By Abigail Crocker on EastBayRI.com
The benefits of vegan living, said Ms. Brown, are undeniable. Since removing red meat, hamburger and even fish and milk off her plate she has more energy, is able to concentrate better, and sleeps soundly...“The doctor calls my husband his miracle man,” said Ms. Brown.
For Chris Brown, changing her family’s diet was not an option. After her husband was diagnosed 18 years ago with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, the couple needed to do something to regain control. They chose to go vegan — a diet devoid of animal products. No butter, no milk, no bacon.
“People don’t know what it is,” said Ms. Brown.
The benefits of vegan living, said Ms. Brown, are undeniable. Since removing red meat, hamburger and even fish and milk off her plate she has more energy, is able to concentrate better, and sleeps soundly.
“Diet is the foundation. If you eat unhealthy foods, I really believe it can cause disease,” said Ms. Brown.
And the good vibes haven’t only affected Ms. Brown. Doctors estimated her husband, Barry, would have a handful of years left to live with cancer. After researching the effects diet has on disease, Ms. Brown decided to switch the family to an all vegan diet. So far, Mr. Brown has been winning his battle with cancer. He feels well and is in remission.
“The doctor calls him his miracle man,” said Ms. Brown.
To help shut out toxins and hormones found in meats and other foods, she uses unprocessed whole grains like quinoa to increase the amount of fiber in their diet. Instead of using honey made by bees, she cooks with unrefined sweeteners like agave syrup, a product she finds at Ocean State Job Lot for about $2. The less processed the food, the better.
“It’s about getting back to basics,” said Ms. Brown.
Registered Dietitian Emily Gendey of Bristol’s Evolution Body and Nutrition, who has worked with cancer patients, agrees with Ms. Brown’s ideas on diet. In her profession, she has noticed an upswing in cancers and theorizes the cause could be linked to processed foods.
“Our bodies haven’t changed. We have the same body of our great-great grandmother. What’s changed is the fuel we’re putting in and the amount of it,” said Ms. Gedney. “Disease manifests.”
She recommends people to eat less meat in general and get foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. She said snacks, like Cheetos, give bodies empty calories and lack fuel. It’s all about balance.
“You are what you eat. We didn’t have Krispy Kreme’s or Skippy Peanut Butter,” said Ms. Gedney. “There weren’t all these processed foods. So the quality of what you’re putting in your body is a lot less.”
Healthy snacks, like apples, give bodies the right type of energy — and reduce the amount of free radicals in bodies, a cancer causing agent.
The hardest part of a vegan diet is getting used to altering habits, like avoiding fast food and ready-made meals. But she said getting in a habit is easy. She shops at health food shops throughout the state and even eats out at vegetarian restaurants.
The key to a balanced diet, she said, is to eat a mostly plant-based diet, followed by carbohydrates with a little protein found in plants.
“We have way too much protein,” said Ms. Brown.
A typical snack would include humus, a chickpea dip with vegetables. And baking isn’t an issue. She cooks cakes and cookies using soy products and natural sweeteners; chocolate isn’t outlawed.
Though meats are sanctioned from the table, she has no trouble coming up with new recipes. To cook Portuguese food and soups, food she grew up with, she replaces the meat with soy products such as tofu and tempeh.
“There are so many combinations. It’s phenomenal,” said Ms. Brown.
One of her favorite soups is miso, which has a type of sea vegetable called kombu that reduces toxins in the body. While restaurants make it with fish, she chooses to keep it strictly vegan.
“You don’t have to feel guilty. It’s a no-guilt diet,” said Ms. Brown.
And while the biggest reason for switching is health related, she said part of her ethos is ethics driven. On her refrigerator hangs a poster reading, “You have animals as pets. Why do you eat animals for dinner?”
The switch is not without its social consequences.
“People think we look at them as inferior, like you shouldn’t do this or that,” said Ms. Brown. “But really, we find being a role model has worked. People say ‘how has he been doing so well?’”
Now the chef runs her own consulting business out of Kickemuit Road home for those looking to go vegetarian or vegan. She also runs special workshops for those dealing with cancer. She said foods loaded with antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can give immune systems a kick. Giving patients a way to control their sickness and daily routine also gives people a positive outlook, said Ms. Brown.
“The more I learn, the more excited I get about food,” said Ms. Brown.
To contact Ms. Brown for a cooking consultation call 245-8443.