[This is the second post in the series about my stay at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. The three-week Life Transformation Program is a multi-faceted detox (with raw, vegan food, lectures, treatments, classes and psychotherapy) designed to improve your health overall. Disclaimer: these posts reflect my own impression and opinion of the program; I was not compensated in any way, financial or otherwise, to write these reviews, and I participated as a paying guest just like everyone else there. I hope you enjoy this insider’s look into the program and institute! For the first installment about the place overall and general philosophy, see this post; for the final installment that covers treatments and ultimate results, see this post.]
[Part of the organic garden at Hippocrates, where much of the food is grown on site.]
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” I always thought that George was talking directly to me (well, until I met The HH and Girls, of course. Now I have a most sincere love for them. . . and food.). But George, a vegetarian for most of his life, clearly knew a thing or two about
my human nature.
When I looked back and assessed my eating habits over the years, it became clear that I loved the idea of food more than the food itself. Otherwise, why would I have spent so many years eating things like Little Debbie Swiss Rolls, Pringles, Betty Crocker frostings, “chocolatey” bars or other pseudo-foods? It’s only since I started eating a whole-foods, anti-candida and sugar-free diet that I’ve begun to truly appreciate what good food tastes like.
I think that’s why, given the predominant role that sweet foods have had in my life, I was perhaps a tad apprehensive about adopting the 100% raw, vegan diet for three weeks at Hippocrates (and, if I wanted to really follow the Institute’s directives, the rest of my life). At the least, I assumed it would be challenging.
[How we started each day: lemon (and lime) water.]
As I mentioned last time, I was determined to see if a serious detox like this one would impact my intractable candida symptoms, so there was no question about whether I’d stick with the regimen while there. And besides, with all meals included in the program–and nowhere else to go within walking distance–I was kind of stuck for alternatives in any case.
The Hippocrates diet is designed based on solid scientific research, and it certainly made a lot of sense to me. The diet is 100% raw, vegan, organic. However, for those of you who may already follow such great raw blogs as Choosing Raw, Rawmazing, This Rawsome Vegan Life or Sweetly Raw, you’ll find that the Hippocrates version of “raw” is not quite the same as what you may be used to–or even the same as what may be considered “raw foods” at most raw restaurants in the city (think of the raw blueberry pancakes at Live Food Bar, or raw crepes at Doug McNish’s Open Kitchen).
In fact, from what I gleaned from lectures by Hippocrates’ director Brian Clement, their diet would probably be even more simple (with fewer “fancy” dishes made of combined ingredients) if he had his druthers. But, like Shaw, the folks at Hippocrates understand our taste buds’ love affair with food–as well as the fact that switching to 100% raw is already a huge shift for people–so they accommodate our established tastes and appetites enough that the transition isn’t painful, In fact, it was downright enjoyable.
The Hippocrates Diet: Condensed Version.
In a rush? Here’s the (highly) condensed version:
Wheatgrass juice. Green juice. Sprouts. Green juice. Sprouts. Wheatgrass juice.
Done! That’s it for the day; you can go to sleep now.
The Hippocrates Diet: Expanded Version.
Got a little more time? Here’s the expanded version:
Early morning drink: lemon water (fresh lemon juice squeezed into water)
Morning drink (before 9:30 AM): Wheatgrass juice #1
10:00 AM: Green juice (16 ounces/480 ml)
12:30-2:00 PM (drop in when you can between appointments, lectures, etc): Lunch (consists of a huge buffet of sprouts, vegetables, herbs, dulse chips, olives and one or two “happy dishes”–ie, fancier, mixed raw vegan dishes like Caesar Salad, Nutmeat Tacos, Pizza, Creamy Broccoli-Wasabi Salad, etc.). You’re welcome to pile your plate as high as you like or return for seconds, or thirds, etc.
4:00 PM: Green juice #2 (16 ounces/480 ml)
Late day or early evening: Wheatgrass juice #2 (2 ounces/30 ml)
5:30-7:00 PM: Dinner (same as lunch, with different “happy dishes”).
Throughout the day between meals: tea, water
Okay, now you can go to sleep, too.
[Special treat on fasting day: young raw coconut water.]
Specific Components of the Diet:
Raw: If you’re familiar with proponents of a raw food diet, you’ve likely heard that raw foods contain enzymes that aid in the food’s digestion. In theory, this would offer our bodies an energy savings, since they wouldn’t have to produce their own enzymes to break the foods down; in that case, the energy the body would have spent on digestion can be directed instead toward maintenance and repair (things like fighting cancer or other toxic invaders).
