What We Do

In the three previous portions of this Getting Started section of the Viva*Sparkle website we have presented a lot of information with references to a variety of sources.

But you may be wondering, “What do they actually do?”. So we thought we should record some of what we do on our WFPB diet.

But first a little background information. Ken has 75 TATS (trips around the sun) and Christine a few less. We have been vegan since February of 2012.

BMI

We have BMIs (see the BMI calculator to find your BMI) of about 17 or 18 which is considered in the United States to be underweight at a risk of health problems. Our doctors are of mixed opinions. Those with higher BMIs think we should put on weight. Those with lower BMIs see us as healthy. Many of our grandparents who lived into their 80s and 90s also had BMIs which would have been in the range that we have. If we put on weight it is largely visceral fat which is generally not considered to be good. Our bodies actually look much like they did in our late teens (if you ignore the wrinkles). So we will not likely be changing our diet to add weight.

If you would like to get a sense of how these standards change watch a moving made in the late 1940s or 1950s and observe the BMIs of the people in the crowd scenes. You will find that they have very low BMIs by modern standards.

Food

So what do we eat for food? Firstly, we note that our meals are all gluten-free. This is because one of us has a gluten sensitivity that is bad enough that small amounts of gluten cause digestive problems for hours. Gluten shows up in almost all processed foods, so that is an added motivation to avoid such foods. (There is even gluten is a lot of coffee that is served — especially at restaurants or conventions — and in almost all brands of soy sauce!). So “gluten-free applies to all comments below:

  • To the greatest extent possible we eat only organic foods. We are fortunate at having a couple of grocery stores locally that are well stocked. But equally we are lucky in living in Florida where we can grow three crops of organic veggies in our own garden — fresh and on the table in minutes! When we are traveling it can be more difficult to get organic food. Fortunately, in Canada and Europe, there are stronger controls on what is permitted in terms of herbicides and pesticides so that in those areas we at least get close to organic. Otherwise we wash as best we can
  • If at all possible we eat non-GMO foods. Fortunately, labeling can often help in determining this. In Europe GMO is not allowed which is great. Why non-GMO? Well we just don’t trust the assurances that putting poisonous compounds into foods to protect them against insects is really good for our bodies.
  • We shop mostly on the edges of the store where the fresh fruits and vegetables are. We minimize our consumption of processed foods, but when we do consume them we try to ensure they have minimal additives. Here are some of the processed foods we do eat:
    • Jyoti canned Indian foods — we use these as a flavored base in some dishes
    • Earth Balance, non-GMO, organic spread
    • Garden of Eatin Blue corn, non-GMO, no salt added tortilla chips
    • Silk Almond Milk, natural, no sugar added
  • We usually only eat pulses that we have purchased as organic dry products and then soak and boil. This covers such products as red kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, etc. This way we know we have no added salt or preservatives. If we do buy canned pulses we look for organic, no salt added varieties
  • We buy only organic brown rice (various kinds), organic gluten-free rolled oats (not the quick cooking varieties), buckwheat, chia and other grains.
  • we do not add salt to our cooking. We have some salt (sodium chloride — NaCl) in the house that Ken will use on popcorn when we have some. Christine uses No-Salt (potassium chiloide — KCl) oon popcorn and occasionally on other foods
  • we generally do not add sugar to things that we make. We do have some honey and maple syrup in kitchen which we might use occasionally in a salad or in banking — a jar lasts a long time
  • we have olive oil (extra virgin, organic) and use a bit of that in cooking or baking. Again a jar lasts a long time
  • We have walnuts and cashews in the house and use them as snacks and in cooking
  • If possible we avoid hydroponic foods. They are not grown in a natural environment and lack the nutrients and microbiome of foods grown in earth

Cooking

When we started our WFPB diet it was as a result of reading Dr. Calwell Esselsytn Jr.’s book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease“. It has a very simple formula for the diet:

  • no fish
  • no meat
  • no dairy
  • no added oils

Additionally, the prescription did not require one to count calories — eat as much as you want but don’t violate the rules. This was a particularly easy path to follow and for at least two years we followed it faithfully. Then as now we do not knowingly eat animal products. Now we do include a small amount of added oil (particularly in baking).

