Plant-Based Diet Shown to Increase Longevity

A widespread shift away from processed foods and animal products is underway on a global scale, and new research shows that it spells good news for longevity. For many of us whose health and wellness journey has been non-linear, or for those who feel behind, it’s encouraging to know that no matter when we start to eat more plant-based foods, there’s still massive health benefits to be achieved.

“Not all plant-based diets are equal, but boosting the intake of high-quality plant-based foods over time lowers the risk of death even among people who started off with poor-quality diets," - Megu Y. Baden M.D. Ph.D.

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently conducted a study following nearly 75,000 individuals for more than 12 years. Participants averaged 64-years-old, and had no history of heart disease or cancer when they entered the study in 1998. Regardless of the starting point for each individual, the group with the biggest increase in high-quality plant-based foods saw a 10% decrease in deaths from all causes, and 8% lower for those with the largest increase in an overall plant-based diet.

It’s important to note that a plant-based diet doesn’t ensure long-term health. The individuals in the study that leaned towards low-quality plant-based foods saw their risk of death skyrocket by 11%. Today, it’s just as easy for plant-based eaters to find alternative junk foods and other highly-processed products. As a result, the researchers emphasized “high-quality”plant-based foods that are high in nutrients, like sweet potatoes, almonds, quinoa and mushrooms. They cited vegetables, fruits, nuts, and unprocessed whole grains as key ingredients for longevity.

“Not all plant-based diets are equal, but boosting the intake of high-quality plant-based foods over time lowers the risk of death even among people who started off with poor-quality diets,” said lead author of the study, Megu Y. Baden. M.D. Ph.D., in a meeting report from the American Heart Association.

The American Institute for Cancer Research offers similarly upbeat conclusions about a plant-based diet. The AICR recommends that cancer survivors follow the same diet recommendations of those for cancer prevention -- a varied, plant-based diet, in which plant foods make up two-thirds or more of the plate.

The words “vegan” and “vegetarian” have become less intimidating as they continue to infiltrate the mainstream. For consumers who want to experiment with a plant-based diet, or slowly make the transition, it’s recommended to start trying out alternative dairy products like cashew-cheese or oat milk, and meat substitutes like tempeh and tofu (soy), and jackfruit. Before making a decision on whether you like these products or not, try out tasty recipes from sites like Minimalist Baker, and learn how to jazz things up with spices and other ingredients like coconut milk. It’s easier to eliminate products from your diet when there’s something that you enjoy to replace it with.

Another incentive for a plant-based lifestyle is the massive relief it offers the environment. A growing number of reports offer evidence that shifting away from animal-based foods could drastically reduce carbon emissions and waste byproducts, and lower water use by at least half. For context, it takes up to 8,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, and nearly 2,000 gallons of water for one gallon of cow’s milk, compared to 302 gallons to make one pound of tofu, per UCLA Sustainability research. 

(Read more about the study here.)

Paula Recommends ...Mushroom Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

This is a very hearty, chunky soup filled with a combination of sweet and savory spices -- cinnamon, coriander and cumin -- which give it a deep, earthy richness as well as a generous amount of cancer-fighting phytochemicals. For the most complex flavor, use several kinds of mushrooms and cook them until they are dark golden brown and well caramelized. Plant-based, low in sodium and calories, high in flavor and health benefits: a perfect winter meal. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 & 1/4  lbs. mixed mushrooms (such as cremini, oyster, chanterelles and shiitake), chopped
1/2 lb. shallots, finely diced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground allspice
2 & 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 ounces baby spinach
Fresh lime juice, to taste
Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)

1. Heat 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add half the mushrooms and half the shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are well browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to a bowl and repeat with remaining olive oil, mushrooms and shallots.

2. Return all mushrooms to the pot and stir in tomato paste, thyme, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and allspice; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Stir in 5 cups water, the salt and the black pepper. Bring mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook gently for 20 minutes. Stir in baby spinach and let cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Using an immersion blender or food processor, coarsely puree soup. Mix in lime juice. Thin with water, as needed.

5. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with dollops of yogurt if you'd like.

Nutrition information: Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 182 calories; 12g fat; 2g saturated fat; 12g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 5g protein; 210 mg sodium

Paula Recommends ...Grapefruit and Smoked Trout Cobb Salad

Ring in the New Year with a refreshing, palate-cleansing, protein-rich, main dish salad. Rich in whole grains, healthy fat, greens, citrus and protein, it's perfect for brunch or dinner. The newly released CUP Report from AICR (American Institute of Cancer Research provides research that calls for a plant forward diet for cancer survivors, rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats… this delicious salad delivers all.  - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

1 grapefruit, halved and thinly sliced, plus 1/4 cup juice
1 shallot, minced (2 Tablespoons)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped romaine hearts (or greens of choice)
2 cups watercress, tough stems removed
2 cups cooked farro, barley, or rice
8 oz. smoked trout, flaked
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced


For the Dressing
1. Whisk together grapefruit juice, shallot, and Dijon.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Whisk in oil.

For the Salad
1. Toss lettuces and farro with 1/3 cup dressing and divide among 4 bowls.
2. Top with flaked trout, avocado slices, and grapefruit.
3. Season with pepper.
4. Drizzle with more dressing, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories 414; Total Fat 22.5g; Sat Fat 3.25g; Sodium 53mg; Carbohydrate 35g; Dietary Fiber 7g; Protein 20g

Paula Recommends ...Winter Berry Smoothie Bowl

As the frost forms on the pumpkin and availability of local produce begins to wane, set your sights on affordable frozen fruit! Harvested ripe and frozen quickly, frozen fruit (and vegetables!) are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. No wonder diets rich in fruits (fresh, canned, frozen or dried) can help protect against chronic diseases. This easy smoothie bowl is filled with frozen berries, and topped with nutrient-rich toppings including cacao nibs, which are a great source of flavanols, a family of heart-healthy antioxidants. It’s healthy enough for your next breakfast, lunch or filling snack. Prep Time: 5 minutes. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

1 cup frozen berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries)
1/3 cup skim dairy milk or plain, unflavored soy or almond milk
1/2 banana, ripe
1 Tablespoon chia seeds

1/4 cup frozen berries
1 Tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon cocoa nibs (unsweetened, crushed cocoa beans)

*Note: Other toppings to try: unsweetened, dried coconut, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, and pistachios

1. Place all ingredients in a blender container. Process until smooth.
2. Pour into a bowl and top with additional frozen berries, hemp seeds, and cocoa nibs or unsweetened, toppings of choice.
3. Enjoy immediately.

Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories 326; Fat 12g; Sat Fat 2g; Sodium 46mg; Carbs 49g; Fiber 14g; Protein 11g

Paula Recommends ...Winter Squash w/ Mushrooms & Sage

This perfect winter side dish is a simple yet unexpected combination of techniques and flavors. First roasted, then sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, it is finished off with fresh sage, bringing out the sweetness of the squash. Winter squashes, like Butternut, are excellent sources of vitamin A, good sources of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and carotenoids. This simple sauté is just one of many ways this winter staple can be enjoyed. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

3 cups cubed butternut squash, ½-inch (1 lb.)
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 oz. package fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt to taste
4 fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium-sized bowl or zip lock bag, toss squash with 1 Tablespoon olive oil.
3. Arrange butternut squash on baking pan. Roast until fork tender, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside.
4. In large skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic and pinch of salt and sauté 4 minutes.
5. Add sage leaves and continue sautéing 2 minutes.
6. Mix in squash. Continue to sauté another minute.
7. Season to taste with pepper and serve warm garnished with cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories 121; Total Fat 7g; Sat Fat 1g; Sodium 25mg; Carbohydrate 14g; Dietary Fiber 2.5g; Protein 2.5g

Wake Up Call: The Health Benefits of Coffee

From Healthline

Excerpt: "Not only can your daily cup of joe help you feel more energized, burn fat and improve physical performance, it may also lower your risk of several conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, coffee may even boost longevity.

