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How to Plant Success in your work and life

Plant-based eating — easy ways to eat for peak performance, health and happiness

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Plant-based eating. Nutritious, delicious and a tool to improved work performance and life! All pictured vegetables came from the author’s garden and used in the recipe below.

Food for thought. What you eat can fuel your mental capacity, energize your body and balance your emotions. Food is fundamental to survival and now there’s substantiation that it’s also pivotal to peak performance.

People have been searching for the competitive edge in work performance long before people even started working in offices. In the past few decades, the quest to excel in business has led people to learn about emotional intelligence, meditation and exercise in addition to the prior credentials-based pursuit. Each new soft skill area has helped to expand the less tangible advantages that were previously overlooked.

I realized that plant-based nutrition is a competitive advantage early in my career. I credit my ability to fly 12, 15 hours, land, go straight to leading business meetings and adjust to the new time zone easily, to my plant-based diet. The punishing schedule and stress of being a global business executive has led many of my colleagues and associates to excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, drugs, prescription and otherwise, sugar, and other crutches that oftentimes sabotaged the very things they were looking for — clarity, equanimity, and stamina. And yes, the ability to sleep too.

When I was building my career, I had a health crisis that threatened to derail me. I lost an alarming amount of weight, couldn’t focus for any extended length of time and developed depressive moods. Conventional medicine offered no solution. My body was telling me that something was wrong, but I was not able to sort out what it needed. Finally, I found a holistic healer who prescribed a restricted diet based on specific testing. On that plant-based diet I stabilized my weight, regained my ability to concentrate, and balanced my moods. Ever since then I have continued to research, learn and improve my eating habits to nourish my body for health, happiness and peak work performance.

Plant-based food nourishes the body with what it needs. How we fuel our amazing, complex living machine makes a discernible difference. Much like the grade of gasoline you put into your car, what kind of food you eat will provide varying results. Many people start the day with a caffeine boost, snack on candy and pastries to deal with the mid-morning slow down, experience an early afternoon slump from a heavy lunch, and perk up again in the later afternoon after their meal eases down the digestive track. These symptoms are your body’s metabolic processes calling out for your attention. Your body needs good fuel to help you accomplish what you want to do.

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Home grown red bell pepper that was used in the lentil pasta recipe below

Why is plant-based nourishment better for you? Our bodies are old machines, evolved over millions of years to absorb and be nourished by a complex composite of nutrients from the nature. In the last two hundred plus years, human beings have converted food into forms that are easy to transport and store, by reducing, modifying and changing the food’s nutritional content, form and composition. Even when the eliminated vital nutrients are added back in, usually in chemically created formats, the many trace and synergistic micronutrients that enhance and fortify the body’s absorption and wellbeing are left out. Our bodies are not designed to digest, absorb and function at peak performance with these highly processed foods.

Plant-based eating nourishes your body in many ways. MD Anderson Cancer Center lists five key benefits

Boosts your body’s immune system, this is very needed especially if you have a stressful job and life. Your body is being assaulted constantly by stress, germs, and viruses; a weakened metabolic system is vulnerable to diseases. Plants contain unique phytonutrients and antioxidants that keep your cells strong and your body healthy to fight off diseases. These essential micronutrients and antioxidants are not available from any other foods.

Reduces inflammation. These same plant phytochemicals and antioxidants neutralize the toxins that come from pollution, processed foods, stress, bacteria and viruses. They reduce free radicals that can throw your body off balance and help your body maintain a healthy equilibrium. Prolonged inflammation is dangerous in your body because it can damage your body’s tissues and cells, arising in arthritis, cancer and other inflammatory diseases.

Helps maintain a healthy weight. A plant-based diet can help you stay in an appropriate weight range. The foods that cause weight gain in general are the ultra-processed foods you will avoid on a plant-based eating plan. Maintaining a healthy weight will also greatly reduce your risk for at least 12 types of cancer.

Increases your fiber intake. Plants are our body’s source of fiber that is essential for digestive health and to keep the colon healthy and bowel movements regular. Fiber also helps to regulate the body’s use of sugars, help keep hunger, blood sugar and cholesterol at good levels.

Reduces your risk for major diseases. A plant-based diet helps prevent cancer, other inflammatory diseases, heart disease, strokes, and some mental health diseases.

Ultra-processed foods, like instant meals, breakfast cereals, reconstituted meats like sausages, nuggets and fish fingers, crackers, chips, sodas, sweetened drinks etc. have a number of added trans fats, sugar, salt, refined carbohydrates, artificial ingredients and preservatives. These foods are designed to taste good and create a craving for more. However according to BMJ, a global healthcare knowledge provider, a 10% increase consumption of ultra-processed food leads to more than a 10% risk elevation in cardiovascular coronary heart and cerebrovascular diseases among others.

