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Shifting To Whole Foods Plant Based Diet With Dr. Maria Jose Hummel

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What and how we eat does not only impact our health but our environment as well. Corinna Bellizzi sits down with nutritionist and health educator Dr. Maria Jose Hummel to talk about the benefits of adopting a mostly whole foods plant based diet. Dr. Maria explains how eating more plants and organic food can mitigate the destruction caused by animal agriculture and effectively treat chronic conditions. She discusses the right way to consume protein and why we should start getting rid of oil when cooking food. Dr. Maria also shares all about her 10-day nutritional program that aims to help people reverse diet-related chronic conditions.

 

About Maria José Hummel

Care More Be Better | Dr. Maria Jose Hummel | Whole Foods Plant BasedDr. María José Hummel is a nutritionist, health educator, author, and international speaker. She holds multiple degrees, which include a Master’s of Science in Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a Master’s in Public Health from San Jose State University, a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University, as well as a lifestyle medicine certification from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. She holds a Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Natural Medicine from the International Institute of Original Medicine. Dr. Hummel is currently the program coordinator for Community Rx/Salud en tu Plato, a 10-day nutrition immersion and education program that has helps people improve their health and reverse diet-related chronic conditions.

 

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXOLCcVSzdRCpGZK6E3ZqMQ

 

Show Notes: – Raw Video

Looking Back – 03:05

No Oil – 06:08

New Movement Thoughts – 11:36

Eating For The Earth – 17:18

Recommended Protein Consumption – 24:12

Salud en tu Plato – 28:34

Affordability – 34:11

Cooking Without Oil – 37:18

Environmental Impact – 44:17

Blue Zones lifestyle – 49:45

Corrina’s Testimony – 52:10

Closing Words – 54:30

 

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Shifting To Whole Foods Plant Based Diet With Dr. Maria Jose Hummel

Welcome. We’re going to explore the intersection between what we eat and what we have access to, as well as environmentalism, as I introduce you to an incredible woman from my local community, Dr. Maria Jose Hummel. She is a nutritionist, a health educator, an author, and an international speaker who holds multiple degrees, including a Master’s of Science and Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a Master’s in Public Health from San Jose State University, a certification in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center of Nutrition Studies at Cornell, and a Lifestyle Medicine certification from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. She holds a Doctorate, which is a PhD, in Natural Medicine from the International Institute of Original Medicine.

Dr. Hummel is the Program Coordinator for Community Rx/Salud en tu Plato, a ten-day nutrition immersion and education program that has helped people improve their health and reverse diet-related chronic conditions. It’s ongoing. Remember. The information that we share is intended for educational and informational purposes only. We do not aim to treat, diagnose, or cure any conditions. No patient-provider relationship is formed. If you have a specific ailment that you seek to treat, please consult with your healthcare professional. With that out of the way, I’m going to welcome her to the stage.

Dr. Maria Jose Hummel, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much. It’s my pleasure to be here. I’m super excited.

Looking Back

For me, it feels like a long time coming. We got to meet first when you were one of the opening speakers at an event where Dr. Michael Gregor spoke about his book, How Not to Age. As we get started here, I’d love to talk for a moment about what has led you to this moment. I understand you worked in Silicon Valley and then really dove into more community engagement and health. How did you end up here?

That’s right. I worked in Silicon Valley for a few years in my previous life. I worked as a computer engineer. At the time, in my family, we experienced some health issues such as Crohn’s disease, eczema, and other things. Even though I tried to follow the physician’s advice on this and tried to follow the conventional medical advice, I found that by changing our diet, those issues were resolved. I was impressed that nobody had told me this. I’m like, “People need to know about this.” I wanted more people to know that this is possible. That was my motivation for going back to school and getting a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition.

When I graduated, I changed my job and went to work as a clinical nutritionist. I was making a fraction of what I was making in Silicon Valley, but it didn’t matter because I felt like I was making a difference in people’s lives. I had a passion for bringing information so that people knew that there were options. You can take prescription medications for certain things, and they’re very helpful sometimes, but many people don’t know that there are options for prescription medications. Sometimes, you can decrease those prescription medications and sometimes completely get rid of them. This has been twenty years, and a lot of people still don’t know about it. I’m still very passionate about letting people know the possibilities of lifestyle medicine, particularly whole food, plant-based or a healthy diet, in other words.

You shared your passion on stage in front of a full house in Santa Cruz for helping people gain access to great nutrition, but you also shared some of those outcomes. I’d like to dive into that. When we talk about these things, first, people sometimes have some misnomers in their minds. They might think, for instance, “Whole food plant-based. What does that mean?” especially as you start to talk about no oil, which is the tag-on that often comes at the end of that whole foods plant-based no-oil. This is something that Dr. Michael Greger also champions as an overhaul to lifestyle to minimize and eliminate health complaints as well as to help people get to what is more their optimal selves.

