5 Delicious Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

5 Delicious Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

2 min read

Incorporating these nutrient-rich options into your diet can contribute to better heart health and help reduce the effects of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugars, which are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease

1. Blueberries

Blueberries, rich in antioxidants, are a powerful ally in reducing oxidative stress, a key contributor to cardiovascular disease. Their anti-inflammatory properties not only aid in fighting plaque buildup in arteries but also contribute to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, making them a delicious and heart-protective addition to your diet. 

The Prescription: 1 cup of blueberries a day for 8 weeks has been shown to decrease systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by about 5% and 6%, respectively. 

Recipe: Mango Melon Berry Chia Pudding

2. Beets

Incorporating beets, which are rich in nitrates, into your diet can contribute to lower blood pressure levels. Nitrates from these beets promote the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that helps relax blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and supporting cardiovascular health. Meta-analyses indicate that a 10 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure correlates with a 20% lower risk of major cardiovascular events, 17% for coronary artery disease, 27% for stroke, 28% for heart failure, and 13% for all-cause mortality. 

The Prescription: 1/3 cup of beetroot juice a day for 60 days has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10 mm Hg and 7 mm Hg, respectively. 

Recipe: Grapefruit Arugula Beet Salad

3. Leafy Greens

Leafy green vegetables are also a great source of nitrates, which can help lower blood pressure. Lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard are some examples of leafy greens with high amounts of nitrates. 

The Prescription: 1 cup of cooked spinach has been shown to decrease arterial stiffness by 7% and reduce systolic blood pressure by 4 mmHg within 7 days. 

Recipe: Kale Potato Salad

4. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a nutritional powerhouse known for their ability to reduce CVD risk. Rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, flaxseeds contribute to lower blood pressure and reduced inflammation, supporting heart health. Additionally, their high fiber content aids in cholesterol management and blood sugar control. Fiber helps remove cholesterol from the body by binding to it in the digestive system, preventing its absorption and facilitating its excretion, ultimately contributing to lower cholesterol levels and improved heart health. 

The Prescription: 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed a day for 12 weeks has been shown to lower fasting blood glucose by 17% and lower LDL cholesterol by 20%. Other studies have shown 3 tablespoons a day to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 10% and 8%, respectively. 

Recipe: Watermelon Cocoa Bowl

5. Beans

Beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber, which plays a crucial role in lowering cholesterol levels and protecting against CVD. The soluble fiber in beans forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system, binding to cholesterol and aiding in its elimination from the body. Regular bean consumption is linked to improved lipid profiles. Daily bean consumption is a common dietary practice observed throughout longevity-promoting populations, as exemplified in the Blue Zones, communities with some of the longest-living people. 

The Prescription: ½ – 1 cup of beans a day (black, navy, pinto, kidney, etc) has been shown to reduce total cholesterol levels by 3% – 5.5% and reduce LDL cholesterol by 3.8% – 8%, within one month. 

Recipe: Tuscan White Bean Kale Soup

Understanding Heart Disease: Am I at Risk?

Understanding Heart Disease: Am I at Risk?

2 min read

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of disorders that affects the heart and blood vessels. It’s an umbrella term that includes conditions like coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. Genetics, your environment, and your lifestyle choices can all contribute to your risk for developing CVD. Here are conditions that serve as warning signs and can develop into more serious disorders down the road: 

Early Warning Signs & Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease 

High Blood Pressure 

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a condition that strains the walls of the arteries, potentially leading to serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease. It is typically defined by two measurements: systolic pressure (the pressure when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats). The normal blood pressure reading is at or slightly below 120/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is diagnosed when readings consistently exceed 130/80 mm Hg, but anything between 120/80 mm and 130/80 mm Hg is considered elevated blood pressure. Regular monitoring of blood pressure is crucial and can be done at home using blood pressure monitors. 

High Cholesterol  

High cholesterol is a condition that’s diagnosed when you have elevated levels of total cholesterol with particular attention paid to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, often called “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and ApoB levels. High cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in arteries, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will measure cholesterol levels through a blood test. Typically, your provider will look at both your levels of LDL cholesterol and your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, aiming for lower LDL and higher HDL levels and total cholesterol levels falling below 200 mg/dL. They will also note your levels of triglycerides and ApoB to make sure they are within a safe range for your CVD risk. Lifestyle changes, including a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication prescribed by healthcare providers, are all important parts of managing high cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart-related complications. 

Chronic Hyperglycemia  

Hyperglycemia — elevated levels of glucose in your blood — often comes with a diagnosis of either type 1 and type 2 diabetes or prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not yet in the diabetes range. Prediabetes often goes undiagnosed — the CDC estimates that up to 80% of individuals may be unaware of their constant high blood sugar levels. Hyperglycemia damages the lining of your blood vessels worsening high blood pressure and potentially damaging other tissues in the eyes and kidneys. It can also have a big impact on your triglyceride and other cholesterol levels. If you have chronic high blood sugar levels, your provider will likely regularly monitor your blood glucose levels, advise you on lifestyle changes like diet and exercise that can help manage the condition and reduce the risks to your heart health. 

Adopting a heart-healthy diet, particularly one rich in plants (fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and legumes) can help treat the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease (CVD). These foods are inherently high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, which collectively contribute to lowering cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, and improving blood vessel function. Here are 5 foods that can boost heart health.

5 Easy, Achievable Changes for a Healthier Diet

5 Easy, Achievable Changes for a Healthier Diet

4 min read

If you’re interested in improving your diet, but you’re not quite ready to go completely plant-based, here are five simple ways to boost your plant intake and improve your overall health. Adopt all five or choose strategies that are realistic for you and your lifestyle. Remember that the goal is to make successful, sustainable changes, not sacrifices. We want you to look forward to meals and snacks and enjoy healthful eating.

1. Eat more veggies.

Eating more veggies may seem obvious but try to make this goal “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) rather than vague. Here are some specific examples of what a SMART veggie goal may look like:  

  • Eat one vegetable at every meal.  
  • Eat three different types of vegetables every day.  
  • Try one new vegetable every week.  
  • Eat a salad before dinner daily.  
  • Plan meals around vegetables, not meat, and make the veggie the star of the show. 
  • Fill half of every plate with vegetables at least two times per day. 

If you don’t eat many vegetables now, start with smaller portions and work your way up.  Also, feel free to surpass the amounts in the example goals.  

Vegetables provide health protective micronutrients as well as fiber.  Fiber helps regulate blood sugar, promotes bowel regularity and a healthy gut, and supports weight management.  If you don’t currently consume many fiber sources (fruits, vegetables, legumes, or whole grains), add fiber to your diet gradually to allow your digestive system to adjust, and be sure to drink plenty of water.

2. Eat more plant-based protein.

Plant-based proteins include black beans, chickpeas, lentils, edamame, tofu, tempeh, nuts, seeds, and more. Work towards replacing at least one source of animal protein with a plant-based option each day.   

Try swapping your morning eggs for a breakfast scramble made from tofu or chickpeas. Opt for a hummus, veggie, and avocado wrap for lunch instead of a meat and cheese sandwich or replace ground beef with beans or lentils on taco night. These simple swaps don’t require drastic changes to your diet, but they can significantly benefit your health.  

Plant-based proteins provide fiber, antioxidants, and micronutrients, and replacing animal protein with plant protein is linked to improved longevity.  

3. Trade refined grains for whole grains.

Whole grains contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fiber supports bowel regularity and improvements in weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. A higher fiber intake is also linked to a reduced chronic disease risk and improved life span.  

Replacing refined grains with whole grains is one simple way to improve your overall diet. Whole grains include brown rice, barley, millet, whole grain pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain bread, farro, whole grain crackers, and whole grain tortillas. Here are some examples of what a SMART whole grain goal may look like: 

  • Consume one whole grain source daily, such as oats at breakfast. 
  • Consume one whole grain source at each meal, such as oats at breakfast, quinoa at lunch, and brown rice at dinner. 
  • Swap out two refined grain products you regularly consume for whole grain alternatives (examples: swap out white bread for 100% whole grain bread and replace white flour crackers with 100% whole grain crackers). 
  • Buy one new whole grain option each time you grocery shop. 

4. Drink more water and less sugary beverages.

Simply drinking enough water each day can offer tremendous health benefits. But swapping out sugary drinks for water can seriously upgrade your health. Sugary drinks add surplus calories without providing any nutritional value, and a high intake of added sugar increases health risks. Water helps your body function properly and replacing sugary drinks with water can improve your overall energy levels and support circulation and digestive health.  

The goal is to consume at least eight cups of water daily.  Here are some examples of ways to reach this goal:  

  • Keep a water bottle nearby while you work (such as at your desk) to sip on throughout the day.   
  • Attach water to a frequent action. For example, take a sip every time you stand up, check your phone, or send an email.   
  • Drink a glass of water before or during every meal.  
  • Set timed, individual goals throughout the day, such as having three glasses of water before lunch. Note: you can purchase large water bottles with pre-marked goals and timelines. 
  • Add flavor to your water naturally with infusions of fresh fruit, herbs, or cucumber. 

5. Optimize your snacks.

Snacking can be a smart way to tide you over between meals, so you don’t get overly hungry. Healthy snacks can also help you take in more nutrients and regulate blood sugar, insulin, and energy levels.  

Instead of swearing off snacks, optimize them. Choose whole or very minimally processed foods over ultra-processed choices and try to include a protein source to feel fuller and more energized. For example, instead of peanut butter crackers enjoy a sliced apple dipped in all-natural peanut butter. Rather than chips, try whole grain crackers or raw veggies with hummus. 

Optimizing your snacks can improve your overall nutrient intake, elevate your energy level, and prevent overindulging at your next meal.   

Additional examples of whole food, optimized snacks with protein include:  

  • Fresh or dried fruit + nuts  
  • Energy balls made with nut butter + oats and dried fruit 
  • A fruit smoothie + flax/chia/hemp seeds 
  • Granola + plant-based yogurt (with at least five grams of protein) 
  • Roasted chickpeas  
  • Edamame 
  • Fruity chia seed pudding 
  • Overnight oats + nuts/seeds  

Get more expert advice on how to feel better for good. Sign up for our newsletter here.

Fiber and Gut Health: The Ultimate Guide

Fiber and Gut Health: The Ultimate Guide

2 min read

What is fiber?  

Dietary fiber is a nondigestible material found only in plants that offers important health benefits, like reducing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and helping with bowel regularity. Fiber is found in whole, plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. When you eat packaged foods, you’ll find the grams of fiber per serving listed on the Nutrition Facts labels. Throughout the day your meals and snacks will provide various amounts of fiber that add up to your total daily fiber intake.

How much fiber do I need?  

The recommended total daily daily fiber intake is 21-25 grams for women and 30-38 grams for men. However, many lifestyle medicine practitioners recommend as much as 40-50 grams of fiber a day for both men and women.

Why is more fiber better?  

Fiber has beneficial effects at higher doses. In fact, every 10 grams of fiber consumed reduces death risk by 10 percent. Fiber is filling and delays the return of hunger. It supports weight control and helps reduce the risk of developing constipation and diverticular disease as well as heart disease and diabetes.

What are the two types of fiber?  

There are two different types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – and both have positive effects on your health.  Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel-like consistency. Soluble fiber slows the rate at which food moves through your digestive tract. This slows the absorption of sugar from your digestive tract into your bloodstream, which prevents blood sugar spikes.  Soluble fiber also helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and supports a healthy gut microbiome, the community of microorganisms that live in the human gut. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water. It adds bulk to your stool, promotes regular bowel movements, and supports overall gut health.

Can I get too much fiber?  

A high-fiber diet may need to be avoided if gut inflammation has caused the digestive tract to become narrowed, blocked, or particularly irritated. This can occur during an acute diverticulitis or IBD flare-up. In addition, too much fiber in supplement form (70+ grams per day) can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies. Fiber supplements can also decrease the absorption of certain medications, such as aspirin.

