Happy Herbivore Blog

Fighting Heart Disease with a Plant-Based Diet -- Heart Health Month

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Advice

February is American Heart Health month. As you know, my Father had a heart attack two years ago and his health has been our primary focus ever since.

According to the CDC, 715,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for both men and women --- 1 out of every 4 deaths is from heart disease.

And here's what's really heartbreaking: it's all entirely preventible.

I can't recommend Dr Essy's book, Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease enough.

Dr. Essy recommends a very low fat, no oil, plant-based diet for prevention and treatment.

BTW my lower fat meal plans follow Dr. Essy's recommendations.

Dr. Essy also has a generous Q&A on his website, plus this interview with HuffPo.

Individuals who have heart disease need to also be mindful of their salt intake. Since his heart attack, my Dad has become fanatical about reading labels, and he often sends me surprising salt discoveries.

For example, he wrote me: "Yesterday I was just glancing at the nutritional values of a generic can of chickpeas and one by Bush's. Was really surprised that the generic one had 280mg of sodium (12%) and the Bush's one had 470mg (20%) of sodium. And the generic one isn't even listed as low sodium. Wow! What a difference. Just goes to show you that people with heart conditions need to scan labels of even the "good/healthy" foods."

Always opt to buy the no salt added/low sodium versions whenever possible, particularly with canned tomatoes, beans and vegetable broth.

You can also make your own broth from scraps.

Since I bought my Dad this pressure cooker last year, he now makes beans from scratch.

For more info on how to reduce your salt intake, see these posts:

How to Reduce Salt (video)

Sodium: How Much is Too Much? (+ How to Tame Your Salt Habit)

Finally, watch (or rewatch) Forks Over Knives and CNN's The Last Heart Attack with President Bill Clinton.

Herbie of the Week: Erin (She No Longer Suffers From Chronic Pain!)

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Herbies

Around Thanksgiving I asked Herbies on Facebook to share their experiences with going plant-based (you can read some the responses here).

Erin was one of the many of commenters, and I was blown away by her post:

"I have NEVER felt better. I've lost 37 pounds and I've gone from wearing a (tight fitting) size 8/10 to a size 2! The arthritis in my hips and back has almost nearly diminished--Before, when I was a meat-eater and ate multiple servings of dairy a day, I was in chronic and unbearable pain. I lived on 6-8 ibuprofen tablets on an almost daily basis just to be able to walk around. But now, after becoming plant-based, I can go to the gym and run again. I'm almost 25 and I was trapped before--I couldn't even get in and out of bed on my own. Now, my husband and I enjoy participating in 5K's and going to the gym on a regular basis, and I can keep up with and play A LOT with the children that I work with! A plant-based diet has literally transformed my life."

I knew immediately I had to ask Erin to share her story as part of the Herbie of the Week series!

Hi Erin! Tell us more about yourself:

At 19, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my hips and back. I was in chronic and unbearable pain! Most days, I would rely on roughly 6 ibuprofen tablets to get me through the day. I couldn't get in and out of bed unassisted and simply walking down stairs would sometimes take me upwards of 15 minutes because the shooting pain in my back would stop me dead in my tracks. I remember too well being so embarrassed gripping the railing, legs shaking in pain with each labored step and tears streaming down my face. I actually wasn't sure if I'd be able to make the walk down the aisle on my wedding day. Thankfully, I was able to, but I continued to live in pain for another year!

So what made you decide to go plant-based?

After becoming a vegetarian over a year ago, I felt the strongest pull after a sermon in church to become fully plant-based. Our pastor, Louie Giglio, was preaching that day in the series "Passion & Purpose: Coming Alive in God's Great Story." The sermon talked about how God has given each one of us something unique and special--Our passion. He spoke about how we should awaken to our passion; it's something inside that moves us. I was actively seeking out vegan literature and watching videos that broke my heart and moved me to tears just prior to this sermon. Pastor Giglio said that what moves us is likely the passion that God has woven into the fabric of our hearts. My passion is for animals and for health and this was brought to my heart immediately during this sermon. After we left church that day, I felt moved by The Lord to become fully plant-based and not support industries that imprison and do not treat God's creatures with love and kindness.