No Oil

Often, we also see things like complaints about costs. Some of these ideas are the things that I might want to discover with you in this episode. I wanted to start with this one simple question. Whole food plant-based no-oil, minimal, if any, refined grains or sugars. How do we get there, and why do we want to start with that?

It can scare people, especially when they hear no oil. They’re like, “I thought olive oil was a good choice.” As Michael Greger and many others in this field say, “Olive oil can be healthy if you compare that to junk food, lard, or other options like that.” If you’re changing from junk food, pizza, or burgers to using maybe a salad with a little bit of olive oil, that is a great choice in comparison.

The reason why we in our program and others in the field are saying no oil is because even when you change to a whole food plant-based diet and you, for instance, are someone who’s struggling with weight loss, hypertension, or diabetes, these conditions that have to do with excessive weight many times, a lot of people don’t get to their ideal weight necessarily if they’re still using oils. The reason is that oil is an isolated, concentrated food that is processed, if you think about it.

Let’s think for a minute. Are there any trees that you can approach and pick a bottle of oil out of it? The answer is no. That tells you right there that oils are processed foods. If we start thinking about it, they are isolated fats. They have no fiber. They have very minimal traces of vitamins. Some of them don’t have any vitamins, minerals, proteins, or any other nutrients. There are some traces of vitamins or other phytochemicals in some oils, but for the most part, most oils don’t have any other nutrients except for pure fat. They’re concentrated fat. They’re like the fat equivalent of sugar in the carbohydrate world. A very refined carbohydrate is pure sugar. It has no fiber and no other nutrients. Oils are like that.

One of the things that helps people understand this more is when you start to talk about satiety. I was under the perspective or impression that if I consumed something that had fat in it, it would give me more of a sense of fullness. Some of the research I’ve read has stated it’s fiber and protein and that if you don’t get fibers and proteins into your diet, that feeling of fullness dissipates quickly. This is part of the reason that people tend to consume more calories than their bodies need because they don’t get the automatic switch turning off in their brain that leptin sensitivity isn’t there and they therefore aren’t getting the trigger to stop eating. Is that what you’re also finding in your work?

Yes. There are some truths to the fact that fats are slower to digest. The idea is that if I eat a lot of fat, then I will have this satiety because my stomach takes a longer time to digest the fat. Therefore, I feel full for longer. The problem is that particularly with oils, oil is the most calorie-dense food on the planet. There’s a danger, and it happens all the time, of consuming too many calories before you start feeling the satiating effect of eating the fat. By the time your stomach is like, “I’m done. I’ve had enough calories,” or whatever, you’ve already consumed thousands of calories. It could be hundreds of calories more than what you needed at the time. That’s the problem.

The fact that oil is such a highly calorie-dense food hijacks the brain in a way because we don’t realize how many calories we’re getting. That’s another important point because the fact that we are concentrating on these foods goes against nature. We are eating artificially concentrated foods when we eat oil or sugar. These foods don’t exist in nature. There are fats in nature, such as avocados or seeds and nuts, but other things, such as fiber, minerals, vitamins, and protein, naturally accompany these foods. They’re not isolated nutrients. They are a package.

That’s the important thing we lose when we process food. We lose the natural package that has all these nutrients that work synergistically to give us health and to produce that sense of satiety and fulfillment when we eat the food. We are messing with nature when we isolate the foods into separated vitamins, minerals, other antioxidants, fats, or sugars. That’s one of my beliefs. We’re messing with nature and we then don’t achieve what we think we are going to achieve, which is an enhanced result. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

[bctt tweet=”When we process food, it loses the natural package with all of its nutrients that work synergistically to give us health and produce a sense of satiety.” via=”no”]

New Movement Thoughts

You and I have been in this nutrition and health industry for a while, so I remember quite a few fads having come in and out over the years. One was the raw foods movement, which was largely very similar to whole foods plant-based no-oil because people wanted to have foods that were very minimally processed and were in the raw state, and that also meant vegetarian vegan. I’m curious to see how you think this new movement of whole foods plant-based no-oil is different and perhaps how it’s better.

There have been traces of whole food plant-based diets throughout history. I do concede the fact that the no oil may be something newer that we’re adding to it, but how it is different is that it’s a little bit more balanced. I tried the raw food myself for a while. I ate raw for a while and I liked it. I liked it fine until winter came, and then I was having a hard time eating salads and no soups.

There is also some science behind the fact that some fruits and vegetables are better when they’re cooked a little bit lightly. You don’t want to boil your vegetables for half an hour because you’re destroying them. If you slightly steam them, you sometimes get enhanced absorption of some nutrients. For instance, tomatoes, sometimes carrots, other fruits, and vegetables. You get more nutrients out of them when they’re a little bit cooked.