You cannot perform well ongoingly when your health is compromised.

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Home grown zucchini, tasty, nutrtious and easy to grow.

What consitutes good nourishment for you and your body? You are busy, limited in time and want simple ways to get the nutritious and delicious foods to fuel you. Here’s a few points to guide you to healthy eating:

Eat plants, not “food” made in (manufacturing) plants. Focus on the fresh foods sections of the store where you will find foods closer to the source, filled with the complex nutrients and micro-nutrients that our bodies need to function optimally. If you are pressed for time or live in an area where fresh produce is limited, choose minimally processed frozen fruits and vegetables and secondly, canned. Fresh frozen fruits and vegetables are usually packaged soon after harvest, quickly frozen and retains much of the nutrients. Canned fruits and vegetables lose an amount of nutrients due to the heat processing; they are still much more nutritious than any ultra-processed food.

The center aisles in the grocery store are stocked with prepared products, generally highly refined and processed with the original goodness and nutrients modified, destroyed or separated out. Choose the less treated products whenever possible.

The longer the list of ingredients, the more suspect the product. How many words on the label sound like food? How many of them are chemical additives, preservatives, food coloring etc.? Look at the nutrition information, how many grams of sugar, fat, especially trans-fat, fiber etc. are in the product? Consider putting back the items with high sugar, trans-fats, refined carbohydrates, sodium and artificial ingredients. They are designed to be addictive and are packed with empty calories that fill your stomach but not your body’s need for healthy nutrients.

Read, learn more about plant-based nutrition, associate with others who are also interested in healthy eating. The research on plant-based eating is growing and the exciting results will encourage you to keep exploring and trying new foods and ways to enhance your eating habits. Make eating well fun! You will have a higher chance of changing your eating habits when it’s enjoyable, delicious as well as being good for you. Network with others so that you have supportive and aligned groups to share, learn and play with. The results of nutritious eating may be apparent quickly or it may take a little time to manifest. It is easier to continue if you have family, friends and tasty foods to ease your way.

Changing what and how you eat may be a challenge. Give yourself credit when you do well and start again when you relapse. Food is fundamental to our existence and some foods bring back fond memories. Acknowledge the imprint different foods may have on you and build pleasing associations with the foods you are now adding to your life. As you develop favorable connections with foods that are good for you, it will reduce the pull of the ones that do not serve your mental and physical body. Take time to appreciate your body and witness how your thinking, endurance, health and moods have improved. It took you years to develop the habits you have now, give yourself credit in changing them. One step at a time you are getting healthier happier and more productive and creative!

Please read some of my other blogs on plant-based eating. You will gain a broader picture of this wonderful tool, along with plant-based recipes, for greater health, work performance and happiness.

Here is a simple, delicious and nourishing plant-based dish you can make. You may want to cook extra for lunch the next day!

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Lentil pasta with home grown tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, beans and herbs.

Ingredients:

Lentil pasta — 8 oz.

Romano beans or green beans — 8 oz. chopped to 1 ½” pieces

4 medium tomatoes, chopped into 1 ½ ” cubes

1 large sweet red bell pepper, chopped to 1" pieces

2 small or 1 large zucchini, chopped

3 cloves garlic — smashed and chopped

1 bunch garlic chives or green onions, chopped to 1” pieces, approximately 1 cup

½ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup chopped fresh flat parsley

¼ cup chopped fresh oregano

1 medium onion — halved, quartered and sliced

½ cup raw pine nuts

Organic extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon Cholula hot sauce or to taste

1 teaspoon Coconut aminos

½ teaspoon Braggs’ Aminos

Himalaya pink salt

Fresh ground pepper

1. Cook lentil pasta according to package instructions. Save a cup of the pasta water. Rinse pasta with cold water in a colander.

2. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan.

3. Cook sliced onions over medium heat until they start to brown, add garlic and cook till both are slightly brown and aromatic. Put aside on a dish.

4. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the saucepan again, leaving in the juices from the onions and garlic.

5. Heat and add beans when pan is hot. Stir for a couple of minutes.

6. Add chopped zucchini to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until both have turned color.

7. Add chopped red bell pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes.

8. Add chopped tomatoes. Cook until they start to slightly soften.

9. Add all the herbs, seasonings and the cooked onions and garlic.

10. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

11. Toss in cooked lentil pasta, adding a little bit of the saved pasta water if it looks a bit dry.

12. Taste again and adjust as needed.

13. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and serve.

14. Bon Appetit!

Written by

Marilyn Tam, global speaker, best selling author (The Happiness Choice), business leader and humanitarian. Formerly the CEO of Aveda, President Reebok, VP Nike

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