Plant Based Living

By Marin D

I am a 38-year-old wife and mom of 3, and I exclusively eat plants to nourish my body. I wasn’t always so fruit-filled, and I’m sharing a piece of my health-seeking journey to help others better understand the relationship between the food we consume and the quality of health we can reasonably expect to have.

After moving beyond numerous health issues, I understood two things: I’m the best advocate for my health care needs and I should only focus on issues I can control. To take care of my body, and under the guidance of a health professional, I followed a high protein diet (mostly fish/Greek yogurt/eggs/whey protein), lifted light weights 2 days/week and ran 30+ miles/week. It was a shock, then, to receive a report of high cholesterol (260) after a health physical. Allow me to put this in context:

Total Cholesterol Numbers (measured in milligrams per deciliter – NIH.gov)
240 MG/DL and Above = High
200-239 MG/DL = Borderline-High
Less than 200 MG/DL = Desirable

Because I like to learn, I soon discovered:

  • Nearly 1 in every 2 American Women Has High or Borderline-High Cholesterol. – National Institutes of Health
  •  The body needs some cholesterol to make hormones, vitamin D and substances that aid digestion, but it makes all the cholesterol it needs (mainly in the liver). The other source of cholesterol is food. – National Institutes of Health.
  • Top Food-Sources of Cholesterol: eggs, chicken, beef/burgers, cheese, sausage, hot dogs, bacon and fish. – National Cancer Institute
  • If blood cholesterol (a fat-like substance) is too high, it builds up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this plaque causes Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart attacks, stroke and other vascular disease. – CDC
  • Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in the United States. – CDC

Hearing I had high cholesterol, and then understanding what it meant, was frightening, but learning I could do something about it myself was a relief, and in time, very empowering! Through self-guided research (watching documentaries, learning about Sebi, reading countless books/university studies/scientific articles, and talking to vegans), I began to really understand the deep connection between food and health. Some food nourishes (provides vital nutrients and protective compounds like antioxidants or polyphenols), and some food depletes (may contain some nutrients but is inflammatory). To live a healthy life, I came to believe I should consume quality food (anti-inflammatory, clean fuel) that provides the daily dose of nutrients required by the body.

Beverly Merz, Executive Editor of Harvard Women’s Health Watch said, ‘…While you only need a small supply of micronutrients, failing to reach those requirements virtually guarantees disease.’

Breakfast Bowl: Quinoa, blueberry juice, unsweetened coconut yogurt, blackberries, chopped dates, walnuts, Michigan maple syrup.

Armed with a plethora of information, I chose to follow a high carb, low fat vegan diet. As meat is a carcinogen (IARC) and dairy is inflammatory (Harvard), and because I like to make room for (vegan) ice cream and donuts, I wanted to make sure the vast majority of the food in my diet would be working for me. As nature provides, why waste money or health on that which ultimately deprives?

After a year of enjoying a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, seeds/nuts and grains, my blood work revealed that carbs saved my life; my cholesterol dropped to 185, quality of sleep, skin and digestion drastically improved, and even after ditching high intensity workouts in favor of more calming yoga sessions, hikes and bike rides, the body fat I thought I’d have for life melted right off! Why on Earth would I ever turn back?!

Coco-Toast: bakery bread (toasted), unsweetened coconut yogurt, blueberries, sunflower seeds, Michigan maple syrup.

Eating plants is good for me, the animals, the climate, the planet and humanity. My diet, thus, seamlessly became my lifestyle; plants meet my nutritional needs, satisfy my desires and are a real, sustainable solution to many of our planet’s problems.

Out of my enthusiasm for plant-based eating, sustainable living, and my appreciation to the strangers who have dropped nuggets of information for me to look up, I created CoconutsforPlants on Instagram to share my quick, simple plant-strong recipes. I hope to show health-seeking folks that plants can be delicious, filling, and most important, are the most nourishing foods we could possibly choose to thrive as we potentially could.

Dinner Bowl: Romaine, mixed bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, mixed potatoes – baked with falafels, canned corn, black beans, hummus, avocado, olive oil and salt/red pepper flakes.

If you haven’t started already, I recommend eating the rainbow. Healthy feels great and always starts with the first bite. Next month, I’ll share a piece about my favorite markets to find the best produce (and deals) in Grand Rapids–stay tuned!

About the Author

Marin Darr is a local vegan and developer of the IG account CoconutsforPlants. Professionally, she’s entangled in the world of startups. To balance that stress, she studies plant-based nutrition, takes walks, rides her bike and practices mindfulness while standing on her head. She tries to live humbly, volunteers occasionally, and appreciates family time. She resides in EGR.

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