Vegan Salt –the blog











{August 8, 2011}   Taking on Candida!

My current adventure, like countless others in this world, began in a second-hand bookshop.  Last week, I was browsing the shelves, picking out a few novels and philosophical essays, when an enormous medical reference book caught my eye. Optimal Digestive Health: A Complete Guide.

Complete! For ten dollars, how could I go wrong? I purchased it and presented it to my husband, who has suffered from undiagnosed, chronic digestive problems for about eight years.

That evening, as I read mindless teen fiction (a guilty pleasure), he browsed the book, flipping back and forth, intent on his research. At last he said, “I think I have candida.”

Candidiasis is an imbalance of yeast in the body, primarily in the gut, usually brought about by prolonged stress, use of antibacterial drugs, use of birth control pills, or a high-carb or high-sugar diet. Although my husband has none of the surface symptoms, internally, it all adds up. Even the foods he’s learned by trial and error to avoid (like sweets, gluten, and starches) are on the list of candida aggravators.  It all suddenly made sense! The two of us spent the next several days reading everything we could find on candida.

I read that when women have persistent candida, one of the most telling clues is recurring vaginal yeast infections. Unfortunately, when men suffer from candida, it can remain in the digestive tract for years, and from there it spreads to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Yikes!

Even if the long-term complications didn’t include heart attacks, asthma, leaky gut syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and cancer, we would be impatient to start him on an anti-candida diet, just to relieve his suffering.

It didn’t take me long to decide that I would undertake this dietary change with him. It’s easier to stick with a restrictive diet if the whole household does it together. Besides, according to one source, as many as one third of people suffer from candida. (Even if I’m not among them, I know I feel better when I eat a cleaner diet.) Symptoms of candidiasis include sugar cravings, fatigue, foggy-headedness, acne, PMS, anxiety, and a white coating on the tongue. Yes, I said sugar cravings are a symptom of a highly dangerous illness. But the good news is that it’s treatable by nutrition. My husband and I will be doing this together, and I’ll be posting recipes as we go along.

This is a very. strict. diet.

Note: We aren’t directly following the advice of any particular anti-candida expert or book. Instead we’ve pieced together an anti-candida diet that most of our hurried research seems to agree on, and what works for us. For starters, we’re remaining fully vegan, of course, which only eliminates eggs, cow milk yogurt and kefir from the Accepted Foods list. All other animal products are already off limits on most anti-candida diets. No loss there!

Forbidden foods include, but are not limited to:

  • All animal products (that’s the easy part)
  • Sugar: This means sugar, sugar cane, evaporated cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, rice syrup, dextrose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. (Except Stevia.)
  • Gluten and Starch: No wheat, barley, rye, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes or corn.
  • Alcohol: Not even an occasional glass of organic vegan wine. Nope.
  • Caffeine: No coffee, no black or green teas.
  • Fermented or Yeasty foods: No breads, pickles, vinegar (except raw apple cider vinegar), mustard, tempeh, soy sauce, and no mushrooms, since they’re a fungus.

And here’s the heartbreaking kicker:

  • FRUIT: No fruit juice, no dried fruit, no fresh fruit except citrus fruits and berries.

What we can still have:

  • Vegetables: Anything but corn or potatoes. Tomatoes and carrots cannot be cooked.
  • Some Fruit: Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, and berries. No juice.
  • Liquids: Almond, coconut, or soy milk (unsweetened). Herbal teas. (Edit to add: non-sweet fruit juices, such as pure cranberry or pomegranate juice. Kombucha!!)
  • Beans and Lentils: Pretty much anything goes here.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Anything except peanuts, so no peanut butter either. Tahini (sesame paste) is a go!
  • Other: Tofu, quinoa, hummus, plain vegan yogurt, and basically any herbs and spices.

