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Garcinia Cambogia, The New Super food Wave Hitting Singapore?

Green Garcinia cambogia

This new found fruit has seen a rise in consumption in Singapore. It is mostly ingested in a pill form and is said to have many different benefits, including weight loss.

What is it?

Garcinia cambogia is a tropical fruit native to South and South-east Asia that is very commonly used in Asian recipes. It is green, rather small (the size of an apple), and is pumpkin shaped. It is well known for its sour taste. In the late 1960s, an acid (hydroxycitric acid) has been discovered in the fruit’s rind, which has been found to provide many benefits, such as appetite reduction, improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased weight loss, and mood enhancement.

How does hydroxycitric acid work?

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA) was discovered over four decades ago, and since then studies have shown that it provides many benefits for humans. HCA seems to inhibit citrate lyase, an enzyme that is used by the body to produce fat out of carbohydrates. HCA blocks a portion of this enzyme, making it more difficult for the body to turn starches and sugars into fat. This means that rather than be accumulated as fat, carbohydrates are diverted into energy production.

What are the benefits of garcinia cambogia?

As discussed above, one of the benefits of garcinia cambogia is less energy being stored as fat, which means that it should (and does) aid weight loss. One recent study by Dr. Harry Preuss of Georgetown University Medical Center showed that participants HCAHCA lost significantly more weight than those using placebo. In another study, also by Dr. Preuss, those not supplementing HCA lost an average of 3.5 pounds, whereas those that did supplement HCA, lost an average of 10.5 pounds.

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

Within the world of whole grains, I think it’s safe to say that millet is a bit of an underdog. This isn’t because it’s lacking in nutritional value: millet is rich in a number of minerals, but it’s high content of magnesium (one serving of cooked millet provides about 20% of your RDA) is particularly notable. Magnesium is associated with stress reduction, blood pressure reduction, and reduced risk of heart attack. Low magnesium levels have been linked to Type 2 diabetes and migraines in addition to numerous other chronic diseases. (1,2) Though plant-based diets tend to be rich in magnesium–bananas, soy beans, dark leafy greens, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, black beans, and cashews are all good sources–it never hurts to hone in on foods that delivier this crucial nutrient efficiently.

Still. Millet doesn’t quite have the familiar appeal of rice, nor is it as popular as quinoa. Part of this may be a texture thing–it’s easy to undercook millet, making it too dry, or to overcook it, which results in mush. Millet also lacks the pleasantly nutty flavor of buckwheat or quinoa, and its mild taste demands bolder seasoning than other whole grains–or so I’ve found!

One of the best tips I’ve gotten about millet is to try cooking it with other grains, and especially with quinoa. I tried it this week for the first time, hoping to add some variety to my steady breakfast routine of oats. I really enjoyed the results; the millet grains seemed to take on a crunchy, distinctive character when mixed with the softer grains of millet. It was a nice contrast of texture, and it worked perfectly for an easy breakfast dish.

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

We’re heading into a long weekend, in which many of us will be cooking lots of food with family and friends. This super simple recipe may be a refreshing change of pace, something low-maintenance and comforting. I had a week of busy mornings, and making a big batch of this breakfast dish made for quick, easy, and portable breakfasts. I loved the delicate flavor of lemon and its contrast with sweet blueberries. And I loved the crunch and nutty flavor that the toasted cashews added to the dish.

I hope you guys will try it and enjoy it. If you’re not a millet lover and don’t think you’re destined to become one anytime soon, the dish would also be great with plain quinoa. And, with a slightly longer cooking time (30 minutes or so), you could use brown basmati rice as well.

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries (gluten free)

Yield: 3-4 servings

Serving Size: 1 cup


  • 1/2 cup dry millet
  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cashews (raw or roasted–if roasted, skip step #3).
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup blueberries


  1. Place the millet and the quinoa in a fine sieve. Rinse the grains under water for a minute and shake them dry.
  2. Add the grains to a pot, along with the water, maple syrup, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and lower it to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Add the lemon zest and juice to the pot, fluff the grains lightly with a fork, cover, and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. While the grains cook and rest, toast your cashews in a small skillet over low heat until they’re lightly golden (this step isn’t necessary if you have roasted cashews already).
  4. To prepare the dish, simply mix the blueberries and cashews into the quinoa. Divide into bowls and serve, topped with a little extra lemon zest for garnish, if desired.


The millet makes for a great breakfast on its own, or accompanied by additional fruit or a smoothie (as you can see, I enjoyed it with a banana/orange/mango combination–yum!).

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

I also think it would be amazing with a little dollop of sweet cashew cream–I’ll have to keep that in mind next time!

Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

A few tasty add-ins might be vanilla bean or extract or some sliced apricots, fresh or dry. As you can see, it’s a simple enough recipe to withstand plenty of variation.

 Lemon Scented Quinoa and Millet Breakfast with Blueberries

If you’re looking for other ideas for a bag of millet, check out my cream of millet, coconut, and ginger porridge:


Or my millet tabouli:


The Kitchn also has a pretty great millet cooking tutorial, and a collection of recipe links.

On that note, I wish you all a nice weekend–and if you’re traveling or celebrating with family, safe and happy travels. I’ll be back on Sunday for weekend reading, of course!


1. Bain LK, Myint PK, Jennings A, Lentjes MA, Luben RN, Khaw KT, Wareham NJ, Welch AA. The relationship between dietary magnesium intake, stroke and its major risk factors, blood pressure and cholesterol, in the EPIC-Norfolk cohort. Int J Cardiol. 2015 May 31;196:108-114.

2. Volpe SL. Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):378S-83S. Review.

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Best Banana Bread (or Muffins) From Dreena Burton’s Plant-Powered Families (Plus a Giveaway!)

Best Banana Bread (or Muffins)

Those of us who love to cook retain, I think, a special sort of reverence for our very first cookbook authors. My forays into cooking coincided for the most part with my journey into veganism, and I still remember my first, well loved plant-based cookbooks: Vegan With a Vengeance, The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and all I could get my hands on by Deborah Madison.

I also was fortunate enough to read about Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan on another blog, and I promptly purchased it. The book was a delight to look at and read, but it also gave me that special feeling of synchronicity that we all have with certain food writers, the feeling that Dreena knew my tastes exactly, and had crafted recipe after recipe that incorporated all of my favorite things (after all, it was the first cookbook I’d ever seen that had an entire chapter devoted to hummus!). I soon picked up Vive le Vegan!, too, and it’s no understatement to say that Dreena taught me a lot of what I know about plant-based cooking. To this day, I channel a lot of inspiration from her work into my own recipes, and I’m so grateful to her for having contributed so much to my culinary foundation. The publication of Let Them Eat Vegan! a few years ago only increased the number of Dreena-inspired dinners that have made it into my regular rotation (you can read my review of that book here).

