Ann Esselstyn Speaking at a Hospital Employee Wellness Talk: "How to Eat Plant Perfect"
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Oh, gee, it's been three weeks since I PROMISED to summarize Ann's talk. Finally, coming through today, folks--here it is!
Isn't it Ironic that on January 14th, Tara Parker-Pope writes a column in the NYT on, "How to Go Vegan" , garnering almost 800 comments. Tara, why didn't you talk to Ann, first? She's got years of experience.
Then on January 15th, Ann Esselstyn delivers an energizing talk & demo on "How to Eat Plant-Perfect: What to Eat, Where to Buy It, How to Cook It" to a standing-room crowd of hospital employees where I work. Do you think plant-based is maybe, just maybe, moving a tiny bit closer to "oh, that's not sooo weird" & "it really does makes sense"?
Ann is a high-energy, down-to-earth dynamo & this crowd of "mostly-new-to-the-plant-based-world" employees loved her! She shared her Top Ten Plant-Perfect Rules, along with her most favorite foods--like who makes the best pizza crusts, pasta sauces, salad dressings, non-dairy milks, veg broths---& her go-to everyday breakfasts. Ann's all about making it easy. Not fancy schmancy.
Ann is the nuts-and-bolts member of the Esselstyn team. She'll tell you how to shop, transform your pantry, & how to cook all these strange new foods. Dr. Esselstyn, on the other hand, is armed with his clinical experience, statistics, angiograms, journal citations & science to explain how eating a diet of just vegetables, grains, beans, & fruit can prevent & reverse heart disease. You can get a summary of Dr. E's explanation here.
Ann tells us how to do it!
How to Eat Plant Perfect. The Ground Rules
1. Forget about replacing meat with "faux meat"
Avoid this: Ann calls it Vegan Junk Food, and the freezer cases of our grocery stores are filled with faux chicken nuggets, barbecue ribs, fake sausage, hot dogs, & lunch meat. Newbie vegans figure all they have to do is find plenty of plant-based meat substitutes. "Forget about it," explains Ann. Read the labels. Most of those "faux meats" are filled with faux ingredients. They're high in fat, contain ingredients of questionable benefit, like isolated soy protein, and they usually have too much sodium. Just read the labels.
Consider instead: If you're looking for a quality plant-based burger, Ann recommends one made by a company in Columbus, Ohio, called Luna Burgers. You'll recognize ALL the ingredients on their labels: Spelt Berries, Black Beans, Oats, Onions, Carrots, Kale, Beets, Blueberries, Molasses, Garlic, Apple Cider Vinegar, Salt, Rosemary, Pepper. I know. Strange sounding ingredients for a burger--but, they're really good! Not available everywhere in the US, however.
2. Forget about vegan cheese.
Avoid this: Carefully read the labels. Most vegan cheeses contain 2 ingredients you definitely want to avoid: casein, which is a milk protein, & oil.
Consider instead: Nutritional yeast. Find it in the bulk food section of health food stores, or at most grocery stores, these days. Nutritional yeast is a "must-have" seasoning. It looks like dry pale yellow flakes, but it imparts a subtle cheesy taste to sauces, tofu "ricotta", "mac 'n cheese", pestos, mashed potatoes, popcorn or as a topping, sprinkled on casseroles. It is a bit of an acquired taste--but, an easy one to acquire. It's an excellent butter substitute in mashed potatoes.
3. Give yourself time for your taste buds to adapt & change
If you've eaten a typical American diet all your life, it's going to take time to adapt to the taste of no-oil cooking, new vegetables, less salt, less sugar, exotic spices, unusual beans & grains. Never fear. Our tastes change!
When San'Dera Prude, the 30-something single mom, featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives, was invited to lunch at the Esselstyn's for the first time, she later told Ann she hated the food she was served.
San'Dera was used to fried foods, Kentucky Fried Chicken, a lot of salt, & she wasn't much of a fruit or vegetable fan. Months late, San'Dera realized that she needed to taste a new food at least THREE TIMES before she liked it. Don't make a judgement on your first taste of something new.
Nuts & avocados are included in the less stringent Engine 2 diet plan. That's it. Both plans emphasize: no oil; no meat, no poultry, no fish, no dairy or milk; and both advise a diet of whole grains, mostly unprocessed foods, lots of leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, beans, and legumes. That's it! Engine-2 was originally conceived by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn's son, Rip Esselstyn for a younger population who didn't have heart disease--and wanted to avoid it.
Ann's Top Ten Plant Perfect Pointers
1. No Oil, Ever.
It sounds hard, but it's really the easiest change to make. Here's what's problematic with olive oil.
Sauteeing vegetables without oil: Instead of oil, find a low or no sodium vegetable broth to saute with, like Kitchen Basics No Added Salt Vegetable broth. Read labels. Avoid boullion cubes. The first ingredient is usually salt, & the second ingredient is often palm oil.
