by Heather Borders
My name is Heather and along with my husband Lee, we have been on a plant-based diet since August 2011. Our journey began as we tried to lower Lee’s ever-rising cholesterol. It had always been well into the 200’s during our twenties and we were frustrated when extreme exercise did not help in a significant way. By our mid-thirties, Lee’s total cholesterol was 311 and his triglycerides were 305. He wasn’t overweight and was very physically active, so needless to say we were stumped. Adamantly opposed to medicine, we searched for other ways to lower Lee’s cholesterol.
After a few internet searches, I learned that our liver makes all the cholesterol we need and dietary cholesterol, found in food, can increase total blood cholesterol levels. It turns out that plant food contains no cholesterol and all animal foods have some amount of cholesterol. I stumbled upon the community of researchers and clinicians that provided the data to support the benefit a whole foods, plant- based diet can have on our health. I never thought that veganism would be necessary, or a reason to switch would be for one other than animal ethics. However, my husband and I were on board for what we thought would be a 6 week experiment.
After six weeks, my 5’10” husband went from 170 pounds to 155 pounds, and his total cholesterol went from 311 to 232, and triglycerides from 305 to 103. A year later he was down closer to 200 and has maintained the same weight. After 1.5 years, my total cholesterol also improved from 233 to 179! We are obviously a work in progress, however forever changed by what we have learned in such a short amount of time. We are also so grateful to have found out about the significance of a plant-based diet before we became a statistic. No more waiting for the other shoe to drop or worrying if our genetics have any say in our health!
One of the more difficult aspects of transitioning to a plant-based diet is finding places to eat! In a partnership with The Girls Gone Green
, VegHealthyJax is a community initiative that was created to make it possible and convenient to eat healthy while dining out in Northeast Florida. We were awarded a $1,000 grant from the Pollination Project
towards promotional efforts to help market the local restaurants that agree to offer healthy, plant-based meals. If you are interested in being an active member of this initiative, please join VegHealthyJax on www.meetup.com
As you may have seen in previous No Meat March emails, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) is a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that promotes preventative medicine, especially through good nutrition. Food for Life is a PCRM program that offers cancer, diabetes, weight management, and kids classes that focus on the lifesaving effects of healthful eating. Each class includes information about how certain foods and nutrients work to promote health, along with cooking demonstrations of simple and nutritious recipes that can be recreated easily at home. There are over 100 Food For Life instructors across the U.S. and I’m very excited to have been chosen as the instructor for the Jacksonville, FL area. You can keep up with future classes on Facebook by liking ‘Food for Life Jax’ and can check out my bio here
Eating on-the-go and being vegan/vegetarian is getting easier every day, especially if you think outside of the box. Chain restaurants such as Chipotle, Moe's, Mellow Mushroom, and Panera have multiple options. At Chipotle you can get the veggie bowl, taco or burrito filled with black beans, brown rice, salsa, lettuce, corn and guacamole. Mellow Mushroom is super veg-friendly, offering vegan pizza, hummus, tempeh/tofu hoagies, and more. At Panera, they offer the Mediterranean veggie sandwich (hold the feta if you're vegan) and a cup of veggie or black bean soup.
Native Sun is a great option for prepared organic foods. Check out their deli case, salad bar (San Jose locale), hot bar (Baymeadows locale) and sandwich boards for the veg goods such as portabella sandwiches, red lentil cakes, vegan Bahn mi, and so much more!
Ethnic food is always a great option. Hala Cafe (several locations) and Mandaloun on Baymeadows offer hummus, tabouli, veg grape leaves, lentil soup, and spinach pie. Masala Indian Restaurant on San Jose Blvd. has Aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), Chana masala (spicy chickpeas), samosas (peas and potatoes in a fried pastry shell), and pakora (battered and fried veggies) which are all spicy and delish!
Jason's Deli on Southside is becoming more organic and veg-friendly. Create your own hummus and veggie sandwich or choose from the loaded salad bar. California Pizza Kitchen is a nice spot at St. John's Town Center for a little slower lunch or dinner date. They have smashed pea soup, white corn guacamole, tuscan hummus, and an eggplant pizza and broccoli pasta dish that can be made vegan.
Extra tip: For the times you're out and about and hunger strikes, keep a bag of trail mix, a banana, or granola bars to munch on. The more people become veg and request alternative food choices, the more effortless it will become for all of us to eat well. Keep asking for what you want- healthy, happy food!