You probably know that a plant-based diet is a healthy, environmentally-friendly and often economical way to eat. But the benefits don’t end there. Authors Jane and Ann Crile Esselstyn guide us through their book “Be a Plant-Based Woman Warrior: Live Fierce, Stay Bold, Eat Delicious.” Along with Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Dawn Mussallem, the three walk us through the research and their personal love affairs with plants.
We talked with:
- Ann Crile Esselstyn has been called “the Julia Child of plant-based-cooking.” Ann’s singular focus is on creating recipes to prevent and reverse heart disease, and she collaborates with her husband, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., in counseling patients.
- Jane Esselstyn, R.N., is a nurse, researcher, middle school sex ed teacher and mother of three. She created the recipes for the #1 New York Times bestseller “Plant-Strong.” She coauthored “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet” with her brother, Rip Esselstyn and “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook”with Ann. Ann and Jane host a popular YouTube channel featuring heart-healthy recipes.
- Dawn Mussallem, D.O., is a consultant in the Department of General Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic and an assistant professor of medicine. She has over 25 years of patient-centered clinical wellness experience and is nationally recognized in the field of breast medicine, lifestyle medicine, integrative oncology and cancer survivorship. Dr. Mussallem has a unique personal experience as a stage IV cancer patient diagnosed three months into medical school and as a heart transplant recipient.
We talked about:
You may feel and function better if you start eating a healthier, whole-food, plant-heavy diet. In this episode, Dr. Millstine and her guests discuss:
- “Above the belt” plant benefits. Dr. Mussallem outlines all the potential benefits for breast health, particularly as this may affect breast cancer survivors.
- “Below the belt” plant benefits. The crew talks us through many other potential health benefits of eating plant-based foods, including benefits to cardiovascular, renal and vaginal health.
- No perfectionists here. Taking on more plants in your diet is a process. You don’t have to start a 100 miles per hour, 180 degree shift in your eating. Baby steps and slip-ups are expected.
Can’t get enough?
- Purchase “Be a Plant-Based Woman Warrior: Live Fierce, Stay Bold, Eat Delicious.”
- Want to read more on the topic? Check out our blog:
- If you’ve got ideas or book suggestions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We invite you to complete the following survey as part of a research study at Mayo Clinic. Your responses are anonymous. Your participation in this survey as well as its completion are voluntary.
Read the transcript:
Dr. Denise Millstine: Welcome to the “Read. Talk. Grow” podcast, where we explore women’s health topics through books in the same way that books can transport us to a different time, place or culture, “Read. Talk. Grow.” demonstrates how books can also give a new appreciation for health experiences and provide a platform from which women’s health can be discussed.
At “Read. Talk. Grow.,” we use books to learn about health conditions in the hopes that we can all lead happier, healthier lives. I’m your host, Dr. Denise Millstine. I’m an assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where I practice women’s health, internal medicine and integrative medicine. I am always reading and I love discussing books with my patients, my professional colleagues, and now with you.
I’m so excited to talk to three amazing women today. My first guest is Ann Crile Esselstyn has been called “the Julia Child of plant-based cooking.” She’s a graduate of Smith College and also received a master’s in education from Wheelock College. She was an award-winning English teacher for 27 years, which she did all while juggling raising four children, coaching and figuring out how to cook delicious and appealing plant-based oil-free food before the days of the internet. Ann’s singular focus is on creating recipes to prevent and reverse heart disease, and she collaborates with her husband Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., in counseling patients.
She’s joined by her lovely daughter, Jane Esselstyn, who’s a nurse and a fresh, charismatic voice in the plant-based movement. She brings her passion, energy and can-do attitude to her presentations, cooking demonstrations, and cookbooks. She’s a nurse, a researcher, a middle school sex education teacher and the mother of three. Jane created the recipes for the number one New York Times bestseller “Plant-Strong.” She co-authored “The Engine 2 Seven-Day Rescue Diet” with her brother, Rip Esselstyn and “The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook” with Ann. We’re going to discuss today their new release, “Be A Plant-Based Woman Warrior,” which is hitting the bestseller lists as we speak. Ann and Jane host a popular YouTube channel featuring heart healthy recipes, and they are next door neighbors in Cleveland, Ohio.
My final guest is Dr. Mussallem, who’s a consultant in the Department of General Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic and an assistant professor of medicine. She’s a double board-certified, including lifestyle medicine and medicine. She has over 25 years of patient-centered clinical wellness experience and is a nationally recognized in the field of breast medicine, lifestyle medicine, integrative oncology, and cancer survivorship. She serves as medical director for Humanities in Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Florida as well. Dr. Mussallem has a unique personal experience as a stage IV cancer patient diagnosed just three months into starting medical school. She’s also a heart transplant recipient. She shares her journey as a patient cultivated her boundless energy and deep purpose to help guide patients toward renewed vitality. She founded and works in the Integrative Medicine and Beast Health Program at Mayo Clinic in Florida, where she introduces her patients to the importance of lifestyle optimization and mind-body practices. She’s interested in research in the impacts of whole food and plant-based nutrition in breast cancer.
Anne, Jane and Dawn, welcome to the show. So Ann and Jane, please tell us, how did you come to this work? Where did it start? And how did you land with this incredibly beautiful book, just recently released?
Jane Esselstyn: An enormous question. I’ve been doing this for decades.
Ann Esselstyn: First off, we need to give you the proper full title of the book: “Be A Plant-Based Woman Warrior: Live Fierce, Stay Bold, Eat Delicious.”
Jane Esselstyn: And well it ties into actually why, or to answer your question: This book is a tip of the hat to my mom, because decades ago, I mean four decades ago, early 80s, my father was doing research as a general surgeon around breast cancer and stuff. But anyway, he ended up following his research and it was reversing heart disease tremendously. And at the Cleveland Clinic a general surgeon telling the cardiologist what’s going on, it took a while to get a group of patients to do research with. But once he did get that, he’d said to my mom, you know, “We have to eat this way.” No meat, no dairy, all that kind of stuff. She picked it up right then and there. Full-time job, four kids, all athletes that needed to eat a lot, full time, husband and a dog. And she’s like, “Got it.”
Ann Esselstyn: And that was pre-internet. So we knew nobody who ate this way. On the west coast, there was McDougal, who we knew but you know, the west coast was like Europe back then. So my husband had just started and I just started, we had been to Puerto Rico and had loved rice and beans. So we started with rice and beans. And believe it or not, that’s where we still are as one of our favorite foods, you can add on and on and on. But the crazy thing to me is that my husband was doing all this research here in Cleveland, Ohio. And one day one of his patients came in and said, “You know, I just saw an article in Discovery magazine, somebody is doing the same thing as you are.” And that was Dean Ornish in California, who they were doing the same thing, but on different parts of the country. And Dean had started a little earlier and published a little sooner because my husband was reluctant to publish quickly. But I mean, isn’t it amazing that something so simple as plant-based eating took so long to kind of get out there?
Jane Esselstyn: Well, Mother Nature put it in front of us a long time ago. For a while, we wrote books about preventing and reversing heart disease, because we truly got on this track for health reasons, because of people’s medical conditions, and how beautifully this helped support health and turn around symptoms and normalize all of our other systems. To stick with heart disease, in some of our books, we always have compliant recipes. My mom and I would use that lens for a while then I did a bunch of books with my brother Rip. I mean, this is my fifth and her third book. With my brother Rip, it was more of like a firefighter lens, like keeping people young and healthy so they can do these extraordinary firefighter type things. And they’re also a lot of athletes. And so anyway, finally, we were like this cookbook is going to be who we are and how we have done this for the last 40 years. And here it is.
Dr. Denise Millstine: And it’s so beautiful. I am excited for our listeners to look at these pictures. And it’s just glorious. It’s so well done. Dawn, tell us about how you came to incorporate nutrition in your practice.
Dawn Mussallem: I was actually raised really whole food plant-predominant. I was really one of those fortunate people back in the 70s that my parents were just on to this early on. And my mom actually had shared a story, that when she received her copy of the cookbook, she was so excited to see that now this is so available to women. Because she struggled. The cookbook she had was like “Whole World Plant” or “Small Plant World” or something like that. That was the only plant-predominant cookbook. And we talked about, you know, trying to get complete proteins at that time, because they felt that you had to combine beans and rice, the same exact meal to make sure it’s a complete protein otherwise your protein wasn’t complete. We know now that’s not the case, your body kind of, it’s like checks and balances, takes in a little bit, gives out a little bit, takes in and gives out and so you don’t have to worry about having it all at the same meal.
So this interest started for me as a young girl. And it really is what cultivated my passion to want to be a physician in this space of preventive medicine, and working primarily with cancer patients to help them uphold quality of life during treatment, but then to really flourish afterwards. And I see that in my patient population that they just really, the majority of them do very, very well despite going through chemotherapy and radiation, heavy surgeries, when they’re upholding these pillars of lifestyle medicine, and particularly that consistent with a plant-predominant diet. And I shouldn’t just say plant predominant. Because I should really say whole food plant-predominant, because that is such an important word.
And there was just a research study that was presented at a nutrition conference. It’s very interesting. It carries home this message. 65,000 French women, half of them ate an animal-based diet, half of them had a plant-based diet. Those women on the healthy whole food plant-predominant diet — and they had a little bit of chicken, a little bit of fish — they had a reduced risk of breast cancer, but those women on the unhealthy plant-predominant diet, one that had a lot of processed foods, even though they were plant-based, had an increased risk of breast cancer by 20%. So that’s why this cookbook is so wonderful because it gives us the opportunity to really embrace the beauty of a whole food plant-based diet that isn’t from a manufacturer and it’s beautiful food, it’s healthy food and it’s just so fun. So I can’t wait to talk about it. But my passion came very early in life, and it was something I wanted to do since a young age so I’m so fortunate to be in this space and be able to work with my patients and now have a cookbook as a resource for my patients. So it’s wonderful. Thank you both.
Ann Esselstyn: Did you ever go astray, away from the plant-based diet in your years?
Dawn Mussallem: I was always whole food. I did stray away a few years after college, and I did some fitness contests. And I have this personal trainer that got in my head. It was before game changers, right? It’s like eating some animal products. So it was interesting. And I, you know, I don’t think it’s necessarily any correlation. But it was a few years after I was diagnosed with cancer, ironically, and as soon as that diagnosis came to me, I flipped back to my ways that I previously ate and I’ve been quite committed to that diet ever since. And, you know, I really follow Dr. Esselstyn’s diet to a tee, actually about a year before my heart transplant after, just because I have to be so mindful of the risk of vasculopathy. So I do the strictest version of what your husband did research on. So I thank him.
Jane Esselstyn: Wow, well done. Well done.
Ann Esselstyn: You mentioned in the introduction, that Jane is a sex ed teacher, because this book is mostly Jane. But I think for women, her part in this book and sex ed part —
Jane Esselstyn: The how plants powerfully support women section.
Ann Esselstyn: Yes, that’s what I meant — might be of interest to you.
Dr. Denise Millstine: That’s definitely an area I want to talk about. You know, you talk about how the plant-based diet impacts hormonal conditions, you mentioned hot flashes, breast health, fibroids. Tell us more about that.
Jane Esselstyn: I’m so glad we have Dawn here, because I want her to continue with her studies. Again, we have a breast health physician, here. And we have, here I am, I do research with the Cleveland Clinic as an RN, and I’m a middle school sex ed teacher. But you know what, arguably, that’s where so many good habits start. So I love that, like “The Catcher in the Rye,” like trying to get these kids before they get into adulthood and get into patterns that are really hard to reverse. Kind of chiming into what you just asked and echoing what my mom said about being a middle school sex ed teacher, I just wanted to bring in my two passions, which are food and sex, if you will, like what a great life I get to talk about food and sex all the time. I’m saying that kind of jokingly. Above the belt and below the belt, plants do powerfully support women. And above the belt, Dawn, please, you could probably talk for 10 hours straight about how breasts are benefited from by plants. Or actually and by not having dairy and not having meat in our diets. Not just because they have hormones from those animals, but for so many other reasons. Dawn, do you want to chime in about breast health something anything to add to that?
Dawn Mussallem: I would love to and you know, there was an amazing study that just illuminates the importance of the message you just said. It was published in 2020 with the Women’s Health Initiative. Almost 49,000 postmenopausal women were followed. At randomization — it was a randomized controlled trial — we never see this high of quality research design when it comes to nutrition, right? But in this study, it was randomized controlled trial, the women were randomized from either their standard American diet that they were on of 32% fat into a 20% reduced fat diet. And at the study, they also recommended that they increase whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Okay. And so what they saw at the 8.5 year follow up during this intervention year, there was a reduction in mortality, very robust, 35% reduction in overall mortality. They continue to follow the patients beyond that. It’s 16 years, they still saw this reduction in mortality a little bit lower, but 15%. But here it is, at the 19.6 year follow up, they showed that in women who just happened to get breast cancer — it’s going to happen, right? Those women had a reduction in breast cancer mortality. And what is so cool about this study is that when we put women on risk-reducing medications who are at a high risk for breast cancer, there has never been a study that showed that those medications improve their survival if they get breast cancer. So this is super cool. And it also shows a reduction in more of aggressive breast cancer one that the ER positive, PR-negative breast cancer. So it’s just the most amazing study. And that’s just the start of it.
So when we look at other studies and breast cancer survivors, we see that when they eat a more plant-predominant diet, when that’s lowering glycemic index, refined grains, that avoids red meat and avoids saturated fat, gets rid of trans fats, same thing, they have a 34% improved survival. And what’s really cool in this study, this was the Nurses Health Study. Is they showed that women who ate junk food all the way up until they got breast cancer, but then they changed the way they after breast cancer, still got a benefit. So I love that message for patients because it’s so hopeful that it’s never too late.
And then, you know, it’s never about one food. I always, I always tell patients, it’s not about one food but this is super cool. So in women that have two servings of green leafy vegetables a day, 20% improve survival after breast cancer diagnosis. A half a serving of cruciferous vegetables, they had about a 13% improved overall survival. Wait for this one, simply two servings of berries a week, 25% improved breast cancer-specific survival. This stuff makes patients so excited and then soy — okay, you said 10 hours I could really keep going — So I can listen to this. So the American Cancer Society just published this wonderful, it’s just great. So here’s the myth buster: Soy is good for your breasts, okay, it is not bad for your breasts. But people and doctors still think that it’s bad for your breasts. That was bad science, it was done in rodents. And rodents do not metabolize soy the way humans do. But what it showed, we know this for sure, is that soy after a breast cancer diagnosis reduces the risk of recurrence. And this is statistically significant. In moms with young girls, you want your daughters to have soy at a young age, that’s when it’s most important, when their breasts are developing.
So you know, there is just loads of research when it comes to plant-predominant nutrition, that is really, really validating the fact that we need to do this. And not only does it help people live longer, but I really I will say in my practice, I don’t think that fear tactics are what work. It’s the vitality, they’re going feel amazing.
And so we are getting ready to do some really exciting research. And I’m partnering with an amazing company that I can’t quite say yet. But they have designed for the first time, whole food, plant-predominant nutrition, no oil. It’s going to be it’s I’m asking for to be plant-only, because I do believe that a lot of these studies we didn’t see as robust of a benefit as we wanted, you know why? They didn’t push it far enough. You know, they still let people have the dairy, and they still let people have the meat, you know, chicken or fish, but this is going to be plant only. And it’s going be a prescription diet. And so we will be controlling with patients eat, there’ll be on chemotherapy, chemo immunotherapy. So we’ll have high fiber. So we’ll show actually, we’ll be looking at the breast tissue itself to see if the cancer treatment and immunotherapy is actually improving the treatment effect. We’ll be following cardiac markers to see if we can reduce cardiac toxicity, which obviously, that’s a topic very near and dear to my own heart, because that was why I developed heart failure. We’ll be looking at quality of life, the majority of breast cancer patients gain weight during treatments, we’re very optimistic that they will not gain weight, which is super important. Because weight gain during breast cancer treatment, the majority those women never lose that weight. And that’s not helpful.
Ann Esselstyn: Are you running this study?
Dawn Mussallem: We are in the process of getting the funding at this time. So the study, we’re looking for 2023. We’re hoping to get this started, and many studies to come after that. So I want to carry the torch that your husband started. So that’s the goal.
Ann Esselstyn: Please carry on, because that’s the trouble with all these studies is they’ve never gone far enough. The result that you really think is possible.
Dr. Denise Millstine: You just said so many things there Dawn. And I just wonder if we could like slow it down a little bit in case our listeners didn’t quite catch all of those different healthy elements to include in the diet. So you talked about greens. I think people know what greens are. Berries. Of course, people know what berries are. Soy. So I’m going to ask Jane and Anne to talk a little bit about their tricks and strategies for tofu, which I think some people are a little intimidated to use. But then you also mentioned the cruciferous vegetables, and the cruciferous vegetables are featured in “Be A Plant-Based Woman Warrior: Live Fierce, Stay Bold, Eat Delicious,” but they might not be labeled as cruciferous vegetables. So would you just give us that quick list of the cruciferous vegetables?
Dawn Mussallem: Sure. So I mean, gosh, you know you can think of kale, broccoli and cauliflower are the first ones that my patients would you think of but it goes so much deeper than that because sometimes patients don’t like that. So you can think of bok choy, I may need to pull a list beyond that because — oh Brussels sprouts of course.
Jane Esselstyn: Purple cabbage and the green cabbage and kind of have a little, they have a certain smell hardiness to them or smell to them. You want them on board. They’re gonna be like boom, boom.
Dr. Denise Millstine: The other one I commonly mentioned is collard greens and you know, depends on what you culturally grew up eating. All right, Jane, take it away.
Jane Esselstyn: So we have a section called “A bunch of BS,” which is the Brussels sprouts section. And so we have various ways of doing Brussels sprouts we have purple cabbage and so many of our recipes and salads and whatnot and sandwiches. Just a little napa cabbage is all over the place or bok choy, whatever we say greens, we really are referring to those warrior fighters of the cruciferous type.
Soy, we have all kinds of tofu and tempeh and when Dawn refers us to soy in these research studies, I have not read them I don’t want to assume, but when we talk about trying to get soy on board, we’re talking some pretty non-overprocessed types of soy. Specifically, soy beans, often called edamame and tofu and tempeh. Soy beans get fermented from tempeh, you can still see the bean itself in tempeh. And then they get more so into tofu, and soy milk, and maybe soy sauce but we don’t like to have soy powder, soy protein, soy isolate. But just those few types. So we do have a section here about how to prepare tofu and tempeh in a huge variety of ways, because some people don’t love it plain. I used to call a really insecure friend because it would be like, “Oh my God, what are we doing? Are we dressing up in in soy sauce tonight? Oh, are we going to be with mustard? Oh, are we?” So now I think it’s a really confident friend because like okay, “Well you need me to do? Want me to be salty and spicy? Oh, I’ll be savory. Oh, I’ll be apples and sage. I’ll be chorizo.” So whatever flavor profile you want to throw on it, it’ll cling to. It’s a pretty amazing versatile thing, tofu.
Ann Esselstyn: That’s right the silken tofu makes fabulous desserts.
Jane Esselstyn: Our dessert section! So many of our desserts are — we have a gelato. The zander tart so yummy. I have my fingers crossed, to remind me of one thing. And that is Dawn, I’m trying so hard to skew the data in the Nurses Health Study. I’m in that study. And I answer all the questions because I’m an RN, tell my husband like, “They want to know how much chicken I eat a year or week or how many how many medications I’m on?” and he’s like, ‘You’re skewing the data.” And I’m like, “That’s my job.”
Dawn Mussallem: I love what you bring up about the sexual side effects. And your Neal Barnard did a really great study that was published in Menopause, where he had women on a whole plant-based diet plant-only diet and they had a half a cup of soybeans, and he should have 84% reduction in hot flashes. And also they should improve mood and improve libido. So there you go. And Jane that’s the whole importance of it, it improves blood flow everywhere.
Jane Esselstyn: So below the belt, there are so many benefits to eating a whole food plant-based diet as a woman and talking to middle school kids about the anatomy and physiology of below the belt. Boys, not a problem. Everyone knows that that involves the twigs, the berries, they’re so familiar with them. They handle them numerous times a day, because that’s how they’re made. When we start talking about the female anatomy, people get kind of quiet and don’t really know what I’m talking about.
Dawn, as a physician, wouldn’t you say your kidneys don’t want an excess of protein to have to filter every day?