It’s more balanced in that sense as opposed to raw, which is okay to do. It’s fine. If people want to do it short-term or long-term, it’s okay. If you like it, that’s good as long as you’re getting enough nutrients and a variety of foods and stuff, but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. That’s maybe what I’m getting to. It’s the fact that whole food plant-based allows you a wider variety of foods. In that sense, it’s a little bit more flexible.

I’m thinking specifically of things like rice, chickpeas, and things like that. You eat hummus, for example. I don’t think you can eat raw hummus. I’m sure you can, but it probably doesn’t taste the same.

It’s very difficult. That’s a good point. You are adding the bean category back into the diet as well as some grains that cannot be consumed raw. You are widening the availability of foods from which you can get nutrients, which helps a lot, particularly whole grains because they’re very satisfying. They’re giving you the carbohydrates that you need, and then they’re complex carbohydrates. For some people, that’s helpful because you have this more long-term availability of carbohydrates and the energy they provide. It’s easier to follow. Maybe that’s the bottom line for me. The no oil aspect goes back to the fact that we’re trying to emphasize whole as opposed to processed.

It keeps us away from french fries unless you’re doing the air fryer.

It also helps with weight loss. Oils are very highly concentrated food, so it enhances weight loss. It’s easier to lose weight when you leave out the oil.

Critics of a program like this will say things like, “I’m not going to be able to get enough protein this way. I want to be able to maintain my muscle mass.” I shared this story when we were both at an event in Ben Lomond at the Wee Kirk to connect with people in this community who are seeking to build positive change in our area. I was skeptical and worried that when I went fully plant-based, I was going to experience muscle loss. I was maintaining and watching that very closely, not trying to lose weight anymore for a little while, to make sure that I could maintain my muscle mass. I found that not only did I maintain my muscle mass, I put on a pound of muscle.

Frankly, I am feeling stronger even though I haven’t dramatically moved the number on the scale, hovering within the same two-pound threshold over the last month or so. I do assisted pull-ups. I’m trying to get to a pull-up. I’ve been trying to get a pull-up for years. I weigh in at about 175 pounds, so I’m not a light girl. I’m presently only using 50 pounds of assisted weight. I’m pulling up 125 pounds, which is more than a lot of women weigh. That’s a big move because, in the course of the last couple of months, I went from 70 pounds assisted at roughly the same weight to 50 pounds assisted. I’ve never been able to go that far in two months before, so I feel really good about that.

Eating For The Earth

That’s a good use case, but I want to help our audience understand that if they want to venture down this path, they shouldn’t be afraid of limiting or eliminating some animal products in their lives and that they can still get enough protein. I also want to dispel the belief that it’s not healthy for kids and that kids need animal products. I would love your thoughts on that and how we can help people understand what a healthy diet can be and what eating for the earth can look like.

Those are two of my favorite topics to talk about. Number one, dispel the myth that you need animal protein to build muscle. That is 100% false. I can tell you from personal experience, as well as others in the field, that there are plenty of athletes and bodybuilders who are 100% vegan. Some of them haven’t had meat ever. Their whole lives, they’ve been vegetarian slash vegan.

First of all, you can get all, and let me emphasize the word all, the essential amino acids that you need from plants. No amino acids are present only in animals, which you can obtain in plants. That’s number one. You can get all the protein you need, all these essential amino acids. Most people eat too much protein. We don’t realize that we overconsume protein as far as our body needs. It’s not for building muscle necessarily, but to live. Most people eat twice or more the amount of protein they need. Most Americans overconsume protein, and that can cause its own problems that we can talk about later.

We could get and we do get enough protein. Even if you’re 100% vegan, which means no animal products whatsoever, like no meat, no dairy, and no egg, you can still get all the essential amino acids and more. It’s all about where you’re getting your amino acids and your proteins. That will depend on what your goals are. If you are a competition bodybuilder, look for the best quality protein powders to make sure you’re building all the humongous muscles you need for that competition.

Outside of that, I don’t think you “need” it. You may want to add maybe a protein powder or something, but that’s optional. You don’t need to because you can get all the essential amino acids you need to maintain and build, maybe not competition kinds of muscles but regular muscles with vegan proteins or plant-based sources of proteins. That’s your whole grains, lentils, and tofu, particularly tofu. Tofu is a great source of protein. It’s the same as tempeh, for instance. These are very good sources of plant proteins. You can get all the protein you need to maintain and even build muscle. There are people who do it without any protein supplements. That’s possible to do.

I worked with a professional bodybuilder as my trainer for some time. Her one issue with going fully plant-based was specifically around getting about 30 grams of protein within about half an hour of having done some intensive bodybuilding exercises. You’re lifting heavy, and then when you’re done, she wants you to have about 30 grams of protein.

