How to Eat More Fruit

So many people ask me about my diet. Most have a hard time believing that I just eat mostly fresh fruit.  Aside from wondering where I get my protein (which I get plenty of, thank you) they wonder how in the heck I can eat so much more fruit?

This question boggles my mind because I find after eating mostly fruit for the last few months that all I want to do is…eat more fruit. I don’t get bored eating the same fruit day after day for weeks on end.

For example, it’s the end of June now and it’s right in the middle of the season for melons like cantaloupe, honey dew and watermelon. I absolutely love, love, love melons…so this time of year is my fave.  Until they go out of season, I’ll enjoy eating these fruits every single day.

But wait, back to the questions…how can you eat that much fruit?  How can you eat just fruit as a meal? Most people like fruit all right, so they might eat a cup of blueberries, a banana or an apple a day.  If that’s all you’re currently eating, let’s up your game.

It’s easy to eat that much fruit or to eat a fruit-only meal if you know enough about fruit to avoid some common mistakes that can lead to less than optimal experiences:

Eat only ripe fruit – if you’ve ever eaten a banana that tastes more like bamboo than banana, then you’ve eaten fruit that isn’t ripe. If you’ve ever been disappointed by a tasteless cantaloupe or a firm avocado (which is a fruit), you’re probably eating unripe fruit.

Determining the ripeness of fruit depends on the fruit, of course. Bananas should have some brown spots. Avocados and papayas should have a fair amount of give when you press on them.  Cantaloupes that are ready to eat will have a strong sweet smell at the stem. Mangoes will have a strong smell and also feel soft to the touch.

You’ll use many of your senses, including sight, smell and feel to properly determine if your fruit is ready to eat.

Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries should have a nice smell but you’ll mostly use color to determine ripeness.  Oranges should smell sweet and have a tender texture with wrinkles on the skin.  It will also feel heavy for it’s size.

If  you’re unsure about whether a fruit is ripe, just experiment.  Buy one or two and do a taste test.  You can also check out  Your Produce Guy for great videos on when to tell if fruit is ripe.

Learning to identify when fruit is ripe is part science and part art.  Getting good at it will greatly increase your enjoyment of fruit.  I highly recommend it.  The time and effort you invest will pay off handsomely.

Eat fruit in season – duh, you might be thinking. But too many people make the mistake that if it’s at their local grocery store it must be in season. Not necessarily true. If consumer demand is there, supermarket chains will do what they can to provide it. Blueberries in February? Watermelon in December? How cool is that?

Actually, it’s not really cool at all.  To get your blueberries in February, they have to be shipped from far away, they will cost a fortune, and they’ll likely taste terrible.

Eating fruit far removed from it’s natural growing season doesn’t make sense economically, globally or from a taste perspective. It’s 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, and that it had to be shipped from Mexico.

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 my favorite (and my dogs) cantaloupe on display as soon as you walk into the store. This is a good sign that these fruits are in season, relatively inexpensive and sometimes even local.

Adjust your fruit consumption to the season and you’ll be eating the most ripe as well as the most nutrient dense fruit.

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! Cold tomatoes go mushy quickly and 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 really are no benefits to making your fruit colder than it needs to be.

I don’t even like my lettuce cold so I’ll often take it out of the fridge an hour or so before I plan to make a giant salad.  Weird, yes, but there is a taste difference.

Don’t give up on fruit – I’ve never been a fan of honeydew. What a tasteless waste of time. Next to it’s awesome melon cousins of watermelon and cantaloupe, honeydew felt like an uninvited guest showing up at the party.

A few weeks ago my local Trader Joe’s ran out of organic mini watermelons and instead stocked organic honeydew melons. What?? After much internal debate, I reluctantly placed a few in my cart, reasoning that I should probably act like an adult and give it another try.

Guess what?  I loved it! 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 be afraid to try fruits you haven’t had, or try those again you thought you didn’t like.  I didn’t really eat papaya until a few years ago.  Now it’s one of my favorite fruits.  Drizzled with a little lime juice, it has a unique flavor that I crave.

All these tips will assist with how to eat more fruit.  You might move up to eating fruit as a meal or maybe easily double what you already eat on a daily basis.  Either way, just start eating more fruit.

EatPlantsLiveWell!

 

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!

Going Raw Until the 2017 Boston Marathon

In December of 2016 I decided to go raw vegan until the Boston Marathon on April 17th. I completed my goal last week and crossed the finish line at Boston having eaten only raw food (and vegan, or course) for the last 109 or so days.