...For people who eat a standard Western diet, coffee may be one of the healthiest aspects of their diet. That's because coffee is high in antioxidants. (Some) studies show that many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined. In fact, coffee may be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet."

For the complete article, including more on how coffee can fight depression and make you happier, drastically improve physical performance, help you burn fat, improve energy levels and make you smarter and even lower the risk of certain types of cancer, click here.


The Mighty Pomegranate

From Huffington Post |  By Dr. Nalini Chilkov

 "Greek myths tell us that pomegranates, the fruit of Persephone, can guarantee a return to spring each year. And modern science tells us that pomegranates may indeed be a fruit of the Goddess in its capacity to alter cancer cell growth in a multiplicity of ways.

There are hundreds of studies on pomegranate and cancer. Cancer physiology is complex. Remarkably, constituents of this ruby red fruit speak to a number of significant pathways in the development and growth of cancer cells. Some researchers say that pomegranates and pomegranate juice have the potential to prevent cancer growth. Most of the research has been done on breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer."

For the complete article, including the five reasons to include pomegranates in an anti-cancer diet, click here.

For information on the anti-aging properties of pomegranates, click here.



Paula Recommends ...Stuffed Zucchini Cups

Inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, these zucchini ‘cups’ are filled with meat, onion, and rice and cooked in tomato sauce. In addition to offering a good balance of protein, carb, fat and fiber, this dish is a delicious, plant forward meal providing lycopene (cooked tomatoes), quercetin (a flavonoid and one category of antioxidant compounds - onion), as well as manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and selenium (garlic). - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

3 medium zucchinis, ends trimmed
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
⅔ cup chopped yellow onion, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (or less/to taste)
1 28-ounce can (about 3½ cups) crushed tomatoes, divided
8 ounces 95% lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked medium-grain white rice
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves

1. Cut zucchinis into 1½-2 inch rounds. Hollow out the center of each round to make it look like a cup, leaving about 1/8” flesh at the bottom of the cup.
2. Dice the removed flesh.
3. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add zucchini flesh and ⅓ cup onion.
4. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add garlic and ½ teaspoon salt.
5. Sauté for 1 minute, then stir in 2½ cups tomatoes. Turn off heat.
6. In a medium mixing bowl, add remaining ⅓ cup onion, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 cup crushed tomatoes, along with ground beef or turkey*, rice, allspice and cumin. Stir to combine.
7. Spoon the filling into each zucchini cup to the top and place each cup in the tomato sauce, meat side up.
8. Cover skillet, turn heat to low and simmer for 55 to 60 minutes or until a food thermometer reads 160°F when placed in the center of the stuffed zucchinis.
9. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh mint immediately before serving.

Makes 5 servings

Nutrition Information: Per serving: Calories 260; Fat 8.5g; Sat Fat 1.9g; Sodium 466mg; Carbs 34g; Fiber 5.4g; Protein 17g

*Ground turkey breast lowers the calories and fat grams as follows: Calories 246; Fat 6.6g; Sat Fat 0.9g

Berry Good!

From Bottom Line Personal  |  By Bill Gottlieb, CHC

Excerpt:  "Berries Are So Powerful Even Scientists Are Stunned:  If you were asked to make a list of “superfoods”—nutrient-loaded foods that effectively fight disease—you’d probably include items such as kale, beans, walnuts, broccoli, green tea, wild-caught salmon…and berries.

What few people realize: As a superfood, berries—blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries and the like—are in a class by themselves. They can be more health-giving than medications or supplements, according to experts at Harvard Medical School and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The antioxidants in berries—anthocyanins, the compounds that give these fruits their lustrous colors—deliver a pure dose of prevention and healing to the brain, heart and every other system and cell in the body. And you don’t have to eat a bushelful to get the benefits."

From heart health, to sharpening your brain to fighting cancer, here’s what you need to know about the amazing power of berries."

For the complete article, click here.