How do you eat all that fruit?

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I eat exclusively fresh fruit and some raw vegetables and greens.

Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) or calcium (ditto) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much fruit.

This question boggles my mind the most, because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last 5 months that all I want to do is keep eating, well, more fruit. I don’t even get bored eating the same fruits day after day.

But wait, really, how can you eat that much fruit? It’s a common question. Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat one apple or a single banana in a day. But eating fruit as a meal is hard for most people to get their minds around.

It truly is easy and pleasurable to eat that much fruit…but the kicker is you have to avoid some common mistakes.  The produce section of your local store can be like walking into an Apple store, never having owned a Mac. It’s confusing and intimidating at the same time.  So here are some (hopefully) helpful tips for how to eat more fruit:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana and struggled to get the peel off, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless dry cantaloupe or a pink instead of red watermelon, you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, or course. You’ll need to use all of your senses by smelling, touching, examining and even listening to the fruit.  Picking ripe fruit is part art form and part luck.

A ripe avocado will have some give when pressed and the Hass variety will be a darker green or black.  Cantaloupes and honeydews should have a strong smell and feel heavy for their size.  Berries should look and smell good.  Watermelon should be free of cuts or abrasions and have a nice solid sound when tapped with your thumb.

Fruit selection prowess will take time and patience. You’ll get to know which stores carry the best fruit, which brands are consistently good, and which fruits you prefer over others, regardless of ripeness.

There is nothing quite like eating fruit that is fresh, in season and fully ripe.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. Of course you only eat fruit that’s in season. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not so true.

Supermarket chains try and appease their customers by making blueberries available in February. The problem with that is more than twofold, but we’ll talk about two. One, the fruit generally is generally transported from a distant location ( i.e. Chile, Mexico) when it’s not in season. You’re not exactly eating local.

Two, if you’re eating fruit that isn’t in season, it’s likely not going to taste great and it will usually cost you dearly. Which makes sense, really. You’re paying for it to be brought from a long way away and for growing a crop that isn’t in season.

However, eating fruit out of it’s natural growing season will generally result in fruit that doesn’t taste good. It’s double disappointing to open up a watermelon in December that you paid a lot of money for and discover it tastes more like water than melon.

You can research which fruits are in season and when, but a good way to tell is just to buy the fruit that your local grocery store or farmer’s market has on sale or on display. Right now my local Trader Joe’s has organic mini watermelon and the sweet smelling cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk in the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season.

Properly store your fruit – not keeping your fruit and even vegetables at proper temperatures will not only affect the taste, but often the ripening process. Nothing drives me more crazy than seeing people store their tomatoes and avocados in the refrigerator. Argggghh! Tomatoes that are too cold taste terrible! Ditto for avocado.

A good way to remember is to take note of your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Where are they storing their produce? You hopefully never see refrigerated avocados and tomatoes.

Same goes for bananas, apples and oranges. Room temperature is the perfect way to consume these foods. Though you can sometimes slow the ripening process, there are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce super cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time!  Cantaloupe and watermelon are far superior in taste and texture than that pathetic, boring excuse for a melon called honeydew.  Or so I thought.

I was forced to reluctantly try a honeydew recently when my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons.  In their place were these unassuming white melons. I grudgingly placed a few in my cart.

I was shocked to discover it was really, really good! The same consistency and flavor as a cantaloupe, but with much lighter notes. All these years I missed out on eating such a satisfying fruit because I most likely hadn’t eaten one ripe, or had a few bad ones, or eaten ones that weren’t in season.

Don’t shy away from fruit or vegetables you haven’t liked in the past.  Your taste buds may have changed, or you may have just had an unripe one.

Just eat it! – now that you’ve selected some ripe fruit and stored it properly, it’s all ready to eat.  Wait, why are you slinking off to your neighborhood restaurant?  You have fruit to eat!  Get to it!

Some 40% of food produced in this country is thrown away.  Food waste is a tremendous drain on our resources and silly, if you think about it, as John Oliver did recently on his not-to-be-missed show.

Food in general, and fruit specifically, is too precious to waste.  Eat your fruit and save the restaurants for special occasions.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why you should never count calories, carbs, protein or anything else for that matter.

You should never count calories. Yes, this statement runs counter to every single shred of weight loss advice ever given or received.

Of course we must count calories.   Right? Plus, we should make sure we get at least 30% protein.  But not more than 30% carbs. Not even 31%.  Then keep that fat content below 40% or we’ll balloon up like an Orca.

But what if all of this focus on macronutrients (fat, protein and carbs), counting calories and this ridiculous fear of not getting enough protein is just distracting us from something really important?

Truthfully, what’s really important, even if most people and every single diet program out there fail to realize it, is this:  If you eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods, you don’t need to break food down into calories or nutrients.  It’s just not necessary.

So no, you don’t need that giant tub of protein powder from Costco, nor that box of Cheerios pronouncing Protein!, or those tortillas with Low Carb all over the package.  Indeed, you need food that isn’t packaged at all.  No nutritional information.  No percent of calories from fat, no serving size calculations.  Just eat an apple.  Mother nature has conveniently packaged fruit and vegetables into perfect serving sizes with just the right amount of calories, protein, fat and carbs.

A friend once called me from the grocery store.  Wanting to eat healthier, she was lamenting the fact that she “needed to get better at reading labels.”  Actually, I told her, you’re better off buying food that doesn’t have a label.