Going raw for me isn’t a huge adjustment from my regular vegan diet.  I typically always eat my first meal of the day as just fruit, and then dinner is a big salad. Mostly it means eliminating rice, potatoes, bread and other cooked items I may have on a somewhat regular basis.

At the same time, even though I don’t eat cooked foods very often, I do enjoy them and of course, you know how what happens when you tell yourself you can’t have a certain food…suddenly that’s all you can think about.  There is no doubt that cooked foods release more dopamine than raw foods and often cause me to overeat.  Thus the battle I fight to continue eating the food that I feel best eating (raw) and eliminating the food that doesn’t feel as good (cooked).

Why exactly do I want to eat raw? What were the benefits I experienced from eating only raw vegetables and fruit in preparation for the marathon? I get these questions a lot, and I love answering them.

However, since I don’t weigh myself and I didn’t test my body fat levels pre and post, so much of what I describe here will be subjective. Nonetheless, the benefits of eating raw are pretty substantial and I hope you’ll find some value in my experience, whether or not it’s easily quantifiable.

More Energy – it’s listed first because it’s the most significant change in switching to raw. My energy level was already pretty amazing since going vegan all those years ago, but the switch to raw exponentially increased it. Perhaps it’s all that energy that went into digesting cooked foods, and is now available, but whatever it is, I’m a big fan. This spike in energy is part of the reason I gave up drinking coffee over 3 years ago. Don’t need it. Don’t need the caffeine.

When I’m getting all my energy from the raw food I eat, it would seem strange to even need caffeine, right? I wake up in the morning feeling great, and at the end of the day I never feel as tired as I used to. Sure, I still feel tired, especially during a 20 week training build up to Boston, but it’s not an overwhelming exhaustion as it had been previously.

More Chill – eating raw food relaxes me. I’m not sure of any other way to describe it, but events that would’ve normally bothered me or caused a negative reaction simply don’t anymore. It’s as if I’ve already counted to ten and any annoyance has dissipated.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like eating raw magically erases anger and frustration from your life (wouldn’t that be great?), but I certainly deal with challenges in a much more relaxed and confident manner.

Part of being more chill comes from feeling so great eating raw that much less bothers me than normally would. When you don’t have to worry about your health, when your default setting is that you generally feel pretty damn good, it certainly overflows into all the other aspects of your life. Everything becomes that much easier when you live in a strong, healthy body.

Weight Loss – this is one I can’t quantify with a measurement of pounds simply because I don’t weigh myself. But I can tell my clothes fit looser and that I’m lighter. Eating raw food naturally results in less calories consumed, simply because the calories per pound of raw vegetables and fruit is much lower than cooked foods.

The interesting part is that even though I’m consuming less calories I feel like I’m eating plenty and that I’m never having to restrict calories or control my portions. I simply eat until I’m satisfied, and even occasionally past that point (oops), but I still don’t gain weight.

As a runner I’ve always been conscious of my weight, since it directly affects my running performance. Before I tried raw foods I would gain and lose depending on how strict I was with portion sizes and limiting the amount I ate, but it was always a battle to stay in my desired weight range. With eating raw, I find it liberating not to have to limit portion sizes or worry about how much I’m eating.

Fat Loss – there’s no doubt that eating cooked foods always means eating a higher percentage of fat than eating raw does. Even if you actively avoid fats like nuts, seeds avocados and oil, it’s nearly impossible to avoid oil if you’re eating out or eating any sort of processed cooked foods.

Foods like hummus, bread and most processed vegan “faux” meats have olive, corn or safflower oil. Any stir fry or cooked foods like veggie burritos or even pasta you order at a restaurant are liberally coated with oil during the cooking process. Reading ingredient labels on your favorite foods can be quite an eye opener as to how much fat you might be consuming without knowing.

At 4000 calories per pound and no nutritional value whatsoever, all oils are unhealthy. With a raw diet, it’s much less likely that you’re taking in oils, though you do have to be careful with the amount of raw nuts, nut butter and seeds you consume.

I tend towards a whole, unprocessed type of raw diet, so I can easily avoid these high fat foods. Other than half an avocado in my epic salads, I hardly ever take in high fat foods.

