Eating Plant-Strong for Fitness

Welcome to Spring! It is that time of year where the sunny and warm days draw us back outside and we become naturally more active. You might be thinking of your fitness routine, or of starting one up, in preparation for the upcoming “bathing suit season”. You may have heard it said before that abs start in the kitchen. This expression is meant to highlight how difficult it is to have defined abs, because if there is a layer of fat over the abdominal muscles then no amount of working out will get you where you want to be, and therefore diet is the key. Diet is the key not only to defined abs, but to the overall quality of a fitness routine.

We can spend hours in the gym pushing weights, run several miles per week, take all of the spin classes or hit up a Crossfit gym – but how much weight we lose, energy we have, and how good we feel does begin in the kitchen. There is a common idea that has been around for decades, that we may eat whatever we wish as long as we workout hard enough to burn off the calories. This is a pretty basic idea of how calories in vs. calories out works. And while it may be true for some people if they spend enough hours working out or are blessed with a high metabolic rate, all calories are not created equal.

A diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol will lead, sooner or later, to plaque build-ups on arterial walls even if you run a marathon every single day. In fact, the “father” of running for fitness, Jim Fixx, died of a heart attack in 1984 at the age of 52. He was overweight and a heavy smoker who decided to cut the smoking habit and drop the weight by starting to run. After successfully losing weight, he wrote a book that revolutionized the runner’s world and continued to engage in daily running until his death. Despite the cessation of smoking, the loss of weight, and his enviable fitness level, Fixx had severe blockages in his coronary arteries, one almost completely closed off at 95%.

Plenty of speculation exists around how he could have died so young, and everyone seems to agree that it was “in his blood”. There was a strong genetic link in his family for heart disease and heart attacks, his own father dying in his early 40’s. Genetics, however, are only one piece of the puzzle. As the saying goes, genetics load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger. In Jim’s case, rumor has it that he had quite the love affair with fast food and adopted the common ideology that he could eat whatever he wanted, so long as he exercised enough to burn the calories off. It appears this thinking might have been flawed.

Unfortunately, diet and lifestyle is not something you will hear much about in the doctor’s office – although this is making slight improvements as the knowledge surrounding plant-based nutrition and its impact on pre-existing conditions continues to surge. The typical course of action is – do you have a family history, do you smoke/drink, and which type of pill will work best to mask your symptoms? Some doctors have been cautioning patients against red meat and fast food for quite a while now, but most truly don’t know how powerful nutrition is because nutrition is not taught in medical school. They are learning about medicine and procedures, which is how they then treat their patients. If we want to know how diet and lifestyle effects us, we are left to learn that for ourselves.

When it comes to any fitness routine, before you begin it is important to remember this statistic – it is 80% what you eat, and 20% what you do. In other words, to get yourself in shape it is significantly more important to focus on your diet than on your fitness. The best diet for your body, especially when weight loss is a goal as well, is one low in fat and cholesterol, and high in whole grain carbs, antioxidants and phytonutrients. In short – a plant-based diet is the absolute best at fueling our cells. It provides everything we need for an active lifestyle, and none of the things that contribute to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and cancer.


We need protein in order to live, as well all know, but when protein was discovered it was largely inflated in significance. It is important, but it is not a nutrient that we need much of and, unless you’re living in a third-world country with no access to food and are suffering from starvation, there is no need to fear a protein deficiency. Protein exists in every single living thing, from the grass under our feet to the leaves over our heads and everything else that moves, breathes or grows in between or below the surface. Every plant, animal and living being contains protein – in fact the living beings that people are eating – namely pigs, cows and chickens – also receive their protein from plants. When it comes to protein and a plant-based diet, as long as you are eating sufficient calories, you are getting sufficient protein.

But what if I’m hitting the weights extra hard at the gym? Loren, I need extra protein for muscle growth!

True! But there is something more to consider here. When you are working out extra hard at the gym you need extra calories to fuel that workout. Calories = energy, and if you burn more energy you need to eat more energy. Do you know what you get more of by eating more food for those extra calories? Protein! The more calories you eat, the more protein you consume. So if you are an athlete or are training extremely hard at the gym, the extra calories you are consuming to fuel your hard work already contain the extra protein that you need. If you’re still not convinced, you can always try a plant-based protein powder as a supplement – just check the label for sugars and toxic ingredients first. If you need guidance, check out Eat Move Rest as they have high plant-based standards and use a good quality protein powder that you might find intriguing. You can click the link, or go look them up on YouTube.

The safest and healthiest sources of protein – the ones that come without saturated fat and dietary cholesterol – are beans, lentils, peas, tofu, soybeans/edamame and tempeh. Plant sources that do contain some saturated fat (avoid for weight loss or if battling heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes) but no dietary cholesterol are seeds and nuts. At least three servings of legumes per day will have you on the right track. Increase for higher activity levels.