What???

Wait, so I’m just supposed to eat food as it grows in nature?  That sounds too difficult.  What about eating out? What about pizza?

The secret is, eating fresh, whole, unprocessed food is incredibly easy.  Sure, it’s not drive-thru easy.  It’s not order a pizza to be delivered easy.  But it is easy.  As in, if you’re hungry, eat some fruit.  Make a giant salad with fresh, organic vegetables and tender lettuce.  Make you own dressing with tahini and lemon.

Plan on eating a lot, probably more than you’re used to.  You’ll need to in order to get in enough calories.  Processed foods pack a ton of calories in a small package, while fresh produce is mostly water and a much smaller amount of calories.

Also plan on more trips to the grocery store. You won’t make it on a once a week trip to the store, in all likelihood.  You’ll need to go every few days if you’re buying perishable items.

But how does this work?

It has to do with caloric density.

It’s a hugely important concept and one central to a great book on the subject, The Pleasure Trap.  The idea is that food in it’s natural, unadulterated state is low in caloric density.  Therefore, you’re able to eat a volume of food that is probably much higher then you’re used to.  No calorie restriction or small portions.  You can eat until you feel satisfied.

Compare that to food that is high in caloric density, which doesn’t make you feel full and is super high in calories.  Like an orange versus a bagel.  The orange is clearly unprocessed and natural, with a large amount of it’s contents comprised of water. The bagel (and all bread) is a highly processed food where the wheat has been ground into flour and the dough is cooked.  At 1600 calories per pound, it’s easy to overeat bread and still not feel full.

Despite being roughly the same size, an orange is 60 calories and a bagel is at least 250. You could eat 4 oranges to roughly equal the calories of one bagel.  The bagel will not fill your stomach, where 4 oranges will come much closer.

Replacing bread with oranges not only gets you lower and better quality calories, but of course there are all the nutrients in 4 oranges vs the very few nutrients that comprise one bagel.

Eat more, weigh less.

Trying to lose weight by counting calories and macronutrients doesn’t work in the long term.  It simply requires too much discipline and no one likes to feel hungry all the time.

The good news is you don’t have to eat less to lose weight.  It’s not the quantity of food that you’re eating that results in weight gain, but the quality of the food.

So stop reading labels and breaking food down in to it’s nutrient parts.  Start eating lots of unprocessed, whole foods.  You might just be surprised at how easy it is to choose natural foods over heavily processed “food-like” substances with copious amounts of added salt, sugar and fat.

Good luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Here’s how processed food is sabotaging your weight loss.

Let’s first define processed food.  Processed food is anything that is changed from it’s original state.  Technically, if you take a banana and strawberries and blend them to smithereens with your VitaMix, that is now a processed food.

But wait, you say, isn’t that a little extreme?  Well, yes, but for our purposes here, and for yours going forward, let’s just think of processed food that way…as anything that’s been changed from it’s original state.  An apple…not a processed food, while apple juice is a processed food.  Cooking a potato is processing a food.  Steaming broccoli is processing food.

Okay, now we’re straight on that, let’s examine why consuming processed food is likely sabotaging any plans you may have to lose weight:

  1. Processed food is full of sodium -unless you’re the Sherlock Holmes of label reading, standing in the canned food aisle with a magnifying glass and a silly hat, you likely have no idea how much added sodium is in processed food.  Take canned black beans, as an example.  I dare you to find one that doesn’t have at least 500 mg of sodium per serving. It’s tough to do.  How about bread?  Good luck finding one with no added salt. Most pasta is also full of salt. Why?  Because adding salt provides two very distinct benefits for food companies that want to sell more food – it is a preservative and it makes food taste good (which makes people buy more of said food). You can easily verify this by taste testing a reduced salt vegetable soup.  I can guarantee it won’t taste very good.

Sodium, while a big benefit to food companies and their bottom line, is not quite as kind to your body.  Excess sodium results in inflammation, water retention and can even be an appetite stimulant. What? Oh great, so in addition to making me feel bloated and puffy, it can also make me want to eat more?  Wait, won’t that make it REALLY DIFFICULT TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Your body does need sodium, which it can get easily from unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, the average person takes in north of 3400 mg of sodium per day, while the recommended amount is 1500 mg or less.  So where are those nearly 2000 additional milligrams coming from?  Since nearly everyone I know claims they don’t salt their food, then it must be coming from, you guessed it, highly processed foods.

If you think you’re safe because you eat no processed foods but you eat out all the time, think again.  Restaurants are notorious for cooking with salt, both to enhance flavor but also to keep up with the “average” consumer, who is taking in 3400 mg of sodium a day. Restaurant fare is designed to appeal to the masses, so salt, sugar and fat are used seemingly without restriction.  For this reason and a million others, I hate eating out.

Guess what doesn’t have added sodium?  Well, not much, but you’re pretty safe with raw, fresh fruit and vegetables.  You know, the unprocessed stuff.  They also don’t have a label, so you can get rid of that silly hat and magnifying glass.  Oh, and even better, eating fruits and vegetables is not an appetite stimulant.  Actually, because they’re so high in fiber and water, they actually suppress your appetite. As any real food should, right?

