Let’s Get Plantpowered!
Beginning the Journey
Superfoods for the Win
Master Plantpower Shopping List
Blends + Juices
To Blend or to Juice . . .
Raising Healthy Kids with a Plantpowered Lifestyle Approach
Milk + Cheese
Nut Milks, Creams & Cheeses
Beyond the Kale
Sauces + Dressings
The Secret Is the Sauce
Evolutionary + Revolutionary
Breakfast + Brunch
Out of the Breakfast Box
Getting Back to the Root
Soups + Salads
Warm + Cool Vibrations
Chew on This!
But Where Do You Get Your Protein?
Mains + Sides
Is It a Main or a Side?
Embracing the Now
Lattes + Teas
Transform Your Lattes & Teas...
Treats + Sweets
The Sweet Life
The Creative Voice of Food
Life + Style
It would be too easy to call this a book of recipes or a guide to go vegan. It is much more than that. It is an invitation to be a guest at the home of a truly marvelous family. As you know, one can learn quite a lot about people through the foods they consume, and you will feel like you are part of this family by the time you are done with The Plantpower Way. Julie, Rich, and their kids—Tyler, Trapper, Mathis, and Jaya—are all ridiculously fit, good-looking, and oozing bliss. They share a lot of themselves in this book and seamlessly weave together their stories, their philosophy, and their food—the final product feels wonderfully complete, authentic, and delicious. Quite simply, Julie Piatt and Rich Roll have authored the best book I have read on the topic, and I have read many. The Plantpower Way is remarkably thorough, teaches you about the very essence of the foods, provides a guide to buying those foods, and includes the perfect preparation and the astonishing benefits. There are big lessons and small, such as when to add herbs and spices for maximum return, and also a reminder to take time to smell those herbs every now and then.
The book quickly jumps onto your wavelength and is so intuitive that it provides answers before you even ask the question. To blend or to juice. How to get your kids on the diet and the age-old query about whether plants can provide adequate protein. In case your curiosity is piqued, Rich Roll says you can absolutely get the building blocks of protein you need through Plantpower, and decrease the risk of vascular disease at the same time. He will show you how.
By the way, I am living proof of his philosophy. It worked for me.
If you are perusing this book, you are probably already looking for a change. You are likely dissatisfied with the standard American diet (SAD) and already believe in something more. If that sounds familiar, this book could change your life. Give it a place of prominence in your home. Share it with your friends. It will be one of the greatest gifts you ever provide. They will definitely thank you for the Cherry Cacao Blend; it is almost too good to be true.
This may surprise you, but most doctors didn’t learn nutrition in medical school. It seems almost absurd, given that our foods can be medicine. Nearly all I learned has been on my own. And around the time I turned forty it took on a new sense of urgency. With heart disease running in my family, I was not prepared to accept the same destiny as generations of men before me. Not only did I want to avoid that seemingly preordained fate, I wanted to turn it on its head. I wanted to get fitter, healthier, and even younger than I was the year before. I spent late nights reading and then traveling the world to meet the people who could teach me even more. Rich Roll was one of the first people on my list.
Rich Roll is one of America’s most admired athletes. It is not because he is an ultraman, which makes most people tired just describing it. It is not because he has clocked top finishes at the world championships. It is not because he is one of the world’s fittest men, and one of the humblest at the same time. It is not even because he accomplished all of this on a plant-based diet. It is because he is just like you, and me. He was sedentary and overweight at age forty, and believed he could be better. At a time when shortcuts and “hacks” had become the new normal, Rich worked incredibly hard and invested in the journey. It paid off.
No, this is not your typical recipe book. It is a book about hope, and the universally shared belief that any one of us can be better.
The book is also a story about unwavering support, steadfast faith, and love. Julie Piatt has spent decades perfecting the content of this book. She also spent countless hours developing strategies to nourish the body and the soul of her ultraman when he returned from his high-intensity training rides. From energy bars to green drinks to the perfect vegan brunch, it is all in here. If you ever considered a plant-based diet while training, this book is essential.
A few years ago, I had the good fortune of eating in the Malibu home of Julie and Rich. You will see the pictures of this magical place sprinkled throughout the book. It was an outstanding meal, and I didn’t miss meat or dairy one bit. Even more powerful, though, was the infectious enthusiasm and support of the hosts themselves. Through The Plantpower Way, you will get to experience all of it for yourself.