After a couple of years we started to wonder about the fruits and vegetable we ate. Were there some that should be preferred? This lead to reading Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book “Super Immunity” which deals with the questions of which fruits and vegetables should you be eating. Dr. Fuhrman’s rules are neatly summarized in an acronym “G-BOMBS” which means:

  • G – Greens: Particular cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, . . .) as well as dark green leafy vegetable such as spinach and chard.
  • B – Beans: Pulses of all sorts such as lentils, kidney beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas
  • O – Onions: Yellow onions, red onions, garlic, . . .
  • M – Mushrooms: all kinds!
  • B – Berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, . . . .
  • S – Seeds and Nuts: the various grains such as oats, wheat (we don’t consume wheat because of gluten problems), rice, quinoa, buckwheat, chia, . . . Note that for these you do not want to be eating refined versions, only the whole grain versions (e.g. only brown rice)

This has essentially be the approach that we have followed now for several years. We try to avoid processed foods (who knows what all those additives really do?). In our daily mix of meals we try to always incorporate the G-BOMBS mix of Dr. Fuhrman.

Menus

Our breakfast usually consists of a cup of decaf coffee (black or with almond milk, no sugar or sweetener) and a smoothie. In cooler weather we might have oatmeal with berries instead. If hungry perhaps we have some toast or English Muffin with spread and jam.

For lunch, Christine usually has the same meal though it changes over time. At present it usually consists of miso soup together with some beans or chickpeas and perhaps some salad. Ken often has leftovers from a previous evening meal or perhaps chips or bread with hummus and perhaps cucumber and/or tomato. In cooler weather he makes a pot of soup, perhaps leek and sweet potato or cream of broccoli soup (no cream)

We generally have a fairly substantial evening meal. You can see some of our selections on our recipes page. We often have a salad with our meal — and, whenever possible we have greens from the garden as well as radishes, carrots and tomatoes in season. We often share a bottle of wine with our evening meal. It is usually a red wine (considered by many to be better for health, especially because of resverotrol). We try to have organic wines and if possible vegan wines. Organic wines are not all that common in the United States but there are a few brands. Wines from France, South Africa and Australia are often organic, though not so labelled because of the cost of getting such certification in the United States.

Eating

Eating would seem to be a simple thing to do. Certainly for much of my life I considered it so. Sit down at the meal, wolf it down and you’re done! In recent years I have started to have a better understanding of the process and perhaps these comments will help you? Personally, my eating habits are gradually being changed and the comments below give some of the details.

Eating places a significant burden on the body. It takes a lot of energy to break down and digest food. There are some things that you can do to make this process easier on your body, and by doing so, perhaps even significantly improve your health and longevity:

  • Given that it takes a lot of energy to digest food, give your body a break by reducing the hours of the day in which you consume food. We currently try to restrict consumption to the hours between 9:00 am and 7:00 pm — no we do not always succeed but we often do.
  • I’m sure your mother told you to chew your food? Well I suggest the same thing. Take each mouthful and chew it slowly — say a dozen or so chews per mouthful. That lets the enzymes in the saliva start the digestive process. It also breaks the food down so the digestive system does not have to do that.
  • Fasting is an approach to nutrition that has a history that goes back many thousands of years. There are many kinds of fasting. You might fast for part of a day as I mentioned above. You might fast for a day. you might try a Fasting Mimicking Diet. Or you might try a longer fast. As mentioned we are trying to restrict the hours of the day in which we eat. Ken has also started using the fasting mimicking diet approach
  • Another approach to eating is to use caloric restriction. This will reduce the load on the digestive system and is one of the key factors in those populations which have demonstrated longevity, one of our goals. At this point we tend to have a low daily caloric intake but are not monitoring it or restricting it (other than occasional fasts.
  • The reason for eating should be to provide nutrition for your body (eat to live, not eat to live!). However, eating the right food does not necessarily mean that you will get the right nutrition. That depends on having a digestive system that can work for your body to absorb the nutrients. It part that depends on your microbiome, the mix of bacteria in your gut that break the food down and pass the nutrients to the blood stream through the lining of the small intestine. The microbiome gets damaged by toxins and many medications such as antibiotics which wipe out a lot of the bacteria. I have over the decades taken many antibiotics and my digestive system has suffered greatly for it. I am working with a Chinese medicine doctor to restore my digestive system

Toxins

I remember in the early 1950s when we started to hear and see advertisements for “living better through chemistry”. The large numbers of chemical factories that had been built to create munitions for WWII were now being re-purposed for a peace time economy. The magic of chemistry would make all our lives better! Now, 70 years later we are able to see the results of such a focus on chemistry in our products and in our foodstuffs. So we have gradually more concerned about toxins in our food and environment.

On the 2018 Holistic Holiday Cruise that we went on our speakers included Dr. Deanna Minich, author of “Whole Detox”. Dr. Minich has studied the problems of toxins and health in great detail and her book is well worth reading for some insights and guidance for dealing with the toxins in your life.