Carbohydrates are key for fueling workouts. This may come as a surprise since carbs have been persona non grata for a while now. Just like calories, all carbs are not created equal. Processed, refined carbohydrates should be avoided at all costs. However, whole, unrefined grains are a necessity for optimal health. Glucose is the number one fuel source for all of the cells in our bodies – especially muscle cells. While protein may help muscle growth, glucose is what provides them with fuel to function. The ability for muscles to move, power through a workout, and recover comes from glucose.

When it comes to macros, protein should only make up about 10-15%, whereas carbohydrates should make up about 75%. The remainder should come from healthy fats, although this is something you’ll want to keep very low (no more than 10%) if your goal is weight loss or you are working to reverse heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The best sources for carbohydrates are any unrefined grain – brown or wild rice, oats, quinoa, farro, bulgur, etc. Avoid breads as even the whole grain ones are processed and usually have salt and sugar added. If you are going to eat bread, choose Ezekiel Bread, which is the only one that is minimally processed (as close to whole grain as possible), with no added salt or sugar. If you are going to eat pasta, choose whole wheat – but keep this minimal.


This literally means “plant nutrients.” This covers all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other beneficial compounds that come from eating fruits and vegetables. These are the things that keep our cells thriving and protect us from the free radicals that cause oxidization and promote inflammation, chronic disease and cancer. Phytonutrients are like a suit of armor for our bodies and without them we are exposed and vulnerable. It is vitally important to eat greens and berries daily. An excellent pairing with greens and berries is ground flax seed, which is a healthy fat (omega-3) that is shown to be highly protective against disease. It is recommended to have two tablespoons of ground flax per day, or four tablespoons for those fighting heart disease.

Citrus is an excellent pairing with leafy greens, as it doubles the absorbability of the calcium in leafy greens. Kale, arugula and romaine lettuce are the best sources of calcium (aside from beans), so a lemon dressing ensures that your body will absorb as much of that calcium as possible. Weight-bearing exercise improves bone density, so calcium intake is an important component of fitness as well. Leafy greens, especially kale, arugula and spinach, also provide powerful protection against cancer and inflammation, as do other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

Great antioxidant-rich foods are berries, lemons, walnuts, almonds and greens. Antioxidant is the opposite of pro-oxidant. Oxidant = oxidization, or the process by which our cells become damaged by free radicals in the body. These free radicals are the result of stress, toxins, environmental factors, and processed or animal-based proteins. This is what promotes disease in the body, and antioxidants help protect against these things.

What it Looks Like

Breakfast could be a bowl of oats made with almond milk, ground flax, chia seeds and berries. A great lunch might be a large kale salad topped with wild rice, black beans, blueberries, walnuts, ground flax, some quick-pickled red onions and an oil-free lemon dressing, with some type of fruit for the side. Dinner could be grilled tempeh with a quinoa-broccoli salad and roasted carrots. And for snacks – fruits, edamame, Ezekiel toast, a smoothie made with a frozen banana, some berries and almond milk…the possibilities are endless!

These are the foods that will fuel your body and provide a noticeable boost in energy levels to help you sustain your workouts. If you are not currently plant-based but are interested in giving this a try, I recommend dedicating three weeks to eating entirely plant-based. If you’re not sure where to start, there is a great program called the 21-Day Kickstart by PCRM that might be beneficial. Or, you can start searching plant-based recipes (avoid or modify any that recommend the use of oil – a simple substitution with water for cooking or applesauce for baking will do the trick, as will air frying vs. roasting or deep frying) on Pinterest or Instagram until you feel you have enough to get you started.

Take a little time to do some research first so you can have the resources to prepare yourself for the three-week challenge. Remember that this is a lifestyle change, so be patient with yourself, and expect resistance. Your default settings and habits will try to take over and convince you to give up, so be ready for this and have a plan of action to combat it. If you prepare yourself ahead of time, it will help you stick to your plan.

If you’re not ready to take on a plant-based life, simply eliminating processed foods and oil, and reducing the amount of animal-based foods you are consuming (this includes eggs and dairy), while increasing whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes will still make a big difference. Give it a try! I think you’ll like the results.

New Dietary Guidelines Released – Financial Power of Agribusiness Wins Again

Hello again my friends!

As I write to you I am still awaiting the arrival of my new Chromebook. My current one is on the fritz – the keyboard has stopped working, and it spazzed out and deleted half of the photos from my SD card. Which means that post I had planned to share my charcuterie table and Christmas dinner – gone! My touchscreen still works, but I have to plug in the keyboard from my desktop to type, which is how I am writing this to you now. My new Chromebook was expected to arrive yesterday, but it (as with most packages shipped via USPS) has been delayed.

Once it arrives and I can again safely upload photos, I will be resuming a regular blog schedule. It will be altered slightly, however. My plan is to publish a weekly blog post on Sundays, and a weekly nutrition topic post on Thursdays. Recipe posts will not have a scheduled day, as I am finding myself trying more of other people’s recipes than creating my own these days, so I will share those as I create them. Also – if you are not following Beetitudes on Instagram, please hop over there and give the page a follow. I created a new account just for the blog, separate from my coaching account, and am sharing meals, nutritional information, and daily living stories over there.

