Read an Excerpt
We love our food! When all twenty of us Esselstyns gather together, our days are full of fun—biking, swimming, backflips off the dock, long runs, family baseball, and badminton. But we have the most fun cooking and eating together—the beautiful lasagnas, the rice-and-beans feasts, the nori-making sessions, the salads brimming with a rainbow of colors, the kale birthday cakes with blueberry frosting, and masses of curly, dinosaur, or Russian kale from the garden. Everyone cooks, even the grandchildren, whether they’re ten or sixteen. The one person who doesn’t cook is my husband. He is the permanent, full-time dishwasher.
When Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease was published in 2007 and went on to become a New York Times bestseller, it made an impact we couldn’t even imagine. People all over the country and around the world heard the message that our family has lived by for years: Your health is truly in your own hands, and what you eat matters.
We’ve heard from people all over the United States and abroad whose lives have been changed by Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Why did it resonate? Because the program works, and because the science is irrefutable. In 1985, while a general surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, my husband started a heart disease study with eighteen patients. Some of those patients were so sick they had been sent home to die. Incredibly, after twelve years, those patients were thriving on plant-based, no-oil diets. Twenty years later, compliant patients continued to thrive. Some still are thriving today in their late eighties. Eighty-eight-year-old Evelyn, one of those original patients, commented, “No one expected me to live! Here I am now, healthier than most of my friends.” The wife of Anthony, another original patient, says, “Anthony thinks he will live forever, something none of us are privileged to do! He truly is steadfast in maintaining the plant-based diet and will not deviate under any circumstance.”
A LIFE-CHANGING STORY
“I started my plant-based lifestyle on March 23, 2012. At that time I was 285 pounds and heading toward my eighth stent. The prospect of seeing my daughter get married on April 26, one month away, was slim to none. Today, just over one year later, I’m 215 pounds; I’m off all meds; I played sixty minutes of full-contact rugby three weeks ago at the very young age of fifty-six. I have not cheated on the diet once even though my family encourages me to find something that I could celebrate with. I celebrate every day that I’m on this side of the dirt.”
We have worked with hundreds of patients since that original group, helping them take those first empowering steps toward reclaiming their health—all with the same miraculous results. My husband’s research continues, and his most recent published study proves that when patients truly understand the power of nutrition, they are more than willing to change their diets. We have seen this firsthand—patients are always surprised how quickly they feel more energetic and healthy and how fast their cholesterol levels drop. And they can’t believe how easy it is to put my husband’s treatment guidelines into practice. They feel empowered being in control of reversing their disease.
The guidelines for those patients with heart disease are simple:
No oil or nuts
Minimal salt and sweetener
What can you eat? A delicious and colorful array of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains, brimming with fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants, all great nourishment for your heart and your overall health.
In the last few years, spreading the word about the magic of plant-based nutrition has become a family affair. Our son Rip wrote the blockbuster bestsellers The Engine 2 Diet and My Beef with Meat, creating a national movement. And our daughter, Jane, created the recipe section for My Beef with Meat, which became a number-one New York Times bestseller. Rip calls his plan “plant-strong” and my husband’s plan “plant-perfect.” Both programs have no meat, dairy, or oil. Heart patients are also asked to eliminate nuts and avocado and to limit soy products.
A LIFE-CHANGING STORY
“My husband had his left circumflex artery stented in 2012. After talking to Dr. Esselstyn, my husband switched to the diet with full commitment and stopped having smoothies and flour and added a lot more greens than he had been eating, especially steamed kale.
“When he had the left circumflex artery stent, he also had a 100 percent blocked right coronary artery, which they did not stent that day. We were told that the blockage was severe and that the odds of success in opening the artery would be slim. They told us he’d have to go to a different facility for that second stent, six weeks later. Anticipating the procedure was horrible, but we were hopeful that, given the time on the diet between the two stents, some of the blockage might be reversed.
