Saturday, August 24, 2013

I JUST LOVE JUNK FOOD TOO MUCH: the story of my veganism

A road of a thousand miles starts with one single step. 

I grew up in Communist Russia, and by the time the first McDonald's came to Moscow, I was in my late teens. People were queueing around the block, and it took several hours to get your serving of fries. Together with Pepsi Cola (another killer poison, by the way), it was a symbol of our generation, a symbol of freedom, the symbol of the end of life in an informational aquarium, where you were fed what the authorities wanted you to eat. We finally were given a choice! And oh yeah we were choosing!
Along with BMW's, Mercedes600s, flashy designer clothes that quickly invaded the post-Soviet space, McDonald's occupied its niche. Because of this historical background, it had always been treated with great reverence in Russia, and by the time we found out how crazy unhealthy it was, we were already hooked. The taste and texture of french fries, chicken nuggets and filet'o'fish will live in our subconsciousness for ever....

I'm happy that by the time McDonald's invaded my life I'd stopped eating red meat. I was a red meat addict before that, and at age 12 started to suffer from it physically. I would scream at my mom if there was no meat on my plate... Enough is enough! That had to stop, even at a tender age 12, living in a communist country with no concept of healthy nutrition, my body knew that and started to protest... So I'm kinda blessed that I have never tasted a meat burger in my life. Nevertheless, I stuffed myself with lots of other garbage.

I started to substitute red meat with lots of bread, pasta, Chinese noodles (another huge favorite) and other fast food - a common mistake of people who stop eating animal products. Eating vegetables is more difficult, more time consuming; they rot fast, they need to be washed and chopped, and when you're constantly on the go the easiest of all is to munch on a turkey sandwich or buy fast food on the go...which I did, I must confess, for quite some time. When I lived in Moscow, McDonald's was on my way from work, and I stopped there almost every day (the Tretyakov Gallery was also on the same route but I went there only once in several years when friends came to visit from abroad).

Vadis Turner: Fast Food Quilt
Once I moved to the USA, I kept frequenting fast foods of all sorts: Dunkin' Donuts for hash browns (Oh those hash browns! I miss you more than anything in the world!) and chocolate goodness with cream inside; Chipotle for chicken burrito (2,000 calories per burrito, anyone?); Subway (the veggie patty foot-long); my good ol' friend McDonald's (fries, chicken nuggets, filet'o'fish); etc, etc... Starbucks became my second home: I had a huge coffee with milk (or latte) every morning, and a marshmallow square or some other pastry to go along with my Grande. Otherwise I couldn't function. Healthy vegetarian diet, eh?

I wish... At some point, I felt dependent on coffee and fast food, and there is no worse feeling than realizing you depend on something...especially something utterly unhealthy. When you pass a fast food joint and you feel that unexplainable pull to enter, open your wallet and get satisfied... And my battle has started.

There is a new term in the modern internet world: web sites that collect food recipes from all around and display them along mouth-watering pictures are called FOOD PORN web sites. There are lots of them, and thousands of food bloggers submit new recipes daily. I think that fast food logos and store fronts are the FOOD PORN of the offline world - anyone who was addicted to it once would agree. It becomes a sinful pleasure; it calls you, lures you with irresistible chemical smells that interact with your brain to create desire....

(food porn web resource) saved recipes
It's not easy to get "clean", to stop an addiction. Same as alcohol and cigarettes, food addictions take time to manage. Give yourself that time! Or you will most probably slip. I slipped many times; my struggle with junk food failed many times, I'd become a health food theoretic but in practice continued to be a junkie... until i stopped struggling and started to watch... Until I decided to try it the Osho way.
Osho says, " Whenever you drop something by fight, it is never dropped. You will drop smoking by fighting and then you will start doing something else which will become a substitute". I would not come to McDonalds for weeks, but then something happens in my life and I would eat junk again, day in and day out... so i start to feel useless, incapable of even the simplest thing!

Around the same time I heard a discourse where Osho was talking about smoking as a meditation. it was a completely different, non-violent approach to self, and I was intrigued. I decided to watch myself. Every time I had an urge to grab a 2000 calorie burrito, or 2 packs or hash browns, I was watching myself. I still ate them, but ate wholeheartedly, with undivided attention, enjoying every bite. During one of those junk food meditations, an idea came to my mind: starting today, I will count how many times a month I eat junk food. Any sort: takeouts, fast food, soda on set, free drinks at fashion parties... I made a mental mark not to repeat the same junk food place more than once a month, and by the time I went through all my usual places, the month had already passed. Pretty stressless, i should say, and I didn't even have to limit myself. All I had to do is not to repeat the same place! Thanks to the variety of fast food joints in New York City, it was pretty easy; just needed a little bit of awareness.

I soon started to notice that the pull of certain places has become weaker; the undigested pieces of food that get stuck in our intestines and make us crave for exactly that same foods over and over again have probably been washed out in a month, and I started to extend the time between "visits". At the same time, I started to cook more. Even bad-habit cooking is healthier than fast food; and I slowly began to substitute unhealthy choices with healthy ones.

