Cathy Katin-Grazzini is on a mission to take people on a plant-based journey.
A plant-based chef educated at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies at Cornell University and the Rouxbe Culinary School, Cathy Katin-Grazzini is passionate about teaching others about the powerful health and environmental impacts from eating a plant-based, nutrient-rich diet that is low in fat. In her new book, Love the Foods That Love You Back (Rizzoli, 2022), she shares a wealth of plant-based recipes for everyone from the food curious, to home cooks who want to expand their repertoires, to anyone who wants to optimize their weight and health. We caught up with her to learn more.
3 main health drivers to eat plant-based
Chronic systemic inflammation
“When we eat processed foods that are high in fat, protein, and refined carbs, it kicks our immune system into a perpetual slow burn and our cells are chronically inflamed. This is when diseases take root,” says Katin-Grazzini. “A plant-based diet is low-fat and as unrefined as one can go. And these foods cool down the inflammatory processes.”
“Free radicals occur in cell metabolism, it’s normal. But some dietary factors, like what we eat and how we prepare it, can cause free radicals to go into overdrive, which is oxidative stress. And this can manifest into diseases. Plants have antioxidants—64 times more than animal products—a natural defense that puts a halt to oxidative stress and creates balance in the body,” she explains.
“We need good microbes in our digestive tract because a healthy microbiome is vital for our metabolism, immune system, mental wellness, and the ability to fight off diseases. It really depends on what we eat. Only plants contain gut-friendly microbes rich in fiber,” she says.
Get your plant fiber
“Over 90 percent of Americans are deficient in fiber, which is the main sustenance for beneficial gut microbes. Fiber helps flush out substances in our blood stream that could raise risk for disease. It reduces bio acids produced by the liver and also helps reduce cortisol, the stress hormone. On average, Americans consume 10 to 15 grams per day; the National Academy of Medicine’s minimum daily requirement is 25 grams for women, 38 for men. If you’re eating plant-based, you will naturally consume double that,” says Katin-Grazzini.
Go-to pantry items
“I love shopping in our local Latino markets because they have aisles of beans. Same in South Asian groceries with so many lentils. They’re all very economical. I cook them up in big batches and use them in soups, stews, and chilis. Any extra, I freeze.”
“I have bags and bags of whole grains in my pantry, not just red and white wheat. Oats, buckwheat, rye, millet, teff, a lot of them are gluten free and loaded with nutritional benefits. I mill these and make flours for bread. They are also wonderful as risottos, in breakfast porridges, or baked into cookies.”
“I use them instead of sugar. I make pastes out of them, heating or microwaving with water, then blending. Then you can use the pastes to sweeten anything: jam, sweet sauces, dressings, and pastries.”
“If you’re new to plants, start with familiar foods,” recommends Katin-Grazzini. “Try and cook with less oil, salt, and refined sugars, all of which mask the flavor of foods. If you start eating cleaner, you start tasting the nuances that the foods have (instead of tasting salt and oil). Start with pastas, chili, nachos, soups, whatever your nationality. You can tweak it and do a plant-based version of these. Instead of meat, add beans, mushrooms, or tofu for substance.”