Autumn energizes me, with her crisp sunny days and cool nights, such a welcome change from summer’s sweltering heat. Now we are heading into winter and a sort of settling in.
Except that in our area, the pandemic is rearing its ugly head in a second wave. We know co-morbidities put some of us at higher risk for complications from COVID-19: diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, cancer. I have some of these. For me, weight loss and healing my body with the best possible nutrition are my primary goals. I’d like to kick Type 2 diabetes and potential heart disease out the door forever.
I know that a plant-based lifestyle is not a panacea. It will not cure everything and it certainly won’t prevent me from contracting the virus. It can, however, give my body a bit more of a fighting chance. Nutrition is an extremely powerful thing. Studies show that a plant-based diet reduces inflammation and feeds the gut microbiome which is directly connected to a stronger immune system. Antioxidants defend cells from attack and plants are full of flavonoids, powerful antioxidant agents. For people who are compromised, like me, that is nothing but good news. Is it real? Will it help? I can only hope so.
Just to recap, a whole-food plant based diet means:
- Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds
- Avoiding packaged and processed foods, caffeine, alcohol
- Avoiding animal products: meat, fish, shellfish, dairy
- SOS version (for additional health benefits) means avoiding salt, oil and sugar
A foodie at heart, when I started this I went through a period of mourning. In fact, I may still be mourning a bit. I was famous for my white chocolate cheesecake and boeuf bourguignon. Would I long for lasagna? BBQ? I fell off the 100% plant-based wagon countless times with this mindset and kept starting over again and again. Then I committed and when i made that decision, it took. I will not eat meat or dairy or seafood. It has become so much easier since that proclamation. Cooking is still an adventure, even more fun and creative. I still have kitchen disasters but also thrilling wins.
It is a process. My taste buds were used to huge hits of salt, sugar and fat, so at first, everything tasted bland. Unless perfectly ripe, fruit tasted sour. Learning to sauté without oil was scary until I started to experiment using broth or water or cooking wine instead. Herbs and spices are more amazing than ever. Berbere anyone? Neat tricks like making whipped cream out of aquafaba (aka bean water) still blows me away.
After two weeks of honest effort, the magic happens. Taste buds change. They literally change – taste cells are continually renewed in adults, with an average lifespan of 10-14 days. Cravings subside. Bite into a peach and it is the sweetest thing on Earth. The produce aisle or farmer’s market becomes a favourite hangout and the world of vegetables, mushrooms, beans and grains becomes an intriguing place. Curries and stews and soups, oh my! Accidentally tasting something enjoyed from the past, say, a bite of KFC or a sub or a donut, will be shocking — so salty or cloyingly sweet as to be inedible. How have we, as a society, moved so far away from eating real food?
Here is Mother Nature’s version of whole-food plant-based candy. Medjool dates have a sweet and sticky texture that resembles caramel. When coupled with nut butter and a little cacao dust, they are great stand-ins for Hallowe’en size Snickers bar. Guaranteed to please any sweet tooth with zero added fat or sugar.
“Date Night” Candy
Take two Medjool dates and slice length-wise into halves
Fill each half with pure almond, peanut or any nut butter (ie/ nut butter with no additives). If allergic to nuts you can use sunflower seed butter.
Top each filled half with chopped nuts, cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, shredded coconut, or a dab of fruit butter or fruit jelly
Dust with cocoa powder