We have independently and gradually become more aware of the toxins that we have been exposed to and have gradually taken more an more steps to avoid toxins and remove them from our bodies and environment. Here are some of the things we do:

  • In 2009 I visited Dr. Terry Grossman’s Longevity Clinic in Colorado. He took a sample of my hair and had it analysed for various metals. As a result of seeing high levels of some heavy metals I undertook a chelation treatment and subsequent testing of my hair samples showed significant reductions into acceptable levels
  • For a number of years now (probably 10 or more) we have been drinking only filtered water. We use a Britta water filter pouring tap water into jugs and do this at all our locations. This helps reduce the amount of heavy metals that get into our body
  • We use minimal amounts of canned foods. This is to avoid the tin in the linings or, the chemicals in the plastic linings if the cans are coated. That said we do use some canned foods as indicated above.
  • When we store food in the fridge and even in the freezer we try to use glass containers. We buy wide mouth pint and quart jars from our local ACE hardware for this purpose as well as saving suitable jars from products that we buy
  • We cut the sticky labels off food — the labels that have the id codes on them for scanning. Yes, I know, the adhesives are harmless — sorry — been there, done that: “Living better through chemistry”!
  • Our skin is our largest organ. It is incredibly versatile in protecting our bodies and we have gradually come to appreciate the importance of doing our utmost to protect it. Some of the steps we take are:
    • We no longer shampoo or dye our hair. We wash it in clear water
    • We use only plant based soaps and detergents for washing, for washing dishes and for laundry
    • We wash all new clothing before wearing — lots of unspecified chemicals are used to make those new garments look so attractive and we do not want those chemicals next to our skin

Medications

Neither of us take any prescription medications on a regular basis and I cannot recall either of us having any in the past few years. This is not for lack of trying by some of our doctors! A number of years ago Christine took some prescription medications for treatment of osteopenia, but eventually concluded it was not the way to go and has since relied on our WFPB diet.

We do take some supplements:

  • We used to take a lot of various supplements to attempt to ensure good health and to deal with perceived problems. We have not done this for several years
  • we each take a sublingual vitamin B complex dose a few times a week, just to ensure we have coverage for vitamin B12
  • When traveling and when in the north in the winter we take some vitamin C and vitamin D3
  • When dealing with colds and similar illnesses (which are thankfully becoming less frequent) we take herbal supplements recommended by my Doctor of Oriental Medicine. They tend to be very effective in suppressing symptoms and speeding up cures

Exercise

Christine has been interested in sports and similar activities all her life. For the past 10 years or so she has maintained her conditioning by spending about 1 1/2 hours 5 days a week doing Ashtanga yoga. She is currently working on the second series in this program. Christine also does a lot of gardening.

Ken has never had much interest in sports or physical conditioning (although he played tennis and jogged on and off over the years). However, a little over a year ago, at the prodding of his oriental medicine doctor he started a fitness program which is based on pilates with a bit of resistance training. This is making a difference to his strength as well as general well-being and posture. In addition to this he walks most days for about 1/2 hour and also spends a lot of time digging in his garden.

Both Christine and Ken do a lot of physical activity around the house.

Research

We put a lot of effort into researching the best ways to reach our goals with respect to nutrition, health and longevity. This includes:

  • We read a lot of books related to these subjects and for some of these books we write book reviews and post them on this site. In total we read probably a couple of dozen books or more a year.
  • We attend conferences related to these topics. In recent years these have included:
    • attending several of the Forks over Knives Immersion weekends at the Esselstyn farm in Hudson. These events are now being offered in Ashville, N.C. which is a little less convenient for us so we may or may not attend future immersion weekends. These events feature leading speakers in the field and are geared towards the average person who is following or planning to follow a WFPB diet. They are well worth attending.
    • This year we finally had a chance to go on a Holistic Holiday cruise. This was a 10 day cruise out of Miami into the Caribbean featuring vegan meals and numerous lectures on many topics related to nutrition and health. The speakers on this cruise ranged from those providing information to people just starting on a WFPB diet to more technical presentations for medical doctors (who could get CME credits). We recommend this as very worth while if you can fit it into your schedule. Here is a link to next year’s cruise
    • This year I attended the 2018 SENS Undoing Aging conference in Berlin. SENS is a foundation focused on supporting research related to longevity. The conference was an intense 3 day event with very long days and lots of networking. It was quite technical with many of the talks covering findings that have not yet been published. I will attend again
  • We are continually trying out new recipes that we find on the internet, from the many, many vegan cookbooks we now have, as well as our own experimentation. Over the years our tastes have changed. We have not interest in attempting to create meals that somehow taste like the meals we ate before we adopted a WFPB diet. We also have the added constraint of ensuring out meals are gluten-free and find that many of the newer books have a similar orientation.