Kale Lemon Sandwiches
I owe my lunch date at the Esselstyn's to the Power of Talking to Strangers. Last June I heard Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. speak for an hour on my NPR affiliate about How to Eradicate Heart Disease and I was so impressed I summarized his talk & posted it on my blog: Yes, You Can Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease, But Are You Up for the Challenge? Let Dr. Esselstyn Convince You. If you need a refresher, it's well worth your time to read it!
I had so many visitors to my post about Dr. Esselstyn that sometime in November when I happened to see Ann Esselstyn (I knew who she was--she had no idea who I was) I went over to her, introduced myself and told her how many fans she and her husband had from all over the world.
Soon after that Ann started reading my blog and chided me every time she saw oil in any of my recipes.
"You know, that's not at all necessary," she'd say.
"Yes, I know, but...," I'd sheepishly replied.
Now every time I post a recipe I know Ann will be scrutinizing it, because she has over 20 years of experience teaching heart disease patients how to prepare delicious food that will prevent and reverse heart disease.
And that means:
- Vegetables-lots of green leafy ones to restore & heal the endothelial lining of your blood vessels. Kale, Swiss Chard, Cilantro, Collards, Bok Choy, Parsley, Spinach, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower
- Whole fruit
- Whole grains
- Beans/Legumes; "light" tofu--cautious use of low-fat soy meat substitutes. Many are highly processed, high-fat junk food.
No added oils.
It seems tough, maybe impossible to some--compared to what most of us eat--but once you get used to it, and start feeling so great, there's no going back.
Besides, if you had to choose between major heart surgery, with all its attendant risks, a lifetime of medication, and the constant fear of another cardiac event OR cleaning up your diet-act with an artery-cleaning plant-based diet, what would you choose?
And now the Esselstyn's are on a mission--to get me to ditch any fat and any animal protein still remaining in my diet. The pressure is on!
So, How Was Lunch?
They are in their mid-seventies and if their way of eating is the reason for their vitality, I'm signing up!
They're fit, athletic, energetic, brilliant, calm (yes, I noticed that), funny, with stick-straight posture to boot!
Ann practices yoga, weight trains & runs. Dr. E swims, weight trains & bikes.
Honestly, anyone who would want to advocate for a diet of meat, milk, cheese, fat, and processed grains wouldn't stand a chance against these two!
Soup: Silly me, I never even asked what was in this hearty delicious soup, or what it was called. We were too busy talking by that time! I just ate & enjoyed. It was thick with vegetables & perhaps quinoa or couscous. I'll have to find out! Full of flavor, but without extra salt.
Sandwiches: I loved the Kale/Lemon Sandwiches. A toasted whole-grain pumpernickel slice piled high with steamed kale, tahini-free hummus, green onions, cilantro, thinly sliced lemon (a great kicky addition), tomato and sprinkled with lemon-pepper. For a copy of Ann's Kale/Lemon Sandwiches click here!
Dessert: A fresh fruit salad with mint and Ann's cookie experiments (she's always making up new recipes)--one with chopped dates & one with chopped ginger. I confessed that I had sworn off sugar, but I had to have just a little taste. Much better than I expected for a no-oil whole grain cookie.
The Leftovers: I was sent home with 2 leftover wraps, one kale sandwich & 1 cookie. My husband & my friend Franny carefully cut them in half and gobbled them up. Their review? Delicious!
The Esselstyn Family
Jane, a former teacher who is now a super-busy mother of 3 going full-time to nursing school, joined us mid-way through our lunch. Here's an example of her "plant-based" energy. She has just gotten off of a 12 hour shift at the emergency room of a hospital on the other side of town.
We just had a freak snow storm that dumped at least 10 more inches of snow that morning. She stops at the grocery store, shovels her drive, jumps in the shower & heads over to her parents to join us for lunch. Her 3 kids will soon be home & she's got a million things yet to do. Not many people have that kind of stamina. Most of us would have headed straight home to bed before the kids arrived home--and the heck with shoveling snow! Not Jane.
And yes, I just had to ask her, "So, what do you eat? Are you following the same diet as your parents?"
Answer: Mostly, yes. She's plant-based, no animal protein, but, since she's also been eating heart-healthy for over 20 years, she doesn't begrudge herself occasional chocolate or nuts. And her kids? They eat like their parents, but when they go to a birthday party, of course they eat cake.
And then there's Rip Esselstyn, the soon-to-be-famous author of The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds. He's a vegan and a tri-athlete and with over 20 years of plant-based eating under his belt--his heart & arteries are healthier than most of the competitors in his age group, which puts him at a distinct athletic advantage.
If you're in your 20's, 30's, or 40's and heart disease isn't something you spend much time thinking about, I'd advise you to take a look at Rip's book when it comes out at the end of February. He's a little more diet-flexible than his physician-researcher father. Rip says, "Try it for 28 days and see how you feel." The firefighters in Engine 2 are on board.
2. The truth is that cardiovascular disease needn't ever exist. It's absolutely a toothless paper tiger. But if it does exist, it needn't ever progress, as long as you are willing to change completely to an oil-free plant-based diet.
3. The basic understanding we all need to accept is that with every meal of oil, dairy or meat we eat, within minutes there is damage & injury to the "life jackets" of our vascular health--which is the single layer of endothelial cells that line all of our blood vessels. The endothelial cells produce the "magical gas" called nitric oxide which keeps our blood vessels relaxed, prevents our white blood cells & platelets from becoming sticky and prevents the growth of plaque--the dread "hardening of the arteries".
4. And what can you eat to insure that your endothelial cells will have the raw materials to produce this healing nitric oxide? Beans & leafy greens. Load up on kale, collard, chard, bok choy & beans and you will be well on your way to healing the lining of your blood vessels.
5. On the positive side--as soon as we stop eating these damaging foods--the endothelial cells have the capacity for restoration.
6. Switching to a plant-based diet trumps every other lifestyle modification you can make. It trumps exercise and it trumps stress management. Both are important--but diet is the trump card.
7. Switching to a plant-based diet even trumps the genetics card. As Essesylstyn says, "Genetics only loads the gun--it's diet that pulls the trigger."
To Read More About Dr. Esselstyn, check out Mark Sutton's Esselstyn interview.
To Read Esselstyn's views on oil, click here.