Non-Toxic Vegan

Breaking the toxic cycle

(I actually wrote this post a few months ago, but decided now is a good time to actually publish it.)

I am 32 years old, and as far back as I can remember, there has been a pattern of drug and/or alcohol-related death in my family. My maternal grandmother had 13 children; however, I only knew and had a relationship with eight of them. Of the eight I had a relationship with, only three remain—my mother, an aunt, and an uncle. The other five aunts and uncles succumbed to their drug and alcohol addictions. Thankfully, my mother, aunt, and uncle are not on drugs, and only drink occasionally. I’m even more grateful for the fact that my mother has never tried drugs and she rarely drinks.

I’m writing this post because in early March of this year, I found out that the eldest of my grandmother’s children – my 70-year-old uncle – passed away from a methamphetamine addiction. I was pretty shocked by the news because never in a million years would I have thought that this uncle would be associated with drugs in any manner. He was bright and responsible, and didn’t strike me as the kind of person who would intentionally do himself any harm. After simultaneously learning of his addiction and death, I felt compelled to write my feelings because this manner of death is an all-too-common occurrence in my family, and I desperately want better for us and I’m determined to have a better life.

The cycle of drug abuse and alcoholism doesn’t have to continue; it can be stopped. Just because I was exposed to a particular way of life growing up, doesn’t mean I have to allow that to take root and manifest itself into life-destroying behavior. I believe that’s why I felt the urge to write this post because I can be one of the ones in my family to break the cycle. I knew at a very early age that I didn’t want to live like family members who were living to support drug habits.  They were all my motivation to do better. Did I have an abundance of resources? Well, yes and no. I had resources in the respect of mentors and those who saw potential in me and encouraged me to excel in school. I also had the courage to talk to my school counselor about how I was impacted by my family members’ drug and alcohol addictions. I shared with her that I didn’t want to fall victim to that same way of life, and thankfully my counselor pointed me in the direction of resources to further my education. On the flip side, financial resources were very scarce. My mother worked hard, but didn’t make a lot of money. Despite that fact, she gathered together what she could and emptied her CD to help me start my college education. Every time I think about that, it humbles my heart and makes me so incredibly grateful for her and her sacrifice. She, too, wanted more for me.

I know that there’s so much more to life than chasing the next high. I want to help those in my family realize that we are so much more than our past. We don’t have to perpetuate the cycle; we can break the cycle and chart a new course and legacy for our family. Let us learn from the mistakes of those gone before us, and choose life. Will the road be easy? Sometimes yes, but most often it won’t be. It’s during those times of challenge that we have to persevere and focus on the desire to be better than our past.

I want to be someone my children can look up to and be proud of. I want them to aspire to be even better than the model my soon-to-be husband and I set for them. I don’t want them to look at me as talent wasted, or a life not lived to its full potential. I want to inspire drive and determination. I want to inspire the generation after mine to excel even further than the one before. It’s like Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present”, and so the time to break this toxic cycle is now.

Non-toxically yours,



But, what about protein?!

This is the all-too-familiar question for any and probably everyone who has chosen to eat a plant-based diet. Most people just don’t associate protein with plants. Having been on that side of the fence, I can say I get it; however, now that I’m becoming more and more informed, I say let’s change that.

So what’s the 4-1-1 on protein? Why is it so important? Why do most people think animals are the primary source of protein? What are some good sources of plant proteins? Let’s dig into this a bit.

About Protein

Let’s get technical…just for a moment. The proteins in our bodies are composed of 20 different amino acids in specific combinations. Although the proteins contain 20 different amino acids, our bodies are only able to produce 12. That means that we must obtain the remaining eight from our diet to form complete proteins, thus making those eight amino acids essential. Our bodies are capable of recycling essential amino acids until they are completely used up, and since our bodies are unable to produce these essential amino acids, we must replenish the normal, everyday losses. Without fulfilling this required replenishment, the lack of protein would cause us to starve to death.[i]

Protein Importance

Proteins serves many important functions in our bodies, not just building muscle. In our bodies, proteins become enzymes, the catalytic agents that control various chemical reactions in our bodies. Proteins also become hormones, transmitting messages from one part of the body to another. Proteins also make up the structural part of cells. So, yeah, protein is pretty important.

Are animals the best source of protein?

According to mounting research, no. Many people are led to believe animals are the primary source of protein because from its discovery in the 1800s, protein has been associated with animal sources. With such a long history supporting animals as the chief and best source of protein, it’s no wonder why it’s so ingrained in societal thinking today. Interestingly, the fact that plants have protein was discovered in the late 1800s; however, because science had already been touting animal foods as the best source of protein, it was difficult for people to accept anything different.

