I love fruit. I can eat it in any form – fresh, frozen, dried, you name it – and be in heaven. But people warn me about eating too much dried fruit, especially with diabetes running in my family. Traditionally, many make the assumption that dried fruit like raisins or dates is loaded with sugar. Some commercial brands have added sugars. Dried fruit appears to have a higher concentration of sugar than fresh fruit in general. So, no one would blame you if you were to assume that dried fruit was not as healthy as fresh fruit.
Yet studies looking at the correlation between dried fruit and health risks show promising results for fighting cancer, losing weight, and lowering diabetes risk. Check out the video here:
better than fresh fruit
A review of studies done on dried fruit intake and cancer risk published in Advances in Nutrition, March 2020, shows that eating dried fruit specifically can lower your risk of various cancers. And, amazingly, fresh fruit does not seem to fare as well as dried:
Overall, data presented in this review indicate that increasing dried fruit consumption to 3–5 servings/wk may have health beneficial effects related to risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the pancreas, prostate, stomach, bladder, and colon. No such effect was found for lung or breast cancers. Another, and rather surprising, finding from the selected studies is that the associations between consumption of total/fresh fruits and cancer risk were generally weaker than the associations determined for dried fruit intake and cancer.
It's exciting to find out that I need not feel guilty about scooping up a big handful of raisins for a snack. I have a raging sweet tooth but cannot afford to indulge it very often. Consuming more dried fruits in the diet helps control diabetes feels like a relief to know. I love using dates in recipes that call for sugar or some sweetener, and now I won't skimp on the number I use anymore.
With so many brands on the shelves, I'm careful to read the ingredients now. Some fruit brands are nearly impossible to find without added sugars. Did you know that a typical serving of dried cranberries has around 26 grams of sugar in it? No way. Even mango slices, which you'd imagine to be naturally sweet, often have sugar added.
A warning about store-bought dried fruit: it's common to find sulfur dioxide added to store brands as a preservative. The sulfur can cause some irritation like asthmatic symptoms, stomach irritation, or itching for some people.
Dried berries, and in particular blueberries, are loaded with antioxidants. I've taken a liking to dried apricots, and they are a good probiotic source.
Use a convenient dehydrator at home
A friend of mine just told me that she's getting a dehydrator. Yes, I am already trying to figure out how to fit one into my pint-sized kitchen. As you can see from the video above, the taste and quality of homemade dried fruit is a richer experience than the dried fruit product offerings we typically see at the grocery stores.
I anticipate with relish how the seasonal fruit varieties will taste dried at home. I want my dehydrator to last and work well out of the box. While the circular model in the video is interesting, I like the look and convenience of a square model.
This one at Amazon is the top-selling brand with amazing reviews:
Do you have a favorite dried fruit? Do you like them as snacks or in recipes? Let us know in the comments below!
Menopause relief is easier than you think with a few tweaks to your diet. I found recovery from menopausal symptoms only when I finally transformed my diet. While I was mostly vegetarian 10 years ago, I also ate a lot of junk. I am still amazed at how eating junk can affect my hormone swings. Even now, years later, if I eat too much sugar or processed foods, I'll notice hot flashes come on. I now look immediately to diet choices for my menopause relief.
Menopause relief is for men, too
The following video has three tips for menopause relief. In working with both men and women, I've found that many men experience a change in their hormone levels as well. Even though the speakers in the video are speaking to women, I suggest men heed the same advice, and you'll notice an overall improvement in your energy and focus, too:
Dr. Neal Barnard has some great tips to help with menopause relief, and he includes some cooking tips for soybeans. Below are the three tips he offers:
1. Go vegan if you're not. At least for a week or so, if you're still on the fence about it all. Fruits, grains, legumes, V B12 is all you need.
2. Lower your oil intake. for the time being, and it doesn't have to be forever, just cut out your oils. If you are eating processed foods like frozen pizza if it has more than 3 grams of fat, then there's extra oil you don't need. Take a week to pay attention to your diet, making it a point to eat only plant-based for a week and cut out oil wherever possible. Then check your symptoms and see how you feel!
3. Include soybeans in your daily food intake. There are a lot of different soybean products to choose from in addition to Dr. Barnard's suggestions. I am a big fan of tofu.
What do you do for menopause relief?