My love of Dreena’s food has only been enhanced by the fact that we’ve gotten to know each other through the years. She is as warm, insightful, and classy as she seems to be through her food writing, and I have always taken great pleasure in our emails, as well as our all-too-brief time together at the second Vida Vegan Con.

Dreena Burton

In many ways, Dreena’s new book, Plant-Powered Families, is the one that a her readers have always been waiting for. Dreena is a mom of three vegan kids, and all of her books include kid-friendly recipes, tips on vegan parenting, and insights into feeding a vegan family healthily and well. In spite of how much veganism is growing, there continues to be a real lack of resources, support, and knowledge about vegan parenting, which is why Dreena’s contributions are so vital.

The new book is everything that I hoped it would be: not only an excellent, foolproof collection of recipes, but also a trusty resource for those who have questions about the nutritional basics of feeding vegan kids. It includes plenty of useful FAQs, including questions about protein, iron, and calcium, two weeks’ worth of nutritions, well-balanced meal plans, sample nutritional information, charts with the nutrient values of common plant-based ingredients, and plenty of parenting tips, including guidance on packing school lunches, hosting kids’ birthday parties, and preparing “weegans” (as Dreena calls them) for peer pressure surrounding their diets. It also features an enthusiastic preface from Dr. Neal Barnard.


I’m not a vegan parent, but it is possible that I might be one day, and I’d rely on this book wholeheartedly for guidance. Dreena’s perspective on health is so wonderfully balanced: her recipes are health-conscious and whole foods oriented, and she’s very knowledgeable about nutrition. At the same time, she creates recipes that are flavorful, indulgent, and fun–the kind of foods that kids really love to eat. This book is proof that feeding children an ethically minded, compassionate, and nutritiously conscious plant-based diet need not involve any deprivation or sacrifices in taste.

Moreover, this isn’t just a book for parents. It’s a great resource for all any and all vegan food lovers. Some of my favorite recipe picks include Dreena’s “chunky monkey” smoothie, her apple lentil dal, her potato-meets-egg salad, her ultimate cashew cheese, and her sunflower artichoke burgers. The dessert offerings are numerous, and they include such tasty treats as sticky almond blondies and vanilla bean chocolate chip cookies. Yum!

Throughout the book, Dreena is incredibly sensitive to those who eat modified or specialized diets. Many of her recipes include gluten free options, oil-free options, nut-free options, and even suggestions for parents of picky eaters or kids with food aversions (for example, she’ll explain how to modify spices for kids who don’t care for heavily spiced food). The result is a collection that feels inclusive and considerate.

I wanted to share with you all a recipe that seems to speak to what this book has to offer. I decided to go with Dreena’s “Best Banana Bread (or Muffins)”–after all, how could I argue with that name? This recipe feels so perfectly “Dreena” to me–a spin on a homey classic that’s amazingly healthy and delicious at the same time. I always have overripe bananas here at home, and I can’t wait to make this bread soon. If you’re gluten free, note Dreena’s suggested gluten-free modification. The recipe is reprinted with generous permission of BenBella books.

Best Banana Bread (or Muffins)


Best Banana Bread (or Muffins) From Dreena Burton’s Plant-Powered Families (gluten free option)

Yield: Makes 1 loaf banana bread or 12 muffins


  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or 1 cup plus 3–4 tablespoons spelt flour; see note for gluten-free version)
  • 3/4 cup oat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup pureed overripe banana (see note)
  • 1/2 cup plain nondairy milk
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3–4 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Wipe or spray a loaf pan with oil and line with a strip of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt. In a separate bowl, combine the pureed banana, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to the dry, then add the chocolate chips, and stir through until just well combined (don’t overmix).
  3. Pour batter into pan and bake for 43–48 minutes, until golden and a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  4. Gluten-Free Option: Replace all the flour with 2 full cups of certified gluten-free oat flour, or with 13/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (ex: Bob’s Red Mill) plus 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons almond meal and 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum.
  5. Banana Note: Puree several medium-large overripe bananas in a blender or with an immersion blender and deep cup, then measure to get your 1 cup.
  6. Kitchen Tip: To make muffins instead of a quick bread, pour mixture into a 12-cup muffin pan fitted with cupcake liners. Bake for 17–20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove, let cool for a few minutes in pan, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.


I’d love nothing more than to give a CR reader a chance to experience this informative, rich collection firsthand. So, Dreena and her publishers have generously offered a giveaway copy of Plant-Powered Families to one US or Canadian reader. The giveaway will run for two weeks, and you can enter to win below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck with the giveaway, folks! And kudos/thanks to Dreena for this awesome new resource. I’ll be back later this week with a summery recipe to send you off with for the July 4th weekend!


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The science behind munchies: marijuana and your appetite

We all know that marijuana is a popular recreational drug- and that it’s also got a variety of medicinal uses, including reducing nausea and boosting appetite. But what, exactly is marijuana – and how does it affect the appetite and digestive system?

The answer to that first question is pretty simple, so let’s start with that. The term ‘marijuana’ refers to several plants in the cannabis genus, including sativa, indica, and ruderalis.

Doctors typically prescribe marijuana to treat inflammatory, gastrointestinal, and cognitive ailments. Marijuana is also frequently administered to cancer patients, since it helps ease the pain associated with chemotherapy while increasing the patient’s appetite, in an effort to minimize weight loss which could lead to further health complications.

As you can imagine, this increase in appetite is one of marijuana’s most well-known effects, you might refer to is as “the munchies”. In fact, historical sources confirm that people as early as 300 BCE knew that cannabis stimulates appetite, and noted how these cravings were for sweet and savory food. Let’s dig into why that happens.

How marijuana works

One of the main active ingredients in marijuana – a chemical compound known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – is one of the main culprits responsible for “the munchies”. Once the marijuana is consumed (normally by smoking), THC activates a receptor called cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1), which helps increase appetite. CB1 is also involved with the receptor for ghrelin, a hormone that contributes to an increase in the sensation of hunger.

CB1 receptors appear in a variety of different areas of the body. In each of these areas, these CB1 receptors act in slightly different ways – and many of those effects help increase the desire to eat. CB1 receptors are found in all of the following areas:

The hypothalamus and rhombencephalon, two sections of the brain that help regulate food intake.
The basal ganglia, where they may help enhance the pleasure we get from eating.
The stomach and the small intestine, which also secrete ghrelin, speeding up digestion
The limbic forebrain, where they may also influence the palatability of food.

Researchers have found that inhaling cannabis is also associated with lower levels of peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), a peptide that contributes to appetite suppression. People who use marijuana recreationally tend to have increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of PYY, which may be one reason why their daily caloric intake tends to be greater.

Studies have also shown that a person’s method of THC consumption (oral capsules, smoke inhalation, or suppository) can influence their food choice, as well as their overall food consumption. For example, study participants who took a suppository consumed significantly more calories throughout the day than participants who took an oral capsule.