For more information check out Fiber and its Role in Preventing Chronic Conditions.

Baking Makeovers: Healthier Swaps for Holiday Favorites

Baking Makeovers: Healthier Swaps for Holiday Favorites

2 min read

If you’re looking for ways to indulge in your favorite holiday treats and family recipes with less sugar and oil, here are four surprising ingredient swaps to lighten things up.

Sugar Replacements for Baking

Sweetener Mashed Banana

Substitute ripe mashed banana for half the amount of sugar, honey, brown sugar, or agave a recipe calls for. For example, if the recipe lists 1 cup of sugar, omit the sugar and use approximately ½ cup of mashed banana instead.  

Tip: Using bananas not only cuts down on calories and sugar content but also adds fiber and nutrients. 

Sweetener Dates 

Dates are chewy but sweet fruits that are full of nutrients and packed with fiber. They’re often used to mimic a chocolate-like flavor in baking. Chop up or purée dates and use a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of sugar, use approximately ½ cup of chopped or puréed dates instead.  

Tip: Dates often have pits, so be sure to remove pits before you add the fruit to your food processor. You can save a step by buying pitted dates where the pit has already been removed. 

Oil Replacements for Baking 

Oil Unsweetened Applesauce  

Use unsweetened applesauce instead of oil when making a recipe. Use a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, use ½ cup of applesauce instead. If you don’t like how the item turns out, try substituting applesauce for half of the oil. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, use ¼  cup of oil and ¼ cup of applesauce.

Tip: Substituting applesauce lowers the amount of saturated fat and calories you add to baked goods. Additionally, the fruit provides bonus fiber and micronutrients. 

Oil Puréed Pumpkin/Squash 

Canned pumpkin purée provides fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A, potassium, and more. Look for 100% pure pumpkin rather than a canned pumpkin pie mix with added sugars and spices. Another healthy option to look for is canned squash purée (e.g. butternut). Like applesauce, puréed pumpkin or squash can be substituted for oil in a 1:1 ratio. For every 1 cup of oil the recipe calls for, use 1 cup of puréed pumpkin or squash instead.  

Tip: Pumpkin purée can also be used as a substitute for egg. Replace 1 egg with ¼ cup of pumpkin purée.

Want more recipes? Check out these sweet treats from our partners at Mastering Diabetes and Love.Life Telehealth

5 Expert-Approved Holiday Eating Hacks

5 Expert-Approved Holiday Eating Hacks

2 min read

The holidays are meant to be a time filled with family, fun, and food. But let’s face it, being surrounded by traditional holiday foods and loved ones who may not have similar health goals as you can be tricky. Here are some obstacles you may encounter this holiday season and evidence-based tips to help keep healthy habits in mind while still enjoying the festivities.  

Appetizers and Potlucks  

Holiday parties often involve heavy appetizers either served before the main course or set up along one table for easy grazing and socializing.

Tip: Try to Avoid Mindless Munching 

  • When chatting with friends, try to avoid standing or sitting near the appetizers, as this can lead to mindless snacking while your attention is focused on your environment and not your food.
  • Instead of grazing from the table or passed hors d’oeuvres, ask for a smaller appetizer or dessert-sized plate to help with portion control. Portioning out your appetizers ahead of time will help you to avoid overeating before the main course.  
  • If you find this is an area you struggle with, you can also consider skipping the appetizers altogether. 

Tip: Bring a Plant-based Dish to Share  

Depending on your social circle, potlucks may not feature lots of nutrient dense or plant-based dishes. Here’s how to prepare:

  • Instead of worrying about what will be available to you, bring a dish that features a plant-based protein such as beans, lentils, tempeh, or tofu to ensure you have enough protein on your plate to feel satisfied throughout the event. Do not be afraid to use sides that are plant-based as your main course instead of taking a “side-sized” portion.

Tip: Pile on the Color and Fiber

Filling your plate with fiber first is a good way to balance blood sugar and avoid filling up on calorie dense food to stay satisfied. 

  • Appetizers can be a great place to get in your fiber from veggie trays, fruit salads, and tapas-based salad options. 
  • Consider focusing more of your intake on fiber appetizers and enjoy a lighter meal, if you know plant-based options are less likely to appear on the dinner table.  


Tip: Pair Desserts with Dinner 

Avoid eating desserts or sweet treats on an empty stomach. Refined sugars and grains are often available for snacking during the holidays, but are much better for your blood sugar when consumed after a meal or protein and fiber rich snack. 

  • Try to enjoy dessert close to your meal to provide a sweet after-snack. Aim to choose desserts that provide fiber-rich fruit, so you feel satisfied after your meal. 


Tip: Manage and Minimize Consumption

Truth: Lots of events center around alcohol during the holiday season. Excessive amounts of alcohol are linked to many health problems, such as liver disease, heart disease, various cancers, and neurological disorders. 

  • To avoid a helpful host constantly offering to fill an empty glass, many people find having something in your hand can prevent hosts from asking if you want another drink. 
  • Consider having soda water with lemon or lime, so you are able to hydrate while enjoying a simple, low sugar mocktail.  
  • Alternating between a cocktail and soda water can balance your alcohol intake.  
  • Not everyone’s health goals align and that is okay!  Surround yourself with people who support your goals, regardless of their own.  
How to Master a Menu: Your Guide to Nutrition When Dining Out

How to Master a Menu: Your Guide to Nutrition When Dining Out

5 min read

The average American dines out 4 to 5 times per week, which means about 25% of calories consumed each week come from restaurants. Eating away from home can have its pitfalls, but there are practical ways to enjoy restaurant meals while still prioritizing optimal nutrition and wellness.

10 Tips to Maximize Nutrition When You Dine Out 

  1. Check out the menu online and pre-decide what to order (it’s harder to make healthy choices when you’re hungry!). 
  2. Eat veggies and/or fruit before you go if you can’t get them (or get enough of them) in your meal. Good choices include raw or leftover roasted veggies, a side salad, a broth-based veggie soup, cut or loose seasonal fruit, or a small apple or pear. 
  3. When ordering, select veggie options first, like salads, veggie sides, and veggie soups, and build your meals around them.  
  4. Opt for plant-based proteins like lentils, black beans, or split peas, tofu, or tempeh. If you eat animal-based foods, lean choices include baked or grilled fish or poultry. 
  5. Include whole food carbohydrates. Go for whole grains over refined grains, like brown or wild rice, quinoa, or roasted corn. Starchy veggies are another great choice, such as roasted fingerling potatoes or sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or root vegetables.  
  6. Look for good fats. These may include a side of avocado or whole olives, or a garnish of nuts or seeds.   
  7. Choose water, sparkling water, or herbal tea for hydration. If you do drink alcohol, stick with moderate amounts, which means no more than one standard drink for women or two for men. One drink means 5 ounces of wine, a 12-ounce beer, or one shot of distilled spirits, like tequila or vodka. If you prefer a cocktail, substitute soda or a sugary mixer with a combo of sparkling water, a splash of 100% fruit juice (like fresh squeezed lime or pomegranate juice), and flavorful all-natural add-ins, like fresh mint or ginger.       
  8. Eat slowly. Put your utensil down between bites, take your time, and savor your food. Tune into your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues and use them to guide your portions (rather than automatically cleaning your plate).   
  9. If you order dessert, choose a can’t-live-without favorite or something that offers key nutrients that also sound satisfying, like an option made with fruit, dark chocolate, or nuts. To limit added sugar consider splitting a dessert with a dining companion. If you already feel full and satisfied, enjoy tea or coffee instead; don’t feel obligated to eat dessert even if everyone else does.
  10. Take a post-meal walk. Brief 15-minute post-meal walks have been shown to help support healthy blood sugar regulation. It’s also great for digestion and it’s a nice way to get outdoors and spend a little extra time with your dining partner(s).  
Pros of Dining Out Cons of Dining Out 
It’s a chance to enjoy social time with friends, family, or co-workers.  It’s typically more expensive than cooking at home. 
Great opportunity to try new healthy dishes, like vegetables and plant-based ethnic cuisines.  Restaurant meals tend to be much higher in sodium, oil, and added sugar.   
It can be healthier than convenience foods you might eat at home, like frozen dinners.   You have less control over how your food is made, as far as ingredients, types of oils used, cooking techniques, and portions.  

Alternatives Based on Why You Dine Out  

Instead of Going Out to Eat as A Social Activity   Instead of Dining Out for Convenience Instead of Dining Out to Celebrate 
Plan non-food activities with others:  Go for a walk, hike, or bike ride. Plan a card game or board game night. Organize a game of tennis, basketball, volleyball, racquetball, catch, pickleball, etc.  Go bowling, fowling, or ax throwing. See a movie or play. Start a book club. Learn a new hobby with others, such as croqueting, painting, pottery making, or knitting. Take a language class. Take a yoga, meditation, or exercise class. Go shopping. Volunteer. Have a bonfire. Go to a comedy show or ballet.  Go to trivia night or karaoke/open mic night.  Do an escape room.  Go putt-putting or to an arcade. Go to a local fair or festival.  Go to an amusement park or water park.  Go to a professional or minor league sports game.  Opt for quick and easy make-at-home meals.   Consider non-food ways to celebrate: Treat yourself to a massage or other self-care activity.  Plan a picnic at a favorite outdoor spot.  Buy tickets to a fun event, like a concert or musical.  Take a few hours to enjoy a museum or art exhibit. Plan a mini vacation or staycation. Enjoy ‘you time’ to read, take a nap, or take a bath.  Go dancing, take a dance class (or dance in your living room).   Buy yourself fresh cut flowers or a new plant.  Go skiing, snowboarding, or skating. Go surfing, swimming, or walk on the beach.  Go to the zoo or aquarium. Go horseback riding.  Go rock-climbing. Do a puzzle.  Go roller skating.  Go kayaking or canoeing.  Garden.  Go on a scenic drive.  Go to the driving range.  Do archery.  

Ethnic Cuisines and Healthy Dishes to Look For 

Although these dishes are typically plant-based, sodium, sugar, or fat may be added – especially in sauces. Don’t be afraid to ask your wait staff for more information about a dish before you order to clarify how it’s made. 

  • East Asian Inspired
    • Gỏi cuốn chay – Vietnamese vegetable summer rolls (not fried)
    • Vegetable sushi (avoid tempura)
    • Sekihan (Japanese) / Parbap (Korean) / hóngdòu fàn (Chinese) – beans and rice 
    • Vegetarian stir fry (ask for sauce on the side or without)
    • Vegetable Thai dish (be cautious of sauce)
    • Kimchi – Korean fermented cabbage and other vegetables
    • Boribap – Korean rice and barley with vegetables
  • South Asian Inspired
    • Aloo gobi – potato and cauliflower curry
    • Chana masala – chickpea tomato curry dish
    • Rajma chawal – red kidney bean curry dish (ask if made with cream)
    • Dal bhat – lentils and rice
  • Latin Inspired
    • Moros y Cristianos – Cuban beans and rice dish
    • Vegetable bean bowl
    • Black bean tacos or burritos (load up with vegetables!)
  • Mediterranean Inspired
    • Louvi – black eyed bean salad
    • Tabbouleh – Lebanese, herb-based salad
    • Briam – roasted vegetable dish
    • Spanakorizo – Greek spinach and rice dish
    • Hummus with vegetables or pita 
    • Baba ghanoush with vegetables or pita – roasted eggplant dip
  • Middle Eastern Inspired
    • Imam bayildi – Turkish stuffed eggplant
    • Mujadara – lentil and onion grain dish
    • Ful medames – fava bean stew
  • Italian Inspired (consider asking for dishes without protein additions or cheese and be cautious of added creams to sauces)
    • Spaghetti alla puttanesca – vegetable pasta dish (usually with oil) 
    • Marinara (cautious of added sugars and sodium)
    • Aglio e Olio aka Spaghetti with garlic (ask for low or no added parmesan and oil free)
    • Fra diavolo – spicy red sauce
    • Lemon sauce
    • Pesto pasta
  • French Inspired
    • Ratatouille – roasted vegetable dish
  • African Inspired
    • Zaalouk – Moroccan eggplant, tomato salad 

5 Tips if Weight Loss is a Goal  

  • Ask for a window seat at a table away from the kitchen and bar. Studies show that people who sit in these locations consume less food, drink fewer alcoholic beverages, and don’t feel as hungry. 
  • Skip the bread or pre-meal chips. In addition to the extra calories, research has shown that eating bread stimulates your appetite, so you’ll likely eat and order more food than you need.
  • Eat a high-fiber food first, like salad or an appetizer of veggies with hummus. This will fill you up and help prevent a blood sugar spike.
  • Reduce portions by making an appetizer or a few side dishes for your meal rather than a large entrée.     
  • It takes 20 minutes for you to feel full, so try not to rush through your meal. Take smaller bites, chew slowly, and savor your food.   