I take immense pride in helping introduce the world to Rich Roll and Julie Piatt through a television story. As a health journalist, I have never found it sufficient to simply report on better ways to manage disease. And it wasn’t good enough to simply preach wellness. I believe in the optimization of the human body and the human spirit. You will not find better guides in that quest than the authors of The Plantpower Way.
My friends Rich and Julie are going to help a lot of people become better versions of themselves through this book—and create a lot of joy along the way.
LET’S GET PLANTPOWERED!
Now Is the Time to Embrace the Next Level of Nutrition to Live Your Best Life
If this book is anything, it’s a family celebration of just how dramatically our lives have changed in the last decade.
Eight years ago, enslaved by a dehumanizing career track dominated by eighty-hour workweeks, Rich was hurtling into a disillusioned middle-aged malaise. He had a hopeless addiction to fast food and a myriad of unhealthy lifestyle habits that left him fifty pounds overweight and on an inevitable crash course with depression, obesity, heart disease, and, ultimately, an early grave.
Eventually, Rich’s pain became so great that he found a way out. When his bloated body was defeated by a simple flight of stairs on the eve of his fortieth birthday, Rich was struck with a profound moment of clarity precipitated by labored breathing, a sweaty brow, and acute tightness in his chest—not only did he need to change, he finally wanted to change.
By contrast, Julie has always been the healthy example in our relationship. Raised in Alaska on game meat delivered by the hands of her adventuresome, bush pilot father and prepared by her proper Chilean mother, she is an expert in many things—a lifelong yogi, spiritual guide, artist, chef, musician, and mother. But the essence of her life can be defined by a singular pursuit: the unrelenting quest to continually expand the horizons of her mind, body, and spirit.
As Rich lay awake in bed that night after his staircase episode, he was reminded of how some years prior Julie had used the principles of Ayurveda—a system of alternative medicine derived from ancient Hindu culture that promotes balance through stress reduction and a predominantly plant-based diet—to completely heal and eradicate a golf ball–size cyst in her neck.
This miraculous event confounded the medical specialists consulted, all of whom emphatically professed that Julie’s condition could never be resolved without surgery. The inexplicability of this phenomenon had always perplexed Rich’s unfailingly logic-oriented, Stanford-trained brain. But that night Rich’s thoughts turned instead to the sagacious words uttered by Hippocrates more than 2,300 years ago:
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.
The answer was clear. This simple yet prophetic statement catalyzed a fantastic, revolutionary, and evolutionary family voyage we continue to explore, refine, and reimagine to this day. An odyssey in healthy, rejuvenating, whole, plant-based foods that recalibrated every aspect of Rich’s life and birthed a foundational template for healthy, sustainable lifestyle practices that can be embraced and enjoyed by the entire family.
Fueled by Julie’s original, beautiful, delicious, and incredibly nutritious food creations, which you’ll find in this book, Rich quickly dropped the weight, resumed a fitness regimen for the first time in many years, and went on to achieve astounding feats of middle-aged athleticism he could have never previously fathomed. Two years later, Rich had transformed from a chubby couch potato to being named one of the “25 Fittest Men in the World” by Men’s Fitness magazine after a top finish at the Ultraman World Championships, a 320-mile double-ironman distance triathlon widely considered one of the most grueling endurance challenges on the planet. A year later, Rich accomplished the unimaginable when he was the first person (along with friend Jason Lester) to complete the EPIC5: five Ironman-distance triathlons on five separate Hawaiian Islands in under seven days. That’s 703 miles of swimming, biking, and running in less than a week!
Inspired by Rich’s sea change, Julie continued to push the boundaries of conventional wisdom in the kitchen, creating a litany of fantastically appetizing, wholesome, easy-to-prepare, budget-conscious recipes to fuel her athlete husband and please four children’s finicky palates.
It’s been eight years since our amazing journey began. There have been unimaginable highs matched by countless low lows as we faced insurmountable obstacles while blazing a new lifestyle path for ourselves and our children premised not on fear and insecurity, but rather on faith, experience, and adventure. It's our bold experiment in living from the heart.
With a focus on service to others struggling with their own evolution/revolution, we made a conscious decision to share our journey openly with a terrifying level of transparency and vulnerability that often left us wondering if our version of courage just might be foolishness.
