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July 30, 2013

What Do Vegan Pastors Eat? Part 35

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

morning coffee graphicWhile out on a hospital visit to Paramus, I met someone in the lobby I hadn’t seen a long while. I admit — at first, I couldn’t remember his name, but eventually his name popped into my head. As we talked about his family and the health of his mom, he asked me THE question:

“Are you still eating only vegetables?”

Yes, I am still eating only vegetables and fruit and beans and legumes and whole grains; still not eating anything in cooking oil or with added sugar; cheese and all animal products are still off my daily menu.

“How can you stand that diet? Don’t you crave a hamburger?,” he asked.

No, I do not crave a hamburger. Or pizza. Or sprinkling cheese on my pasta. Or eating a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies.

I actually like eating a spinach salad with vinegar.

In fact, I find eating a plant-based diet so much easier than when I was gorging myself on meat and chicken and fish.

“I’ve been following a low-carb diet for about a year. I lost a few pounds and feeling good,” he excitedly told me.

Of course, I had to hold my tongue; low-carb diets, according to one of my doctors, are a health hazard. Instead, I mentioned to him my latest visit with my doctors in New York City on Monday.

My doctors have been very happy with my health progress in my post-cancer life. They say that my steroid-induced weight issue is starting to whittle away, something that caused me do a happy dance. All my medical tests, up to this point, show me healthier than I’ve ever been. The cancer is gone – really gone. My blood pressure is at normal or slightly below. My resting pulse rate is the same. My cholesterol is low, or if one uses the standard “normal” cholesterol level, my level is really, really low. The latest artery test that looks at plaque in a person’s veins and arteries came back clean – not a cholesterol build up to be found. In following a low-fat vegan (plant-based) diet, the levels of vitamins and minerals in my blood are excellent.

“But how can you eat that way? Bread without butter? A salad without cheese? Dinner without meat?”

When my doctors informed me that the best way to prevent disease was to eat a plant-based diet without oils and fats, I was skeptical. I’m an Italian who grew up thinking cheese was a sacrament. But my health test results are better than anything I could have imagined. So many of my brother clergy-people are on pills for one health issue or another, some on multiple pills and injections. Family members and friends are in the same boat, taking pills to keep cholesterol down (artificially) and blood pressure below the stroke point. I am stunned at how many people I know who are taking medication to combat Type 2 diabetes. And to those I know who have battled cancer, I get incredulous when I hear that they’ve gone back to their “regular” animal-based diets because “eating health is too hard.”

Spending money on pills each month to control symptoms of high cholesterol and diabetes and heart disease and cancer and high blood pressure is what I consider “too hard.” I rather eat kale than pop pills.

So what is this vegan pastor preparing for dinner tonight?

Velvety macaroni. And a spinach and kale salad with corn and black beans.

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