An Interview with Plant-Based Athlete Dr. Ruth Heidrich

By Meg Donahue
on February 14, 2017

In 1982, Dr. Ruth Heidrich was introduced to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Fast forward to 2017 where now, at 81 years young, she is a seasoned raw vegan, cancer survivor, a plant-based athlete (Ironman triathlete!), and author of four books.

We sat down with Ruth this week to hear her story and pick her brain about plant-based living.  

Q: A number of our customers struggle with a transition to a plant-based diet - what advice do you have for them?

A: First, you have to look at your motivation. What is it you are trying to accomplish? Because this transition is considered so "radical" by so many, it does take some determination to "take the road less traveled." Health is frequently the instigator for making the change. In my case, it was easy because when you're diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, you'll do anything to save your life. So when Dr. John McDougall told me that it was my diet that caused the cancer and that by getting rid of the cause, I could save my life. I was strongly and powerfully motivated. My response was "Tell me what to do and I'll do it!"  When I saw results the very next morning, there was no struggle, just confirmation that I was doing the right thing. Hopefully, everyone who makes the change can see immediate results!

Q: Tell us why you first started to consider changing your diet. What inspired the change? 

A: Because I'd studied nutrition in college, I thought I knew all I needed to know about nutrition. After spending two hours with Dr. McDougall who showed me the science, I was excited about the possibility and in those two hours, became, what is the simplest way to describe it, a plant-based, no-oil, no refined, processed food vegan!

Q: What surprised you the most after you started eating this way?

A: The biggest surprise was how quickly my chronic constipation disappeared. I love it when people ask me how long before I saw results because I break into a wide grin and say, "The next morning!" And the wonderful surprises kept on coming, too. My bone pain disappeared. My liver enzymes normalized. My osteoarthritis, for which I was taking prescribed medication disappeared. My adult acne and dandruff disappeared. I had more energy and my running got faster, and when I decided I was going to train for the Ironman Triathlon, I added swimming and biking -- all with more energy than I had ever experienced before! I had faster recovery times and all my training became fun! Then when I started winning trophies, I had more pleasant surprises!


 

 

 

 

Q: What challenges did you have to overcome to change your diet?

A: The main challenges came from other people, not the least of which were from my oncologist, my family, and my friends. Thank goodness for those early "surprises" because I knew then that I knew what they did not!

Q: What is your biggest fear? 

A: My biggest fear is that enough people will not make the change in time. Those who have heart disease, cancer, COPD, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney disease, and more, either will not be told how to reverse it or those who don't yet have all those diseases or more, will get them for lack of this vital information. I also fear for the environment.  What factory farms and factory fishing are doing to the only place we have to call home is devastating and criminal. The same can be said for the lives of all those fellow sentient beings, those animals others call "food." Billions are mistreated and killed every minute, hour, day, and year.

Q: Do you have a philosophy by which you live?

My main philosophy is gratitude!  Having been so long exposed to what is wrong has motivated me to now look at what is right. Having started the nightly routine of coming up with all my gratitudes has really changed how I see the world.  One of my main gratitudes comes whenever someone reaches out to me and wants more information about how to do this. So my philosophy is to share and the most efficient and effective way is to share my books, videos, and my "Ask Dr. Ruth" column. I feel gratitude then which leads to hope, hope that we all will change in time to lead happy, healthy lives -- and that includes every one of us, even all the animals!


To learn more about Ruth's story, visit her website.

You can also check out her latest book, Lifelong Running: How to Overcome the 11 Myths About Running and Live A Healthier Life at Lantern Books. 

Sniffing out the woo-woo: how to sleuth out pseudo-science

By Ali Donahue
on February 07, 2017

Even though eating a plant-based diet can change your life and health, there’s a heck of a lot of misinformation out there. At MamaSezz, we do the research to give you the facts. We’d rather bust a myth than spread the hype when it comes to nutrition. We like to call it sniffing out the ‘woo-woo.’ And while you can count on us to help answer some of your plant-based health questions, we understand some folks prefer a DIY approach. Next time you’re reading about the latest nutritional claim, we recommended asking yourself these four questions from the T. Colin Campbell Center of Nutrition Studies at Cornell:

  1. Does the study focus only on a single-nutrient?

    When studies hone in on a singular nutrient, take it with a grain of salt (…and pepper, since we’re being inclusive). This isn’t to say the study’s findings aren’t true, but the body is a complex, crazy thing and focusing on one nutrient above all others hasn’t gotten us all that far. All nutrients play a role in our overall health. But in Western culture we tend to canonize or demonize single nutrients.

    Think of the anti-carb mania of the early aughts. Or our obsession with supplements. Both scenarios can actually lead to adverse effects on the body. When folks cut out carbs (which, when unprocessed, fuel your body) and boost their red meat intake, risk for stroke and heart disease sky rockets. And taking too many supplements instead of eating our nutrients poses a whole new set of health risks. Keep in mind the road to a healthy body isn’t typically eating, or not eating, one particular nutrient, but instead, giving your body all the nutrients it needs to thrive.