2. Processed food is calorically dense – processing food, by changing its form, either by cooking or blending or juicing, will make it more calorically dense.  When trying to lose weight, calorically dense food is not your friend.  Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re starving.  Highly processed foods like olive oil are super calorically dense.  It takes up very little room in your stomach.  It doesn’t make you feel full, despite being very high in both fat and calories.  Eating rich foods that aren’t satiating is not the recipe for success you need if you’re looking to lose weight.

Blending and juicing foods is a form of processing.  It also makes it super easy to overindulge.  Imagine sitting down to eat 8 bananas.  It sounds nearly impossible.  But if you blend those 8 bananas with water, you can easily drink down that smoothie quicker and easier than you can possibly eat all those bananas.  So leave smoothies and juices for once-in-a-while situations and just eat the fruit or veggies you planned on blending instead. It’s just too easy to ignore your natural satiation signals when you blend and juice food.  For more on satiation signals and how highly processed foods completely bypass those, read the awesome book The Pleasure Trap.

Cooking food is also a form of processing.  Cooking, whether baking, steaming or frying (please no), removes water from the food and changes it’s structure and resulting nutrient content.  It also makes it more calorically dense and thus harder for your body to signal satiation.

3. Processed food dehydrates you – the more processed a food is, the lower the water content.  Think of high water content, unprocessed foods –  like watermelon, oranges and lettuce.  They all have north of 90% water content.  Now think of highly processed foods like crackers, bread and those ridiculously good Girl Scout Cookies.  All have very low water content.  When you eat these highly processed foods, your body has to pull water from somewhere in order to digest them, resulting in dehydration.

Dehydration is often mistaken for hunger pangs, which can lead to eating when you’re really not hungry…which by the way, CAN MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO LOSE WEIGHT.  So the solution isn’t to eat those processed foods and drink more water.  The solution is to not eat those foods, drink water when you’re thirsty, and eat high water content fresh fruits and vegetables.  You might actually find, as I did, that you don’t need to drink nearly as much water if you’re avoiding processed foods and eating fresh, whole, ripe produce.  Always try and get your water from your food first, then from drinking fresh, filtered water (from your own reusable container, of course).

If weight loss is your goal, or even if you just wish to make the healthiest choices possible, eliminating processed foods from your diet will turbo charge your progress.  At the very least, choose the least processed option with the least amount of ingredients.

You’ll know you’ve made progress when you reach the point where the majority of the food you eat doesn’t even have a label.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

All raw vegan 2016: Fail!

It’s official, I’ve failed in going all Raw Vegan for 2016.  In addition to the handful of times I’ve failed to go all raw in the past, I’ve now been spectacularly unsuccessful in 2016.

It was the blessed baked potato that brought me down.  That and some hummus.

Far from being upset about my failure, I’m looking forward to potentially failing again.  Wait, what?

Okay, maybe looking forward to failing isn’t correct.  But I am back at it again, eating mostly fruit and some leafy greens.  Certainly, the possibility of failing again is there.  After all, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are successful, and heck, if it’s a resolution to go all raw vegan than it might even be lower than 8%.

So what’s the difference for me this time?  What makes me think I’ll be successful this time when I haven’t in the past?

I’m getting a coach – that’s right…it’s a bold move for me but one I feel confident about.  I’m hiring a successful fruitarian to guide me through this process.  I’m planning on a once a week meeting for 30 minutes.  This will provide accountability, something I’ve been lacking in every single previous attempt.

The problem with adopting a fruitarian diet is the same problem a lot of people have when they go vegan.  They don’t know any vegans.  They have no support.  If they cave and eat a cheeseburger, there probably isn’t anyone around that can provide a much-needed gut check. Do you really want to do that?  Why don’t you just eat a Garden Burger instead?

This is what I’m looking for.  Support.  Encouragement.  Accountability.  That’s it.  Not much, but it’s something I really don’t have right now.  Though I know of a handful of fruitarians, I have none that I can call on when I need any of those.  Hiring a coach will solve that.

I’m okay with failing, so follow my progress as I begin anew with eating what I believe to be is the healthiest possible diet.  Though I don’t enjoy failing, I do believe that failing at something a few times is no reason to throw in the towel.

I know, it’s a bit of a cliche now to fail more.  Many books and blog posts abound that we need to fail our way to success.  This book  by Dilbert creator Scott Adams is particularly good at demonstrating the writer’s personal connection between success and failing often.

I’m guilty of not failing enough.  I’m impatient.  I want success RIGHT NOW.  When I fail, I tend to question everything.  No matter how solid the plan appears to be, I’ll punch giant holes in it.  Then I’ll quit.

However, this time is different. Giving up on eating all raw vegan for 2016 after a bit of a stumble makes about as much a sense as a Sarah Palin endorsement.

While I can’t report success with my original plan, I can adapt a different goal and continue on with that.

What’s different this time is that I remain steadfast in my conviction that eating this way is optimal.  Though many will disagree, including friends and family, along with respected physicians like Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Dr. Michael Greger and Dr. McDougall, I still feel my absolute best when eating fruit.

Fruitarianism is called impractical, illogical and impossible for people to adhere to on a long-term basis.

I’m willing to find out for myself.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Is a fruitarian diet safe?

is a fruitarian diet safe

In 2016 I’m going an entire year eating nothing cooked.  I will eat mostly fresh, whole fruit and some raw veggies, in the form of tender leafy greens as part of my favorite giant salad.  But is a fruitarian diet safe? Will eating just fruit and greens provide all the nutrients I need?

