Cycles on Plants 

My body is weird. The simplest way to describe this chronic pain is all of my muscles go into spasm (mostly after exercise) and it’s quite painful. Luckily though my ‘ol bod has let me get in a few 🚵mountain bike rides this summer☀️.

When on the bike or at the climbing gym I feel (fairly) strong and I know it’s because of how I eat. I battle extreme exhaustion most days and certain exercises combined with a diet of veggies, fruit and legumes do help somewhat, although I end up with severe muscle spasms a few hours after cycling so I can’t ride as often as I’d like. If I do nothing then the achiness I feel throughout worsens. 

I love to exercise –it’s my stress reliever and was my former profession–but I totally get why many people who live with chronic pain don’t exercise. Walking for me, shopping, standing in line– all very painful. 

As far as plant-food goes, last summer I was eating mostly raw veggies 🍅 and a lot more fruit 🍉🍐🍓🍌🍇 but this summer I am craving more cooked vegetable-based soups.  What I consume on average is quite different from my husband’s diet. My taste buds and body have changed so much since transitioning to a purely whole foods, plant-based style of eating I can’t consume foods that are super sweet, processed, or oily without feeling sick. I also quit eating flour products several years ago and don’t consume alcohol; just drink water (a lot) + my morning soy latte 🍒🍆🍉☕️. 

When I go to the market my cart is filled to the rim with produce🌽🍅🍓 while a smaller amount of foods like soy milk, almond butter, jelly, nuts, seeds, oats, raisins, grains, flatbread, vegan pizza🍕🍫, vegan dark chocolate, seitan/tempeh/tofu, protein powder and vegan cheese I buy mostly for R. 

The following is one day of plant-based food for before, during and after a 12-mile (1 hr 40 min) mountain bike ride:

AM:  I had my usual 20-oz soy americano followed by 2 bananas, and a bowl of chopped apples and carrots. I also had a bowl of salted cream of cauliflower puree with fresh figs, cinnamon & nutmeg. If creamy cauliflower is not your thing, try this with cream of wheat.Cream of Cauliflower: Simply  cauliflower florets boiled in salted water then pureed with my immersion blender until smooth & creamy.  Pre-ride + mid-ride: 🚵🚴 3 bananas (I 💗 bananas!!) 🍌🍌🍌Post-Ride: In a stainless steel container I combined leftover lentils (recipe at the end of this article) with my zucchini & summer squash soup……which I had in the car after the ride. 

Recipe for my Summer Squash Soup:

Ingredients: 1 1/2 sweet onions, 6-8 cloves garlic, 1/2 jalapeno, 8 peeled zucchini, 8 peeled yellow squash, optional 1/2 head of broccoli florets–all roughly chopped and cooked in a large pot on med-high heat with a quart of veggie broth for 20-30 minutes or until soft (add water to thin). After squash is cooked stir in about 10 fresh basil leaves, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (or more to taste), & a big handful or 2 of torn kale. After the kale has wilted, blend (careful it’s hot!!) in batches until everything is nice and creamy-smooth. Yum!

At home I had 2 more bowls of  squash soup🍵=💪 mixed with steamed kale + nutritional yeast flakes, salt & pepper.  Pre-Dinner: Bowl of steamed green beans (1 pound!) Dinner: One very large bowl followed an hour later by one smaller bowl of my 3-Lentil Dal (or soup, recipe follows) with salted boiled broccoli (I use iodized sea salt) and chopped steamed fresh spinach (reserving the water I boiled the broccoli/spinach in as it contains healthy nutrients).Dessert: This may sound like a bizarre dessert but I love my cauliflower puree with a diced banana or other fruit like a banana, cherries, figs or a warmed apple, nutmeg & cinnamon. I also had a small bowl of the lentils with cinnamon and later had a peach. Total calories/Nutrient breakdown:  9% fat, 17% protein, 75% carbs Total calories= 3334 burning 649 calories, netting 2685 calories for the day. For someone like me who loves to eat, I can eat all day long and as much as I want on these foods which are full of fiber and healthy vitamins & minerals + zero cholesterol!Recipe for my 3-Lentil Dal 

My favorite soup right now which I normally cook in the pressure cooker. Here’s how to cook it in a regular pot: 1 cup each of split red lentils, split yellow lentils (moong dal) & split chickpeas (chana dal). I usually pre-soak the chana dal & moong dal together in water for 2-4 hours. I buy chana dal & moong dal at a local health food store but they can also be purchased online. If you can only get the split red lentils or red lentils (which cook longer), use 2.5 cups to 7 cups water & just a tad smaller amount of each spice. 

Rinse all lentils well, then combine the lentils (3 cups total) in a large soup pot with 8 cups water (or I use a mix of water + the salted water I boil broccoli in beforehand), 2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp asafetida (optional, aids digestion, I buy at Savory Spice Shop), & 1 heaping tsp turmeric (optional). 

Allow water to come to a boil then turn down heat to a low boil, partially covering, for 20-30 minutes or until chana dal breaks apart easily. Add up to 2 cups of boiling water to thin out the soup if desired.

Once the lentils have cooked, I dry pan-roast on med heat in a small pre-heated pan: 2 tsp mustard seeds + 2 tsp cumin seeds (adding these first & stirring constantly until they pop), then I stir in 2 tsp oregano, & 1/4 tsp red chili flakes. This should only take about 2 min.

For serving, I like to add steamed broccoli & spinach to my large soup bowl and use a hand blender to combine. Then I ladle about 3 servings of dal on top + a few squirts of fresh lemon juice (which aids in iron absorption) + hot sauce. R has his dal with a warm slice of flatbread. We 💜 this soup!! 

Overnight it will firm up so adding boiling water to the leftovers will turn it into soup or keep it as is and make a rice and lentil bowl with steamed greens. Potatoes and diced cooked tempeh also are a nice addition for more bulk.

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