Quick Tip 

Build a list of healthy go-to restaurants in your area. Ask friends or family members who share similar health goals for recommendations. Check the internet, social media, and travel guides for ideas. Search for “healthy restaurant” in your city, as well as terms like “farm to table,” “whole food,” and “plant-based.” You can also try phone apps for healthy options, like Happy Cow. Or search for healthy options within apps, like Uber Eats and Grub Hub. Save your favorite restaurants and orders so you’ll have them at the ready.    

Did You Know?   

According to the CDC, on average, fast food meals contain 1,848 mg of sodium and dine-in restaurant meals pack 2,090 mg of sodium per 1,000 calories eaten? That means just one meal ordered away from home nearly hits or exceeds the maximum recommended daily sodium limit depending on the calorie level. Excess sodium has been shown to up the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. If you dine out frequently this is one key reason to consider cutting back.     

Quick Tip 

For more nutritious meals avoid dishes with these menu descriptors: 

  • Fried  
  • Pan-fried 
  • Alfredo 
  • Smothered
  • Crispy
  • Dipped
  • Scalloped
  • Loaded
  • Deep fried
  • Gratin
  • Buttery
  • Cheesy
  • Creamy  
What is Lifestyle Medicine?

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

2 min read

Did you know that about 80 percent of the top causes of death in this country are rooted in our lifestyle behaviors?  But we can prevent, treat, and, in many cases, even reverse these conditions with an improved focus on making healthy lifestyle choices. 

So what is lifestyle medicine? Unlike traditional medicine, which typically relies on medications and procedures to treat symptoms, lifestyle medicine addresses the root causes of disease by helping people adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that affect health and quality of life. It emphasizes better nutrition and eating more fruits and veggies, increased physical activity, stress management, toxin avoidance, restorative sleep, and social connection. 

It’s an evidence-based specialty, so just like you can see a cardiologist, a dermatologist, or a gastroenterologist, you can see a doctor that’s board-certified in Lifestyle Medicine. At Love.Life we make it easy to see a lifestyle medicine doctor no matter where you live by offering virtual appointments nationally and even internationally through Love.Life Telehealth. 

We believe this evolved, holistic approach is the future of healthcare and at Love.Life, our mission is to bring this knowledge to more people to help them live better for longer.  Let’s break down each of the six pillars:

  1. Nutrition: Lifestyle medicine encourages a mostly whole-food, plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. By focusing on nutrient-dense foods and minimizing processed options, we can nourish our bodies and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. 
  1. Fitness: Regular movement is vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or participating in sports, physical activity helps improve cardiovascular and brain health, strengthen muscles and bones, enhance mood, and reduce the risk of numerous diseases.  
  1.  Stress Management: Encountering occasional stress is inevitable, but chronic stress takes a toll on our physical and mental well-being. Lifestyle medicine emphasizes stress reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, mindfulness, and adequate rest. By managing stress effectively we can improve our immune function, sleep better, and gain mental clarity. 
  1. Sleep: Quality sleep is essential for optimal health. Lifestyle medicine recognizes the importance of establishing consistent sleep patterns and prioritizing adequate rest. Sufficient sleep improves cognitive function, regulates hormones, and strengthens the immune system. 
  1. Toxin Avoidance: It is well known that tobacco use and drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of many chronic diseases and even death. Consuming less or maybe even cutting out these substances is crucial for living a longer, better quality life. We know that this sometimes requires patience, self-compassion, and support from others, which brings us to… 
  1. Social Connection: Human beings are social creatures, and fostering meaningful connections is crucial for our overall well-being. Lifestyle medicine encourages building and nurturing relationships, participating in community activities, and seeking emotional support when it is needed. Strong social relationships have been linked to improved mental health, reduced blood pressure and stress, and increased longevity just to name a few of the many benefits. 

By adopting these healthy lifestyle practices, individuals can reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity and increase longevity, and optimize mental and physical performance. Whether you’re looking to prevent chronic diseases, manage existing conditions, or simply enhance your overall well-being, lifestyle medicine offers a holistic and sustainable approach to health. 

The 18 Micronutrients Plant-Eaters Need

The 18 Micronutrients Plant-Eaters Need

10 min read

If you choose to follow a plant-based diet, there are certain nutrients you’ll need to be sure to get enough of. This article covers which nutrients to focus on, where to find them, and how much you need.  

Vitamin D 

Why do you need it? 

Vitamin D is needed to support your immune system, bone and muscle health, and aid in kidney function. Too little vitamin D can up the risk of muscle dysfunction, bone loss, neurological diseases, and heart disease. 

Where do you find it? 

The best source of Vitamin D is the sun. Between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm your body best absorbs sunlight, which triggers the natural production of vitamin D. Consider getting 15-20 minutes of sun exposure before applying sunscreen to allow for adequate vitamin D synthesis. However, outside of the 15–20-minute window, wear a hat, use UV protective clothing and apply sunscreen to minimize the sun’s harmful effects.  

If you don’t have an opportunity to get outside, don’t live in a sunny climate, or have darker-pigmented skin, your body may not make enough vitamin D from the sun. If so, look for healthful plant foods that have been fortified with Vitamin D. White or portabella mushrooms provide vitamin D, and like us, their levels rise when exposed to sunlight. “Sun” your mushrooms in a nearby window to increase their vitamin D content before consuming.  

How much do you need? 

Men and women 19-70 years of age need 600 IUs per day and those over 70 require 800 IUs daily.   

If you’re considering a vitamin D supplement, Love.Life is here to help. Set up an appointment with your Love.Life provider to have your blood vitamin D level tested. We’ll assess the results and develop a supplementation plan tailored to your body’s needs.  

Vitamin B12 

Why do you need it? 

Vitamin B12 is required to produce energy, so a lack of this nutrient can cause weakness and fatigue. Vitamin B12 is also used to produce red blood cells, so too little can lead to anemia. Lastly, vitamin B12 is used in DNA production and supports the health of nerve tissues. Inadequate levels can lead to vision impairment, memory loss, dementia, psychosis, abnormal movements, numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, and more.  

Where do you find it? 

Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria and is found in most animal products because of bacterial exposure in the food chain. If you choose to follow a predominantly plant-based diet, vitamin B12 is a major nutrient of concern for deficiency. Additionally, many people have genetic predispositions to lower vitamin B12 levels, so screenings are important for everyone. 

While some foods are fortified with vitamin B12, like nutritional yeast or whole grain cereals, generally you will not get enough from plant foods alone. We typically suggest taking 250-500 mcg of methylcobalamin a day for those on a predominately or exclusively plant-based diet. We encourage you to speak with your Love.Life medical team if you are concerned about your vitamin B12 intake and needs. 

How much do you need?  

Those 14 and older need a minimum of 2.4 mcg a day while pregnant women need 2.6 mcg and lactating females need 2.8 mcg daily. Note: supplemental forms B12 are usually given at much higher doses because there is a low absorption rate from the digestive tract into the bloodstream.  

Omega-3 Fatty Acid 

Why do you need it? 

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. That means your body cannot make them, so you must consume food sources to meet your needs.  

Omega-3 fatty acids are used to make hormones that regulate blood clotting, reduce inflammation, and promote blood flow. They reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol” as well as triglycerides. Omega-3 fatty acids are also important in fetal growth and development. Not consuming enough of these important fats can lead to rough, scaly skin and skin inflammation. 

Through a multi-step process, your body can convert a type of omega-3 found in plants called ALA to forms your body needs called EPA and DHA. However, the conversion is minimal.   

Where do you find it?  

ALA omega-3 fatty acids are found in many plant fats, including flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, olive oil, edamame, seaweed, walnuts, and whole wheat bread. DHA and EPA forms can be obtained from algal oil supplements.  

How much do you need? 

The recommended intake for ALA is 1.6 grams per day for males and 1.3 grams per day for females. Your Love.Life providers may prescribe a supplementation to help optimize your omega-3 status.  


Why do you need it? 

Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency, particularly in women, and it’s a crucial nutrient for healthy pregnancies. Iron is used for energy metabolism and the transportation of oxygen and electrons. Without enough iron, you run the risk of anemia, fatigue, brittle nails, and pica (which is cravings for non-food items).  

Where do you find it? 

There are two types of iron called heme and non-heme.  Heme iron is found in animal products and non-heme is found in plants. Sources of non-home iron include lentils, chickpeas, and beans, as well as nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pistachios, and cashews. Non-heme iron may also be added to breakfast cereals and orange juice.  

Compared to heme iron, less non-heme iron is absorbed from the digestive tract into the bloodstream. However, research suggests that heme iron intake may increase the risk of stomach and esophageal cancers. And non-heme iron absorption is significantly increased when this plant iron is consumed with a high vitamin C food, such as citrus fruits or bell peppers.  

It’s also important to note that non-heme iron absorption is reduced when consumed with phytates, such as tea. For this reason, it’s generally recommended to drink tea between rather than with meals. 

How much do you need?  

Women 19-50 years old need 18 mg per day while men 19 and older and all adults over 51 need 8 mg daily. Pregnant women need 27 mg per day and lactating females 19 and up require 9 mg daily.  


Why do you need it? 

Calcium is a crucial mineral for bone and teeth health. In addition to cell structure, calcium regulates cell functions that support the nervous system. Calcium is also needed for muscle contractions, neurosignaling, hormone release, and the formation of new cells. Without adequate calcium, bone health can diminish and lead to osteoporosis or osteomalacia (or bone softening).  

Where do you find it? 

While dairy products do provide calcium, there are also many plant-based sources. They include tofu, spinach, kale, broccoli, pinto beans, cabbage, soybeans, chia seeds, corn tortillas, and whole wheat bread. Orange juice, soy milk, and breakfast cereals may also be fortified with calcium.  

How much do you need?  

Women 19-50 and men 19-70 need 1,000 mg per day, including pregnant and lactating women. Women 51-70+ and men 70+ need 1,200 mg per day.  


Why do you need it? 

Zinc is needed to make enzymes and proteins within the body. It promotes healthy protein structures and gene expression, which contribute to cell production and cell health. A zinc deficiency can affect skin, bones, and various systems in the body, including digestive, reproductive, nervous, and immune systems. Too little zinc can also delay wound healing and cause cognitive changes. 

Where do you find it? 

Zinc can be found in certain seafood and meat products, but also in plants, including baked beans, pumpkin seeds, cashews, chickpeas, almonds, kidney beans, and green peas. 

How much do you need?  

Women 19 and older need 8 mg per day and men 19 and older need 11 mg per day. Pregnant women 19 and older need 11 mg and lactating females in this age group require 12 mg daily.


Why do you need it? 

Iodine has a large impact on thyroid function. Given that the thyroid contributes to hormone regulation, iodine imbalances can lead to hormonal imbalances. It’s also crucial during pregnancy for the prevention of intellectual disabilities.  

Where do you find it? 

Iodine is added to some foods, such as salt and some whole wheat breads. Iodine is also naturally found in seaweed.  

