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Monday, June 13, 2011


Happy Monday, everyone!  I feel like I should have written this post earlier considering it is the basis for most of my healthy eating - but better late than never!

When I made the choice to begin my brand new vegan lifestyle, I really wanted to start from scratch and give my body a clean slate on which to work.  Also, I thought it would be wise to get some expert opinions on what to eat.  So, when we returned from our honeymoon in Thailand, Liza and I went to visit Shannon Elldrege at Zen Cleanse here in Tarzana.  First of all, I have never had such a casual conversation that focused on the "workings" of the human body (mine, in particular).  She really put us at ease.  But that's a whole other story...

The most important information I left with were her "building blocks" to healthy eating.  She calls them H.O.P.E. or:

High fiber

I thought I would take this opportunity to define each of these blocks, explain why they are so important to our bodies, and give a few examples of where to find them in everyday life.  Strap yourselves in!

Fiber is essentially "the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components: soluble and insoluble.  It acts by changing the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, and by changing how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed.  Soluble fiber absorbs water to become a gelatinous, viscous substance and is fermented by bacteria in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber has bulking action and is not fermented." (US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library and National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board)

Got all that?  In layman's terms, you get fiber from the bulk of plants and it helps your body digest things more easily.  High fiber is 5g or more of fiber in a serving.  Easy enough.  But fiber has gotten a bad rap because of what it makes people think of - it makes you have to go to the bathroom.  True, but that is extremely important to our bodies.  Assisting our bodies in digestion and elimination (yup, that's what you think it is) is essential to living a healthy life.  So let's not be so squeamish and get more fiber in our diets.  The best sources of high fiber can be found in:
  • Grains (whole grain bread, bran, brown rice, etc.)
  • Fruits (berries, raisins, apples, bananas, etc.)
  • Vegetables (baked beans, lentils, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes,  squash, etc.)
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.)

When people think of oils, they probably think of EFA's (essential fatty acids) and Omega-3's.  EFA's are the bodyguards that protect cell membranes so that they are able to admit healthy substances while blocking ones that may hurt us.  Omega-3's could be the most recognizable fatty acids.  Their advantages include, but are not limited to:
  1. Acting as an anti-inflammatory 
  2. Improving brain function
  3. Protecting against heart disease
  4. Controlling intestinal disorders
  5. Treating skin problems such as acne or eczema
The popular way to get your EFA's and Omega-3's is by taking fish oil.  But, being vegan doesn't afford us that option.  So, we use flaxseed oil.  It can be purchased at any Whole Foods and is an incredible way to get your oils.  Just one teaspoon contains approximately 2.5g of Omega-3's which is equivalent to more than twice the amount an average person gets in their diet.  Instead of using a creamy salad dressing or regular olive oil in a frying pan, sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseed oil onto your greens and let it work its magic.


In 1989, Roy Fuller came up with the definition that is most widely recognized when referring to probiotics.  "A live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance." (The Journal of Applied Bacteriology)  In short, probiotics are just what the name would suggest: microorganisms that are introduced into the body and are beneficial to the host.  

Some probiotics have been shown to be helpful in preventing and treating various forms of several ailments including:
  1. Diarrhea
  2. Lactose intolerance
  3. Colon Cancer
  4. Cholesterol
  5. Blood pressure
  6. Immune function
I must admit that I am not as well versed in the field of probiotics so I won't act like the expert and direct you to a product I know nothing about.  What I was told by Shannon is to buy an unrefrigerated probiotic.  The refrigerated products are only fresh at the controlled temperature in which they are kept and should be consumed immediately to achieve desired results.  Taking them out of the refrigerator, purchasing them, traveling them home, and then refrigerating them again could very easily create enough unrefrigerated time to kill the beneficial microorganisms.  Liza's favorite probiotic comes in the form of a fermented tea drink called Kombucha.  

 She prefers the Synergy brand but they come in many different flavors and brands.  Try one out, do your homework, talk to a doctor, visit a health food store that carries a wide variety of probiotics, and ask questions!  And, for the record, if anyone has advice on a good probiotic, please share so we can all benefit!

