It’s easy to shake off old wives’ tales like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But in recent years, doctors, wellness buffs and chefs have started to embrace a plant-forward mindset to help heal the body, sans chemicals and prescription drugs.
Naples’ Shelly Stauber, whose Crohn’s disease symptoms had left her bedridden at 25, saw radical changes in her own body when she transitioned to a primarily raw, plant-based diet. “I needed to heal from the inside out. I chose to change my lifestyle and that included what I put in my body,” Stauber says. She consulted with her doctor and started to keep track of everything she ate and how it made her feel until she recognized a pattern: As she started eating more plant-based foods, she also had more energy, lower stress and significantly less digestive troubles. “Now, I’m 41 and I’m thriving,” she says.
Stauber and her 9-year-old daughter Lili start each morning with a glass of room-temperature water mixed with a squeeze of lemon and lime juice, which is said to help detox the liver and improve digestion. “Nothing else for 20 minutes; then I go straight into juicing,” she says. Along with drinking celery juice daily to curb bloating and infection, the two also take concentrated turmeric capsules and licorice root tinctures to complement balanced meals consisting of legumes, veggies and gluten-free grains consumed during the day. Turmeric and licorice root are said to help reduce inflammation. Stauber is quick to point out that she isn’t a doctor, nor does she have any formal training or certifications as a nutritionist. Instead, it was through her research over nine years (plus her doctor’s advice) that she found the right combination of foods to improve her condition. “The plants are our allies,” she says. “They are more than just food.”
In 2018, Stauber launched her personal chef business, The Medicinal Gourmet. She’ll come to your home (or use a rented commercial kitchen, if you prefer) and prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals. While she won’t dole out medical advice, she does help clients develop meal plans that address existing wellness concerns by using nutrient-dense, mostly plant-based meals. She also provides options for guided shopping and cooking classes. Based on principles she’s pulled from ayurvedic medicine, vegetarian diets and other holistic approaches, she shares practices that she’s found beneficial, like eating raw foods (since some say nutrients can be cooked out) and minding how she pairs foods (ayurvedic ideas suggest certain foods need varying processes and speeds to digest and should be consumed separately).
While there isn’t hard science to back up the latter holistic claims, there is no doubt that whole foods—unprocessed, additive-free fruits, vegetables, legumes and herbs—and related plant-based diets are packed with vitamins and minerals that help with everything from boosting immunity to reducing inflammation. “I tell people to start with small changes—reduce your animal products over a month’s time until you no longer crave them as much,” she says. “And then if you do, just have animal protein with supper; give your body the day to have a more plant-based regimen.” If you’re feeling hungry from the lack of protein, starchy potatoes help keep you full, she adds.
To pack more fruits and veggies into your day, Stauber swears by juicing as a way to get many of the vitamins and minerals in the plants without having to commit to a vegan or vegetarian diet fully. Unlike mixing up a smoothie in a blender, with juicing, you extract liquid out of plants, creating a concentrated blend that’s rich in antioxidants and nutrients. Medical experts warn against juices as meal replacements (since some key nutrients like fiber are stripped away), but as part of a balanced eating plan, these sippers can deliver a powerful punch. A juice in the morning goes a long way, Stauber says. Here, she shares three go-to blends to give you a boost when you need it most.
Fight infection and improve digestion with celery.
These stalks, known as anti-inflammatories, are packed with vitamin B6, folate and hydrochloric acid, which work to reduce bloating and heal the gut.
- 1 large bunch organic celery
- 1 lemon slice, for garnish
- Run one large bunch of organic celery through a high-powered juicer*.
- Garnish the juice with a celery stick or slice of lemon.
You’ll need a specialty juicer for this blend—Stauber loves the low-speed, horizontal Premium Juicer and Nutrition System from Omega. She also recommends drinking it on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before consuming any other foods.
Hydrate and reduce inflammation with watermelon, lime and mint.
The antioxidant-rich fruits are loaded with vitamins A and C to help protect your cells, while the melon’s 92% water content hydrates from the inside out.
- 8 cups watermelon, chopped
- 1 large handful of mint, chopped
- Juice of 2 limes
- Blend the chopped watermelon, mint and lime juice in a high-powered blender until it’s smooth and foamy.
- Garnish with a mint leaf and slice of lime.
Stauber recommends drinking on an empty stomach, 30 minutes before consuming any other foods.
Boost immunity and brighten skin with aloe, orange and coconut water.
Aloe, which has long been touted to speed up healing, is also said to boost collagen production for a glowy complexion.
- Juice from 2 large oranges
- 1 cup coconut water
- ¼ aloe leaf
- Pour orange juice and coconut water into a high-powered blender.
- Slice the aloe leaf open and scrape 2 inches of the clear flesh into blender.
- Blend ingredients until smooth and foamy.
- Garnish with an orange peel and a tip of aloe leaf.