The 6 Blood Tests Every Vegan Should Get (And What You Need to Know About Them)

Professional doctor preparing patient for procedure

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my dad’s recent heart issues, it’s this:

A blood test is a vital first step in engaging actively in preserving your health.

It can show you areas to improve, or reaffirm that your active, nutrition-conscious lifestyle is working for you.

Regardless of what it says, it will give you peace of mind because a basic blood test is still our best way of understanding what’s happening in our bodies.

Now, allow me to explain where all this is coming from…

It starts with my dad, someone I’d consider to be fairly healthy. After being diagnosed with heard disease, he cut out most meats and began focusing on maximizing whole-food plant-based meals. As a result, he lost over thirty pounds, lowered his total cholesterol to 119, and improved his overall cardiovascular health.

Another win for plants!

That’s why it was surprising when, recently he began experiencing tightness in his chest (angina). As a result, he underwent an angioplasty — a risky procedure during which a camera is run through an artery in his leg and up into his heart to check for blockages.

Having just gone through this with him not that long ago, my family and I were once again fearing the worst.

But when the results came back, his heart disease had not progressed in severity since his last angioplasty.

When dealing with heart disease, I’ve found that “not worse” is something to celebrate…so, good news right?

Yes, but it still left us with the question: why was my dad tight in the chest?

Through the routine pre-procedure blood tests, doctors discovered that my dad had very low levels of hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cells. In other words, he was severely anemic. And, thus, he was experiencing tightness in his chest, tiredness, and dizziness.

These are all good reasons to pursue an angioplasty — yet, it wasn’t blockages causing the symptoms, so an angio wasn’t the solution.

Instead, we learned (after the procedure) that it was likely the low hemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen to the heart, brain, and the rest of the body. No hemoglobin, no oxygen.

The fact is, a simple blood test could have alerted us to this issue months earlier.

And this isn’t the first time a standard blood test has had a huge impact on my family.

My wife and I both discovered deficiencies and food sensitivities through blood work. After years of a WFPB diet,  I thought we would see amazing results in our blood test. Instead, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I had “rheumatoid-like inflammation.”

This led to a manic search for answers. And many more blood tests. And eventually, through proper supplementation and modest changes to our diets, our lives and health have improved greatly.

Sometimes our bodies are telling us something that we don’t understand. But with insight from our blood markers and help from our doctors, we can learn a great deal.

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How to Get Started with Strength Training

Beautiful slim brunette doing some push ups a the gym

If you’re anything like me, strength training feels super intimidating.

For starters, you have to know what exercises to do that enhance your other activities (like running, cycling, etc.). Then there’s the question of how to do these exercises correctly to avoid causing an injury.

Plus, for me anyway, there’s the fear of looking silly at the gym next to guys with loads of experience and the muscles that come with it.

That’s why for the longest time, I just avoided strength training all together… to my own detriment. Because as soon as I started doing just 10-15 minutes at home regularly, I saw almost immediate results both with my appearance and my running performance.

In today’s episode, Matt and I share their very different approaches to strength training (he likes the gym, I don’t), and the first steps you can take to get started.

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The Simplest Healthy Meal You Should Add to Your Diet Today

Buddha bowl dish with brown rice, avocado, pepper, tomato, cucumber, red cabbage, chickpea, fresh lettuce salad and walnuts. Healthy vegetarian eating, super food. Top view

Want to know how Matt and I really eat?

For the most part, it comes down to a simple formula. The grain, green, and bean.  But what that looks like in practice may surprise you.

In today’s episode, we go in-depth into why a grain, green, and bean makes for a simple and healthy meal, and share ideas on how to avoid the trap of the boring veggie bowl.

Listen to the episode here:

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Health IQ: This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious. Visit healthiq.com/nomeat to learn more and get a free quote.

 

 

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Marco Borges and the 22 Laws for a Healthy Body and Mind

ep262

Marco Borges has worked as a health coach to celebrities like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Shakira, and today, to you. He sits down with us to talk about his nutrition philosophy, intermittent fasting, and why we should be practicing Kaizen when it comes to our health (and life).

Listen to the episode below, and check out his new book, The Greenprint here.

Listen to the episode here:

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If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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Health IQ: This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious. Visit healthiq.com/nomeat to learn more and get a free quote.

 

 

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10 Surprising “Grain, Green, and Bean” Recipes You Can Make Tonight

Soup with different vegetables,beans, tuscan soup, ribollita.

Fifty words. That’s how many Dr. Seuss used to write Green Eggs and Ham, which went on to sell 8 million copies (and counting). Hard to imagine a better sale-to-word ratio than that.

The interesting part of the story, though, is that he wrote it on a challenge. A challenge to write a book using only that many words.

A great irony of creativity is that when you add constraints, you suddenly feel freed. It’s a lot easier to respond to a writing prompt than to stare at a blank page.

But what does this have to do with food?