I try and keep my fat percentage to about 10-15%, of my calories, because I agree with Dr John McDougall (disclaimer: he is not a fan of eating all raw) that the “fat you eat is the fat you wear.”  However, I don’t actively count calories, fat grams or other macronutrients.  I just eat whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

Food Preparation is a Breeze – people often ask me if it’s hard to be raw. From a food preparation standpoint, eating raw is the opposite of hard. I spend very little time in food preparation. I may cut up some oranges, a cantaloupe or watermelon, which usually takes at most 5 minutes of my time. I have no pots and pans to clean, because I don’t cook anything. A snack is as easy as opening a banana or biting into an apple. What could be easier than that? I dirty one plate per meal, that generally involves only a quick rinse.

At night I eat a giant salad, which involves cutting up some lettuce, half an avocado and chopping some mushrooms and peppers. It takes about 10 minutes at the most, and my clean up is rinsing my salad bowl and washing my knife and fork.

Simplicity – eating raw can be as simple or as complicated as you like, just as with anything. I know raw foodist that spend hours and hours preparing complicated meals that involve dehydrating things for 12 hours and sprouting beans and legumes for 10.

I have no interest in such endeavors, since one of the biggest advantages to eating raw is that it’s so simple. A meal can be five or six bananas and a couple of apples. It can be a medium size watermelon or a couple of small cantaloupes.

We’ve been taught that a variety of food is preferable to one food at a meal. But is eating so many different food items at one meal necessary, or even good for you? I would argue it is neither. When you combine so many different flavors and foods into one dish, it begins to taste like none of those flavors.

In going raw, I appreciate the flavor of foods so much more now. I don’t wish to combine things because I love the flavor of the food I’m eating.  When you limit ingredients to 5 or 6 at most you’ll actually taste the flavor in each individual food.

One of my favorite meals is watermelon, or ten or so organic navel oranges cut up and arranged beautifully on a plate. I don’t need to blend the oranges, or juice them and combine them with other things to make a smoothie. They are so good on their own, in their natural state. Of course that’s not to say I don’t combine items when I eat out, or occasionally when I’m entertaining. But for the most part, I enjoy simply eating fresh, ripe, in season, organic fruit.

Resist the temptation to complicate eating raw. Sure, you can go buy a book or find some great websites with raw food recipes when you’re first starting out if you feel compelled to do so. But find a handful of fruits that you love and that are in season and make that your first meal of the day. I think you might be surprised how deeply fulfilling it is to simplify your diet and how much you really don’t need variety.

So there you have it. Six benefits to eating raw that I’ve experienced over the last 100+ days. Though I didn’t nail a PR in Boston, I had a great race and an even better experience. After a couple of days eating cooked foods, I’m back to eating raw again for the remainder of 2017. I’m excited to see what I can elevate my fitness levels to with an even longer period of time eating only raw vegetables and fruit.

If you’re considering trying out a raw diet, don’t become overwhelmed by recipes, exotic ingredients and food preparation.

Go simple to start, with meals of fresh, ripe fruit or a giant salad with just a few ingredients.

Good Luck!

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why isn’t everyone vegan yet?

I admit, I’m not the most patient person in the world.  I went vegan over 12 years ago.  So what’s the hold up with all of you others out there that still eat animals?  Why the heck isn’t everyone vegan?

I mean, really.  I thought I was late to the party.  I know a number of people who’ve been vegan a whole lot longer than I have.  So here I am waiting for this giant tsunami of new vegans.  And waiting.  And waiting.

It seems like it’s taking forever.  Last Sunday I went to an afternoon wine event.  I watched people stand in line to eat pulled pork tacos.  They balanced chunks of Kobe beef on tiny white paper plates.  Crab stuffed mushrooms were pierced with sharp toothpicks and eaten with the fervor of a death row inmate’s last meal.

Picking my way though this minefield of unhealthy, unsustainable and cruel choices, I felt a bit like I was playing Scrabble with no vowels.  I found not one single option for vegans at the entire event.  Not one hummus dip with pita bread triangles in sight.  No obligatory fruit tray.  No neglected baby carrot, celery and tomato pairings.

Though I’m sure with the five hundred or so odd people that were there, chances are slim I wasn’t the only vegan, but it sure as heck felt like I was. I found myself getting really annoyed with the number of people holding tiny plates of pig carcass and waiting in line for Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream full of cruel dairy products. What the heck, people?

Why is this still happening? I didn’t really care so much about that fact that the organizers failed to offer vegan options.  That’s not really the point.  The point is how can so many people still be eating in a way that causes such harm to their health, animals and the environment?

Statistics show that vegans make up only 2-4% of the population.  So I guess only 2-4% of the population can read?  It’s the same feeling I get when I see anyone smoking a cigarette.  This isn’t the 1950’s. We know how harmful cigarettes are to your health and anyone unfortunate enough to be taking in your second hand smoke.

