One week in, the new year is officially in full swing. Chances are you’ve cut out sugar or dairy, or have made some kind of dietary change. You’re probably going to the gym five days a week. While the intention is good, you’ll likely be back to noshing on burgers and fries while drinking beer and walking only to the subway in a matter of weeks. But Harlem-based holistic nutritionist Lyn-Genet Recitas has a plan to keep you on a better path throughout the year — and the rest of your life. As a follow-up to her New York Times bestselling book The Plan, Recitas recently released The Plan Cookbook: More Than 150 Recipes for Vibrant Health and Weight Loss, with recipes to help readers reduce inflammation and figure out what foods work for them, and which don’t.
“It always bothers me when people are trying to do the healthy thing and their weight and their health isn’t responding,” says Recitas. “I’d rather you were eating a cheeseburger every single day, seriously, than knowing that you’re doing something damaging to your long-term health.”
Recitas’s dietary manifesto, The Plan explores the ways in which foods affect overall wellness, most specifically with regard to inflammation. When a person consumes food items that do not complement his or her own chemistry, she says, the body reacts by releasing histamines. These organic compounds are essentially an allergic reaction, causing a string of effects depending on an individual’s personal response, ranging from bloating and constipation to a stuffy nose and stiff joints to migraine and depression. Over time, that histamine reaction (i.e., inflammation) leads to heightened levels of cortisol, which messes with hormones and the thyroid. It has also been linked to heart disease and cancer. “That’s why identifying the strawberries and the asparagus is really so important,” says Recitas. “That’s why I say, ‘I don’t care about the nachos and margaritas,’ because you’re not having nachos and margaritas, saying, ‘Hey, I expect to be vitally healthy and lose weight.’ You’re doing it because it’s fun.”
The Plan is not a one-size-fits-all approach. To figure out which foods cause inflammation and which don’t, Recitas lays out an elimination process that starts with low-reactive foods (such as zucchini, beets, onions, garlic, lamb, chicken, and steak) and slowly works in items that tend to have more reactive properties. (According to Recitas, salmon, asparagus, shrimp, oatmeal, and Greek yogurt are some of the worst offenders.) So for the first three days, Planners will start off eating mild foods like cooked kale (raw kale is actually highly reactive), apples, raw almonds, and coconut milk. Then, on day four, they’ll test something more reactive, such as goat cheese, to see how the body responds. Day five, a wheat will be tested. The next day, a protein. This process goes on until the individual has a thorough understanding of his or her own chemistry.
While the aim is to understand the separate causes of inflammation, the Plan also addresses weight loss and maintenance. Every ingredient promotes thyroid health, which is the gland that regulates metabolism. It excludes goitrogens, chemical compounds that attack the thyroid. Found in numerous leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and swiss chard, goitrogens, Recitas asserts, are usually responsible for preventing weight loss when dieters are working toward eating light and healthy. “One woman said, ‘Lyn, I found out it was the strawberries that were making me fat, and not the cheesecakes,’ ” says Recitas. “We find that in as soon as three to five days, people are able to cut their thyroid medications by 25 percent. There are 30 million Americans diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, but there are so many people that don’t realize that they are at a point where they’re going to develop it.”
To Recitas, it’s not about dieting — what with an intake of 2,000 calories a day and the inclusion of wine, chocolate, and cheese — but about understanding the body. “What I want people to do is understand that small chemical changes can make huge differences in their health and in their weight,” says Recitas. “People have a turkey burger instead of a beef burger, because they think turkey is healthier. So if you test turkey and find it’s reactive for you, as it is for 85 percent of the population, and switch to a beef burger, which works better for your chemistry, that’s not a diet, that’s making a smarter chemical choice.”
A former baker and sommelier, Recitas worked in the restaurant industry for most of her life. She worked in health food restaurants and made her way into Keith McNally’s empire, opening Balthazar and Pastis. In 2000, however, she moved back to wellness. In 2007, she started a holistic health center in Harlem, where she started laying the groundwork for the Plan. Noticing ties between certain healthy food items and negative effects on clients, Recitas began connecting the dots between seemingly healthy things like salmon and black beans and various ill health effects.
Although she documents the ins and outs of her studies in her previous book, this latest edition is a follow-up to her health platform. With numerous clients looking to incorporate more of their favorite foods into their new lifestyles, Recitas developed the book with the goal of creating low-reactive recipes for common dishes. It features instructions for a wide range of dishes, such as spicy orange beer, lamb shepherd’s pie, chana masala, and desserts like red velvet cupcakes and rosewater chocolate macaroons. “I thought, why not take these foods that we’re already eating and make them low-inflammatory?” says Recitas. “That was the goal of the book: Take all the least reactive, least inflammatory ingredients and make a cookbook.”
Click to the next page for red velvet cupcakes with goat cheese icing recipe.[
Red Velvet Cupcakes With Goat Cheese Icing
Makes twelve cupcakes
Goat Cheese Icing
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 large beet, cut into 1‑inch cubes
1/2 cup agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
For icing, combine all ingredients in food processor and blend for one minute. Place in a small bowl, cover, and chill in refrigerator while you make the cupcakes.
For cupcakes, preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a twelve‑cup muffin tin.
Cook cubed beet in pot of boiling water for twenty minutes, until completely softened.
Run under cold water until completely cooled. (You should have about two cups.)
Combine beet, agave, butter, eggs, and vanilla in food processor and blend for two minutes, until ingredients are completely combined. Add almond flour, cocoa, and baking soda and mix completely. Batter will feel very moist, but ignore the inclination to add more almond flour!
Divide batter evenly among the twelve buttered muffin cups. Bake for eighteen minutes, until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting with the icing.
Open the can without shaking it. Separate the cream on top from the liquid and transfer to large bowl; discard the liquid. Add agave and vanilla to cream, if desired. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip coconut until it forms creamy peaks, about three minutes. Serve immediately.
Excerpted from the book The Plan Cookbook by Lyn-Genet Recitas. © 2014 by Lyn-Genet Recitas. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.