We continue to hear the benefits of plant-based eating — touted by well-known doctors such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Joel Furhman — but what exactly IS a plant-based diet, and does it require a lot of time for preparation and cooking?
Certified nutritionist and author of “The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook: 125+ Plant Based Vegan Recipes for a Fit, Happy & Healthy You,” Melissa Costello joined Elevated Existence Magazine founder, Tammy Mastroberte, on the Living an Elevated Existence Mind, Body & Soul Summit to discuss this topic and more!
“Plant based eating is coming more into the mainstream, and often another term for veganism, but it doesn’t mean your vegan,” Costello said on the call. “It’s just that you are eating more foods that are less processed, so you are eating things that grow in the ground or on a tree — things that are more natural. It’s about eating less animal products and more natural foods like vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruits.”
As the founder of KarmaChow.com, Costello creates recipes that are easy to follow with ingredients easy to acquire at the local grocery store. Her goal is to make eating healthy easy and accessible for everyone, she said.
“I really want people to know this way of eating can taste good, and be accessible and simple because we are busy today, and people are always on the go,” she explained. “I wanted people to know they can eat healthy, and it doesn’t have to take five hours to make one dish. It’s really about using things that are accessible at a grocery store.”
As a child, Costello suffered from asthma, migraine headaches, and often found herself sick with viruses and bacterial infections. At 19 she began investigating food as medicine and changing her diet in order to heal her body.
“I had always loved to cook, so I just started experimenting with how could I eat healthier. I started making healthier versions foods that I loved,” she noted. “I also had a major sugar addiction, and most of our health issues are related to that because sugar wrecks our immune system.”
She found when she started moving to a more plant-based diet, her body began to heal itself. Her asthma went away, along with her headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
“Between eating super healthy, exercising and stress management, all of those things went away, which was a miracle and phenomenal, but that is the power of eating clean healthy food,” Costello said.
To get a better idea of how our food has a major effect on our bodies, Costello recommended the film “Forks Over Knives,” created by two heart surgeons who began to investigate the connection between food and illness, and who now recommend plant-based diets to their patients.
“They were tired of doing all these triple bypass surgeries and thought, ‘What can we do to start changing this?’” she explained. “They came up with this plant based idea and started putting people through it. People can heal themselves of hear disease, Type 2 Diabetes and more. When we start changing our diet, our bodies have their own natural internal healing processes. When we put the good clean food in, our bodies will start to heal.”
Substitutions & More
On the live call during the Living an Elevated Existence Summit, Costello shared what she uses for substitutions when it comes to sugar, meat and more. When it comes to sugar, her go-to substitutes include raw, unfiltered honey; grade B maple syrup (which has less sugar then grade A through the processing); brown rice syrup (which is a lower glycemic sweetener); coconut palm sugar and stevia.
And when it comes to artificial sweeteners, Costello would prefer people eat actual sugar then use these alternatives, she explained.
“They are just pure chemicals. They have been proven in animal testing to affect the brain, and they cause tumor growth. They are just horrendous,” she said.
Also, for those who are addicted to sugar and find they crave it, she recommends grabbing and apple or making a cup of tea rather then reaching for the candy bar.
“Take a contrary action, and do something that is different then your norm. That is when you are going to start retraining your brain,” she said.
For meat substitutions, rather then buying what she refers to as “fake meat,” she uses healthier options such as tempeh, which is a soy-based, fermented food that is easy to digest.
“My fake tuna is made with chickpeas, so it’s not a processed meat product, and for tempeh I always use organic, non GMO. It gives you live enzymes.”
To substitute dairy, she uses almond milk, and even makes cheese out of cashew nuts. It’s about making small changes that add up in the long run, said Costello.
“You don’t’ have to say, ‘Tomorrow I’m giving up everything,’ because that will set us up for failure. Take one small step a week. Make one recipe each week that is vegan and healthy, or do Meatless Mondays,” she said.
Costello is currently working on a new cookbook due out in April 2014.