Recent research on CB1 has revealed that a synthetic form of THC (dronabinol) can activate a subset of neurons called proopiomelanocortin neurons (POMC). Though POMC are usually responsible for the feeling of fullness after a meal, these neurons can either release hormones that suppress hunger, or hormones that increase appetite. When CB1 is activated, these hormones prevent POMC from suppressing hunger, and enable it to start increasing your appetite.

Suppressing appetite through the CB1 receptor

Since activating the CB1 receptor contributes to an increase in appetite, blocking it has the opposite effect. Studies on individual cells show that blocking CB1 receptors significantly increases production of adiponectin, a hormone with anti-inflammatory effects and a negative correlation with obesity.

Researchers have also used compounds that can block the CB1 receptor – which are known as endocannabinoid antagonists – to treat obesity associated with eating disorders, which is characterized by compulsive binge eating or cravings for sweets and snacks. Animal studies show that rats given rimonabant, an endocannabinoid antagonist anti-obesity drug, experience weight loss and reduced levels of blood insulin.

Still, a lot more research is needed before we can start recommending these kinds of therapies to human patients. The CB1 drug Rimonabant, for example, failed to earn approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – and it’s no longer sold in Europe either, due to side effects associated with its use, which include severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Since CB1 receptors are found all throughout the body, it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of these side effects.

Future endocannabinoid antagonists, however, may play a role in treating obesity by blocking CB1 receptors, increasing adiponectin production, and reducing appetite.

Marijuana has been a part of our society longer than any one civilization, and researchers continue to paint a more complete picture of the compound with every passing year. Follow-up studies will not only need to investigate CB1’s effects throughout the body, but also the different ways THC functions when ingested in various ways. More research on marijuana may also lead to breakthroughs in the fight against obesity because of how effective manipulating hunger can be when it comes to controlling our daily caloric consumption.

However, we want to end this post with a reminder that marijuana use impacts more than just your appetite. If you’re curious, click here to learn more about the health benefits and risks of marijuana.


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100 Percent Is Overrated

Debra Hughes / Shutterstock

ASPEN, Colo.At whatever age smart people develop the idea that they are smart, they also tend to develop vulnerability around relinquishing that label. So the difference between telling a kid “You did a great job” and “You are smart” isn’t subtle. That is, at least, according to one growing movement in education and parenting that advocates for retirement of “the S word.”

The idea is that when we praise kids for being smart, those kids think: Oh good, I’m smart. And then later, when those kids mess up, which they will, they think: Oh no, I’m not smart after all. People will think I’m not smart after all. And that’s the worst. That’s a risk to avoid, they learn.“Smart” kids stand to become especially averse to making mistakes, which are critical to learning and succeeding.

“Mistakes grow your brain,” as the professor of mathematics education at Stanford University Jo Boaler put it on Monday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, a festival of ideas in Aspen, Colorado, co-hosted by The Atlantic. I wondered why, then, my brain is not so distended that it spills out of my ears and nose. I should have to stuff it back inside like a sleeping bag, and I should have to carry Q-tips around during social events as stuffing implements. Boaler notes, more eloquently, that at least a small part of the forebrain called the thalamus can appreciably grow after periods of the sort of cognitive stimulation involved in mistake-making. What matters for improving performance is that a person is challenged, which requires a mindset that is receptive to being challenged—if not actively seeking out challenge and failure. And that may be the most important thing a teacher can impart.

People are born with some innate cognitive differences, but those differences are eclipsed by early achievement, Boaler argues. When people perform well (academically or otherwise) at early ages and are labeled smart or gifted, they become less likely to challenge themselves. They become less likely to make mistakes, because they stay in their comfortable comfort zone and stop growing. And their fixed mindset persists through adulthood. The simple and innocent praising of a smart kid feeds an insidious problem that some researchers track all the way up to gender inequality in STEM careers.

So ending the reign of the S word, as Boaler calls it, is a grand mission. “It’s imperative that we don’t praise kids by telling them they’re smart,” she argued in a Monday lecture to an audience that received her message with many knowing nods. “You can tell kids that they’ve done something fantastic, but don’t label them as smart.”

The idea of a fixed mindset, in which people are smart or not smart, stands in contrast to a growth mindset, in which people become intelligent and knowledgeable through practice. In her 2006 book The New Psychology of Success, psychologist Carol Dweck described the two: People with growth mindsets believe that the harder they work, the smarter they get. And the subtleties of the ways in which we praise kids are related to the mindsets those kids develop.

The group most damaged by fixed-mindset thinking is high-achieving girls, Boaler argues, because it’s girls who are told by society that they probably won’t be as good as boys at math and science. That means girls are only more likely to avoid challenging themselves in science and math, and that aversion to making mistakes leads to less learning and progress. The more that certain disciplines cling to ideas of giftedness, the fewer female Ph.D.s there are in those fields.

“When we give kids the message that mistakes are good, that successful people make mistakes, it can change their entire trajectory,” Boaler said. 100 percent is not an ideal score. When kids come home from school and announce that they got everything right on their school work, Dweck advises parents to offer some sympathy: Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t get the chance to learn.

Speaking of percentages, math is a good example of the importance of avoiding the fixed mindset. The idea of a “math person” or a math gene is a primary reason for so much math nihilism, math failure, and “math trauma,” as Boaler called it on Monday. When kids get the idea that they “aren’t math people,” they start a downward trajectory, and their career options shrink immediately and substantially. There is also the common idea of a wall in math: People learn math until they hit a wall where they just can’t keep up. That wall may be trigonometry, and it may be advanced calculus, and it may be calculating a tip. In no other discipline but math are people so given to thinking, instead of I need to practice, just Well, I’m not good.

“Big news,” Boaler said during her lecture, “there is no wall.”

With that, she advanced her Powerpoint and to a slide bearing a rendering of the Kool-Aid Man busting through a brick wall.

“I didn’t know who this was,” she said. “One of my teammates made this slide. I’ve learned that this is Kool-Aid Man.”

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/06/the-s-word/397205/

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Weekend Reading, 6.28.15


Happy Sunday, friends. It’s a cloudy, cool weekend here in New York, but gray skies certainly don’t dampen the fact that it’s a celebratory day. I look forward to slipping out later today to observe NYC Pride!

I completed my ServSafe exam on Thursday, which marks the end of my summer food safety and management class. Now it’s time to catch up on the work that slowed down as I was tending to the course. In the meantime, I’ve been pleasantly distracted by the following recipes and reads.


What a perfect vegan dish for 4th of July grilling and gatherings! I’m adding this BBQ tempeh bowl recipe to my summer queue.


A beautiful and super flavorful dish of za’atar grilled eggplant and herby lentil salad. I love all of the color and texture and contrast here.