I would have a hard time eating a meal that had 30 grams of protein in it, but going to a plant-based shake could do it. I’d drink it as a treat after the workout and be able to build the muscle that I need to get stronger and consider going towards competition. I’m not frankly working at that, but there was a point where I was working to get as lean and tight as possible. I got my total body weight down to about 148 pounds. I was very lean at that point. I did that at the time with whey protein, but I’m told I can do the same exact thing with plant-based proteins.

That’s indisputable. People do it all the time. You can do it. The other thing I want to mention really quickly is that I was listening to a podcast. I apologize. I don’t remember the name of the researcher, but he’s a protein researcher. I was listening to this man dispel some of the myths in the bodybuilding community. One of them that he talked about in particular was the myth that you have to eat protein within half an hour of having worked out.

He’s like, “There’s no actual evidence that you need to do that because the body builds this pool of amino acids. Once you eat the protein, you have these amino acids in your body. You don’t have to eat them immediately, right after your workout. You need to eat them throughout the day.” There’s no precise timing in order for you to get the maximum amount of gains. I thought I would mention that. That was a protein researcher who’s been doing this his whole life. They studied this in the lab.

That would make sense. We’ve evolved to be able to absorb the nutrition that we take in whenever it comes in. A lot of our restoration happens while we sleep, including not only our fat burning during that fasting state but also our muscle building and repair. It is getting enough water and enough vital nutrition and not going through these periods where you’re so limiting yourself that you’re not getting the building blocks that your body needs.

I know, especially as people are gearing up for competition, they’ll do things like exercise on an empty stomach to lean down a little bit more, take diuretics, and even limit their water intake to look as shredded as possible. That’s not the healthiest state to live in. It can be a detriment to your health if you keep that sort of thing up.

Bodybuilders do it for a competition and fitness people do it, but for a limited amount of time, I hope.

It’s usually only about the week leading up to the competition week to two weeks, right?

I think so. I’ve never been in that space, so I don’t know all the details.

It’s its own universe.

If you do it for a limited amount of time, maybe you’ll be okay, but not for long. These are practices that are not necessarily healthy, for sure, long-term.

Recommended Protein Consumption

I love that we don’t necessarily need to get two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in order to reach our goals. That’s probably too much. What do you tend to recommend as a healthy level for women and for men?

It’s all up to what you’re looking to do. If you’re looking to do the competition, then maybe you need a little bit more. For people who want to maintain or build regular or normal amounts of muscle, the normal range is between 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein, depending on your goal and how your body responds. There are some bodybuilders who do this completely on whole food without any supplements.

Is that 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight or per kilogram of body weight?

It’s for a kilogram of body weight.

There are those who try to get closer to a 1-to-1 for each pound of your ideal body weight that you have a whole gram of protein. There’s a lot of disagreement in the literature on that one, personally.

It’s up to you what your goals are. Let’s say you are on a muscle-building stage in your life where you want to build muscle. I would go for the more whole-ingredients type of protein supplement. There are very good ones out there that don’t have any fillers, any sugar, or whatever. Look for those, but you can do it without them. There are people who do it without any of the shakes. You can do it by concentrating on things such as tofu. Even if you, for instance, don’t like soy, there is soy-free tofu. You can make tofu out of lentils and all kinds of different things. You can eat those and you can eat tempeh and other sources of a little bit more concentrated protein.

If you are trying to build that muscle and you have a long way to go, that could be a great source of protein and nutrition, in fact. There are ways to do it. People do it all the time by eating a wide range of foods and a wide range of approaches. For the most part, you need to build brand-new tissue, and that is protein. This is to clear it up. That’s how you build muscle. It’s by consuming protein. That’s your building block for muscle and tissues, hormones, and many other things in the body. It’s almost everything, like cellular structures. All kinds of things are made out of proteins.

Let’s not discount the importance of proteins but also the fact that you do get them from plants and that you can switch your foods. If you’re eating nothing but rice and potatoes, maybe you’re not getting enough proteins. Adding some of those plant proteins will increase the building blocks you are trying to use to build the muscle mass you want. That is achievable and possible on a whole food plant-based diet.

I think about things like the fact that broccoli itself has quite a bit of protein to it. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to broccoli. I also can’t have quinoa. I have found that some of the plant-based proteins that look really great out there have some of these elements in them, so I almost need to take the purest approach. There are great pea proteins or a pea rice mix, which has a pretty good mouth feel overall because the pea is creamy. While the rice might be a little gritty, you can disguise that by adding fruits to the smoothie or something along those lines.

Salud en tu Plato

I wanted to get to this next point in our conversation. We pivot to talk about your work specifically with Salud en tu Plato and the outcomes that you’ve seen by shifting people for ten days to a whole food plant-based diet. Let’s talk about the sorts of things that you’re doing there specifically for the community in South Santa Cruz County, Watsonville, and the Salinas area.