Best foods to fight candida:

  • Raw garlic
  • Lemon
  • Fresh ginger
  • Yogurt and probiotics
  • Green vegetables like broccoli, kale and spinach
  • Raw apple cider vinegar, according to some

So far, we’re just two days into this, and still struggling to eliminate fruit and sugar (my shortcomings) and coffee (his). We’re both going through typical detox symptoms of headaches, fatigue, and in my case, serious fruit cravings. But we’re managing to find things to eat, and hopefully the detox stage won’t last too long. At the end of this adventure, whether it lasts a month or a year, I anticipate that we’ll feel healthier than ever, and we’ll have a bunch of gluten-free, sugar-free recipes figured out.

If you have overcome candida, particularly as a vegan, I would love to hear how you did it, how long it took, and what your favorite candida diet recipes are!

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I like to take everything I hear with a rounded spoonful of skepticism, because plenty of stories out there are simply  too good to be true.  In fact, if this weren’t the story of my own life, my own malfunctioning colon, and my own seemingly miraculous recovery, I’d probably dismiss it as bunk.  But the fact is, I was in chronic pain for months on end several years ago.  I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) by my physician.  And in the past four years, eating a vegan diet, I have had exactly zero IBS-related “episodes.”

The wonderful and charismatic Christy Morgan, aka. The Blissful Chef, asked me to share my story on her blog.  Read about my IBS misery and recovery here.

Christy is a chef and food educator in L.A. who specializes in vegan, macrobiotic food!  She has seasonal e-cookbooks available for purchase and a full-length physical cookbook coming out next year.  I can hardly wait!  She’s currently visiting Japan, working on farms, sampling the food at vegan-friendly restaurants, and getting a firsthand look at the town where the infamous dolphin slaughter takes place.  Follow her adventures at www.theblissfulchef.com and on Twitter (@TheBlissfulChef) as well.



{July 28, 2010}   Kale Chips!

You may or may recall that one of my personal goals for this year was to learn to eat (and enjoy) kale, the ultimate nutritional powerhouse vegetable.  Kale is a strong and frilly leafy green.  Its flavor is bold and a bit bitter, and its texture is tough, almost rubbery.  Kale makes most lettuce look like wilted onion layers.  For these reasons, kale can be intimidating to many, but kale fans rave about it, so I had to find out what all the buzz was about.

I started out by putting some in my favorite everyday salad.  Sometimes I use half kale, half spinach, other times entirely kale!  It’s quite good with all the vegetables and homemade dressing, once I let it sit for five or ten minutes to marinate and soften.

Ah, but now a wonderful new world has been opened to me by the vegan Twitter community: the world of easy, homemade, vegan “junk” food.  I’m talking, of course, about kale chips.  I threw a batch of them together on impulse before heading to work yesterday, and we devoured them all within minutes.  Kale chips are more compulsively eatable than popcorn or potato chips.  You can flavor them just about any way you like, I imagine, and since they’re made out of kale, you can actually pat yourself on the back (with your seasoning-covered fingers) for munching on them!

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The day I learned to feel bad about eating was the same day I learned to feel bad about myself.  I was seven years old.  Until then, I’d never noticed the size or shape of the body I inhabited, and I’d never forbidden myself any food.  At dinner with my family that fateful night, I had just reached for my eighth slice of my mom’s homemade pizza (my favorite meal) when she called me away from the table to talk to me about overeating, and about the weight I’d been putting on.  I don’t remember the first seven slices of pizza I ate that evening, but I will never forget that last, joyless slice, topped with sausage, green bell pepper, mozzarella, and black olives.  I chewed it grimly, robotically, eyes and throat burning with stifled tears, and marveled that the food I loved gave me no pleasure or comfort.  As I ate it, I only felt worse.  The little girl who timidly returned to the table that night, steeped in shame and disgust at her appetite for food and her grotesque body, was the girl I would be every time I ate for years to come.