Truthfully, I have no idea.  Nor, it seems, does anyone else.  There just aren’t any long term studies completed with people that only eat fruit.  Even the amazing Dr Michael Greger at nutritionfacts.org hasn’t yet documented a study involving only fruit consumption.  Though he does have a video showing the benefits of eating up to 20 servings of fruit a day and 44 servings of vegetable.  Most notable? A 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.  How’s that for results?

I’m guessing the reason for a lack of long term studies is that not many subjects could stick to a diet of only fruit and leafy greens for an extended period of time.  This isn’t a lifestyle for the faint of heart, and certainly study subjects would not only be hard to find but nearly impossible to keep.

There are a few people in the raw vegan community that show success eating a fruitarian diet.  The original fruitarian himself, Michael Arnstein, as well as Ted Carr are both successful endurance athletes and aesthetically pleasing.  What I’m saying is they look pretty dang fit and healthy.

But for every successful fruitarian there are famous failures.  Ashton Kutcher reportedly wound up in the hospital after trying a fruitarian diet.  Allegedly, Steve Jobs followed a fruitarian diet preceding and during his pancreatic cancer diagnosis and passed away at age 56.

So which is it?  Will fruitarianism send me straight to the hospital or to the podium?

At this point, I don’t know.  Nor do I really care.  I am following this lifestyle not to lose weight, win races or to cure cancer.  I don’t have high LDL cholesterol, blood pressure or any other health issues. I’m following the lifestyle because it makes me feel my best.

I simply don’t know if it’s the healthiest.  I don’t know if it provides all the nutrients I need.  All I know is that eating fresh, ripe, raw, whole fruit and leafy greens makes me feel really good.  I have more energy, I sleep better, and it just feels right.   Like sliding on a shoe that forms perfectly to your feet or putting in that very last puzzle piece, a lifestyle of mostly fruit just suits me.

Part of what makes eating primarily a fruit diet so appealing is that there is no need to use added salt, sugar or fat in preparation of my food.  I simply eat fruit.  I’m not cooking anything or adding condiments with super high levels of sodium or sugar.  I’m simply eating fruit as it is picked off the tree or the vine.

Also, I really enjoy eating fruit and salads.  Believe me, it will happen to you too if you give this lifestyle a try.  Changing your tastebuds is possible and takes remarkably little time. I look forward to meal times almost more now that I eat super simple meals of oranges and bananas and large but simple salads of romaine, avocado, tomato and lime juice.

Sure, I miss eating cooked foods occasionally.  I miss vegan pizza, rice and potatoes.  But what I don’t miss is how these foods made me feel.  Bloated, full, sluggish and gross is how I used to feel after eating these foods.  After fruit meals I’m energized, satiated and happy.

Isn’t this how food is supposed to make us feel?

EatPlantsLiveWell.

I’m going all raw vegan for 2016

Typically, my diet alternates between eating raw and eating some cooked foods.  Though I’m always (and forever) vegan, I’ve struggled lately with trying to stick to an a completely raw, low fat diet.  So why am I going all raw vegan for 2016?  Have I lost a bet?  Or my mind?

I’m going all raw, low fat vegan for 2016 for one reason and one reason only: eating this way makes me feel better than I’ve ever felt.  It’s not about weight loss, deprivation, or some sort of masochistic desire to torture myself.

When I eat all raw, fresh ripe fruit and vegetables, I feel absolutely amazing.  When I add in cooked foods, as I’ve done in 2015, I don’t feel nearly as good.  Even seemingly benign foods such as boiled potatoes, rice and steamed veggies draw down my energy levels and slow my digestion.  I even had a cold recently.  What?  I haven’t been sick in years.

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that I go back and forth with an all raw diet and cooked foods.  Perhaps this means my body is less able to digest these foods as I don’t eat them very often.  This makes sense to me, though I have nothing besides my personal experience to base it on.

Of course most people think I’m crazy to eat mostly fruit and some vegetables exclusively and no cooked foods like beans, lentils, bread or potatoes.  Where will I get my protein? What about calcium?  Will I grow dangerously thin and float away like a sad birthday ballon?

I’ve gone for 4 months in the past eating only raw, though I did still drink coffee then and I had much more fat in the form of nuts and avocados in my diet than I do now.  I’ve since given up coffee (yay!) and I don’t eat nearly as much fat now.

But worry not, I will not waste away in 2016 eating only high carb low fat raw vegan.  I have plenty of reserves in the form of body fat to draw on.  In fact, the average person has plenty of reserves to fast for weeks.

As far as protein, of course I’ll still be getting plenty with just the fruits and vegetables I eat.  Ditto for calcium.

Though I’m very much looking forward to the challenge, the hard part of going all raw vegan in 2016 will be eating out and maintaining a social life.

Eating out has obvious challenges.  Few restaurants cater to someone who eats a few bananas and 4 lbs of clementines for a meal.  Though I dine out as infrequently as possible because I hate eating out, I still occasionally do.

Eating out means eating lots of salads…and typically very bad salads. Salads aren’t usually the focus of a restaurant.  After all, when is the last time someone said, “hey, let’s go check out that new restaurant! I heard their dinner salads are the bomb!”  I’ll be ordering dry salads with tomatoes that taste like wet cotton balls and lettuce coated in noxious pesticides.  Please bring me another.