Leave a comment below if you enjoyed this video! Do you have tips of your own to share?
A meat-free diet sounds restrictive to someone brought up on – and loving – meat. In fact, the discouraging health conditions in the United States and in other parts of the world are direct results of our diet choices. We’ve done a lot of damage to ourselves. I know, as I’ve experienced some of the damage myself before going completely plant-based. Studies suggest we can reverse much of this damage simply by making our food choices meat-free. The findings in recent studies show true benefits from a meat-free diet.
The following article speaks to those who are still considering plant-based choices, and for our vegan fans who may be looking for more health reasons to stay on track.
In the States and globally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women [Covid data not considered here]. Preventable heart attacks account for most of these deaths. Over 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Around one-third of American children are overweight or obese, and obesity is being diagnosed more often at younger ages.
How many of us stuff ourselves and snack often? Then we pay the price – not just individually but as a society – as health care costs skyrocket into the billions, and all this is due to preventable issues.
A meat-free diet offers plant-based options
About 16 million Americans currently follow a vegetarian diet, and many of these are vegans. Vegans follow a strictly meat-free diet, consuming no animal products or byproducts, including dairy or eggs. Many do not eat honey, either.
Celebrities, world leaders, nutritionists, doctors, and people of all ages live healthy and energetic lives, thanks to a plant-based diet. Many have recovered heart health, lowered body weight, and lowered insulin resistance through meat-free choices.
Former President of the United States Bill Clinton is a good example. Clinton had been suffering from heart disease. In 2011 he announced that he had miraculously reversed his heart disease with a strict meat-free diet. Recent research supports Clinton’s claim.
The University of Oxford conducted a large study and the results of the study revealed that following a strict vegetarian diet does, indeed, reduce the risk of hospitalization due to complications from heart disease, and the risk of death from heart disease, both by nearly one third.
Meat-free study shows promising results
Roughly 45,000 participants took part in a study that was conducted by the health and diet experts at the University of Oxford. About 34 percent of the study participants followed strict vegetarian diets. (In this particular study, a vegetarian was defined as an individual who refrained from consuming both meat and fish, but still may eat dairy and eggs).
Those who participated in the study were tracked for more than 10 years. Researchers conducting the meat-free study gathered information about their dietary choices, exercise habits, alcohol consumption, and other variables that could potentially have an impact on heart disease risk.
The researchers who conducted the study discovered that even after controlling for other factors, study participants who followed strict vegetarian diets were considerably less likely to suffer from heart disease.
Francesca Crowe, Ph.D., of the University of Oxford, lead author of the study, said, “Most of the difference in risk is most likely caused by effects on both cholesterol as well as blood pressure.” In her statement, she went on to add, “This shows the important role of diet in preventing heart disease.”
The Oxford research study also revealed that the study participants who followed a strict vegetarian diet tended to have a lower body mass index than those who were not vegetarians, and they were less likely to suffer from diabetes as well.
This most recent study was one of the largest studies ever conducted to examine the cardiovascular benefits of following a vegetarian diet. It follows a growing revelation that a meat-free diet is associated with a multitude of health benefits. Read more at Oxford Research.
More benefits of following a meat-free plan
A number of studies over recent years show that, compared to meat-eaters, individuals who follow a vegetarian diet have:
reduced risk of food-borne illness
less severe symptoms of menopause
longer overall life spans
better insulin sensitivity
fewer weight issues
Even if you are not yet quite ready to give up your favorite burger, you can still receive health benefits if you incorporate a bit more heart-healthy, meat-free meals into your general diet. Choose plant foods more often. Fill your plate with healthy vegetables and whole grains. Eat raw whole food.
Some high nutrition, tasty foods to consider are:
Red, yellow, purple and green vegetables
Soymilk and soybeans
Choose your favorites
Special notes if you are beginning to try meat-free meal options, or trying to transition to a vegan diet:
Consider making one or two meals a week meat-free and remove meat from your plate whenever you can.
Substitute the meat you have removed with black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soy products and other beans.
Choose fruit for dessert instead of baked goods, and raw vegetables for snacks.
Choose a fruit and protein smoothie for three lunches a week instead of a burger or chicken lunch. Plan and make ahead meat-free lunches ready to eat when you are.