Thanks for saying that we’re pivoting because that’s a whole different approach. We’re talking about helping people who have chronic conditions that are very common in our society. It is things such as diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, which can include high cholesterol, particularly LDL, otherwise known as bad cholesterol and triglyceride.

It’s Low-Density Lipoprotein.

That is one of the common ways to really know risks. It’s a good risk predictor. There are other ones that are better, but the most commonly used still is LDL cholesterol, and that’s what we do. We don’t have a lot of equipment to measure people. We use a very small portable equipment that measures LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. We also measure people’s weight and height to calculate their BMI. Those are the things we measure at the beginning and at the end of our ten-day nutritional intervention.

There are technically fourteen days in between. We give people a little bit of wiggle room at the beginning if they’re not quite ready to start on day one so they have time to purchase the food. We don’t give them food, but we do give them a menu and recipes. We don’t have enough funding to feed people all the time for ten days, but we do give them guidelines and try to also emphasize, “You don’t have to follow this particular menu and every single food there for ten days. If there are foods that you already eat and that you can tweak a little bit and change a few of the ingredients, you can make a lot of foods that we already eat on a daily basis into whole food plant-based very easily.”

[bctt tweet=”You can make a lot of food that you already eat on a daily basis into whole foods plant based very easily.” via=”no”]

That’s the approach we take. It’s a very simple, light-touch approach where we give people a menu and suggestions and try to motivate them to go 100% whole food plant-based, no-oil if they can for 10 days or 14 days. Not everybody does it. Most of our participants don’t do it 100%, but they at least do it 95%, which is enough to see some good outcomes.

When looking at the evaluations at the end, we have found that the closer you get to 100%, the more likely you are to see very good outcomes at the end. That is our program. It is a ten-day nutritional intervention program. I call it a ten-day challenge because it gives people the idea, “I don’t have to do this forever.”

It could be very intimidating for people to hear whole food plant-based no-oil. They’re like, “I have to do this forever? No way. I can’t do this forever. It is not going to happen.” If I say it is a 10-day challenge, then it’s more like, “Maybe I can do this for 10 days and see what happens.” What we find is, in the end, people really like what they see.

Many people are very willing to continue doing this. Maybe not 100%, but a lot of them are maybe 90% or even 80%. As long as you are moving toward the goal of eating more plants and less animal and processed foods, you will see good changes, but keep in mind that the more radical the changes are, the more radical the results will be. It will depend on what people are looking for. If they already have major health issues, going in full-on 100% will allow them to see the best results possible. Maybe if you don’t have any health issues at the moment and you want to change little by little and make more gradual changes, that is also a good thing to do.

That’s what our program does. We work particularly with Latinos in our community because, number one, they have the highest rates of all these chronic conditions, particularly diabetes. They have more health issues, less access to medical care, and sometimes less levels of education. These are all challenges that this community faces. That translates to worse outcomes overall and decreased life quality and life expectancy.

These are the more marginalized, underserved communities in our county. Our grant was specifically for helping this community. We adapted this program to help this community in particular, but we have also done our rounds in English for everybody. Our program is open to anybody who wants to do a ten-day nutritional intervention or challenge. Our outcomes have been fantastic and believable.

Affordability

If you’re talking about this particular community like Watsonville, South County, there’s a lot of farming. A lot of people who’ve moved to the area are migrant workers or have family members who are migrant workers. Let’s say that financial assistance isn’t always there. They can’t necessarily dive deep into the pocketbook to spend a whole paycheck. Talk about the affordability of a program like this. How does it compare to eating without it? You’re giving them guidelines. They’re going to the store and buying their own food. How do you see it compared to what they would typically spend?

We try to emphasize the fact that they can continue eating the foods they eat minus the meat, the cheese, and maybe the dairy milk. They could add more foods that are not super expensive. Those may be some of the staples that they already buy, like beans, for instance. We do emphasize whole grain. That could be a shift that could be maybe a little bit more expensive. If you’re going to buy brown rice as opposed to white rice, you might be paying a little bit more. It’s the same with maybe whole-grain sprouted bread. Buying quinoa or things like that might be more expensive than going to McDonald’s and buying junk food.

I’m not so sure. I took my kids on the drive-thru once and was like, “Oh my gosh.”

Everything’s going up. There are ways to eat a whole food plant-based diet by eating very simple, cheap foods. That’s possible. If you want to eat more organic, which we would recommend you do, you might be paying a little bit more. The way we see it also is that we’re investing. This is an investment in health because going to the doctor is not cheap, especially if you don’t have insurance.

Meat is becoming a lot more expensive, too, so that may help these things to all even out. What I have found is that since I started shifting my buying habits, I’m spending less at the grocery store, generally speaking, than I was before. That being said, I was already focused on non-GMO and organic produce, so that wasn’t going to be a change for me, but in the act of not buying the rotisserie chicken or the hamburger that’s grass-fed. Organic meats are expensive, and that’s what I was buying. I was buying regenerative organic products and even having some of those drop ship to my home over the last couple of years.