“I’d been told to expect a four- to five-hour surgery with two surgeons, but to my surprise, his surgery lasted only thirty minutes, with one surgeon! Only one catheter was needed, and no guide wires. The surgeon told us it was one of the easiest procedures he had ever done, and the head nurse said it was the quickest surgery of this type she’d ever seen.
“After six weeks on the diet, my husband’s total cholesterol was 88, and his triglycerides were 110. I’ve been married to him for twenty-five years and never have his triglycerides been under 300. He and I truly believe that it was our focus on the diet that produced this happy outcome. My husband feels so much better today than he has in years. He’s sworn to never again enter the hospital as a heart patient.”
Jane is an excellent chef with a sophisticated palate. If I were left on my own, balsamic vinegar, mint, and cilantro would be in everything, and if something didn’t taste right, I would go for the nutritional yeast. Jane adds the kick and boldness to our recipes and to our life. We are lucky to live next door to her; her husband, Brian; and their three children. We find it endlessly exciting to test new recipes, and it’s so easy to run back and forth with something new to try.
Jane presents at conferences, retreats, and immersions both on her own and with my husband and me. We travel across the country and overseas to participate in conferences, retreats, and immersions. We share with our audiences the tips and tricks we’ve learned from years of cooking delicious plant-based, oil-free meals. We teach people how to get away from processed food, even if it’s labeled “vegan,” since it’s often full of oil. We introduce them to the wonders of kale and other hearty and delicious greens, as well as sweet potatoes, artichokes, beets, broccoli, cucumbers, asparagus, whole grains, cannellini beans, lentils, and so much more.
There is no question that those patients who are the most compliant have the best results. Fortunately, it is not hard to be compliant because eating whole food, plant-based nutrition is not complicated! There is no counting anything. There are few hard-to-find products. Stick to the outside aisles of the grocery store and the produce section. Shop at farmers’ markets or start your own garden. We have not included the calories or fat, protein, or carbohydrate content of the recipes on purpose. We want you to enjoy the food and not calculate anything except your blessings for having discovered the beauty of eating plant-based!
A LIFE-CHANGING STORY
“I’m a forty-five-year-old man and I’ve always worked out and remained active. About a year ago, however, I was experiencing chest pains. I went to see my doctor, and the results were not good: My cholesterol was at 236; my blood pressure was creeping up; and my lipids were in the high range. A carotid artery MRI revealed that, at forty-five, I had the arterial thickness of the average sixty-year-old man, and that I had substantial blockages, in the 85th percentile for my age.
“When I reviewed the test results with my doctor, he mentioned that most of this was genetic and he tried to put me on a statin drug. I refused because I was concerned about side effects (known and unknown). I mentioned that I had seen Dr. Esselstyn in the documentary Forks over Knives and that I felt this problem could be overcome if I followed his advice. My doctor actually told me there is no way to reverse heart disease or coronary artery disease and the best I could do was slow down the process with medications! I bought Prevent and Reverse Heart Diseaseand ate a completely plant-based diet: whole grains, veggies, and lots of beans! I stopped eating oils and processed foods as well. I also continued to work out.
“I went back to my doctor after ninety days and took another blood panel. My cholesterol had dropped to 156, my blood pressure was down to98/60, my lipids were low, and I wasn’t having chest pains! My doctor seemed satisfied with the results—but to my dismay, he still wanted to put me on a statin drug! I told him no way and that I’d be back in a year to retake the carotid artery MRI.
“I continued with the diet for the next year, and all cravings for meat and fat went away, just as Dr. Esselstyn indicated (meat actually repulses me now). Almost one year to the day after taking the initial carotid exam, I took another and the results floored my doctor! My arterial thickness had dropped substantially. I now have the arterial thickness of the average thirty-five-year-old man, and I am in the 32nd percentile of blockages for my age group! I have aged chronologically by one year since my last test but have physiologically become many years younger. At my most recent appointment, my doctor stopped suggesting the statin drugs and advised me to keep doing whatever I’m doing.”
