Call it going back to basics or eating from the garden, but Rita Myers, a stage 4 breast cancer survivor would call her new lifestyle simply eating to live.
Myers was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 1999 and was given six months to live after the cancer metastasized to the bone. She and husband Leon began researching diets and proper nutrition and discovered the Hallelujah Diet, a biblically-based, vegan way of life that Rita says saved her life. It was the Rev. George Malkmus who developed this program after he was healed of colon cancer following his change to this natural-based diet and lifestyle, in 1976.
Then Rita’s friend Catherine “Cathy” Crawford began worrying over some health problems she and husband Roy were having a few years ago. She got re-introduced to Rita and also embraced this different approach to meals.
A new cookbook has now emerged from that rekindled friendship and the desire to help others who want alternatives to the way they currently eat. “Vegan Basics: A Healthy Lifestyle Guide and Cookbook” is now available, containing recipes Rita has collected over the last six years and ones shared by members of her weekly support group, Healing Health Alternatives.
The Hallelujah Diet recommends eating raw fruits and vegetables 75 percent of the time. Beverages should be extracted vegetable juices, mainly carrot juice, and dairy should be totally eliminated as well as all meats, caffeine, carbonated beverages, canned fruits, white rice, cold breakfast cereals, sugar and even soy. Fresh fruits, raw nuts and seeds, fresh herbs, whole grain cereals and raw soups play large parts in this plan.
“The whole program is based on you get sick because your immune system is down,” Rita said. “The way you build your immune system is with enzymes, and the places you get enzymes is through raw fruits and vegetables and avoiding meat and processed foods. Whenever you cook food above 107 degrees it kills the enzymes.”
Rita’s husband, Leon, is the research guru of this duo. He said the Hallelujah Diet Web site, hacres.com, is a place where people from all over the world share their testimonies of healing. He said there are 177 different health conditions people claim have been helped with this lifestyle change. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, fibromyalgia, high cholesterol and Chron’s disease to name a few. Two million people all across the world are followers of the plan, Leon said.
Carol Edgmon is a believer. She was diagnosed with diabetes and weighed almost 300 pounds when she decided to try this program. Eight days later she showed no signs of diabetes. She also lost 70 pounds. Husband Michael also embraced the program and likewise lost 70 pounds.
“We were huge meat eaters,” Carol said. “We lived on the barbecue — steaks, fish and chicken, and we thought we were being so healthy because we were grilling, not frying. But our cholesterol was off the charts.”
The Edgmons thought the transition from those eating habits would be a real challenge, but it hasn’t been, they said. “You find great instead-ofs,” Carol said.
Michael said it can be hard for some to latch onto this way of living. As a society, we have been taught that most problems can be helped with a pill, he said.
Rita said she had no idea how fast this program would catch on. Her support group, Healing Health Alternatives, meets at 6:30 p.m. each Wednesday at Memorial Baptist Church in Maryville. She said attendance averages in the 30s.
Some people ease into the Hallelujah Diet while others, like Rita, jump right on in.
“I had a motivator,” she said. “I knew I had one shot to get it right. And I had to do it right. I don’t cheat on it.”
It wasn’t hard for Cathy to give up meats, but she said it has been hard to give up sugar. However, she and Rita have included some desserts in the cookbook they say are delicious. You would never know there is no sugar in them, the two said.
You can sweeten dishes with things like dates, raw honey, pure maple syrup and a sweetener called Stevia, Rita said.
You will rarely see Rita without a glass of carrot juice. She drinks six to 10 glasses per day. “When you get this raw food it is like getting a blood transfusion,” she said. It goes to the cellular level and heals.”
Telling her story and sharing her recipes is simply a way for Rita to help other people. She said she simply tells those who ask what has worked for her. “We are not trying to sell anything,” she said. “I am just trying to help people where I have been helped.”
Carol said for many like her, it comes down to better quality of life. Better quality of sleep, more energy and just plain feeling better are wonderful after years of pain and sleeplessness, she said.
Cathy said she doesn’t force this program on anyone, but wants people to know it’s there when they need it.
“Some people just say they are not ready to make that sacrifice,” she said. “That is their choice. But if you get sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, there are alternatives out there.”
Here are some recipes from the book:
RITA’S SOUTHEN STYLE CORNBREAD
1Â½ cups Hodgson’s stone ground white corn meal
1 teaspoon Baltic sea salt or REALsalt
1 teaspoon Rumford baking powder
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled and minced
Â½ medium onion, chopped (optional)
In medium bowl, combine cornmeal, sea salt, baking powder, minced apple and onion (if using). Add enough filtered water to blend. Pour in iron skillet sprayed with extra-virgin olive oil. Bake at 390 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden, or bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.
TUSCANY PASTA AND SAUCE
8 ounces whole grain pasta, cooked (angel hair or linguine)
1 cup organic vegetable broth
2 large portobella mushrooms, sliced
2 to 4 porcini mushrooms, sliced
Â½ each: red, yellow and orange bell peppers, sliced
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
6 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped
Sea salt to taste
About Â½ cup fresh sweet basil, chopped
Cook pasta. In large saucepan, heat broth and add remaining ingredients. Simmer briefly to heat. Drain cooked pasta and pour vegetables over it.
QUINOA AND HERB-MUSHROOM PILAF
3Â½ cups vegetable stock
1 ounce (1 cup) fresh portobella mushrooms
8 ounces (2 cups) fresh white or crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 cups quinoa (red or white)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, chop coarsely
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
cup fresh dill, finely chopped (1 Tablespoon dried)
3 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped
2 navel or Valencia oranges, peel and slice into rounds
In medium pan, bring stock to a boil. Coarsely chop the mushrooms; set aside. In a fine sieve, rinse quinoa thoroughly; drain and set aside. In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking. Add fresh mushrooms, shallots and teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms and shallots release their liquid and are slightly caramelized, about 7 minutes. Add quinoa and cook, stirring, until it begins to pop and crackle, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme to pot. Bring to a boil; stir, cover and reduce heat. Simmer about 20 minutes, until quinoa is tender but still chewy. Add teaspoon sea salt. Just before serving, gently toss in dill, chives and oranges. Makes 7 cups to serve 6 at 312 calories per serving.
Recipe note: Quinoa (Keen-wa) is a small, highly nutritious grain, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, Vitamin E, calcium, iron, phosphorus and potassium). It is easy to make and cooks more quickly than rice. Both red and white quinoa are equally nutritious, though white is easier to find, often in health food stores. The leaves, though rare to find, are also edible and great in salads. Store the grain in the refrigerator. Quinoa may be served hot or cold and imparts a nice texture to baked goods, like bread. Melanie Tucker, The Daily Times