However, the outpouring of support has been nothing short of staggering. Lighting our path through the dark times were the thousands of deeply inspiring e-mails that flooded our inbox from all corners of the world—people from all walks of life sharing the intimate details of their own monumental health and lifestyle transformations catalyzed by adopting their personal versions of our “Plantpowered” way of life.
The scope of these shared life transformations is beyond extraordinary—dramatic weight loss; freedom from cholesterol and blood pressure medications; notable athletic accomplishments; and the reversal of chronic health conditions such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, migraines, asthma, arthritis, urticaria, autoimmune disorders, and intestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and ulcerative colitis.
Even more profound are the many tales of spiritual awakening. We all know that surrounding ourselves with positive-minded people can favorably impact how we perceive the world around us. Food is no different. It, too, is energy, carrying a certain vibration—a charge that can be positive or negative. Indeed, the nature of the frequency we ingest has an indelibly profound impact on every aspect of how we feel, interact, behave, comprehend, and appreciate the world around us.
Food is not just a reparative nourishment for our physical bodies; it is a vehicle for improving clarity of thought. It is a key to unlock the soul to ponder new horizons of personal possibility—and ultimately pave the road to discover, unlock, and unleash your best, most authentic self. This is what this book is truly about.
What this book isn’t? A “diet” book. Because diets don’t work. Intuitively we all know this to be true. When the honeymoon period ends—and it always does—we fall off the wagon. Of course we want to look and feel better, thus we continue to search for a sustainable wellness solution that will work within the constraints of our increasingly busy professional and family lives. So time and again, we naively buy into irresistible weight-loss marketing hype, only to find the solution temporary at best. Failing again, we despair. Ultimately, all too many of us give up on the truth that has been staring us in the face all along: sustainable long-term wellness is always well within our grasp.
Personally, we’re fed up with all the hype, hyperbole, pseudoscience, and misinformation surrounding diet, health, weight loss, and disease. Tired of marketing campaigns that relentlessly dupe us into subscribing to unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle patterns. Sick of being manipulated into buying products we don’t need, most of which quite ironically only lead us toward—rather than away from—a life of enslavement to the pharmaceutical companies and a litany of avoidable chronic illnesses that unnecessarily plague modern society.
It’s time to stop the insanity. There must be a better way. And we’re here to tell you there is. A straightforward back-to-basics solution that will repair, restore, energize, and invigorate your body, mind, and soul beyond what you might think possible. And it all begins and ends with one simple word: plants.
Eating plant-based is neither a fad nor a momentary fashion trend, but rather a deep, lasting, sustainable lifestyle that can and will transform your life and the life of your children. This is our promise.
The best part? It’s just not that hard. In fact, it can be fun. That’s been our experience. And it can be yours, too.
If this all seems like a utopian fantasy, trust in the process. Start slow and lean in at your own pace. Pay close attention to how new foods make you feel. And understand that your body will indeed begin to make the shift for you. As we often say, transformation is in the gut. Replacing the animal products and processed foods with nourishing, organic, locally grown fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds will begin to alter the ecology of your intestinal microbial population. Science proves a powerful nexus between the nature of your gut flora and the foods you crave. So don’t be surprised if your previously uncontrollable lust for unhealthy foods begins to dissipate, miraculously replaced with a craving for the foods that invigorate rather than enervate.
Food shouldn't just be fun to eat; it should also be fun to prepare and share. This book is about restoring this tradition. It's about elevating the enjoyment, conversation, laughter, and cooperation that accompanies one of the great pleasures in life: the family meal—precious, fleeting moments every parent cherishes as essential to promoting optimal health for ourselves and our children.
Throughout this book we present more than 120 original recipes we ourselves eat on a continual rotation. In addition, each recipe is labeled with an icon in accordance with one of three paths we've designed to customize your meal planning based on your interests and desired results: Vitality (food for balance and harmony), Performance (food for physical excellence), or Transformation (food for rebirth). Refer here if you are interested in a more focused plan; otherwise, enjoy the recipes in this book however you'd like.
Throughout the book are additional materials on the specifics of nutrition, strategies for improving your children’s food habits, and insights into the often highly charged emotional landscape that surrounds food choice, creativity as a spiritual life force, ecological conditions related to our food supply, and our collective, shared responsibility as sensible stewards for the sustainable health of our children, brothers, sisters, fellow animals, and the planet as a whole.