Only that when you’re staring at a shelf full of cookbooks (not to mention an internet full of millions of free recipes), it’s hard to figure out which one meal to make tonight.

And so, like ol’ Theodore Geisel, you add a constraint. My favorite, for its health, simplicity, and tidiness, is a grain, a green, and a bean.

A Grain, A Green, and a Bean

A grain, a green, a bean (the phrase, more than the idea) is one of my greatest contributions to this world. My sincere hope is that this is noted on my tombstone when I die.

I’m not sure if there’s any controversy surrounding my claim to having invented it. Trader Joe’s made a frozen meal called Greens, Beans, and Grains, but to my knowledge this came later (and doesn’t freaking rhyme!).

Nowadays the term is everywhere on the internet, the genius inventor’s name long forgotten. But several blogs properly credit No Meat Athlete with it. Boom.

(Note: if you have examples of the phrase being used prior to 2011, please keep them to yourself. I need this.)

Ownership squabbles aside, there are plenty of reasons to love a grain, a green, and a bean:

  • It’s healthy and substantial. Chances are, it’s the healthiest thing you can make tonight that isn’t a salad. And with the calories and heartiness we’re looking for as athletes.
  • It reminds you to eat greens. In my opinion, greens are the single healthiest type of food you can eat. But it’s so easy to not get them, and I’m as guilty of that as the next guy or gal. The beauty of “a grain, a green, a bean” is that when you’re thinking in this framework, you’ve got that extra nudge to figure out a way to work something green into the meal. (And if you can’t, you add a salad.)
  • The protein thing. I don’t really think about macronutrients these days, and don’t believe you need to if you eat a plant-based diet based on whole foods. But for those who do: beans and grains do pack a good amount of protein, and together tend to create a broad amino acid profile. The “complete protein” idea is likely a fallacy — there’s no need to get all the essential amino acids in the same meal — but you do need to get them all in your diet. So when a single meal does provide a lot of them, all the better.
  • It’s a vehicle for other healthy foods. Just like with a smoothie and with salads (my typical breakfast and lunch before a GGB dinner), GGB allows you to add a lot of other foods you might try to get each day. For example, you can (and should) start just about every GGB meal with a saute of onions and garlic, two foods worth eating daily. And of course, you’ll want to add lots of spices.

And of course, there’s also the aforementioned simplicity and the power of constraint. It’s just enough to focus your thinking, to imagine how the foods in your pantry and fridge might work together, without being so limiting as to dictate exactly what you’re cooking, like any single recipe does.

But… there’s a problem.

Most instances of a grain, a green, and a bean — you know, the ones with the #whatveganseat hashtag — are better described as “big bowls of sadness” (another great term, this one borrowed from No Meat Athlete Cookbook co-author Stepfanie Romine).

So that’s my goal with this post. To demonstrate just how exciting — and surprising — a grain, a green, and a bean, can be.

With that, I present to you: the many forms of GGB — one of which, on just about any given night, represents dinner in my house.

1. Stir fry

The grain: Brown rice, usually, or rice noodles. Could be something like quinoa if you’re not that into arsenic.
The green: Bok choy or broccoli.
The bean: Tofu, tempeh, black beans, or adzuki beans.

Example: Vegetable Teriyaki Stir-Fry from Dreena Burton.

2. Tacos

The grain: Corn or whole-wheat tortillas.
The green: Lettuce. Or better, cabbage. (I count red cabbage as a green, too.)
The bean: Crumbled tempeh or black beans.

Example: Spiced Tempeh Soft Tacos from Engine 2.

3. Soup or stew

The grain: Whole-wheat pasta, bulgur wheat, or rice.
The green: Kale or spinach.
The bean: Any. Chickpeas, white beans, kidney beans, split peas…

Example: Hearty Chickpea Pasta Soup from No Meat Athlete.

4. Curry

The grain: Brown rice. Sometimes white rice with curry is just really, really good though.
The green: Usually spinach (kale is a little too toothsome for most curries, I think).
The bean: Lentils, split peas, chickpeas, black-eyed peas.

Example: Red Lentil Curry (stir in baby spinach during the last few minutes of cooking) from Anjum Anand.

5. Beans & rice

The grain: Hmm. Maybe rice?
The green: Spinach, kale, or cabbage.
The bean: Black or pinto.

Example: Hawaiian Beans & Rice from my sister, Christine!

6. Pasta

The grain: Whole-wheat pasta, usually.
The green: Arugula works well. Or basil, in a pesto. And sometimes I just dump a pile of steamed kale on top of pasta with red sauce.
The bean: Fava beans or cannellini beans. Or if you want to get really tricky, you can use lentil pasta (Trader Joe’s makes a great one).

Example: Fire-Roasted Tomato Pasta with Chickpeas and Arugula.

7. Buddha bowl

The grain: Any.
The green: Any.
The bean: Any.