Social situations are another issue altogether.  Though my husband is vegan and some friends are vegan, most of the people I hang out with are meat-eaters.   They invite us places.  We go to dinner at their homes.  Eating vegan is one thing, but eating raw vegan will rattle even the hippest host.

So I’ll avoid eating out as much as possible or choose Whole Foods.  I’ll also bring an epic raw salad to gatherings.  Most people love my salads (or at least that’s what they tell me) and they provide some nice color amongst all the gray and brown animal-based foods.

What I’m really getting down to here is if something means enough, there’s always a way.  There is absolutely no excuse for me to not to succeed going all raw for 2016.  Sometimes, things are as difficult as you make them.  If it’s important to me, I’ll make it work.

If I’m committed to feeling my absolute best and creating the most efficient and healthy body possible, I’ll make it through 365 days of eating fresh, ripe, whole, organic raw fruit and vegetables.  If I’m not committed and it’s not important enough to me, I’ll falter at some point.

My hope is that after a full year of eating raw, the cravings for cooked foods go away, just as the cravings for vegan processed junk food went away when I stopped eating them for a long enough period of time.  Or I may just go insane.  But hopefully not.

The truth is, I want this to be a permanent change in my lifestyle.  I want to go high carb, low fat raw vegan forever.  Or at least as long as it makes me feel so good.  Which I’m assuming is forever.

At day 365 of going all raw vegan for 2016, when I see the finish line I’m going to high five everyone and keep on running.  And running.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

My week of eating processed food

canned food

I recently completed, with 5 other intrepid souls, a 5 day mountain bike ride starting in Telluride and ending in the town of Gateway, 150 miles away.  We rode as much as 41 miles in a day and as little as 14 miles.  We climbed up and down a lot of hills, with some trails that even required slinging the bike over our shoulders.  That was hard.  What was harder was a week of eating processed food.

We used a terrific company called San Juan Huts, which as the name suggests, provides huts to stay in along the way.  Their tag line is Adventure without the Weight.  We carried clothes and snacks, they provided lodging, food and drink.

While most would be concerned about the physical challenge of riding a mountain bike up and down a shi* ton of hills carrying a not-so-light back pack and seat bag at a breathtaking elevation, I was more concerned about the food.  My usual diet of unprocessed foods would be out the window for the entire week.  Could I survive?

After all , fresh fruit and vegetables aren’t exactly portable.  I had no room to carry a bushel of bananas or a dozen watermelons.  There would be no every other day trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.  When we set off on Monday morning I pedaled away from fresh and towards packaged and canned.

spam
the ubiquitous canned spam

We arrived at the first hut and were greeted by a twelve foot wall of canned food including lentil soup, mushrooms, beans, corned beef hash and (drumroll please) spam!   I can’t believe they still make that stuff.  Yikes!  I’m convinced they did one run of production in the 1960’s and that we’re still going through those original rectangular cans of spam.

 

Our first dinner was a Mexican theme, with corn tortillas, black beans, rice and diced tomatoes.  Not too bad.  We even found some fresh cabbage to include.  Still, I felt the effects of the sodium  in all the canned food nearly immediately.  I felt puffy and sleepy immediately following dinner, not so much from the biking that day as the extra work my body had to do in order to digest my food.  Blahhh.

I had restless sleep that night, though in fairness it may have had more to do with getting so tangled up in my sleeping bag liner that I felt like lunch for a boa constrictor.

For the actual riding during the day, I brought raisins and dried flattened bananas from Trader Joe’s.  These bananas really hit the spot, and though I don’t typically eat dried fruit, this was about my only alternative to eating as close to my normal diet as possible.  I also brought crunchy peanut Clif Bars, which were good but I limited myself to one of those a day.

Day 2 and 3 dinners were couscous with marinara, and couscous with curried vegetables and potatoes.  All good and healthy vegan fare, but again, all generated using a can opener.  I happened to glance at the sodium content on the mushrooms and saw it was 390 mg per serving.  Black beans topped out at over 500 mg per serving. Yikes!

On a typical day of eating fresh fruit for lunch and an epic salad for dinner, I take in less than 100 mg of sodium.  Here I was, probably taking in around 1500 – 2000 mg a day eating canned and packaged foods.

My fingers and face were definitely swollen, along with my toes and ankles.  I also noticed that even though I was taking in a lot of water I wasn’t urinating nearly as much.  I also felt much more thirsty than I normally do.

I made it through day 4, though I dearly missed my morning ritual of eating a watermelon or cantaloupe and bananas.  I grew weary of looking at cans of food.  The texture also started to bother me, with everything feeling mushy.  I missed chewing my food.  With processed food, there’s hardly any chewing required.  It’s all mushy and slides right down your throat.  With fruit, there’s work to do.  An apple requires some serious masticating before swallowing.  P.s. that’s a good thing.

Some of the huts did have a few apples and oranges, which I snacked on immediately when we arrived.   I was thankful for even this small amount of fresh produce, though the quality and amount dwindled as the week proceeded.  Would it be too much to ask for organic?

Day 5 was a tough start, with some dicey single track and sections that required slinging my bike over my shoulder and hiking straight uphill with tough footing.  We soldiered on with good humor, knowing that today was the last day and tomorrow meant a day off from sitting on a bike seat.  Hallelujah!  My butt hurt!

