A new beginning is just around the corner for kids, parents, teachers, and the many people who work to keep schools up and running. It is a good time to think about wellness. Even if you are not sick, there is a good chance that you can improve your physical and spiritual fitness and endurance by making positive changes in your habits.

Words like diet, vegetarian, and vegan have acquired negative connotations in recent years. Diet, though it has many meanings, brings feelings of starvation to mind. I prefer not to tie my identity to what I choose to eat or not eat.

A month ago, I decided to cut animal products, especially those that involve cruelty and slaughter, from my meal plans. Empathy for animals was secondary to my main reason for going down this road. Someone close to me hinted that I might feel better if I stopped ingesting meat, eggs, cheese, and milk. I tried it, immediately started to feel the positive effects, did some research on the subect, and I was hooked. Renewed energy and just plain feeling good are more powerful than arguments and ideology.

I prefer the phrase whole food plant-based lifestyle because it is more than a diet and that’s the phrase that my favorite experts use. It keeps me focused. I’m feeling so good, I don’t mind what you call me, but I want to share what I am experiencing and hope you will experience similar or even better improvements in your health if you decide to try any or all of the suggestions this month’s Coffee Talk may lead you to. ¡Salud!

I Just Feel Good

Whole Food for Whole Bodies

My Illness, Myself

Curanderos, Shamans, and Plant-Based Remedies

Plant-Based Milk, Sour Cream, and Cheese

Poetry Corner: Television by Roald Dahl





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I Just Feel Good!

There are physiological arguments for a whole food plant-based lifestyle, as well as credible ecological and deeply spiritual considerations, but I’m going to limit this discussion to just one self-interested reason: it feels good.

I want to preach and shout and cry out, “Why didn’t I do this years ago? How is it possible that EVERYONE isn’t doing this?” This is a common reaction of people who finally cross over from animal-based to plant-based. However, if you’re not ready for it, you would probably think I’m nuts if I did that. I would have thought so too. A few weeks ago, I thought vegans were mostly teenage girls looking for attention or fanatics in weird religions. There may be a few of those, but there is a growing number of diverse, energetic, healthy people that reflect a different reality.

I read a little book more than forty years ago that made a convincing case that the human body is not equipped to eat and digest animal products without some painful, even fatal, consequences. My mind was convinced, but it was too weird, too not-mainstream for me to put it into practice. I have been interested in health information for a long time, and over the years, I dutifully added fiber, calcium, B, C, D3, E, CoQ10, fish oil, turmeric, sweet potatoes, broccoli, lots of water, and whatever was at the top of the news. I limited saturated fats, cut back on red meat in favor of chicken and turkey. I incorporated whole-wheat grains, added wheat germ to baked products and used raw sugar, molasses, maple syrup, or raw honey for sweetening. I ate yogurt and fed it to my family.

I thought I was looking and feeling pretty good for my age, if you don’t count Tina Turner and Jane Fonda, who are even older than I am and looking much better. I haven’t had a real illness in four years. I travel often and get around town and out to the beach. There was the annoying chronic cough, but it had been with me for more than twenty years and was much improved with shots, oral vaccines, antihistamines and inhalers. Acid reflux was annoying, but I was used to it. I avoided some of the known triggers, and there was always Alka-Seltzer. I had eliminated frequent urinary tract infections and endless trips to the bathroom by learning how to press my bladder until it is really empty. Back and joint pain? So many people are so much worse off, how can I complain? Once I was out of bed and warmed up, I could get around, do a little yoga, walk, and ride a stationary bicycle. Hypertension, diagnosed fourteen years ago, has been well controlled with Losartan. Not bad, right?

My son Adrian is a chiropractor who decided a few months ago to try the whole food plant-based lifestyle. He wisely led his stubborn Mamá by example and not argument during a recent visit, as I indulged in pulled pork sandwiches, a daily fried egg, and coffee with thick cream and heaping teaspoons of white sugar. I returned from that two-week visit and, after listening to some medical experts and testimonials on You Tube, I gave his lifestyle a try. I had cut way back on meat already because of problems with acid reflux, bloating, and constipation, but I was really into my fried-egg breakfasts, egg salad sandwiches, cream and sugar in my coffee, and an obligatory Whataburger on every trip to Texas.

