Thursday, March 10, 2011

Going Vegan – Embarking On a New Path for Better Health

In January my husband and I were discussing which diet we should follow. We tended to eat fairly well already, with lots of vegetables and fruits, and whole grains and natural foods, but like many others we got a bit lazy in our choices, especially through the holiday season. We wanted to do what most Americans want to do right after the new year – lose a few pounds, but more importantly, we just wanted to recommit to good health, which for my husband also meant recommitting to keeping his blood sugar numbers in control, as he has type 2 diabetes.

Our bookshelves include many alternative health books – on energy healing, meditation, yoga, reflexology, herbalism, and healthy diets. Those books on healthy diets include South Beach and YOU: On a Diet, as well as macrobiotic and ayurvedic titles, and even French Women Don’t Get Fat. It’s quite a variety, so we had many to choose from! One night after talking about some options, we sat down and turned on the TV – and caught a program on PBS that gave us our answer:  going vegan.

 The program was Taking Control of Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard. Being vegetarian wasn’t new to us, nor was giving up dairy – when we were macrobiotic many years ago, neither of us ate meat or dairy of any kind (though back then we didn’t think of it in terms of being vegan). What was new, was the information Barnard was sharing about how following a low fat, plant-based diet could greatly change one’s experience of diabetes, and in some people, actually reverse the condition.

The program’s message was inspiring and we decided we’d give it a try. Many of the foods significant in a plant-based diet were familiar to us already, but the next day we added a few vegan substitutes for common foods – cheese and milk, for example – to our pantry, and my husband, who once cooked for a health food restaurant, set about learning to make a great seitan from scratch.

He went vegan right away. For the first few weeks I greatly reduced dairy in my diet but continued to use milk in my tea, half and half in my coffee, and feta on my salads. It wasn’t long before I decided to entirely cut out dairy as well, so we are both now following a vegan diet. The effects on my husband’s diabetes have been truly remarkable. He has eliminated his need to take insulin, reduced his oral meds by more than half, and the continued hypoglycemic episodes have him regularly adjusting downward.  We are both enjoying the changes, not suffering any unbearable cravings, and feeling better in many ways. We both also love eating this way! Unlike how “diets” typically make one feel, we don’t feel impatient to move to the next phase or to begin to add unpermitted foods back in, and we don’t feel like we are missing out. Making these changes has been a lot easier than we would have thought. Doing it together makes it easier, keeping it delicious and healthy creates momentum, and seeing immediate health benefits gives us motivation.

I’m honestly not sure where this will lead – I can’t say that I will never again eat a salad topped with feta, or enjoy a slice of traditional cheese pizza. Also, we do need to watch numbers and track the progress of specific health issues. This is our first step, and we are just beginning; I want our expectations to be reasonable. That being said, we are both excited about continuing this indefinitely – we look forward to it, not as a “diet,” but simply as a lifestyle choice. I hope to share here my experience going vegan, any adjustments I make along the way, as well as resources, recipes, and research. If you’re interested in a plant-based diet, I’d highly encourage you to look into it and give it a try – it’s easier than you think. Also, if you’ve already adopted a plant-based diet, I’d love to hear about your experience!

~ Nellie Levine

Creamy Canellini Sauce
This sauce (as pictured in the above photo) is something my husband whipped up from scratch. It's great over rice or pasta, with veggies that are steamed, sauteed, or roasted, making it really versatile. It is creamy and full flavored.
1 onion, thinly sliced
3-6 cloves garlic
+/- 1 cup warm water
2 cups cooked or 1 can of canellini beans, warmed
2 tablespoons tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
2 tablespoons rice wine or white wine
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian herb blend
Roast onion and garlic at 450 until browned (stir occasionally).
In food processor, process onion, then slowly add small amount of water, until smooth. Add beans, then slowly add small amount of water, until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, then slowly add water until preferred consistency - sauce will thicken when heated so make it a bit thinner than you would finally prefer. Add salt and more wine to taste. Heat in saucepan or microwave.
Makes approximately 2 1/2 - 3 cups.
* I’d like to recommend two books that my husband and I have recently bought:
Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, by Neal D. Barnard, MD – This book is straightforward and easy to follow. In addition to explaining in further detail the PBS program my husband and I watched, it also details the scientific research that proves diabetes can be greatly benefited by a low fat, plant-based diet. For those with type 2 that might mean reversal, for those with type 1, better control of blood sugar numbers and better prevention of complications.

The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau – We have plenty of vegetarian cookbooks in our house, but many of them include dairy in their recipes, and we also wanted a little bit of new inspiration. The Vegan Table is a beautiful cookbook that I’d enjoy using even if we weren’t omitting animal products from our diets. The book focuses on entertaining – serving delicious meals to family and friends, but it is a great family cookbook as well.
One more note: if you’re going to go vegan, you do need to make sure you get enough vitamin B12, which we are unable to get through plant sources so a daily multivitamin is a good idea. Otherwise, a solid, well-planned plant-based diet should provide all the nutrients you need (and will provide much more than you would get on the standard American diet). There are many effective plant-based sources of calcium, protein, and iron. Still, it is wise to check with your doctor before making major dietary changes and especially important to do so if you are on any medications for diabetes, heart disease, or blood pressure, or if you have any food sensitivities that would create a difficulty in following a vegan diet.

Follow us on FaceBook  

You May Also Enjoy:
Baby Carrots- Do You Know What You Are Eating?
Eating with the Tai-Chi Diagram

photo by Nellie Levine


  1. Good luck with your new approach to eating! It's great that your husband has had such improvement with his diabetes.

    I definitely want to try that canellini sauce. Any recommendations on a replacement for the tamari or Bragg's? (I'm allergic to soy products.) I'm thinking just a little sea salt might do the trick.

  2. Thanks, Amy!

    I asked my husband and he said the tamari / Bragg's is mainly for adding salt and some color (otherwise the sauce looks very yellow), so yes, substituting sea salt would probably be fine, or you could try veggie stock, vegetarian Worcestershire, or something similar. Hope this helps and hope you enjoy the recipe : )



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

About Me

My photo
Artist,Writer, Jewelry Design