And now for the topic of the week! Every five years the USDA releases new dietary guidelines, and 2020 was the year. In the final Hail Mary pass of 2020, they released guidelines that are still in favor of industry over human health. This article title from the Wisconsin State Farmer says it all:

While there have been some (very) minor positive changes, overall not much has improved and science has largely been ignored. For example, despite findings in July that added sugars and alcohol needed to be further limited from current recommendations before being deemed safe, the new guidelines on added sugar and alcohol remain the same. The recommendation is to adjust alcohol limits from two drinks per day for men, down to one; and for women to reduce to less than one drink per day. In reality, no alcohol is good for us aside from a small amount of red wine, and even that is unnecessary because the component of wine that is good for gut and health – resveratrol – comes from grapes. Which means we can skip the alcohol and just eat grapes.

Also on the guidelines, unchanged from years past, is limiting saturated fat to 10% or less of calories per day. What remains missing is clarity on what foods contain saturated fat. The largest sources of saturated fat in the standard American diet are oil and dairy, followed closely by meat. Oil is 100% fat, while butter and cheese are 70-80% fat. Meats range from about 20-25% fat. Even that “low fat” 2% milk is actually 35% fat – they’re allowed to manipulate us by measuring volume instead of actual percentage of calories from fat. All to make us think milk is a healthy, low fat product, when in fact it is high in fat and cholesterol, and has a direct causal link to breast and prostate cancers.

In fact, the guidelines directly contradict themselves by recommending we limit fat on one hand, while on the other pushing us to consume three servings of dairy per day. Despite scientific recommendations to stop promoting dairy by committees tasked with advising the USDA dietary guidelines, the guidelines remain unchanged.

Another thing that remains unchanged since the 2015 release, is meat. In 2015 the category was changed from meat, to protein. However, what constitutes protein is again left up to the consumer to figure out – and in a nation where protein is synonymous with meat, the assumption will thus be made that protein group = meat group. Again, this despite the fact that the recommendation for saturated fat is 10% or less of total calories. The healthiest source of protein is and always will be plants – and all plants contain protein. As long as we are eating sufficient calories, we are getting sufficient protein. The highest and healthiest sources of protein are legumes which, unlike meat, contain no fat, no cholesterol, and no risk for colon cancer.

In a year of unprecedented illness with the pandemic making tsunami-level waves across the world, human health has never been more important. The USDA had the opportunity to leave a strong and noticeable impact on American health for the future, but instead they’ve chosen to stand in place with business as usual – ignoring science, ignoring committee recommendations, and catering instead to industry. What they’ve delivered, to quote Registered Dietician Susan Levin from PCRM, is “just kind of a lot of fluff, and no substance.”

As long as we continue having the same government agency responsible for promoting the ag industry also writing our dietary guidelines, it is doubtful that we will ever see guidelines that do not pander to industry while ignoring human health. As a result we can expect cancer, chronic disease, and the ongoing obesity epidemic to persist, and likely worsen. As a domino effect, we will also continue to see health care quality decline while costs of services and prescription drugs increase.

We have the power to change it all, because we are at the root of our health crisis. It has been demonstrated time and again that the strongly-biased USDA will not act responsibly for the people, so it is up to us to educate ourselves and to share honest, science-supported information with those around us. We have the ability to take our health back into our own hands, eliminating the need for “health”care and daily prescription drugs. We can fix the broken system by first fixing ourselves, but the real information must get out before this can happen.

If we want dietary guidelines that we can trust and depend on, let us look north to Canada. While they have not called to fully eliminate meat and dairy, they have removed dairy as a category in their guidelines completely, and highlight legumes, nuts and seeds more than animal sources for protein. This is a photo of the guidelines for Canada compared to America. If Americans were to adopt the Canadian plate, we would start to move in a positive, much healthier direction.

To stay up-to-date with real, science-backed nutritional guidelines, please subscribe to this blog and be sure to check out Beetitudes on Instagram. You can also follow my nutrition coaching page on Instagram too, Planted Coaching.

Have a happy and healthy evening, and I will see you back here on Sunday for my weekly blog!


More Plants, Less Weight – Weight Loss for My Teens

When I took a poll on Facebook of what people want help with the most, weight loss was the winner by a landslide. Right around that same time my children came home from their dad’s, where they spend their summers, 35 pounds overweight each. They normally gain anywhere from 10-20 pounds over the summer, but this year their summer started in March, and the scale reflected it.

As soon as they were home, I started them on a weight loss plan. In the first week they each lost five pounds, and in the subsequent week they lost four more (while also fighting back-to-school colds). They’re now one-third of the way to their goal in just two and a half weeks! That, my friends, is the power of plants.