1. Every next trip to the supermarket, I sub'ed one unhealthy food with its better, healthier version. I started to look for low-fat versions of my regular foods. Not the non-fat ones (those are bad) but low-fat, organic milk products, stripped off of fat without the use of chemicals. Milk, cottage cheese, low-fat yoghurt, cream, and cheeses (feta, mozzarella, gouda). I wrote the whole list of healthier alternatives to regular foods in my previous food blog post.
2. I started to substitute chicken and fish with tofu and legumes (I hadn't cooked legumes for years, and it was a new discovery for me that beans can be used in anything other than a Chipotle burrito)- lentils, chickpeas and all sorts of beans; milk with almond milk, regular eggs with organic eggs produced by my violence-free landlady. She has a house in Pennsylvania where chickens roam freely and happily. She never kills old hens allowing them to live up to ripe old age and die naturally. Her eggs taste amazing, I'd buy dozens of eggs a week and eat them almost every day. It helped me drop almost all animal products without even trying (if you live in Brooklyn, I can share her contact with you).
Some people say that you shouldn't eat more than 3 eggs a week because of high cholesterol, but I discovered that if you don't eat greasy burgers and other crappy animal fats, the number of eggs in your diet can be significantly increased. They are a non-vegan superfood, so it's way better to eat 7 free-range organic eggs than 7 cheeseburgers.
3. I stopped eating milk chocolate and switched to dark chocolate. Hazelnut chocolate being my utmost favorite.
4. I substituted eggs with avocados. Did you know they have much in common? Even the shape :)
5. I changed my supermarket. Instead of a regular corner store and Key Food I started to go to Trader Joe's and frequent their organic section.
6. I started to take a daily multivitamin. Research shows that people who take multivitamins live several years longer.
7. I began to buy all organic legumes, seeds and non-perishables at - the best and cheapest online supermarket (if you decide to shop there, use code CHK415 for an extra discount). I started to sprout my lentils, quinoa and buckwheat (bought at iherb) along with a dozen other zesty and flavorful seeds from Johnny's seeds. Mixed with baby greens and lightly sizzled, they make a perfect meal.
8. I started to bake my own cookies and breads, using buckwheat and oatmeal flour instead of wheat. They are gluten-free and filled with vitamins & nutrients. I use chia seed instead of eggs for baking. Almond milk instead of cow milk. Coconut oil instead of butter. With these ingredients almost every recipe can be "veganized".
9. I began to add more raw foods into my diet: the ratio of cooked vs. uncooked has first gone down from 90/10 to 70/30, then to 50/50, and eventually reached 30/70.
10. I started to eat more superfoods and less bulk (bread, rice, pasta, granola). I did a substantial research on healthy nutrition and finally was ready to share it with my friends.
11. I resumed my body cleanses and successfully completed a 10-day cleanse. At this point of my life, I'm one of the healthiest eaters of all the people I know. I'm really happy it doesn't stress me to eat well because the process was slow and gradual; I didn't force any of those changes, they all came naturally as a succession of events in my life. I grew into veganism and nourished healthy nutritional habits from the ground up, over several years, rather than changing everything overnight. And though it took me a long time to get here, those were years of learning and preparation for goodness.

I must say, changing diet and eating habits is EXTREMELY HARD if you're doing it rapidly. But if you're going step by step, it's becoming natural and almost unnoticed. The most important thing to do is to STOP HAVING EXCUSES: believe me, I had plenty! Our creative mind always comes up with something soothing: "I had a bad day and I need some comfort food". "I have a super early call time for a shoot and need an energy drink (or two)". "I'm breaking up with this asshole and I want to stuff my face"... Stop, realize it's an excuse, and do what you intended to do consciously, taking full responsibility for your action. Don't suppress - just stop justifying.

If you love yourself, if you really love your body, you just have to make a decision. Sit silently with yourself, stroke your skin, feel your body as a beautiful host for your spirit, and promise to protect it, to love it, and not to harm it in any way. Loving doesn't mean allowing everything; if you have a small child - would you allow him to eat only candy all day long? If the child doesn't like vegetables, you would still try to somehow sneak veggies into her diet, right? Loving is not the same as spoiling: if you really love your car, you would never knowingly put wrong oil into it, or damage it. So why put wrong "oil" into your body engine? Why clog your vessels with cholesterol, why create sugar spikes and crashes time after time? Think about it; meditate on it, if you will. Listen to Osho, discover the deeper meaning of your obsession, and try some cathartic meditation technique to throw it out of your system.

LOVE YOURSELF. Love your body, and it will pay you back with years of health and happiness.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

THE BODY CLEANSE & DETOX: Apple Juice/Herbal Liver/Gallbladder Detox & Blood Cleanse

Many friends asked me to publish this cleanse details, so I'm finally doing it. Please read carefully, it's important! 

I'm doing this cleanse for multiple reasons.
First, the shape of my gallbladder is a bit wacky: it's inborn and not dangerous, but makes me collect more junk than necessary in the little sack under the liver. Which can cause long-term health problems. So periodic liver/gallbladder cleanses are recommended (here is more info on gallbladder stones).
Second, I have been fighting with bad acne all Winter and Spring. The glorious Summer Sun cured it some, but I feel the problem is not topical. 
Third, my body in general feels tired, sleepy, hazy and intoxicated. I have developed annoying allergies. I'm becoming lazy and unmotivated for no reason, and that's just not who I am...
I'm also planning to maximally switch to raw foods, stop craving glutinous foods and lose some unnecessary weight.

