My No-More-Olive-Oil Mediterranean Lentil Salad
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My three-week-no-oil-plant-based Esselstyn Diet Trial ended yesterday.
But, You'll Have to Wait Until Next Week for the Lipid Test Results
I was lucky enough to get my "gate-keeper" physician to write an order for a new lipid panel, but since I know I probably won't be able to have another one taken for five more years, I want to make sure that this one will accurately reflect my diet changes. If I were on statins, they'd want to check me every year.
So, after talking to Dr. Esselstyn, I decided to wait one more week to have my blood work taken. And frankly I'm not in any hurry, because I'm now so used to this eating style that I'm finding it easier & easier to do, not to mention, delicious.
It's Not A Numbers Game - It's All About What You're Eating
Yesterday I also had a chance to ask Dr. Esselstyn a few of the questions that readers have been asking me.
So what if my numbers don't go as low as I'm hoping they'll go?
Dr. Esselstyn stressed that the health of my blood vessels is dependent upon what I'm eating--in spite of the numbers. If I'm really eating 100% plant-based, no-oil, all whole grain, very heavy on the greens, beans, fruits, & legumes--no problem! He says my blood vessels should be thanking me by now.
Turns out, even the Tarahumara Indians, who had no heart disease to speak of--had LDL levels from 80-115--and some had HDLs as low as 26--the kind of numbers that might make a cardiologist pull out a prescription pad. They were eating only beans, squash, & sweet potatoes--not a bit of oil. Their LDLs were the light fluffy kind and they weren't causing a bit of damage. And their lower HDLs weren't a problem either, because the Tarahumara's weren't eating anything that was going to turn their LDLs into the small dense dangerous bad guys. If you aren't eating any inflammatory endothelial-damaging foods like fats, oils, and animal products---and you're loading up on high anti-oxidant greens you've reached the most important goal of all! Your numbers will probably reflect this--but don't worry if they don't.
Short Answer from Dr. Esselstyn: Unless you are one of the lucky few and none of your relatives have ever had vascular disease and they all lived to be a healthy 100, then you more than likely already have some degree of vascular disease. Unless, of course you've been eating like the Papua New Guinea Highlanders or the Tarahumara Indians all your life.
There are countless autopsy studies (click here for a few) of young adults from age 15-34 showing that everyone who eats our Western diet has heart disease. It's a given.
If you eat a healthier Mediterranean diet with olive oil, fish & chicken you're better off than someone who is eating cheeseburgers & fries--and you may be able to put off the likelihood of getting those nasty imperceptible tiny strokes (Dr. Megan Cleary of California examined over 11,000 MRIs of the brains
of 50 year olds & found many had tiny white spots that indicated
that they had unknowingly experienced tiny, imperceptible strokes.
These "brain attacks" have the same history and cause as heart attacks), heart disease or vascular problems until your mid-70s or 80s--but just think about spending your last years in a wheelchair, immobile, befuddled, and mute--or think about the erectile dysfunction, slowed mobility, balance and cognitive problems that are all caused by impaired circulation and could be prevented.
And then there's a whole host of other problems, like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, constipation, and some cancers that could be avoided if you changed your diet. Not to mention the side effects to all the medications you'll likely end up taking to keep heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, aortic valve stenosis, and erectile dysfunction at bay. Diet can do a much better job.
Consider the email I received from a reader who thought he was doing everything right. And then read about middle-aged fitness cyclist Michael Bicks who also thought he was doing everything right. "Not a Moment Too Soon I Thought of Tim Russert" click here."Dear Dr. Esselstyn, I'm writing at the suggestion of "The Healthy Librarian" who told you about my success with your diet (I've enjoyed the Engine 2 Diet as well).As I mentioned to her, in August 2007 I had quadruple bypass surgery. I was actually fortunate. I'd had no symptoms (apart from an unusual sensation in my chest when I exercised), "normal" cholesterol (180-200), and no real family history. I was not overweight and had long eaten a low- to non-fat diet.
When I left the hospital, which is affiliated with a prominent medical school, they told me didn't need to change my diet in any way. In addition to my PCP, I see an expert in the treatment of cholesterol. She's told me that she can't explain why I developed heart disease.
Since my surgery, I've followed your diet fairly rigorously. In March my scores were total cholesterol of 64, triglycerides 29, HDL 32 and LDL 26. Needless to say, I am gratified and relieved.
In addition to the diet, I had been taking 40 mg/day of Lipitor; since March that has been reduced to 20 mg/day. I also take 1000 mg of Niaspan/day.
I realize these medications likely played some role in my low scores; however, since not everyone who takes them does so well, I assume my diet is the major factor.