Celebrate small wins. Incremental changes can go a long way, and at some point, you may find yourself completely meat-free and vegan one of these days.
A smoothie diet has become my go-to remedy when I have not been eating well or want to do an effective detox. If one thing this Covid-19 lockdown has shown me, is how I rely on my daily smoothie to steer me towards wholesome food choices the rest of the day. I don't know about you, but when I got laid off back in March 2020 due to the pandemic, I started baking. I baked, I ate, and I did not make my daily smoothie that I used to take to work every morning. Combine that with some sofa lounging and there I was five weeks later and 10 lbs. heavier. Now I'm not a fan of using the d-word, but if a smoothie diet – or even simply drinking a smoothie as a meal replacement – can melt away the excess weight, I'm all for it.
Sharing the smoothie diet plan
So now it's summer, I'm back to work, and I've let go of the excess weight, thanks to the smoothie diet plan. I've also changed the way I drink smoothies, so I can receive optimum goodness without the sugar spike. Why, you may ask, would anyone have a sugar spike in a smoothie that you don't add sugar to?
If you let your blender do all the work that your mouth would normally do to break down food, it stands to reason that you are flooding your body with calories it can't assimilate all at the same time. This revelation does not mean that a smoothie diet is bad. Dr. Michael Gregor explains how smoothies work in the body in the video below:
Here are a few of the main points that Dr. Gregor makes in the video:
Juices are the only reason that you have a higher blood sugar spike, so we don't want to drink fruit juice, right? We're on whole foods so you know if you just drink juice you throw away all the fiber.
“But smoothies, right, you blend it all together so you have a whole food, right? But the reason they have a higher sugar spike in your bloodstream drinking a smoothie than just actually eating all the fruit, like in a bowl, is not because of the the liquid versus solid. It's the speed of consumption. If you have a big bowl of fruit and you had a green smoothie like well the kale and all that, right? How long it would take you – like awhile – to chew it to get through that
But a smoothie, you pop a straw in, I mean you can suck it down like 60 seconds. That's the only difference. So you just sip your smoothie. Like, how long would it take me to eat the fruit I just made, 20 minutes? Okay well I will sip this smoothie over the next 20 minutes and that's what you do, and then the same blood sugar. You actually absorb more nutrition because you can never chew that good and you're blending up all the stuff, breaking all those cell walls, getting all that wonderful nutrition into your body.
Judging by all the fiber products on the market, we know that fiber is important in our diets. Dr. Gregor explains that when we simply drink juice, we miss out on the polyphenol phytonutrients, the most important components of plant foods. By most estimates, up to 80 percent of these polyphenols are actually attached to the fiber. So, when we juice a carrot or other vegetable or fruit, we throw away the pulp. We away all those polyphenol phytonutrients that are attached to the fiber.
Dr Gregor goes on to say:
If they're attached to the fiber, what good are they to us? Ah, they're good bacteria.
When that fiber gets down to our gut, our gut bacteria in our colon eat the fiber and release the polyphenols that get absorbed into our system, circulates through our body, gets up to our brain, helps our eyesight, all those sorts of other things.
And so, you're missing out on all that nutrition that's attached to the fiber when you throw it away. Now if you juice your carrot and then take the pulp, put it back in the juice fine make carrot cake, something, just don't throw it away.
Smoothie diet basics
Knowing how important whole foods are, I hardly ever drink juice anymore. I do love smoothies, nevertheless, so I throw my favorite plant-based goodies into the blender. Many smoothie recipes suggest adding some juice or nut milk. But following the advice above i don't want to overwhelm my smoothie diet with unnecessary ingredients, so I always choose water as the liquid base. This is my personal choice. I'd rather eat nuts than drink them with out the fiber goodness.
Here is my basic outline for smoothies:
2-3 helpings of greens – a scoop of your favorite greens powder and greens other than leafy may be included, such as cucumbers and celery.
1-2 helpings of fruit – I usually add berries and one more, like mango, banana or dates
water – add a cup, more or less to your own liking, or water + ice.
herbs – a thumbnail of ginger, a tsp. of cinnamon, a pinch of fennel seeds, or try different favorites for flavor.
flaxseeds – a staple for vegans, throwing it in the smoothie diet is an easy way to get your daily tablespoon of flaxseed nutrition.