I've done the apple juice cleanse many times in the past with great results - once in a cleanse clinic under doctoral supervision, and lots of time on my own - adding some blood cleansing herbs / teas/ extracts this time. Last year I did a 21-day cleanse on apple juice only; this time I decided to limit it to 7 days, but today is Day 7 and I feel like extending it a couple more days so I can do a 10-day one for a deeper cleansing effect.
Here is a big BUT: if you have been diagnosed with gallbladder / liver stones, DO NOT DO this cleanse! Reduce the size of the stones using prescribed drugs or ultrasound, change your diet/lifestyle completely to avoid the further formation of stones, but don't make your stones move, or you may end up in hospital with severe pain or damage. Your doctor should be the person to talk about it to. Do the cleanse/fast only if you're in no physical danger.

This is what different types of cleanse do for you, so decide which effect you're looking for.
3 days helps the body rid itself of toxins and cleanses the blood.
5 days begins the process of healing and rebuilding the immune system.
10 days or more will help prevent illness and disease by giving the body time to reverse the damage caused by long-term exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxins. It starts purifying your body on the molecular level which is extremely helpful for meditation.

Check if you need to detox/cleanse your body.

The most difficult thing about the cleanse is psychological: everybody is scared to stay without food for so long, and it's instinctual and deep! But I've done it many times, and it's only hard to start...
Day 1 is usually an adjustment.
After day 2 it becomes very natural, body starts breaking down its fat reserves, so appetite for the most part disappears, and last year on my 21-day cleanse I was even working during first and second weeks with no difficulty.

The fasting structure is pretty simple. Pre-cleanse, you have to stay vegan for at least a week - no alcohol, smoking, coffee, drugs either.
Day Zero 
you only eat vegetables (no protein or fat; no pickles or spices), and start drinking a lot of water in between meals (not together with meals).

Days 1-7 (or 1-10 depending on the length of your fast)
Starting from first day it's only freshly squeezed apple juice and herbal teas. Granny Smith apples are recommended because of less sugar, but if they're too sour for you, choose another juicy kind. Cut out seeds and membranes before juicing apples - seeds can be toxic, and membranes can be bad if you're preserving pulp for baking/puréeing.

Every morning upon waking up drink a glass of water with a teaspoon of pure unwashed, un-iodized seasalt, and if you're doing enemas, perform a herbal enema. You have to do enemas twice a day - mornings and evenings. Enema is not a must, but without it the effects are not as profound. The best is burdock root enema (it's a great herb for all kinds of intestinal problems), but can also be chamomile or any soothing or antibacterial herb. 3 times a day a glass of water with blood cleansing herbal extracts (yarrow, astragalus, etc), also honey and lemon/lime is allowed in very small quantities if you are doing some high precision work or driving (e.g., a teaspoon with your herbal teas - honey gets absorbed by your body 100%, nothing gets down your digestive tract, so your brain painlessly gets some sugar during adjustment period), other than that - it should be only liquids (also, self-made fresh organic vegetable broth is allowed if hunger pangs happen,  which happened to me on the first day so I gulped it down - but only during first days - same as honey).. 

Sugar in apple juice should be enough. Drink as much of it and as often as you want. You can save the apple pulp (refrigerate it!) and bake cookies or bread with it, or make apple puree adding honey and cinnamon, so nothing gets wasted.
Apple juice usually does the trick - it has enzymes that block appetite, and also not too harmful to your tooth enamel (the most popular Master Cleanse recommends lemonade which in my case is too harsh). The point is not to get hungry at any time. Otherwise your body will never melt it's fat reserves!
If you get extremely hungry, feel like juice is not helping and you NEED TO EAT something, peel an apple and eat it very-very slowly, grinding every bite 33 times, as if making purée out of it with your teeth.

And lots of pure filtered water!!! If you drink a lot, hunger partially recedes.
Change your water filter right before the fast. Drink at least 10 full glasses of pure water a day, and at least 4 cups of herbal tea. Plus unlimited amounts of apple juice. Consider juice your food, because it is (your body understands any liquid that is not water as food anyway).
Also, keep taking your regular daily vitamins if you take them. Just remember to take a lot of water to flush them down - your stomach is extremely sensitive when no food is in.
At the end of the fast there is a not-so-pleasant liver cleansing which I will explain a bit later. But i repeat, it's not a very pleasant process, you have to eat olive oil with lemon juice, spoon by spoon  for 2 hours, and after that I often feel like vomiting, but it works wonders and , if done properly, helps to get rid of allergies and lots, lots of weird things stored in your liver/gallbladder and ducts, you literally see what comes out of there...very unexpectedly! but it's pretty intense and not a must either. Only when you are ready for it!

The cleanse that I'm doing is based on the enema process - If you are cleansing without enema, you can do a "herbal enema" instead - just instead of flushing it up, flush it down with tea. There are lots of readymade herbal colon cleansing teas on sale, but you can also create your own with herbs mentioned here - it's not really very important to have the exact herbs; if you don't have them all, just make it with whatever herbs from the list you can find. Put the herbs together and boil them on very low heat for 20 mins; then let the pot steep under the lid, and drink as tea. You can find instructions on how to use colon cleansing herbs anywhere online. They say it's the same as enema, but I prefer to use less herbs because high concentrations can actually be toxic for you...