From that point on, food and I went through constant cycles of desire and guilt.  There were fad diets, brief struggles with exercise, a few meager attempts at self-induced vomiting, and baggy clothes to hide me from the eyes of others.  I imagine my obsession with calories, fat, weight, and my distaste for my own body were rather standard for an American girl. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder.  I wasn’t obese.  Once I got a growth spurt in my teens,  I wasn’t even overweight.  I was just your average girl who felt guilty because she ate “bad” food.  (“Badness” could be quantified by the number of calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates, size of portion, time of day… I halfheartedly imposed nearly every category of diet on myself at some point.)

But there are two kinds of guilt.

  1. Legitimate remorse and regret for having actually done something wrong, such as turning your back on a friend, putting someone in danger, carelessly breaking a heart, or betraying someone’s trust.
  2. Unreasonable guilt: feeling bad when you’ve done nothing cruel, unkind, or harmful to another.  (Or when the harm you caused was accidental or unavoidable.)

Most of us carry around the wrong kind of guilt, especially when it comes to food.  Guilt is only rational when it is linked to the morally bad, not the nutritionally bad.  However, morally bad food, food worthy of feeling guilty over, does exist.  What makes some food bad (in the primary, ethical sense of the word) is the suffering and injustice that was carried out in the production –generally, its extraction from the body of someone who was given no choice. The only morally bad foods are foods for which other beings were harmed.

Morality in general comes down to whether an action is harmful, cruel, or unkind to others.  Why it took me so long to apply that sense of right or wrong to my food, I can only guess.  But after years of shifting foods from one category to another based on their carb-ness, fat content, or color, the simplicity of this logical good/bad food dichotomy blew my mind.  Veganism freed me from counting calories and all that other nonsense.  Eliminating animal products from my diet meant eliminating any cause for legitimate, ethical guilt about food, breaking the eat/guilt cycle.  (Okay, there are still ethical considerations that factor into plant foods, such as whether coffee and cocoa are fair-trade certified, and whether palm oil is taken from the orangutan forests, but eating a diet of plant rather than animal foods bypasses direct victims; an enormous moral leap!)

Once the food guilt was gone, everything else fell into place–not within a day, but at a steady rate.  Emotionally, I began to fully enjoy eating again, and since food was more fulfilling, my desire to occasionally binge went away.  I stopped thinking of any foods as “forbidden,” not even animal products!  (I can eat them, but I really don’t want to.  Eating the result of suffering and injustice?  Yuck!)  I truly don’t deprive myself of anything anymore, and this healthier mental attitude has changed my entire life.

And what happened to the self-loathing?  Well, it helps that ethically good foods tend to be nutritionally good foods as well, once you take sugar and processed junk out of the equation.  I have lost weight.  Too much weight, according to some people.  But without guilt coming between me and my body anymore, I’ve found that I can truly be happy with my physical size and shape, no matter what other people think of me.  My body is fueled by compassion now.  How delicious is that?!

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To learn more about how I lost weight (without trying) by going vegan, click on The End of Dieting.



I’m cleaning (and greening) up my act!   In this blog series I’ll be phasing out animal-derived, chemical-laden household and body products, and seeking out vegan, earth-friendly, affordable alternatives!

This past week, I was delighted to hear that not one, but two dear friends who were formerly vegan are interested in becoming vegan once again!  One had lapsed for several years, and she asked me to help her with some grocery-label-reading.  (Animal-derived ingredients are many, and manufacturers often change their recipes.) Skimming the list we’re going to take to the store, I couldn’t ignore the growing certainty that some of these ingredients are still in my own home.  Not in my fridge, certainly, but in my cabinet, my shower, and even my pocket.  When it comes to non-food items, I’ve been a pretty rotten vegan.