It’s been a month now. The cough is all but gone. There is no more acid reflux. I thought I was already sleeping well, but I’m sleeping even better. I wake up rested, get through the day, and go to bed with no body pains anywhere. I have cut the Losartan to half a pill, and my blood pressure is very close to 120/80 or below. My goal is to get off the pills altogether. I’m not yet delighted with my weight, and my belly is bigger and rounder than I would like it to be, but my clothes are already feeling more comfortable. I have so much energy that I look forward to, rather than dread, my yoga routine and some spins on the bike.

I wish I could guarantee that if you’ll do this one thing all your diseases will be healed and you will have amazing energy for the rest of your life. I wish I could tell you that it’s just one thing you need to do, or that there’s a non-variable regimen you can follow that will guarantee results. I can’t tell you that. I can’t make any promises. I can only tell you what I did and share some of the ways it is affecting me. I can share others’ stories. I can point you to serious research published in journals that are vouched for by people much more knowledgeable than I am. I don’t know for sure what will happen in your body and your mind. The only way to find out is to try it yourself because your body and its history, while sharing countless features with other bodies and other histories, is unique.

Salud in Spanish means “health.” It is also the proper thing to say to ward off illness when someone sneezes, and it is the equivalent of “Cheers” when clinking glasses together in a toast, so I think it is the proper way to end this article–a wish for health, freedom from illness, and all the good things that you wish for when you offer a toast.


More plant-based recipes at Fruit and Stuff.


Soak 1 c RAW ALMONDS overnight (or up to two nights for creamier milk). Drain and rinse. Add 2 c WATER. Blend until smooth. Drain and squeeze through a cheesecloth. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.


Wash and squeeze 1 c OATMEAL 5 times. Blend oatmeal about 1 min in 1 LITER OF WATER with a PINCH OF SALT and 1 T SUGAR. Strain the mixture up to 4 times, returning the leftovers to the blender with more water and rinsing the strainer each time.


Soak 1/2 c raw cashews for an hour, rinse and drain. Combine with 1/3 c water, 1/2 t lemon juice, 1/2 t apple cider vinegar, 3/4 t nutritional yeast, 1/4 t salt in blender until smooth.


Soak 1 1/2 c DRIED CHICKPEAS for 8 hours, drain and rinse. Blend until smooth with 1 CLOVE GARLIC, 1 t SALT, 2 T NUTRITIONAL YEAST, 1 T APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, 1 T OLIVE OIL, 1 1/2 – 2 c WATER. Cook over medium heat until thick. Pour into mold immediately and cool. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.


After much thought, some serious reading, and a few gross-out videos, I have decided to limit all animal-based products in my food intake. Vegan is not synonymous with tasteless. If you enjoy pizza, barbecue, curry, salsa, or any of the many flavors that distinguish different international dishes, they can be made without animal products and served over potatoes, cauliflower, portobello or other mushrooms, or just about anything you can think of.

Here is a recipe for vegan barbecue sauce. If you are a purist, look for organic ketchup, low sodium soy sauce, and vegan Worcestershire sauce.

Whisk together 1 c KETCHUP, 1 T MOLASSES, 1/8 c BROWN SUGAR, 1/8 c APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, 1 T SOY SAUCE, 1 T WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE, 1 t SRIRACHA OR OTHER HOT SAUCE. Makes about 1 1/2 c. Double or triple as needed. Spoon over baked beans, tofu, portobello mushrooms, mashed potatoes, vegan meat substitutes.

There is overwhelming evidence that human beings are designed to be herbivores. Some experts say we are frugivores–fruit eaters. Our ability to adapt to environments that are less than suitable for our species has given us great advantages over other creatures, but there has been a price in health and longevity for that adaptability.

Some people go vegan fanatically, but I favor gentle transitions and a light touch. A Whataburger Junior once or twice a year will not kill me, but a daily diet of Whataburger ingredients will be a serious obstacle to more years of life and the health and energy to enjoy them.

Many plant foods are delicious with little or no enhancement. Ripe pineapples, bananas, mangos, guavas, peaches, pears, apples, watermelons, cantaloupes, and many other fruits call for minimum preparation and no other ingredients. The same is true for nuts and seeds like pecans, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, cashews. Ripe avocados and tomatoes need a little salt for my taste but nothing more. I like my strawberries with a little extra sweetness, but ripe bananas and strawberries mixed together are delicious with nothing added.

The “balanced meal” of meat, starch such as potatoes, rice, or pasta, green or other brightly-colored vegetable like green beans or carrots, a leafy salad, bread, and a beverage is firmly embedded in my mind because that’s what I learned as a child, but it is not the healthiest way to eat.

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