"OK, this is working. I have so much more energy when I'm out there."
-Tony Gonzalez, Vegan NFL Player-
It's been three weeks since nutrition guru Dr. T. Colin Campbell came to speak at the Wellness Grand Rounds at the Medical Center where I work. (for my post about his visit, click here! )
*To read my 5 month update on the Green Smoothie adventure from 8/9/08, Click Here!
Have I become a vegan? Not exactly, but I've made a delicious change. Here's what I've added to my list of Top 12 Super Foods that I eat almost everyday: GREEN SMOOTHIES. It's all because of Tony Gonzalez. Let me explain.
My interest was piqued when Dr. Campbell said KC Chief's NFL star Tony Gonzalez decided to start a vegan diet after reading only 40 pages of The China Study. Gonzalez had learned about Campbell's research on a plane flight last Spring when his seat mate turned down a meal offered in first class. When Gonzalez asked him why, he told him about Dr. Campbell's research "showing that people who eat mostly plants have fewer deadly diseases than those who eat animals." Gonzalez started a vegan diet immediately, and according to Dr. Campbell he had his best season ever, breaking his touchdown record before mid-season, and his career reception record.
Since I'm a nosy & skeptical librarian, I had to verify Dr. Campbell's story, and sure enough I got the full Tony Gonzalez story from a January 25, 2008 Wall Street Journal article that you can read here! It's a great article, with a lot of supplementary nutritional advice from sports nutritionists, so I highly recommend taking a look at it.
First of all, 247 lb. Tony is the NFL's highest paid tight-end and his "biggest thing is strength." Sports nutritionists usually recommend that athletes get lots of protein to rebuild muscles, and big doses of vitamins and minerals. The KC Chief's training table serves up 3500 calories per athlete a day, with choices like eggs, sausage and prime rib. Tony was going to have quite a challenge on his hands to eat vegan. He needed lots of calories, and lots of protein.
Turns out Gonzalez quit eating meat & dairy "cold turkey", without getting advice from a nutritionist. BIG MISTAKE! Three weeks later he'd lost weight & strength. 100 pound dumbbells that he could easily throw around before, now felt like lead weights. "I was scared out of my mind", he said. Before quitting his vegan diet, he called up Dr. Campbell who put him in touch with Jon Hinds, a vegan and former strength coach for the LA Clippers basketball team. His suggestion: more plant protein, like soy, beans, or a rice/ pea protein powder of all things. But the Chief's nutritionist, Mitzi Dulan still didn't think that was enough, so she convinced Tony to add just a little bit of chicken and fish into his diet.
I was happy to hear Mitzi's recommendations, because, frankly I like salmon, tuna, and my turkey sandwiches. By the way, I've got a great source of mercury-free, environmentally friendly canned tuna that I'll share in another post. I'm not ready to go vegan quite yet.
The WSJ article had a sample of Tony's daily menu and that's where I first learned about GREEN SMOOTHIES. Coincidently, last December my husband and I went to a Food Network Expo where we saw the master of all smoothie machines demonstrated, the Vita-mix. You throw in any fruit or vegetable you can think of, add some ice or water, and voila, you have delicious, nutritious smoothies, soups or whole fruit sorbets.
He was ready to buy one on the spot. "Hey let's splurge & give this to ourselves as an anniversary present. It's coming up next week. Perfect timing!", he said. (Oops, I guess he hadn't gotten a gift for me yet.) In my typical, annoying I-have-to-research-everything-first-style, I replied, "Let's think about it. We can always get it later. What's the rush?"
The week before I even heard Dr. Campbell speak, on the spur of the moment I shouted into my husband's office, "Hey, why don't you just go ahead & order that Vita-mix. He did, and it arrived three days after I learned about the mega-virtues of vegan, and Tony Gonzalez' GREEN SMOOTHIES. Perfect timing!
We've been making them ever since. I can't believe how easy it is to throw in all my favorite super foods, like kale, swiss chard, citrus, carrots and berries, & in literally, two minutes a quart of delicious "whole-not-extracted" juice is made. The Vita-mix blends it all up, so you have the whole fruit and vegetable, complete with the fiber. And the clean up is a breeze. I know I sound like a commercial, but it's that easy! And it's a lot easier to sip 12 servings of fruits and veggies throughout the day than eat and prepare the equivalent number of salads and cooked greens. I'm not going to make any miracle claims of boundless energy, lustrous hair or increased memory powers. I felt good before GREEN SMOOTHIES, and I feel good after. It's just an easy-efficient way to eat right. If anything, I'd say I have less appetite (or maybe just less room) for junk.
The combinations of fruits and vegetables that you can mix in are endless, but to keep it super healthy, and to keep the calories within reason my emphasis is on the power greens, like kale, spinach & chard. More fruit=more calories. Here's what I'm going to mix up today:
2 1/2 cups of spinach
2 1/2 cups swiss chard
4 large carrots
1/2 red grapefruit
1 red apple
It's about a quart's worth and enough for a mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and on-the-way-home snack. It's especially good after a work-out. It fills me up, tastes yummy & I'm getting amazing amounts of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. My husband adds a tablespoon of Vegan Rice Protein to his shake and has it for breakfast on his way to work. Each tablespoon adds 12 grams of protein & 55 calories. Not bad. Soy protein disagreed with him, but the brown rice protein has been fine. And if I need it to be sweeter, I've added stevia, maple syrup or super ripe fruit.
If you'd like to see a short video on how easy it is to make, check this out:
Here's the link if the video doesn't work for you: