Chef AJ is a chef and culinary instructor in Los Angeles. The author of UNPROCESSED, she specializes in plant-indulgent food that is free of sugar, oil, and salt, and is proud to say that “her IQ is higher than her cholesterol.” She is the former Executive Vegan Pastry Chef at Sante restaurant and the creator and co-producer of the annual Healthy Taste of LA (coming up on November 4th). I attended one of her cooking classes a few weeks ago, and it was a ton of fun — and utterly delicious! To learn more about Chef AJ visit Eat Unprocessed, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.
Going unprocessed, is, well a process. I became vegan in 1977 for ethical reasons and was one of those junk food vegans who didn’t eat any fruits and vegetables. I ate from my own four food groups – sugar, flour, oil and caffeine.
Flash forward 26 years later, at the age of 43, when I woke up bleeding profusely. I had several large adenomatous polyps in my colon that the doctor said, if not removed, would become cancerous. Well, my colon was such a mess from years of eating processed food that they could not remove them during the sigmoidoscopy and said I would have to have surgery.
As luck would have it, I have a severe phobia of anesthesia, so instead I checked into the Optimum Health Institute on July 6, 2003. I changed my diet and changed my life. Within six months of eating a Whole-Food, Plant-Exclusive diet free of all processed food, and all sugar, oil, and salt specifically (all sugar and oil are highly processed), all of the polyps disappeared and I regained my health without drugs or surgery.
When I went back for a colonoscopy and everything was normal, the doctor actually accused me of having had the surgery somewhere else. He didn’t believe that diet could do it. But it can. Since then I have witnessed hundreds of cases of these “miracles” of complete disease reversal or remission associated with eating a nutrient-rich, whole-food, plant-exclusive diet.
Processed food is not food. You may eat it, you may enjoy it, and you may even be addicted to it, but it is not food. Food is not meant to come in a box, a bottle, or a can. Food should come from a plant, not be manufactured in a plant!
I don’t care if it’s called “Kraft Macaroni And Cheese” or “Amy’s Organic Gluten-Free Macaroni And Cheese.” We shouldn’t be eating processed food and we definitely shouldn’t be feeding it to our children. The human body simply was not designed to eat processed food.
If you don’t believe that processed food in general, and sugar, fat, and salt in particular, is addictive, read The End of Overeating by Dr. David Kessler. He is the former head of the FDA and he will explain to you how the processed food industry evolved. (Spoiler alert: They took the best doctors and brain scientists they could find to figure out the perfect ratio of sugar, fat, and salt to addict the average person to their product.)
Here is a quick and easy recipe from my next book “The UNPROCESSED 30 Day Challenge,” which is also a program I run in Los Angeles that teaches people how to adopt an unprocessed diet. (The program will soon be available online for people who live outside of the Los Angeles area.) Many people say they simply have no time to prepare breakfast in the morning. By taking just five minutes the night before, you can have a hearty, healthy, and delicious breakfast ready for you when you wake up!
- ½ cup of gluten-free oats
- 2 Tablespoons currants
- ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk (here's how to make almond milk)
- ¼ cup unsweetened apple juice
- 1 apple, grated (I prefer Gala)
- 1 Tablespoon chia seeds
- ½ teaspoon apple pie spice or roasted cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla
- Pour the unsweetened apple juice and unsweetened almond milk in a large glass and stir in the extract, spice, and chia seeds.
- Place the oats and currants in a medium bowl. Grate the apple over the oats.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the apple and oats and mix well. Place in the refrigerator covered overnight. The chia seeds will swell and become gelatinous and the next day will have absorbed all of the liquid and become almost like a pudding.
- In the morning you can enjoy this dish cold or warm in the microwave. You can also add additional fruits and almond milk, if desired.