The only thing I have to say about this dish is that you had me at “hummus spaghetti.” Yum.

front angle

Two weeks ago, I was visiting my friends at Food52, and one of my editors was experimenting with a meringue made with chickpea brine as a binder/base (instead of egg whites). I was both intrigued and also highly skeptical that such a thing was possible. Just as I was leaving the offices, I watched my editor carry the unbaked meringues over to the oven. They were stiff and beautiful and looked just like traditional meringues. And apparently, the finished product was a total success.

Curious? Check out Emilie’s recipe for vegan meringue nests, and become a believer.


I’m always saying that I’m not a big popsicle lover, but perhaps if they all looked this decadent and delicious I’d change my tune. Cookies n’ cream popsicles from Veggie and the Beast Feast.


1. An incredible story of one young man whose brain returned–at incredible odds–from unconsciousness, reported in close chronological detail.

2. On the topic of brains, this neurosurgeon’s reflections on a single aneurysm removal reveal how much trust we place in the hands of surgeons when we entrust ourselves to their care–and the weight of responsibility that they feel as a result.


3. An article from The New York Times on the role of exercise in weight loss. The author, a professor of pediatrics, alleges strongly that exercise has a far less consequential role than diet in the weight loss process, and feels that this should be made more apparent to those who need to lose weight. My own observations and experience as a nutritionist generally do line up with this theory: if a client introduces exercise for the very first time, results can be notable, but for the most part it really is diet that yields the biggest results. Oftentimes, I see clients pushing themselves with grueling workout routines that actually rob energy away from their ability to focus on food and cooking, which may be counterproductive in the end.

Of course, this in no way detracts from the importance of exercise, which yields so many longterm benefits that have nothing to do with weight loss–mood improvement, better quality sleep, cardioprotective effects, and strengthening of the musculoskeletal system against the aging process, to name only a few.


4. A short (and fascinating) history of the tampon, courtesy of The Atlantic.


5. One writer reflects on his experience using the Timehop app, which presents users with daily, archived images from their past social media/device uploads precisely one year ago to the day. The article is really a reflection on nostalgia, and on the ways in which our current technological landscape grants us unprecedented access to our own personal, pictorial archives. I thought it was interested and touching. The author, Joseph Stromberg, describes different ways that researchers have accounted for the phenomenon of nostalgia. He focuses on one study in particular, and how its results rang true for him:

Nostalgia, the researchers hypothesized, was a sort of social defense mechanism. “It seems to counteract people’s sense of loneliness, or strengthens their sense of belonging,” Wildschut says. “We think of it as a clever way of acquiring proximity to important other people in their absence.”

For me — and many other Timehop users — this explanation of nostalgia rings true. Last month, for instance, the app showed me a photo of a bike ride I took a few years ago with a close friend who’s moved away — the first of many rides we’ve taken over the years. Though I’ve never publicly shared a screenshot from Timehop, I sent it to him, and we briefly reminisced over it. Timehop, unlike Facebook and Twitter, is often about intimate socializing between people who share memories, rather than posting things for the world to see.

This rings true for me as well, as did these closing thoughts:

But I think of it this way. Over the course of the next few decades, you’ll meet new friends and slowly fall out of touch with others. You might go through traumatic breakups and meet someone new. Eventually, your grandparents and parents will die, to be replaced by your future children and grandchildren. In much the same way that most of the cells in your body are replaced every 10 years, by the end of your life, nearly every single person you’ll know well will have been a complete stranger (or not alive yet) back when you were a child. And you, of course, will have fundamentally changed; though it’s impossible to realize in the moment, our interests, goals, and the things we love are changing all the time.

These are hard, scary truths, and they can make us feel lonely and disconnected. But nostalgia is a lifeline to the past. It’s a way of linking your current self to all your past ones. It can’t slow down the passage of time, but it’s a crucial way of connecting to all the people who’ve filled and defined your life, whether they’re still around or not. As North Dakota State nostalgia researcher Clay Routledge told me, “We access memories and experiences from our past that we cherish as a way to remind ourselves, in the present, that things are okay.”

Recently, I put together a scrapbook for a very dear friend. She’d gotten married this past winter, and I wanted the book to be a tribute to our college years and early twenties, a memento of the past that she could keep close to her heart as she embarked on a brand new chapter of life. As I rifled through our old notes and photos and playlists, I found so many other tokens of the past: birthday cards that my grandmother wrote me, a post-it that my friend Jordan passed to me in the middle of one of our English lectures in college, a holiday card that one of my post-bacc friends sent me while we were on winter break.

What I didn’t see much of was photos, and there’s a reason for this. I’ve always been self-conscious having my picture taken, and because a lot of photos have documented weight changes that make me uncomfortable in hindsight, I haven’t kept many. For the first time, I feel sorry that my self-consciousness has kept me from amassing more images of my past. I’m sorry that my sensitivity to being photographed has so often kept me from capturing a moment that I might one day like to relive. There are many ways to experience, nostalgia, and I’m lucky in that I’ve kept many written exchanges, from emails to letters to postcards. But maybe the next time someone asks to capture a photo on his or her phone, I won’t be the person to drag my feet. Images help connect us to the past, just as words do.

On that note, I’m signing off. Thanks for all of the enthusiasm about the mac n’ cheese recipe on Friday — I’m glad you liked it! And in case you missed it, I’ve got a grilled, stuffed avocado recipe in this week’s New Veganism column that’s perfect for July 4th grilling and barbecues. The quinoa and black bean salad should look familiar to regular CR readers, as it’s a spin on a previous staple recipe. Enjoy.


This week, a new cookbook review and giveaway (from the awesome Dreena Burton), and a new summer recipe. Happy Sunday, friends.


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Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n’ Cheese + Peas

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

We all have a collection of recipes that we associate with comfort and familiarity. Oftentimes these date back to childhood, to a dish that signaled love or care or family tradition. In the past, I’ve mentioned that I don’t have a particularly rich tapestry of childhood comfort food association, mostly because my eating disorder started at a young age and created a certain amount of personal and familial tension at mealtimes. Still, I do have dishes that I remember with real fondness and a sense of comfort: my mom’s grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Avgolemono. My grandmother’s oven roasted potatoes and her green beans in tomato sauce. And mac n’ cheese.

Like many kids, I relished good, old-fashioned mac n’ cheese from the box. I don’t remember which brand my mother picked out, but it was probably Kraft, and boy, did I love it. When I first went vegan, I just assumed that mac n’ cheese was a thing of the past, until I realized that there were a multitude of ingredients and methods at my disposal for creating this classic comfort food dish without a hint of dairy.

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

I’ve experimented with a good many vegan mac n’ cheese dishes, some more complex than others. I’ve used bases of agar agar, nuts, beans, and roux. I’ve baked it, added a wide range of vegetables, and tried a number of different seasoning blends. I learned that Steven had been quite devoted to Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese when we first started dating, and he’s a pasta lover in general, so I started to fiddle around with mac n’ cheese varieties that we’d both enjoy pretty early in our relationship. The recipe I’m about to share is the one that has stuck around, the one we eat often on busy weeknights.