Hippocrates believes that the healthiest foods are vegan and raw, so that’s what’s served almost exclusively every day. Exceptions are Sunday night dinner (which happens to be the first meal for all new arrivals each week; this way, the transition from cooked to raw is made easier) and very occasionally during the week (such as when we were served steamed artichokes and dolmades, or rice-stuffed grape leaves, as a special holiday meal while I was there). The Institute advocates sprouting or soaking your nuts, seeds, legumes and grains as well (even if you plan to cook them later), in order to render them more easily digestible.
[One of several machines where guests could juice their own wheatgrass shots during the day.]
Wheatgrass: Most of us interested in healthy eating have likely heard that wheatgrass juice is good for you (though it may not always be good for those with celiac–thanks, Shirley, for pointing that out in the last post!). Wheatgrass juice is not only nutrient-packed and a potent alkalizer and detoxifier (it can remove heavy metals from the body), but it also increases red blood cell count and strengthens the immune system. I actually really enjoy the taste of fresh wheatgrass juice (very “green” with a slight sweetness), but I know that some people have trouble with it. In those cases, you can combine it with other veggie juices if necessary.
Hippocrates grows their own organic wheatgrass, which is delivered fresh every few hours to the “Juice Bar,” a small building equipped with five industrial-strength wheatgrass juicers, a large fridge in which to store the grass and containers and utensils so that guests can juice their own whenever it’s convenient for them during the day (and the Institute’s greenhouse manager, Brian Hetrich, provides various tutorials during the week). The juice bar turned out to be a bit of a social hub, too, as conversations about the day’s lectures and events, or how the “implants” (wheatgrass enemas) were going, ensued with whomever happened to be in the building when you arrived to juice your own drink. (Yes, you got that right: people in detox programs end up talking about lots of poop and bum-related topics without any inhibitions at all!)
[The “Juice Bar”–where all the action happened!]
Hippocrates touts their wheatgrass as the sweetest you will run across, and I did find that to be true–so much so that it began to taste a bit too sweet toward the end of the visit. Eventually, I had to combine it with the daily green juices to render it palatable. I was grateful to return to my familiar market-bought brand of the grass when I got home and found that I still like that one as much as I did before I left (yay!). I may try to grow my own at some point, but for now (and given my often less than stellar attempts in the garden), I’ll put that endeavor on hold. In the meantime, I’m buying fresh wheatgrass from my local store and using that.
[Fresh, nutrient-dense green juice delivered twice a day. Drink as much as you like!]
Green Juice: According to Clement, after researching nutritional qualities of all possible raw vegan foods, he included those with the highest nutritional values in the green juice, which is served twice daily. It’s a highly alkalizing, nutritionally balanced drink comprised of sprouts, cucumber and celery and had a surprisingly pleasant, slightly sweet taste that was very satisfying. On many occasions, my afternoon drink could easily have stood in for an entire meal in my mind, and I found myself much less hungry at dinnertime than I was used to.
Lunch/Dinner: As with the juice, sprouts are a cornerstone of the meals at Hippocrates. The lunch and dinner buffets were almost identical, beginning with a huge selection of sprouts (and also, there are more sprouts. Followed by some additional sprouts, alongside a bunch of sprouts and finally, a few more varieties of sprouts); an array of cut fresh veggies; sea vegetables (in the form of rather addictive dulse chips); plus one or two “happy dishes” (special recipes that emulated more familiar cooked fare, like pizza or tacos).
Why are sprouts so integral? It’s been stated that sunflower sprouts are the most nutritious food on the planet, high in protein and containing all essential amino acids as well as almost every other nutrient known to humans. So, it makes sense that juicing these, you’d get not only your vitamins, minerals, Omega fatty acids and fiber, but also a great source of protein. In addition, juice is a concentrated form of nutrition that’s easiest to digest. Combine that juice twice a day with solid food (which includes more sprouts), and your body will be not only well nourished, but also primed to fight illness as well.
What did it taste like? Was I hungry all the time?
When I first learned about the diet, in all honesty, I was a little concerned. How was this nut butter-loving, raw cacao-eating, smoothie-guzzling, Amy’s chili-slurping gal going to get along eating this way? Wouldn’t I be ravenous all the time?
Well. . . . I have to be honest with y’all. On Wednesdays (when we followed a liquid fast), I did find myself more hungry than usual at dinnertime (when we had soup). But here’s a shocking admission: I did not crave sugar or other sweets at all during the entire three weeks–not once. Seriously. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to stay on the diet (and believe me, I never skimped on my servings)! The food was fresh, flavorful and abundant, and it was a pleasure to eat.