What does this plan look like? The best part is that it isn’t complicated. There is no calorie counting, no food weighing or measuring, no carb or protein tracking, no point systems to keep track of, we aren’t even logging their food. The plan is two-part:

  1. No/low fat – i.e. no meat, dairy, eggs, processed food or oils. And for the time being, keeping nuts and avocados low as well (these will be reintroduced more regularly once the weight is down). The only fat really in their diet is flax, chia, and hemp seeds for Omega-3’s.
  2. Eat absolutely as many whole foods as they want – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

Why low fat? In short, because the old adage “you are what you eat” rings supreme. When we consume saturated fat, it requires little-to-no conversion to be stored on the body as fat. In fact, samples of human fat have been taken, and just from analyzing the sample scientists were able to see exactly where the fat came from – pork fat from eating bacon, for example – because fat does not need to be changed to be stored on the body for future use.

It also has to do with calorie density. This isn’t a throw back to the 90’s low-fat fad, where every product on supermarket shelves was suddenly labeled as low fat or fat free to entice consumers. Just because a processed food is fat free, doesn’t make it high quality or nutrient-rich. It is likely still calorie dense and nutrient poor, regardless of fat content.

As an example, one pound of oil rings in at 4,000 calories. One pound of lettuce, however – only 63 calories. A pound of apples; 237 calories. Sugar, while fat free, is around 1700 calories per pound. And a pound of beef is about 1100 calories. Calorie density is important, and choosing foods that have low calorie density is the first major step in weight loss.

When consuming a diet of plants – where a pound of lettuce is only 63 calories – counting calories isn’t necessary because these foods are not calorie dense. The ones that are a heavier in calories, like black beans, make up for it in nutrient value. A pound of black beans is 1400 calories. But a pound of black beans also has 58 grams of fiber and 286 grams of complex carbohydrates. How much fiber and complex carbs in a pound of beef? 0 and 0!

But…aren’t carbs bad for you??

Friend – no they are not! Let’s end that ridiculous claim from the Atkins generation (currently masquerading as Keto) that carbs are bad for you. Not only are carbs not bad for you, they actually help you lose weight! Yes, you read that right.

So what gives? It’s like this…simple carbohydrates are bad. Sugar, white flour, pasta, rice, crackers, anything grain-based that is highly processed…they’re bad. They’re bad because the nutrients have been stripped away, leaving them essentially no different than swallowing a spoonful of sugar. And while that may make the medicine go down, it also spikes your blood sugar, leads to a carb crash, and takes little energy to break down which means it’s easily converted to fat.

Whole grains, on the other hand, take a lot of work for the body to break down. You actually burn calories breaking down complex carbohydrates. It takes so much effort to convert them to fat that your body won’t even bother, unless you’re drastically overconsuming them. You won’t carb crash because the break down process is so slow that it doesn’t spike your blood sugar, either. Complex carbohydrates, or whole unrefined grains, therefore actually aid in weight loss because digesting them burns calories!

Now let’s talk fiber. 58 grams in one pound of black beans? The average American eating the standard American diet doesn’t get that much fiber total in four days of eating. Most Americans are getting 15 gram or less, when we should be getting a minimum of 30 grams. Any food that is high in fiber, gets an A on a weight loss plan.

What’s the deal with fiber? You’ve probably heard the craze about probiotics recently, right? Well think of fiber as the big brother of probiotics. Fiber feeds our gut. We have 39 trillion microbes in our gut, some of which are bad and some of which are good. And guess what feeds the good guys? You got it…fiber! Each microbial species in our gut feeds on fiber from different sources, meaning that the more variety you have in your fiber intake, the better. Check out Dr. Will Bulsiewicz for more on this, or read his book Fiber Fueled.

For a bulleted list, here is what I have my teenagers doing to lose weight:

  • no saturated fat, including meat, dairy, eggs, oil, unrefined and processed foods
  • as many whole fruits and vegetables as they can stomach
  • a serving of greens, cruciferous veg (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale), and berries each per day
  • Lots of beans and whole grains
  • Exercise – bike rides and BMX training at least three times per week

It really is that simple. No calorie counting or food tracking. If it’s a whole food, they can eat it. If it isn’t, then they can’t. If it came from a plant they can eat it, if it didn’t then they can’t.