Dawn Mussallem: Yeah, I mean, when we look at the longevity diet now we know we’ve overshot protein for so many years and animal protein is a culprit but we don’t need that much plant protein either. So you know, it’s just big message needs to go out to America that we do not need to be worried about super protein supplementation. 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for a healthy person is all you need, plant proteins. And then there’s been some very interesting research with chicken, bacteria-resistant urinary tract infections, as well as you know, reduced glomerular filtration rate, kidney failure that’s associated with the animal proteins as well. And then the amino acids in those proteins and the animal proteins drive tumorigenesis. So this is where the research is coming. It’s so exciting to see this but when we see in that kidney space, some of what’s being adversely driven by animal protein, it’s very concerning and then the antibiotic resistance. You know, I chuckled the other day because I had a doctor that was worried about taking antibiotics that I was recommending she needed, and I was like you eat animal products. You didn’t realize you’re getting a lot more, you really need this antibiotic right now but all those animal products are consuming you’re being exposed to a lot of antibiotics more than you realize.
Jane Esselstyn: As a sex ed teacher, I think about like Gosh, this antibiotic resistant bacterium found in chicken you know, you can’t get out of your house, your hands, your sink, or anywhere after for weeks.
Dr. Denise Millstine: I think one other important component of your work, Jane and Ann, is that you talk about perfectionism, and that we don’t have to confuse eating a plant-based diet with perfectionism. So if there are listeners out there who think this is so wonderful, how amazing that they eat this way, I never could eat that way. I think the book makes it so accessible, and tasty and beautiful. But give us some hints on how women get started this way.
Jane Esselstyn: The way that anyone gets started — and we just have been doing this for so long. It’s such a process for everybody. Somebody might be like, “Oh, I’m eating whole food, plant based. Here I go.” And then you know, after 10 days, they’re like, “Oh, my gosh, I was eating a cheese sandwich with my friend.” That’s fine. Just the next day don’t eat the cheese sandwich with their friend or start on the weekend. It’s a process that’s going to make you feel better and feel healthier. I know that if Dawn or my mom or I suddenly was someone gave us like a real milkshake and a hamburger and we had to eat it, we would be down for a day or two. I mean, it was just it would be so overwhelming for our systems, because we’re not used to that,
Ann Esselstyn: Your taste changes, the state of your gut. But I have two things to say. I think for those people who have a scare, whether it’s a heart attack, or something, then it’s very easy to change. I mean, they have that motivation, the hard people to get are those who are just going along feeling perfectly healthy. They just need enormous education. And also, when they slip up, I mean, if they eat the whole darn cake, then you know the next meal, get back and eat whole-food, plant-based. I mean, don’t feel okay, I’ve done it, I’m through. I think that is a key mental thing. But I think the mental part of doing this is just so huge. That will do it for whatever reason.
Jane Esselstyn: And for some people, it’s the planet, you know, this way of eating is such a powerful way. Someone told me like if you give a Prius, but you drive to McDonald’s drive thru and get a burger, you’re making so much more of a huge impact in the burger than you are driving your Prius. Like, animal agriculture globally is just overwhelming it for climate change.
Ann Esselstyn: I mean, the thing that I’ve discovered, because I have sort of been with my husband for so long, is that for heart disease, this is, how can I say — miraculous, he gets patients whom hearts scheduled for bypass, they don’t want it. They don’t have angina all the time. So that is a possibility. They do it. We have an 88-year-old man who was just in that situation, he just turned 100. But those people have to be strict.
Jane Esselstyn: Whereas people who are not coming at us with a disease state, right? And compliance is not sort of life threatening. I like how you asked about perfectionism. Nobody can be perfect. No one can be perfect. And this is a community, this is not about restriction. And it’s frustrating when we get sort of called out for that because we don’t feel restricted. I wouldn’t want to have an Egg McMuffin or whatever, I don’t.
Ann Esselstyn: In our book, we don’t have any calories listed. We don’t have any portion sizes listed. Because the cool thing. Dawn, if you know, studies that have shown that this way of eating is one of the most effective because there is no calorie counting. There is no “you can have, one half of one piece of a banana.” I mean, so that lets people not feel hungry all the time.