We’ve been bursting with new recipes since Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease was published, and we’ve been waiting anxiously to write this book. There are endless plant-based cookbooks and recipes available online these days; the problem is that they are not all safe for heart patients. So many recipes use oil, nuts (that 2/3 cup of cashews!), avocado, coconut, salt, or lots of added sugar. This cookbook is full of recipes that are scientifically proven to heal heart disease. If you take meat, dairy, and oil out of your diet, your body cannot lay down the foundation of vascular disease by injuring the innermost lining of your arteries.
Both Jane and I have been working moms with families to feed, so we know cooking often happens quickly in that snippet of time before dinner. In this cookbook, we’ve included some simple recipes such as one-bowl, delicious and hearty rice-and-beans meals, which are our go-to weekday dinners. Fast Pasta and Greens and Five-Star Rice and Beans make satisfying meals during the week, too. But you’ll also find some inventive surprises like Nori Noir, Carrot Dogs, Philly-Style Soft Pretzels, our signature “Enlightened” Dr. Seuss Stacked Polenta, and Jane’s out-of-this world Kale Cake with Blueberry Frosting.
The third paragraph of the Greek Hippocratic oath reads: “I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and adjustment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.” And yet, in spite of all the evidence-based research on patients reversing their disease through a plant-based diet—not only my husband’s research but research performed by Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Dean Ornish, and T. Colin Campbell, PhD, at Cornell—most cardiologists do not offer a plant-based diet as a preventative measure to patients because they say the patients won’t comply.
What we’ve seen, time and again, is exactly the opposite. Thanks to the success of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease and the blockbuster documentary Forks over Knives, which featured my husband and T. Colin Campbell and their pioneering research, the message is getting to the public. A growing number of politicians, actors, producers, and television hosts are changing their diets.
Sometimes people ask how our family can sustain eating as we do. Our answer consists of four reasons: It is simple, it tastes good, we feel wonderful, and we know we are maximally protected from chronic illness. This book is not just a collection of recipes—it is a collection of wisdom around a lifestyle of cooking, family, and health. Truly, the biggest gift my husband and I have given our children and grandchildren is the joy of whole food, plant-based eating. We hope this cookbook will bring that joy to you and your loved ones and that you will discover, as one patient did, that “This program is an anchor in the midst of a raging sea of ideas that don’t really work. I feel planted as I maintain its regimen.” May you, too, be anchored in the joy of whole food, plant-based eating.
—Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn
GETTING STARTED IN YOUR PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE KITCHEN
When you are making a change in the way you eat, we know it can feel overwhelming. This chapter will walk you through the very simple, practical ways you can ready your pantry and your kitchen for easy, everyday cooking the Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease way. But first, here’s our 12-step program to help you get over any hurdles and to make the nutritional guidelines of the program simple. It’s all you need to remember.
OUR 12-STEP PROGRAM FOR PLANT-PERFECT EATING
1. Eat no meat, pork, fish, or fowl. No flesh. None. Every cell in an animal is made of cholesterol. All meat also has saturated fat and animal protein. And new research suggests that digesting meat releases a by-product, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), an even stronger predictor of heart disease than cholesterol. Avoid highly processed fake vegan and soy “meats” because they have a lot of oil in them.
2. Consume no dairy products. Like meat, all dairy products contain cholesterol, saturated fat, animal protein, and casein. The protein in dairy is one of the most relevant carcinogens identified. Avoid all highly processed vegan and soy cheeses, which are made with a lot of oil and often have added casein!
3. Eliminate oil! All oil. Get rid of all the oil in your cupboards, even if it’s virgin olive oil, so that you can’t use it. Instead of using oil when you stir-fry and sauté vegetables, you can use vegetable broth (no sodium added), water, wine, beer, or vinegar. They all work well. Instead of relying on oil when you bake, use applesauce, apple butter without sugar, pureed prunes, or mashed ripe bananas. We’ll help you create an oil-free salad dressing you’ll love (see here) and soon you will never miss the oil-filled ones. Balsamic vinegars are delicious on salad and the flavor-infused ones are stunningly good.
