Sunday, October 28, 2018

#WFPB Cooking Demo at ShopRite

OK, today was a collaborative event with Community Board #9 and ShopRite, hosted by Ms. Angela Vita, retail dietitian at ShopRite at Bruckner Commons, and held in the upstairs community room at the ShopRite.

Obviously, the nutritional theory is important, but food shopping, food preparation and cooking is where the rubber meets the road, and it is truly a privilege to have this new ShopRite in our community with the services of a "retail dietitian." Already we have a budding, informal network which includes the plant-based doctors in the area.


The purpose today was just a food "demo," just to give people some idea of what can be done.

ShopRite offers a remarkably rich palette of foods and ingredients that are great for the plant-based cuisine and Angela has developed a shopping guide on a flyer that is available at the reception.
Angela Vita did the cooking

Salad Dressing

The Esselstyns call this 3/2/1 dressing, but I call it 1/2/3 dressing for practical reasons which I explain below.
For household use, you would commonly use a tablespoon as a measure, but depending on how many people you cook for, it could be 1/4 cup or whatever.

  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • optional: make it thinner with lemon/lime juice
  • optional: you can add any spices you like, chopped garlic, chopped parsley, cilantro, chilis, micro-planed ginger or turmeric, on and on. 
The bottom line is, starting from this basic mix, you can improvise a thousand different dressings, and it keeps fairly well to, for the vinegar is a good preservative, so you can make it for a few days in a row and keep it in your fridge.

Angela Vita at Work at ShopRite Bruckner

Sweet Potato Noodles

Personal note: Just this week I was given a package of sweet potato noodles, and was deliberating what I was going to make with them. Today's recipe is certainly one delicious possibility. Today we used fresh noodles from the store.

  • 1 lb raw sweet potato noodles
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and cut-up
  • 1/2 cup broccoly florets
  • 1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp. date sugar
  • 1/4 cup cut-up green onions in 1/8" slices
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
 Whisk the Liquid Aminos with the date sugar in a cup and set it aside. Heat the pan on medium and add the noodles, broccoli and one cup of water. Cover and let steam for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and liquid amino mixture. Stir together for 3-5 minutes. Add green onions and sesame seeds before serving.


Well enjoy we did!
This was the whole room, we had about 15 people.


Some of the ingredients merit comments.
  • Braggs Liquid Aminos has a lot less salt than even low sodium soy sauce, so it is a great solution, if you are trying to use less salt, which is generally the principle of the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. 
  • Date sugar is a good sweetener, because it is purely pulverized whole dates, so the sugar is still complete with the fibers from the fruit. The same would not apply to date syrup or even to maple syrup. All in all date sugar, or even cut-up whole dates is a great solution for a sweetener, which is sometimes needed, such as in tomato sauces, to cut the acidity.
  • As mentioned above, the 1/2/3 dressing can be the basis of a thousand different dressings. I refer to it as 1/2/3 because the balsamic comes last that way and can be used to clean the last bit of mustard from your spoon. I personally extend it usually with the juice of a lemon and a lime, and I could use anything for spices, cut-up parsley, garlic, cut-up red onions, cut-up tomatoes and/or cut-up sundried tomatoes, etc. The sky is the limit.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Our October Suppers/#WFPB Meal Prep at St. Helena's

It was that time again, and we managed to make a lovely dinner, complete with soup and salad and a simple main dish of paella. In all, we spent $11.97 per person.

The Salad

1 head of green lettuce
1 bunch of water cress
1 purple onion
1 green bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
1 bunch of parsley
6 shopped-up sun-dried tomatos

1/2/3 dressing: 1 measure of maple syrup, 2 measures of Dijon Mustard, 3 measures of balsamic vinegar. We forgot to put in a few spoonfuls of chia seeds, and milled flax seeds, but ideally you'd want to do that.

Clearly, everyone enjoyed the salad.