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

I love that this recipe requires very little prep work: just blend the sauce, boil the pasta, add whatever steamed veggies you like, and mix. The only bit of foresight you need is to soak your cashews ahead of time. Steven loves the cheese flavor and creamy consistency. And I love any excuse to put nooch in and all over my dinner 😉

I used to create mac n’ cheese with an all-cashew base, but over time I’ve come to love the thickness that results from adding beans as well — not to mention the additional boost of protein and micronutrients. For those who are being mindful of fat, using a combination of beans and nuts can also be a good means of lowering fat content. Needless to say, the miso and nutritional yeast combination creates that authentic, “cheesy” flavor, and I love the slight bit of heat and smokiness that cayenne and smoked paprika provide.

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

My favorite pasta brands are Tinkyada, which produces very tender and authentic brown rice pastas, Jovial, which creates both Einkorn wheat and brown rice pastas, and Bionaturae pastas, which come in both whole wheat and gluten free varieties (the latter is made with a rice, potato, and soy flour blend). You can use any of these options in the recipe, and gluten-free readers will want to opt for rice, quinoa, or gluten-free pasta blends. But do feel free to substitute any pasta that you enjoy. I happen to like elbow shapes for mac n’ cheese, but penne and fusilli and shells are all great options, too.

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n’ Cheese + Peas

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours (and up to 8), drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked cannellini, great white northern, or navy beans
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons miso (I like to use mellow white miso or chickpea miso)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup green peas, blanched for 1-2 minutes and rinsed in cold water, then drained (I used frozen green peas, but fresh would be great, too)
  • 12 ounces elbow pasta (I like to use brown rice pasta)


  1. First, make the pasta sauce. Place the cashews, beans, lemon juice, paprika, turmeric, miso, nutritional yeast, garlic, cayenne, and water into a blender or a food processor and blend/process until totally smooth. The sauce should yield about 1 1/2 cups. Set it aside until you’re ready to use it.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta, stirring frequently, until the pasta is tender, using the package instructions to help inform cooking time.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the cooked peas. Add the sauce and fold everything together gently, until the pasta dish is creamy and evenly coated. Adjust seasoning to taste. You may not need to use all of the sauce — if you have a few tablespoons leftover, you can reserve them as a dip or a dressing for a salad or a grain bowl, or you can use them to top leftovers. I usually use the whole batch, but sometimes I end up having a small amount leftover.
  4. Divide the mac n’ cheese onto four plates or bowls and serve. Leftovers will keep for up to three days in an airtight container in the fridge.


And that’s it. Such a simple, yet delicious meal.

You really don’t have to add the peas, or any vegetable; I just love the contrast of texture and the bright pop of color. Here’s a list of mix-ins that would work well in place of the peas:

●Roasted or steamed, chopped broccoli florets
●Sauteed mushrooms
●Cubed and roasted butternut squash
●Chopped spinach or chard (using frozen, chopped, and thawed spinach would be very easy)
●Steamed and chopped green beans
●Caramelized onions
●Navy beans, cannellini beans, or Great White Northern beans

You could also sprinkle some hemp seeds or some of my hempesan topping on your plate of mac, for a little added texture and flavor!

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

On my last post, I was asked about creating more recipes that are friendly and safe for kids with multiple allergies (Elise, who asked, has a son with peanut, tree nut, soy, wheat, and sesame allergies). The cashews in this recipe could be replaced by using 1 full cup of beans instead, or by using hemp seeds or sunflower seeds, if you have a child who’s allergic to tree nuts but can tolerate seeds. Using chickpea miso makes it naturally soy free, too.

There are many other, vegan approaches to mac n’ cheese, some of which feature heating an agar-agar and almond milk mixture, some of which feature Daiya. If you’re on the hunt for ideas, my friend Kathy recently created a master list of 43 vegan mac n’ cheese recipes. It’s awesome, and there are plenty of approaches represented. Worth checking out, if you’re a mac n’ cheese lover, too!

Easiest Vegan, Gluten Free Mac n' Cheese + Peas

No matter what mac n’ cheese recipe you choose, I hope that it’ll be comforting and tasty. And if you do try this recipe, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I wish everyone a great start to the weekend, and I’ll be back for weekend reading on Sunday.


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Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette 7

I love it when a nutrition client presents me with a culinary challenge — a request for a vegan version of a favorite recipe, a meal idea, a special sort of snack or treat. The latest such challenge/request came from a client who’s just getting into the idea of a salad for lunch–something she can order at a deli near her workplace–but who’s having a hard time enjoying salads at home. I suspected, and she agreed, that problem here may really have nothing to do with salad, and everything to do with dressing.

A good dressing can make or break a salad, a grain bowl, or a slaw. Ho hum dressings mean bland salads, whereas a really bold, flavorful dressing can easily transform the most humble bowl of veggies into something very meal-worthy. My client told me that she tends to get honey mustard dressings on her salad. My goal was to give her something that would be a little more wholesome than most commercial honey mustard dressings, yet still really salty and sweet. And I wanted to make it vegan, so that I could try it and enjoy it along with her!

This is what I came up with.

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

I had two sources of inspiration for this dressing. The first was the “Dijon-Cider Dressing” from Natalia Rose’s The Raw Food Detox Diet, which is the book that taught me most of what I know about salad-making. It’s a spin on honey mustard, but it uses apple cider vinegar and stevia. I don’t use stevia, so the sweetness in this recipe comes from pitted medjool dates.

The other is the “Liquid Gold” dressing from Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis’ classic book, Becoming Vegan (one of the all-time greatest plant-based nutrition primers out there). That recipe was the one that inspired me to start using nutritional yeast in dressings, which is something I’ve loved doing ever since. I never need an excuse to use nooch, but I particularly love the savory, umami-rich quality it lends to dressings, along with the protein and B Vitamins.

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

This dressing is very sweet and very salty. I love that particular combination, so it’s right up my alley, though I do want to mention that you can adjust the sweetness by adding one less date, and you can adjust the saltiness by adding one less tablespoon of tamari. It’s also very tart, thanks to a balsamic and apple cider vinegar mixture (the former adds a syrupy and rich flavor to contrast the bright tartness of the ACV, but you could do all apple cider vinegar if you prefer).

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

The great thing about this dressing is that its bold flavor ensures that a small amount lends tremendous character to your dish. It’s as good for dipping vegetables for a summery snack as it is for dressing salads and grain bowls.

Speaking of salads, I used this new dressing recipe as an excuse to make a new, summery salad. It’s a mixture of hot and cold and a celebration of color. I didn’t plan on sharing the salad itself in this post, but after I scarfed it up yesterday I determined that it was too good not to share!

