... a Plant-Based Diet Healed Our Bodies
Disclaimer: Before we go into any food advice I just want to say that neither Lou and I are a certified-nutritionists or doctors. We recommend you speak to a trained professional before making any dietary changes, especially if you are battling a chronic inflammatory disease like rheumatoid arthritis. Also if you are not battling a health disorder you do not need to go to such extremes with your restrictions. A balanced vegan diet is a wonderful place to start and see how your body reacts.
Ever since I started sharing more about Lou’s Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) journey we’ve been getting so many questions about what we eat. The world of dietary recommendations is so complicated - should you be paleo, high-fat, low-fat, drink juice, skip meals, eat every 2 hours? It wasn’t until Lou’s pain became unmanageable last year that I decided to really dive deep into the world of nutrition and figure out what would be the best diet to to battle his chronic pain and inflammation. I just knew that the food we were putting into our bodies had to be the answer.
During this deep dive, I luckily stumbled upon the Paddison Program. After suffering from a crippling case of RA which left him barely able to get out of bed, heavily medicated, Clint Paddison took his health into his own hands and figured out a way to reduce all the inflammation in his body just by changing the food he ate. His story is really remarkable and I highly recommend that if you’re suffering from RA to take the leap and invest in his program or at least go listen to his podcasts.
So onto what this post is really about....
What Do We Eat??
Simply put we eat a whole foods plant based diet. We never consume any animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc) and keep the processed food and alcohol in our diet to rare occasions celebrating with friends and family. Our fridge is filled with fresh fruits and veggies and our pantry is filled with grains and dried beans. We’ve removed oil from our diet completely as it is a processed food (I know this sounds shocking!! I wrote a whole post on it here). Lou even gave up coffee!
And the results have been phenomenal. Lou lost 15 pounds in only a month or so, which we think was mainly water weight from all the inflammation since it went away so quickly. Just look at the difference in his face! He has always suffered from so much jaw pain and I think you can really see in these two pictures how much inflammation was in his face.
The bulk of our meals every day come from grains, starches, and legumes with our favorites being oats, quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, pumpkin, lentils, black beans, and chickpeas. This is comfort food at it’s best and leaves you satisfied while also healing your body.
Carbs aren’t the only thing that we focus on though. The thing that has transformed our diet the most is increasing the amount of dark leafy greens we eat. Almost every day we include raw greens with lunch and dinner and I also love to add frozen spinach or kale to soup/curry/stir-fry as an easy way to pack extra vitamins into our meals. Plus, I started sprouting at home so that we can have a constant supply of fresh alfalfa sprouts. All these greens are packed with so many micronutrients like calcium, Vitamin K, Vitamin A, manganese, and also aid digestion.
We also include TONS of non-starchy vegetables like cauliflower, bell peppers, cucumbers, onions, cabbage, etc as well as fruit! We love to put frozen berries or bananas on top of our oatmeal or start the day with some fresh cucumber/celery juice. Overall, I try to incorporate as many different colors into our meals as possible as an easy way to make sure that we are getting a balanced source of vitamins and minerals, not to mention when our food looks pretty it seems to taste better too!
As for fat and protein, at the beginning of the program when Lou was still in alot of pain we definitely kept our fat and protein to a minimum. Clint explains how inflammatory diseases are linked to the strength of your gut biome. You may have heard about the importance of probiotics and fermented food like sauerkraut as a way to improve the quality of your digestion. However while these are great for a little boost, they will not be enough if you are also putting tons of toxic substances in your body. Your gut is one of the most critical places in your body for nutrient absorption. On top of that, so many important neurotransmitters that help stabilize your mood and regulate hormones are made here like serotonin. So when someone is suffering from severe inflammation it is a reflection that their gut is not working properly and this isn’t just with RA, it could be connected to acne, constipation, tendonitis, mood-disorders, etc.
So at first we kept our fat to a minimum because it is much harder for the body to process than carbohydrates. Carbs are a pure energy source and your body doesn’t have to do much to access the glycogen, which is fuel for our cells. But as Lou and my health improved we started to slowly incorporate more traditional overt plant based fats back into our diet like avocado, nuts, seeds, and coconut. But even though for those first few months we weren’t eating any overt fats, we still got plenty because, you may be surprised to know, all whole foods (i.e, not processed) actually contains all three macronutrients: carb, fat, protein. For example, the macronutrient breakdown for oatmeal is 15% fat, 70% carbs, and 15% protein.
Before I get any deeper in nutrition explanation, I have to say we do not keep track of macronutrients or micronutrients. We never count calories. Our diet is much more about tuning into our body and seeing how we feel, but to explain it in better detail I thought going into the nitty gritty would be helpful here. But please don’t think you’ll be stuck measuring anything or living your life calculating percentages. It really isn’t about that! If you stick to whole plant foods, eat enough raw veggies and greens, and really try to focus on listening to your natural body cues when it comes to hunger, you will notice a huge change. And, if you’re battling RA or a similarly aggressive inflammatory disease, it’s worth investing in Clint’s program.
Here are few example meals with links to the recipe:
If you’re interested in more recipes, a HUGE recipe section of our blog should be coming in the next few weeks so stay tuned!