffins or toast to oatmeal so my breakfast is more likely to be a bit more processed for a while, although I do like hashbrowns and they are a nice whole food. Each month I plan to take another step in the direction of more healthful eating, building on the success of the previous month. This will help me enjoy my food while not feeling like all the tasty, fun choices are now off-limits.
Speaking of fun food, I used a coupon at Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up a Yonanas machine. You feed frozen bananas and/or other frozen fruit through the chute and it dispenses a creamy ice-cream like dessert. While I do make a delicious homemade non-dairy ice cream, my recipe contains 1/4 cup of sugar per serving. The Yonanas desserts contain no added sugar, just fruit. It does not taste "just like ice cream" but it does taste good. We're going to play around with it during the hot summer months and see if it satisfies the cravings for nice cold ice cream at the end of a brutally scorching day of hard yard work on the weekends.
A return to regular aerobic exercise is still somewhat on hold while I await the return of my custom orthotics from refurbishing. My heel pain was really aggravated from doing the quarter marathon at the end of March and I'm still unable to do much walking and definitely no running. Biking has been okay but it tightens the muscles which seems to have some impact. Stretching has been the center of my exercise routine lately!
That's all the news from Chile's kitchen and dining table. It's time for me to go slice vegetables (red onion, tomato, red pepper) and wash lettuce to go on the hummus sandwiches for lunch.