4. Eat whole-grain oats. Old-fashioned rolled oats or steel-cut oats are good choices. Avoid the more processed “quick-cooking” or “instant” oats. Oats help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, reduce artery inflammation, and are dose-responsive, so find a breakfast with oats you love, then eat oats, in some fashion, every day! Enjoy whole-grain oats for breakfast any way you can—either as oatmeal or as a cold cereal with non-dairy milk and fruit, or in the batter for waffles or pancakes.
5. Eat whole grains. Be sure the word whole is in front of wheat or rye in the ingredient list. And be sure the word brown is in front of rice. If you don’t see “whole” in front of the grain on a bread label, it’s likely made with white flour fancied up to sound impressive. (Also check to be sure that there is no added oil in bread products.) Many wonderful whole-grain products are available in the cooler section and the frozen food aisle.
6. Eat greens, especially leafy greens, as well as all the symphony of rainbow-colored vegetables. Cooked or raw, vegetables are king! Make leafy greens—like kale, collards, and Swiss chard—the nest on which you put your food; mix greens directly into your food; or pile greens on the side of your plate. Mix greens into soup. If you’re making pasta, add small pieces of kale or other leafy greens to the pot four minutes before the pasta is done then drain the whole pot, and you have a meal in one. Make kale sandwiches. Use collard leaves instead of burritos in a wrap. Roll up a collard green like a sushi roll. Mix a bunch of greens into pasta sauce and spread it on your whole wheat, no-oil pizza crust, then top with veggies—but, of course, no cheese.
7. Eat beans and lentils! All beans and lentils are delicious and filling and are healthy protein sources. Try red lentils in soup. They cook quickly and give the soup a nice color. Put beans in salads. Hummus, which must be made without tahini or oil, has become our “mayonnaise” for spreading on sandwiches and is our favorite dip for vegetables and crackers. It’s even an ingredient in our favorite salad dressing. Our main party dish is brown rice and black beans piled high with chopped tomatoes, thawed frozen corn, chopped green onions, water chestnuts, cilantro, chopped arugula, chopped peppers, etc., and topped with salsa.
8. Avoid sugar as much as possible. Always avoid drinking fruit juice. Eat the whole fruit instead. Read labels and avoid added sugars. Don’t get caught up thinking one sugar is better than another. Avoid them all as much as possible. Save sweets for birthdays or special holiday treats. Instead put grapes in your freezer for an amazing sweet treat or freeze bananas or mangoes and blend them in a high-speed blender or a Yonanas machine for delicious dairy-free “ice cream.” Also, a little fruit or dried fruit added to a dish can really help sweeten it up. We use pure maple syrup in some recipes because it has the least amount of fructose of all sweeteners.
9. Avoid salt as much as possible. Look at the government label for the amount of salt (sodium) in a product. No added salt is ideal, or aim for the salt content being equal to the calorie content or less. Instead of salt, add vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or low-sodium hot sauces for flavor. You will lose your taste for salt before you know it. Gourmet salts like Celtic salt and sea salt are no better. Don’t get caught up thinking one is better than another. Avoid them all as much as possible.
10. Steer clear of nuts, avocado, and coconut. Instead, use 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds daily on cereal or in salads—both are excellent for omega-3 fatty acids. An occasional sprinkling of sesame seeds is fine.
11. Drink water! You can’t go wrong with water. You will save thousands of dollars and thousands of calories by just drinking water. Absolutely never drink sodas, artificially sweetened or not. Avoid smoothies. Don’t drink your calories; chew them. You can flavor water; soda water; or seltzer water with slices of orange, lemon or lime, or splash of orange or apple juice occasionally but never drink juice by the glass on a regular basis!
12. Read food labels, especially the ingredients. You will be surprised how often products that claim to have “zero fat” will list oil among their ingredients. The government allows anything under 0.5 grams of fat to be labeled fat free. Even products labeled trans fat free can have trans fat in them if you see partially hydrogenated oil as an ingredient! Shocking. Be vigilant!
