How to transition to a plant based diet?

  Do you like pastured meat and eggs, bacon in the morning, thick milk kefir and naturally fermented veggies? Then you are like me. Until recently, that is. A few months ago I was diagnosed with allergies to all animal fats and a highly acidic gut environment. I had to transition to mostly vegan food and had to change my way of looking at nutrition and what is actually good for my body. I still support the real food movement and I still provide my family with all the goodies, mentioned above. I just had to do what is best for me, and, with my family's support, I transitioned to a whole foods plant based diet. Here is how I did it - struggles, successes, and all.
 I really wanted this transition to be easy on me and my family. I wanted to keep the benefits of some of the foods that we were eating and adjust only those that were causing us trouble. It turns out that a lot of the beneficial foods in a traditional, real food diet are the same as the whole food plant based diet. I actually love that term , whole-food-plant-based, as it has the whole way of eating explained right in the name. I do not consider myself a vegan, even though the food I eat is vegan. Only, vegan, for me does not always mean healthy. There are a lot of processed vegan foods and the idea behind this transition was to keep our normal way of eating, with minimal use of processed foods and no artificial anything ( which my body can not tolerate as well).
 So, I sat down and made a list of all the things I can keep from my traditional foods diet , and make this transition to a new lifestyle a little bit easier. This is roughly what I came up with:
  •  No processed foods- no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners
  • Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruits
  • Eat a variety of whole grains and legumes ( if your body allows it) 
  • Eat fermented veggies and condiments ( my favorite of which is lacto-fermented salsa)
  • Eat sourdough bread or whole grain bread made with sprouted flour , homemade, of course
  • Use all natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, rapadura, or whatever else you fancy
  • Use wonderful oils like coconut and extra virgin olive oil
  • Avoid soy or keep it to a minimum by using only naturally fermented soy products ( miso, some tofu products, tempeh, and some soy sauce brands)
  • Drink beneficial beverages like kombucha, and water kefir
I am sure that there are a lot more things I can add to this list, but I think I made my point. You can keep the benefits of a traditional foods diet, even when you give up the animal portion of it. It is not unattainable even for people who want to avoid gluten or grains altogether. I think people are afraid of grains too much these days, and I am sure some people have serious health issues because of gluten. But I still think we should look at our individual selves and do what is best for our health. This transition has done wonders for me and my body. Here are my successes so far:
  • Lost 15 pound in two month , without counting calories and portion control
  • Gained more energy to exercise and spend outside, playing with my 3 year old
  • No gut issues - no bloating, no pain, up to 4 bowel movements per day
  • No asthma attacks and no allergy symptoms
  • No late night cravings and no sugar cravings
  • No PMS symptoms - no water retention , painful breasts, or mood changes
  • Clear thoughts and memory 
It is amazing how a change of diet can improve our lives. It is the easiest and, at the same time, the most challenging way to heal our bodies. Our modern environment is not made to support this lifestyle and not many people are committed enough to spend the time involved in it. Even though I was used to making most of our food from scratch, it was still very challenging for me. Here are a few of the setbacks in my transition:
  • Eating out - I always have to research the menu before I go out to eat, or I have to be one of those seemingly demanding customer, who make up their own meal . But, do not be discouraged,  because every restaurant can offer you a big salad and vegetarian side dishes. 
  • Dinner with friends - this is a little bit  easier than going to a restaurant, since you can bring a dish that you can eat, and not offend the host. It is even consider polite to bring something to dinner. So, bring something yummy and unusual , and share your journey with your friends. It might inspire them to change as well.
  • Planning -  you always have to be prepared. I know it is easy to grab a banana or throw some greens into a bowl and call it a salad, but sometimes you want a heartier meal, filling and comforting. I always make big batches of cooked grains, beans, or legumes. Keep them in the fridge if you want to use them that week or stick them in the freezer. I also keep quinoa ( which cooks in about 15 min) and canned beans for a quick meal, when I am in a hurry. 
I hope this has been helpful. We all have our tricks in keeping our kitchens healthy and our families happy. There are a number of great resources out there and I have a pile of books by my bed that I am still exploring. 

Tell me about your health journey! What challenges and successes did you have?

Backyard Medicine: ROSE

Botanical name : Rosa spp.

Family: Rosaceae

Parts used : petals, leaves, fruit (rose hips)

 It is a wonderful year for the wild roses in our little corner of the world. The long winter and the summer rains provided enough moisture for them to grow green and lush. Pink blossoms in all shades,from dark magenta to pale pink, are everywhere. They feel the air with a dreamy fragrance. The scent of roses, mixed with the smell of moist earth and pine resin, brings my senses into a sort of trance. It is a soul medicine on its own.
 I often use wild roses in my remedies, but I was kind of stuck in this habit of just using the fruit , the rose hips. I put them in my teas and tinctures, and I was praising their great antioxidant qualities. Rose hips are full of vitamin C and are a great part of our winter routine, for keeping our family healthy.
 When I was little, we used to love eating rose hip jam, smeared over butter on a thick slice of sourdough bread. I still dream of making my own jam one day, but I have not gathered the patience to go through hours of removing all the tiny seeds .
 This year I discovered another side of the wild rose. I wanted to connect with this plant at its most bold state. The fragrant petals and the luscious leaves in various shades of pink and green. I've been reading more and more about their uses. The wild energy that they bring, the gentleness of a blossom and the fierceness of the thorns.
 Roses are more often associated with fragrance than herbal healing.But it turns out that wild roses have been part of our craft for thousands of years. They are from the same plant family as hawthorn, apples, almonds, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries ( to mention a few) - Rosaceae, the Rose family. Roses carry a lot of the properties of their brothers and sisters. Like hawthorn, The wild rose will strengthen the heart and will improve blood flow and circulation. It is a great antioxidant . Like raspberry, it will help with feminine problems and will strengthen the uterus. Some herbalists recommend taking rose elixir to help ease cramps and other PMS symptoms. A tincture from the rose petals and young leaves has a very relaxing effect on the body. It will ease the mind and promote healthy sleep.
 I use rose petals in my Blossom Beauty facial mask and in a wonderful tincture I call Brain Tonic. I love to make creams and lotions with the essential oil and I grew up using rose water as part of my beauty routine.
 While I am writing all this, I am looking at the jar of Wild Rose Elixir brewing on my counter and I can't wait to try it. I feel inspired and excited, as if I have found a long lost friend, with many stories to tell and a vast knowledge to share.

 I hope you too feel inspired to discover yet another plant ally with me. And I am sure that a lot of you have already experienced the healing power of the rose.
 The last thing I want to share with you is a very simple and easy recipe for a rose elixir. It is also beautiful and delicious. You will need a mason jar in a size of your choice. I prefer a quart wide mouth jar when I make remedies for myself, as I feel it provides me with enough to enjoy until next season and share with friends. Fill the jar of your choice with rose petals. If you prefer a more medicinal and stronger elixir, use both petals and young green leaves. When you are done playing outside, and your jar is full of fragrant roses, fill it a quarter of the way with raw local honey or vegetable glycerin, and the rest with alcohol of you choice. I used raw honey and 80 proof vodka in mine, as I did not want a high alcohol content for this elixir. Leave it on the counter and admire the color changes for a few weeks. When you are ready, strain it and keep it in a cool dark place. Enjoy it in your tea at night or as part of your moon time routine, or simply when you need to add a little beauty to your being.

 Summer is the time of discovery for us herbalists. Play outside and be adventurous!