Healthy Eating

Rip Esselstyn in the Gables Tomorrow: "If You're a Real Man with Big Cojones, You're Going to Eat a Plant-Strong Diet"

For anyone who thinks veganism is for pansies, Rip Esselstyn is the manly man you need to meet.

This former professional athlete and Austin firefighter got his fire station hooked on plant-based eats several years back in order to help a fellow ladderman's health. Known as the Engine 2 Diet (after their firehouse), his plan has revolutionized eating for lots of folks who might have otherwise overlooked an herbivorous lifestyle.

More recently he's penned another book, My Beef With Meat, and you have a chance to meet the dude behind the food at Whole Foods Coral Gables tomorrow, February 18.

See also: Top Five Vegan Cheeses

The store recently hosted a 28-day Engine 2 challenge, and Rip's appearance is the culmination of the four-week endeavor.

The plant promoting former athlete will be giving a talk followed by a book signing. There'll also be free "plant-strong delicacies" to give you a taste of Rip's goods. Ahead of the event, we spoke to the meatless macho man about his beef with all things meat.

"We've been absolutely bamboozled and hoodwinked and programmed into a certain way of eating, thinking we need meat for protein, dairy for calcium, olive oil to be heart healthy -- it's just all so misinformed and it's so wrong. So I've asked people to surrender everything they think they know," Rip says.

Instead, he says, plants are the best source for all the nutrients we need. Take calcium, for example.

"Everybody thinks you need to get calcium from a cow's milk or some iteration of that. It's just so wrong. Calcium is a mineral that comes from the earth. You want to go to the first conduit. That is plants. That's a highly absorbable, amazing source. They don't come with saturated fat, dietary cholesterol or problematic animal protein that actually leaches calcium from your bones. It's just so crazy how it's a 180 of what people think."

Plant-based eating can meet all your needs, Esselstyn assures.

"I let people know the best way to do this is to focus on whole plant based foods, potatoes, sweet brown rice, quinoa and mangoes and honeydew and acorn squash and 100% whole grain pasta and breads and legumes and black beans and split peas and adzuki beans. I tell people 99% of the food on the planet comes from plants and only 1% comes from animals," he adds.

Despite the thousands of varieties of fruits and veggies out there, Esselstyn says most people only alternate between 8 and 12 kinds.

The Engine 2 28-day challenge is a way to kick off plant-based exploration, he adds. An "adventure in healthy eating," he calls it. (Whole Foods locales facilitate these challenges on the regular, btw.)

"It's really an opportunity of a lifetime to open up your eyes and become aware of a whole new way of eating, You can revolutionize your health and plant the seeds so that you don't ever have to acquire the chronic diseases that are taking down millions of Americans," Esselstyn says.

"The meat thing is, eating a whole foods, plant-based diet is the best way to not only prevent chronic Western diseases like stroke, heart disease, obesity, etc., but it's the best way to treat almost all of these things."

And when it comes to the "real men eat meat" myth, Esselstyn scoffs it off.

"I'll point to the Marlboro Man -- it's really the same thing. Everybody wanted to be the Marlboro Man but now we know better. We know that smoking for the most part is one of the most uncool things you can do. There's so much stigma. It's going to be the same thing with eating. If you're a real man with big cojones, you're going to eat a plant-strong diet. You may be going against the grain at first, but real man eat plants."

Since he first launched the Engine 2 Diet, Esselstyn says he's seen the landscape change remarkably. From firefighters across the country to politicians like Bill Clinton and Al Gore to CEOs like Biz Stone, people of all stripes have jumped on the plant-strong bandwagon.

"There's a sea change afoot."

If you want to hear more from the heroic herbivore, he'll be appearing at the Whole Foods Coral Gables Lifestyle Center on February 18 at 6:30 p.m. Attendees must be 16 and over. The event is free. Call 305-421-9421 in advance to reserve a seat!

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.

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Hannah Sentenac covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She is also editor-in-chief of
Contact: Hannah Sentenac