How much do you need?  

Women and men 19 and older need 150 mcg per day. Pregnant women need 220 mcg and lactating females require 290 mcg daily.  


Why do you need it? 

Magnesium is required for a wide array of biological pathways that support energy production and cellular responses. It’s also used to metabolize calcium and can promote healthy sleep. Signs of low magnesium include numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and heart spasms. A more severe magnesium deficiency can lead to low calcium and potassium levels.  

Where do you find it? 

Nuts are rich sources of magnesium, including almonds, cashews, peanuts, and peanut butter. Additionally, whole wheat bread, avocado, baked potatoes, rice, many beans, edamame, soymilk, spinach, bananas, and raisins all contain magnesium.  

How much do you need? 

Women 19 and older need 310-320 mg per day and men 19 and older need 400-420 mg per day. Pregnant women 19 and older need 360 mg and lactating females in this age group require 320 mg daily.  


Why do you need it? 

Selenium is needed to metabolize iodine, so it can impact thyroid and hormone regulation.  A selenium deficiency is potentially Iinked to Kashin-Beck disease, a bone and joint disease, and when paired with another stress to the body, a severe heart condition called Keshan disease. Symptoms of selenium deficiency may include poor growth, muscle pain or weakness, hair loss, and skin discoloration.  

Where do you find it? 

One Brazil nut can provide an entire day’s worth of selenium. But this largely depends on where the Brazil nuts are grown, as the selenium content of soil affects the amount in each nut. Generally, we suggest eating up to five Brazil nuts per day to increase the chances of absorbing adequate selenium. It’s important to note that you can hit an upper limit of selenium quickly if you eat large quantities of Brazil nuts daily, so don’t overdo it.  

You can also obtain selenium from whole wheat bread, oatmeal, baked beans, brown rice, spaghetti sauce, cashews, green peas, bananas, baked potatoes, lentils, corn flakes, and enriched pasta, as well as animal sources.  

How much do you need?  

Those 18 and older need 55 mcg per day, pregnant women need 60 mcg, and lactating females need 70 mcg daily.  


Why do you need it? 

Copper is used in iron transport and has antioxidant properties. Copper also supports skin, hair, and bone functions. Although copper deficiency is rare, it can lead to many health conditions including anemia, bone disease and defects, and high cholesterol, to name a few.  

Where do you find it?  

Copper can be found in legumes, nuts, and seeds such as chickpeas, sunflower seed kernels, cashews, tofu, and sesame seeds. It can also be obtained from shitake mushrooms, whole wheat pasta, avocado, figs, asparagus, and spinach, as well as shellfish and some meats. Your sweet tooth may help satisfy your copper needs since dark chocolate and unsweetened baking chocolate both provide copper. 

How much do you need? 

Those 19 or older need 900 mcg per day, pregnant women need 1,000 mcg and lactating females need 1,300 mcg daily. Note: high doses of zinc can block copper absorption and lead to a deficiency.  


Why do you need it? 

The mineral manganese supports energy usage and neurological functions. It also plays a key role in antioxidant activities, which helps reduce overall disease risk. It’s rare to have a manganese deficiency, but too little can cause issues with bones, skin, hair, and cholesterol as well as mood alterations and more.  

Where do you find it? 

Manganese can be found in some shellfish sources, but also in many nuts and legumes. Hazelnuts, pecans, soybeans, oil-roasted peanuts, lentils, and kidney beans all contain manganese. Other sources include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, black tea, baked potatoes, white rice, acorn squash, blueberries, brown rice, spinach, and pineapple. 

How much do you need? 

Men need 2.3 mcg daily and women need 1.8 mcg per day. Pregnant women need 2 mcg and lactating females need 2.6 mcg daily.   

Vitamin A 

Why do you need it? 

Vitamin A supports vision and too little can cause dryness and inflammation of the eyes, as well as night blindness, or overall blindness. Additionally, vitamin A supports the immune system and reproduction. A deficiency can lead to anemia, respiratory complications, and heightened severity of infections. 

Where do you find it?  

Vitamin A can be found in most orange and red vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe, red peppers, mangoes, and carrots. Spinach also contains vitamin A and breakfast cereals may be fortified with it as well. 

How much do you need?  

Men 18 and older need 900 mcg per day while women 18 and older need 700 mcg daily.  

Vitamin C 

Why do you need it? 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects against chronic diseases. It also supports collagen formation, neurological health, and healthy skin and gums. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to scurvy, which can cause gum decay. A low vitamin C intake can also lead to poor collagen synthesis and trigger skin and joint conditions. 

Where do you find it?  

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and some vegetables. Oranges, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries, and cantaloupe all contain vitamin C, as well as bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, brussels sprouts, and spinach.  

How much do you need?  

Women need 75 mg per day and men need 90 mg daily. Pregnant women 19 and older need 85 mg per day and lactating females need 120 mg daily.   


Why do you need it? 

Niacin is a B vitamin that helps repair DNA and supports nervous system health. It can also decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol. With severe niacin deficiency, pellagra can occur, which is a disease that leads to changes in the skin, digestive system, and neurological system. 

Where do you find it? 

Niacin can be found in brown rice, enriched white rice, marinara sauce, russet potatoes, bananas, bulgur, and raisins. Legumes, nuts, and seed sources include peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, soy milk, lentils, and edamame. Breakfast cereals may also be fortified with niacin.  

How much do you need? 

Women 19 and older need 14 mg NE per day while men 19 and older need 16 mg NE daily. Pregnant women require 18 mg NE and lactating females need 17 mg NE daily.   


Why do you need it? 

Thiamin is a B vitamin that helps with carbohydrate and protein metabolism. Without enough thiamin, heart and mental health-related symptoms can occur. A thiamin deficiency can also lead to beriberi disease, which affects the nervous or cardiovascular systems, or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which impacts the brain and is common in alcoholics. 

Where do you find it? 

Thiamin can be found in brown rice, enriched white rice, barley, corn, black beans, acorn squash, sunflower seeds, yeast spread, and orange juice from concentrate, and some animal sources.  

How much do you need? 

Women 19-51 and older need 1.1 mg per day while men 19 and older need 1.2 mg daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 1.4 mg per day.   


Why do you need it? 

Riboflavin is a B-vitamin needed for neurological functions. It also helps facilitate energy metabolism. Riboflavin is linked to folate and drug metabolism. Deficiencies are rare, but can manifest in many ways, including cracked lips and skin disorders, reproductive problems, or liver and nervous system decline. 

Where do you find it?  

Portabella mushrooms, spinach, apples, tomatoes, quinoa, enriched white rice, enriched bagels, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, and almonds all contain riboflavin. There are also various animal sources.  

How much do you need? 

Women 19-51 and older need 1.1 mg per day and men need 1.3 mg daily. Pregnant women need 1.4 mg and lactating females need 1.6 mg per day.    


Why do you need it? 

B6 vitamin helps your body make and break down proteins and create blood cells. It also supports energy and neurological health. A deficiency is often paired with a vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to many symptoms, including a swollen tongue, a weakened immune system, or anemia, but it may also lack symptoms. A deficiency is more likely to occur if someone has a malabsorptive disease, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease, or as a result of certain genetic diseases.  

Where do you find it? 

Vitamin B6 is found in chickpeas, mixed nuts, spinach, onions, winter squash, potatoes, bulgur, enriched white rice, bananas, raisins, or watermelon as well as some animal sources.  

How much do you need? 

Women 19-51 and older need 1.3-1.5 mg per day while men 19 and older need 1.3-1.7 mg daily. Pregnant women need 1.9 mg and lactating women need 2 mg daily.  


Why do you need it? 

Folate is needed for cells to function and plays a significant role in the neurological and circulatory systems. Folate assists your body with healing. Folate is commonly paired with other nutrient deficiencies, such as B12, especially in people with poor diets, alcoholism, or malabsorptive disorders, like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and celiac disease.  Anemia is a classic sign of folate deficiency and can lead to weakness, fatigue, trouble concentrating, headaches, and more. It’s especially important for pregnant women to obtain enough folate to avoid neural tube defects and fetal health complications. 

Where do you find it? 

Vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli, mustard greens, peas, turnip greens, and tomato juice all provide folate. Fruits, such as oranges, bananas and papaya also contain this vitamin. Plus, yeast, wheat germ, enriched white rice, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, and peanuts all provide folate.   

How much do you need? 

Men and women over 19 need 400 mcg DFE per day while pregnant women need 600 mcg DFE daily and lactating females require 500 mcg DFE.   

The Benefits of Healthy Fats and How to Eat the Right Amount

The Benefits of Healthy Fats and How to Eat the Right Amount

< 1 min read

Fat is an essential nutrient. Eating fat helps you feel satiated after a meal, protects cell membranes, supports hormone regulation, healthy skin and hair, and assists in the absorption of important fat-soluble nutrients, which include vitamins A, D, E, and K.   

Fat often gets a bad reputation, and there are some high-fat foods we don’t recommend, like fried fast food and highly processed products. But there are also healthful fats that offer numerous benefits, like avocados, olives, and nuts.   

Just keep in mind that fat is high in calories. Fat supplies 9 calories per gram compared to the 4 calories per gram provided by carbohydrates and proteins. Because fat packs more calories per bite, it’s referred to as calorie-dense and should be consumed in smaller portions.   

Tip: to feel fuller when limiting fat portions, pair small amounts of high-fat foods with larger servings of low-calorie fruits and veggies.  

For example: 

  • Enjoy a few tablespoons of nut butter with one sliced medium apple.  
  • Scoop up 1/3 of an avocado with a medium-sized sliced cucumber. 
  • Partner 1/4 cup of Mediterranean olives with a cup of grape or cherry tomatoes.  
  • Enjoy an ounce of dark chocolate with a cup of fresh strawberries.  

This chart will help you navigate what a serving of fat looks like and put calorie density into perspective.  

 Nut butter  2 tbsp  Whole walnut in shell About 200 
 Whole nuts or seeds,
 out of shell
 1 ounce or ¼ cup Golf ball  150-200 calories 
 Extra virgin olive oil  1 tbsp  Thumbnail  120 calories 
 Olives ¼ cup   Golf ball  About 90 calories 
 Avocado ⅓ of an avocado  1 egg   About 80 calories  
 Dark chocolate 1 ounce Dental floss or
 1 domino
 About 155 calories
Fiber and its Role in Preventing Chronic Conditions

Fiber and its Role in Preventing Chronic Conditions

6 min read

Fiber is a nondigestible type of carbohydrate found in plants, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Fiber plays a key role in a healthy lifestyle. It helps you feel fuller longer, promotes healthy bowel movements, and aids in chronic disease prevention. You’ll naturally consume more fiber by eating whole plant-based foods, a habit that promotes overall health and supports longevity.   

The recommended daily fiber goal is at least 21-25 grams per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men, with around 10-15 grams of soluble fiber. However, an even higher fiber diet has been tied to a reduced death risk. That said, the average daily fiber intake in the United States is only 16 grams per day, so the goal for most Americans is to reach the minimum target.  

Research suggests that a high-fiber diet can reduce chronic disease risk and have positive effects on gut and mental health. Here are four conditions fiber can help with and frequently asked questions about this important nutrient.  


Fiber is known to prevent obesity in several ways. First, many high-fiber foods are high in volume and low in calories. For example, a medium-sized pear provides over 5 grams of fiber and just 100 calories. That’s the same calorie level of just three Red Vine twists, which contain no fiber. High-fiber foods also take longer to chew, which slows eating pace. This allows the release of gut hormones that signal fullness.  

Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that absorbs water and forms a gel-like texture inside the digestive tract. It’s found in found in foods like beans, avocado, apples, oats, and chia seeds. This type of fiber improves fullness, slows digestion, and increases satiation. Compared to insoluble fiber, soluble fiber has been shown to naturally decrease calorie intake by 39% and curb appetite by 45%. Fiber also reduces the number of calories you absorb from food. 