Cooking Without Oil

My husband is not on the beginner or plant-based journey with me, so he’s continuing to eat all that stuff and even prepare some for our kids. We aren’t 100% whole foods plant-based in our home, but our family is getting more access to these other foods. One of my favorite things to dive into is making things like Taco Tuesday night happen. I found that I can explore things like mushroom ground chuck. It’s ground taco meat that’s made from mushrooms. I know that that’s not a completely unprocessed food, but that’s the one-off.

I’m replacing what was a beef meat night with that and my kids love it. They loved it as much as they loved the other, if not more. I spice it up the same way. I have a ton of little fixings that they can add to the tacos for this fun, extravagant evening. They’re not noticing the shift as anything but positive. I’ve learned to make some pretty incredible stir-fries. Doing that without using oil was a little scary at first. I wondered if you could talk about that as we transition to then talking about Eat for the Earth and your work with them.

There are techniques that you can use to cook without oil, but it depends on what you’re doing. If you’re stir-frying, baking, or whatever you’re doing, the technique that you will use will vary depending on what you’re doing. Maybe the easiest thing is to talk about stir-frying vegetables. For people, the first thing they do is add some oil to the pan and then add the veggies. It gives it texture and color but you can do it without oil.

In fact, I had to do a video in Spanish because our program is based on the Community Rx by Nelson Campbell, who’s a son of T. Colin Campbell. They created these videos. Kim Campbell is a great chef. She had these videos on how to cook without oil, but they were in English, so I had to recreate them in Spanish for our audience. I had to do the same things in front of the camera.

Let’s say you’re stir-frying onion, celery, or carrots. You put them on the pan, turn on the heat, and don’t use any liquid at first, which is not what I was doing up until that moment. I was putting in either water or vegetable broth. She did it with a dry pan. What that does is it browns the onion, for instance, mushrooms, or whatever you’re using. It browns them a little bit or caramelizes them a little bit. Once you start doing that and the bottom of the pan is a little bit brown and it starts to stick a little bit, that’s when you add the liquid to deglaze the pan. I was completely overblown. I was like, “This is great. I need to teach people how to do it,” so I did a video myself on how to do this technique. It works.

I imagine it made the flavor come forward a little bit better than when you used the water. The water, to me, would make the onion taste like an onion in a soup as opposed to an onion that’s brown. There is a distinct difference in the flavor profile then, right?

Yes. It caramelizes the onion, so it brings out the flavor. It’s great. It works wonders. It adds flavor without the heaviness of the oil. I have to admit that when you first shift to no oil, you miss that mouth feel of the oil. It does add texture to foods. That’s undeniable. Once you shift into no oil, you get used to the lightness of the food. The heaviness is gone. After a while, you get so used to that that it makes a huge difference once you start eating foods with oil again. It feels heavier.

For me, it feels too oily. I don’t like it anymore with oil. I’ve lost the taste for it. That happens with a lot of things, like when you start decreasing the amount of sodium in your diet. At first, it’s like, “Everything tastes horrible,” but then after a while, everything tastes great. When you start eating foods with too much salt, it’s too salty. Our taste buds change and adapt to healthier things as long as we give them enough time. You could learn to eat without oil, and after a while, it’s going to feel better. Once you bring the oil back, it’s going to feel too oily. It’s super easy.

You can use an air fryer.

Air fryers are wonderful.

I had been very skeptical of air fryers for a long time, but I finally got one. I got one that also operates as a toaster oven. It wasn’t that expensive. I picked it up at Costco. It’s a Cuisinart brand. It does an incredible job of making toast and operating as a toaster oven, and then also of doing air frying. I’ve been doing things like taking pot stickers that I would normally have steamed, trying to fry in a pan a little bit, and doing them in the air fryer. They come out so much better and in half the time. It’s eight minutes and they’re done. I barely had to do anything. I put them in there and set the timer. Before I know it, I have a snack.

They’re great for potatoes. They’re great for falafels. There are so many things that you usually fry that you can do with an air fryer, and it’s quicker than the oven. You can do them in the oven. If you don’t have an air fryer, you can do all of this in the oven, but the air fryer is quicker.

Environmental Impact

No sticky cabinets after either. As we transition to this last phase of our conversation, I wanted to talk about how this is better for the environment, why Eat for the Earth is involved in these projects, and why you’re involved in them. I want to talk about what we can learn about this not-for-profit that is working on the central coast of California and more broadly to bring awareness to eating whole foods plant-based for the earth, shifting away from animal products to have less of a footprint, and ultimately benefiting our shared global environment.