Sauteeing onions & mushrooms is easy, because they have a high water content. First, preheat your pan on medium high heat. Add the onions, mushrooms or celery. Lower the heat to medium low, & cover the pan. Check on the vegetables about every 2 minutes, stir, add a little broth or water if they are starting to stick--and that will easily deglaze the pan. In about 7 to 10 minutes you'll have beautiful golden & soft vegetables. Garlic has less liquid content, so you'll need to add more liquid when sauteeing garlic.
Baking without oil: In place of oil, you can use mashed bananas, baby prunes (avoid Gerber Organic brand--it contain tuna oil. The "conventional" Gerber brand is fine! ), or apple sauce.
Salad Dressings without oil: Ann's favorite dressing is made with a no-oil, no-tahini hummus, some balsamic vinegar, the juice of an orange, & mustard. Often she dresses her salads with just a high quality flavored balsamic vinegar, like Olive Tap's. They have every flavor imaginable, like: black currant, pear, chocolate (which is great on banana "ice cream" or drizzled on strawberries), or tangerine.
2. Eat Leafy Greens. Many Servings. Everyday.
Strip. Ann's fridge & garden are perpetually stocked with kale & collards. Even in the winter she's harvesting kale. She calls kale, "Spinach with Heft" because it's so nutrient dense, hardy & "hearty". To help kale cook evenly, she removes its thick stems by holding each leaf in her left hand, and starting at the stem's base, grabbing the stem with her fingers & sliding the leaf quickly off of the stem. You can chop up the kale leaves, tear them apart--or not. Place them in a pot of boiling water, cover, & it's done in 5-6 minutes. Kale stems can be cut on the diagonal & sprinkled on salads, or thrown into soups. Kale stems: almost like a brand new vegetable.
Massage. To use raw kale in salads, you'll need to break down it's tought cellulose a bit by massaging it with your hands using a citrus juice, a non-oil dressing or even some hummus. After massaging, add cherry tomatoes, some lemon zest & lemon juice, or even mango & lime juice to your salad. An exotic delicious salad in minutes. Here's a favorite raw kale salad of mine.
Ann's favorite kale: Lacinato, the long deep dark puffy textured kale, also known as Tuscan or Dinosaur kale.
Use collard greens as a sandwich wrap, a burrito or for making sushi. Ann fills large softened collard leaves (burrito-fashion) with steamed asparagus, red peppers, carrots, hummus, cilantro, & lemon slices. Or she makes them into burritos filled with black beans, sweet potatoes, cilantro, & salsa.
Greens in your pasta. Another genius Ann tip. Throw cut up greens into a pot of boiling pasta water & let them soften as the pasta cooks--or throw a bunch into the pasta sauce as it heats. An easy way of getting more greens into your life.
Remember, no oil, greens every day--in salads, soup, pasta, or sandwiches. Lots of vegetables.
3. Eat Oats (Oatmeal)
Raw, Cooked, Rolled, Steel-Cut, or Whole Oat Groats. It doesn't matter how you eat them, just eat them everyday for breakfast. Or whenever.
Oats help to reduce cholesterol, reduce inflammation & the more you eat, the greater the results--because their benefits are dose-responsive.
Dr. Esselstyn eats his Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats raw, every night after dinner as a snack. He adds 1 tablespoon of chia or flax meal (kept refrigerated) to them, along with bananas or berries, a crunchy cereal like Kashi, Ezekiel, Grape Nuts, or Shredded Wheat, and oat milk.
Ann used to eat her rolled oats totally dry with halved red grapes, & maybe a squeeze of grapefruit juice. She wasn't a fan of cooked oatmeal. But, she's changed her tune, and she's now passionate about cooked steel-cut oats, made with a REALLY RIPE banana, 1 cup of water, & 1 teaspoon of vanilla. When done cooking, she tops it with chia & blueberries. No milk in her oatmeal.
Ann's Favorite Savory-Style Oats: Yay! She's a fan of my "Cheezy Savory Oats with Greens" They're steel-cut oats that you could serve to company for dinner.
Dr. Esselstyn's Favorite Milk: Oat milk
Ann's Favorite Milk: Almond milk
Don't Forget One of These Important Oat Toppers: Add a tablespoon or two of ground flax seed (flax meal) or chia seed to your daily oatmeal for a handy source of omega-3's. Flax seeds need to be ground for your body to absorb their nutrients--and always keep them in the refrigerator for freshness.
The of variety of non-dairy milks is stunning. Almond, Oat, Soy & Rice. Sweetened, unsweetened, enriched, Vanilla, Chocolate, you name it. Each come with there own benefits. Some are better for cooking. Some are better tasting. Most are enriched with calcium & vitamin D, to match dairy milk. Read the non-dairy milk labels carefully. Avoid any that contain oil or ingredients that you don't want to consume. Avoid coconut milk.
4. Fill Your Life with Beans & Lentils
Ann's favorite bean is red lentils, because they cook quickly & dissolve into a thick creaminess which is perfect for soups & stews. She even throws red lentils into pasta sauces.
Bean rule #1: Look for cans or cartons with no-added salt. Whole Foods 365 Brand & Eden Foods make no-salt beans. Eden Foods packages them in no-BPA cans, & now 365 Brand packages their beans in tetra-boxes.