The last long stretch into Gateway required sitting back and squeezing both back and front brakes for about 7 miles.  We catapulted down a severe pitch of a dirt road with sudden switchbacks, mounds of loose gravel and sandy transition areas that threatened to turn our front tires sideways at the worst possible moment.  We had some epic views, though you couldn’t take your eyes off the road for too long or you would miss a switchback and go flying off the mountain like some real life version of the poor Road Runner in Bugs Bunny.

I wasn’t sure which I looked forward to more, not sitting on a bike seat or not eating dinner from a can.  I couldn’t wait to eat anything that didn’t require a can opener and contain a months worth of sodium.  But also, my butt hurt.

We arrived at Gateway and pulled up to the local convenience store, which was about the only store in this tiny town.  I re-filled my water bottle with mostly ice and a little water and looked around at all the canned and packaged food and headed directly out the door.  My friends loaded up with Gatorade and Beef Jerky.  They needed their protein after a week of eating vegan.  Right?

A week of eating processed foods taught me that I don’t like eating processed foods for a week.  Call me a food snob.  I get it.  Some people eat canned and processed foods exclusively.  For economic reason or because they don’t have the ability or resources to cook.  I know that.  And I feel for those people.

There is nothing healthy about eating processed foods.  Processed foods have a ridiculous amount of salt, fat and sugar.  Salt preserves, after all.  Want to make something last for a long time?  Add salt.  Want to make it still taste good?  Add fat and sugar.

I enjoyed the bike ride and the camaraderie of exploring a variety of terrain over multiple days with good friends.  I enjoyed the Colorado scenery and the physical challenge of miles and miles of hills and winding single track.

I certainly appreciate, even more now, the relative ease with which I can obtain fresh fruits and vegetables.  Going a week with eating processed foods made me realize how important it is to eat foods in their natural, whole state, as nature provides.

Last night I ate tomatoes from my garden, cut up in a salad of fresh romaine, spring mix, and avocado. Nary a can opener in sight.  Now if only my butt would stop hurting.

hut to hut
the crew

 

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

Why eating fruit is best.

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Abundant Energy

Without a doubt, eating fruit makes me feel my best.  I sleep better.  I run better.  I recover better.  All around, eating fresh, ripe fruit feels like what drinking 4 cups of coffee used to feel like.  When I drank coffee.  Which I don’t need anymore.  Now I look to food for energy and not to a drug.  What could be better than that?

Truth be told, if you need 4 cups of coffee to make it through the day, it might be a good idea to to take a hard look at your diet.  I did.  Could I get all the energy I needed from a raw food diet?

The only way to tell was to try.  So I quit caffeine.  After 3 weeks of intense headaches, I discovered a whole new world without caffeine dependency.  Yes!  My diet could indeed provide all the energy I need in a day and then some.  I just needed to get through 3 weeks.  Of hell.  What happened on the other side changed my life.

If you’ve ever trained for a marathon, ultra, triathlon or any other endurance event, you know the most challenging aspect of training is recovery between workouts.  Sure, you can get through that track workout on Wednesday morning, but will you be ready for that recovery run on Thursday?  With a clean diet,  I have no problem summoning enough energy for the next workout.

Improved Digestion

Eating fruit and simple salads of tender leafy greens is about the biggest favor you can do for your digestion.  After all, what could be easier to digest than fruit and lettuce?

The high water content of fruit, like watermelon at 92%, or iceberg lettuce at 96%, makes it’s trip through the ridiculously-long roller coaster of your digestive system about as smooth as can be.   Giving your body such easy to digest food is the gift that keeps on giving.  Not only do you make it easier on your body to break down and assimilate these foods, you’re also providing hydration.  If it could, your digestive system would give you a high five.

If I eat cooked foods like rice and potatoes, I notice the increase of time these items are digesting.  I feel sluggish and more than a little bloated the morning after a meal of cooked foods.  When eating salad and fruit, I feel lighter and don’t have that annoying bloat sensation hours and hours after I eat a meal.

Understand that for your body, digestion is a huge energy suck.  While you eat food all day long and forget about it the moment you swallow, your body must stop everything it’s doing to work on digesting that food.  It’s like trying to clean your house and people keep stopping by.  You have to entertain.  But you need to clean.  Can it do both?

No, your body cannot work on cleaning up your body and digest food at the same time.  It gives priority to the digestion process.  So the cleaning and repair of your body must wait.  If it gets fruit and lettuce,  it can break that down quickly and get back to cleaning.  If you throw down vegan pizza, bagels, nuts, seeds and other high calorie and low water content foods, it expends a lot of time and energy digesting.  Thus you have less energy.

Sodium and Weight Gain 

I’m putting these together as that’s the way they always appear to me.  Where there’s one there’s the other.  By far the biggest reason why I consistently return to eating fruit and salad and a low fat diet is the added sodium and weight gain I experience when eating cooked foods.

You can surely try to avoid taking in salt on a cooked vegan diet but it’s like trying to play Scrabble without vowels.  It’s just not going to happen. You can ask at restaurants for no added salt but good luck with that on a regular basis.  Restaurants are busy.  Restaurant kitchens use salt.  A lot of salt.  The chances of you getting any menu item with no salt are pretty much, well,  zero.