Finally, our hope is that you use this book as a guide—a foundational platform to jump off and create your own unique way of living. Take what serves you and discard the rest, as every life is vastly unique and individualized. Our journey will not look exactly like yours. But our sincere hope is that we can help inspire you along your own path.
We leave you with this: we are all capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to be. The path to unlocking our inner potential starts with what we put in our mouths. So let’s hit reset. Let's begin anew the process of stepping into that person we always wanted, and deserve, to be.
We did it. And you can, too. So let’s not waste any more time and get to living.
Peace + Plants,
Rich, Julie, Tyler, Trapper, Mathis & Jaya
BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
The first step in embracing a Plantpowered lifestyle is getting back to basics. This means making space in your life for a rotating seasonal variety of whole, plant-based foods in their natural state, just the way Mother Nature intended.
Don’t freak out. Eating plant-based isn’t a life sentence of salad leaf dinners. And we’re not proposing that “raw” necessarily means healthier for every person, every day, and every meal. But ask yourself this: When was the last time you served a veggie on your table without first boiling the life out of it or baking it into oblivion? Have you taken the time to really get acquainted with the foods that are being grown in your area? Do you know which produce is in season and what new local food possibilities exist for you?
We certainly didn’t have answers to these questions when we started our journey. But we’ve learned a few things. Let’s take a closer look:
First: stop overcooking your food! In the most general terms, this significantly diminishes overall nutritional value. Zapping away the good stuff, prolonged heat can degrade micronutrient density and can damage some vitamins and minerals. The result? Limp, bland, and tasteless plants unnecessarily deficient in the nourishing life force we want to welcome.
Second: stop buying plants out of season! Just because you can buy peaches 365 days a year doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for your body or the planet. The truth is that a seasonal rotation of plant variety in your diet is a cornerstone of maximum, long-term wellness and optimal functionality.
Eating the same vegetables and fruits year-round both in and out of season can lead to food allergies and sensitivities that negatively impact health. Moreover, eating produce out of season has a gigantic carbon footprint. Growing a pineapple in Hawaii that will be eaten during a snowstorm in New Jersey is vastly wasteful and ecologically irresponsible. Furthermore, that pineapple is not doing you much good anyway, because it was likely picked weeks earlier and thus is far from “fresh,” organic or otherwise. Finally, eating “summer plants” in the dead of winter is counter-intuitive. It’s what a philosophy of eastern Indian medicine called Ayurveda would deem dosha aggravating—out of balance with the natural rhythms of the body.
Third: no one food is a panacea! Our culture is hell-bent on extremes. We read that kale is healthy, so what do we do? We all run over to the kale side of the boat and start gorging. Then we’re surprised when the boat tips over and we are all drowning in vitamin K. But wasn’t kale supposed to be good? Yes, but not if you are choking on it at the expense of nutritional variety.
It’s important to remember that even if you live in a city and work in a skyscraper, you are not exempt from nature and the rhythms of our global ecosystem. As responsible stewards of our bodies and the planet, it’s crucial that our choices and actions are harmoniously aligned with this grand play. Mother Nature created thousands of edible plant varieties that grow at different times of the year. It’s time to start getting better at following this natural cycle of food.
In the following sections, we offer only an introduction to some of the amazing whole foods that are available for our nourishment.
FRUITS + VEGETABLES
Mother Nature provides an astounding variety of fruits and vegetables for our health and well-being. The key to healthy plant-based nutrition is to enjoy a broad diversity of these wonderful plants in all their vibrant colors. Go ahead! Experiment and explore foods you’ve never tasted before. Celebrate fruits and veggies in their pure, natural, and untouched state as part of your plant-based plates. It’s as easy as a peach or as crispy as a carrot. Organic, locally harvested, and homegrown varieties make for the highest nutritional value and are always the best choices for living in harmony with nature. Create your own personal rainbow of “amazing” that will deliver you into a life of vibrant health.
Living herbs are aromatic healers that uplift your meals and everyone around them. Use herbs generously at every meal. We prefer adding them at the end of the cooking process so that they remain crisp, fresh, and alive. Herbs make the best kind of natural healing teas, lift the vibrancy up a notch in your blend, and beautify your plate. Our advice? Take some time to smell them and absorb their gifts of healing aromas.