Update as of 6/23/2010: My cholesterol scores since reducing Lipitor by half are total 75, trigl. 31;, HDL 32, LDL 37.My only vice is avocado once or twice/week and low-non-fat dark chocolate (cocoa) powder in my coffee every day. And I feel great!!
beneficial components...appear to be anti-oxidant rich foods, including
vegetables, fruits, and their derivatives. Dietary fruits, vegetables
and their products appear to provide some protection against the direct
impairment of endothelial functions produced by high-fat foods,
including olive oil." (Vogel study: a meal containing olive oil impairs
blood flow & vasodilation by 31%--and that was in healthy men)
Esselstyn: Why would you want eat your vegetables with blood vessel-damaging oil? Besides, this isn't a fat-free diet. It's a no-oil added diet. All food has some amount of fat in them. The Iowa State University study on vitamin absorption with full-fat salad dressing was sponsored by Proctor & Gamble. Follow the money trail. It's in their best interests if we continue to eat oil. And besides, you rarely eat foods in isolation--there is always going to be some naturally occurring fat in your whole-grain pasta noodles, or beans--and whatever else you are eating with your vegetables.
My brilliant observation: Since I've been analyzing some of my daily food intake on "My Food Diary" I consistently notice that I am getting over 2000% (yes, you read that right) of my daily recommended intake of vitamin A. So, even if I'm only going to absorb half of that because I'm not eating oily salad dressing, I think I can be assured that I'm getting more than enough of my vitamin A daily.
If you're worried about getting enough fat with your salad, sprinkle some flax meal or chia seeds on top of it!
Esselstyn: You can never "overdose" on the fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A, if you are getting them from real food. The body only takes what it needs from food. But, if you are getting your vitamin A from a supplement you can put yourself at risk for taking in too much.Number Three Reader Question: How can you get enough omega-3s if you aren't eating fish?
Esselstyn: All omega-3s come from plants, originally. Fish make their omega-3s by eating microscopic green plants--phytoplankton. If you are eating farmed fish (like farmed salmon or tilapia) fed on grain, they aren't going to have any omega-3s. If you're eating all your green leafy vegetables (along with legumes & berries) you'll be getting enough omega-3s. Add in some daily flax meal, and you'll definitely get enough.
Me: The best way to get "enough" omega-3s is to drastically lower your intake of inflammation-causing omega-6s found in most oils, animal products, and many nuts (walnuts excepted). Americans have a sky-high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 17:1. We need it to be at best, 1:1 or at least, 4:1. It doesn't help to load up on omega-3 supplements if you aren't lowering your consumption of omega-6s.
This week's top 4 recipe picks. Mediterranean Lentil Salad, Mexican Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Chia Pudding, and Blueberry Oatmeal Bean Pancakes.
My kitchen lab is open & I'm on a wild recipe roll--having a fun time taking my old-time favorite recipes and seeing if I can cut out the fat--and keep the taste in. So far so good. Of course, I kind of know which ones are going to work before I even start.
My Olive-Oil Free Mediterranean Lentil Salad ala Moosewood
Serves 4 generously
1 package of Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils (1 lb. 1.6 oz size)
1 cup brown or green lentils cooked with 4 cups of water, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp fresh thyme (1/2 tsp. dried), and 2 peeled garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer until tender, around 20 minutes. Drain, discard bay leaves, remove & mash garlic & mix back into lentils.
1/3-1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water until softened, around 20 minutes. Drained, and chopped.
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced red or yellow peppers
1/4 cup minced red onion (I omitted this--not a raw onion kind of gal)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons of Olive Tap tangerine balsamic vinegar (order some online)
1 lemon, juiced (my husband came up with this addition)
1 tsp. ground fennel (this is the key ingredient--if you can't find ground fennel seed, grind up fennel seed in a coffee grinder)
1 rounded tsp. Dijon mustard
salt & ground pepper to taste
Add 2 minced garlic cloves if you are using TJs lentils
Add the thyme if you are using TJs lentils
Toss the drained lentils, or TJs cooked lentils in a bowl, with all the vegetables.
Whisk up all the dressing ingredients & mix into the lentil/vegetable mixture.
Serve immediately or chill. Great on whole grain pita or wraps!
Worth Noting: This was given high marks by my Traditional-Picky-Eater-Omnivore-Son! Believe him.
Oil-Free Mediterranean Lentil Salad
Serving Size: 1 serving
|Amount Per Serving|
My Cuisinart GreenGourmet Non-Stick Pan--It Really Works--Cleans Right Up
On Saturday morning my husband made us a batch of these nutrient dense pancakes. Next time he plans to do a double batch, and either freeze or refrigerate the leftovers.