(I don’t actually know what defines a Buddha Bowl. Maybe it’s just a less clever way of saying “a grain, a green, and a bean”?)

Example: Build your own Buddha Bowl from Cookie and Kate.

8. Hummus & dippers

The grain: Whole-wheat crackers (I like Engine 2 brand).
The green: Broccoli or cabbage.
The bean: Chickpeas, usually.

Example: Really? You just dip the things in the hummus. Roots (from Asheville!) makes a great oil-free hummus you can get in most Whole Foods stores. Or you can make your own, of course. The buffalo hummus that my sister created for the first No Meat Athlete book is still one of my favorites.

9. A smoothie (!?)

The grain: Oats.
The green: Baby spinach or baby kale. (The baby varieties seem to impart the least flavor.)
The bean: Silken tofu or even white beans. Ask the vegan bodybuilders.

Example: Green Goddess Smoothie from Pickled Plum. (note: I don’t actually put tofu or beans in my smoothies. Just showing that it can be done.)

10. The classic

The grain: Up to you.
The green: Any!
The bean: Whatever you’ve got.

Example: Millet in the Pot with Adzuki Beans and Collards from Terry Walters.

The classic is the one that runs the biggest risk of becoming “the big bowl of sadness”. A good GGB dish requires a good sauce, so use the Sauce System to make one.

Your turn!

I hope this list helps you. More than that, I hope it demonstrates just how varied a grain, a green, and a bean can be.

But this is just my list. Surely I’ve forgotten a few typical meals that, upon examination, fit the GGB mold. What are your favorites?

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Your Marathon Questions, Answered

blurry picture of runners in a marathon

A few days ago we asked readers of the blog to submit their marathon-related questions. The responses came pouring in, and ranged from injury prevention and timing to what foods to eat and how to stay motivated.

In today’s episode, Matt and I tackle many of your questions in hopes that it will serve as the boost you need to set your marathon goal.

Listen to the episode here:

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If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

Our Sponsor:

Health IQ: This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates the health conscious. Visit healthiq.com/nomeat to learn more and get a free quote.

 

 

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The No Meat Athlete Guide to Buying Your Perfect Running Shoe (and the Only Question that Really Matters)

Young woman tying laces of running shoes before training

There’s nothing like a new pair of running kicks.

They look crisp, smell fresh, and — if you’re anything like me — instantly add a little extra pep to your stride.

I’ll even go as far as to say that it’s a sure bet that my first run in a new pair of shoes will be a good one.

But after that freshness wears off, after the smell turns sour and you’re left with just the miles on your training plan, what makes one running shoe better than any other?

Walk through a specialty running store and you’ll see dozens of brands and models to choose from, each with a different set of features that look and sound like the next best thing…

…New performance foams, shoe shapes, spring boards, and random other made-up-word materials, all promising to help you run faster or prevent your next injury.

So how do you decide?

As a long-time ultrarunner and regular shoe reviewer for sites like Competitor, I find myself trying out a new pair of shoes almost every month, and I’ve come to realize fancy marketing words have very little to do with a shoe’s performance.

While it might feel overwhelming in the store, finding the right shoe for you is not as complicated as you might think.

Below I share my tips for how to choose the perfect shoe to carry any plant-based athlete through their training and across the finish line.

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Ocean Robbins on Superfoods, Sustainability, and the 31-Day Food Revolution

ocean

I owe a lot of my health — and now my parents’ — to Ocean and John Robbins.

Ten years ago, I decided to try a plant-based diet. I was inspired, believe it or not, by a Tony Robbins seminar, and it turns out that Tony’s nutrition philosophy was heavily influenced in the mid-1980’s by John Robbins’ Diet for a New America.

Nowadays, John and his son, Ocean, put on the Food Revolution Summit every year, in which they interview 20 to 30 of the top minds in the health and nutrition world. They’re incredible at distilling broad, sometimes complicated topics into succinct, motivating advice, which is what makes the summit so appealing every year.

That’s what caught the attention of my dad in 2016, when a Food Revolution Summit talk convinced him to start eating a plant-based, nutritarian diet.

And finally, my mom started eating this way too: her motivation in the moment was a heart scare, but the foundation had been laid by several years of listening to the summit interviews.

Now, Ocean has taken the wealth of nutrition knowledge he’s amassed over his life, and compiled it into a “health manual” of sorts — The 31-Day Food Revolution: Heal Your Body, Feel Great, and Transform Your World — in stores today.

I had the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of the book, and I can tell you it’s every bit as insightful and actionable as the summit is each year.

It’s my pleasure today to feature Ocean Robbins as our guest on the latest episode of No Meat Athlete Radio. In the interview, Doug and I pick Ocean’s brain with questions both broad — like how he filters the overwhelming amount of nutrition information out there — and specific, like the foods he makes sure to eat every day.

Check out The 31-Day Food Revolution, and then listen to the episode here:

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If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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