GRAINS + LEGUMES
There are so many beautiful grains and legumes flourishing on this planet, foods naturally designed to nourish our bodies. But today’s wheat is not your grandmother’s wheat. Modern wheat is overwhelmingly hybridized, nutritionally deficient, and brimming with gluten—sticky, glue-like protein that is causing health imbalances for many. We encourage you to experiment with healthier, gluten-free alternative grains like millet, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, sorghum, rice, and quinoa (technically a seed and high in protein). Stuck on wheat? Then opt for the “heirloom” variety. These so-called heritage or ancient grain varietals are non-hybridized, higher in nutritional value than traditional wheat, and arguably safer for the gluten-sensitive. In addition to being high in protein and low in fat, legumes such as dried beans and lentils are great base ingredients for warming chili, our one-bowl macro meals, and veggie burgers. To significantly amplify the nutritional value of your beans and grains, try sprouting them at home (see here).
NUTS + SEEDS
Sacred gifts from trees and plants, nuts and seeds brim with crucial nutrients and provide a delicious spectrum of tastes and luscious textures to enliven your Plantpowered lifestyle. Raw almonds, walnuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts are packed with healthy nutrients, perk up many a dish, and make for a sumptuous snack on the go. However, if you have nut allergies or heart disease, or if weight loss is a priority, then skip the nuts (which have higher fat content) and opt instead for seeds such as pumpkin or sesame. Then take your routine to the next level with superfood seeds like chia, hemp, and ground flax to exhilarate your salads and turbocharge your smoothies. Soak your nuts and seeds first to ease assimilation. A source of high-density nutrition and vibrant energy, nuts and seeds will help you create beautiful foods with an exotic, luxurious flair. From delectable raw pie crusts to creamy sauces and frothy milks, seeds and nuts are the perfect ingredients to vitalize your plant-based journey.
Sprouting bumps nuts, grains, beans, and seeds into the realm of living vibrant foods by enhancing nutritional density and the bioavailability of the plant’s vitamins, minerals, proteins, fiber, enzymes, essential fatty acids, and phytochemicals to create a higher level of healthy nourishment.
As we evolve to incorporate more living foods into our diet, I find that sprouting makes for a fresher, more alive taste, adding extra flair to my recipes. Highly alkalizing and anti-inflammatory, sprouted foods have been linked to everything from disease prevention to improved digestion.
Therefore, I always prefer sprouted over regular tofu and sprouted, gluten-free flour varieties in my baked goods. Sprouted grains are lower in starch and the gluten that causes digestion issues for so many. Rich in iron, mung bean sprouts combat anemia and are LDL-cholesterol reducing. Plus, sprouted beans cause less gas, easing digestion. High in antioxidants called sulphoraphanes, broccoli sprouts are even considered cancer-preventive and help regulate blood sugar.
At first, I felt overwhelmed by the idea of sprouting anything. It just seemed like such a huge ordeal, so I would buy sprouted beans at the farmers’ market and grocery stores whenever I could. But finally I got the courage to give sprouting a try at home. After some trial and error, I discovered an efficient method easy for any kitchen novice. Now sprouting is an integral part of my weekly cooking preparation.
Here’s How I Do It
First, you will need three colanders, each lined with a flour sack or cotton dishcloth along the bottom, large enough to fold over the top. These are your “sprouting stations.” Add your preferred grain, seed, bean, or nut to each station.
I like to leave my stations out on our kitchen counter so I can rinse them frequently throughout the day whenever I happen to pass by. It takes only a moment to rinse them thoroughly and let the water drain out.
After each rinsing, I cover the fledgling sprouts by folding the excess ends of the liner cloth over the top. Using this process, sprouting takes two to three days, depending on the size of the grain, seed, nut, or legume.
When the seeds are finally sprouted, transfer them to mason jars, seal, label, and refrigerate. Kept cold, they will remain fresh for up to a week.
Remember: Sprouting makes your quantities expand. Use 1 cup of beans and you’ll end up with double the volume.
A Small Word of Caution
Prior to eating, always smell your sprouts; throw them out if you detect anything that smells like mold. The scent should be clear and clean like a fresh veggie. Also, be a little careful with raw legume sprouts—they may have some toxicity (this doesn’t apply to the broccoli or daikon sprouts that we enjoy in salads and sandwiches, which are fine to eat raw). For this reason, just to be safe, I always cook my sprouted beans, which I love using in recipes such as our Black Bean Soup, Veggie Burgers, Sprouted Mung Kicheri, and macro One Bowls.
