Happy spring everyone!

So great to finally see the trees budding and flowers blossoming.  And we are heading into the easiest time of year to incorporate more produce into our diet, thanks to all the delicious local produce that will soon be available.  So all you gardeners out there – start planting those seeds!

Spend Less Eating the Plant-based Way

Wayne loves to save money, so when he noticed we were spending less eating a plant-based diet, he became even more committed to the shift.  This USDA study shows that when measured on a cost per serving, cost per weight, and cost per nutrition basis, fruits and vegetables beat out meat and junk food. While junk food may be 4 times cheaper than vegetables, there’s 20 times less nutrition. For meat, we’d be spending 3 times more to get 16 times less nutrition.

Fresh fruit is generally the most expensive category on our weekly shopping list, but many of the items we routinely buy are cheap:  garlic, onions, carrots, kale, beets, potatoes, dried lentils, canned tomatoes and beans.  I buy frozen instead of fresh berries and thaw a serving a day.  We get our almonds, walnuts, quinoa, hemp and chia from Costco.  We rarely buy processed vegan goods, which tend to be more costly.  With all the money we’ve saved, I can finally rationalize purchasing a Vitamix!


High blood pressure was identified as the number-one risk factor for death in the world by a large study recently published in the Lancet.  High blood pressure kills nine million people worldwide every year.  It kills so many because it contributes to deaths from a variety of causes, including aneurysms, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and stroke.

The evidence that sodium raises blood pressure is clear, so the first step to lowering hypertension is to decease sodium intake (it only takes our taste buds a few weeks to adjust).

  • don’t add salt at the table
  • don’t add salt when cooking (use other spices, herbs and flavorings)
  • avoid eating out
  • avoid eating processed foods

There is also evidence that eating three servings of whole grains (e.g. brown rice, oats and whole wheat) per day can have the same blood pressure lowering effect of high blood pressure medications, which is to reduce the risk of heart attack by 15% and the risk of stroke by 25%.  With no negative side effects!

And imagine this: according to this double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study, 30 g daily of ground flaxseeds alone “induced one of the most potent blood-pressure lowering effects ever achieved by a dietary intervention.”

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is widely touted for it’s health benefits, but is it really healthy?  In terms of what it does to our cholesterol, due to the saturated fat content it is as harmful as butter.  If you love using the oil for flavor and your LDL cholesterol is low then it’s not likely going to be a problem, but use it sparingly! For others it may worsen LDL levels (and therefore increase the risk of heart disease).

What about other oils?  The truth is oil is not required in the diet.  Oils offer scant nutrition but a heavy caloric load without filling us up.  The consumption of oils (even extra-virgin olive oil) has been shown to impair our arteries’ ability to relax and dilate normally.

To cook without oil, try sautéing in wine, sherry, broth, vinegar or water.  For baking, try substituting with mashed bananas, applesauce, avocado or canned pumpkin.

Daily Dozen App

What a clever idea!  Remember back in December I mentioned Michael Greger, MD’s Daily Dozen from his book How Not to Die?  With his free app we can now track how well we are keeping up with his recommended daily servings.  It’s a quick and easy way to see what we need to eat more of, and which foods we eat are not contributing to our health.  Brilliant!

Harissa Lentils and Cauliflower

Big thanks to Leigh for pointing us in the direction of this amazing recipe last week!  It’s from Naturally Ella.  I picked up a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in the international aisle of my local grocery store.  I love the spiciness of this dish, but reduce the chipotles and/or adobo sauce if you can’t take the heat!
Makes 4 servings


·  2 clove garlic
·  1 roasted red bell pepper*
·  2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
·  3 tablespoons adobo sauce
·  1 teaspoon cumin powder
·  1/2 teaspoon sea salt
·  2 tablespoons olive oil
·  Juice from one lime
·  1/3 cup cilantro


·  1 tablespoon olive oil
·  1/2 small red onion
·  2 cups small cauliflower florets
·  1/2 cup red lentils
·  1 cup stewed tomatoes (I used canned)
·  1-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

Grains for serving (I used brown rice)
  1. In a blender or food processor, pulse garlic until minced. Add remaining harissa ingredients and pulse until well combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low. Add onion and sauté until translucent, 6-7 minutes. Add cauliflower and continue to cook for another 5-6 minutes. Stir in lentils, stewed tomatoes, 3/4 cup of the harissa, and 1 cup vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until lentils are tender, 20-24 minutes.
  3. Serve over grains.
*To roast a bell pepper, place under a broiler, rotating occasionally until pepper is soft and charred.