The Soup: Locro de Lentejas


1 lb whole lentils, optional other beans or you can make it thicker with 2 lb of beans.
1 lb young potatoes (the kind with the thin skin, either yukon gold or redskin), quartered or smaller, depending on the size and personal preference
1 small/medium green or savoy cabbage, quartered, stem removed and sliced in thin strips
1 white onion cut up in small pieces,
2-3 large red onions, sliced thin
1-2 yellow onions cut up
4 green chilis, sliced thin, with seeds
2 jalapeƱo peppers, sliced thin (without seeds)
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped fine.
2 packs of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
1 tsp panch puran
1 teaspoon of savory
1 teaspoon of tarragon
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
5 bay leaves
2 pints of low sodium vegetable stock
3 pints of water
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2-3 heaping tablespoons of miso paste dissolved in cold water and add at the end and use less liquid aminos
Braggs Liquid Aminos, to taste.

This was our second attempt at Locro de Lentejas, and it was clearly better than the first one, using a lot more spices. The discovery of panchpuran, thanks to our Bangladeshi neighbors is a welcome addition to the repertoire. You can get it either as a mixture of the five seeds (the meaning of the word Panch Puran is five spices), or as a powder. We used the powder today, but it tremendously enhances the flavor of the onions. The five spices are fenugreek seed, nigella seed, mustard seed, fennel seed, cumin seed.

 Wonderful instruction, though you can buy it pre-mixed, and evidently, we do not use any oil, but in our case it is a great ingredient that you can best add when you have browned the onions and are starting to add some broth or water to it. That's also when we added the other spices, and then the bay leaves last when you are adding in the rest of the vegetable broth.

I've also made this same soup with a mixture of 1lb of lentils and 1lb of 16 bean soup mix. Another option is to add a half a cup of barley. 


Dry fry the onions with the panch puran, I do it in two steps, 5 mins at 425F without stirring, and then 5 mins at 425F stirring it a little bit, then add chilis and jalapenos, and other spices and the mushrooms and cook for another 5 mins at 425F, while adding a splash of veggie broth as needed, so it does not stick to the pan.
Add garlic, the vegetable stock and the herbs, the lentils, let cook for 15 minutes.
Add the potatoes. Let cook for another 10-15 minutes.
Add the cabbage and let it cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chopped cilantro.
At the end, add some miso, dissolved in water.

  1. Some people would peel the potatoes, but if you buy thin-skinned potatoes, you can easily cook them in the skin, even cut-up: you lose less nutrition that way.
  2. Evidently, you can vary the herbs and spices to taste.
  3. Never boil the miso.)

The Vegan Paella

  • English:
  • Spanish:
A word of caution: This turned out to be one of these recipes with some ingredients that showed up in the cooking instructions out of thin air - they were not listed in the ingredient list.
Somehow we made it all work, and we had a very nice meal with the whole crew. This is clearly a dish that lends itself to any number of variations. But the whole idea of one of these one-dish meals is always attractive.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Inspiration at Neerob on Nutrition and Health

The other day (10/9/18) we had a Dinner for Doctors at Neerob Restaurant with a mixed group of doctors, medical organizations, other medical professionals and general audience.

Neerob put on one spectacular plant-based dinner with a choice of four different salads, followed by a main dish of rice and two vegetable dishes and a sauce based on lentils, which is always delicious. In other words, it was a world-class plant-based dinner and a marvellous display of the flexibility and experience of Neerob Restaurant.

Chef (dark blue shirt) and Khokon, the owner (light blue shirt)

There was a lot of information distributed, on the American College of Lifestyle Physicians, which provides a way for doctors to get certified in this new specialty which revolves around prevention above all and lifestyle choices as the means, including diet, exercise, rest, relaxation, and so on.