In short, fiber allows you to eat more volume, feel fuller, remain fuller longer, and absorb fewer calories, all of which contribute to weight loss. Studies show that simply consuming an additional 14 grams of fiber per day over a 3.8-month period could lead to an average weight loss of 4.3 pounds. 

Type 2 Diabetes 

Fiber is beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.  Soluble fiber slows the movement of food through the digestive tract and causes carbohydrates to be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream slower over a longer period of time. This prevents spikes in blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity (how well insulin works to clear sugar from the blood).  

A fiber intake of 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men is linked to a 20-30% reduced risk of developing T2DM.  

Also, when fiber is fermented in the gut, healthy bacteria are produced, including two important probiotics called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Healthy levels of these “good” bacteria in the gut are associated with a reduced risk of both diabetes and obesity due to their anti-inflammatory effects. In contrast, a lack of fiber allows harmful bacteria to grow in the gut, which can lead to inflammation and promote the development of T2DM. 

Heart Disease 

A higher fiber intake is strongly associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, including hardening of the arteries. Consuming more than 22 grams of fiber per day reduces heart disease risk by 12%.   

Soluble fiber helps to lower total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol. One study showed a 30% reduction in LDL cholesterol through a fiber-rich diet, which is comparable to the effects of common prescription medications. Fiber accomplishes this by binding to cholesterol and eliminating it in your stool, so it doesn’t circulate back into your bloodstream.   

Due to its ability to regulate insulin, fiber prevents high concentrations of insulin in the blood. This effect may help reduce blood pressure, which helps reduce heart disease risk. A decrease in blood pressure also may be attributed to the generous amount of micronutrients found in fiber-rich foods, such as magnesium and potassium, as these minerals also help regulate blood pressure.  

Fiber also increases the production of compounds in the gut called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are beneficial for heart health. In contrast, low-fiber diets can promote the production of a compound called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO). TMAO has been shown to trigger the buildup of plaque inside arteries and raise blood clot risks.  

Mental Health 

Due to growing knowledge about the direct connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis, a fiber-rich diet has been linked to improved mental health. Studies show that diets low in fiber tend to be associated with a higher risk of depression, while more fiber is tied to overall better mental health.   

Research has proven that too little fiber can lead to a poor variety of microbes in the gut.  This lack of “gut biodiversity” can negatively impact the immune system, lead to inflammation, and decrease the strength of the gut wall, which may allow inflammatory toxins to be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. All of these outcomes can contribute to the development of mental health conditions. In addition, people who eat less fiber tend to have higher amounts of pro-inflammatory gut bacteria. This can lead to systemic or full-body inflammation, which is linked to depression and anxiety.  

What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber? 

Both soluble and insoluble fiber have positive impacts on health. Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel-like consistency. This helps promote fullness and controls blood sugar by slowing digestion. Soluble fiber can also be fermented in the gut, which leads to beneficial heart effects, such as reduced blood pressure and cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is a type of fiber that doesn’t absorb water. It adds bulk to your stool and promotes regular bowel movements to help maintain overall gut health.   

Soluble fiber is found in oats, peaches, bananas, potatoes, and mushrooms. 

Insoluble fiber is found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, nuts, carrots, berries, and whole grains. 

Some foods contain both types of fiber.  

How do fiber, pre-, and probiotics affect my health? 

Probiotics are beneficial microbes in the gut linked to health benefits, including digestive and immune support, and improvements in mood and sleep. Probiotics exist naturally in your body. You can also consume some types of probiotics in the form of supplements and in certain foods. Probiotics may be found in non-pasteurized fermented foods, like fermented vegetables, kefir, kombucha, and miso.  

Prebiotics are non-digestible compounds found in foods like asparagus, garlic, onions, and underripe bananas. Prebiotics stimulate the growth or activity of “good” or friendly bacteria in the gut. In other words, prebiotics are food for probiotic bacteria.  

When fiber-rich foods are fermented in the gut, anti-inflammatory compounds called SCFAs are produced.  Without fiber to aid in the production of SCFA, other compounds get fermented, such as proteins or amino acids (the building blocks of protein). Rather than producing beneficial SCFAs, this interaction creates inflammatory metabolites that increase chronic disease risk.  

In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, SCFAs promote the release of hormones that properly regulate satiety and hunger cues, insulin response, and the health of the intestinal wall.

Prebiotics and probiotics also may help lower “bad” LDL-cholesterol and inflammatory markers, which improve heart health and reduce inflammation. This is accomplished by promoting the growth of healthy gut bacteria and curbing harmful or pathogenic bacteria, which improves immune function. Some fiber rich foods also provide antioxidants called polyphenols, which reduce inflammation and counter damage caused by compounds called free radicals, which harm cells and promote disease.  

When should I have a low-fiber diet? What plant-based whole foods are low in fiber? 

A low-fiber diet may be required in times of gastrointestinal distress, specifically when there is a narrowing or blockage inside the intestines or if you’ve been told to reduce your fiber intake prior to a colonoscopy or other GI procedure. If this is the case, both high-fiber foods and fiber supplements should be avoided.   

Eating a low-fiber plant-based diet can be a challenge. Cooking vegetables thoroughly helps break down their fibrous structures. You should also avoid the skins and edible seeds of fruits and vegetables and choose canned produce over fresh. Generally speaking, aim for soft foods.  Other examples of plant-based low-fiber foods include applesauce, grits, smooth nut butters, and plant-based milks or yogurts. 

Can I get too much fiber?  

Yes. Reaching close to 70 grams of fiber per day from supplemental forms can negatively impact the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.   

How do I incorporate more fiber into my diet? 

If fiber is a new part of your diet, it’s best to incorporate it into your daily routine slowly and gradually. If your body isn’t used to a large amount of fiber, a big increase at once can overwhelm your digestive system and cause bloating, gas, or abnormal bowel movements. To avoid these symptoms, add fiber-rich foods to your diet slowly over time to allow your system to adjust. Continue to add high-fiber foods as you tolerate them and hold off on increasing your fiber intake if you experience any irregular symptoms. Work your way up to a high-fiber diet at your own pace. 

Does fiber help with constipation or with diarrhea? 

Fiber helps with both constipation and diarrhea. Fiber adds bulk to stool, which promotes formed bowel movements as opposed to diarrhea. It also promotes regular bowel movements to prevent constipation. Therefore, fiber assists in promoting healthy bowel movements overall.  

When you experience constipation, eat vegetables, fruits with edible peels, beans, lentils, skin-on potatoes, nuts, and whole grains. And be sure to drink plenty of water to help your body properly utilize fiber. 

When you experience diarrhea, eat bland, starchy foods, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, or toast, and stay well hydrated.   

Should I take a fiber supplement? 

You can meet your body’s fiber by eating whole plant-based foods. Fiber supplements may offer positive benefits that come with an increased fiber intake, such as blood sugar regulation.  However, fiber supplements can also decrease the absorption of certain medications. If you choose to take a fiber supplement, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about possible medication interactions. If you meet the recommended fiber intake by eating fiber-rich plant foods, you shouldn’t need to take a fiber supplement. 

How to Read a Food Label

How to Read a Food Label

8 min read

Serving Size 

You don’t necessarily need to limit your intake to the serving size listed. That’s because your personal portion depends on the food, your individual needs, and how hungry you feel. But it is important to know that all of the Nutrition Facts info listed is based on the serving size. If you eat more or less than the serving stated, you can apply the difference to the numbers. For example, if the serving size is 1 slice of bread and you eat 2 slices, you’re eating twice the number of calories, protein, fiber, etc. listed on the label.    

In highly processed foods, it can be eye-opening to see just how much-saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugar, and sodium one serving packs. Compared with whole food, it’s easy to rack up many calories without even feeling full. For example, a medium apple provides about 125 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and no added sugar, whereas just 7 gummy fish candies contain 150 calories, no fiber, and 8 teaspoons worth of added sugar.     


Love.Life does not recommend counting calories. We believe in eating a primarily whole food plant-based diet and tuning into hunger and fullness cues to guide portions. However, on packaged foods, calorie information can be helpful for comparing different foods to each other or noting the calorie content of a food in relation to its serving size. The latter is referred to as calorie density.   

A label can also help you determine a packaged food’s nutrient density, or how much nutrients it contains per serving.  

A food with a high number of calories and low amount of nutrients per serving is often referred to as an empty-calorie food.   

As you transition to a whole food plant-based diet, you may continue to eat some highly processed foods from time to time.  

Assessing label information may help you find better-for-you options within a specific category, like a crunchy snack or dessert. Or perhaps you’ll opt for a less processed alternative, such as baked sweet potato wedges over fried sweet potato chips.  

But we recognize that life happens, and celebrations and holidays often include traditional or favorite foods, and that’s OK. The consistency of your overall eating pattern is much more important and impactful than any one food.     

What are Daily Values? 

Below you’ll see references to Daily Values or %DV. These percentages represent how much one serving of a food provides for a particular nutrient (such as fiber or sodium) compared to the average recommended target or limit per day.  

The percentage is based on a 2000-calorie-per-day diet, which may be more or less than your individual nutrition needs.  


Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.  At Love.Life we recommend limiting saturated fat because of its relationship with heart disease. The USDA recommends that less than 10% of your daily calories come from saturated fat. When you look at the nutrition label, opt for foods with a Daily Value or %DV for saturated fat that is 10% or less. 

We recommend avoiding trans-fat altogether due to its negative effects on cholesterol and heart health. On a nutrition facts label, the trans-fat content should be 0g. Trans fat has been generally eliminated from our food system, but there are some hidden sources to be aware of.   

To find hidden trans fats, you must look at a food’s ingredient list.  

Under ingredients if you see “partially hydrogenated oils” of any sort, there are hidden trans fats in the food. While the amount may not be enough to add up to 1 gram or more per serving, the presence of trans fat can negatively impact your health, particularly if you eat several servings of that food or eat it often.  

Sometimes, you will see “fully hydrogenated oils” on the food label. While these are not technically trans fats, they are highly processed oils that act like saturated fats in your body and may harm your health. Avoid them whenever possible. 

Unsaturated fat is listed on the food label as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. These fats are beneficial health wise. You’ll find them in nuts and seeds, extra virgin olive oil, or canned wild salmon.  


Consuming sodium in moderation is an important way to prevent or control high blood pressure.  

Look at the %DV for sodium to put a packaged food in perspective in relation to your overall daily sodium intake. For example, if one serving of food provides 25% of the DV for sodium, you have “used up” a quarter of the daily recommended sodium limit. Every food you eat doesn’t need to be low in sodium, but you shouldn’t exceed 100% of the Daily Value per day.   

When looking at sodium on a nutrition label, Love.Life aims for a 1:1 ratio meaning the milligrams of sodium should be less than or equal to the calories per serving. For example, if a serving size is one slice of bread that contains 100 calories, the sodium content should be no more than 100mg, give or take. That said, some healthful whole food products may exceed this 1:1 ratio. If so, here are a few things to consider:   

Does the whole food product provide important nutrients, such as whole grains, protein, or fiber? For example, 1 cup of beets provides about 60 calories but 100mg of sodium. While this is not within the recommended 1:1 ratio, beets supply fiber and phytonutrients with known benefits for reducing blood pressure. In comparison, a 1/2 cup serving of canned chicken noodle soup may contain 60 calories and about 890mg of sodium. While both beets and chicken noodle soup are outside of the 1:1 ratio of calories per serving to sodium milligrams, beets have much less sodium and provide substantially more nutritional benefits.    

Is the sodium DV% still within a reasonable range? Generally speaking, a “low sodium” food provides 5% or less of the DV per serving. But foods that are less than 10% DV for sodium or under 25% can still be part of a well-balanced nutrition plan. Consider the other food items you consume that day. If one is high but the majority are very low, your sodium intake will average out to a low intake overall. You don’t need to be perfect; just work towards being conscious of your sodium intake and try to consistently maintain healthful habits. 