This Recipe Came from Ann Esselstyn, who got if from Dr. Neal Barnard
High Protein Oat Pancakes
Makes 10 4 inch pancakes
"Beans in pancakes! That got my attention in Dr. Neal Barnard's Stop Diabetes. These are GOOD! Get Hain's Pure Foods Featherweight Baking Powder that is sodium free.
1 can cannellini or great Northern white beans drained & rinsed.
2 1/4 cups water
1 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons maple syrup or sweetener of choice (optional)
1 heaping tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla
About 1 cup of blueberries--add these to the pancakes as they cook.
For best results use a "real non-stick" pan, like my GreenGourmet. Otherwise you may have to use a light-hand on the cooking spray. My pan browned these with zero spray!
1. Place beans & water in a blender & blend well.
2. Add oats, syrup, flaxseed meal, baking powder, vanilla & blend until completely smooth, light and foamy. We used our VitaMix.
3. On a well-heated pan, over medium heat, pour about 1/3 cup of batter per 4 inch pancake. Add some blueberries to each pancake as it cooks.
4. We found it took 4 minutes per side to get these very moist pancakes, cooked through.
5. Watch carefully, keep warm in a low oven, covered with foil.
6. Serve with maple syrup.
Note: The GreenGourmet looks like it might stick, but it doesn't, and it actually browned the pancakes. The dark spots are blueberries. Cleans up like a dream.
Last summer my chocolate-loving friend Babs turned me on to Mark Bittman's so-called "healthy version" of chocolate mousse, made with tofu, real dark chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, and chili powder. Amazing stuff! Click here for Bittman's version.I made this Esselstyn-approved version with cocoa, "lite tofu", agave, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Amazing stuff! Picky son gave it a rousing thumbs up! Believe him.
Ann says: Be sure to MAKE this serve 3 or 4. It is so good it is way too easy for it to serve just 1!
1 package "Lite" silken tofu (look for NaSoya brand if you want organic & non-GMO) I used Mori-Nu for this recipe.
1/3 cup agave (what I used), or maple syrup (I want to experiment with stevia & just a bit of agave to cut the sugar)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tsp. real vanilla
1 to 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
A pinch of cayenne or more if you like heat.
Blend until smooth. Use something powerful like a food processor or a blender. It didn't work with a hand mixer. Refrigerate 2 hours before use. Spoon into small bowls & use small spoons.
Ann's variations: Add 1/4 tsp peppermint extract & a garnish of a mint leaf. Instead of agave or maple syrup use 2 TBS. of Raspberry syrup, 1 TBS honey, 1/2 cup frozen raspberries & blend.
Chocolate Chia Pudding--Omega-3s, Fiber & Taste
I love chocolate pudding!!! But my Jello Sugar-Free Cooking Chocolate Pudding is now history.
When we were vacationing in Maine with our kids, my grandson was getting a little "irregular". I had brought along a recipe for a single serving of "Chia Pudding" so we decided to see if he would like it, and if it would "move him along".
For those new to Chia, it gets a pleasant gelatinous covering when it's immersed in a liquid. So, when you mix it up with a little hazelnut milk, some vanilla, & a sweetener like agave, you get a vanilla tapioca pudding in about 20 minutes. Read all about Chia here.
By the way, the gorgeous grandson loved his chia pudding--and felt just great when it cured him of his "irregularity"
So...last night I decided to open my kitchen lab, and test out Chocolate Chia Pudding.
It worked! Loved it!
2 TBS. whole white chia seed. Black works, too. But white is more appetizing.
1/3 to 1/2 cup "nut milk" I like hazelnut, but almond or soy should work just fine. I used 1/2 a cup.
1 to 2 tsp. sweetener like agave, or maple syrup. I used one packet of stevia--the equivalent of 2 tsp. of sugar. You could try 1/2 a packet.
1 Tablespoon of unsweetened, non-Dutched cocoa.
Heat up a couple of tablespoons of the milk in the microwave--because it's impossible to mix up cocoa in cold milk. Mix the cocoa up into the hot milk to form a nice smooth paste. Add the rest of the cold milk slowly, mixing well.
Add the chia seeds and sweetener and stir well, making sure to submerge the chia.
Allow it to sit 20-30 minutes, but stir once more after 5 minutes to prevent chia-clumping.
Stir again before serving.
Makes one delicious serving. Next time I'm going to double the recipe.
Options: Try it with pureed pumpkin.
More Winners Made This Week
Book Club Cheese-less Pizza on Brown Rice Crust
Falafel Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Hummus & Yukon Gold Fries
Rip's Bok Choy with Gingered Mushrooms, Carrots and Soba Noodles