When you stop having any kind of poop, just liquid (sorry for graphic details but they're important...), you can switch from intestinal tonic to liver tonic. If you do liver cleanse with full colon, you can get intoxicated because liver/gall bladder start producing too much bile and it gets trapped in your intestines..
You can find some of the liver tonic herbs here or here - same, you can use all or some of the herbs, just follow directions on the herbal essences' bottles. I buy pure, one-plant essences online, and the non-alcohol ones that are used for kids; during fasting alcohol is not recommended; you will get totally drunk from even a few drops!))) I'm buying my essences online at - they're very good, they sell organic ones like this one for example. And here is their list of herbs, including organic herbal teasThey don't have all the essences though, but I found yarrow, astragalus, yellowdock, red clover and stilingia. Burdock Root, Nettle Leaf, Oregon Grape rootbark, Gentian root, Wormwood leaves, Dandelion root, Milk Thistle,  Black Walnut hulls, Ginger rhizome, Garlic bulb, Sweet Fennel seed and other bitter herbs can also be used, but thing about bitter herbs: if you're using them beyond the intensive 1-week cleanse, don't overdo the dosage, they can become pretty toxic if not used properly. During the liver/blood cleanse you can do much higher dosage though, since we're creating stress for the body to start with (otherwise the body will never start throwing out toxins). It's not a natural thing for the body to do - we have to stimulate it a lot!
The liver tonic has to be taken 3 times a day, in a little water (half glass) . Make it with 3 droplets of each herb (4-5 different herbs combined).

Drink as much water as you can through the entire fast - this is the time when you have to force yourself to drink. Only filtered/spring water can be drunk. Do not boil it. May keep it in a silver vessel for a day - it improves water's crystal structure and taste. Do not drink water from plastic bottles, especially if it has been in the sun - during this time body is especially sensitive to toxins in plastic like BPA - keep water in glass. It also helps to freeze your water before drinking, there is a whole science about how to make water more "alive" - and the benefits of the alive water you can see in this wonderful movie

Also, very important during the cleanse is to support it with all the excretion organs (skin being the largest), so if you do a herbal bath, that would help. Or sauna which is the most powerful. When I was doing a program in a detox clinic, they made you drink a glass of red wine inside sauna daily. Now at home I do a very hot herbal bath (with same herbs that I use for detox teas) to increase perspiration (since it's not recommended to exercise while you're fasting, this kind of sweating is supportive to your cleanse).
Deep belly massage is also very nice, you can self-massage your entire intestinal tract with essential oils (from top to bottom, and only in this direction); or, if you have a hoola hoop, do it for 10-15 mins a day. You could feel a little dizzy during the times of doing it because the internal organs start reacting; - it's normal. If mild pain occurs, don't freak out, it's also normal. If pain doesn't stop after several minutes, or intensifies,  then something is wrong with your internals and you have to lie down. Either the process is too fast, or it's too much for your body - then don't do it. For me, it has been very helpful, and I bought a very heavy hoop, this one.

No exercise other than that and yoga/stretching/walking around the block. Minimal activity is necessary for the blood to circulate, but because you can faint you should limit it to MINIMAL. Rest and meditate - it's the best time for meditation; the body is healing itself and your meditation will become very, very deep. If you do strenuous physical exercise routine, your muscles will have no protein/food to restore themselves, and you will feel sore for a longer time than usual.

Day 7
On the last day of the fast, by 7pm, you have to perform an enema and prepare 150mg of high quality, virgin cold-pressed olive oil, same amount of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a hot water bottle (or electric heating pad), a blanket, a tablespoon and a timer. Put a hot water bottle on your liver (right side under the ribs) and remain in bed for the rest of the evening. Every 15 minutes you have to swish your mouth with lemon juice and drink a full spoon of olive oil (15mg), followed by a spoon of lemon juice. You might feel like vomiting, so close your nose when you drink the oil. I close both my eyes and my nose :) because this much oil tastes disgusting... You have to keep going until you run out of oil. Then fall asleep (you can heat your liver side for the entire night). 
In the morning, fresh and clean, make an enema (if you feel poopy, poop first). If you do a no-enema process, take 2 pills of No-Spa (or some similar-effect medicine to relax your intestinal muscles) and a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice (add a spoon of oil for a stronger effect). You will be surprised what you see in your toilet bowl afterwards...

I have heard that coconut oil can work instead of olive oil, but haven't tried it. Coconut oil has a better taste and you can drink more of it, but it has to be warm (it hardens at room temperature under 23 degrees Celsius (76 F). Next time I will probably try it.
Also, some hardcore people like my brother (army-trained)) have the gut to drink the oil in its entirety at once, thus saving themselves a "slow pain". You can try it, too! (I tried, but can't:)

I kept a facebook diary during my fast, and you can see the process day by day.

By the end of the fast, I usually am so NOT hungry that I reluctantly start eating and despise the whole humongous food industry!)))))  This time it was harder because I had to cook food for my husband every day (he works crazy hours). Try not to do that if possible.
You have to get back to eating very slowly and carefully: first vegetable soup, then raw pureed vegetables, for a couple days no bread, pasta, rice or anything glutinous (otherwise you can develop a bad constipation). Apples, other fruits, then add raw seeds&nuts, and little by little get back to your normal diet. .but a little healthier than before :) If you're not sure how to get your diet to become healthier, read here and follow at least some of the advice.

Also I have found a very interesting product called Zeolite that is proven to help rid the body off of heavy metals (the most difficult thing to get rid of!) - here is the research, and here is the product. I would probably try it next and see if it makes a difference. Have you tried it before? How was it?