For an idea of what they’ve been eating, here is another list:

  • Buffalo cauliflower bites
  • BBQ cauliflower flatbreads
  • Spaghetti with lentil meatballs
  • Tacos! Tempeh, black bean or lentils instead of meat, in a corn tortilla
  • Black bean quesadillas with cashew cheese (we use this sparingly since it’s nut-based and therefore high in fat. Not a daily food.)
  • Sushi with cucumbers, avocado, sweet potatoes, sriracha, tempeh, carrots, brown rice, and any other veg that sounds good
  • Tomato soup and “B”LT’s (made with tempeh)
  • Etouffee, made with beans and tempeh, sans shrimp
  • Black bean and sweet potato enchiladas
  • All bean chili
  • Chickpea nuggets (these went over well)
  • Whole wheat lasagna with spinach and cashew cream sauce
  • Oats and smoothies, or whole grain pancakes for breakfast, always with flax and/or chia
  • Lots of fruit – strawberries, blackberries, kiwi, pineapple, plums, oranges, apples, bananas, grapes
  • Salads with all sorts of toppings – bell pepper, cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, olives, banana peppers, pea pods, and Hemp seeds – oil free balsamic or fat free ranch (not my personal recommendation, but one of my kids won’t eat veg without ranch; and he mixes hot sauce in to make it to his taste)
  • Celery, carrots, broccoli, etc. with hummus
  • Corn chips and salsa (sparingly, however, because corn chips are fried in oil)
  • Popcorn made in an air popper, sprayed with braggs liquid aminos
  • air fryer fries or hashbrowns with a shot of ketchup or BBQ

Their next weigh-in and waist measurement day is this upcoming Monday morning. I will likely take some progress photos as well. They are 15 and 13 years old, and not only are they losing weight, but they are also learning about nutrition in the process. They spend the summer eating processed foods and dining out, only getting a real meal when they visit their grandparents. But I’m hoping that through this process they will learn enough about healthy choices that maybe they will request and eat healthier foods next summer and not gain all of the weight back.

More importantly, when they are adults and health actually starts to matter to them (we all know how teenagers think they’re invincible), they will have the tools and knowledge they need to make good choices. As parents, that is the most important thing we can do for our kids; teach them healthy habits and how to make good choices. After all, familial patterns tend to be passed down through the generations; diet and lifestyle choices are certainly no exception. We can break the cycle with our own children right now, one bite at a time.

What is a Plant-Based Diet? Questions Answered

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is celebrating National Nutrition Month throughout the month of March. This is a great opportunity to share information about a plant-based diet for those who are new to a plant-based life, those considering going plant-based, or those who are simply curious about what plant-based is.

What is a plant-based diet?

There are many variations floating around on what it means to be plant-based, but the general idea is that 90% or more of your calories are coming from whole, plant foods, and 10% or less are coming from animal-based sources such as meat, eggs, and dairy. This would be, depending on daily caloric needs, around 6-8 servings per week or less.

Other bullet points of a plant-based diet are:

  • Eat only whole, unprocessed, unrefined grains
  • Eat plenty of starchy vegetables like potatoes and rice
  • Eliminate processed foods
  • Cut out added sugars and oils
  • Focus on plant-based sources of protein as your primary source
    • This means beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, etc.
  • Have plenty of greens and veggies at every meal
  • Eat lots of berries and fruit
  • Supplement with Vitamin B12

How will I get sufficient protein?

This is always the most common concern for those new to this way of life. For decades, the meat and dairy industry has lobbied the government to “scratch their backs” with dietary guidelines that look out for their financial best interest [5]. They have also spent countless dollars on advertising to lure us into believing that we must have animal proteins in order to be healthy.

The dairy industry has gone so far as to work with the food industry to figure out how to get people eating more cheese. They’ve worked with restaurants like Pizza Hut to fit an entire pound of cheese onto one serving of Pizza. All of those extra cheesy fast food burgers? That is another product of this collaboration [5]. We have all been duped by industry to not only believe that animal protein is necessary, but get us consuming it in quantities far beyond what we were a century ago. The concern is not for our health, but their bottom line.

The thing that is most important to know about animal proteins is this: all livestock are herbivores, meaning that they all get their protein – the very protein we are eating them for – from plants. Even that 600 pound cow gets all of the protein it needs from the plants that it eats. And we can too.

The first order of business is a shift in programming. We must undo the conditioning we’ve been subjected to for so many years, to make way for new information.

Another concern regarding plants is amino acids. Amino acids are what proteins are broken down into before being absorbed by our bodies [2]. It has long been circulated that we cannot get the essential amino acids from plants, but that is inaccurate information.

Referring back to the herbivore livestock – if their meat contains all of the essential amino acids, and they’re getting those amino acids from plants, then logic would tell us that we can get them from plants as well. And we can. When we eat a variety of plant foods on a well-balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet we are getting all of the essential amino acids that we need [3].

This diagram gives an idea of the protein content of various plant foods:


This truly is just a start. Two of my favorites that aren’t mentioned are chia seeds and hemp seeds. Also consider nut butters such as peanut butter, almond butter and tahini (choosing only options without added oil, salt or sugar). But the bulk of proteins should come from beans, lentils and legumes, which are less calorie dense and don’t contain the high fat content of nuts and seeds. This is especially important if weight loss is a goal.

What about calcium?

Just like protein – if we get calcium from cow’s milk, and the cow got it’s calcium from the plants that it eats, then….yes, we can too! Also just like protein – we’ve been conditioned by industry to believe that we must have dairy for calcium, and that is misinformation delivered for the sake of profit. Time for another mind shift, this time about what we think we know about getting enough calcium.