Here are some examples of my meals:
[A sampling of the meals, clockwise from large photo: Avocado Day with some spicy, creamy broccoli salad at front of plate; gorgeous fresh sprouts and sugar snap peas taking the top spot; curried zucchini salad at the left and bright fuschia sauerkraut on the right; pizza night (that’s raw pizza on the right of the plate!); our semi-cooked Greek dinner with stuffed grape leaves, raw hummus and raw corn on the cob (to die for); and a sprout-full plate with just a bit of raw zucchini “pasta” and marinara sauce on the left. ]
The menus also followed proper food combining principles, which can be very useful to improve digestion. If you’re not familiar with food combining, here’s a good review. And while they’re not by any means anti-oil (we were served avocados 2 days a week and nut dishes 2 days a week), the meals were prepared with a minimum of added oils. And dessert? Only once a week, as a special treat on Saturdays (and yes, we all lined up for seconds of those!).
Another reason the food was so enjoyable, I believe, was the relaxed atmosphere during mealtimes. We were encouraged to take our time while dining, to socialize, unwind, converse–all terrific ways to improve digestion and enhance your body’s ability to extract maximum nutrition from the food you eat.
Can you follow this diet for life? Is it practical–or necessary?
What made the diet so easy to follow, of course, was the fact that all the meals were prepared for us by the Hippocrates chef, Ken Blue (another one of the incredible staff at the place), plus the sheer variety of ingredients. I forgot to take a photo of the buffet, but it was a massive table heaped with a dozen (yes, dozen) types of sprouts, including both bean and leafy sprouts like sunflower or pea shoots; platters of raw veggies, from asparagus spears to cucumber slices to radishes to fresh corn on the cob (if you’re never tasted raw corn on the cob, you are truly missing out!); to those yummy dulse chips and olives for a salt hit; and any “happy dishes.” Clearly, I’m not able to prepare that many items, or that varied a menu, at home.
I’ve been trying to maintain a diet of 70% raw and 30% cooked now that I’m back home, which is eminently doable; knowing some of the restrictions we face in the “real world,” Hippocrates recommends a diet of 80% raw and 20% cooked to many guests (though for guests with serious illness, the recommendation is to remain 100% raw).
[A typical green juice at home. I’m still juicing daily. . . . but it can be a challenge.]
A raw (or mostly raw) diet that continues to follow these principles religiously can be challenging for many people once they return home, especially those of us in a cold climate like Toronto’s winter. For me, though, the greatest challenge isn’t the climate, but the cost factor. My first juice at home, made from organic sunflower sprouts, organic cucumber and organic celery yielded 16 ounces (half the daily recommendation), for a total of $18.25 (and you can bet I consumed every last drop at that price). Unless I grow my own sprouts (not practical at the moment), the cost would be prohibitive (and another reason why I’d love to live in a warmer climate). My compromise for now is to juice other vegetables with fewer sunflower sprouts added while I try to source wholesale ingredients. I do sprout my own seeds and legumes, since those can be done in jars on the kitchen counter.
Is this a weight loss diet?
Hippocrates does not promote their diet as a weight-loss regime; it is a healthy, alkalizing, detoxing diet designed to help people heal. That said, many people did lose weight on the diet.
So. . . did I lose weight? (I know you were dying to ask but were just being polite). While my intention at Hippocrates was not to lose weight, I did end up losing a comfortable seven pounds while on the program (considered a very healthy weight loss at just over two pounds/one kilogram per week). One of my male friends during my stay (who also exercised several times a day) lost 20 pounds in two weeks (incredible, but not optimal). The average resident with whom I spoke lost between nine to ten pounds. But again, it all depends on how much you eat while there.
As I said, I didn’t find the diet difficult to follow while there, but I’m accustomed to eating a low-sugar diet (they didn’t allow fruit for most people on the program). And the health results? I’ll get into that next time!
Now, over to you. . . .
What’s your experience with a raw, vegan diet, or detoxing in general? Have you ever had a hard time giving up fruit or sugars? Share your experiences in the comments! And if you’re considering a stay at Hippocrates, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to chat more about my experience, too.
Looking to clean up your diet? I’m currently working on guidelines for a kitchen “sugar flush”–how to make the transition from sugar-filled to sugar-free, with natural and healthier sweeteners, in your kitchen. So stay tuned!
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