In part, my own laziness is to blame, and the other part is due to the expense.  The stores that carry all-natural, non-toxic, vegan-friendly items are further from home, and quite frankly, they tend to cost several times more than what my nearby grocery store sells.  I hope that I won’t be judged too harshly for this confession.  I’m about to grab every non-food item I have lying around and examine the ingredient list, pointing out the animal-derived ingredients I find. For some items, I already know of available alternatives: I’ll mention their prices and where to get them.  For others, I’ll have to do my homework.  Some of my Twitter friends have been very helpful in suggesting non-toxic, vegan items I should look into.  If you know of other great products, if you can teach me to make my own, or if you’ve tried something that you thought was a waste of money, I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll continue to update you with my progress and my discoveries.  I hope I’ll find that it’s possible to veganize the entire house without breaking the bank, and maybe I’ll discover some great new products on my way to becoming a Level 5 VeganWhat better time than Earth Day to come clean, right?

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{March 25, 2010}   Coming to a Theater Near You!

I make little secret of my firm belief that a vegan revolution is underway.  As of yet, it’s just gaining gradual momentum.  We make up only about 1% of the population.  Want to know what’s going to blow this vegan movement out of the underground and into the mainstream consciousness?  Two films, which are coming out this year within weeks of each other.

Sure, there have been books like Diet For a New America and Vegan With a Vengeance for a decade or so, but movies are so much more consumable!  (And did you know most movie theaters serve vegan popcorn?)  After becoming vegan, I felt obliged to read Animal Liberation in full, and I’m currently slogging through The China Study, with its extensive scientific data on the health risks of consuming even small amounts of animal products.  I sell books for a living, and I’m very aware that not everyone’s going to read a book about animal rights, or about their diet.  That’s why I was so thrilled to learn about Forks Over Knives, a documentary which will outline the incredible health benefits of a whole food, plant based diet. Many medical and scientific experts are featured in this film, most notably Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study, Dr.Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

I think it’s perfect timing for this critical information to be shared with the public. People are ready to hear the truth about the link between their food and their health, and this film will refute pervasive myths about the healthiness of vegan eating.

The second film is fictional, but tells a very important story –one that would be difficult to show in any other way, though from what I can tell, it closely mirrors reality.   Bold Native is about an animal rights activist and liberator, someone who illegally rescues animals, and who is pursued by the FBI for prosecution under a new law called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, or AETA.  (Another great article on AETA and its effects here.)  I know this is a highly controversial issue, and I look forward to seeing how people react to the film.  Are animals legal property, or are they creatures in their own right, with as much of a claim on their future lives as a human has?  If the laws are immoral, should we behave lawfully or ethically?  This film will drive viewers to think critically about issues they may never have considered before.

I anticipate the convergence of these two films this summer will bring about an expansion of veganism.  Neither film has a specific release date yet, but to stay updated, you can follow them on facebook. 

Forks Over Knives is at http://www.facebook.com/forksoverknives

Bold Native is at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bold-Native/162792945925



{February 17, 2010}   Vegans Never Get Sick…

I’ve been known to brag about my unstoppable vegan immune system.  When I was an omnivore, I was used to getting sick every time anything was going around, often catching the bug twice in one round!  I never had sick days last me past March.  My doctor saw me three or four times a year.  I thought that was pretty normal.

There’s nothing magical about being a vegan that makes viruses avoid the very sight of you.  But the food you put in your body directly affects the strength of your immune system, and your ability to fight off whatever junk you come in contact with.  When I say I never get sick anymore, what I mean is that when everyone around me is in bed for several days, I just feel a little achy or tired – not sick enough to miss work, and certainly not sick enough to need to see the doctor for any prescriptions.  I don’t get flu shots and I don’t use hand sanitizer. I work with the public and I handle money.  I count on my health vegan body to handle whatever germs come along – and it does!