An excellent source of calcium for a plant-based diet is in plant-based milks, such as soy and almond milk. These are fortified with calcium, as are many orange juices.

There are also numerous sources of calcium in the plants that we eat, many of which are shown in this diagram:


But won’t soy give me too much estrogen?

No! Soy contains estrogens called phytoestrogens; phyto meaning plant. In studies done on soy and breast cancer, regardless of which type of breast cancer, it has consistently been shown there is greater survival and lower cancer recurrence rate with higher consumption of soy. There are two different types of estrogen receptor cells, both alpha receptors and beta receptors. Estrogen produced within our bodies attaches to alpha receptors. Soy attaches to the beta receptors, which cut down cell growth – like the growth of cancer cells. The phytoestrogens in soy actually have positive estrogenic effects on the body that are protective against cancer [4].

Fiber and gut health…

Humans are designed to consume primarily plants, and one of the indicators is our need for fiber…which is found only in plants. For optimal gut function, it is suggested we have a minimum of 35 grams of fiber in our diets daily. However, the average American eating the Standard American Diet, or SAD, is only getting around 10-12 grams [3].

When eating a plant-strong diet, fiber will never be an issue because there is more than enough in every meal. One thing to note for those who are just starting a plant-based diet, or considering a plant-based diet – be prepared to notice big changes in your digestion. For the first few weeks, you will be gassy, and you will be on the toilet – a lot! This is due to your body’s gut restoring itself to normal, healthy function. It will taper off once you adjust.

Another important part of gut health is the microbiome. This is the environment of gut bacteria and other organisms that lives in your large intestine, and there are many times more of them than there are cells in the entire human body [3]. Sounds gross, but they serve a very important purpose. They are there to aid in digestion, protect against disease, resolve inflammation, help with weight loss, psychological health and even help our immune function [4]. It is important to treat our gut well, and that is an important part of the plant-based diet.

The worst foods for gut health are meat, dairy, refined and processed foods, and sugar. They deplete the good bacteria and allow bad bacteria to flourish, leading to inflammation, an autoimmune response to foreign invaders in the body [2]. Prolonged inflammation can lead to all sorts of complications, ranging from low defenses against viruses like the cold and the flu, to chronic conditions such as asthma and arthritis, heart disease, bone disorders, and even cancers [2].

What about B-12?

Vitamin B-12 comes from microbes in the soil. Since we’ve become largely anti-microbial in modern times, B-12 is in short supply. Thanks to water treatment, Vitamin B-12 is no longer in our local water supply [1]. And thanks to agriculture, it’s also been largely depleted from the soil. Modern livestock farming offers no access to natural B-12 sources due to confinement to feed lots and the feeding of an unnatural diet. These livestock become a source of B-12 for meat-eaters only because it is supplemented in their feed [6]. And we can supplement it in our “feed” just as well.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of a plant-based diet are vast and wide. The greatest benefit is reduction in the risk of the chronic diseases plaguing humanity today, such as heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Not only can a plant-based diet prevent disease, but it can even reverse disease, such as heart disease [7], cancer [8], and type II diabetes [9]. Then of course there is the added benefit of weight loss, which tends to occur naturally when people get away from the standard American diet, as does improvement in acne and the overall appearance of skin, hair and nails.

Other benefits to a plant-based diet are ethical (not contributing to the harm of animals), environmental (not contributing to the leading cause of global warming – land clearing and raising livestock), and of more concern at the present time – the prevention of disease outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently living through (these viruses begin with confinement of animals and spread to humans, the current virus coming from a wet market in China) [10].

I hope this article has been helpful in providing information if you are new to the plant-based diet, or are just curious and considering the switch. If you have any questions that I did not answer, please feel free to leave a comment below and I would be happy to answer them.

1 How How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger
2 Deeply Holistic: A Guide to Intuitive Self-Care, by Pip Waller
3 Dr. Garth Davis interview, by Gianna Simone
4 Dr. Michael Greger interview, by Gianna Simone
5 Dr. Neal Barnard talk, published by VegSource
6. B12: A Magic Pill, or Veganism’s Achilles Heel?, by Ashley Capps at Free from Harm
7. Make Yourself Heart Attack Proof by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, published by VegSource
8. The China Study, by Dr. Colin T. Campbell
9. Dr. John McDougall interview, by Dr. Gustavo Tolosa
10. “The New Coronavirus was Preventable”, by Wendy Orent in The LA Times


What Have I Been Up To Lately?

Dear Friends,

It’s been about a week and a half since I posted on here, so I thought I would do a blog post to talk about what I’ve been up to.


Last week I started my final year at UMass — I’m on schedule to be done in December and I will have my journalism degree. This semester I am taking a class on visual storytelling, which is basically photo and video journalism. I’m excited about this class because one of my goals for this year is to start a YouTube channel and it should definitely help with that.