What did the cleanse do for me?

The most amazing and unexpected benefit of the cleanse that I'm witnessing right now is a painless period. I'd had very bad PMSs for a week before my period, feeling lost, crying for no reason... and painful cramps for years... Don't remember when I was doing a hike on my "first" day....mmm....never?
After the cleanse, I didn't have ANY PMS symptoms or mood swings; the first day of my period (usually I spend it in bed or at least resting) I went on a 2-hour hike because I didn't have any cramps!!!! 
(if you are a woman, plan the cleanse in such a way that it falls in the middle of your menstrual cycle. Fasting during your period is NOT HEALTHY!)
My skin has cleared (HUGE achievement for me - it was one of the goals of the cleanse); the body odor has become very subtle;
My energy increased, I don't feel sleepy during the day anymore;
The clarity of thinking strengthened;
My mood has become more joyous;
I have lost 2 inches around my waist and hips, and 3 "difficult", "last" pounds of weight;
I have "lost" (or rather shoved out) around 70 mini cholesterol gallbladder stones and a lot of bile&mucus. I took a rather graphic picture of it - cannot publish it in an open source but if you REALLY want to see it - write to me.

Yay body cleanse! I really love you and appreciate what you do for me. If you need more information about juice cleanse, this web site is a good one. And here is more info on other juices for juice cleansing.
Have you ever fasted before?  Please share your reasons and experiences!
Or ask questions if I haven't covered something above.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Witnessed a conversation of two seemingly fancy ladies in an expensive hotel. They're both moms of at least 3 kids per mom, and their conversation surprised me to the core... 
Fancy Mom #1: I could cook, but all those cooking options confuse me: should I use salted butter or unsalted butter? Bleached flour or unbleached flour? The other day I was in a supermarket and saw the two types on the shelf, and got so confused!

Fancy Mom #2 muttered something about salted butter, but wouldn't know the difference between the flours either... I got pretty surprised, so I kept watching them. Their husbands had iPhones, so they were technologically savvy; meanwhile the wives didn't know the difference between bleached and unbleached flour and wouldn't consider googling it.... Probably, some people are so busy raising children and socializing that they don't even get an idea to research...

Since I'm head deep into everything healthy, I probably should not judge people who are not interested in the topic, but raising 3 kids, you MUST know! You're responsible for little lives, and you most probably want to give them the best you can,...
For those interested, here is my dozen of rules o' thumb. Also, if by any string of consequence you know anyone who can't google but SHOULD, or gets a little bit interested and asks you a question, PLEASE print the following and hand it to them. You will be paying it forward, which is good karma ;)

(This is a collection of several years of research and experience, it's not a repost from some health web site. Everything is maximally linked to the original source or further information on the subj.)


1. Food Colors
Bleached vs. Unbleached, Refined vs. Natural
Everything white that doesn't happen to be white in nature is poison.
Take white flour, white pasta, white bread and white sugar out of your vocabulary and your pantry. They just shouldn't be white!!!! Sugar and rice? they should be brown (or here is a list of even better sugar alternatives); salt? straight out of the sea - unwashed and unprocessed; flour?unbleached (or even better, buckwheat) (since buckwheat is a superfood and is gluten- and cholesterol-free). I just recently found buckwheat flour in a regular supermarket and was pleasantly surprised.
What bleaching (refining) does, it strips food off of its natural good stuff (vitamins, minerals, nutritional benefits) and makes them just useless (tasty) pulp. Then, in order to make it back useful, manufacturers "enrich" the products with chemically produced vitamins and minerals (or salt with iodine, which was washed out of sea salt during processing). If it says "enriched" on the package, rest assured it was stripped before. Don't buy it.

Try to stay away from all chemical sweeteners. Stay even farther away from diet drinks: a diet drink tastes sweet because it has zero calorie sweeteners like aspartame (which is, by the way, poison- they dupe your body into not counting actual calories you take in, and do more harm than good... Aspartame is included in the seven non-nutritive sweeteners that are approved for use. It's a billion dollar industry, so nobody wants to ban it from production. But we should ban it from our diets.
Brown sugar, raw organic honey, stevia, maple syrup - there are lots of healthy options to try.

Naturally colorful foods
Try to incorporate as many naturally colorful foods into your diet as possible. Red peppers, green apples, dark green leafy vegetables (especially kale and spinach), orange carrots, scarlet pomegranates - eat them raw or cook (but don't buy preserved, and here is why) - indulge in colors! They are healthy. Not the lollipop or Gatorade colors, of course. "Naturally" means "existing in nature".
If you're not a fan of vegetables, here are several recipes showing how to sneak spinach into your meals.
A tricky bright is salmon: choose the brighter, redder one; read here for details.

2. Ingredients
Force yourself to read the list of ingredients on the foods you're buying. It should be as short as possible and shouldn't contain mysterious chemical names. Do not eat GMO, look for a small sign "GMO free" on the package (and here is why)
Do not eat hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Do not eat MSG... The scary list is really long. The simpler the ingredients - the better for your body. Period.
Who needs to eat the entire table of elements on a daily basis? Everything necessary comes in natural foods, and if by any chance you're missing on something, make sure it comes in your daily vitamin. You don't need anything else!
I know it's annoying to read those little letters while shopping, you might look like a geek and your shopping time will increase in the beginning, but believe me, it's time worth spending! You will learn amazing things about foods you eat every day that you probably never expected to learn... 
Some other labels: "P" for Pareve means one of the following: either meat and milk do not happen together in the same recipe, or, if there are no obvious animal ingredients on the list, there might be traces of them in the actual can due to production on equipment shared with milk or other animal products, but not a substantial amount and not according to the recipe. The second definition stands for potentially polluted with animal ingredients quasi-Vegan foods.
"V" for Vegan means the product is clear of all and any animal products.

3. Drinks
Every drink other than water is considered FOOD by your body. YOUR BODY NEEDS WATER! Make a habit of drinking lots of  it. No excuses.
Your body needs 30 ml of water (no additives, pure) per kilo of your body weight, about 2 liters of water a day for perfect pH levels. You can add a pinch of raw salt.
Filter it and drink it. Unfiltered water is probably not super healthy either unless you live in the woods and get your water from a well or mountain springs, so buy a good filtering system, and don't forget to change the filter every 3 to 6 months (depending on how many people are using it). 
Say NO to sodas. ANY KIND. To make sodas more desirable, greedy producers put all kinds of poison (like flame retardant) into their sugary drinks. Read #4 here to get more convinced
Drink self-made smoothies, juices and teas instead. If you miss bubbles, add some chia seeds or tapioca to your drink (shake it well - seeds tend to stick to the walls of the bottle). 
The most recent fad is pulverizing your fruits and seeds with NutriBullet, and I love mine: we started to eat so much more "super" kale because in a fruit smoothie you cannot really taste it. Pulverization is said to make ingredients more available for absorption. NutriBullet also has a very good grinder for all your seeds, nuts & coffee, and all in a small bullet-shaped machine that takes almost no counter space.
Even coffee is healthier than a caffeinated drink (especially energy drink), so if you want, drink one coffee a day, black, it won't harm you. There are tons of research both for and against coffee, but all of them state the same: coffee with milk and sugar is poison. So if you cannot live without your caffeine, drink a cup of black aromatic (preferably organic and fair trade) coffee. I tried to give up my daily cup many times, but always went back to it. Remember, BLACK.
Herbal teas are great, but don't overdo: some herbs, if taken without moderation, are so potent that they can cause damage to your liver. One or two cups of herbal tea a day would be perfect.
If you have a silver cup or a vase (only real solid sterling silver, no plating), store your water after it stayed a night in a silver vessel. It dramatically improves the crystal structure of water, and, subsequently, the crystal structure of your body (we're 90% liquid, remember?) Ayurveda even advises to boil silver/gold/copper objects in water to create silverized/goldenized/copperized water that cures lots of ailments. 

Liquor is poison. I'm sure everybody knows that, but even worse than pure liquor are cocktails. Never drink cocktails, especially mad explosives like red-bull-vodka. It will burst your heart one day. "Energy drinks have a lot of stimulants in them like ginseng and taurine, while alcohol is a depressant so by mixing the two you're sending mixed messages to your nervous system which can cause cardiac related problems".
For a meditator, even wine is no good. Drinking wine and getting a buzz interferes with growth in meditation. 

4. Eating out unhealthy, unless you eat in an organic vegan (raw) place. Even good traditional restaurants use inexcusable amounts of oils, frying, processing etc to make their food taste good. A steak house, anyone? Or Texas BBQ? Once I went from the latter directly to emergency room with acute stomach ache that did not recede for days...
Cultivate a habit of making your own lunch; buy a cute lunch box and don't worry what people think - you would save both health and money if you don't eat out, or indulge only occasionally (once a week). The Chinese restaurants are to be completely avoided: most of them use MSG as taste enhancer, and unless you know for sure that your Chinese takeout uses healthy organic ingredients (and no MSG!) - choose some other cuisine. I'm not talking about fast food joints at all - you know yourselves...
Join (my favorite) or similar and try to cook as much and as healthy as possible. There are healthy and unhealthy styles of homecooking, as well. Use only "healthy" fats to cook, avoid deep-frying and overfrying. Don't boil anything longer than 20 minutes; don't microwave your proteins. Try eat more raw foods than cooked food: have you heard of bioelectricity? Encyclopedia Britannica states that "All cells use their bioelectric potentials to assist or control metabolic processes, but some cells make specialized use of bioelectric potentials and currents for distinctive physiological functions".
Live plants have a very strong "electric charge" in comparison with cooked foods - the amount of energy they can give you. Any type of processing decreases both electricity and amount of nutrients. So, again, the "raw'er" the food, the less of it you need for the same levels of satisfaction and well-being.
Healthy cooking is a complete topic in itself, and I will return to it later.