I provided some information on Plant Pure Communities, the not for profit support group for the whole foods, plant-based diet of which I am the Group Leader for the Bronx. Our Facebook group is:
We also provided some brief information on the 2nd Annual Montefiore Preventive Cardiology Conference, which took place the Saturday before, 10/6. After that, we proceeded with the speakers, starting with the keynote speaker for the evening, Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom, who is the first ACLM certified doctor in the Bronx, and she practices at the Montefiore clinic at 2300 Westchester Avenue... but she is going to move to Florida at the end of the year.
Dr. Sharon Wasserstrom

Dr. Wasserstrom gave a very insightful short introduction about the whole foods plant-based diet and its role in medicine, starting from the point of view that medicine became the victime of its own success based on the tremendous progress in modern times in the treatment of infectious disease, but then tried to deal with chronic illness in the same vein. However, most of the chronic diseases we are struggling with, high bloodpressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, on and on are primarily the result of diet, and diet should be the first means of addressing them and this is where the whole foods, plant-based diet comes in as the optimal human nutrition.
Dr. Wasserstrom presented three case histories for a Bangladeshi, a black person and a white patient, including the ups and downs, depending on how well the patients followed the diet. The results are very quick, so with a little reinforcement, people are usually motivated to continue. In most cases, it works better than medication and it has no side effects, and in the short term a physician can always assist with medication, although the levels of prescriptions may have to be adjusted quickly.

Moh. Islam on the right

Then we had some testimonials, first from Moh. Islam, a Bangladeshi nurse from Elmhurst Hospital who had a bad heart problem (95% blockage of one coronary artery), at age 36 and had a stent put in, but after trying several cardiologists he ended up working with Dr. Robert Ostfeld at the Montefiore Cardiac Wellness Program. His words were from the heart, and he explained how the genetic makeup of Southeast Asians pre-disposes them to heart disease, because their arteries are typically narrower than Westerners, so they block up easier. Another Bangladeshi person in the room chimed in that he had a heart attack at age 36. Mr. Islam ended with a powerful appeal to his Bangladeshi brothers to take care of business, starting with a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet.

After Mr. Islam, Father David Powers of St. Helena's shared some of his experience with a fair dose of self-deprecating humor. In a different way his story is also impressive, having lost about 100 lbs since he started on the diet and feeling better.

Lastly, Angela Vita, the retail dietitian from the ShopRite at Bruckner Commons gave us a run down on shopping for a whole foods, plant-based diet at ShopRite, complete with a flyer that provides a directory to the store. Also, she announced an upcoming cooking demonstration at the store, in collaboration of CB#9 with Plant Pure Communities on 10/27 at noon.

As a general announcement, we also shared that on 10/20 we have a new Plant-Based cooking class at St. Helena's.

It was clear that sparks of inspiration were flying, and we are planning a new "dinner for doctors" to follow-up on this one in the spring, hopefully coinciding with Neerob obtaining a certification of (part of) their menu from Plant Pure Communities and from Plantricious as well.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The 2nd Annual Montefiore Preventive Cardiology Conference.

It was a memorable event and I won't even attempt to produce a full account here by touching on some of the highlights.

I think this was a historical conference, all the greats from the world of the Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition were there, creating a very comprehensive view of the field in a single day, with very up to date information.

  • Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc, FACC
  • Neal D. Barnard, MD
  • Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD
  • Kim A. Williams, MD, MACC, FAHA, MASNC, FESC
  • W. H. Wilson Tang, MD, FACC, FAHA, FHFSA
  • Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD, FACS, FACC, FALM
  • T. Colin Campbell, PhD.
  • Michelle McMacken, MD
  • Joel Kahn, MD, FACC
  • Lauren Graf, MS, RD, CDE
Plus some new players, young doctors just starting and interns, from whom we are sure to hear more in the future. One of them is in the process of launching a new plant-based clinic at Yale. They presented some explosive reports.

T. Colin Campbell for Nobel Prize

What made this conference unique was the presence of T. Colin Campbell, for one way or another, and ex-post facto in some cases, the nutritional science behind the Whole Foods, Plant-Based (#WFPB) paradigm is the anchor for the only realistic healthcare reform in this country and in the world.

T. Colin Campbell
I can only say this: I feel so very grateful to have completed the Plant-based certificate at the institute for nutrition studies, and this was my first opportunity to meet Dr. Campbell in person. All I could do was thank him from the bottom of my heart, since I know that without the nutritional science to back it up, all of these plant-based doctors would just be fighting their lonely battles. Campbell's work is the connective tissue from that point of view. This is the reason that one doctor created a petition to nominate Dr. Campbell for a Nobel Prize. Please sign the petition

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams: "Food is crack."

