On February 10, 2016 I attended a meet and greet with Rip Esselstyn at the Whole Foods Market in Coral Gables, FL. If you don't know who Esselstyn is he is a former professional triathlete and a retired firefighter who created the Engine 2 Diet and the author of the book with the same name. He also appeared in the documentary Forks Over Knives.
The Engine 2 Diet stemmed from Esselstyn helping some of his firefighting brothers combat their dangerously high cholesterol levels by eating only plant-based foods that were nutrient dense, high in fiber and low in calories for 28 days. Not only did these firefighters lose weight but they dramatically lowered their cholesterol, increased their energy and reduced their risk of disease.
I arrived at the event and was greeted by the Whole Foods Market event staff in their Lifestyle Center. There were tables filled with different plant-based hors d'oeuvres that were made with some of the Engine 2 Diet food products. My favorite ones were the rice bowl with crumbled black bean burger and the cocoa avocado pudding.
After filling up on hors d'oeuvres it was time for Esselstyn's talk. He discussed how the medical research his father, Dr. Cadlwell Esselstyn, did that links heart disease directly to the fatty American diet inspired him to convince his meat eating firefighter brothers to start eating plants. He mentioned that we need to eat more plant strong foods since they contain all of the essential vitamins, minerals and protein...yes you read that correctly plants contain protein. He mentioned that meat does contain protein but it is destructive protein and we should avoid it. Eating meat creates inflammation in our bodies, raises cholesterol, increases the risk of developing tumors, it’s harsh on our liver and kidneys and cannibalizes our bones. The key takeaway from this is that plants have the protein your body needs without destroying it.
The success of his first book The Engine 2 Diet brought him the opportunity to take saving lives to the next level. He was offered to work with Whole Foods Market as a health food consultant. In this position he travels to give talks on the benefits of eating strong plant foods, conducts week long food immersions and created The Engine 2 Diet line of food products. His food products are plant-based, contain whole grains and are low in sodium and oil unlike most packaged foods. This product line is exclusive to Whole Foods stores. I bought some of his bean burgers, pasta sauce and cereal to try since it's hard to find packaged foods that are truly plant-based and low in sodium. He is working on developing new food products for the line and a few new items will be released every year.
While working with Whole Foods, Esselstyn wrote his second book Plant-Strong: Discover the World’s Healthiest Diet where he provides 36 facts that prove how a plant-based diet can save your life and make you feel great. The information he gives will help you answer those dreaded questions you’ll get from non-believers like “Where do you get your protein from?” and discusses the problems with the Mediterranean and Paleo diets. The book contains 150 recipes that will help you stay on the plant-based path.
At the end Esselstyn did a Q&A with the audience then took pictures with attendees and signed copies of his second book. It was an evening full of vital information and plant-strong food. I enjoyed meeting Esselstyn in person and hope to meet him again in the future but for now I'll be reading his book and eating strong plant food!