This final block is probably the easiest of the group to recognize and find.  This is your bulk.  Your fruits.  Your veggies.  Your juices.  I'm sure all of your mothers have told you to eat your veggies and drink your juice so I don't have to tell you about all the vitamins (B, B-12, C, etc.), minerals, fiber and so much more.

But I will tell you that this lifestyle hinges around this block.  It is the crux of almost every meal we eat.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a 30 year old man who does up to an hour of exercise daily should eat 2(!) cups of fruit and 3.5(!) cups of vegetables per day.  I feel that these numbers are very low but, if they are accurate, there is no excuse to not achieve your fruit and veggie intake everyday.  Go to your local store where you buy produce, find organic fruits and veggies (when possible) and go to town!  Also, I must recommend my favorite juice in the world: Bolthouse.  These juices are delicious, healthy, 100% natural, filled with vitamins, and they come in both fruit and vegetable choices.  One 8 oz. glass of their juice each morning gives you a great start to the day.  Please keep in mind that, even though Bolthouse juice is a wonderful way to get your dose of fruits and veggies, it is still not as beneficial as fresh juice or smoothies.  Additives are still included to keep the juice fresh for a longer period of time which may lessen the amounts of enzymes that are available.  Eating or juicing fresh fruits and veggies is still the way to go if at all possible!

I hope this was a big help to everyone.  I refer to this list daily and try my hardest to incorporate all of these blocks into my everyday food choices.  Some days are more successful than others, but we live and learn.  Just remember:

High fiber

is the opposite of...

Upside down cake (there aren't many foods that start with "U", ok!?)

As always, thanks for reading.  Create a profile, become a follower, tell your friends and family to do the same, and follow me on Twitter!  (@Recon_Carnivore)


  1. Hey Marc -- been reading your blog and always find your stuff interesting, but wanted to give you a heads-up regarding Bolthouse Farms; the ownership is super right-wing and religious conservative, and the money made through these products ends up in the hands of anti-marriage-equality groups, anti-choice groups, etc. Not sure if this is of concern to you, but it would preclude me from ever purchasing their products or supporting them, and I wanted you to be aware of these facts since you're giving them some big praise and free advertising here. Not trying to preach - just spreading the word!! Keep up the good work. :) - Abby

  2. Synergy Kombucha is delicious! Wish it wasn't so expensive, but I will occasionally buy myself one as a treat. I also recently discovered Amande yogurt at my local Whole Foods which is almond milk yogurt. It has added live active cultures, but does contain quite a bit of sugar, so I've stopped eating it too much. Awesome post!

  3. @abigail

    Wow. I haven't read that about Bolthouse. I absolutely wouldn't accuse you of preaching and I appreciate the information. Would you mind telling me where you saw this? It is definitely a concern of mine and I would love to do some more research about it. Thanks so much for reading and writing. Please tell your friends!

  4. @Hally

    Yeah, Kombucha is definitely a once-in-a-while purchase because of the cost but Liza loves it unconditionally. The fermentation is a little strong for my taste but, who knows, I could get used to it one day strictly for the health benefits. We try our best to stay away from processed sugar (some times more successfully than others) but I haven't heard of Amande yogurt. I can't stand regular yogurt (again, too sour for my taste) but I do love almond products so maybe I'll give it a shot. Thanks so much for reading - welcome aboard! Can't wait for your next blog!

  5. Thanks, Mark!

    Another probiotic: soy yoghurt. I can't attest to any particular brand. But if it's anything like regular yogurt, then if you make it yourself at home it doesn't have the sour taste... and you can doctor and hide it so many ways

    Like sourdough... you get a starter and then keep it going.

  6. Thanks, Marla!

    We may just have to give it a try, despite my overwhelming reluctance to ever eat yogurt again.

  7. I'm hearing good things about krill oil as opposed to fish oil. Has a different appearance and texture. Supposed to have a longer shelf life. Don't notice any major health difference, but that's a pretty small variable to detect.
    Good work, sir!

  8. Hmmmm. I hadn't heard anything about krill oil. Sounds interesting so I'll definitely do more research about it. Thanks, Kevin!

  9. Mark, I heard about this a while back, and in doing some research see that it may no longer be an issue...I'm still a bit wary of a company with biblical quotations on its website, but here's some stuff on it: -- check out the "Political Connections" section...

    and the Bolthouse Foundation itself: