Expert Interview Series: Nancy Montuori of Ordinary Vegan About the Life-Changing Aspects of a Plant-Based Diet

Nancy Montuori is the creator of Ordinary Vegan, a leading blog and podcast for health, wellness, and a plant-based diet. Ordinary Vegan has become a beacon for people seeking a healthy lifestyle. Nancy chatted with us recently about the...

Vegan lifestyle

Nancy Montuori is the creator of Ordinary Vegan, a leading blog and podcast for health, wellness, and a plant-based diet. Ordinary Vegan has become a beacon for people seeking a healthy lifestyle. Nancy chatted with us recently about the benefits of a plant-based diet and how easy it can be to embrace a vegan lifestyle.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Why did you decide to create Ordinary Vegan?

On May 1, 2011, I went to see a documentary film called "Forks over Knives." I left that movie theater convinced of the connection between food and disease, and I wanted to scream it from the rooftops. So I began chronicling my experience on my blog called "Ordinary Vegan." I went on to educate myself by reading a variety of experts, and I earned my plant-based nutrition certificate in 2012. In 2017, I will be teaching an online course in plant-based nutrition.

What diseases, conditions, or other ailments can a vegan diet help to reduce symptoms - or even reverse?

A convergence of evidence proves that plant-based diets can help prevent and even reverse some of the most common deadliest diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. Eating whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats like nuts and seeds, while eliminating dairy products and meat, can also reduce one's chances of forming kidney stones and gallstones. Vegans are also at a lower risk for osteoporosis, asthma, and dementia.

Name a healthy, tasty vegan food or ingredient that most vegans typically don't know about.

My new favorite ingredient is jackfruit. Jackfruit grows on branches and trunks of tall trees and is considered a fruit. Jackfruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and contains no cholesterol or saturated fats. It is also rich in antioxidants that protect the body from cancer, aging, and degenerative disease. Since jackfruit is known for its shredding quality, it can easily mimic pulled pork; and one of Ordinary Vegan's most popular recipes is the "No Bones Baby Jackfruit Barbecue Sandwich."

How challenging is it (or not) to adhere to a vegan diet and still get all of the nutrients that your body needs?

The biggest misconception of a vegan diet is that you won't get enough protein or nutrients. That's absolutely 100% false. If you eat a well-balanced whole food plant-based diet, you will get all the nutrients you need and then some. The only vitamin supplement I ever recommend is a daily dose of the smallest available tablet of B-12 (which is usually 100 micrograms). Vitamin B-12 is found in animal food, and plants do not contain B-12. But you can find B-12 in fortified non-dairy milk, cereals, and nutritional yeast.

Is it possible to be a three-meal-a-day vegan without spending an inordinate amount of time in the kitchen?

Positively - especially if you keep it simple. Think of your plate divided into quarters with one part a grain, one part a vegetable, one part a fruit and one part a legume with a small side of healthy fat like nuts and seeds. I like to start my morning with oatmeal with a tablespoon of hemp seeds, topped with nuts and fresh fruit. A typical lunch can be a smashed chickpea sandwich with vegan mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumber, or avocado sliced on toast topped with a little lemon, salt, and sliced radishes. Dinner can be rice and beans and leafy greens. The best part of eating like this is you want to run a marathon after you consume your meal - not lay down.

Do you mind sharing a recipe with us that will appeal to both vegans and non-vegans?

Sure! The great thing about this recipe is that it is protein- and nutrient-packed, and you can make a big batch and eat it throughout the week.

Garbanzo Bean Soup with Tomatoes and Pasta

Ingredients

• 2 15-ounce cans organic, low-salt garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)

• 3-5 cups vegetable stock

• 1 cup orzo or any small pasta

• 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or 1/2 cup vegetable broth for sautéing*

• 1 28-ounce can low-salt diced tomatoes (or crushed)

• 4 garlic cloves, minced

• 3 shallots, minced (or one leek)

• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

• 1 teaspoon dried basil

• 1 teaspoon salt

• freshly ground pepper

• ¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

In a large soup pot or stockpot, heat the olive oil or vegetable broth. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for about 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the seasoning, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, pasta, and vegetable stock (use 3-5 cups of vegetable stock depending on how much liquid you like in your soup). Cook until orzo is al-dente, approximately 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crunchy bread and something green.

For a thicker soup, transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Return the puree to the pot.

*-I always recommend using oil sparingly and sautéing in vegetable broth, especially if you have any heart conditions.

When you're cooking in the kitchen, what utensils or tools do you rely on the most?

I couldn't live without my food processor and my lemon and lime squeezer. Fresh citrus livens up any vegetable without adding any calories.

If someone were to give you a gift for your kitchen and money were no object, what appliance, gadget, or other kitchen item would you want?

I would definitely want a high-performance blender like a Vitamix.

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