My other class is on Newswriting and Reporting, which will be beneficial in writing articles on the latest health news. New information and new studies are coming out all the time, and one of my main focuses will be on finding that information, analyzing it, and sharing it on this site for all of you.

I’m also deeply entrenched in my Holistic Nutrition certification program. It doesn’t have weekly due dates like my courses at UMass, but there is an overall timeline — I have six months to complete it. There is a handbook that breaks down what I should accomplish each week in order to finish in the given timeframe. I have been well ahead of that schedule, and since UMass started again last week I am still running about two weeks ahead of schedule. I have until July, but my goal is to be finished with it at the same time as my semester at UMass concludes. I’m basically looking at it as a third class this semester.


Something else I’ve done in the last couple of weeks is order some mineral makeup samples from Everyday Minerals. I used to use them years ago and fell away from it because I wanted more of a full coverage makeup to cover up my acne and redness. Since then my acne has cleared up significantly from what it was — partly because I’m under much less stress than I was a decade ago, and also because I’ve been able to finally kick my cheese habit, down from daily to maybe once per week. When they talk about hormones in dairy being horrible for your skin — they aren’t lying!

While I’m finding that I like the makeup, I still feel that the best thing for my skin is no makeup at all. One of my most recent posts was about dry skin (you can read it here). I spent so much time focusing on skin care in a sense of “what can I use to make my skin better?” After reading the first book for my nutrition cert, I learned that topical products don’t matter a fraction as much as what I’m actually doing to my skin in the first place. While diet plays a big role, so does how I treat my skin.

I stopped wearing makeup, not because of the toxicity of the makeup (which my drugstore stuff is, without a doubt, toxic, and that’s why I’m making the switch back to Everyday Minerals), but because of the skin washing. The biggest culprit in dry skin is over-washing. And when I wear makeup I have to scrub my face, twice, to get it all off. Then my skin is extra dry and I have to use oils and moisturizers to soothe it. So I stopped wearing makeup so that I could stop washing my face for a couple of weeks to see what would happen.

What happened is the dryness went away and I no longer needed moisturizer. I would just wipe my face clean with water in the shower, no soap. The natural oil balance and protective acid restored itself to the point where my skin was no longer dry and I didn’t need moisturizer. It was soft, supple, and less wrinkled on the forehead and under the eyes. It looked better than it ever did with moisturizer. I learned that the trick is not finding the right moisturizer, but instead getting out of my own way so my skin can do what it’s genetically supposed to — heal itself.

So what about that new mineral makeup? I like it. It is definitely much safer from a toxicity standpoint than the drugstore liquid makeup. It covers pretty well too, especially now that my acne is mostly under control (I currently have a couple of post-period spots on my cheek). And it’s certainly easier to wash off than the liquid makeup. But — I still have to have soap to wash my face clean. After my shower, washing my face with soap, the dryness was back on either side of my nose, above my lips, and the center of my forehead above my brow bone. I didn’t need to slather my whole face in moisturizer, but I did use jojoba oil on the affected areas.

So I plan to order the base shade, primer, color corrector and finishing dust that I liked form Everyday Minerals, but I will still mostly not be wearing makeup. The plan is to wear it when I dress up for a date, go out with friends, have some sort of event, etc., but I will not be wearing it for just normal, everyday use. I have a professional job with a required business causal dress code, but I also sit in an office by myself all day and only see a handful of coworkers when I leave to use the bathroom or go to the break room. My job is back-office, so I am not meeting clients or working directly face-to-face with customers. Makeup is definitely not needed.

In my personal life…

Last weekend I took Michael on a little road trip to meet my aunt and uncle. They live three hours away, and since my aunt’s cancer diagnosis (stage 4 lung cancer), she desperately wanted to meet Michael, but is in no shape to travel. She’s been having seizures due to the swelling around the tumors in her brain, and sitting in a cramped vehicle makes them worse.

My boys’ dad lives close to her as well and they were already up there for the weekend (we meet halfway every other weekend), so Michael and I made the trip Sunday so he could meet my aunt and we could also pick up Hunter and Logan. It was a long day with six total hours of driving, but I got to see my best friend for a bit, and my mom’s side of the family was all together at my aunt’s house.

My mom’s side is small – just my grandparents, my mom and my aunt, plus spouses and children. My aunt and uncle’s daughter wasn’t there, but the rest of us were. My grandparents, aunt and uncle, my mom and stepdad and sister, plus Michael and me, and my boys when their dad dropped them off. It was the first time Michael was able to be there together with all of us and it felt satisfyingly complete.

This weekend we celebrate Hunter’s 15th birthday, and next week he will get his learner’s permit. It is unbelievable that I have a child old enough to start driving! I’m also encouraging him to put in his application at a couple of places close to home. We live a few blocks from a main highway and there are a couple of chain restaurants — Dunkin Donuts and Pizza Hut — within walking/bike riding distance from us. Many of those places will start hiring at 15, and he could work there without needing to have a driver’s license and a car.