Here in the Bronx, we are blessed with a few politicians who have their own personal stories to tell about the significance of #WFPB nutrition, such as senator Luis Sepulveda and Council man Fernando Cabrera. However, even in the Bronx' #not62 campaign, #WFPB has not played much of a role yet. In Brooklyn it is different, for Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is truly a man on a mission and being very effective at it.
Eric's own story is remarkable, having been predictably (as he now recognizes), but 'unexpectedly' (denial is NOT a rive in Egypt!) diagnosed with diabetes, and told he would have to be on insulin and several medications, instead, he googled "reversing diabetes," and made an appointment do see Dr. Esselstyn in Cleveland and on the plane he read Dr. Greger's book How not to die. Having been told he might lose his eyesight altogether, he instead completely recovered it in three weeks without medications, and in three months he was no longer a diabetic. Earlier this year, his 80-year old mother decided that she wanted some of what Eric had, and in a few months she was off of insulin and medications.
Eric is in the unique position to really do something about this new found wisdom and he has not skipped a beat. His events at Borough Hall are not to be missed.
In an impassioned speech, Eric Adams called our industrialized food out because of what it does, adulterated as it is to create the cravings that brings customers back again and again, he stated what is exactly the point: "Food is crack." This is even more painfully true in the African American community where "soul food," made a virtue out of necessity, and is the cause why "Southern food," with it's reliance on meat, grease and sugar and other refined carbs is an extremely unhealthy diet.
Finally, he acknowledged Dr. Michelle McMacken, who will be heading up the new plant-based program at Bellevue Hospital

Dr. Kim Williams: Reducing risk of heart disease by 50% for blacks

Dr. Kim Williams in audience, Dr. Neal Barnard on stage

When Dr. Kim Williams spoke later in the day, he raised the same issue by pointing out that changing from a "Southern diet" (and as Dr. Williams pointed out this is code for a black diet), to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet reduces risk of heart disease by 50%. The romance with soul food, which is understandable, because it did make a virtue out of necessity and symbolized the resilience of black culture under atrocious conditions has become the new slavery. Thus the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet symbolizes a new freedom. The beauty is that this time around, we have a combination of clinical experience from all the doctors in this field, backed by the nutritional science of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. The growing recognition of this new lifestyle is decisively the most hopeful thing that is happening in the healthcare field, in America and world-wide. Here is an interview with Dr. Williams:

At the end, Dr. Williams was also on the panel, and an important question came up from a Bangladeshi man, who is a nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, but came to the Bronx to become a patient of Dr. Robert Ostfeld, because he could not find a plant-based cardiologist at the time when he had his first heart-attack at age 36. In Dr. Williams' answer we learned that the American College of Cardiology recently visited Bangladesh, where the average age of heart attack patients is 43, apparently in part because genetically blood vessels are narrower in that population than is typically the case with Westerners, so that blockages develop earlier. In short, the Bangladeshi population should be extremely interested in the opportunity to drastically improve their quality of life and life-expectancy by switching to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. It is also well known that diabetes is explosive in the South East Asian population, with white rice, animal protein and cooking oil being a leading causes. In the Western world in particular, food is the leading cause of death, but some populations are just genetically more prone to this form of suffering. Fortunately, it is reversible and the Southeast Asian cuisine offers a very good starting point for brown rice, lentils and chick peas as well as many of the traditional vegetables and spices can create endless variations of healthy food with very little effort.

Dr. Valentin Fuster speaks of starting early

Some of the Bangladeshi doctors I've gotten to know, were familiar with Dr. Valentin Fuster from the cardiology textbook he wrote, which they apparently used in medical school in Bangladesh. Dr. Fuster presented a very information-laden speech on the need to start early, in particular by teaching children. He has been a medical adviser to Sesame Street to do exactly that.