Animal protein was and, by many, still is considered to be of higher quality than plant protein. This line of thinking is largely due to the fact that research has shown that the amino acid profile of animals is very similar to that of people. This similarity allows for a much more rapid utilization of animal protein, which allows for a faster rate of gain.[ii] Due to the rate of growth associated with animal protein, it was thought to be of higher quality, while plant protein was thought to be of lower quality.

Animal protein promotes a faster rate of gain, which is good…for animals, but not ideal for humans. Many studies have been conducted and have shown the linkages between various health risks and diseases with the consumption of animal protein. For instance, scientific evidence has shown that animal proteins:

  • elevate blood cholesterol levels
  • promote the formation of heart disease
  • enhance the likelihood of forming osteoporosis (due to metabolic acidosis, which causes our bodies to draw on the best alkaline material in our bodies to neutralize the acid, which is the calcium in our bones)
  • initiate Type 1 diabetes in young children
  • increase the production of growth hormones
  • increase the rate at which cells divide, which is central to the carcinogenic process
  • are associated with the formation of Alzheimer’s disease, kidney stones, among many other diseases
  • increase IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1)
  • increase cancer growth rates
  • promote earlier menarche

I wouldn’t consider something “high quality” if it presents these kinds of health risks. While these risks are associated with consuming animal protein, scientific evidence has shown that plant proteins tend to have the opposite effect on our bodies, thus promoting health instead of harming it.

Excellent sources of plant proteins

All natural foods contain varying amounts of protein. Consuming a varied, calorie-sufficient plant-based diet will undoubtedly supply our protein requirements.[iii]

A plant-based diet supplies us with vital nutrients essential to our health. For instance, plants are the only source of dietary fiber, which is important because it helps us feel full since it does not digest in the same way as other nutrients. Further, dietary fiber allows for optimal food passage through the digestive tract, improves cardiovascular health, helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and is generally associated with lower rates of lower bowel and colorectal cancer.[iv] With regards to diseases such as heart disease (#1 leading cause of death in the US) and diabetes (#7 leading cause of death in the US), research has shown that a plant-based diet can actually reverse these diseases.[v]

Heather McClees from, has put together a really nice list of some plant protein sources. I’ve edited the list down to remove soy products for reasons I’ll discuss in another post, but the list below is a great depiction of the various options those of us on a plant-based diet have for protein. This affords us such a wide variety of foods to choose from, thus boosting the nutritional content of what we eat.

  • Broccoli: 5 grams per cup
  • Spinach: 5 grams per cup
  • Rye Grains: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Rolled Oats: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Millet: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Amaranth: 6 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Freekah: 5 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Teff: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Buckwheat: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Almond Butter: 7 Grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Spirulina: 4 grams per teaspoon (!!)
  • Chlorella: 2 grams per teaspoon
  • Chia seeds: 10 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Flax Seeds: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Cacao Powder: 5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Maca: 3 grams per tablespoon
  • Acai: 5 grams per 3 ounce frozen puree
  • Kale: 5 grams per cup
  • Lentils- 18 grams per cup
  • Black Beans- 13 grams per cup
  • Chickpeas- 13 grams per cup
  • Romaine Lettuce: 3 grams per cup
  • Sunflower Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Almonds: 7 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Pumpkin Seeds: 10 grams per 1/4 cup
  • Coconut Flour: 3.5 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Quinoa: 7 grams per 1/2 cup cooked
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders (hemp, pea, brown rice, cranberry bean, etc.) : 17-25 grams per scoop (depending on the brand)
  • Green Peas: 8 grams per cup

I should note that none of this information should be taken as medical advice. I simply want to share what I’m learning to open a window to enabling people to make better, informed decisions about their health.

Yours in health!







[v] “The Nutritional Reversal of Cardiovascular Disease – Fact or Fiction? Three Case Reports”/Caldwell Esselstyn and Mladen Golubic/Exp Clin Cardiol Vol 20 Issue 7 pages 1901-1908/2014


My Vegan Journey: Time to get naked

This blog, and the idea of putting myself front and center for the world to see, is a frightening, yet liberating thing to do. I tend to shy away from social media and anything that has to deal with putting my life on display for strangers; I’m a private person and that’s what makes me comfortable. In deciding to go Vegan and live a healthier lifestyle, I realized that the decision alone is a step outside of my comfort zone. So why should I continue on this path of maintaining my known sense of comfort, when I can be an even greater version of myself by making the seemingly uncomfortable my new level of comfort? In order for me to embrace the new, I have to get rid of the old, so it’s time for me to strip. That’s right, I’m getting naked [covers eyes with hands].

