Fighting Parkinson’s, and the Recipe in-depth, part 10

I intend to take each part of the Recipe, physical, mental, and spiritual, and explain why it is in the Recipe and what it is doing for you in your recovery, deeply drilling down to the how and why it is helping you recover from Parkinson’s. Today is the tenth part: Vegetarian diet.

For those of you new to the blog, when I say “the Recipe,” I am talking about the Parkinson’s Recipe for Recovery®. Click here to review the full version of the Recipe.

Vegetarian diet.

I have maintained a vegetarian diet as I feel healthier. Below is a reprint of my blog entry on why I started a vegetarian diet.

“I am on a vegetarian diet by necessity, not choice. Except for occasional eggs and some butter, it is a vegan diet. This decision has been quite a process to organize and figure out, but Sally has been magnificent in preparing exceptional vegetarian meals.

One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s is constipation. In my view, constipation is a four-letter word. I learned the hard way that animal protein stays in my system too long and I had to give it up. It then took a couple of months of healthy eating and high fiber to get this issue under control.

I am eating whole grains, brown rice, lots of fruits and vegetables, all kinds of beans, barley, chick peas and lentils, and this is a diet that agrees with me and my condition 100%. Sally’s friend Mary gave Sally an Indian cookbook years ago and Sally has been preparing many Indian dishes that are delicious.

Recently, we discovered a vegetarian cookbook by Madhur Jaffrey, the author of the Indian cookbook, and it has 650 vegetarian recipes from various countries around the world. It has opened my eyes to all of the possibilities of a healthy vegetarian diet. Also, many of the meals have a mix of flavors in the spices; sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and tangy, and these various flavors help different organs for better digestion.

Fiber is now more important than ever, and I discovered Fiber One cereal, the original one with 14 grams of fiber in 1/2 cup. To maintain my weight, that is, not lose any more than the 35 pounds already lost, I have to eat three main meals and two mini-meals in-between a day. Fiber One with a banana and soy milk is my morning mini-meal. It is tasty enough and it helps in keeping my large intestine functioning properly.”

I will begin today’s discussion with a quote from Margaret Mead:

“It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” (This goes for women, too).

In September of 2009, my tremors appeared and got my attention…Parkinson’s in full force. Over the next few months, I lost 35 pounds. Then came Thanksgiving, the kick-off of the holiday season. Since I could eat what I wanted and not gain weight, I indulged, and over-indulged, in turkey and beef (I had cut sweets out of my diet, so these were wonderful indulgences). Plus, my thinking was that I needed these proteins for my strength in fighting Parkinson’s.

I viewed life with bright eyes as we brought in the new year. However, in January of 2010, my large intestine all but shut down. I had been doing the Recipe for a few months and feeling good on the inside even though my symptoms looked worse on the outside; I had looked at bringing in 2010 excitement of what could come. And then, I started feeling sick, really sick, inside. I started researching what could be causing the shut down in my system. Animal protein was the culprit. It takes a lot of energy to digest and it stays in the system a long time (add a slow moving Parkinson’s system, and a long time equates to shutting down the system and re-toxifying the body).

One day in the beginning of January 2010, as I was upstairs researching constipation and large intestine function, Sally was downstairs cooking one of my favorite meals, ropa vieja, a meat dish filled with wonderful spices. As the aroma was arriving in my room, instead of my usual salivating, it turned my stomach. At the conclusion of my research, I went downstairs to deliver the news: I would not be eating the ropa vieja…I needed to switch my diet to vegetarian.

I explained my situation to Sally. As many of you know, there are unpleasantries about Parkinson’s that are difficult to discuss even with one’s spouse. This was one of them. After explaining my situation and that I would not be eating the ropa vieja, Sally looked at me with empathy and said, “Okay.”

What you may not understand about Sally is that regarding my recovery, she was “all in!” She never made me feel badly about myself or my Parkinson’s situation, even in a situation like this where she had spent hours preparing a special meal for me that I then announced I would not be eating. She truly was an Angel in helping me navigate my recovery and my life…still is an Angel.

So I switched to a vegetarian diet, just like that. And, Sally joined me. She took it on as an adventure, an expansion of her culinary skills, and she shined. It truly helped my recovery as it cleared up the constipation issue and improved my energy. As mentioned earlier, animal protein takes a lot of energy to digest, especially when compared to vegetable protein, and it stays in the body a long time, which can cause your large intestine to slow down or shut down, and toxins to go back into your system.

You are spending so much time doing the physical part of the Recipe to increase your energy and remove toxins from your body, so why would you want your food intake to cause you constipation and fatigue. Consider a change, a small adjustment at first, less animal protein and more fruits and vegatables. Sally and I have continued our vegetarianism, soon to be five years.

Which brings me back to Margaret Mead:

“It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.”

Sally has made a commitment to assist all of you. We will be adding a “food Recipe” section to this website. Sally will be providing you vegetarian recipes, cooking tips, and menus. To get you started, here is what Sally has to say:

“Vegetarian Menu Planning

Most of us have no familiarity-eating vegetarian. We were raised with meals consisting of “meat and potatoes.” As children we were taught the food pyramid, with a small portion of meat protein in every meal. It was ingrained in us that in order to have a healthy diet you must incorporate all the food groups.

Vegetarians were people you might read about but you certainly did not know any personally. They lived mostly in California or India.

People choose to be vegetarian for many reasons including religious, animal rights, environmental and economic. You and many other people are choosing to switch to vegetarian for health reasons.

Please consider this change in diet an adventure. Look at this as an opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire…to introduce yourself to new food experiences.

