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How Not to Die Year (and Food Sensitivity Test Results)

Friday, January 7, 2022

Like I mentioned in the Powersheets post on Monday, I have some more details to share about the goal I titled 'How Not to Die Year.' It does essentially boil down to a vegan year, but with a few more nuances. First though, the results of my food sensitivity test!

Food Sensitivity Test Results 

One of the things that John got me for Christmas was a food sensitivity test. I asked for it, of course, so I was very excited to send it back in and get my results. The one I got is from Everlywell (not sponsored but you get some sort of discount with that link if you want to try it out for yourself.) It's fairly straightforward - the kit they send includes two lancets. You prick your finger and place the blood drops on the card with your name on it. Mail it back in and your results come in just a couple of days. I couldn't believe how quickly it came. But yes, if you have issues with blood or needle pricks, this is not for you! I have no such issues so the whole thing took me maybe 5 minutes.

My results? Thankfully, not super highly sensitive on anything they tested for. But a few moderate sensitivities, which can still cause symptoms: cow's milk, eggs, cashews, brewer's yeast, clams, ginger, and yogurt. And to a lesser extent, mozzarella and white mushrooms. I guess I'm not surprised - cheese has always caused issues for me, and most people can't tolerate cow's milk, we all just have it anyway. Lots of reasons for that, from marketing to government subsidies, but that's a post for another time. And I never really ate eggs on their own, but it makes sense why so many desserts turned me off, especially cookies, since eggs are a main baking ingredient. Made my decision to have an all vegan year that much easier. I've never eaten meat, so the only real holdouts for being totally vegan were cheese and chocolate, both things that very much cause some digestive issues for me, along with headaches and flushed skin.

But the other foods on the list did surprise me, and for that, I'm glad I took the test. Because I never would have figured them out on my own through an elimination diet. I mean, cashews? I've never had a visible nut reaction so it wouldn't have even occurred to me to test myself for this, but cashews are the main ingredient in processed vegan foods, like vegan cheese and sauces! No wonder I always say 'I don't like vegan cheese.' What I really mean is 'vegan cheese gives me stomach pains and headaches' but I guess I only knew that information subconsciously. 

And brewer's yeast? I mean, why would I even consider that the problem. I knew certain beers were bugging me and causing headaches, but in America, beers are required to be yeast free so it's all filtered out. I assumed it was a gluten or sugar problem (in a fun turn of events, gluten is an absolute 0 on the reaction scale for me, I have no sensitivity to it whatsoever), but apparently the effects of the yeast in the beer before the filtering is enough to cause issues. It's also present in wine, which explains why I also get an instant headache from wine and dislike it so much. Oh, and it's in soy sauce, so it probably wasn't the high sodium in Chinese food that was bothering me, or at least not solely. It was this tricky brewer's yeast.

How Not to Die Year

This title comes directly from the book by Dr. Greger. I've mentioned this before, it's one of my favorites. As is the corresponding cookbook. At the end of the day, it's a book advocating for a plant-based lifestyle. Each chapter contains information on the leading causes of death for Americans, mostly diseases that can be prevented through eating the proper nutrients. Nutrients that come only from a well-rounded plant-based diet. And specifically through avoiding all of the bad stuff we already know leads to clogged arteries and more, like meat, trans fats, dairy, and processed who knows what. It's a fascinating read, and one that I'm working my way through again right now. This time with little sticky tabs to mark the most important passages.

Last year, I worked on the Blue Zone Living Challenge, which is very similar in terms of what to eat, but also emphasizes the importance of things like family and community connections, regular daily movement, and regularly de-stressing. I tackled these other aspects really well, but not so much the food aspect. So I wanted to focus on that this year, which made the How Not to Die plan a better fit, because it's much more detailed about the 'diet' plan. It's not actually a diet designed for weight loss, but a whole vegan diet based lifestyle change.

Although the book contains tons of scientific studies and detailed information, the author was able to condense it down into the Daily Dozen plan, and provides a free app to track your days by. It's incredibly straightforward. Each day, Dr. Greger recommends eating 3 servings of beans, 1 of berries, 3 of other fruits, 1 of cruciferous vegetables, 2 of greens, 2 of other vegetables, 1 serving of flaxseeds, 1 of nuts and seeds, 1 of herbs and spices, and 3 of whole grains. I would never remember the full count on my own so the awesome thing is, the app tells you exactly how much constitutes a serving, and offers a full list of foods to eat to cover that serving. Plus you get a nice little box for each serving to make a check mark in. It even includes space to check off your water intake, moderate daily exercise, and your B-12 supplement. 

Now, I may not hit every check mark every day, but the closer I can get, the healthier my eating habits. If I include all those things into my day, I wouldn't even have room in my stomach for anything else on the more unhealthy end, like cheese and processed grains! I'm someone who needs a lot of guidance and hand-holding in making my meal plan for the week, so something this structured is exactly what I'm looking for. Plus, the recipes in the cookbook (and I've loved everything I've made so far) note at the bottom which serving and how many of them they check off.

So this year, I'm mainly aiming to stick to a vegan diet so I'm not triggered into physically feeling bad by eating the things high on my sensitivities test. And the Daily Dozen plan is definitely the best way for me personally to make sure I'm getting the nutrients I need across the board, without feeling stressed and overwhelmed when making a meal plan. To consider this a win or give myself an A at the end of the year, I need to: (a) stick to a vegan diet, (b) cut out processed foods, even vegan ones like frozen fake meat burgers or nuggets, (c) take my damn vitamins daily and not sporadically like I currently do, and (d) end the year with completely normal blood test results. Which they mostly were this year, just insanely low on vitamin D and a little too high on some of the 'bad' markers.

If you have an vegan (cashew free!) recipes or meals that you love, please share. I'm always looking for new options.

Have you taken a food sensitivity test? What gives your immune system issues?

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