By: Cristina Goyanes
After her health took an unexpected turn, one woman spent a decade finding health through food. Here, she chronicles her journey through four recipes featured in her new book.
Amie Valpone put on 40 pounds over the course of five days. The 22-year-old's small 5-foot-2 frame was suddenly retaining buckets of water in her legs for no clear reason. The bubbly blonde had also lost her trademark pep, and her immune system seemed to have shut down. In the emergency room, she discovered that her white blood cell count had dropped critically low. Doctors speculated she might have leukemia, but when she tested negative, they were at a loss.
For the next seven years, Valpone would receive a long list of other false diagnoses and incorrect medical treatments that seem to make her mysterious condition worse. Along the way, she was called many names (from hypochondriac to anorexic to bulimic), quit her corporate job, went on disability, turned her small Manhattan apartment into a makeshift medical center, and contracted a near-fatal bacterial infection called C. difficile colitis during one of her many hospital visits. At age 28, Valpone was given 24 hours to live.
"After surviving C. difficile colitis, I decided I was done with Western medicine. It kept making me so sick," says Valpone, who was already in the process of getting her integrative nutrition degree at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which, at the time, was affiliated with Columbia University. That's when she decided to open up to her readers on TheHealthyApple.com--then her year-old recipe blog--about her health struggles and was surprised by the outpour of confessions from those who faced similar issues.
With the support of this newfound community, Valpone became more determined to heal herself. She read as many medical books as possible, completed her nutrition degree, spent hours in the kitchen inventing recipes she could stomach, and began working with forward-thinking doctors in functional medicine. The right diagnoses started to come together piecemeal. By age 29, she could confirm that she had the following: Lyme disease, hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, candida, mold and heavy metal toxicity, fibromyalgia and Epstein-Barr virus. Today, at age 33, Valpone has a clean bill of health.
"My blood work is perfect," says Valpone, who shares more than 200 recipes that helped her get healthy in her new book Eating Clean: The 21- Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, which hit bookstores on March 8. "You have to take charge of your own health. No one is going to cure you. You need to find the right team of doctors and do the work," she says. You don't need to have any health issues to benefit from this book. If you're looking to clean up your diet, these four recipes are a good (and tasty) start.
1. Golden Bell Pepper Soup
When I contracted C. difficile colitis, I could barely digest anything. This recipe helped keep me alive the year that I lived eating out of a blender and food processor because I couldn't consume whole foods. I was in love with the creaminess of sweet potatoes and enjoyed pureeing them in a food processor for a snack. Soon I realized I could add vegetable broth and red, orange, or yellow bell peppers to create a naturally sweet soup that was full of antioxidants and fiber.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ small onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 yellow, red and/or orange bell peppers, chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 3 teaspoon finely chopped fresh marjoram
- 1 recipe gluten-free herbed croutons, for garnish
- Sliced avocado, for garnish (optional)
- Finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)
- Sriracha sauce, for garnish (optional)
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery, and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.
- Add the bell peppers and cook until soft, about 6 minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes and broth. Season with salt and black pepper, cover the pot, and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and add the marjoram. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Let the soup cool slightly, and then, in batches, transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. If needed, thin the soup with water.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and black pepper if necessary. Return the soup to the pot to keep warm until serving. Serve garnished with the herbed croutons and, if desired, the avocado and cilantro on top and Sriracha sauce on the side.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Get the other 3 clean-eating recipes here!
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