Menu planning is essential to creating healthy and interesting vegetarian meals. There are key ingredients that can make a vegetarian meal exceptional. A veggie burger can be delicious but if you add grilled onions and chutney, it transforms the experience from ho-hum to amazing. Having these ingredients available when you are preparing your food helps create extraordinary dining. You will look forward to cooking and your guests will appreciate your efforts.

As you begin this process you will need to acquire a few vegetarian cookbooks and recipes to build structure and inspiration to your meals.

Menu planning can be very difficult. I still struggle with it!

Initially I would go through my recipes and make ambitious lists of what I was going to make during the course of a week. I would pick recipes based on what looked good to eat. Then, I would create a shopping list. Dutifully I would go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients. Invariably, life would get messy, and I did not cook all the meals I had planned on making. We were throwing out ingredients/food that spoiled and spending additional money going out. I had not put flexibility in the “plan.”

I have learned that I need to plan to cook three main courses that can be eaten for more than one meal. For example, a big pot of soup, marinara sauce and a whole grain salad, always keeping in mind what ingredients might be “in season” at the grocery store. I make a commitment to make these recipes. Then we can count on a solid base to create lunches and dinners for the week. The soup could be a barbeque bean; a robust soup filled with pinto beans and roasted red peppers. We could have a large bowl for dinner with cornbread as an accompaniment, for lunch a cup of soup with a sandwich and another dinner with the soup over a baked potato. The marinara could be used over pasta and then as a sauce for a pizza dinner. The whole grain salad might be faro, chickpeas, leeks and currants. You can use it for a lunch entrée or as a side to complete other meals.

Where do the other meals come from? Your pantry! It should have non-perishable ingredients that can produce a meal with little effort. Pantry items include dried beans and fruit, grains, canned beans, jars of roasted red peppers and artichokes, pasta, and a variety of nuts and seeds. Count on your refrigerator to have a few basics like carrots, celery, eggs, butter, frozen peas, Parmesan cheese, condiments, etc.

You will find recipes that can be thrown together in minutes with your pantry items, such as pasta with olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, walnuts and parsley or basil. Want to add protein, throw in canned cannellini beans. A good pantry can make a big difference to the flavor and depth of your dinner!

Also, if you typically eat out or bring in food several times a week, then make it part of your planning process.

Start slowly when you begin changing your eating habits from carnivore to vegetarian. If you eat two meals a day with meat then try cutting back to one meal a day for two weeks. You will need this time to develop recipes for vegetarian meals. You will gain confidence as you become more comfortable cooking without meat proteins.

After two weeks, cut your one meal a day with meat protein to three a week. Give yourself another two weeks to adjust before you eliminate it all together. You can do this! Your body will show you that it can be very happy eating vegetarian.

As you explore recipe possibilities be sure to put variety into your meals. You will not be successful if you eat peas and carrots for three days in a row! Go to the Internet and “Google” vegetarian lunch ideas or vegetarian dinner recipes. You will find many options to temp your taste buds. Variety is also important to incorporating different food groups such as grains, legumes (beans), fruits and vegetables.

My one word of caution…cheese. I have found there is a tendency to put cheese in vegetarian dishes. I love cheese but it is not healthy to have it with nearly every meal. As you mature as a vegetarian cook, you will be able to create menus with diverse ingredients.

Howard and I enjoy exploring vegetarian meals in restaurants. We have not found one restaurant that could not meet our dietary needs. Don’t hesitate to talk to the waiter if you see few vegetarian options on the menu. Often times we will call ahead and inquire about vegetarian options if we are going to a new restaurant.

Here are some of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks:

Tassajara Cookbook
lunches, picnics & appetizers
By Karla Oliveira, M.S., R.D.

World Vegetarian
By Madhur Jaffrey

Rebar Modern Cookbook
By Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz

Moosewood Restaurant Cooking For Health
By Moosewood Collective

Bon Appétit!

That’s it.

You are worth it!!!

I will be back soon.

All my best,



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4 Responses to Fighting Parkinson’s, and the Recipe in-depth, part 10

  1. Helen C. says:

    How lovely to hear Sally’s voice alongside Howard’s! This series of posts is such a wonderful Christmas gift, thank you both.

  2. Karen in Ireland says:

    Bless your heart Sally, lovely to hear from you here. Total vegetarian diet will be a challenge! We are told the brain needs protein, chicken and fish are so easy ( I don’t eat lamb or beef) I think each day I am getting nearer massive discipline to be rid of this oh so challenging disease to be DONE with it. If that means vegetarian then I shall give it a go! Hope you are having a lovely Christmas. Just back from visiting family, checked email. You guys are so commited to this community, it is heart warming.
    Bless you both.
    With love and Gratitude
    Karen xx

  3. Debbie says:

    Hi Howard and Sally.
    Thanks so much for the post. I have had no problem changing over to vegetarian, but the sweets have been a different story. I am recommitting to cut out the sugar. I have done this at different times during my life. I know how much better I feel when I don’t eat it. It is amazing to me that I would even consider putting something into my body that made it feel poorly. I guess I was thinking that I should be able to practice balance in this area of my life. I have had this ” all or nothing” attitude and was trying to change it to”moderation”. I know I will do better just cutting the sweets out. Thanks for your help and for your support. I do the exercises so faithfully everyday. I am determined not to just turn around and add toxins and garbage by eating sweets. I am committed. I will let you know how it goes.
    I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that Sally is now healed from the accident.
    Thank you to both of you for this timely and pertinent post.
    Sending Gratitude and love your way,

  4. Pingback: Fighting Parkinson’s, and your best is good enough…really! | Fighting Parkinson's Drug Free

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