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette and Chickpea, Sweet Potato, Beet and Vegetable Salad Bowl

Yield: 4 servings; dressing makes 1 1/2 cups


    For the Sweet Dijon Dressing
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 pitted medjool dates
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seed
  • 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
  • For the Salad Bowl:
  • 4 heaping cups greens of choice
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted chickpeas (you can use this recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted beets (I used a mixture of yellow and red)
  • 1 large baked sweet potato, cubed (or 1 large sweet potato, cubed and roasted)
  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped cucumbers


  1. To make the dressing, blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready-to-use. The dressing will make 1 1/2 cups, and it will keep for up to 8 days.
  2. To assemble the salad bowls, divide all ingredients evenly among four bowls of plates. Use the greens as the base and then arrange the other ingredients on top. Drizzle with the sweet Dijon vinaigrette, and serve.


The combination of salty, toasted chickpeas, sweet beets, and cooling greens compliments the zesty, sweet/tart/salty dressing really well here. I have a feeling that this one is about to be one of my new favorite summer go-tos. I’ve had bowls on the brain lately, because I just finished testing a different vegan bowl for my next Food52 column. I can’t wait to share that one with you all, too.

Sweet Dijon Vinaigrette

Of course, you certainly don’t have to serve the dressing with my salad bowl idea. If you make it, let me know how you choose to serve it. I hope you’ll enjoy the recipe as much as I have!

On Friday, I’ll be back with a new, easy vegan dinner option. In the meantime, thanks for your thoughts on my last post. I hope that your weeks are going smoothly.


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Lucky Charms, the New Superfood

General Mills/The Atlantic

Food producer General Mills announced this week that it will phase out “artificial flavors and colors” from its cereals, which include Lucky Charms, Trix, Count Chocula, and many more. By 2017, the synthetic dyes and flavors that distinguish the company’s various iterations of grain-based sugar puffs from one another will be replaced with extracts from fruits, vegetables, and spices.

“People eat with their eyes,” General Mills president Jim Murphy said, speaking metaphorically, in the company’s sanctimony-flavored YouTube announcement (titled “A Big Commitment For Our Cereals”). “And so food has to look appealing, and colors give it an appealing look.” The move comes because, Murphy explains, “People don’t want colors with numbers in their food anymore.”

That is, things like yellow 5, blue 42, or red 7890. People also don’t want chemical-sounding words that they can’t pronounce. That draws upon journalist Michael Pollan’s dietary rule, which has crept to the front of many food-consumers’ minds since he proposed it in 2008: Don’t eat foods with ingredients that you can’t easily pronounce.

“We wanted to make sure there were still fun, vibrant colors that we are providing, and the fruity flavor that kids expect,” General Mills cereal developer Kate Gallager told Good Morning America yesterday, speaking from the company’s Minneapolis food laboratory, revealing an array of radish, blueberry, and turmeric-based dyes that will be used to flavor the new iteration of Trix.

You know what else provides fruity flavor? Eating fruit. But General Mills is taking the opportunity to capitalize on changing consumer demand for “natural” products to rebrand its sugar puffs, depicting them in publicity photos next to bowls of carrots and strawberries, but also continuing to market directly to children with cartoon characters like Lucky the Leprechaun (née Sir Charms née L.C. Leprechaun), just with a new halo of wholesomeness and health for parents.

The move was predictably well received by parents across the Internet yesterday. Commenter Danielle-Brian Moore-Dickson wrote, “THANK YOU SO MUCH for the commitment to our children’s health! Red dye is such a problem in our family, and this makes our life a lot easier.” Is it, though?

Many parents do share concerns over synthetic dyes. Last year a study found a correlation between consuming yellow 5 and symptoms of hyperactivity. In the ensuing Good Morning America segment, ABC’s chief health and medical editor and pediatrician Richard Besser said, “For most people, artificial food dye isn’t going to cause a problem. But for a small group of children, some of those with behavioral problems, some of [the dyes] are going to worsen behavior. And you have no way of knowing whether your child is going to be one of those.” Which is at once not overtly alarmist but also a clear invocation to concerned parents. He added the rule of thumb: “If it’s not a color you find in nature, that means it’s artificial.”

Current Trix (left), forthcoming Trix (right). The green and blue Trix will cease to exist, because of difficulties finding naturally-occurring pigments in those shades. (General Mills / AP)

Of course, turmeric flavored sugar puffs are also not found in nature. And I never feel a hundred percent great about pronouncing turmeric, so. Maybe some people are satisfied with what they believe to be a slightly improved Lucky Charms, with incremental progress toward a more reasonable product from a massive corporation that is not going to change overnight. The cereals are still not ideal, but at least they’re free of those dyes.

Except that removing those dyes represents no tangible progress, and potentially the opposite. They are not proven to be detrimental; but eating pure-sugar meals is proven to dispose kids to obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity. Sugar puffs are not “part of a complete breakfast” any more than Skittles or toenails. They are part of a complete breakfast in a completely inessential way.

The best case for consumers would be to have these products exist in a space apart from any facade of health. If Lucky Charms is to continue to exist, and it will, then it’s best understood only as a source of joy, occasional and unencumbered, not a healthy product. Muddying the waters with claims about natural-ness confuses the proposition and stands to increase consumption. General Mills knows that; that’s why it’s turned this into a publicity run. It’s still marshmallows for breakfast.

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/general-mills-to-phase-out-artificial-cereal-dyes/396536/

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The Examine.com page on Copper has been completed and our researchers have turned up some interesting results in the process.

The body needs dietary copper for cognitive development during infancy, as well as for optimal immune and bone health.

Too much copper, however, has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease progression. That doesn’t mean copper causes Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, some people appear to have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease, which causes copper to harm neurons. Too much copper increases the damage done to neurons in these people.

Copper is abundant in developed countries, where it is found in most food, as well as drinking water. Copper deficiencies in otherwise healthy adults are unheard of, so supplementing copper to prevent a deficiency is not a good idea.

Although copper does play a structural role in the makeup of a potent antioxidant enzyme, Cu,Zn,-superoxide dismutase (SOD1), supplementing copper does not result in increased antioxidant defense. There is no evidence to support the benefits of oral copper supplementation.

Though copper is an important part of a healthy diet, supplementing copper offers no practical benefit. Since too much copper can have negative health effects for older people, copper is not recommended for supplementation.


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On Veganism, Eating Disorder Recovery, and “No” Foods


On Thursday of last week, I shared a wonderful Green Recovery post from fellow blogger Kimmy, who is the author of Rock My Vegan Socks. She wrote something that inspired today’s post, which I’ll share with you:

One of the toughest things for me was to not have “no” foods. To not look at food as good or bad, but food/fuel for my body and to eat. When I see foods as “bad” it triggers me to try and avoid them at all costs until I finally break and binge on them. Sure there are foods that are more healthful than others, but I’ve learned that it’s ok to enjoy a variety of things and if I eat a little more of the foods that aren’t quite as healthful, my body naturally starts to crave more healthful things. I’m still trying to figure out balance, it’s definitely a work in progress. 