Processed products often contain a high amount of sodium to flavor and preserve the food.   

The highest sodium contributors in a typical American diet are bread items, pizzas, sandwiches and cold cuts, soups, burritos and tacos, salty snacks, chicken, cheeses, and eggs and omelets. Seasoning mixes and condiments can also be quite high.  

Don’t forget to consider how the numbers can add up. For example, if a 1-cup serving of soup provides 600mg of sodium or 26% of the DV and you eat 2 cups, you’ve hit more than 50% of the daily limit. If you eat that soup with a grilled cheese sandwich made with 2 slices of bread and a slice of processed cheese, you can easily exceed the %DV for sodium for the day in just a single meal.  


Carbohydrates are a crucial source of energy for your body, especially your brain and muscles.  We recommend meeting your carbohydrate needs through whole food sources over highly processed products. Good options include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.   

At Love.Life we do not recommend “carb counting” but we generally advise covering about a quarter of your plate with starchy whole-food carbohydrates. Overall, for every 25g of carbohydrates, you should consume at least 3-5g of fiber. If you eat whole-food carbohydrates, this will occur naturally. 

Dietary Fiber 

Fiber helps promote healthy bowel movements, improves satiety, helps regulate blood glucose or blood sugar levels, and supports weight management. Fiber is naturally found in plant foods and may be added to processed foods. 

The general recommendation for fiber is ~25g per day for women and ~38g for men. But experts suggest that diets with closer to 40g of fiber per day are better for health. 

You can use the nutrition label to assess the grams of fiber per serving size.  

Fiber is the one nutrient for which we encourage you to exceed the %DV. That said, we recommend getting fiber from naturally occurring sources, such as whole grains and beans, over-processed products with fiber added, like energy bars.         

Also, be sure to drink plenty of water as you increase your fiber intake, as water is needed to help your digestive system properly handle the fiber.    


Sugar is naturally occurring in many whole, nutrient rich plant-based foods, so the goal is not to avoid sugar completely. However, it is important to limit added sugar, the type added to food by the manufacturer to sweeten a product or the kind you add yourself, like stirring sugar into your coffee or tea.  

Eating more whole, unprocessed foods is a great way to automatically reduce your added sugar intake. For example, fresh fruit and nuts provide no added sugar while a processed granola bar may provide a few teaspoons worth.     

Added sweeteners found in packaged foods may include high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, cane sugar, honey, or agave, to name a few. And while sweeteners such as cane sugar, honey, and maple syrup are natural, they still count as added sugar and should be limited.  

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar to no more than 24 grams per day for women and men no more than 36 grams per day. You’ll find the grams of added sugar per serving listed on the nutrition label.  

When possible, we recommend buying unsweetened foods and adding sweetness in the form of other whole foods, such as whole fruit. For example, prepackaged oatmeal may use cane sugar as a sweetener and can contain 8 grams of added sugar per packet. We prefer starting with plain rolled oats and adding in mashed banana or minced dates and cinnamon to provide natural sweetness from whole foods.  

By using naturally occurring sugar from fruit to sweeten foods, you add fiber and nutrients and align meals with a whole food plant-based diet approach. 


Protein is often the first concern when going plant-based, but protein is found in many plant foods.  

Most people require 0.8g of protein per kg of their body weight, although you may need more based on your age, physical activity level, and goals. For a 150-pound adult 0.8 g per kg is about 55 g of protein per day or roughly 15-18 grams 3 times per day.    

It’s important to eat a variety of plant-based foods in order to take in a wide array of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. While all plant foods provide all 9 essential amino acids, the amount of a particular amino acid may be low in one type of plant food and high in others. When you eat foods from different food groups throughout the day, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you take in many different amino acids. These amino acids come together to form complete proteins that your body can use to maintain, heal, and repair protein tissues, including muscle.      

Vitamins and Minerals 

The nutrition label traditionally includes Daily Values for vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.   

Do not be turned off by a product with low values for any of these nutrients. All whole foods bring something different to the table, and as you diversify your diet with as many plants as possible, you will naturally diversify your intake of vitamins and minerals.  

In addition, some foods may be low in vitamins and minerals but rich in antioxidants or other health-protective compounds.  

That said, there are some vitamins and minerals that are more difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet.  


It’s important to easily recognize all the ingredients in a packaged food. The best rule of thumb is to look for products with common plant-based ingredients free from additives like sweeteners, preservatives, flavors, colors, and oils.   

If you’re trying to eat a plant-based diet, reading the ingredient list can help you find hidden sources of animal-based ingredients.  

For example, by reading the ingredient list you may find that a soup or can of beans was made with lard, or that a sauce contains eggs or milk. 

Become a food label sleuth! 

Look for terms like roasted, seasoned, or flavored on packages of nuts, seeds, or legumes, which may indicate that sugar or salt has been added. Monitor your condiments and sauces for their levels of sodium, added sugar, and processed ingredients. You may be surprised by how much-added sugar you’ll find in ketchup or barbecue sauces, in addition to food dyes in hot sauces or chili pastes, and added oils in jarred pasta, pizza, or curry sauces. 

New Plant-Based Foods to Explore This Week

New Plant-Based Foods to Explore This Week

9 min read

As you begin your plant-based journey, you may be in search of new plant-based whole foods or you may come across new foods in plant-based recipes you’re unfamiliar with. Here is a brief list of new foods you may encounter or new plant foods to try. If you’re looking for a way to challenge yourself, try to incorporate one brand-new food each week. Don’t feel limited to this list; there are plenty of plant-based whole foods to explore. 

Protein Options 


What is it? Tofu, which is made of soybeans, is a great source of protein, phytonutrients (health-protective plant compounds), calcium, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. Research has found that tofu may have a positive impact on heart health, especially when substituted for red or processed meats regularly in your diet. 

How do I use it? Tofu is very versatile. For breakfast, you can replace eggs in a scramble with crumbled tofu. You can use marinated baked or grilled tofu in place of chicken in a Greek salad. You can even blend tofu into a smoothie, creamy dessert, or sauce to add bonus protein and texture.    

Side note: When substituting meat for tofu, extra firm tofu is best. When you use tofu for a creamy dish, soft or silk tofu may work better. After opening your tofu package be sure to drain and then press the tofu to squeeze out as much excess water as possible. One way to do that is to wrap your tofu in a clean kitchen towel and press lightly with a heavy pot.  


What is it? Tempeh is fermented soybeans and like tofu, it’s an excellent meat substitute due to its protein content. Tempeh provides loads of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and beneficial bacteria due to its fermentation.  

How do I use it? Tempeh can be used wherever you typically use meat.  It can be crumbled to resemble the texture of ground beef or sliced to make tempeh “bacon.”   

Side note: Like tofu, tempeh adapts to the flavors around it, so it’s very versatile. It also packs more protein per serving than tofu.    


What is it? Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten and is often used in place of meat in plant-based recipes. Unlike tofu and tempeh, seitan is not made from soy, so it’s a great option for someone with a soy allergy or sensitivity. However, seitan is not gluten-free.  

How do I use it? Seitan can be used in place of meat in a number of dishes, like stews, sandwiches, tacos, kabobs, chilis, or barbeque.  It tastes savory with a texture comparable to meat.  

Side note: You can make seitan at home or buy it at your local market.  If you decide to make seitan at home, add different seasoning combinations to mix up the flavors. For example, try BBQ tempeh or marinate it in teriyaki sauce.    

Mung Beans

What is it? Mung Beans are a commonly eaten legume in Asia and have been traditionally used for medicinal purposes.  They have many potential positive impacts on health, including cancer prevention and improved regulation of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Mung beans tend to be well tolerated digestively and they provide protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.  

How do I use it? Like other beans, mung beans can be added to salads, soups, grain bowls, or curry. Try them in a veggie stir fry or in place of lentils or beans in soup. 

Side note: Mung beans are somewhat sweet, but mild in flavor overall.   

Whole Food Carbohydrate Options


What is it? Jackfruit is a large fruit with a stringy interior that’s growing in popularity. It provides fiber, disease-protective antioxidants and phytonutrients, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and other micronutrients. Jackfruit has been shown to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and bone-related diseases. 

How do I use it? Jackfruit has become a common substitute for meat in tacos, barbeque, and chili.  It absorbs flavors well, so it’s very adaptable. And due to its stringy interior, it mimics the texture of shredded meat.    

Side note: You can buy canned jackfruit, but you’ll also find it in the produce section at many supermarkets. It’s becoming more popular on restaurant menus as a meat alternative.   


What is it? Açai is a type of berry that has become very popular in recent years. Açai berries are said to be a “superfood,” however, be cautious of health claims made by the media. While research does support acai’s antioxidant properties, you may see a variety of benefit claims that aren’t backed by published research. 

How do I use it? Açai is most commonly used in smoothies or smoothie bowls. You can also purchase açai in juice or powdered form. Açai powders can be added to dishes like chia pudding, overnight oats, plant milk lattes, or smoothies.    

Side note: If you buy frozen pureed açai be sure to check the label for added sugars. Frozen pureed açais will provide the benefits of a whole food, therefore we recommend the frozen whole food form over powders or juices.   

Fat Options 

Chia Seeds 

What is it? Chia seeds provide an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, as well as protein, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Since chia seeds absorb water, they also help support hydration. These seeds are also high in a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which helps stabilize blood sugar.  

How do I use it? Chia seeds are a great addition to smoothies, overnight oats, breakfast cereals, soups, salads, marinades, baked goods, puddings, and sauces.  

Side note: When baking you can replace one egg with 1 tablespoon of chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water. Dried chia seeds have a shelf life of 4-5 years.  


What is it? Flaxseeds also supply omega-3 fatty acids and fiber in addition to protein, thiamine, and various other minerals and vitamins. Studies have shown that flaxseed consumption is linked to protection against heart disease and has anti-cancer effects. Additionally, consuming four tablespoons of ground flax meal per day has been shown to lower blood pressure.  

How do I use it? Use flaxseeds to garnish smoothies, hot cereals, or avocado toast, or mix them into homemade baked goods, energy balls, sandwich condiments, or pasta sauces. Keep in mind that the seeds are calorie-dense, so a little goes a long way. 

Side note: Ground flaxseeds are easier to digest than whole because the hard outer shell is broken down. Consider grinding whole flaxseeds in a food processor or coffee grinder just before eating them. You can also make a “flax egg” as an egg replacement by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons of water.   

Hemp Seeds

What is it? Hemp seeds are a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids in addition to plant-based protein. They’re rich in magnesium, fiber, and more. They also provide antioxidants that combat free radicals, compounds that damage cells and lead to premature aging and disease.  

How do I use it? Like flax and chia seeds, hemp seeds can be sprinkled onto meals and snacks as a garnish. You can also buy hemp seed milk or gluten-free hemp seed flour.   

Side note: While hemp does come from the same plant as marijuana, eating the seeds won’t make you feel “high” due to their very low levels of THC (the psychoactive component of marijuana plants).  


What is it? Tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, is a source of healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids and protein. It’s also rich in an amino acid called methionine, which can be low in a plant-based diet. Some research suggests it may also have positive effects on heart health.   

How do I use it? Think of tahini as a condiment or dip. Serve it with veggies, whole grain pita, or whole grain crackers. Or drizzle tahini over a salad, grain bowl, avocado toast, veggie burger, or falafel. You can also blend tahini into smoothies or use it to thicken sauces or soups. 

Side note: Tahini is typically an ingredient found in hummus, but you can buy it as a standalone item. You may find jarred tahini in the same aisle as nut butters. In addition, some stores stock herbed or pre-seasoned tahini in the refrigerated section near the hummus.   

Flavor Enhancer Options 

Nutritional Yeast 

What is it? Nutritional yeast is a flaky powder that can be used as a garnish or ingredient to add unique umami flavor to meals and snacks. It provides protein and vitamin B12. The latter is especially important for plant-based eaters since B12 is mainly found in animal products and can be lacking in a plant-based diet. 

