The plant based nurse

My family's excellent adventure to better health!


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Meet Mike: An unintentional self study in health and wellness!

Meet our friend, Mike Vasey! We met Mike and his wife over 30 years ago when my husband was a student at Penn State University. We reconnected recently online and much to our surprise, we had both stumbled upon the news that plant-based eating can not only prevent, but also reverse many chronic illnesses. As a university professor and critical thinker, Mike was attracted to the science behind the positive effects of a plant-based diet.
Hear Mike’s story in his own words:
One problem with the many positive testimonials regarding the health impact of a plant-based diet is that one cannot be completely confident the dietary change was the cause of the improved health. Don’t get me wrong, I find it pretty compelling when longstanding conditions change when diet changes. But one still lacks a hypothetical counter factual – a way of estimating how the person would have done without the dietary change. That’s where controlled experiments come in. One way to add a hypothetical counterfactual is to reverse the change to see if weight, cholesterol, etc. go back to where they were before one started. Then one can re-institute the dietary change and see if things improve again. That is known as an ABAB single-subject research design (A = baseline, B = intervention).
Unintentionally, over the past five years I have done such a reversal study on myself regarding the impact of a plant-based diet with no added oil. Five years ago I chanced upon a local broadcast of a talk by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. on reversing and preventing heart disease with diet. I have a strong family history of heart disease – my father had at least five heart attacks – so the topic piqued my interest. I found Dr. Esselstyn’s data compelling so I decided to give it a try. At the time my total cholesterol was 200 (it had reached a high of 237 some years earlier, which prompted some improvement in my eating habits [translation: I ate less sausage and similar things]). My weight was about 208. I am about 6′ 2″ so my BMI was 26.7.
With very rare exceptions I was successful in following the Esselstyn diet. It took about six weeks before I found it to no longer be a challenge. By then, I had identified things I liked to eat and had modified recipes to be oil free. It helped that I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day so once I had those two meals figured out (oatmeal with bananas and dried cranberries for breakfast, a big salad for lunch) only supper was an issue. I tended to cook a few one dish meals (e.g., lots of soups) on the weekend and eat them during the week. Between meals I snacked on fruit and veggies.
Based on Esselstyn’s book , I expected things to change fairly quickly and mostly they did. I was on two blood pressure medicines at the time, mostly to control cluster headaches but also due to mild hypertension. Within two weeks of eliminating oil from my diet my blood pressure dropped to the point that I was light headed when I stood up. With my doctor’s consent I dropped the med that was unrelated to cluster headaches and things went back to normal. Simultaneously I started losing weight. After one month my weight was 196 (BMI = 25.2) but my total cholesterol hadn’t changed much, dropping only to 180. After six months I had lost 27 pounds to 181 (BMI = 23.2) so I expected my cholesterol would follow suit. However, when I completed a biometric screening for work at the six month mark, my cholesterol was still 180. That was a bit discouraging since my goal was to get it below 150, the threshold below which nobody in the Framingham Heart Study had a heart attack. But I kept at it and after a year and a half my total cholesterol was 154, which was very near my goal. And my weight was down to 172 (BMI = 22.1). Eventually my weight bottomed out at 170 (BMI = 21.😎) and my total cholesterol stayed below 130.
Then about 18-months ago, I went through a prolonged stressful period and I got lazy regarding my diet. I essentially went back to baseline in terms of my diet. I tended to eat whatever was easiest and that was often something processed and high in fat. Predictably, my weight went up until it was 196 (BMI = 25.2) at my annual biometric screening on 9/12/16 and my total cholesterol was back up to 198. Added to that, my A1C was 6.1, which is borderline diabetic and diabetes is something else that runs in my family. Needless to say, those numbers got my attention. So I immediately went back to the all plant-based, no added oil diet. After nearly five weeks I had my blood work redone by my doctor. My total cholesterol had dropped by 27 points to 171, my weight was 188 (BMI = 24.1), and my A1C was down to 5.5, which is still high but in the normal range.
Between then and now (12/26/16) I spent a week in Belgium and while eating plant-based was mostly possible (hey, beer is plant-based!), forget the no added oil part. We also had Thanksgiving and Christmas and I must admit to straying a bit with all the holiday goodies around the house (my family does not follow my diet and that can be challenging at times). Nevertheless, my weight is now down to 182 (BMI = 23.4) and I expect it to keep dropping. I’m sure my cholesterol and blood sugar will follow suit. I’m glad to be back on a healthy path.
 mike-vasey
Mike with the tallest man skeleton at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia
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Why is Nutrition Ignored in Medicine?