Join us in the smoothie diet challenge!
Are you looking for a quick solution to start feeling better and dropping excess weight? If you're looking for a complete life transformation over the next three weeks, then you’re in the right place! Whether you need to lose the last 5-10 lbs or you want to get rid of 40lbs or more, this will work for you. This diet is extremely flexible so even though this program is 21 days you can continue using it for as along as you want to lose as much weight as you want!
Fermented foods are strong allies in our goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Fermented foods – and I’m not talking the alcoholic drink type – are bursting with probiotics that help feed a healthy digestive tract. Yet the probiotics that flourish in the fermentation process are delicate, and have a long road to travel from the barrel to our stomachs. We want to protect that journey as much as we can, so these living bacteria may live on in our guts.
Just walk away from the fermented drinks
Quick-witted companies these days are producing ‘probiotic-rich’ fermented drinks, non-dairy yogurts, and other single-serve, on-the-run so-called healthy boosts (more like profit boosts). The advertising for kombucha, nut yogurts and other fermented treats are attractive. Hate to break it to you, but all the sugar added to these convenient treats nullify the benefits that come from fermented foods and fermented drinks.
If you still want to buy these products, at least check the ingredients and watch for refined sugar. Sugar in a refined form is simply not helpful for good body maintenance (and it may not even be vegan).
Want a quick probiotic drink? Put a tablespoon of unfiltered apple cider vinegar into water, a smoothie, or other beverage. Well, okay, it may not be exactly probiotic. But ACV does contain good bacteria that can contribute to gut health. Do this one to three times a day and you’ll feel the benefits. Don't overdo it, though, in case your body is sensitive.
My introduction to the health benefits of fermented foods
When I lived in Japan, my friends delighted in teaching me how to cook Japanese style. They all had their own particular family ways to make miso soup, and I practiced diligently. The number one common and crucial factor I remembered from all of those lessons is:
never boil the miso.
You do not want to kill all the good bacteria, my friends would say. At that time, an aha moment about fermented foods came to me that, I believe, many of us here in the West have overlooked. We’ve been boiling, frying and roasting the probiotics out of our foods.
Growing up at my house and at every house I ate, vegetables were boiled to mush. If they were still crisp, back they went onto the stove. Sauerkraut came out of cans – already an assault on healthy microbes – and then thrown into a pot with a chopped up apple to cut the bitter edge of the fermented cabbage. If any bacteria survived the can, they were doomed to be boiled alive.
The ignorance I grew up with in regards to a healthy diet was breathtaking.
I learned a valuable lesson about preserving the integrity of food from my Japanese cooking buddies. I ate a lot of kimchi, Korean spicy pickled cabbage, while there, too. After returning to the States, I reintroduced sauerkraut – pretty much kimchi without the hot pepper – to my diet in a healthier, more robust way: no more boiling.
I can laugh nowadays about the food beliefs I was raised with. Boiled was the only cabbage recipe in the house. The closest I got to raw was the coleslaw from KFC, which was loaded with sugar. I still remember the first time I ate a cold salad of shredded raw cabbage with a dressing. Fermentation moves this delicious, versatile vegetable from a healthy food to a super-nutrient boost.
Buy or make your own fermented foods
Personally, I can't be bothered taking probiotics in pill form. I want to know I'm eating live goodness. If you buy fermented foods like sauerkraut, the brands found in the produce refrigerated section will be fresher and filled with many more gut-pleasing microbes than in jars or cans. Making your own is easy, and here is a simple recipe for you.
Dave and Steve from The Happy Pear demonstrate a quick and easy basic recipe for any fermented vegetable of your choice. The lactic acid process explained in the video is a recipe with simply salt and water – no animals involved.
In The Happy Pear’s video, the pickled veggies start at 02:22
Photo source: Fermented vegetable jar by Kim Daniels on Unsplash
I didn't turn to a vegan diet cold turkey. I turned to a vegan diet out of necessity. I was vegetarian for many years. Yet I suffered from severe heartburn and reflux. It was BAD. At times, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and the pain was so unbearable that I thought I was going to die! Yes, it was as bad as that. Medication didn't help. So I decided to eat alkaline food only. To my surprise, I was able to cure the heartburn and reflux by switching to a 100% plant based diet. I also started to sleep better. Last but not least, I was able to do proper hikes again. I happily transitioned to a vegan diet.