Eat for the Earth is primarily an environmental organization. I joined to work with the health aspect of a whole food plant-based diet, but our executive director is the expert on the environmental aspect of it. She has all these statistics in her brain, ready to go. What I can tell you is that animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries on the planet. I don’t know how many people know this, but most of the wildlife that used to be on the planet is gone. Most of the living beings on this planet, apart from us, are these animals that we breed and grow for our consumption. They suffer throughout their lives. That’s another aspect.

[bctt tweet=”Animal agriculture is one of the most destructive industries on the planet.” via=”no”]

The environmental consequences of this industry are horrific. I don’t think most people understand the impact that it has on the environment. Fossil fuel emissions are one, but also the destruction of the environment. Where does all this pollution and all this waste that is produced by these animals go? Most people don’t understand the impact we’re having.

I don’t think humans have done this throughout history to the scale that we’re doing it. That’s another aspect of it, the scale of living up to this Westernized standard of our diet where we have to eat animal products three times a day. Humans didn’t do that before. Most cultures didn’t do that before. Maybe they weren’t 100% vegan, but they also weren’t eating meat three times a day. People couldn’t afford it. Now, we think we can, but we can’t because we are destroying our planet. How can we afford it if we’re not going to have a home? It’s a complete failure to understand the consequences.

Eat for the Earth is an environmentally conscious organization. That’s primarily the motivation for forming the organization at first. We also realize that people are more motivated for self-care than planet care, unfortunately. Once we destroy our home, where are we going to live? We’re not going to have any. It’s so fundamental. Humans are a little bit selfish by nature. We care more about our health, so we took this approach of giving people the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet as a motivating factor, and it has worked.

Care More Be Better | Dr. Maria Jose Hummel | Whole Foods Plant Based
Whole Foods Plant Based: Eat for the Earth is an environmentally conscious organization. It aims to make people more motivated not just by self-care but planet care as well.

 

It’s incredibly important to understand that animal products are one of the most destructive things we can consume for the planet and the environment. One of the best things you can do to save water, CO2 emissions, and all these other things is to shift to more plants. Every person who eats less animals as a result of reading this episode, doing our program, or wherever else they get the information from is having a major impact on our survivability on this planet.

You can vote with your fork three times a day. I would like to follow Jonathan Safran Foer’s recommendations in a couple of his books and also in the essay that he wrote as a contribution to Paul Hawkins’ Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. That was simply to avoid eating animal products before dinner, that if you removed animal products from 2/3 of your meal choices, you would be part of the solution, and that if globally, we undertook that perspective, we’d have a greater impact than if we convinced 10% or 20% of the population to go fully whole foods plant-based.

The likelihood of us getting to 20% of people going whole foods plant-based is pretty slim. We have to reduce to the point where people consider these animal-based products more of a condiment. Much as Dr. William Lee recommends in his work, he wants you to eat a wide variety of food and fill your plate with all sorts of different things.

If you look at meat, consider it more like you would in a stir fry. It’s a small portion of the meal or something to that effect. You’ll be in better health, your cholesterol levels will drop, and your lipoproteins will be more imbalanced. You’re not going to run into serious congestive heart issues or you’ll be a lot less likely to. Overall, you’ll feel better.

Ultimately, when I try to look at the top line of what this style of eating does for people from a health perspective, it’s an anti-inflammatory diet. You’re reducing inborn inflammation in the body, which reduces your likelihood of having something like Type 2 diabetes and improves your circulation. If you have cold hands or cold feet all the time, there could be a reason for that. That’s tied to your circulation.

Your mood, energy levels, and hormone balance, all of these things can come into where you’re supposed to be, which is a homeostatic state where your body returns to balance. Balance tends to equal health. If we get the right nutrition and aren’t overloading ourselves with toxins and other junk, then we’ll be healthier. Move away from buying the box of cereal and try something new. You’ll feel better.

Blue Zones Lifestyle

What I wanted to say is that what you’re saying is what the Blue Zone lifestyle is. I don’t know how many in the audience have heard of the Blue Zones, but these are the places on the planet where people live the longest. It’s not just longer where you end up in a nursing home very sick, but instead, people who live to their 90s or 100-plus with much health and no chronic diseases.

None of the Blue Zones were 100% vegan but were mostly plant-based. None of them were below 90% plants. That’s interesting to think about. They were between 92% and 98% plant-based. In fact, the longest-living people in the population are the people in Okinawa, Japan. Unfortunately, that has been lost with the newer generation. Unfortunately, the grandchildren of these centenarians are not eating what their grandparents were eating throughout their lives.

The people who made it to 100 ate 98% plant-based throughout their lives and only used animal products as a celebration for birthdays and this and that. It’s the same thing with the Adventists in Loma Linda, who are probably the longest-living subgroup, not a population. They’re mostly plant-based. Although some of them are vegetarian as opposed to vegan, most are plant-based. They eat very little animal products and are living to their 100s.