Jane Esselstyn: And I think the perfectionism piece because I know it’s a big word and it’s a big trigger for some people, and especially women and that’s part of why I wanted to have that section about — Yes, it’s the tip of the hat to my mom, it’s this is the tip of the hat to women who make the food just globally for most people. I mean, there’s plenty of male chefs but women we do most of that thinking, working mental labor, physical labor and love labor of serving food. Creating food. But growing up, I have three brothers, and I’m surrounded by them in age. And we all were crazy-fit, nationally ranked athletes and collegiate athletes and I was swimming for Michigan on scholarship. And I’m filling out and I’m getting curvy. And I’m like, wait, what’s going on? Like, I got to get into NCAAs, and I was not identifying with what’s going on with my body here. And I know my brothers hadn’t thought for one second about what was happening to them, not one minute. And right at that time, boom, my parents went plant-based. And it ended up working well, for me, I never really liked meat to begin with, which was so fortunate. And, you know, it’s easy to avoid dairy, you’ve got friends who couldn’t eat dairy. So like, that’s OK. She just figured out the way to make your way forward. And it’s kind of been, I feel so lucky that I found this at that time. And it has helped me not be burdened, or I don’t know if burdened is the word I have for it, by concerns about health. And as a female, like how I feel, in my own body, my own size, my own sense of shape and identity. But perfectionism, people are drawn to our diet, this way of eating sometimes, because it offers restriction and they want restriction. And this is not about, we don’t want to get people heading down the path of an eating disorder, binge eating, disordered eating, none of that, please, if you tend to do that this is perhaps not for you, because this is really for health, and your health, this might not be the healthiest path. So perfectionism, not our jam, but just let’s all eat more veg, as they say, in Ireland: Eat more veg,
Ann Esselstyn: I actually, sort of think, it is scientifically, the best path.
Jane Esselstyn: Mother Nature knew it.
Dawn Mussallem: I agree. I mean, you know, for me, this isn’t a diet for my patients. It’s nutrition, it’s a way of life. And it’s so cool. What I see in my clinic, and you said it perfectly, when a patient or when a person has a big enough reason why they’re doing this, it is easy, they are empowered. And for them, this gives them autonomy over whatever it is that they’re going through. So it’s like magical, it’s the best thing when I get to meet my patient with their newly diagnosed breast cancer, to be able to sit down with them and spend a good amount of time talking about the ways that they can live healthy during their cancer journey. And I know very few cancer centers approach it that way, but Mayo Clinic does. So as soon as our women are diagnosed with breast cancer at Mayo, we meet with them. We talked about the importance of nutrition, exercise, you know, we have a woman exercise during chemo, because we know it improves survival. And then all the other pillars of lifestyle medicine are so core, you know, value importance. But when it comes to this nutrition, I always want them to fix their breakfast and lunch. And I’m pretty firm actually, because I feel so strongly that it’s what you don’t get that matters. There’s a lot of compassion that comes out then when we talk about it. But breakfast is such an easy meal to make healthy. So we usually try to tweak that. If they’re doing butter, we will switch that will be the avocado and give them something that still gives them some fat with those cravings. And you just get creative about whatever specialty that person, what can work with them and see. I meet them halfway and it’s individualized. So each person walks away with something different, so fun.
And then for women lunch is usually super easy to make plant-predominant. That’s usually where I put beans, because I’m so wanting to optimize a microbiome for my patients, many of our breast cancer patients go on to receive immunotherapy. And we know that beans and high fiber are what are key for that gut microbiome diversity. You know, they looked at individuals in the gut microbiome project, those who had only 10 or less different sorts of plant foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts and spices versus it had 30 or more, those that have 30 or more had a more optimal diversity. And then those that have 50 to 70 have like, wow! So that’s what I try to implement. So I tell them that each time at the grocery store, have fun, try to buy one or two things you didn’t buy the week before. So they get that diversity. So I’m telling you what, we have so much fun, I get the most amazing messages from my patients, you know, especially in survivorship that they’re losing weight, their hemoglobin and A1Cs, are going down, their cholesterol is or normalizing or stopping cholesterol medications or stopping blood pressure medications. It’s so cool. And they just feel great. I just love it. I love what I do. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with patients with their nutrition as a doctor at Mayo Clinic. So it’s wonderful. But this book has made my life very simple because for me, I’m very happy with very simple food. It’s just I don’t need a lot to make me happy but boy this is making me very excied. And tonight I’m going be making Ann’s Warrior Oats. Just FYI I made it about six times. There’s never a day goes by there’s not some of your oats in my refrigerator by the way. It’s amazing.