YOUR PREVENT AND REVERSE HEART DISEASE KITCHEN CUPBOARDS
Sometimes a simple ingredient you’ve never heard of can be a speed bump that thwarts your enthusiasm. But fear not! March forth and be the champion of your own health. The following pages contain some go-to basics we like to have on hand. Some are ingredients and some are products. They’ll help you stock your pantry so that you are ready to dive right in to the recipes later in the book.
We always have nutritional yeast around. It is very different from what people think of as yeast. Nutritional yeast is dry, flaky, and pale yellow in color, and it is often found in the bulk section of health food stores or occasionally prepackaged on the grocery store shelf. It is a great source of protein and has a nice nutty, creamy flavor. We use it the way others use Parmesan cheese—it adds extra flavor and a creamier texture when melted into or sprinkled on a dish.
Our arsenal is stacked with vinegars, ones we find, ones we special order, ones we are given, and ones that are our go-to everyday workhorses. Vinegar does an excellent job of enhancing taste when you are cooking without salt. There are many different balsamic vinegar stores across the country. We were first introduced to the magic of infused vinegars by a company called the Olive Tap (www.olivetap.com). Since then, we have found other excellent sources for infused vinegars including a store called Bema and Pa’s (bemaandpas.com) located in Chicago and Olio2go (olio2go.com) for a wonderful white balsamic vinegar, Acetaia Cattani White Balsamic Vinegar. White balsamic is a good choice when you don’t want the dark color of traditional balsamic vinegars. It works well with Cauliflower Steaks and Oberlin Corn and Shallot Chowder . It’s a lot of fun to find a store specializing in vinegars and to taste the amazing variety. But you don’t need high-end or infused vinegar for everyday use. A great basic balsamic vinegar is a big bottle of Kirkland brand from Costco.
Hummus without any added tahini or oil has become our new mayonnaise, and we use it as a sandwich spread, favorite dip, and as the base of different salad dressings and so many other recipes. It is easy to make your own, so we offer a number of varieties in this book: Our Hummus, Caramelized Onion Hummus, Sweet Potato Hummus, Green Onion Hummus, and Pesto Hummus. It is also convenient to buy hummus. All Whole Foods Market stores carry Engine 2 brand no-added-tahini or -oil hummus, in a variety of flavors. Oasis, Sahara Cuisine, and Amir are available in a number of grocery stores in no-added-tahini or -oil varieties as well.
Tofu has a high fat content, so we use it sparingly and mostly in desserts. It’s essential to use the proper type of tofu in some dessert recipes to ensure you get a smooth yet firm texture. We use silken lite firm tofu by Mori-Nu. Regular tofu is grainier in texture and some smooth tofu is runny like yogurt. We use neither type in this book.
Flaxseed Meal and Chia Seeds
Eat flaxseed meal or chia seeds daily sprinkled on cereal or in salads to supply omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds need to be ground before consumption and should always be kept refrigerated or frozen after being ground. Chia seeds do not need to be ground or refrigerated. Both also work as thickeners. As an egg substitute, combine 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 3 tablespoons water, or 1 tablespoon chia seeds and 1/4 cup water, to replace 1 egg.
Bread and Flour
Ezekiel bread by the Food for Life brand is made with sprouted grains and contains no added oil. It is widely available (often in the frozen food section) from Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, health food stores, and many local grocery stores. The bread comes in low-sodium, sesame, and cinnamon-raisin flavors. There are also English muffins, tortillas, burger buns, and hot dog buns. There are other good breads. Just always read the labels. Our favorite pizza crust is Sami’s Millet and Flax Pizza Crust. We often order five at a time online from Samisbakery.com.
We use four kinds of flour in this book: white whole wheat (which is not a white, “all-purpose” flour but rather flour made from white wheat berries), barley, chickpea, and oat bran flour. Feel free to use the 100 percent whole-grain flour of your choice.
There are many nondairy milks; find the one that suits you best. We recommend unsweetened almond milk or oat milk. Nonfat soy milk is available, but beware of added sugar. We do not recommend rice milk, as it contains added oil.