It’s a lifestyle that produces longevity, meaning that our bodies are best adapted or designed for this. Therefore, we thrive on plants and very minimal animal foods. Our anatomy, physiology, and all these clinical studies and epidemiological studies confirm the fact that these centenarians were doing the right thing. Our bodies are not meant to eat high amounts of animal products. They’re not designed for it physiologically or anatomically. We get our best outcomes when we eat what our bodies are meant to eat, which are plants.

Corrina’s Testimony

I love that. I feel so good about everything that we’ve shared with our audience so far. I do want to end this with a bit of commentary myself, and then I’d like to open the floor for you. I ate as an omnivore proudly for 47 years. It wasn’t until 2024 that I transitioned to plant-based. I followed an interesting path in this way because I walked away from fish first and then dairy, and then the other animal meats, which I know is the reverse of what most people experience.

How it happened for me was that I’m an Omega-3 expert. I read a lot in the literature about the health of our oceans. I couldn’t stomach continuing to be part of the problem that was the decline of our ocean health. I am an environmentalist. I’m a scuba diver. I notice the differences when I go into Monterey Bay or when I dive in Hawaii, and it breaks my heart. It’s like, “What can I do to make a difference?”

On the dairy side of things, I learned that I was sensitive to dairy. I didn’t think much of it, but anytime I had coffee with milk in it, I’d get a little blah and stuff like that. It made me worse at hosting. I had more mouth noise that I didn’t like. I drifted away from that even though I loved milk. I’m 99% whole foods plant-based. I will still occasionally have real parmesan on my pasta, but that’s about it.

I will never be the super militant vegan. I will never judge people for their food choices. I’m only here to help you on your journey. If you want to know more, I’ll help you learn more. I really don’t think that the kitchen should be a place for judgment or for us to have religious beliefs and dogmas that limit, define, and separate us.

Closing Words

What I like about what Eat For the Earth is doing is how welcoming they are with the information they share and how non-judgmental they are. I’m proud to be affiliated with you and through Beth. Perhaps one day, I can contribute in a greater capacity. With that, I’d love to offer you the floor to share any closing thoughts.

I am super thankful for the opportunity that you have given me to express what our program is all about. Hopefully, more people will hear about it and know about it. If people want to volunteer for us, we will take you because we’re only a two-person organization. We don’t have huge funds. Also, we accept donors. If people are interested in helping us grow this program, we are open to scaling it up because we partner with healthcare.

We partner with healthcare providers. They send us their patients. That’s a perfect solution for our problems, like lack of access to quality healthcare, not having enough money to see a doctor or whatever, no insurance, and this and that. We want to partner with healthcare so that healthcare can be more effective and that we can reverse these chronic diseases that the pharmaceuticals are not helping with, honestly. We want to have that balance. If we can scale this up, that’s great. We’re open to people wanting to help us with that, whether it’s volunteering or they want to participate in the program. If you’re in Santa Cruz County or even Monterey County and want to drive, we want to help you as well.

The thing I want to also say is people don’t need Ozempic. They’re not deficient in a drug. That’s not necessarily the pathway to long-term sustained health where that might be a Band-Aid solution that a doctor works with you to be a part of your protocol. They aren’t intended for people to stay on those drugs forever. You really need to address lifestyle. Whole foods plant-based seems like one of the best solutions for the broadest swath of our population. I encourage people to check it out and to learn more through you. Thank you so much for joining me.

Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

As a reminder, we are launching our new Cause Before Commerce site this summer 2024, CircleB.co. This site will host the same content that you find on CareMoreBeBetter.com while also providing helpful tools to get you a little greener and a little more socially and locally engaged. You’ll find how-to guides and DIY tools that can help you renew what you have, replace things that you buy, and reduce waste.

CircleB.co will offer plastic-free products, from housewares and clothing to supplements and personal care items, all of which are circular in design, that minimize waste and seek to limit or eliminate plastics. You can explore our landing page. To learn more about this upcoming launch, visit CircleB.co. Thank you, everyone, now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even regain the health of our youth while dramatically reducing our carbon footprints as we eat for humanity and for the earth. Thank you.

 

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Author

  • Corinna Bellizzi

    Corinna is a natural products industry executive who has earned a reputation for leading the development and growth of responsible brands (e.g. Nordic Naturals, iwi, NutriGold). In her professional life, she champions social benefit programs to enhance company impact while preserving and protecting our home planet. She’s presently working tirelessly on the development of a new pre-market that seeks to achieve a carbon-negative impact. In January 2021 she launched her show, Care More, Be Better: A Social Impact + Sustainability Podcast to amplify the efforts of inspired individuals and conscious companies. Through Care More Be Better, she shares their stories in an effort to show us all that one person with one idea can have a big impact. As part of her lifelong education journey, she earned her MBA from Santa Clara University, graduating at the top of her class with a triple focus in Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Marketing in June 2021.

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