At the Peachtree Road Race in July 2013

What changes have you experienced since adopting a plant-based diet?

I feel alive and better than I have ever felt before! I'm almost 25 and I no longer live trapped in my own body. I've lost 37 pounds and have gone from a tight fitting size 8/10 down to a size 2. Before, the thought of running would make me cringe; I could barely walk. Now, my husband and I are active and enjoy doing 5Ks together. I have an active job working as an ABA therapist with children touched by autism; I can run around and play with them! I am a regular at the gym and have found a new love--the stationary bike. Today, I rode 13 miles! In my pre-plant strong days, that would have NEVER been possible.

That's great! Speaking of your husband, how did he handle your transition to a new diet?

Unfortunately, my husband is not fully plant based. He supports me 110% and eats whatever I cook for dinner which is obviously always plant-based. My husband and I enjoy MANY meals out of the Happy Herbivore cookbooks! He has lost 52 pounds though, watching what he eats and cutting out MUCH of the meat and dairy he used to consume. We are both healthier thanks to this switch!

And what about your arthritis? Any update on that?

My arthritis is not gone--I was tested at 19 for ankylosing spondylitis (a fancy term for fusion of the vertebrae) and I have the gene HLA-B27, which could lead to this fusion later in life. My dad has ankylosing spondylitis and his neck is totally fused. The doctors have told me that regular chiropractic visits and staying active along with eating right is the best defense against this disorder. The last bad flare-up I had was due entirely to stress; I had just taken an enormous exam that I had studied hard for over the course of two months. After the exam was finished, the doctors said that stress may have released and caused the symptoms I used to encounter daily. The doctor recommended two days off work coupled with ice, minimal activity and massage. I also had an MRI to rule out anything serious and it actually came back better than expected--All of my vertebrae look great and there is no sign of fusion!

Amazing! Thanks Erin for sharing your incredible story with us!

UPDATE: January 2013

All is well! I am maintaining my weight and LOVING the new HH Light & Lean cookbook. I got it from my husband as my birthday present.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup, Blueberry Parfait, Spicy Tofu or Bean Stew & More!

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: MealPlan

Start February off right with this week's meal plan!

Enjoy savory and delicious new additions like the Pasta e Fagioli Soup (NEW!), Spicy Tofu or Bean Stew (NEW!), Cream of Celery Soup (NEW!), and Red Curry Vegetable Soup (NEW!, fam.).

You'll also find guilt-free (and fuss-free) eats like Pumpkin Pancakes (both plans), Soy-Free Mac n' Cheese (ind.) and much more!

Caribbean Bowl

Individual Highlights

  • Blueberry Parfait
  • Cream of Celery Soup (NEW!)
  • Caribbean Bowl
  • Spicy Tofu or Bean Stew (NEW!)
  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Mac n' Cheese
  • Paste e Fagioli Soup (NEW!)
  • Strawberry & Spinach Salad
  • Sweet Potato & Apple Home Fries
  • Vegetarian Gumbo

Get this meal plan now.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Family Highlights

  • Eggless Egg Salad
  • Red Curry Vegetable Soup (NEW!)
  • Greek Goddess Pita
  • Cream of Celery Soup (NEW!)
  • Mexican Stuffed Peppers
  • Pasta e Fagioli Soup (NEW!)
  • Blueberry Parfait
  • Yellow Dal
  • Spicy Tofu or Bean Stew (NEW!)
  • Pumpkin Pancakes

Get this meal plan now.

Spicy Tofu or Bean Stew


"I am loving your meal plans! So far I have lost 6.9 pounds in 3 weeksand having your menus make it easy. I have many food intolerances - dairy, soy, peanuts and I choose to not eat meat. So this is perfect!!!!" - June N

"I'm on week 6 of the plan, it's easier than it seems, and so flexible you can always make it work for you. I'm also spending a lot less money for my groceries because I used to just "go shopping" without knowing what I'd make and so I spent too much and sometimes ended up wasting food." - Lilia K

Get the current meal plan now.