5. Eat organic
You have no idea what difference it makes to you! Pesticides, herbicides and heavy metals are excitotoxins that screw with your brain function and can cause cancer, Alzheimer's and anything in between. Some non-organic veggies still contain traces of poisonous chemicals banned in the 70s! The "dirty dozen" of fruits and vegetables that have the largest amounts of unhealthy chemicals is available anywhere on the Internet, for example here.
The price difference is not that dramatic, and it's absolutely worth it. Check out Trader Joe's organic section: they're around every corner, the most affordable and have a nice selection. If you are not in America, find some local babushka who grows her own vegetables and doesn't know what herbicides are. 
I buy most of my non-perishable organics at - use promo code CHK415 to get extra 20% off your order!
Eat local
There are really weird and often poisonous ways to preserve fruits and vegetables. The closer to you they grow - the fresher they will be, and the smaller the chance that chemicals are used to keep them beautiful. Why do you think local organic berries go bad so fast?
Eat your grains sprouted, and your nuts/seeds raw
When a grain sprouts, it's chemical composition changes and starts containing more nutrients and energy necessary for your body. You need to eat much less to get the same amount of nutrients. And the less you eat, the younger your body stays (it's like car mileage: the more you drive, the more parts wear out; same with your digestive system: the busier it is, the older your "parts" get). You can learn more about sprouting here.
As for seeds and nuts, they lose a lot of healthy beneficial elements after any kind of processing. Just grind raw seeds before you eat, and store leftover nut/seed meal in a glass jar in the fridge. Sprinkle it on top of your salads and meals for an extra crunch! As a rule, to preserve vital fatty acids, keep your seeds and nuts refrigerated.

6. Fat and Fat-Free
There is healthy fat (nuts, avocados, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil) and there is unhealthy fat (partially hydrogenated vegetable/canola oils, margarines, animal fat, heavy cream). Choose your oils cautiously, especially if you aim to lose weight. You can read more about it here.
Cook with oils that remain stable at high temperatures (like coconut oil). Most cooking oils become carcinogenic when burnt, so try to avoid very high frying temperatures and don't reuse cooking oil.

Fat-free milk products are not healthy: to strip milk off fat completely, manufacturers use chemicals (compare the list of ingredients!) If you eat milk products but don't want to consume too much fats with them, choose low-fat instead of no-fat ones.

7. Cookware, Food Containers and Drinking Bottles
Try not to use non-stick or aluminum cookware - they cause cancer! There is a substantial research that proves it and comes to a conclusion that old school cast iron and enamel pots&pans are still the safest option. 18/10 stainless is also not bad, but when I selected cookware for myself, my criterion was: if iron is a vital micro-element in my body, even if a pan emits iron, it will only do me good (especially considering that most vegans are iron-deficient, that would be perfect for me). I have discovered a great company called Lodge - they are "green", have been making their cast iron skillets in Tennessee for more than a century, and don't outsource to China - it's all "Made In USA".
Use nylon and silicone spatulas - they are healthy,  heat resistant and, unlike wood, do not absorb bacteria, food colors and smells. This is my favorite one, it earned a nickname "beautiful spatula" in our home, because it is.
And here is the most amazing set of nylon cooking utensils I have ever had. they have weighted handles, so nothing drips onto the counter.
Drinking bottles
Substitute all your plastic storage containers and bottles with glass. Thank god for glass! It is perfect for both storage and usage - one material that doesn't emit anything into your water and food! It's just melted sand, how much better can it get? Even BPA-free plastic can be toxic, especially when heated. Taste your water after it sat in the sun in a plastic bottle for an hour. Yuk. Though glass adds weight and is more fragile, it's totally worth the inconvenience.
I discovered Pyrex containers and am using and loving every single one of them: largest ones for baking and seed sprouting, big bowls for storing granola and making salad, and the small ones for packing lunches.
I bought all my cookware & containers on a huge online sale at Macy's, which saved me more than 50%...

8. Eating Patterns and Dinner
Eat Slowly and Chew Well! This is the first rule of healthy digestion. You are supposed to chew every bite 33 times (normally people chew 6-7 times). After 20 minutes since the beginning of your meal your stomach and  brain collectively decide that you're full, so whatever you eat in those 20 minutes, will be enough for the body. If you eat fast, you will most definitely overeat (remember: car mileage!) Also, digestion starts in your mouth when food mixes with saliva, and the better it mixes, the better further digestion will be. So CHEW. Do not get distracted, do not talk, do not watch a movie. When you multitask while eating, you chew very poorly and overeat. Make a meditation out of every meal.

Teach your body not to eat anything after a certain hour. Stop eating 4 hours before  bed time.. in the evening metabolism slows down and your body digests slower and uses much less energy than in the morning and afternoon. Make a habit of not allowing yourself anything heavier than baby carrots and herbal night time tea. If you go out at night, try not to eat anything heavy. Remember, alcoholic drinks are also FOOD for your body! If you didn't have time to have dinner at a certain hour, do not catch up later: skip it and save your appetite for breakfast. Eat 10 baby carrots instead, or drink warm tea with a spoon of honey.

9. How much to eat? 
The perfect ratio is described in an ancient proverb: eat your breakfast yourself, share your lunch with a friend and give your dinner to an enemy. That means that your breakfast should be the biggest meal of the day, lunch the second biggest and dinner the smallest. That's what the natural metabolic process is asking for.
The portion of each meal shouldn't be more than a scoop made of your 2 handfuls: that's as much as your stomach can digest stress-free.
I once asked my friend who eats all kinds of foods but never gains weight, what his secret was. His answer was geniously simple: "When i eat out, I always take away half of my lunch and eat it for dinner, or lunch next day".
But don't assume that if you're skinny, you are healthy. There are lots of sick skinny people with all kinds of unhealthy habits around. Skinny people get cancer, skinny people get heart attacks... Skinny or fat, muscular or lean - doesn't matter, try to eat healthier even if you're happy with your body. 
In general, composition of your diet should contain a certain ratio...The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends this distribution for the energy nutrients:
Fat: 20 - 35% of total calories (average 30%)
Protein: 10 – 35% (average 15%)
Carbohydrates: 45 – 65% (average 55%)

10. Superfoods
It's a recently invented term for foods with high nutritious value and low calories: seeds, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, sprouts etc. that contain no bulk - just the super healthy stuff. Overall, try to eat less bulk and more "charged" foods. You can find the list of Superfoods here, or here .
Magic seeds like flax, chia, hemp can be added to virtually any meal, just sprinkle them on top instead of your fatty sauces, or grind them into powder and add to any meal. Soon you'll get hooked!