Because of all the pain and nausea, it was an easy choice for me. I started to focus on my health only. Because I felt so sick, I was happy enough if I managed to cook vegan and alkaline food for myself.
I know transitioning to a vegan diet is not easy for many people – yes, including myself. So, I made this list of 10 tips for a healthy transition to a vegan diet for you. I know these tips helped me, and I hope you find them useful, too. Enjoy.
When you empty your kitchen of unhealthy food choices, it's easer to focus on healthy eating choices. Go through all your cupboards and fridge and get rid of everything that's processed or not 100% plant based.
Foods in unopned packages can be donated to your local street kitchen. Everything else goes in the garbage bin.
2. Stock up your kitchen
Time to go shopping: buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables – this is a given. Here are items I always keep stocked in my cupboard:
Beans – any will do, like lentils and chickpeas – I prefer dried over canned.
Grains – I look for non-gluten types like quinoa and rice
Nuts and seeds (flaxseed is #1 in my book)
Miso (fermented beans)
Vegetable stock (not necessary)
Nutritional yeast (not necessary)
Herbs, whatever is in season
3. Baby steps
Start slowly. My suggestion is that you add foods to your diet and not remove any, to begin with. Start by eating a salad before lunch for a week, then expand to a salad before lunch and before dinner for seven days. When you eat a salad before your meal, you will, without thinking about it, eat less. In the following week, eat 50 percent less junky food per meal. Into the third week, keep cutting down until you eliminate 75 percent of the junk. Finally, by the end of a month's time, remove everything that's not plant based.
4. Eat what you like
If you don't like kale now, then you will not like kale when you transion to a vegan diet. Eat the fruits and veggies you like. And try new varieties to find new favorites.
5. Cut down on processed foods
Processed foods are bad for us, because they make us addicted to fat, sugar and salt. If you buy a lot of prepared meals, start cooking for yourself. Prepping your own lunch is easy, and you can find many videos online for creating easy vegan lunches. A few videos are added at the end of this post.
Drop the softdrinks. It's time to drink water when you are thirsty and not drink sugar. A beer or wine occationally – vegan of course – and with a meal is a nice treat, if you drink. You can find out if your favorites are vegan here.
6. Know your food.
Most of the commercial vegan products on the market such as fake burgers, meatballs, and cheese are processed foods and not healthy. Think saturated fat and excessive amino acids: these foods are often packed with highly refined oils, flours, sugars, and salts. Therefore, it's better to indulge in these foods only once in a while. The good thing is, our bodies get addicted to what we eat most of. Be prepared! Your body will soon prefer fresh foods to processed. It's pretty aweome when your body craves healthy vegan diet options, not junk.
7. Make you meals easy and fun.
Unless your hobby is cooking or you are a chef, I recommend you find easy and fast recipes. It's easy to make your meals more exciting and fun, through online videos, posts, and vegan communities. I like to find vegan cookbooks to pore through.
8. Give up dairy
Now is the time to give up dairy, if you're serious about a vegan diet. There are growing varieties of plant milks on the market. There are also vegan cheeses and dressings. During the transition period it can be good to buy those, but I do not recommended continuing to consume a lot as they are also processed. I have added a homemade cheese recipe at the end of this post.
I did a smoothie diet challenge, and now all the greens goodness is a part of my morning routine. Overnight oats is a great thing to eat, in the summer fresh fruit and bread. Quinoa bowls is another fun thing to try. If you are stuck on bread or muffins still, try making your own plant-based quick breads or muffins tht are easy to freeze and take out a serving at time as you need it.
10. Go easy on yourself.
You ate something non-vegan? don't beat yourself up, just go back to your vegan diet immediately. Nothing bad happened, you are human. After my reflux was healed and I could eat “normal” again, I planned cheat meals, at the beginning once a week. Now I barely cheat more than once a month, if that. Remeber you are on a journey, not a race, but do remember to get some kind of exercise regularly.
Here's an easy cheesy recipe for you:
Vegan cashew cheese
1 cup of soaked cashew nuts
2 teaspoon lemon juice
60 ml / 3-4 Tblsp. water
salt & pepper to taste
Pulse everything but the water – add the water little by little as needed.