If anyone would have ever told me that I would become a vegan, I would have laughed until my sides ached. You see, I am just one of those people who need mainly protein to feel well. Back in my running and competing days when a banana and a bagel were the breakfast prescription before a race, I just couldn’t go along with the recommendations. In my training runs I became aware that if I did not eat protein, meaning an egg or high protein shake, I would become uncomfortably shaky to the point that I felt weak.
In keeping with life’s oftentimes random but meaningful events, my whole life spun around last weekend when I was innocently talking to my neighbor as we irrigated our properties. He had lost 19 pounds in 6 weeks and when I asked how he had done that, he told me he had become a vegan after reading The China Study. My first reaction was hope because I could lose a few pounds. I have never been overweight but fat distribution changes for a woman after menopause and I was no exception despite my love of working out and being active. I joked about it telling others my body was preparing itself to roll when I started falling. But falling is not funny at all and a serious issue for the elderly.
And so I started reading The China Study and I am quite simply, stunned by what I have read. Having earned a doctorate, I consider myself to have the scientist mentality and I want scientific explanations with a preponderance of evidence in order to make a significant change in my life. The results of The China Study are anything but inconclusive. It is a seminal study on the difference between a plant based and a meat based diet in terms of health and risk for chronic disease. Not only does it address the specifics of the research design but it also addresses many individual diseases. However, it does not stop there and goes on to address the immense, mind blowing corruption in our great country in regard to nutrition and who is holding which reins on which national committee. Dr. Campbell challenged much of what I have believed over the last 30 or more years in terms of nutrition and I am ready to listen.
People become vegetarians or vegans for many different reasons. I want to lose weight and I want to avoid the “C” diagnosis. I am encouraging those of you who wonder about this to read the book and at least try out the diet for a period of time. It can only help to improve your health. When I make a decision, I want to immediately move forward on it and I was eager to start on my new diet. But alas, my refrigerator and freezer were filled with animal based products! What was I going to do with all that food? So I realized that this change in diet was going to be a transition which actually made sense and gave me a sigh of relief. After all, I love cheese even more than meat and giving that up will be the greatest test of all. Realizing that some transitory time was necessary, I started thinking about the practical aspects of it in my mind. The study results showed that a protein diet of 5% was noncontributory to negative health events, so I realized I could eat a bit of protein each day while incorporating some new approaches. If you go on Amazon you will find many cookbooks along with the original China Study. I didn’t order any cookbooks because I needed to read about the study results first. But I am thinking about an entirely new way of eating and like Dr. Campbell’s friend stated in his book, I am wondering “What am I going to eat?”
OK, so no dairy, no meat, no fish, no eggs; that is a lot to give up! But then I think how much I love vegetables and whole grains. Can I really make this work? Most of the animal products are now gone and I have even tested out some vegan cheese. Daiya brand is lactose, casein, gluten, soy and cholesterol free. The cheddar style slices melt well and taste is pretty good. Since I like very sharp cheddar cheese, it has been more of an adjustment for me. Another brand is Treeline, a soft creamy cheese that is made with scallions and finely ground cashew nuts and is delicious. A third product is called “Follow your Heart” by Earth Island and is made from potato starch. I found these products at my local grocery cooperative. Some other ideas for snacks are organic Kalamata olives, mixed organic nuts, raw or roasted, celery with almond butter filling and whole wheat crackers or bread with hummus spread. Dr. Campbell does not encourage calorie counting!
I thought the best place to start was to figure out some foundational recipes I could eat routinely that would be easy to prepare, so I chose hummus and blue corn enchiladas. It would sound like hummus would be very easy to make, but it is tricky how you put the ingredients together. One recipe I came across suggested mixing the lemon juice with the tahini first. When I tried that, it was just too thick and the machine kept shutting itself off. I would have to wait and I had to keep adding water. I recommend the opposite and that is adding the tahini last in small spoonfuls.