Just like cigarettes, we also know the dangers of eating animal products.  We’ve had studies published for decades now showing vegans have less heart disease, cancer and lower rates of body fat than their meat-eating counterparts.  This includes the most comprehensive nutrition study ever conducted for long term health, the China Study. Not to mention several award-winning documentaries like Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives and Earthlings that provide clear and sometimes painful details about the negative consequences of eating meat.

So are these people living in a hole in the ground? How can people still eat the Standard American Diet?  The information is out there.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation  out there as well.  Every month it seems, a new article or “study” comes along and tells us saturated fat is ok!  Eat more, not less animal protein!  We were wrong, butter is sooooo good for you!

But here is where a little common sense comes in handy.  Even when I was eating butter and animal products all those many years ago, I never, not even for a moment, thought those foods were better for me than fruits and vegetables.

Nutrition and health isn’t confusing.  It’s actually painfully simple.

The confusing part is why isn’t everyone vegan?

EatPlantsLiveWell!

Why vegans shouldn’t care about protein, fat or carbs.

Nearly every bit of health advice out there has to do with focusing on the macronutrients known as protein, fat and carbs.  Avoid carbs!  No fat!  More protein!  Some go so far as to give you ratios…40/30/30 and even 80/10/10.  But here’s why vegans shouldn’t care about protein, fat or carbs.

Eating real food is the most important thing you can do if you’re concerned about your health.

In general, any nutrient-based advice becomes another distraction from the really really important project of focusing on food.

-Michael Pollan

Though he’s not a vegan, Michael Pollan does offer up some sage advice for anyone concerned about their health.  How refreshing it would be to drop the focus on nutrients or even calories and just focus on eating real food?  Could it be that simple?

The fact is,eating fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables means you don’t have to focus on any nutrient-based advice.  No need to measure macros, calorie count, supplement with protein or live in abject fear of taking in too many carbs.  As long as you’re taking in an adequate amount of calories, you’re taking in enough nutrients.  Mother nature has a wonderful way of making sure of it.

But what about protein?  Of course, always the protein question.  Our obsession with protein is the result of relentless marketing on the part of the meat and dairy industries, not a nutrient that you will ever have a hard time getting.  Fruits and vegetables have protein, in numbers that guarantee you’ll get enough without even thinking about it or measuring it.  Supplements?  Nope, you don’t need them either on a whole foods, unprocessed diet.  Superfoods? Good news! You don’t need overpriced, overhyped and sometimes obscure foods to get all the nutrients you need.  In fact, you need remarkably little variety in your diet to still end up with all you need at the end of the day.

Isn’t that too much carbs? Nope and no.  Don’t fear the carbs!  You need carbohydrates for energy.  You should be eating mostly carbs, and you will when you eat fruit and vegetables.  Can you get too many carbs?  Yes, you can.  If you’re eating too much and taking in excess calories, then you’re taking in too many carbs.  Good luck though, as overeating on fruits and vegetables isn’t exactly easy.  You’re taking in less calorically-dense food, so you’ll have to eat a much larger quantity.  In order to consume excess calories of fruits and vegetables you’ll need to eat A LOT of lettuce and apples.  Like you may have to quit your job just so you can eat full time.

Should I watch my fat percentage? You won’t need to.  Fat in fruits and vegetables is present, but only in small amounts.  Sure, you may not want to eat 4 avocados in one day, but few would be able to do that anyway.  Some fruit has more fat than others (i.e. Durian, coconut and avocado), but most fruit has a small percentage of fat relative to the calories.  Also, high fat fruits tend to naturally satiate you quicker than low fat fruits, so if you take your time eating or limit yourself to reasonable quantities (i.e. 1/2 an avocado per day), you won’t need to think about fats as something to avoid at all. Unlike highly processed foods like french fries and donuts, unprocessed foods will trigger your natural satiety signals.  All you need to do is listen to your body.

But wait, can it really be that simple?  I know what you’re thinking…if you’re used to tracking calories, nutrients, percentages of macronutrients, etc., then it will seem really strange to suddenly not need to.  Whatever will you talk about?  Keep in mind though, that eating and food isn’t supposed to be complicated.  We’ve created the complications around foods and nutrients and what and how much of everything we need to eat.  We’ve done this for different reasons but the bottom line is this – simple is best.  Focusing on eating whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables is really quite simple, normal and natural.  The constant preoccupation with the nutrients in food and getting “enough” of everything comes from a food culture that sees the trees and misses the forest entirely.