Ann Esselstyn: But you know Dawn, what I like about my Warrior Oats is that I want to get in first off so many things that I want. And here I get oats which are so powerful, cholesterol lowering. I get in turmeric which I always want to have every day. I get kale or any green, any leafy green, doesn’t matter what it could be, even the ends of dandelions. And some shiitake mushrooms, and it’s a chia and flax and nutritional yeast. It’s such a nice addition. You don’t have to have, but it is so satisfying and mouth-feeling good.
Jane Esselstyn: And I love my mom’s Warrior Oats. We made so much fun of her for years. We called it her witch’s brew. But now we all crave it. We all want it. And so I made it this morning, but I didn’t have any mushrooms. We had a crazy weekend and I haven’t gone to the store. So I was kind of putting my twist on it. And I was like, “Do I dare reveal what I’m doing?” And I’m going to tell you. You’re going to think I’m eating like the compost bucket, but I made her Warrior Oats, but I didn’t have any mushrooms. So I added some spinach but then spinach, you know, it’s like, it just collapses. So I had a five ounce containers, and I was like, “Huh, wait, wait, I’m fine.” So it all just melted in, so I had like these oats and it didn’t have the mushrooms carrying some flavors. So I added garam masala, coriander, cumin and I turmeric. And when it came out, I put like chia flax and I love pickled ginger with it. Black pepper, hang in there. And blueberries. Okay.
Dawn Mussallem: That was a great idea. I love raisins and things too. Like it’s like it’s all over the place and your mouth is loving. I got to try blueberries.
Jane Esselsty: It was like boom, boom, boom, boom.
Dawn Mussallem: All the color I think you hit, you know, 15 different things or people forget about spices and the medicinal value of spices. And so often patients come and pick up all these pills. I’m like, why don’t you put that in your cuisine that would be a lot better for you. It’s a great, great cookbook. I mean, I just could go on and on about the various recipes. Your dressings are wonderful because that’s the one thing that my patients really struggle with, is you know when they’re switching over to figure out healthier dressings, so I love the dressing part. The one section I really love is the oil-free hummus. Almost every hummus you buy in the market has added oil and that drives me crazy.
Jane Esselstyn: Have you made the smokehouse hickory hummus yet? The smokehouse hickory is so it has that umami of the smoky…
Dawn Mussallem: That’s great. I’ll have to try that one.
Dr. Denise Millstine: I think we all have lots of ideas now for what we’re going to do for dinner. I really want to thank you all for all the information that we shared talking about this work and your careers and you are all just such incredible inspiration to women and people everywhere.
Ann Esselstyn: Are you about to end? I don’t want it to end!
Dr. Denise Millstine: Warrior Oats for breakfast, Warrior Oats for dinner. It all works. I want to thank you again for joining us on “Read. Talk. Grow.” It’s been just fabulous. I hope that our readers will and listeners will look at “Be a Plant-Based Woman Warrior: Live Fierce, Stay Bold, Eat Delicious,” by the power duo, Ann and Jane Esselstyn. Thank you Dr. Mussallem for being the scientific voice in the crowd and for all of you again for being an inspiration. Thank you.
Dawn Mussallem: Thank you, Denise. Thanks, Jane and Ann.
Dr. Denise Millstine: Thank you for joining us to talk books and help today on “Read. Talk. Grow.” To continue the conversation and send comments visit the show notes or email us at email@example.com.
“Read. Talk. Grow.” is a production of Mayo Clinic press. Our producer is Lisa Speckhard Pasque and our recording engineer is Rick Andresen.
The podcast is for informational purposes only and is not designed to replace a physician’s medical assessment and judgment. information presented is not intended as medical advice. Please contact a health care professional for medical assistance with specific questions pertaining to your own health if needed. Keep reading everyone.