Food writer Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and other books, re-defined what it means to eat smart when he shared his credo: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Did you know that reducing your intake of animal products and embracing a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for your health and the environment ? Now this doesn’t mean you have to become a vegan, or even a vegetarian, if you don’t want to. Small changes in your diet can yield big results. And, studies have proven that a plant-based diet—one based on vegetables, grains, legumes and fruit, with little or no animal products, including dairy—can reverse diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers promoted by scientifically generated foodstuffs, genetically modified foods and animal products.
As a vegetarian I should say that just being a vegan or vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a healthy diet. As a vegan, you could still eat highly processed foods like potato chips and french fries. The key to a healthy diet is to eat a low fat whole-food, plant-based diet and use minimally processed things. So, whether you’re an omnivore, pescatarian, vegan, vegetarian or any other diet configuration, one thing is certain, adding more whole and plant-based foods means more nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and less damaging fat—all needed for optimal health.
As a global public health professional, I’ve been interested in chronic diseases—obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other ailments—that have been on the rise here in the U.S., and in many other countries around the world. I’ve also been interested in strategies that reduce the incidence of morbidity and mortality from such diseases. Looking for links between diseases and their possible triggers—from diet and lifestyle to environmental and genetic factors—is fascinating. And everyday, research sheds more light on new ways to help people adopt healthier lifestyles and minimize or prevent their risk of getting disease. Part of the beauty of a adopting a plant-based diet is that it empowers us to be healthier and happier than we ever imagined possible!
In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading to sunny California to attend the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. I’m excited as many of the leading experts and researchers in the preventive and healing power of plant-based nutrition will be there to speak. I hope to blog and share any new and interesting information I glean while there. Until then, I’ll share a few plant-based recipes I’m making at home. Here’s a salad I made with super grains (a blend of white and red quinoa, millet and buckwheat), peaches and tofu. Nectarines would work just as nicely as peaches, so use whatever is available. I also added a handful of sugar snap peas for added color and texture.
Adapted from Farmstand Fresh, Summer 2014
1 cup super grains mix*, well rinsed and drained
2 cups water
8 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed
4 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper
3 peaches, sliced in ¼-inch wedges/slices
½ large English cucumber, cut in half and thinly sliced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup fresh mint, chopped finely
½ cup white wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn in small pieces
handful of sugar snap peas**, tough strings removed
4-5 cups salad greens (optional)
Make the Salad
Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a pot. Add grains, reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
In a bowl, combine tofu with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, add the tofu and cook over moderate heat, turning until golden, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, toss peach slices, cucumber and onion in remaining olive oil. Add cooled grains and tofu.
Make the Vinaigrette
Put the mint, vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad mixture and toss gently to coat. Cover and refrigerate the salad for at least an hour.
Just before serving, gently toss with the torn mint leaves and sugar snap peas. Serve alone or on a bed of fresh greens.
* I used a super grain blend of red and white quinoa, millet and buckwheat. If you can only find quinoa, that’s fine. You can still make this salad with just quinoa.
**The finer you slice the peas, the prettier they will be in the salad, but if you’re in a hurry, you could simply chop them. Or, you can blanch them and leave them whole.