Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet
Board-Certified Integrative Health Coach
Eating Psychology Practitioner
Brain Health Coach
Karen Malkin Health Counseling
Could you tell us a bit about yourself (certifications, where you are from, etc). and your journey to a plant-based lifestyle?
I grew up in Lincolnwood, IL, lived in the city (in Chicago), and now in Glencoe, IL with my husband while raising 4 boys. I am among the first National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coaches in the country and the founder of MCT Lean, a plant-based, dietary supplement company. Passionate about integrative medicine and environmental health, I serve on the Philanthropic Council for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Medicine, as a board of director for the Environmental Working Group, Spiral Sun Ventures, and Gardeneers. Some of my specialty areas include brain health, the 14 Day Transformation series, emotional eating, weight loss, the science of nutrition, high energy superfoods, smoothies, supplementation, managing cravings, and healthy lifestyle makers.
What are the benefits of living a plant-based diet?
A plant-based diet has been proven to reverse heart disease in many patients. Plant-based nutrition may help prevent, and at times reverse, some of the leading causes of premature death. Plants are loaded with fiber, which can significantly lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, as well as the risk for developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. They are also full of vitamins, minerals, and plant-based compounds that may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and other diseases.
Why is it worth trying a plant-based diet?
If you feel inclined to try a plant-based diet, I encourage you to try it out for a few months and observe how you feel. Do you have more or less energy? Are your sugar and refined carb cravings changing? Do you feel leaner in your body? How is your mental clarity? What changes do you notice in your digestion and elimination? We are all bio-individual and there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to eating.
A lot of people might assume that plant-based foods are automatically healthy. What is your guidance for people trying to navigate vegan junk food from healthy eating? Can processed foods be healthy?
I encourage my clients to eat foods in their whole form as much as possible. Nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, tofu, tempeh, beans, and legumes. Most processed food is void of nutrients and often contains trans fats.
In addition to addressing health issues, what ‘mis-truths’ about nutrition would you like to help dispel, if possible? “Fat in my food does not mean fat on my body.” We need to enjoy healthy fats to lose weight, support brain health and mood, hair, skin, and nails, and healthy fats allow us to make longer trips between meals, as they are more satiating than carbohydrates.
So many popular plant-based foods aren’t necessarily grown locally. How do you ensure that the foods you eat are both nutritious and also sustainable?
Visit your local Farmer’s markets and get to know your local farmers. They will tell you if they spray their crops with pesticides and how they grow their crops. They will also have a lot less of a carbon footprint than produce traveling 1,000 miles across the country, unripe, losing nutrients along the way. Farm-to-table tastes better, is most fresh, and has the highest amount of nutrients.
Based on your experience in nutrition and current trends, what do you think is the future of the plant-based food system and veganism in the next 10 years?
Plant-based nutrition is growing like crazy. The refrigerated “dairy” section has more non-dairy items than ever before. Even the frozen section of grocery stores continues to grow. More people are requesting plant-based meals in restaurants and grocery stores than ever before.
What are some simple hacks you suggest to add more plant-based foods into your diet?
Aim for 5 to 9 ½ cups of vegetables and fruit each day, focusing mostly on vegetables. Enjoy leafy greens with at least two meals and eat an array of colorful produce. These phytonutrients or phytochemicals are natural compounds of all plants. They are responsible for giving plant foods their distinctive tastes, smells and colors. Each color has a different health benefit to you. Plants contain so many nutrients that they help curb cravings for the foods that make us sick.
How can our readers detox on a plant-based or vegan diet? Any recommendations?
Avoid sugar, gluten, and dairy and consume 5 to 9 ½ servings of vegetables and fruit, plant-based protein, and drink ½ your body weight in ounces of plain filtered water. Stick to three meals a deal, and try not to snack.
How can our readers build up their immune system on a plant-based or vegan diet?
Eat more colors! Plants contain immune supporting flavanols which include citrus, berries, soy, and green tea.
Can you share some of your favorite plant-based diet recipes?
On my website you’ll find more than 450 recipes, many of them plant-based. Some of my favorites include Karen’s Superfood Smoothie, which is a complete meal in itself, loaded with plant-based protein, brain-boosting MCT‘s, superfoods, fiber medley, veggies, and berries. My Swiss Chard and Tofu recipe, Quinoa with Garbanzos and Spinach and Sautéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Raisins are all loaded with chlorophyll and fiber. Also, if you have a sweet tooth, my Raw Cacao Truffles make for a smart choice when it comes to dessert, containing no sugar, dairy, or gluten!
Are there any plant-based foods that you like to include on a daily basis?
I eat leafy greens with all my meals, Asian mushrooms, something green, orange, red, purple and white every day, and mostly produce that’s in season, whenever possible.
What would be your number one recommendation for anybody looking to adopt a whole food plant-based diet?
Add in vitamin Q...quality. Don’t worry about taking away your favorite foods. Don’t stress about that. Start by adding in your 5 to 9 ½ servings of veggies and fruit each day and you will notice your cravings for junk foods beginning to subside.
Are there any supplements or vitamins that are required when it comes to a plant-based diet?
Anyone on a vegan diet should supplement with B12 and work with a trained clinician for support around a healthy vegan diet. Get your vitamin D levels checked and if needed, supplement. A good quality algae based omega-3 and a multi vitamin/mineral may be helpful as well.
Speaking of supplements and vitamins, chlorophyll is the foundation of plants, would you recommend adding liquid chlorophyll + water to your diet? What are the benefits of chlorophyll water?
Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants and known as “nature’s life force.” Chlorophyll aids in the body’s natural detoxification process and helps balance the body’s pH levels. Studies show chlorophyll may even help reduce hunger and aid in weight loss. Add chlorophyll to a glass of filtered water with a squeeze of fresh lemon and enjoy!
What are your favorite plant-based or vegan books, podcasts or websites you recommend?
I like Michael Greger MD, “How Not to Die” cookbook. His brownies are amazing and so are the soups. He also has a blog completely based on evidence called Nutritionfacts.org
Where can we find you on social media?
Anything else you want to add?
I am passionate about integrative medicine and helping to change the way medicine is practiced. It begins with the healing power of food.