How do I use it? Nutritional yeast is often added to plant-based recipes when seeking a cheesy flavor. Treat it as a seasoning when making savory dishes, like rice or pasta bowls, soups, and sauces. As a topping, nutritional yeast also makes a flavorful plant-based alternative to parmesan on anything from cooked vegetables to popcorn.  

Side note: Nutritional yeast doesn’t need to be refrigerated and it will stay good in your pantry for about two years, so it’s easy to always keep on hand. 

Miso Paste 

What is it? Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, but you can also find soy-free options made from chickpeas. There are various types of miso paste, including white, yellow, or red, and we encourage you to try them all.     

How do I use it? Miso paste has an umami flavor often used in Japanese cuisine. You can add it to marinades, stir-fries, salad dressings, soups, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, or pasta dishes.   

Side note: Due to its pasty consistency and depending on how you use it, it may be helpful to dilute your miso paste with water. About one tablespoon of paste per 1 ½ cups of hot water can also serve as a broth.  

Vegetable Options 


What is it? Watercress is a leafy vegetable that’s been used medicinally due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and its positive effects on heart disease, cancer, liver disease, glucose levels, and other ailments. Watercress is low in calories and packed with vitamins and minerals. 

How do I use it? Like other leafy vegetables, watercress makes a great salad base. Watercress can also be sauteed, pureed in sauces, or added to sandwiches, wraps, soups, and pizzas. To diversify your plant sources, try mixing watercress in with your spinach, collard greens, or kale.  

Side note: Depending on how you prepare it, you might want to chop off the stems before eating watercress. While they are edible, they can be quite thick.  


What is it? Rutabaga is a root vegetable. Rutabagas provide antioxidants, fiber, and micronutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, and folate.  

How do I use it? Any time you might use a potato or sweet potato, try a rutabaga. They can be mashed, roasted, made into soup or hash, baked as “fries,” or even baked into a savory or sweet pie. When experimenting with rutabaga try to get creative with spices and seasonings.  

Side note: In addition to rutabaga, try a variety of root vegetables, like turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, and celeriac. Many stores now sell frozen root vegetable “fries” to take home and bake.   


What is it? Chayote is a type of squash that provides folate, vitamins A, E, and C, and various other vitamins and minerals. It’s also a great source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, all of which contribute to disease prevention and wellness.  

How do I use it? Chayote is common in Mexican culture, so try seasoning it with Latin-inspired spices. You can also add it to salads, soups, curries, or stir-fries. You can even incorporate it into desserts, like chayote cobbler or pie.  

Side note: You may also see chayote mentioned in the cosmetic aisle as it is often used in beauty products. 


There are so many spices to try! You don’t need to buy all of these seasonings at once. Instead, buy a new spice you may not have tried before one at a time to see if you like the taste. Many stores allow you to buy small spice samples, so you don’t have to commit to a bulk purchase. You’ll also find a wide variety of spices at ethnic markets, which can often be purchased in small quantities. 

Sugar and Oil Replacements for Baking

Let’s make a swap! 

Sweetener –> Mashed Banana 

What is it? Use a mashed banana instead of added sugar in baked goods, oatmeal, and other dishes you need to sweeten. 

How do I use it? When baking, substitute mashed banana for half the amount of sugar, honey, brown sugar, or agave a recipe calls. For example, if the recipe lists 1 cup of sugar, omit the sugar and use approximately ½ cup of mashed banana instead.  

Side note: Using bananas not only cuts down on calories and sugar content but also adds fiber and nutrients. For this type of swap, ripe bananas work best. 

Sweetener –> Dates 

What is it? Dates are chewy but sweet fruits that are full of nutrients and packed with fiber.  They’re often used to mimic a chocolate-like flavor in baking.  

How do I use it? Dates can be added to salads, oatmeal, or baked goods for sweetness.  In baked goods, chop up or puree dates and use a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of sugar, use approximately ½ cup of chopped dates instead.  

Side note: Dates often have pits, so be sure to remove pits before you add the fruit to your food processor. Also, be careful when biting into a date that has a pit. Pitted dates (meaning the pit has been removed) are deliciously stuffed with nut butter, nuts, or coconut for a quick sweet snack. 

Oil –> Applesauce  

What is it? Use unsweetened applesauce as a replacement for oil when baking.  

How do I use it?  When baking, applesauce makes a great alternative to oil in a 1:1 ratio. For example, if a recipe calls for ½ cup of oil, use ½ cup of applesauce instead. If you don’t like how the recipe turns out, try to substitute half of the oil for applesauce.  

Side note: Substituting applesauce lowers the amount of saturated fat and calories you add to baked goods. Additionally, the fruit provides bonus fiber and micronutrients. 

Oil –> Pumpkin/pureed squash 

What is it? Canned pureed pumpkin provides fiber, antioxidants, vitamin A, potassium, and more. Look for 100% pure pumpkin rather than a canned pumpkin pie mix with added sugars and spices. 

How do I use it? Like applesauce, pureed pumpkin or squash can be substituted for oil in a 1:1 ratio when baking.  For every 1 cup of oil the recipe calls for, use 1 cup of pureed squash or pumpkin instead.  

Side note:  Pumpkin can also be used as an egg replacement in baking. Replace 1 egg with ¼ cup of pumpkin puree.  

Nutrigenomics: The Science of Nutrition and Genes

Nutrigenomics: The Science of Nutrition and Genes

2 min read

Nutrigenomics is how your lifestyle choices and the foods you eat talk to your genes to influence your health outcomes.  

How Does Nutrigenomics Work?  

There are some diet and lifestyle factors that apply to nearly everyone. For example, some foods help reduce inflammation for most people, like turmeric, broccoli, and blueberries. Natural compounds in these foods, including antioxidants, protect cells from damage that can lead to premature aging or disease. Regular physical activity also influences genes in ways that impact  health.

At Love.Life we also offer personalized gene testing, to identify specific genetic differences that are unique to your body. For example, caffeine affects people differently based on their genes. Roughly 50% of people process caffeine slower than others, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. But this isn’t true for half of the population. Testing how you process caffeine allows us to provide tailored recommendations that can help improve your sleep, blood pressure, and exercise performance.  

What is Gene Expression?  

Humans are born with a set of genes inherited from their biological parents. And as humans, we have remarkably similar DNA sequences. But there are genetic differences from person to person called SNPs (pronounced snips), single nucleotide polymorphisms, that interact with lifestyle in unique ways. These are sometimes referred to as genetic variations or variants.  

  • Certain SNPs have a big impact on your health. We call these high penetrance genes. The genes that present in this way are often screened for at birth and treatment is guided by a genetic counselor. A widely known high penetrance gene is the BRCA gene for breast cancer risk. It often leads individuals to take preventative measures to reduce breast cancer occurrence.  
  • There are also hundreds of low-penetrance genes within our genome that can increase the risk of certain chronic diseases or can improve health, longevity, and performance. For example, some people have a genetic variant that increases the risk of developing Celiac disease. Another SNP can indicate that someone has a genetic tendency to excel at strength and power-based exercises.  
  • The last component of gene expression is not about the genes you were born with, but rather how they’re expressed based on outside factors, such as toxins, diet, exercise, and even mindset. This level of gene expression is called epigenetics. It’s the set of chemical switches that turn a gene on or off and allow your body to read a gene. Scientists have discovered that about 80% of all chronic disease is related to lifestyle factors. That means lifestyle changes can be used to work with your genes to switch on those that promote health and turn off those that can do harm.  

How Does Love.Life Use Nutrigenomics?  

First, we’ll use nutrigenomic principles to make sure your body has enough of the nutrients and antioxidants required to create protective gene switches where they’re needed. We can also work with you on an individual level to provide tailored diet and lifestyle recommendations that support your unique SNPs in ways that reduce disease risk and optimize your health.  

For more information about how we can create a tailored approach based on your genes, contact us to schedule a consultation with a Love.Life provider.

7 Things You Need to Know About Cholesterol

7 Things You Need to Know About Cholesterol

3 min read
  1. Cholesterol buildup inside arteries (called plaque) leads to heart disease, but this can be prevented and reversed with the right diet, something medications cannot do. Typically, a doctor will prescribe a medication called a statin, which thins the blood. This allows blood to flow through narrowed arteries. But the proper diet can actually help break down plaque buildup, expand artery passageways, and allow blood to flow naturally.
  2. Cholesterol in the blood, also called lipoproteins, are further categorized as “bad” LDL cholesterol or “good” HDL cholesterol. LDL particles build up and form plaque inside blood vessels, which is known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes blood vessels to narrow and become less flexible. This leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Meanwhile, HDL cholesterol helps remove LDL buildup to prevent plaque formation. LDL and HDL levels tend to be a better indicator of heart disease risk compared to your “total cholesterol” lab value.
  3. HDL or “good” cholesterol is increased through healthy lifestyle choices, such as consistent exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking. Additionally, eating more whole grains in place of refined carbohydrates has been shown to increase HDL. General consistent physical activity, or aerobic exercise, even of moderate intensity, has also been shown to raise HDL levels.
  4. LDL or “bad” cholesterol is increased through a high intake of saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in foods like red meat and high-fat dairy products. Smoking, alcohol use, and a sedentary lifestyle can also contribute to high LDL levels. On the other hand, a high intake of fiber and plant sterols has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol levels by decreasing the absorption of cholesterol in the gut. Eating unsaturated fat, specifically mono-unsaturated fat (MUFAs) found in foods like olives, avocado, and nuts, in place of saturated fat has been shown to lower LDL and have a positive effect on heart health. 
  5. General “heart healthy” recommendations, such as consuming low-fat dairy products and limiting red meat have been shown to be effective in reducing total cholesterol and LDL, but only to a certain degree, and do not provide the disease reversal effects attributed to plant-based diets.  
  6. Cholesterol found in foods is called dietary cholesterol, which is only found in animal-based foods. The terms HDL and LDL only apply to the cholesterol in your blood. In other words, if you consume a lobster tail, which is high in cholesterol, it does not contain LDL or HDL cholesterol, just dietary cholesterol. Research is conflicting, but dietary cholesterol seems to raise “bad” LDL cholesterol levels in the blood as well as total cholesterol and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.    
  7. The biggest contributors to dietary cholesterol intake are meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy products. 

5 Ways to Lower Your “Bad” LDL Cholesterol 

  1. In general, women should aim for 21-25 grams of fiber per day and men should strive for 30-38 grams per day. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes are great sources of fiber. Some specific examples of high-fiber foods to help lower LDL include beans, tofu, avocado, potatoes, oatmeal, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, apples, bananas, brown rice, pumpkin and chia seeds, nuts, and quinoa.  
  2. Any exercise and movement can contribute to LDL reduction. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise may increase HDL cholesterol, which in turn helps reduce LDL cholesterol. To directly lower LDL research has found that aerobic exercise must be at a higher intensity. Other studies show that aerobic exercise must result in weight loss to cause a reduction in LDL, and some research suggests it has no effect. In summary, aerobic exercise may or may not reduce LDL, but it can positively impact overall lipid panels and cardiovascular health.  
  3. Resistance training or strength training has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, especially when it involves more sets and/or reps as opposed to heavier weights with fewer movements. Studies do not find that pairing resistance training with aerobic exercise results in further LDL reduction. Resistance training can include pushups, squats, lunges, planks, free weights, or resistance band exercises.
  4. Overall, your lipid profile can be improved through various types of exercise, but exercise consistency is even more important than intensity for decreasing heart disease risk. For this reason, it’s important to choose an exercise that’s sustainable long-term.  
  5. Avoid smoking and nix or limit alcohol, fried food, red or processed meats, full-fat dairy, and processed bakery items.
How to Freeze Fruit and Enjoy it Every Day

How to Freeze Fruit and Enjoy it Every Day

3 min read

At Love.Life we recommend eating fruit every day. But you may not be able to get fresh fruit from the supermarket daily, and fruit doesn’t always last as long as you hope. Here’s a guide on how to freeze fresh fruit so you’ll always have some on hand to incorporate into your daily meals and/or snacks. Fortunately, fresh fruit is easy to freeze, and unlike canning, the process doesn’t require adding sugar.  