Free program at TCMC Wed November 30th at 5:30 p.m. “Why is Nutrition Ignored in Medicine?” by T. Colin Campbell. This is part of the Preventive Medicine Lecture Series at The Commonwealth Medical College. There will be continuing Education Credit for medical professionals, too! Open to the public and all are welcome.

For decades, Dr. T. Colin Campbell has been at the forefront of nutrition education and research. Dr. Campbell’s expertise and scientific interests encompass relationships between diet and diseases, particularly the causation of cancer. His legacy, the China Project, is one  of the most comprehensive studies of health and nutrition ever conducted. The New York Times has recognized the study as the “Grand Prix of epidemiology.”

For out of towners, Scranton is about two hours away from Philadelphia and NYC.

CALL OR GO TO THE WEBSITE ON THE FLYER BELOW TO REGISTER. YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS THIS GREAT PROGRAM!

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Soup’s on! Scott Yum Soup, that is…

img_20161106_202405My husband was craving noodle soup this week and I finally decided to make it for him. Two bowls later, I’m not sure if I really made it for him, or for myself!
One of my favorite soups is the Vegetarian Tom Yum soup at our favorite local Thai restaurant but I have not been able to recreate it. I prefer to make soup at home when I can since the restaurant versions are usually higher in sodium and it’s fun to experiment and have a new soup every time I make it.
The first time I attempted a Thai soup, I used a recipe that a friend shared with me but it didn’t have quite the zing we were looking for. Finally, my husband Scott said he thought some fresh lime juice would give it that missing flavor we were craving. I don’t expect this will be the same soup the next time I make it, and I hope that if you make it, you will play with it and make it your own. You can use whatever veggies you like or have in your fridge, add and subtract ingredients as you like and share it with your friends and family!
Here is my version of Tom Yum Soup which I call “Scott Yum Soup” named for my husband Scott. I finally looked up Tom Yum soup and it appears I am missing lemongrass, so maybe next time!
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Ingredients:
64 oz veggie broth
3-4 chopped green onions, white and green parts
1 or 2 thinly sliced carrots
4-5 sliced mushrooms (use whatever variety you prefer)
2-3 tablespoons of fresh ginger, peeled and grated with a ceramic grater or minced in a mini chopper
1-2 cups chopped baby bok choy
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce or Braggs Liquid Aminos
1 teaspoon miso
3-4 oz rice noodles or brown rice noodles
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek
Optional: Cubed tofu (extra firm) I like to use an 8 oz pkg of already cubed tofu tofu to make the job quicker. You can use the tofu plain, but I like to drain it and add a splash of low sodium soy sauce, sprinkle the tofu with Chinese Five Spice and bake it on parchment paper for about 20 min at 450 degrees in my toaster oven.
Directions:
1. Pour the veggie broth into a nice big pot on medium heat
2. Add the green onions, carrots, mushrooms, fresh ginger, bok choy, soy sauce and miso and  bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5-10 minutes.
3. Turn the burner off, then add the tofu and the noodles. The rice vermicelli I use just needs to sit in the hot broth for about 2 min. Be sure to follow the directions for whatever kind of noodles you use.
4. Add fresh cilantro to taste, reserve some for garnish at the table
5. Add the sambal oelek, use less if you don’t like spice and more if you love it!
6. Add the lime juice and zest and serve!
7. Serve with extra Sambal Oelek , cilantro, and fresh lime wedges or slices if desired.
A second bowl? I think I will!
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Always remember to– Have fun with your food and enjoy!
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Cheap-Ass Fake-Ass Veggie Biryani from my plant-based husband

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Yes, he can cook! My husband made me a delicious veggie biryani tonight. He calls it Cheapass Fakeass Veggie Biryani. Cheapass because it is a very inexpensive and fakeass because it might not pass the test of authenticity in an Indian kitchen. However, I loved it and wanted to share it with you because it’s a no fuss dish that is delicious and can be made in minutes. Here’s his recipe!