Treating the disease at the end state is expensive, not to mention unaffordable, and more than "prevention," starting with adults with bad habits already formed, he argues for starting with children. It was very compelling.

Dr. Ostfeld, common sense in underserved communities

With his usual, delightful and very gentle sense of humor, Dr. Ostfeld presented some of his experiences and solutions in serving a very under-served community in the Bronx and making affordable solutions work, including his practice of funneling all of his patients with their significant others into a half-day workshop on Whole Foods, Plant-Based cooking.

He mentioned some of the many sources which are available for inspiration to live a plant-based lifestyle on a budget, including some links on Forks over Knives which discuss plant-based living on a budget:
(In general you can find more by searching for "budget" on Forks over Knives.)

Particularly important is his clinical experience of how he gets patients motivated to comply, but the all important first step is to simply demonstrate that the improvements to be had from the plant-based diet out perform any drugs, such as statins.

Dr. Ostfeld's support system
He builds it up from a 30-minute first visit, which is largely fact finding and an initial plan, to a second follow-up visit and an invitation to his plant-based workshop. He is truly a leader in this emerging field. The website he mentioned is another important resource.

Through the looking glass with Dr. Wilson Tang

In a fascinating presentation, Dr. Wilson Tang took us into the latest finds in the rapidly advancing field of understanding the gut biota with the primary bad boy being TMAO. Specifically, the fact that TMAO is a flagrant demonstration of oxidative stress in the body and comes from animal nutrition is interesting, and should point people quickly to diet as a cause for heart disease. Planteaters simply do not have the problem of this major villain lurking in their gut. See here some info from the Cleveland Clinic.
This type of information has us looking at causation, and at the same time puts us on a track to fixing it, for maybe, just maybe, if we ate something different, the outcome could be different... what would that be? Oh wait... Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition of course.

To hell and back with Essy, or... Dr. Esselstyn for you

Actually the discussion with Dr. Wilson Tang showed us the road to hell, and Dr. Esselstyn first showed us what heart disease looks like up close and what healing looks like. He took us through his experiences, including all the supporting evidence for #WFPB in general, and with particular attention to how eating a hand full of green leafy vegetables with balsamic vinegar, paves the way back, because it creates the nitric oxide which heals the endothelium and keeps our arteries limber. The deeper point is, as always, that 'vegans´ only know what you don't eat, and #WFPB is about knowing what you should eat and why. Once you have a firm understanding of that, it should be a lot easier to comply. Dr. Esselstyn's discussion of how a fatty meal prevents the normal expansion of the arteries, which is supposed to occur with strenuous effort, for four to six hours after that meal... by which time we eat again, is priceless and should also be powerful motivation for beginners. Understanding why you should do ABC or D, is the most important thing to get people to do it.

Notes on Keto-diets

The ketogenic diet is sort of an urban myth that refuses to die. There's always a new huckster promoting it. Throughout the day it came up both directly and indirectly. The information on TMAO in the gut of meat eaters alone should make it clear why this type of a diet comes with increased risk and mortality in the long run. Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer have all been associated with meat consumption. In short, there is nothing scientific about it. Dr. Joel Kahn had a recent article on How to Evaluate Nutrition Science (And Why Cranky Old Men on Twitter are Not the Source) which is yet another refutation of this particular craze.


This conference took place at a time when more and more people realize that we cannot continue with a healthcare system that consumes 20% of our Gross National Product and two times what the next most expensive country pays, but produces health outcomes that are somewhere in the range of 25th to 50th in the world, depending on which analysis you follow. Since 37 of the top 40 leading causes of death, mostly the typical, chronic diseases of affluence that are thought to be incurable, respond well to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet and many are preventable or even reversible with such a diet, it is becoming increasingly imperative we make the change, even if it takes a generation. We cannot afford not to.

The question period at the end was exhaustive - every last question was answered. Again, I left out a lot of detail here, in order to present sort of a bird's eye view of this whole affair, which we are blessed to have in the Bronx, if we ever hope to get serious about #not62.