Kimmy’s experience with “no” foods is not unique. In fact, I’d say that most people who deem certain foods as bad or forbidden end up struggling with the very same bingeing issues that Kimmy describes. When I start working with a new client, I’ll always say that our work is to be a judgment free space. We’re not going to label foods as “good,” “bad,” or—my least favorite expression of all—“clean.” Food is not “dirty.” If a client tells me that he or she was “bad” over the weekend, I’ll gently encourage him or her to rethink the statement. Perhaps it would be more productive, I’ll counter, to say something like “I didn’t choose foods that made me feel my best this weekend.” No moralizing, no confessional. Good/bad terminology only creates angst.

Anyone who has recovered from an ED has probably had to do some work with this issue of forbidden foods. Some people call them “no” foods. I used to call them “fear” foods. No matter what we call them, they present us with the same set of problems. The world will not be a less vast or overwhelming place if you place food into strict categories. Nevertheless, this habit gives us the illusion of control, the sense that we’re somehow in greater command of our lives.

The other problem with no/fear foods is that they serve to reinforce the ED sufferer’s sensation that everything to do with food is a BIG, HUGE deal. When you’re living with an ED, every single food choice is loaded with significance, to the point where even a small decision—avocado or nuts? Olive oil or coconut oil? Sweet potato or quinoa?—can feel crippling. My memories of anorexia and orthorexia involve so many moments spent in a paralysis of indecision over what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. This tendency still sometimes bubbles up when I get caught choosing between two dinner options or ordering at restaurants. Fortunately, time, therapy, and lots of practice have taught me to snap out of the deadlock quickly, commit to something, and remind myself that no single food choice matters that much. It was one of the hardest parts of my recovery, and it would not have been possible had I not learned to let go of the idea that foods exist on a dramatic spectrum of good and bad, healthy and unhealthy.

For all of these reasons, I see the deconstructing of good/bad categories as a vital part of the recovery process. I don’t think it’s possible to embrace one’s appetite freely so long as one is busy assigning undue significance or false health claims to food. This opens up an interesting question: as a vegan, how do I reconcile my perspective on “no” foods with my choice to eliminate a significant number of foods from my diet?

I have been asked this question by readers who are in ED recovery countless times—so often, in fact, that I’m surprised it’s taken me so long to address it head on. In many ways, this question cuts right to the heart of the Green Recovery concept. My premise for the series, which grew out of my own recovery experience, was that it is possible for people who are recovered or in recovery to maintain discernment with food, all the while letting go of the fears and anxieties that characterize an ED.

When I posted my first Green Recovery submission I suspected that the idea might provoke some pushback, and indeed, in the years since I’ve been publishing Green Recovery stories, I’ve gotten some criticism along with plenty of positive support. One of the earliest pieces of critical feedback I received was from a therapist who asserted to me (respectfully, over email) that it’s really not possible to experience true freedom from the ED while also having a substantial number of off-limits foods. From her perspective, veganism could only serve to underscore a person’s attachment to the ED.

This echoes much of the thinking that surrounds ED treatment. There is an emphasis on breaking down good/bad dichotomies, lifting any limitations or rules that have been imprinted on eating, and letting go of unnecessary emotion surrounding food—specifically, fear, anxiety, self-loathing, judgment. When I was in therapy and working through my ED, my therapist continually pushed me to release my attachment to food. She believed that I wouldn’t be able to experience freedom from the disorder until I could let go of the idea that everything I ate was so meaningful and so important. The work I did with her was valuable, and I’m grateful for it. Today, when I gently counsel clients to let go of the guilt/anxiety that can surround food decisions, and remind them to keep the big picture in mind, I’m channeling that work.

Sometimes, though, the emphasis on breaking attachment to food and razing good/bad thinking can come across as an effort to divest food of meaning. One of the things that a school counselor said to me long ago was that I had to see food as “just food.” I clung to that idea as a defining feature of recovery for a long time—so much so that I even wrote a post with that title, “just food,” early in my blogging days. I was still under the influence of what I had been told about recovery, which was that I had to see food as “fuel.” I was also told that having any “no” foods at all—including those imposed by veganism or vegetarianism—was at odds with recovery, that it would only perpetuate my tendency to invest food with too much importance. From the perspective of someone who works with EDs every day, I understand this position. It’s what works for many people. A good friend once told me that she could never be vegan because she could never again deem any food as off limits or forbidden. Knowing what she’d been through, I empathized completely. But my own story has been very different.

I think that there are a few problems with the idea that recovery resides in never having an off-limits food again. The first is that it feels a little bullying, as if the penance for those of us who used to have EDs is that we surrender the right to ever again exert preferences or harbor strong feelings about what we eat. There is therapeutic importance in leaning into getting over “fear” foods, sure. But I think that people who have had EDs maintain the right to bring active choice to what they eat. In the context of today’s discussion, this may include choices that have an ethical or philosophical origin, like veganism.

I also dislike any suggestion that food should be without meaning or importance, even if it’s offered for the sake of overcoming the anxieties and fears of an ED. For one thing, food isn’t meaningless or without importance. It is profoundly important to all of mankind, because we are creatures with rich inner lives and complex feelings and a tapestry of culture in addition to the fact that we have bodies, and those bodies have nutritional demands. The fact that food is meaningful to us is evidenced in our rich culinary traditions, in the importance we place on gathering at a table and breaking bread, in our rich legacy of cookbooks and recipes. I went on a date once with a man who told me that if there were a fullness pill, he’d take it, because he had a busy life and considered eating to be a strain on his schedule. But such individuals really are few and far between. I challenge most anyone to say that food is just food, or just fuel. And it strikes me as especially unrealistic to think that anyone who has struggled with an ED would be able to make such a claim. For most of us, food is meaningful and important. The question is, can we channel that meaning into positive, healthful, and self-loving directions?

I think the final problem with making unilateral statements about “no” foods is that it fails to take into account the single most important feature (within the context of recovery) of how we eat: motivation. I’ve often said on this blog that one can engage in disordered eating no matter what the diet. It’s true that EDs often hide behind vegan diets, paleo diets, or other specialized diets; of course they do. But if you’re determined to create rules surrounding food, you certainly don’t need to select a special diet in order to accommodate them. I was an anorexic omnivore. The fact that I was ostensibly able to eat anything certainly didn’t stop me from bankrupting my diet. Encouraging a wide array of foods may offer some insurance against disordered habits, but the real issue is always the same: one’s mindset.

If we focus on motivation and mindset rather than labels, we can actually create a nuanced and authentic dialog about our food choices. Once again, I’ll use my experience as a reference point. There is a world of difference between my feelings about animal foods today and the fears that characterized my food choices in the past. The primary distinction is, of course, that I choose not to eat animals for ethical reasons, and not because I think that they’re “bad” for me, or because I think they’ll make me gain weight. Orthorexia still shadowed my life early in my vegan years, and at that point I was quick to cling to the health benefits associated with veganism. This has shifted dramatically. I’m aware that veganism is associated with reduced rates of some chronic diseases, but I don’t believe that one has to be vegan in order to be healthy, and I also don’t think it’s the “healthiest” diet. (When someone figures out what that is, I’d love to know.) Put differently, I see veganism as a moral imperative, not a health imperative.