5. Eat Whole Grains
Read all bread, tortilla, pasta & cereal labels CAREFULLY. The first ingredient should include the word WHOLE, as in WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, not just wheat flour, or semolina flour.
Pizza crusts: Ann sometimes uses whole wheat pita bread or lavash as a pizza crust. But, her all-time favorite, & mine, is Sami's Millet & Flax crusts. Unless you live in Florida, unfortunately, you'll have to order Sami's crusts from their main bakery in Tampa, FL. To cut down on shipping costs, I order them with a group of four friends. 32 crusts at a time, 8 crusts for each of us, & we store them in our freezers.
Pizza & Pasta Sauce?
Ann recommends Walnut Acres Basil & Tomato. It's one of the few prepared sauces that's made with no-oil & is low-sodium. Look for it at health food stores, Giant Eagle, or order it through Amazon.
Second best: Muir Glenn's Portobello Mushroom Pasta Sauce.
Third best: Trader Joe's No-Oil Marinara Sauce. It's high in sodium.
Ann's tip for pizza sauce: Mix chopped-up cooked kale into your pizza sauce to get extra greens. You won't even notice it in there.
A Delicious New Bread Discovery by Ann. Almost dessert-like.
Manna Bread. This is a sprouted, organic bread made with whole wheat kernels, carrots, & raisins. Ann recommends toasting it for your "eating pleasure"--because it has a soft squishy texture. I haven't tasted it yet, but Ann's got a loaf set aside for me in her freezer to be delivered the next time we meet up at the gym. Look for it at some Whole Foods.
6. Drink Water
Don't drink your calories. No soda. No diet drinks. Don't juice. Don't drink smoothies. Better to chew your fruits & vegetables, & eat them whole, rather then blend them into a drink.
7. Limit Salt
The amount of salt that's added to processed, prepared, or restaurant foods is over-the-top. Instead of salting your foods, Ann recommends a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, because they activate the same taste receptors on the tongue & trick our brains into not missing the salt. Other brain-tricking options are using a dash of vinegar, hot sauce, sriracha or cholula sauce.
Ann tip: Freeze lemons & limes whole & grate some onto whatever you're eating. Vinegar takes the bitterness out of foods, so drizzle some onto greens or other strong-tasting vegetables.
8. Limit Sugar
Bottom Line: Keep sugary snacks & baked goods out of the house. It's just too tempting, & as long as you keep the sweets around you'll keep your sugar addiction. Just try eating one piece of chocolate or one cookie. You know you'll be back for more.
Ann tip: Consider a Yonanas machine & make your own sugar-free "soft-serve ice cream" from frozen fruit & bananas.
9. Avoid Coconut Milk or Coconut Oil
Coconut is everywhere these days, touted as a "healthy fat" mostly because of its creamy mouth-feel. It's in non-dairy milks, ice creams, & yogurts. Don't use it. It's a highly saturated fat. In just 1/4 cup of coconut milk (about 1 serving) you'll find 12 grams of fat--10 grams of which are saturated. Even if it was found to be a healthy, unharmful fat--it's still a fat, that's loaded with calories of limited nutritional value.
A Handy Coconut Milk Substitute: You can easily substitute the taste & creaminess of coconut milk in recipes by adding 1 teaspoon of high quality coconut extract, like Silver Cloud Estates, to one cup of non-dairy milk. You'll need 1 1/2 teaspoons & 1 1/2 cups of milk for a typical can of coconut milk.
10. Unsweetened Un-Dutched Cocoa Yes! Dark Chocolate, No!
You get all the heart-healthy benefits of chocolate if you go right to the source: COCOA. In one small serving of dark chocolate you're eating 20 grams of fat, 12 of which are saturated. It's just not necessary. You can enjoy non-fat unsweetened cocoa in so many ways. Like these, for example: "Anytime Valentine Chocolate Treats for Breakfast, Snacks, or Dessert - It's Just Beans, Oats, Chia, and Dates (and Stevia)"
The New Kitchen Gadget Ann Recently Discovered
Ann's daughter, Jane, recently gave her a Perfect Tortilla Cup set. It's available at Bed, Bath, & Beyond--so I hear. "The best part", Ann says, "is that the Engine 2 No-Oil Sprouted Grain & Gluten-Free Torillas fit perfectly into these molds & make "perfect tortilla bowls" for salads."
I'm an unabashed Ann Fan! She tells it like it is. She's fit, strong, energetic & a role model for all of us who want to age with health & vitality.
Excerpts from Ann's Talk at the Lab Rat's Rotary Breakfast Meeting (8 minutes)
Ann, you'll be happy to know, the Rotarians were taking excellent notes. Yesterday's newsletter had a full page summary of your talk!
If You Don't See the Video, You Can Access It Here
Ann's Talk in Nova Scotia, Canada (36 minutes)
This video was part of a public lecture presented by Dr. and Ann Esselstyn while visiting Sydney NS Canada in January of 2013.
If You Don't See the Video, You Can Access It Here