Cheap-Ass Fake-Ass Biryani   -by G. Scott Hayes

Well, we’ll see how this goes. I didn’t keep track of my amounts. I should’ve known Jean would want to blog this.
Start with an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 1/2 cups of raw Basmati rice.
Dice the onion, mince the garlic and sauté, adding several shakes of your favorite curry powder–we like Penzey’s.

Add a couple extra shakes of fenugreek if you have it. That’s the one spice that I think makes curry taste like curry. Add the raw rice and sauté with the onion, garlic, and spices,

adding water and cooking according to the package directions.
While the rice is cooking steam some vegetables, frozen or fresh, in vegetable broth. I used
frozen Potatoes O’Brien (with onions and peppers!) 1 carrot (peeled and sliced), about 1 cup frozen broccoli, 1 c. frozen cauliflower, 1/2 c. frozen peas, and 1/4 c. of frozen corn.
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Throw in a few raisins and cashews while you’re at it. I wish I had thought of that when I
was making it. Sprinkle in some more curry powder with the vegetables.
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When the rice and vegetables are done, combine them in a big fancy bowl so Jean can take
pictures.
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You can adjust the spices at the table if you want extra kick. We added some Sriracha sauce and I sprinkled some extra curry powder on my dish.
Thanks to my plant-based husband for a great dinner and for sharing his recipe!
Remember to have fun with your food and enjoy!


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Engine 2 nationwide challenge, days 9 and 10, “The stuff we should be eating has become the decorations on the plate.” -Doug Lisle

It has been a busy couple of days with work, Meditation in Motion class  with Bernie Kozlowski, and gearing up for our 2nd Engine 2 challenge meet up here in Northeast PA. I have been thinking a lot about Doug Lisle and his work on the “Pleasure Trap” as I prepare for our meeting. Doug is a psychologist who collaborated with chiropractor Alan Goldhammer of True North Health Center to write a book that answers the question,  “Why is it so difficult for people to adopt a healthful diet and lifestyle–despite the obvious and overwhelming benefits?” (Foreword, “The Pleasure Trap,” Dr. John McDougall).

It is very freeing to read about how we are wired to seek out the foods that have the biggest bang for the buck, the foods that are high in fat and calories that would have sustained us in times of famine. The problem now is that we don’t have to struggle to find daily sustenance in this country. Most of us can hop in our car and go to the grocery store anytime we need to or have a craving. If we want to cut out all that prep and cooking, we can just go through the drive through where we can get a quick cheap meal laden with salt, sugar, and fat to give us a quick high. Unfortunately these processed foods desensitize us to these unnaturally high amounts of these addictive substances and we need more and more to get the same high. The health problems caused by the standard American diet undermine our happiness, but once we understand that it is part of our biology to crave these foods  that make  us sick but are not part of the diet we were designed to eat , we can shed the guilt and the baggage around the idea of willpower and learn strategies to practice healthy eating!  It is SO empowering to learn that we are not struggling because we are weak and that with the right direction and support we can turn our health around and break free of the pleasure trap!

If you ever get a chance to hear Doug Lisle speak in person, go! He is a captivating speaker and you will learn empowering information while being entertained by his wit and artistry. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at an Engine 2 immersion called Plantstock the past two summers and I learn something new every time I hear his talk. His book is very enlightening and well worth the read.

Doug and I

Doug autograph

Until you get a chance to hear Doug in person, check out a taste of The Pleasure Trap on YouTube:

 

 

Remember to eat the decorations on your plate and enjoy!