Why am I telling you all this?  Because last night I realized I wasn’t feeling great.  For the past 2 days, I’ve been a little slow to wake up in the morning, and I’ve been getting minor headaches, a little more in the evening than during the day.  I’m also feeling some sinus congestion.  It’s nothing near the congestion I used to think of as “normal,” which cleared up completely when I cut dairy out of my diet.  This is more like my body remembering a cold – my breathing is completely clear, but there’s a little tickle at the back of my throat.  In the evening, there’s a slight ache in my shoulders and my jaws, and my eyes become a bit sensitive to light.  During the day, I have a bit less energy than usual and a slight ache at the base of my skull, but otherwise I feel fine.

So, I’m telling you this because I suspect my body’s up against a nasty bug right now.  Two of my male coworkers, both pretty strong, active, hardworking types, are sick in bed with whatever’s going around, and are pretty miserable, from what I hear.  I’m going to keep you updated on how I feel over the next few days, and we’ll see whether my body handles this bug as well as it handled the flu season!  Tonight I’m making some chili, as suggested by Pearl Renfroe last week, and I’ll try to get to bed by midnight, since I’m meeting someone for brunch tomorrow.

To get more updates on how I’m weathering the virus, follow me on Twitter.  I’ll update this post daily to let you know how it’s going.  Vegan vs. Virus! Let the showdown begin!

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{January 1, 2010}   The End of Dieting

Well, it’s January 1st, and that means an avalanche of salads are being eaten today.  People are jogging in frigid temperatures, joining gyms, and dusting off forgotten exercise machines in an effort to lose the pounds they put on over the holidays, or over a lifetime.  The number of diet and exercise books sold between Christmas and Groundhog day could (and used to) fill a forest!

I don’t recall at what age I started making New Year’s resolutions, but I can tell you that the first thing on my list for many years was “lose weight”, “get in shape”, “lose 15 pounds”, “get a flat stomach“, or some other variation on that theme.  Ironically, it wasn’t until I stopped dieting that I lost weight, dropped body fat, and felt truly healthy for the first time.  It didn’t happen until I was vegan.

Further irony lies in the fact that I didn’t go vegan to lose weight, or to be healthier.  To me, veganism was not a diet.  It was a moral imperative.  I had read the facts, watched the gruesome footage, and knew what I had to do, even if it meant suffering from protein deficiency.  (Which, of course, it didn’t.)

By that point in my life, I had come to peace with my several extra pounds around the waist, but a strange thing happened when I started reading labels and paying attention to what I ate: without ever trying, without touching a treadmill or counting a calorie, I started losing weight.  And I kept it off.  Not only did the gut I’d had since my chubby childhood vanish, but I stopped feeling tired halfway through the work day, stopped getting sick every time one coworker got a cold, and stopped suffering from chronic digestion problems.

Ruefully, I think of how much of my life I spent feeling trapped behind the fat, even though there wasn’t that much of it.  How self-conscious I was, how afraid to go swimming (I never learned), afraid I wasn’t attractive, afraid to relax (belly flab might stick out), to have my picture taken (the double chin).  Over 5 years ago, my then-boyfriend bought me a floor-length, backless gown for me to wear out on a fancy date.  Instead, I had an emotional breakdown over how fat I felt, and wore a “safe” shirt and skirt.  I wore that dress for the first time at a party several weeks ago, and loved how I felt in it.

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Americans are sick.  Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are all caused primarily by eating poorly.  Our health care system is about to collapse under all the weight (pun intended), and the answer doesn’t lie in protein shakes, calorie counting notebooks, or infomercial exercise gimmicks.  (I’m ashamed to tell you which ones I tried.)  Plants are the answer: high in fiber, vitamins, and anti-oxidants, and low in fat, cholesterol, and calories.

If I sound like I’m selling the latest diet craze, let me make one thing clear: veganism is a way of life, not just a way of eating.  But it has undeniable health benefits.  Maybe it’s karma. Maybe I had 25 pounds of guilt around my waist.  Maybe it’s the fact that I finally had a reason to eat veggies instead of cake.  But what I know is that now I eat guilt-free 100% of the time, and I’ve never loved food, or the way it makes me feel, so much.



et cetera