Quick tips for freezing fruit: 

  • It’s best to freeze fresh fruit when it’s at peak ripeness.  
  • After freezing most fruits will last about 8-12 months. 
  • We recommend using reusable freezer-safe bags or containers as eco-friendly options. 

General fruit freezing instructions:  

  1. To begin, wash, peel, and if needed slice or chop your fruit.  
  2. Spread out the fruit on a lined baking sheet in a single layer with spaces between each piece. 
  3. Place the tray in the freezer for about 2 hours. 
  4. Transfer the frozen fruit to a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and store it in the freezer. 

Bananas: While you can freeze bananas in the peel, we recommend peeling prior to freezing. You can then follow the steps above. Frozen bananas will keep for about 3 months. They’re great in smoothies, oatmeal, or dipped into melted dark chocolate. 

  • Bananas also make a terrific replacement for added sugars in baking.  To freeze mashed bananas, mash with a fork and spoon and then fill silicone ice cube trays or muffin tins with mashed bananas. Freeze for about 2 hours and then transfer to a reusable freezer-safe bag or container.  If you use specific amounts often, like ½ or ¼ cup, measure before freezing and mark the containers so you can thaw the exact amount you need.  

Grapes and cranberries: Simply place these fruits in a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze them (no need to freeze on a tray first). 

Berries: Berries can be frozen using the method described above, or rinsed under cold water, dried well, and immediately frozen. They’re terrific in smoothies, acai bowls, overnight oats, or as a frosty snack. 

Apples: If you want to peel your apples, do so first, then core and cut them into slices or chunks. To preserve their color, coat or soak apple pieces in water with lemon or lime juice prior to freezing (use 3 tablespoons of citrus juice per quart of water).  Next, place the apples in a freezer bag or container and freeze. They’re perfect for smoothies, oatmeal, or cobbler.  

Peaches and apricots: Wash these fruits under cold water. To peel, dip them into boiling water for about 20 seconds to loosen their skins.  Cool, peel off the skins, and then chop or slice. Next, freeze on a baking sheet for about 2 hours and transfer to a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze. These gems make delicious additions to smoothies, sauces, and chia pudding. 

Crushed or pureed fruit: To preserve color, mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint of crushed or pureed fruit. Freeze in reusable freezer bags or containers.  

Avocados: First, wash your avocados. You can freeze them in their skins whole or remove the shells and chop.  You can also slice avocados into halves or pieces, sprinkle with lemon juice, and place on a baking sheet to freeze for about 2 hours.  Then transfer to a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze.  

  • For mashed avocado, remove the peel and pit and mash with a bit of lemon juice.  Place scoops of mashed avocado (in your desired amounts) on a lined baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Transfer to a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze. Or skip the pre-freezing step and simply place mashed avocado in a reusable freezer-safe bag or container and freeze. You can also freeze your guacamole. To use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in cold water for 30 minutes.  
The Foods That Help Extend Your Longevity

The Foods That Help Extend Your Longevity

3 min read

Scientists believe that about 25% of your lifespan is influenced by your genetics.  Your genes, which you inherit from your parents, are instructions that code your features, like your hair color and height. But the remaining 75% of your lifespan is influenced by factors you can modify, including your lifestyle and environment.  In other words, a large portion of your lifespan is determined by components within your control. The quality of what you eat is a key piece of the lifespan puzzle. Here are the research-backed foods and eating patterns that can help extend your longevity.  

Blue Zones and Plant-Forward Nutrition 

Blue Zones are five areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives. Blue Zones include areas in Greece, Japan, Italy, Costa Rica, and the USA (California). Blue Zones residents are likely to become centenarians (exceed the age of 100 years old) and remain healthy. Their way of life is highly aligned with Lifestyle Medicine, as they value plant-forward diets, physical activity, social connection, sleep, rituals that reduce stress, and not smoking.  

When it comes to nutrition, Blue Zones communities typically enjoy a 95-100% plant-based diet. Eating patterns in these regions are centered around whole, unprocessed foods. In addition, their diets are rich in nuts, beans, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.

In short, incorporating these foods into your meals can help you eat more like Blue Zones communities: 

  • Nuts: 1-2 handfuls per day 
    • Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts 
  • Beans: ½ – 1 cup per day 
    • Black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, fava beans 
  • 100% whole grains: 3 servings per day 
    • Barley, brown rice, bulgur, farro, ground corn, quinoa, oats 
  • Fruits and vegetables: 5-10 servings per day 
    • Avocados, bananas, bitter melons, lemons, papayas, peach palms, plantains, tomatoes
    • Fennel, seaweed, shiitake mushrooms, squash, sweet potatoes, wild greens, yams

How Do These Foods Help? 

Research shows that shifting away from a typical Western diet that is high in processed foods to an eating pattern that includes legumes, whole grains, and nuts is linked with longevity. If this shift starts at 20 years old, the increase in life expectancy is reported to be 10.7 years for females and 13 years for males. If this shift starts at 60 years old, the increase in life expectancy is reported to be over 8 years.  

These foods are also powerful on their own. Nuts are packed with key nutrients, including copper, fiber, folate, vitamin E, and arginine. Evidence shows that people who eat nuts daily have a 20% lower mortality rate than people who do not consume nuts. Eating nuts has also been shown to protect against heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S.  

As for beans, one study found that consuming 20 grams of beans per day can reduce the risk of death by about 8%. There are many benefits to replacing meat with beans. This practice is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, two of the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S.  

Whole grains are also tied to longevity.

Whole grains are differentiated from refined grains mainly because the entirety of the plant remains intact, including the bran. The bran portion of a whole grain contains valuable nutrients, such as B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Research shows that whole grain consumers generally have a 9% lower mortality rate, and a 15% lower death rate from heart disease, compared to those who do not regularly eat whole grains.  

Lastly, fruits and vegetables are linked with longevity, largely due to their polyphenols.  Polyphenols are natural compounds that protect against stress-induced damage that leads to chronic conditions, such as heart disease. Research shows that people who ingested 650 mg of polyphenols daily have about a 30% lower death risk compared to those who ingested under 500 mg daily.  

7 Ways to Replace Animal Protein with Plant Protein

7 Ways to Replace Animal Protein with Plant Protein

< 1 min read

If one of your goals is to move towards a plant-based diet, you may be wondering if it will be difficult to meet your protein needs. In some cases, you can swap one food for another without reducing your total protein intake. Or you may need to combine a few foods in order to take in the same amount of protein. Here are 7 swaps to replace about 20 grams of animal-based protein with 20 grams of plant-based protein.  

1. Replace chicken with tempeh in salads

Swap 3 oz cooked chicken breast cooked (26 grams of protein)  for 4 oz tempeh (26 grams of protein).

2. Replace steak with edamame in a stir-fry 

Swap 3 oz cooked flank steak (23 grams of protein) for  1 ¼ cups cooked edamame (23 grams of protein).

3. Replace ground beef with mushrooms and lentils in pasta 

Swap  3 oz of ground beef cooked (22 grams of protein) for 1 cup cooked lentils + 1 cup diced raw mushrooms (21 grams of protein).

4. Replace pulled pork with jackfruit and lentils in a sandwich 

Swap  3oz pork (23 grams of protein) for  1 cup of jackfruit + 1 cup of lentils (21 grams of protein).

5. Replace carnitas with black beans in a burrito  

Swap 3 oz pork (23 grams of protein)  for 1 ½ cups black beans (22 grams protein).

6. Replace chicken with roasted chickpeas in shawarma 

Swap 3 oz cooked chicken breast (26 grams of protein)  for  2 cups canned chickpeas (24 grams of protein).

7. Replace eggs with tofu in a scramble 

Swap 3 extra-large eggs (21 grams of protein)  for 9 oz firm tofu (21 grams of protein).

New to Home Cooking? How to Stock Your Kitchen

New to Home Cooking? How to Stock Your Kitchen

3 min read

Here are some kitchen products that will make your transition to healthier home cooking easier. You may already have many of these supplies, but some may need an update. For example, sharp knives will make cutting crisp fruits and vegetables safer and easier.  Here are some of the supplies the Love.Life nutrition team recommends: 

  • A good blender 
  • Cutting boards (separate for ready-to-eat food and raw meat)   
  • Pots and pans 
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixing bowls 
  • Strainer or colander
  • Can opener
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Sharp knives
  • Glass reusable water bottle 
  • Glass containers for leftovers or meal prep containers
  • Spatula
  • Whisk
  • Kitchen scissors 
  • Tongs
  • Oven mitts
  • Citrus juicer 

Consider purchasing, depending on your favorite things to cook:  

  • Air fryer 
  • Pressure Cooker
    • If you are interested in multiple appliances, consider searching for a product with multiple functions.  For example, an air fryer that is also a pressure cooker.   
  • Sous Vide 
  • Crockpot
  • Food processer 
  • Toaster oven
  • Lettuce spinner
  • Electric griddle
  • Food steamer
  • Electric mixer
  • Mandolin slicer
  • Rice cooker
  • Popcorn popper
  • Cast iron skillet
  • Muffin tin
  • Tofu press
  • Bread maker 
  • Tea kettle 
  • Soda Stream
  • Coffee maker/ cold brew coffee press
    • Many of these appliances aren’t needed to lead a more plant-based lifestyle, but they may be helpful for developing healthier habits.  For example, if you typically buy sweetened cold brew coffee daily, you may want to consider buying a coffee press to make cold brew at home without unwanted additives. 

What can be tossed or donated?  

As you work towards adding more whole foods to your diet, you simultaneously begin to limit or eliminate other components of your diet.  While cleaning out your kitchen, you will come across food that you know needs to go, we call these “easy goners,” but keep in mind that some of these foods may not be easy to part with!  Revamping your kitchen is just one step in moving towards a more plant-based whole foods lifestyle, but it is a big step.  If you are not ready to totally revamp all your eating habits, a great place to start is putting the “easy goners” that fall under calorie-dense or packaged food, such as your go-to processed cookies or potato chips, in a separate section and work towards minimizing the section size.  Next, work towards finding substitutes to swap in for your favorite processed foods or regular meals.  Lastly, if you are working towards becoming fully plant-based, move on to “the hard ones.” 

Whenever possible, consider donating the food that no may no longer fit into your lifestyle to your local food pantry, excluding expired food which should be composted or thrown out.  

  • Easy goners
    • Expired or old food
      • Can it be composted?
    • Calorie-dense food you don’t want to keep
      • Think: Groceries you bought for guests, food gifts, items you bought and did not like, etc. 
    • Packaged food with artificial ingredients such as…
      • Artificial colors
      • Artificial flavorings
      • Artificial sweeteners
      • Hydrogenated oils 
  • Swap it out
    • Change out processed, non-whole foods with plant-based substitutes. Swap:
      • White flours for whole grain flours
      • Boxes of mac and cheese for whole grain pasta made with butternut squash, cashew “cheese” sauce  
      • Fruit roll-ups for single-ingredient fruit leather 
      • White bread and pasta for whole grain bread and plant-based pasta, such as chickpea pasta or zucchini noodles
      • Brownie mix for a homemade date-based brownie recipe
      • Soda pop for sparkling water 
      • Sugary cereal for maple overnight oats
      • Fried tortilla chips for whole grain crackers
      • Potato chips for air-popped popcorn 
  • The hard ones … work up to this, it won’t necessarily happen overnight.
    • Your favorite processed, non-whole foods
      • Start by limiting these items and work towards eliminating them if possible. Challenge yourself to move further down the whole foods continuum.
      • Search for whole-food substitutes that are just as satisfying.
      • Save can’t-live-without favorites for special occasions. 


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