You can also eat cooked food at home and not add salt, but I think you’ll find foods like rice and potatoes need something to make them palatable.  Plain rice doesn’t taste that great.  Plain potatoes don’t taste that great either.  You might find yourself, as I did, opting for some low salt salsa, ketchup, or adding cumin for some flavor. Or soy sauce.  Salt.  Pepper.  Something!

Adding some salt, of course, isn’t the end of the world.  However, I found that after a bit I wanted a little more salt.  Then a little more.  Then I thought maybe some other spices might taste good.  Every single time I return to cooked vegan foods I don’t seem to stay satisfied with plain cooked foods for long.

As a result of the additional salt, and also the additional calories I would take in by eating higher caloric cooked foods, I gain weight.  Without exception, the numbers on the scale begin to rise.

Even though I try and eat less when I’m eating cooked food, apparently the scale doesn’t get the memo.  The numbers keep inching cruelly upwards when I choose to eat cooked foods.

Salt also creates inflammation in my body so that looking in the mirror the next morning turns into a harrowing experience.  My eyelids and cheeks swell and if it’s bad enough I may look like I’ve been in quite a bar fight the morning after a super salty meal.

I recently had a vegan spaghetti dinner on a vacation trip overseas that had so much sodium my eyes were almost swollen shut the next morning.  I was unrecognizable.  Okay, slight exaggeration, but not much.  I had sausage fingers and cankles.  I swear.

Is eating fruit for everyone?

Maybe.  Maybe not. I’m not an expert on how other people feel when they eat a low fat raw vegan diet.  Only you can determine if raw is for you.  Though, there are studies showing high fruit consumption has pretty remarkable results.

I do know that eating fruit is best for me.  If it makes you feel best, then yes, it’s for you.  You’ll need to spend some decent time gauging your reaction to various foods in order to know for sure.   My reaction to cooked foods is a pretty clear indication.

My body loves a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.  I have the energy of a five year old at her birthday party and a happy and extremely efficient digestive system.  I don’t gain weight and I don’t look like I woke up next to a hornet’s nest.

Am I always raw? Nope.  

Having said all of that, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I struggle to stick with a lifestyle of eating fresh fruit and salad.  I guess I’m human.  When I stroll in to Whole Foods I smell the wood-fired vegan pizzas, the savory soups and warmed tortillas getting ready to be rolled into vegan burritos.  I am tempted, and sometimes I do eat those foods.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to make those cravings and departures go away for good.  Yet.  I do know that I’m trying every day to improve, to go longer in resisting those cravings and the desire to eat food that I know isn’t the best for my body.  I’m making progress, in so far as I keep trying.  I keep moving towards the foods that make me feel the best and away from those that don’t.  For now that’s the best I can do.

Are you doing the best you can do?

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

 

 

 

How much protein do I get eating mostly fruit?


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Concern about getting enough protein when eating a low fat raw diet of mostly fruit is nothing new.  Just fruit?  Really?  You will not only starve to death but you’ll die sad and hungry with a severe protein deficiency.  Surely fruit cannot provide all the protein a person needs to thrive.  Or can it?

While it’s true you won’t get as much protein eating fruit as you will on a regular vegan diet that includes cooked foods like beans, tofu and nuts, it is still easy to take in a reasonable amount of protein.  In fact, I sometimes take in less than the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of protein in a day.  Not a lot less, but definitely less.  Not always, but sometimes.

For example, today I logged my food intake into the free online food diary cronometer.  I took in 33.7 grams of protein.

To calculate the RDA for protein, you must multiply your bodyweight x .36.  For me, it would be 121 x .36 =43.56 g protein per day.

I’m around 10 g short of protein for my daily intake.  Yikes!  Now what do I do?

Okay, calm down.  Even though I am typically short of this magical number when eating high carb, low fat, mostly fruit, I tend to believe there is some room in this calculation.

Indeed, the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) even says of this arbitrary protein requirement:

However, even this value has a large margin of safety, and the body’s true need may be lower for most people.

The only way to know what your true need may be is to base it on how you feel.  Do I feel protein deficient?  Though I’m not sure exactly what that would look like, I certainly haven’t experienced any negative side effects from taking in less protein.

Whether I take in 37 g or 45 g per day, my body reacts no differently.  As a vegan athlete, I have a higher activity level than most and I still don’t feel any negative effects of taking in less protein.

Keep in mind that 97% of people get too much protein.  Even vegetarians and vegans typically take in too much.  Of course, plant protein is still loads healthier than animal protein, so too much for a vegan has nowhere near the health consequences for meat eaters.

Bottom line is this: Though an all raw, mostly fruit diet could technically be defined as not meeting the RDA requirements for protein, it really comes down to how you feel.

If you’re having performance issues or feel you’re lacking in protein, you might consider increasing your calories, which will naturally increase your protein.

A diet of whole foods sufficient in calories is very unlikely to result in any issues with a lack of protein.  Of course, if you’re starving yourself, you’ll have so many other health consequences to keep you busy rather than just worrying about protein consumption.

While nutrient recommendations are good guidelines, a better indicator, indeed the best, is you.   How much protein to take in on any given day shouldn’t be some magical number that may or may not have been arrived at in the most scientific and logical way.  It should be based on each individual’s unique health situation.