Another way of expressing this distinction is to say that I don’t avoid food out of fear. I often talk to my clients about fear-based nutrition versus evidence-based nutrition; the former encourages strict rules and guilt, while the latter tends to encourage common sense, balanced eating habits, and moderation. Fear-based thinking ruled my world for a long time, and for me, recovery means refusing to allow fear to guide my choices. I don’t avoid foods because they are too caloric, too high in fat, too rich in carbs, too sugary, etc. I also don’t forbid foods on the grounds that they are “unhealthy,” because a fundamental feature of my present-day health philosophy is an emphasis on the big picture. Of course certain food choices can cause health imbalances over time—I’m not suggesting that diet isn’t a contributor to health. But no single food encounter is life-or-death.

I also acknowledge that true nourishment is not just about the nutritional quality of what we eat. A slice of gooey vegan cake, a warm latte with sugar dusted on top, a plate of chickpea fries, hot from the fryer: these foods can nourish us in ways that go beyond the minutiae of micronutrients or protein. They can be comforting. They can constitute a complex sensory experience. They can be fun. They can be communal. The health benefits of food are firmly rooted in the experiences they afford us, as well as in their nutritional offerings.


 Image courtesy of Allyson Kramer

Of course, it’s possible to claim that one is avoiding a food on ethical or conscientious grounds (for example, choosing to boycott a particular food producer because one doesn’t believe in its business practices), when in fact one is appeasing the fear-based thinking. It’s also possible to mask ED tendencies behind the veil of being a “picky” eater. But I still don’t think that we should make all types of dietary discernment off limits for people in recovery. In so doing, I think we might actually block off approaches to food that, however unorthodox, could prove to be beneficial.

For one thing, it can be deeply healing for a person who has had an ED to be given permission to eat in alignment with his or her values. Allowing compassion for animals to guide my food choices has compelled me to embrace food so much more profoundly than I ever did before. Becoming more sensitively attuned to the ethical issues that surround food production has helped me to shift my focus away from the fear-based thinking; it actually exposes the irrationality and insignificance of calorie obsession and/or orthorexia. Additionally, eating a wide variety of foods that appeal to me (as opposed to animal flesh, which never did) has helped me to forge a more harmonious relationship with my food. It does not surprise me at all that my only lasting recovery has been as a vegan. And these are experiences that have been echoed again and again and again by the men and women who have submitted Green Recovery stories.

Earlier this year, I reflected in some detail on my own ED history. I mentioned that, in the very early days of my veganism, it’s hard for me to say whether or not my motivations had to do with preserving a sense of safety. At the time, it didn’t feel this way, because veganism encouraged me to eat so many foods that I’d have never allowed myself in the past, from rice to tofu to big, creamy slabs of avocado and gobs of nut butter. But I can’t say for sure whether or not the lifestyle did allow me to preserve some sense of control—the impulse we associate with disordered thinking. I remember feeling, as I transitioned to veganism, a very new and special sense that the food I was eating all had value. Part of this was a response to eating whole foods, things that I knew had grown from the earth. They felt more pleasurable to me than the conventional foods I’d tried so hard to force myself to enjoy in past recoveries, as a part of my effort to “prove” that I was better. Part of it was a sense that veganism—though I didn’t yet identify as an ethical vegan—was intertwined with broader issues of social justice and environmental awareness.

You could certainly look at this—the identification of plant foods as natural and wholesome, anyway—as an attempt to appease the ED quest for purity and superiority. Not long after this period, though, I did genuinely descend into a bout of orthorexia, and it was nothing like my early vegan days. I know this, because it was actually the memory of my first year as a vegan that pulled me back from my foray into the extremism of “detoxing.” I looked back on my early vegan days and remembered how positive and constructive the act of eating had felt. I remembered taking pride in the nutritional richness of the foods I ate. I remembered feeling as though I was using food to nourish myself, rather than allowing it to be an outlet for self-control.

Today, I don’t need to attach quite so much unilateral positivity to everything I eat. Foods don’t have to feel wholly beneficial in order for me to enjoy them, and in many ways this is a mark of my personal growth, my increased detachment from the ED. But back in the days when recovery felt so fragile and so new, veganism gave me a context in which to shift my thinking about food. What was previously frightening and guilty became beneficial and meaningful. I believe that this is what I needed in order to get better: I needed to reframe my understanding of what food was and how it could make me feel. Veganism allowed me to do that. And that’s why it’s impossible for me to believe that veganism is, ipso facto, at odds with recovery. I don’t think I would or could have recovered with out it.


Veganism isn’t a positive or a beneficial choice for everyone in recovery–especially those for whom the recovery process is very new. You’d be surprised at how often I find myself gently encouraging clients not to commit to vegan diets—not because I don’t want to see everyone go vegan, but because my first responsibility as a nutritionist is to protect clients’ health. If I strongly suspect that the impulse toward veganism is rooted in potentially harmful impulses toward self-control or denial, I think it’s my job to share that suspicion. I’ll respectfully remind my client that veganism isn’t going anywhere, and that he or she has a whole lifetime in which to embrace it heartily and healthily. But committing to veganism for questionable reasons during the tender phases of recovery isn’t likely to benefit the individual or the lifestyle.

And each week, I also encounter men and women who seem to feel—correctly, I think—that veganism is a positive, healing avenue. I don’t think it’s my job to discourage all of those individuals because there are some other individuals who won’t approach veganism that way, who will use it as a way to subvert the ED. This is something that I believe we all need to accept about recovery: different approaches reach different people. Attempting to manage or contain EDs by shutting down every treatment approach that isn’t unilaterally successful will leave us with no approaches at all.

Of course, advocating an approach like veganism puts a great deal of responsibility in the individual who is recovering. It means asking him or her to have open, honest, critical dialogs with the self and with treatment providers about motivations. It means challenging people who do want to maintain a vegan recovery to look deep within themselves, and ask what’s driving their intentions. I think it creates more necessity for therapy, treatment, and support, because it’s easier to analyze one’s motives with the help of an outsider. With the right kind of guidance, though, it’s work that can be done. It’s easy to say that everyone with an ED is so deluded and far gone that they cannot be trusted to ask these difficult questions and make these choices. But frankly, I don’t agree. Many ED sufferers do maintain enough awareness to self-examine, and I think we should work to create a conscious and supportive space in which they can do it.

I certainly didn’t intend to write a novel tonight, but this is a big, complex topic. If you’re still reading, you have my gratitude, and I certainly hope you’ll share your thoughts.


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