11. Go vegan!
I know, I know. And I'm not here to preach. Just imagine how much cleaner your body would be if you don't digest antibiotics, growth hormones, cancer tumors of animals who spend all their lives without movement in a small cage. Research shows that lots of little American girls and boys develop untimely signs of puberty and harsh voice because of growth hormone contained in their milk and meat. And even if you eat organic lean meat, fear emotions (adrenaline spike) of animals taken to slaughterhouse, seeing their peers getting killed, and then suffering an often slow death should make you think... Do you need extra adrenaline in your system?
Here I'm sharing the story of my veganism: it was a pretty long and bumpy road but I feel great that I did it.

This movie helped me a lot to forget about my oh-so-craved fried chicken: Meet your meat 
And if you are at least a little bit environmentally aware and compassionate, you would know how better it is for the planet Earth to eat plants rather than animals. It takes 13 pounds of grain to grow one pound of meat - so you do the calculation!
If you're still not convinced, read this article about nastiest things sold in your general supermarket.
Don't deceive yourselves: milk products are not cruelty free! They kill 3-4 year old milk cows in exactly the same manner as meat cows: "Domestic cows can live to 20 years, however those raised for dairy rarely live that long, as the average cow is removed from the dairy herd around age four and marketed for beef". Source: Wikipedia
And how do you think traditionally made cheese is produced? For cheese to curdle, a special enzyme called rennet is needed. An enzyme found in stomachs of suckling baby cows (the stomachs get cut out and frozen). When I found out about that, I felt sick and deceived...
So if you don't want to think about yourself as a baby killer, stay away from cheese. 
If you cannot live without your cheese, find a producer who uses synthetic enzymes for their cheese curdling. Your typical cheese label doesn't have this information, so you have to research each individual producer and maybe even call them directly.
Also, milk contains casein which is basically glue that sticks to your intestines. Humans do not have that enzyme in their stomachs that baby cows do, so let's leave milk to babies.
If you're as geeky as I am and like to study the subject thoroughly, here is a long presentation called "101 reasons to go vegan".

Scared you won't have enough yummy foods to sub your unhealthy favorites? Don't be, vegan industry is expanding drastically. While you're switching to a more natural diet, you can still enjoy "borderline" foods (processed vegan foods which are not the ultimate healthiest choice but still are way better than similar animal products).
Can't live without your sausage? Try Vegan Smart Dogs 
Turkey Sandwich? Try Tofurky
Chicken? Try Vegan Buffalo Drumsticks at Foodswings in Williamsburg, NY  (genius vegan comfort foods concept) - they are absolutely divine! - or make them yourself!
Cheese and Mayo? - Vegan Mozzarella shreds and Vegannaise - this company also uses only non-GMO ingredients
Eggs? - Scrambled Tofu - or maybe eggs for baking? Sub them with chia seeds.
And how about vitamins B6,12? - Nutritional yeast flakes have more vitamin B than any yoghurt or cheeseburger. It's a great sprinkle for virtually any cooked dish or salad (check with your doctor if you have candidiasis. If yes, this type of yeast is not recommended). 
Here is a great article on major meat-eater myths (B12 deficiency in particular).  Afraid that without fish you're not getting enough fatty acids? Try flax seed oil (keep it refrigerated).
Scared that without meat you're not getting all the necessary amino acids? Eat quinoa: according to, Quinoa is a complete protein, which means that it contains all the amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs. Complete proteins are rare in the plant world, making quinoa an excellent food for vegetarians and vegans, or for anyone looking for a healthy protein source. It's also high in iron and calcium, and is a good source of manganese, magnesium and copper, as well as fiber.

For meditators, vegan diet is a must (if you want to grow in your meditation that is, and not just sit silently with closed eyes for 20 years). Many enlightened masters said that eating animals is one of the biggest barriers on the road to enlightenment. Later I will write more on that.

12. Cleanse your body once in a while. The longer the cleanse - the deeper the effects. But it's a whole new story for another long posting. I'm regularly doing a 7-10 day cleanse with apple juice (much gentler on your tooth enamel than lemonade recommended in the Master Cleanse) which ends in olive oil gallbladder detox. After this detox, fat melts, skin clears and energy bursts. 
Last year I did a 21-day cleanse which helped me switch to vegan food completely and not to crave milk or fish. This year I did a 10-day apple juice/herbal cleanse that I described here in detail.
They say you should do it once a year, but once you start eating healthy, you will start to feel your body much better, and it will tell you when it needs a little rest.

To round it all up, here is the list of World's Best Foods (the criteria for selecting those are also explained). Enjoy!

P.S. I LOVE junk food, and it took me a couple years to switch completely from unhealthy to healthy, from chicken rice stands & cola lunches to veganism & macrobiotic diet. Just wanted to tell you that i do walk the walk, and follow all of the above.

Want encouragement or practical advice on your path to health? Please comment below, and I will be there for you.