  2. What kind of study was it?

    To figure out what kind of study you’re reading about, you’ll want to consider:

    • What’s the problem this study intends to solve?
    • What kind of questions are being asked about that problem?
    • What kind of evidence is presented?
    • Was this research conducted on animals or humans? If the experiment cured cancer in mice it doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll do the same for us.
    • If it was a human study, consider where it was conducted. A lot of folks in the U.S. eat the Standard American Diet (SAD), one high in processed foods, unrefined sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. When studies are conducted on folks with the same eating habits, the findings, though compelling for those of us in West, may not be universal.
  3. Who’s behind this study?

    If a blog asserts diabetes can be cured with weekly manicures, then links to a study supporting that claim, click that link and get to sleuthing! Understanding who conducted the study can help us to see if there might be a bias driving the research. Look into not only who conducted the study, but how it was funded. If the study doesn’t come right out and say “Paid for by Big Nail Polish,” try googling the lead scientist or author. Are they the chairman of the Nail Association of America board? If so, could that close affiliation perhaps influence their findings?

  4. Is the study based on fact, judgment, or opinion?

    These are three very different things and they can all influence studies, even those with the best intentions.

    • Scientific facts are objective, verifiable observations that are not relative to the speaker; they’ve been repeated and confirmed as true.
    • Judgments are assertions that may be well reasoned or poorly reasoned and based on more or less evidence. They are not fact, but they have some careful thought behind them.
    • Opinion is a view of judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge

We live in an exciting time! We’ve got so much information at our fingertips and while it can be tricky to suss out the “good” info from the “bad,” asking these four questions is a good place to start.

Have a question about a particular nutrition claim? Let us know and we’ll get to sleuthing.

4 Healthy Swaps for the Plant-Based Rookie

By Ali Donahue
on January 31, 2017

You’ve heard it before: eating a whole-foods plant-based diet is a great way to boost your health. Not only is it linked to a reduced risk of heart diseasetype 2 diabeteshypertension, and other serious chronic illnesses — it also boosts your energy and metabolism. But even though eating this way can change your life and health, it can be hard to get started. If you’re not ready to take the 100% plant-based plunge, we’ve got a few healthy food swaps you can make to test the waters.

  1. Switch cereal for oatmeal

    The truth is most breakfast cereals are loaded with added sugar and refined grains, which spike your blood sugars and insulin levels. Short-term, you experience a blood sugar crash after eating. The crash leaves you feeling sluggish and hungry again soon after, often causing you to overeat at the next meal or snack. Long-term, it increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease

    Oatmeal is made from unprocessed whole oats and takes the body longer to digest. With your blood sugars and energy stable, you feel full longer. And, steel cut oats are packed with fiber so they’re a tasty way to regulate digestion. For a balanced breakfast, pair steel cut oats with healthy fats and protein (we like nut butters!).

    No time to prepare breakfast in the morning? Try this overnight oats recipe.

  2. Replace fruit juice with fresh fruit
    An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Apple juice, however, is a different story. Studies show eating your recommended daily servings of fruit reduces the risk of diabetes significantly, while sipping your fruit increases risk. Why? Well, fruit juice is often stripped of the fruit’s natural fiber. That fiber is not only essential for healthy digestion, it also keeps your blood sugar in check by slowing the absorption of the fruit’s sugar.

    So next time you reach for that morning OJ, try a fruit salad instead.

  3. Use avocado over mayo
    Switch things up by adding avocados to your lunch instead of mayonnaise. California’s magic fruit still adds moisture and fat to your dish without the heaviness of mayo.

    Containing monosaturated fats, AKA “the good fat,” avocados are a heart-healthy alternative, both sodium and cholesterol-free. They’re also filled with nutrients—fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid, to name a few.

    This quick avocado “mayo” recipe makes the perfect condiment to your favorite sandwich.

  4. Munch on nuts over pretzels
    The afternoon slump is real and the only way to persevere is coffee and a snack. It’s science.

    OK, well maybe that’s not actually science but this is: pretzels are nutritionally empty. They don’t contain healthy fat, protein, or fiber — making it so very easy to scarf down an entire bag and still feel hungry.

    Next time you hit the 2pm wall, refuel with a handful of unsalted, raw nuts. They’re sodium-free and packed with protein and healthy fats to re-energize you and leave you feeling satisfied.

How to Stock Your Plant-Based Pantry

By Ali Donahue
on January 24, 2017

Eating plant-based can change your life and health. But if we’re being honest, it can also be a pain in the neck when you’re just starting out. Not only does your dinner plate look different, but your shopping list changes, too. Or even more daunting, maybe you don’t even have a list because you’re not quite sure what a plant-based grocery trip looks like yet.

Don’t panic. We’re here to help you get that pantry in order.


Our advice? Go slow. This isn’t a marathon! You don’t have to throw out everything in your cupboards that doesn’t fit the “plant-based” mold. Instead focus on what to include on those shelves.