Prior to making the decision to become a Vegan, I was a hardcore meat lover. I was that person who claimed they would never stop eating meat—never say never, right? I was obsessed with bacon, and as far as I was concerned, the only kind of bacon was pork bacon. The taste and smell of bacon was so intoxicating, how could I ever give that up? Even the sight of all that thick bacon grease wasn’t enough to deter me—I was hooked. In addition to bacon, I had a love affair with burgers. The combination of flavors and the juicy tenderness of a well-cooked burger was so satisfying. And of course my burgers were always topped with bacon! BACON, BACON, BACON, I just couldn’t get enough. To throw some irony in the mix, I was (and still am) really into fitness and I was under the impression that the best and complete sources of protein were all animal-derived. This was the kind of information that was impressed upon me at a very early age and it became so entrenched in my belief systems that any opposing view was regarded as nonsensical.

It wasn’t until early 2013 that I really began to take a closer look at my health and give serious consideration to what I was putting inside my body. You see, between the months of October 2012 and December 2012, there were three deaths in my family. Two of the deaths were health-related and the third an unfortunate car accident. The health-related deaths were from breast cancer and liver disease. Sadly, I had been all too familiar with death in my family, but not so many in such a short amount of time. The deaths and how quickly they happened really alarmed me and made me realize just how precious life is and I felt compelled to take better care of my health. In addition to myself, I immediately became concerned about the health of my family members (many of whom are overweight) and I wanted to learn more about health and wellness.

I began researching health and wellness and soon became overwhelmed by the amount of information available. I felt like I didn’t know where to begin. Defeat was looming over my head and I had only just begun. Just when it seemed like I was in over my head, I met a co-worker who seemed to be really clued in about the very subject I was researching. One day we were having a very simple conversation getting to know one another and we somehow began talking about her parents and their health issues. That led her to share with me her passion for health and wellness. In her quest to help her parents improve their health, she discovered information that led her away from chemical-based approaches to healing, to a plant-based approach to health.

She told me what she learned through her research and how the body is capable of healing itself of many of the diseases and ailments that afflict people nowadays on an all-too-common basis (e.g., heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc).[1] Many of these diseases are attributed to diet and as such, can be greatly minimized, if not reversed, through a healthier lifestyle. As she shared this information with me, I felt myself wanting to know more. The information she shared sent my research in a new direction. I sought to know more about plant-based nutrition. I was aware of vegetarianism and it seemed like more and more people were becoming vegans, so I needed to understand what a plant-based lifestyle was truly about and its benefits (stay tuned for more on this). I told her that I wanted to understand more and she suggested I check out a documentary called, “Hungry for Change.”

“Hungry for Change” is a documentary by James Colquhoun, Laurentine ten Bosch and Carlo Ledesma (stay tuned for my review). The film “exposes shocking secrets the diet, weightloss and food industry don’t want you to know about; deceptive strategies designed to keep you coming back for more.”[2] After viewing this film, my eyes were opened and I committed to continuously educate myself about nutrition and wellness, and live a healthier lifestyle. I want to know and fully understand what it is I’m putting inside my body; not be a “blind” consumer.

Recently, I watched a documentary that kick started my decision to become a Vegan called, “Forks Over Knives” (check back for my review in a later post). This film “examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.”[3] I cannot tell you enough how critically important this documentary is for those who may be skeptical about a whole foods, plant-based diet. The questions I had regarding consuming adequate amounts of protein were all answered, in addition to questions I didn’t even consider about the benefits of whole food, plant-based diets and the harmful effects of consuming animal-based products. The fact that there is clear evidence to support the claims in the film is something I cannot refute. The information is science-based and the research speaks for itself. If I was a skeptic going in, I was a believer coming out. After watching the film, something inside me urged me to reach out to my family members to encourage them to watch the film. Being armed with this knowledge, I cannot sit idly by and watch my family choose comfort and convenience over knowledge and understanding. I have to do what I can to help them improve their health.

I am now into my second month as a Vegan, and I feel great! I don’t feel lethargic after meals, I’m satisfied, I have more energy, and I enjoy trying new recipes. There is still a lot for me to learn, but I thoroughly enjoy the discovery process. I also feel good knowing that I understand what I’m putting inside my body.

I’m so excited to share what I discover during this journey, so stay tuned for more updates and inspiration!

To better health!


P.S. – Don’t worry, all my posts won’t be this long 🙂




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