We also have a superbowl party coming up this weekend at my friend Jenny’s house (I’m taking black bean salsa), plus plans to eat at Burritoville on Saturday. I haven’t been, and neither has my friend Caitlin. My friend Trevor is a regular there and is adamant that we go. It’s going to be a very full weekend, but also a satisfying weekend full of family, friends and celebration…and food prepping for next week!

Now for the exciting part!

I have decided to do a little kitchen renovation! I already did a big overhaul when I first moved into my house. My house had been completely remodeled before I bought it, but the one thing the former owners didn’t do was the kitchen. They’d replaced appliances and installed ceramic flooring, but the wood cabinets and yellow laminate countertop had been untouched since the house was built in 1967. So the first thing I did when I moved in was paint the cabinets inside and out, lay down a pretty liner inside the cabinets, replace all of the hardware, and paint my countertops.

Yes, paint them. For some before and afters:

Since then, things have changed. I’ve purchased a small table to use as a prep island in the center of my kitchen, because the breakfast bar is on the opposite side of the kitchen and isn’t convenient for prepping and cooking. I hung (and by I, I mean Michael) my crystal chandelier that I had originally purchased for the bedroom in my last house. I also stripped and refinished the wood breakfast bar. I’ve slowly accumulated things that fit my theme — pastel turquoise and pink, and shiny copper.

The countertop paint was always intended to be a temporary fix until I replaced the countertops. I painted a finish that looked good in the kitchen, but wasn’t exactly my dream kitchen. I decided at last that I’m ready to replace the countertop and sink. But then, I started pricing countertops…

What I found that I really liked was a white quartz countertop. So it’s basically mostly white, with a little gray veining with some copper flecks in the veining. And just the countertop alone, not including my island prep station, was going to be $1,200.00. And that does not include labor costs. I just couldn’t justify that cost with my inner frugal self. Not knowing that my existing countertop, aside from being not up to my personal tastes in appearance, is in perfect physical shape.

One thing I am, is good with paint. What you probably don’t know is that prior to starting this blog and focusing all of my extra attention on health and wellness, I had a short lived side-job refinishing furniture. I looked up videos on painting countertops to specifically look like quartz, and realized it’s something I can do.

There are kits sold by Stone Coat that I thought about buying, but decided not to for one reason — epoxy will only work on a horizontal surface, and my countertops are lined by a vertical 3″ built-in backsplash. So I’m going to have to hand paint it. I found some techniques that I liked, tested them out on cardboard, and they turned out well. So all I had to do was figure out my colors. I am still going to use the epoxy on the horizontal surface to make it as shiny as glass, because I just love that finish and it’s highly heat resistant. But I will have to use a gloss polycrylic for the backsplash portion.

countertopIn general I try to avoid gray. I know it’s trending right now, but to me it’s just cold and depressing. It reminds me of winter, and I hate winter. BUT — I’m realizing that warm tones — tans and taupes and creams — just aren’t going to give me the look I want. I want a bright and shiny white, and all of those colors just made it look off-white. So I decided I’m using gray for the veining, with the little dabs of metallic copper, to mimic this, only without the gray speckles:

kitchenI went back and forth between a copper sink and a white sink before landing on my final decision — I’m going with white. While the copper is beautiful and I really like it, I think it would end up just being too much and I would grow tired of it. I got on Pinterest and looked up kitchens with copper sinks and kitchens with white sinks, and I overwhelmingly liked the white better in the overall aesthetic of the kitchen. I am, however, going to get a copper faucet, and probably update the hardware to all copper as well.

The one thing I haven’t fully decided on is the countertop for the prep island. Currently, it’s too small. It’s 2′ x 2′, and doesn’t have room to spread out. I can’t go as big as I’d like or I won’t be able to open the refrigerator door or dishwasher. But I can go as wide as 3′ or 3.5′. And I’d like to increase the depth to 30″, but I can’t seem to find a top that will fit. They’re all a standard 24″, or they’re just massive. There is no in between. I’ve found a butcher block top that is 48″ x 24″ that I could cut down to fit width-wise. Then I can either finish it to match the wood breakfast bar, or paint it to match the countertops. That is what I haven’t decided on yet.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am for this! I decided to go ahead and do it now ahead of filming for YouTube, because a lot of the videos I will be making are going to be in the kitchen. So there is no better time than now to get it started. Since this weekend is already full, I am going to work on prepping the space next week, then start the painting (I’m also going to put a fresh coat of bright white and two coats of polycrylic on the cabinets) next weekend. I will have to remember to do some before, during and after’s for the blog, and also shoot some video so I can try to do a kitchen remodel video for the YouTube channel (which does not currently exist, but I will share the link on here when it does!).

So if you don’t see a lot of activity here on the Holistic Health with Loren website over the next couple of weeks, it is because I will be “under construction” on the kitchen. But don’t worry, I will be back here soon!