We know intuitively what food is best for our body and we also know how much to eat. Do you really think your body needs a Chipotle burrito the size of your arm? Or an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s?  If you don’t know prior to eating it you’ll certainly know almost immediately afterwards.  Your body, when it’s in a clean and efficient state from getting the right foods, will tell you everything you need to know as far as what and how much to eat.

So forget about protein, carbohydrates or fat.  Forget about calories too, while you’re at it.

Instead, work on eating the least processed, natural foods in their natural state.  Don’t drink apple juice, eat an apple.  Choose a banana instead of a banana-flavored PowerBar. Don’t supplement with protein powder, eat natural plant protein like spinach.  Enjoy an avocado on salad rather than high fat and highly processed dressings.

Transitioning to eating unprocessed food takes time and, deepening on your current diet, will certainly not be easy.  You have some habits that will make change seem difficult or even impossible at times.  You’ll need to just continue substituting more and more natural foods for packaged or processed items and you’ll eventually change those tastebuds of yours.

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!

 

 

4 reasons why smart people drink just water

I’m astounded by the number of beverage options at my local Whole Foods store.   They stock everything from gingerade kombucha to asparagus water to hemp milk.  It’s not just Whole Foods though.  Have you walked into a convenience store lately?  You might have been hit in the forehead with 25 varieties of fountain soda and cups big enough to hold 64 ounces.

Am I the only one that thinks we’ve gone absolutely over the top with endless varieties of beverage options?  When was the last time someone just had a drink of water if they were thirsty?  Oh, not good enough?  You need a beet, carrot and ginger juice?  Or a cold brewed artisan coffee to slake your thirst?  Certainly you can’t be expected to go a day without coconut water.

No, no, and no.  Let’s talk about why smart people drink just water, and why you need to just walk right by that ostentatious display of liquid refreshment without a single second thought:

  1. No fat, no calories  – the best part about water is…it’s water.  It doesn’t have a list of ingredients and therefore doesn’t have fat, calories, protein, or anything.  It’s just plain old water.  Yet, the beauty is in it’s very plainness.  It has no added ingredients.  You don’t need to even bother reading the label.  And if you’re doing it right and filtering your water at home and using a re-usable container like my Klean Kanteen, there wouldn’t be a label anyway. smart people drink just water You can even decorate your container with stickers like I did.
  2. Less expensive  – you can drink filtered water at home for next to nothing.  Or you can blow anywhere from $1.50 to $15 buying stupid bottled water and outrageously expensive craft brews that taste like pine needles and smell like shoe polish  Most people work hard for their money and must tolerate long commutes, time away from their families and a spot in the herd of the cube farm.  Does it make sense to prolong time spent in the workforce by spending your hard-earned cash on ridiculously expensive drinks? No, it does not. Is that daily Kombucha habit you’ve cultivated going to drown the sadness you should feel knowing you’re not maxing out your 401k contribution?  Doubt it.
  3. Minimalism  – I’m a huge fan of keeping things simple.  You may have heard President Obama only wears gray or blue suits, as he revealed in a Fast Company interview. This isn’t because he prefers only those colors, but because it pares down his decision-making.  He only has 2 choices.  Less decisions.  Less time spent making decisions is the impetus.   Imagine only having one beverage choice.  Water or water.  How easy it would be.  No adding beverages to your grocery list.  No need to decide what to order at dinner or lunch.  No paying for or transporting cases of beverages from the store to home.  Nope, you just fill up your container from your Brita water pitcher purchased for less that $21 on Amazon and you’re done.  Boom.  No decision necessary.  No extra packaging to throw away.  No worry about whether what you’re drinking is pure or filtered.  Of course it is silly, you filtered it yourself.
  4. Hydration – let’s get down to the nitty gritty of beverage consumption.  It’s not for entertainment (hello, beer and wine), it’s not for fun, or because you’re bored or feel compelled to always have a beverage in hand.  Beverage consumption, down to it’s basics, is about hydration.  That’s right.  Your body requires water.  After all, water is our #1 nutrient.  Not only does water lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, but it also plays a key role in your mood.  The best possible way to get hydrated is not by drinking ridiculously over-marketed, sugar-filled and artificially-colored drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, but by drinking water.  Quick question…what’s more hydrating than water?  Nothing.  Water is hydrating.   Water is all your body needs and nothing it doesn’t.  Water is life.

