Saturday, July 24, 2010

Embracing New Habits . . .

Unlike other ocassions when I didn't have the time to write, I've been avoiding my blog on purpose since the begining of the month.  Why?  Well, simply because I drastically changed my eating habits overnight and I didn't quite know how to address the subject over here:  I started a vegan diet.  There!  I said it!  :)

It all started a little bit over three months ago.  I can even remember the exact date:  Saturday, 17 April.  That morning I was still laying in bed, watching my usual cooking shows and, all of a sudden, I got bored and started fliping the channels, stopping briefly on each one to see whether there was anything interesting.  When I got to MPT (Maryland Public Television), I heard this guy talking to a live audience about type 2 diabetes.  That peaked my curiosity (I have type 2 diabetes).  The guy turned out to be Dr. Neal Barnard (the program was: "Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard"), and he was giving this lecture about how a low-fat vegan diet can help many patients cut their blood sugars, improve their insulin sensitivity, and reduce, if not eliminate, their medications.  That definitely caught my attention and I watched most part (excep for the very beginning) of the whole 90-minute special!

Through "Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard", Dr. Barnard shares his scientifically proven system to taking control of diabetes through nutrition, without drugs.  His new approach addresses diabetes, but it also helps with other ailments including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and weight. In the program, Dr. Barnard explained the different types of diabetes and how each can be triggered by genetics, weight, poor diet and lack of physical activity or pregnancy. Dr. Barnard explained about his research and offered simple, step-by-step guidelines to apply the research into one's lifestyle.  Through a series of studies, Dr. Barnard discovered that it is possible to repair insulin function and reverse type 2 diabetes through nutrition. By following Dr. Barnard's life-changing approach, one is expected to be able to control blood sugar three times more effectively than with the standard dietary regimen for people with diabetes and, at the same time, protect the body from head to toe including the heart, eyes and bones.  Dr. Barnard's program is a three-rule system to taking control of diabetes including a vegan diet, low in fat and low glycemic index. A vegan diet means avoiding all animal products and, instead, eating regular meals in the four food groups—vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.

In case you are wondering who this Dr. Barnard is, he received his M.D. degree at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C. and is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, a Life Member of the American Medical Association, and a member of the American Diabetes Association.

I was so excited after watching the program, that I jumped off the bed, got online on Amazon and bought two of the books he was talking about:  "Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes" and "Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and 7 Steps to End them Naturally".  Got my books three days later and—literally—starting "devouring" them!

Even though I wanted to jump into the diet immediately, I thought it would be a wise idea to talk to my doctor first.  I had my quarterly diabetes check-up on 10 May and, not only did my doctor give me the "green light" to start on the diet, but he told me as well that he knew Dr. Barnard and that he had participated in part of the research studies!  Still, I didn't start the diet until 3 July, simply because Dr. Barnard recommends that you try the kickstart plan for three weeks straight . . . and during May and June I was still travelling to Michigan, and it wouldn't have been a good idea to start the new plan while being away from home.  My next trip is not due until mid August, so I figured July would be the best time to start!

I did all my vegan grocery shopping the night before starting the diet and got rid of anything that could become a temptation (butter, eggs, milk, cheese).  I went to Trader Joe's and was surprised with the wide variety of vegan foods available!  I packed the shopping cart to the rim!  :)  I won't deny that these three weeks have been a little challenging, specially when grabbing something to eat at the cafeteria at work.  It's hard to pass up your favorite foods all at once!  And, except for the two occasions that I ate chicken (went out for dinner and lunch with two different friends), I've managed to stay on the plan.  To be honest, I thought it would be a tough challenge, but every day I keep finding new ingredients and ideas for recipes.  I can even have ice cream, yogurt or pizza with mozzarella cheese . . . all vegan!!!

I have my next diabetes check-up on 5 August . . . we'll see how it goes!

And, well, to finish this posting with something interesting, I'm copying here a recipe I found earlier today on FatFree Vegan Kitchen ( "Grilled Tofu with Blueberry-Peach Salsa", which I'm planning on preparing tomorrow for lunch . . . today I had baked polenta with tomato-mushroom sauce and some gooey "cheese" on top! :)

"Grilled Tofu with Blueberry-Peach Salsa"

Maple-Chili Grilled Tofu

14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 teaspoon Ancho chile powder (or mild chili powder)

Wrap tofu in a lint-free kitchen towel and place a light weight (about 1 pound) on top while you prepare the marinade. Something flat like a book with a can of beans on it works well to remove some of the water from the tofu.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large ziplock bag or bowl. Cut the tofu into 8 slices about 1/2-inch thick. Place them in the marinade, turning so that both sides of slices are coated with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least an hour, turning halfway through.

Heat a barbecue grill, electric grill, or non-stick skillet; spray lightly with non-stick spray if necessary. Cook on each side until light brown. Serve with Blueberry-Peach Salsa on the side.

Servings: 4
Yield: 8 slices

Blueberry-Peach Salsa

1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
1 peach
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper (or to taste)
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put blueberries in food processor. Pulse 4-5 times until berries are coarsely chopped. (Some berries will remain whole; do not over-chop.) Cut peach into 1/2-inch cubes. Combine berries and peach in a medium-sized bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Servings: 8
Yield: 3 cups