SUPERFOODS FOR THE WIN
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I abused my body with a revolving door of junk food, drugs, alcohol, and pretty much anything I could find to numb my discontentment. Overhauling my diet played a crucial role in my midlife transformation. In the most general sense, fruits and vegetables repaired my body wholesale, but there’s more to the story.
I am not a professional athlete. But over several years, I managed to balance a life of twenty- to thirty-hour training weeks and crazy endurance events with my (now former) career as an entertainment lawyer, my busy family life, and of course writing books like this one.
And yet despite the significant physical, professional, mental, and emotional demands of my everyday life, I can’t recall the last time I got sick or missed a workout, family obligation, or professional deadline because I was too tired. And despite my advancing age, I continue to improve as an athlete—getting leaner, stronger, and faster with each successive year. How is this possible?
Admittedly, the term is subject to cavalier overuse. And the purported health benefits are frequently overblown. I get it. But through personal experimentation, I am convinced that my steady intake of the plants listed on the following pages (some uncommon, others more mainstream) has played a significant role in helping me break the glass ceiling on my physical potential.
To be clear, superfoods should never be considered miraculous cure-alls. Instead, think of them as the cherry atop the sundae—the final 1 percent in your personal nutritional evolution + revolution. In other words, if your diet is lousy—low in nutrient density; high in salt, sugar, fat, and artificial additives; and over processed—then superfoods are not the solution to what ails you. So before you fork over your hard-earned cash on the below items—some of which are admittedly expensive—use this book (as well as the appendix materials of Finding Ultra) to master the basics of healthy eating before you dabble in discovering the impact of superfoods.
There already? Great! Now let’s play. . . .
1. CHIA SEEDS
If you’ve read the best-selling book Born to Run, then you know these tiny seeds are an ancient Aztec staple known as the “ultimate runner’s food” for their ability to increase oxygen uptake, impede dehydration, and provide sustained energy over long periods of time.
Gelatinous when soaked in water, chia seeds are also non-GMO, gluten-free, anti-inflammatory, and high in antioxidants, and have been shown to reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. In addition, chia seeds are a significant source of bioavailable dietary protein (14 percent by weight with a good balance of amino acids) and fiber (11 grams per ounce). Moreover, they are high in phytonutrients, electrolytes, and trace minerals, aiding bone health. In fact, just 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 18 percent of your RDA of calcium and 30 percent of your RDA of magnesium.
One of the big critiques of a plant-based diet is that it is deficient in healthy omega-3 EFAs (essential fatty acids). Nonsense. Plenty of plant-based foods are packed with this important nutrient, and chia seeds are one of them. In fact, by weight chia seeds contain more omega-3s than salmon.
Finally, this tiny seed is highly utilitarian. Add a tablespoon to your morning blend; sprinkle them on your breakfast cereal; create puddings; and add them to your salads or rice and vegetable dishes for an extra superfood kick.
2. HEMP SEEDS
First let’s dispel the elephant in the room. This seed, and other hemp-related nutritional products like hemp oil and hemp protein, does not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and will not cause you to fail a drug test. So put your mind at ease.
While they will not alter your consciousness, these little white seeds are packed with health benefits. Much like chia, they are high in omega-3 EFAs, dietary fiber, and important minerals including iron and calcium.
In addition, hemp seeds are also considered a fantastic source of bioavailable, high-quality protein. With 33 percent protein by weight, 3 tablespoons contain 11 grams of protein—higher than any other nutritious seed.
Hemp seed consumption can prevent arterial plaque buildup and reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and fatigue while increasing sustained energy, immune system functionality, and circulation. The significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of these tiny seeds have also been shown to expedite physiological recovery and repair from disease, injury, and exercise-induced stress.
Pick up a bag of shelled hemp seeds at your local health market or online, and don’t miss an opportunity to add a tablespoon or two to your morning smoothies, salads, cereals, and vegetable dishes.
One of the most nutritious concentrated food sources on the planet, spirulina is a freshwater blue-green algae (actually, it’s a cyanobacteria) noted for having the highest percentage of protein by weight of any food on Earth (50 to 70 percent by weight, with red meat clocking in at around 27 percent). Moreover, the protein is highly digestible, bioavailable, and considered “complete” because it contains all the essential amino acids.