Here comes the vegan agenda…Keep in mind that it’s great to obtain water and thus hydration from drinking water, but that’s not the only, or even the best way.  Water also comes from your diet.  Ha!  Since you’re reading a vegan blog, did you really think I’d go for a single post without recommending you eat more plants?  Of course not.

If you have a crappy diet of high calorie, heavily processed, dense foods you’re probably dehydrated.  If you have a clean diet full of fruits and vegetables and no processed foods, you very likely have better hydration levels.  The more high water content foods like watermelon, oranges and celery that you eat, the more hydrated you’ll be and the less water you’ll need.  The more salty, sugary and fat-laden foods you eat, the more water you’ll need to drink just to help your body digest that which you’ve thrown at it.

Sure, water isn’t glamorous.  It doesn’t come in 27 different flavors and colors.  It doesn’t fizz or have any celebrity or famous athlete endorsements.  Or even an iconic Got Milk? slogan.

But wait.  Isn’t it all the better that water doesn’t have any of that?  Water doesn’t need million dollar advertising slogans.  It doesn’t need variety or fizz.  Water sells itself.  It’s the beverage of choice for everyone, from hardcore endurance athletes to hung over college students.  Water is the bomb.  Water is the new black.

Now go drink some water! Oh, and eat your fruit and veggies!

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.

Going all raw vegan for 2016: Day 11 update

all raw vegan 2016

I’m through day 11 of going all raw vegan for 2016.  Though my minimum time period for eating all raw is the 2016 calendar year, my ultimate hope is that after 365 days of eating this way I will continue to eat all raw.  Assuming, of course, that I still feel best eating this way.

The first 11 days have been super easy.  Right now I’m eating mostly bananas, mandarins, apples during the day and then eating a simple salad at night of romaine or butter lettuce with avocado, tomatoes, dates and lime.  I then also usually have a snack of mandarins in the evening.

Food combining and mono meals

Clearly, I’m not following the rules of food combining and I’m also not having as many mono meals as I’d like.  I’ll continue to work on that, probably by making my salad even simpler and maybe just eating mandarins for my breakfast/lunch.

For now, I don’t feel bad combining these foods so I don’t have a lot of incentive to stop eating this way.  This may change, of course, but I’ll continue to look for ways to improve on both of these in the future.

Calories

I haven’t been using Cronometer to log my calories lately but my guess would be I’m in the range of 2500 calories or so per day.  While I have a high level of activity, this is probably still too high.  I am working on eating a bit less.  I tend to eat more than I should, sometimes past the point where I feel full.  This is a work in progress and I’ll continue to work on being aware of my natural satiety signals.

I also tend to eat too fast.  This happens mostly because I love, love, love eating this way.  When I eat I look like the Tasmanian Devil, annihilating everything edible (and raw) in my path.  I’m working on eating slower.  Making baby steps.

Intermittent fasting

Though I have made some videos on this subject I don’t even really like to call what I do intermittent fasting.  What I do is try and follow a pretty simple idea for when I eat.  It’s pretty crazy, so get ready.  Here goes:  I eat when I’m hungry.  Crazy, right?

This means that I typically don’t eat until 11 am or even later.  Today I ate around noon. Yesterday I ate around 10:30 am.  I don’t want food early in the morning.  I work out in a fasted state, and I don’t feel the need to eat until at least late morning.

I know, I know.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right?  Perhaps it is, or perhaps not.  Depends on if you’re hungry when you get up in the morning.  If you are, eat.  But one thing I will never recommend is eating when you’re not hungry.  Doesn’t the idea of eating when you’re simply not hungry seem kind of crazy?

I hear people say “you’ve got to eat,” or “aren’t you going to eat?”  As if going for a few hours without eating is going to kill me.  Well, it’s not.

What might kill people, though, is a habit of eating when not hungry. It’s silly and a dangerous and extremely unhealthy rabbit hole to fall down.  Make a point of listening to your body.  If it wants to eat, you’ll get the signals loud and clear.

Dr Joel Fuhrman labels those false hunger signals as Toxic Hunger.  This hunger is the only type many people feel, and is triggered by many situations, including food availability, unhealthy foods and even boredom.  Let’s face it – we’ve all fallen victim to eating when we’re not truly hungry. The key is recognizing it and training yourself to only eat when you’re body signals you that it needs food.

Summary

Overall, I feel great so far going all raw vegan for 2016.  I’m experiencing more energy, better and more consistent digestion and just an overall good feeling.  I’ve even had a few social situations and meals at restaurants where I’ve managed to find awesome raw options.

So far so good!

EatPlantsLiveWell!