Listen to the signals from your body and adjust your diet accordingly.  Eat clean and follow your intuition!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

 

Why skipping meals might be exactly what you need.

refusing foodBreakfast is the most important meal of the day.  No skipping meals.  Eat often.  Hunger is to be avoided.  We’ve all heard these truths.  They’re repeated to us and every health and fitness magazine recycles this advice in their headlines in some form or another, month after month. The advice all seems sound.  Logical.   Even intuitive.  Except it’s wrong.

So what if everything you thought you knew wasn’t true?  What if breakfast is not essential, and in fact, maybe while you’re at it you don’t need lunch or dinner either?  Sure, I know, skipping meals is not the American thing to do.  Rather, the American thing to do is eat and eat and eat.  Then eat some more.

Case in point: I recently had to visit a furniture store.  Which, in my mind,  is almost as bad as going to a used car lot.  Halfway through the showroom of this furniture store was the unmistakable smell of movie theater popcorn, all heavily salted and artificially buttered up and nestled in those colorful giant buckets.

But wait, this isn’t a movie theater.  WTF? Lo and behold, there is an actual food court in the middle of this furniture store.  You know, just like Target.  Just in case you or your offspring can’t make it through a couple of hours picking out a new La-Z-Boy and require some sustenance in the form of good old-fashioned junk food.  We’ve got you covered with popcorn, candy and hot dogs.  There there now.  We can’t have people starving, right?

So how is this practice of near constant eating helping us?  Based on the obesity epidemic in this country, not that well.   We’re getting fatter and unhealthier by the minute.  Could the solution to this problem be the opposite of what we’ve been told?  Could skipping meals be a good thing?

The opposite of eating too frequently is fasting.  True fasting is abstaining from food completely, while taking in just water in a state of rest. The practice of fasting is not new.  It’s been practiced for hundreds of years and by many different religions as a way to cleanse the body.

Done correctly, with proper supervision, fasting is both therapeutic and healthy.  Studies have shown that skipping meals results in leanness, a longer life and even more robust brain cells.  Some even show that intermittent fasting can prevent heart disease.

Fasting gives your body an opportunity to heal itself without being distracted by the work of digesting food.  By eating every few hours, the body has little time to do anything other than process this food.

While the research is certainly there as to the benefits of fasting, people are so entrenched in their beliefs of the way things are based on their limited life experiences, they would never consider such a departure.  Surely it must be bad for you not to eat.  Everyone knows that, right?

I began an experiment with intermittent fasting recently.  I am over 11 weeks into my experiment with fasting and I’ve been more successful at losing weight by doing this than anything I’ve ever tried.  In total, I’ve lost 12 lbs, or 9.1% of my body weight.

As a runner and cyclist, I’m acutely aware of my weight.  If you’ve ever ran a marathon you realize the importance of being as lean as you possibly can be.  In the latter stages of an endurance race, every extra pound you carry feels like 20.  Also, every pound over your ideal weight will affect not only how fast you can run (important), but also the rate at which you suffer injuries (essential).

For this reason, and because I’m a bit of a health food nut, I do worship at the altar of ideal body weight.  No, it doesn’t rule my life.  I don’t have an eating disorder.  I don’t obsess over it.  But I do consider it very important, perhaps more so than 99% of the population, to be as close to my ideal body weight as I can.

So I started intermittent fasting to lose weight and body fat.  I began by skipping breakfast. I eat 2 meals a day, and I eat from 11am to 7pm.  I then fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

Skipping breakfast at first was difficult.  I felt like I was hungry but as soon as I drank some water or became busy the feeling disappeared. So I became busy being very busy.  Bees looked downright lazy compared to me.  After a few weeks, I wondered what the heck I was doing eating breakfast at all for all those years.  I didn’t miss it.

Now,  I don’t typically feel hungry until late morning.  The other day I didn’t feel hungry until around 1pm.

How is it that someone who has always eaten breakfast can, after a few weeks, give it up entirely?  Was I really that out of tune with my body?  Apparently so.  I responded to my external environment, like the availability of food, the smell of food and a 45 year old habit of consuming food at a certain time (in the morning).  I wasn’t responding to an actual feeling of hunger, but something I thought was hunger.

When I do eat my midday meal now, I am truly experiencing hunger.  I feel the sensation in my mouth and throat, not in my stomach.  The other benefit?  Food tastes absolutely AMAZING when you’re actually hungry.  It really does.  It’s hard to put into words but being hungry adds a whole additional flavor profile to foods.  I can taste lettuce now.  I have a new found obsession with papaya, which never appealed to me before.  Foods have such complexity of flavor, now that I am actually hungry when I eat.  What a concept.

Admittedly, the general public won’t run out and begin fasting anytime soon.  It does require a good amount of self-discipline, as well as the desire to educate yourself on the benefits of the practice of fasting.  A good place to start is this recent article by Keira Butler in Mother Jones.  Then there’s this article by Jennifer Marano from TrueNorth Health Center about intermittent fasting and weight loss.

You can choose to believe what you want, of course, about fasting.  You can believe that skipping meals isn’t healthy, or that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Or you can review the research and perhaps give intermittent fasting a try to see what effect it has on you.

Regardless, the important takeaway from an experiment with fasting may just be the ability to understand what true hunger feels like and to only eat when you’re experiencing it.

It’s truly as simple as that.

EatPlantsLiveWell!