Spirulina is rich in a wide variety of vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, and studies have established a strong correlation between spirulina intake and enhanced endurance, as well as expedited recovery induced by exercise stress.
Spirulina’s additional purported health benefits are expansive. It promotes a systemic reduction in inflammation, enhances eye health, reduces total cholesterol, boosts HDL, improves liver function, reduces risk of stroke, and has been demonstrated effective in treating allergies, as well as asthma.
Available in both powder and liquid form, spirulina is a daily addition to my morning green smoothie.
4. CORDYCEPS (SINENSIS) EXTRACTS
Well-known for centuries in Chinese herbal medicine, Cordyceps sinensis is a parasitic dried fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae native to high-altitude regions of China, Nepal, and Tibet. Gross, right? But awesome when it comes to health and athletic performance. Pharmacologically antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and anti-lipid (cholesterol lowering), studies indicate that it enhances immune system functionality as well as improves stamina in endurance athletes via increasing aerobic capacity and oxygen utilization, as well as stabilizing blood sugar metabolism. Chinese Olympic track & field athletes have been swearing by it for decades, and I can attest to its effectiveness. Another plus? Increased sex drive and functionality. The benefits of Cordyceps are enhanced when combined with the adaptogen rhodiola.
I mix Cordyceps in powder form in my preworkout smoothies and juices and often in my postworkout blends as well.
If you like curry, you’re already familiar with this yellow plant native to South India and Indonesia. What you might not know is that turmeric—due in large part to curcumin, turmeric’s primary active ingredient—is one of the most powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories on the planet.
The majority of foods we eat, including ones in low-fat diets, promote arterial inflammation, which is a leading (and often underrated) cause of heart disease. In the fitness context, exercise-induced physiological stress causes inflammation, which impedes muscle repair. In a general sense, the more quickly the inflammation subsides, the more quickly one recovers from training. Foods like turmeric reduce inflammation, thus expediting recovery (and circulatory health). Extrapolated over time, an athlete on a nutritional regimen high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric (buttressed by a predominantly alkaline-forming diet) will in turn be able to train harder, more effectively, and more efficiently in a given time period while simultaneously taking out an insurance policy against the primary culprits that foil even the most conscientious athletes—undue fatigue, overtraining, and illness.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that there is some evidence to suggest that people who eat diets rich in turmeric have lower rates of breast, prostate, lung, colon, and skin cancers.
Curcumin can be taken in capsule form, but it is not the most bioavailable substance in extract form. Personally, I prefer to drink turmeric in a tea—½ teaspoonful dissolved in hot water does the trick.
6. GREEN COFFEE BEANS
Similar to green tea and grape seed extract, organic raw (green) coffee beans have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties effective in combating free radical damage. There are also weight-management benefits due to two active compounds: caffeine and chlorogenic acid. The caffeine releases fatty acids into the bloodstream from stored body fat. The chlorogenic acid, which is destroyed in typical coffee beans by the roasting process, increases the efficiency of metabolizing these fats while inhibiting sugar (glucose) absorption by the bloodstream.
Simply grind the green beans and prepare in a French press like normal coffee. Alternatively, place the ground beans in water in the sun to brew iced coffee. However, don’t expect it to taste like coffee—it doesn’t. Nor will it give you the same kind of boost; its caffeine content is significantly lower than that of roasted beans. Try adding erythritol to sweeten the slightly bitter and somewhat flavorless drink.
7. SUMA ROOT & THE 4 GINSENG BLEND
Adaptogens are metabolic regulators that increase the body’s ability to—for lack of a better phrase—adapt to environmental stressors, both physical and emotional. Suma is a ginseng-like adaptogen extracted from a root native to Brazil that is linked to improved immune system functionality and hormonal regulation. Combine with (American) ginseng, ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), and Eleutherococcus (Siberian ginseng) to create a potent combination that promotes longevity and stress management—normalizing and balancing emotional and physical energy levels. Take in capsules (easily sourced online) or brew into a tea.