Let’s start with the basics:

Nuts and Seeds

While great for snacking on-the-go, there’s a lot more to nuts than trail mix. Did you know cashews are often used as the base for plant-based cream sauces (like in our kid-approved mac and “cheese”)?

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds

Whole Grains

Unlike refined grains, whole grains are unprocessed and still have all those important nutrients in tact. Try whole grains as a base for stir fries, a hearty addition to soups, or on their own as a fiber-filled side dish.

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice

Beans and Lentils

OK, bathroom jokes aside, beans really are a magical fruit. They’re filled with fiber to keep your digestion on track and your tummy happy. Plus, they rank low on the glycemic index, which makes beans a healthy choice for folks with type 2 diabetes. Did we mention there’s about a zillion varieties to choose from? Some of our favorites include:

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans (also called Great Northern Beans)
  • Red Lentils
  • Green Lentils

Sweeteners

Good news — you don’t have to deny yourself the sweet things in life to be healthy. You can satisfy your sweet tooth and your blood sugar by sticking to natural sweeteners over refined, processed ones.

  • Agave
  • Maple syrup
  • Dates (or date syrup)
  • Honey

Condiments and Sauces

There’s more to the condiment aisle than ketchup, we promise! Whether you’re looking for a dash of heat or a quick salad dressing, these condiments bring life to your next veggie-inspired dish.

  • Hot sauce
  • Coconut aminos
  • Shoyu
  • Vinegars (apple cider, brown rice, balsamic, red, white)
  • Tamari
  • Mustard
  • Nut butters

***Bonus Round

No plant-based pantry is complete without nutritional yeast. Found at most natural food stores (we recommend buying in bulk), this inactive yeast gives your favorite foods a nutty, cheesy flavor — without the sodium or dairy. Sprinkle on some popcorn for a savory, healthy movie night snack.

Looking to stock your fridge, too? Check out our hearty, plant-based meals or drop us an e-mail with any plant-based shopping questions!

How to Get Your Protein from Plants: A Beginner Guide

By Ali Donahue
on January 17, 2017

One of the biggest questions folks have about a plant-based diet is about protein.

Mainly, how the heck can you get enough of it from plants?

This concern is understandable. After all, we’re talking about “the building blocks of life” here! But don’t fret. You’ll find protein (and lots of it) in a ton of plant-based foods. 
Before we get into which delicious plant-based foods are best for meeting your protein needs, let’s talk about what exactly those needs are.

What is protein?

Protein is a macronutrient. To get all our calories and energy, humans need three macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. 

Protein is the one responsible for the body’s growth and maintenance. The body’s got all sorts of proteins, from structural ones like the keratin in our fingernails to hormonal proteins, like insulin, which regulates the glucose in our blood. All these different proteins help us build, preserve, and repair the tissue and muscle in our bodies.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. And while there are 20 different amino acids in total, our bodies only produce 11 of them. That means the other nine, often referred to as “essential amino acids,” need to come from our food. In other words, it’s why we need to make sure we eat our protein!

OK, OK… but how much protein do we really need?

Unlike with carbs and fat, our bodies are pretty lousy at storing protein. So scientists measured the amount of protein our bodies lose to figure out how much protein we need to eat. They found adults need a minimum of 0.5-0.6 grams of protein for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

Since we’re not all exactly the same, they added a safety buffer to cover any fluctuations in our protein needs….and voila! They arrived at the recommended 
daily allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight, or about 8-10% of your total calories.

So which plant-based foods are packed with protein?

A whole mess of ‘em. But in the interest of saving time, let’s just start with some of our favorites:

  • Almonds (1/4 cup) – 6 grams of protein
  • Black beans, cooked (1 cup) – 15.2 grams of protein
  • Broccoli (1 cup) – 4.6 grams of protein
  • Bulgur, cooked (1 cup) – 5.6 grams of protein
  • Cashews (1/4 cup) – 6 grams of protein
  • Chia seeds (2 tbsp) – 6 grams of protein
  • Chickpeas, cooked (1 cup) – 14.5 grams of protein
  • Edamame (1 cup) – 18 grams of protein
  • Lentils, cooked (1 cup) – 17.9 grams of protein
  • Nutritional Yeast (3 tbsp) – 12 grams of protein
  • Peanut butter (2 tbsp) – 8.0 grams of protein
  • Quinoa, cooked (1 cup) – 11.0 grams of protein
  • Spinach, boiled (1 cup) – 5.4 grams of protein
  • Steel-cut oatmeal, dry (1/4 cup) – 5 grams of protein
  • White Potatoes (1 medium) – 4 grams of protein
  • Wild Rice (1 cup) – 6.5 grams of protein

Want to know more about plant-based protein? We’ve got you back. Email us your question at hello@mamasezz.com and we’ll get to the bottom of it!

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From the Blog

An Interview with Plant-Based Athlete Dr. Ruth Heidrich

February 14, 2017

In 1982, Dr. Ruth Heidrich was introduced to a plant-based diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Fast forward to...

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