Vegan Bytes #09: The Heart Healthy You

In this issue...

*Are You Destroying Or Protecting Your Heart?
*Last Minute Valentine's Day Gifts
*Learn To Make Your Own Fruit Bouquet
*Do You Need To Gain Weight As a Vegan?!?!
*No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Recipe

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Protecting Your Heart From Disease

You've probably heard that a healthy plant-based diet can help prevent heart disease. Did you also know that studies show the same healthy diet can actually reverse heart disease too?

Think about that for a minute. A diseased heart. Even one that has had angina, stroke, or heart attack. You can heal your own heart, taking it back from severe illness to vibrancy simply by changing your diet and making a few small changes to your lifestyle.

Seems too good to be true? It's not. There is a catch, of course...

When I say a "healthy" vegan diet, I mean one full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. I mean very little processed food like fake meats, prepackaged meals in cans, bags, boxes, or the freezer section. As much as I love the convenience of those foods, your diet shouldn't be based around them. They're great for the occasional pinch, but for heart health, opt for the fresh version. You can't simply "be a vegan" and improve your heart.

Also, you should always consult with a doctor before making any health changes, especially if you are a heart disease patient.

In a study that began in 1985 and lasted more than 15 years, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn found that patients who had previously suffered severe heart problems were able to reduce blood cholesterol levels, unclog their blocked arteries, eliminate chest pain, and reduce or eliminate medications, simply by changing their diets.

Dr. Esselstyn published the details of his study and his recommendations for a healthier heart in Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure.

Another study, this one led by Dr. Dean Ornish, compared the standard diet recommended to heart disease patients with a vegan diet. The Lifestyle Heart Trial split patients into two groups, one followed a restricted calorie, low-fat diet as recommended by the ADA. The other group followed a diet of fruits, vegetables, and grains, with no restrictions on calories or portion sizes.

Dr. Ornish's study is discussed in greater detail in Dr. Neal Barnard's Food for Life, if you want to check it out for yourself.

The funny thing about the Lifestyle Heart Trial was that both groups complained about changing their diet, at first. But within a year, the vegan group experienced less chest pain, arteries that unclogged themselves, lower cholesterol, and reversal of their heart disease. The standard diet group had more chest pain, more clogging in their arteries, and higher cholesterol levels.

Even the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recently released a study that confirmed that a low-fat vegan diet was more helpful in preventing heart disease than the diet the ADA currently recommends.

Hopefully they are considering a change in their recommended policy as well.

The human body has an amazing ability to heal itself, but we can't keep pushing it down and damaging it. Studies upon studies keep showing us what our bodies already know. We have to stop fighting against ourselves and try to help make things better.

Last Minute Valentine's Gift Ideas

Are you looking for some sweets for your sweetie? Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and you still have time to put together a special treat for your loved ones that hasn't harmed any animals.

Check out these cute candy gift ideas, all vegan:

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Take A Fruit Bouquet Workshop
Fruit Bouquets are a creative way to show someone you care, without having to cut flowers or buy chocolates. Take this workshop to learn how to make your own fruit baskets, including pineapple daisies, chocolate-covered strawberries, and grape tulips.

Learn All About Nut Cheeses
Vegan cheeses are abundant in grocery stores across the world, but most of them are still lacking something. Tree nut cheeses are the fabulous and new (somewhat) addition to the vegan world, and their flavor is unparalleled.

Do You Need To Gain Weight?!?!

Dear Cathleen,

I haven't fully committed to being vegan yet, but it is something I am considering for the future. I just have one problem: I am the type of person who is thin and it is very hard for me to gain weight. I'm afraid that if I give up meat then I will become even skinnier. Do you have any suggestions for vegan foods that can help me maintain/gain weight? Thanks!

~Kathleen, N.C.

Hi Kathleen!

I'm sure many people are jealous that you have a problem like this! Whether you're on the thin-side or the curvy-side, we're all looking for ways to be comfortable in our own skin, and your question just proves that.

There are several really good heart-healthy fats that I would add to your diet if you don't eat them already. Olive oil, safflower oils, coconut oil, and other pure, unrefined oils are great for cooking and dressings.

Avocados, nuts, and seeds are all also really good for you. I would add flax seeds to your diet daily so you can ensure you are getting enough Omega fatty acids. You can also find great nut spreads like almond butter, cashew butter, soybean butter, sunflower butter, etc at most grocery stores nowadays. You can buy nuts in bulk and then pack a small bag of them to snack on throughout the day.

You could also try to stimulate your appetite by eating smaller meals, and eating more often. Also, adding small amounts of simple exercise throughout the day would help improve your appetite as well.

Overall, I think if you do decide to move to a more plant-based diet, you will be doing your body a great deal of good. Plant fats are much healthier than animal fats, and never have cholesterol. Even though you may be thin, your body could still be overwhelmed with cholesterol and saturated fats, as well as animal protein, which are not healthy for you.

A lot of people think that because they are thin, they are healthy, and that's not always the case. It's hard to know from looking at the outside exactly what's going on inside, and it's always better to protect your body before you have obvious problems.

I hope that helps!

Recipe of the Month

No-bake Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

There are just some days when you don't want to wait for the oven to preheat, or the cookies to bake for that matter, and you need a quick recipe. I love this no-bake recipe because it's delicious, quick, and pretty healthy.

You can trade out any kind of nut butter and experiment a bit with your wet sugars. Maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and agave nectar all have the right texture, so play with the amounts to create your own favorite no-bake cookie recipe.


1/3 c. maple syrup
1/3 c. brown rice syrup (or substitute with more maple syrup)
1/4 c. vegetable oil
5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. rolled oats
1 tsp. vanilla extract


In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the syrups, oil, cocoa, and cinnamon.

Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter, rolled oats, and vanilla, until well blended.

Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and cool until set. If you want to eat them really quickly, chill them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and they'll set faster.

That's all for this month!! I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Comments? Feedback? Ideas? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this newsletter or use my contact page and let me know what you think.

See you next month!


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