8. CAMU CAMU
A sour lemon-size orange-purple fruit indigenous to Amazonian lowlands, camu camu contains an impressive array of phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals like beta-carotene and potassium. Most important, camu camu boasts the highest natural vitamin C density of any food on the planet—anywhere from twenty to fifty times the level of vitamin C in a typical orange, and scores extremely high on the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, a method of quantifying the antioxidant capacities of biological samples. Camu camu also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and facilitates the uptake of serotonin. In other words, it will make you happy.
Available in supplement form, I like Navitas Naturals Organic Camu Powder. Add a teaspoon to a cup of juice or a smoothie (the taste is tart, a bit like orange juice itself).
9. MORINGA OLEFIERA
Dubbed the “miracle tree” and the “world’s most nutritious plant species ever studied,” this amazing tree is native to regions of Africa and Asia but can grow almost anywhere due to its incredible ability to extract nutrients from the soil and air. Its leaves are an all-around green superfood; with more than ninety nutrients, moringa is like a utility baseball player who can excel in every position. High in a wide array of vitamins and minerals, it’s antioxidant rich (forty-six antioxidants), anti-diabetes (reduces blood glucose), and promotes heart health (lipid lowering), among other benefits.
Available in capsule and powder form, brew it into a tea or add it to juice or your morning smoothie.
10. PU-ERH TEA
This tea can be perhaps the most expensive in the world, with some cakes priced at $350k (for a 250-gram cake), its leaves derived from trees that are hundreds of years old. A post-fermented tea product produced in the Yunnan province of China and carefully aged, the harvesting, creation, and ceremony of Pu-erh is an art steeped in preserved tradition dating back millennia.
But what makes Pu-erh truly unique is the process by which the leaves are fermented by microbes after drying and then aged. It is believed that the microbial activity in the tea provides probiotic health benefits unique to Pu-erh, such as reducing arterial plaque and LDL cholesterol levels as well as aiding weight loss by reducing blood sugar levels and improving the body’s ability to metabolize fat. Pu-erh teas I've tried provide a long-lasting, even-keeled energy.
Very affordable versions of Pu-erh are widely available—I recommend checking out Living Tea (livingtea.net). To learn more, I suggest you consult your local teahouse. There is nothing like a traditional Pu-erh tea ceremony administered by a tea master. It’s an extraordinary experience.
TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST?
All well and good, I hear you saying. But where’s the proof? Therein lies the rub. To be sure, studies of varying legitimacy exist to substantiate the above. But large-scale, peer-reviewed research requires substantial funding. This funding is often provided by for-profit corporations that have little interest in validating natural products that cannot be protected via patents.
That said, I’m not asking you to take my word for it. Do your own research. Experiment. Start conservatively, document your findings, and tweak your way to success.
The microbial environment living inside you is made up of trillions of bacteria—three to four pounds, in fact! The quality of your gut microbiome has a huge influence on food cravings. Think of it as the macrocosm within the microcosm or the universe within. As you start to shift into eating more plant-based whole foods, this microbial population will transform and, along with it, so will your cravings. No joke. Because get this. It’s not a head trip—it’s all in your gut.
Probiotics are naturally occurring live microorganisms that line our gut. They assist us with healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients. Fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kimchi promote a healthy gut ecology by providing probiotic digestive enzymes, increased nutrients, and enhanced immunity.
MASTER PLANTPOWER SHOPPING LIST
What’s the first priority on the master list? Tons of plants! This can be in the form of many varieties of fruits and veggies. Make sure you’ve got all the colors of the rainbow covered and, whenever possible, shop locally, organically, and responsibly.
Learn how to read labels. Educate yourself about how and where your produce is grown. Research sources of heirloom grains and vegetables that are free from genetic modification. Veer away from processed wheat products and instead lean into gluten-free alternatives. Support your local farmers’ markets. Shop in-season to cut down on your planetary footprint and reduce food sensitivities and allergies. Better yet, grow your own food!
Maybe the one most powerful thing you can do is give up processed refined sugars. Make no mistake—high-fructose corn syrup is toxic and it’s hiding in most packaged foods. Taking this measure will help regulate blood sugar and insulin. Insulin is the hormone of longevity, so it’s crucial to do what we can to optimize its functionality. Simply put, refined sugars have no place in your health equation.
Just as we write this list, our bodies are rejoicing in all the succulent, juicy, divine foods that are here to assist us in experiencing true health. Our mouths water as we envision all the vibrant health radiating from these foods!