Chatting with Dr Brenda Bradley is exactly how you might imagine it would be from watching her TEDx speech. She’s funny and relatable, as well as intelligent. Brenda is a certified Health Coach (Institute of Integrative Nutrition, International Association of Health Coaches). She also has a PhD in organisational management.
Brenda has been vegan for eight years and now she helps people with plant-based nutrition. This year she’ll be opening for T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Greger and Dr. Milton Mills at a seven-day-long vegan festival.
Brenda decided to give up animal products for lent. A 40 day experiment sparked by poor health.
We laugh with Brenda as she recalls thinking:
“I see these vegan people and they pretend that they’re so happy. I’m seeing ‘em, I’m seeing ‘em. They’re not even from here.”
Deteriorating health and depression
“I woke up one day and I had gone from 160 pounds (73kg) to 236 pounds (107kg). I was struggling with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and depression.“
“The last straw was when the doctor said: ‘You’re pre-diabetic’.”
“I was on all this medicine and my doctor couldn’t help me. And I’m in her office crying: ‘I’m sick and no one is helping me.’”
More than improved health: “My heart was just beating before.”
After the 40 days were up, Brenda continued with her plant-based diet (after that fish incident).
“The weight kept coming off. Within three months I was taken off all medication.”
“And then I started hearing: ‘Oh, her skin is glowing!’”
“In 13 months I was made whole again and it was absolutely wonderful. Following a vegan diet has not been a struggle after that, I just enjoy it.”
“My heart was only beating before I began this lifestyle. Now my heart is wide awake. I can see the beauty of the world.”
“Because none of us were sent here to suffer. Not even the animals. Don’t believe that! And you can’t make me believe that.”
“What do those vegans eat?”
“After the first 40 days I was so lost and clueless,” she explains. “I was saying to myself: ‘What am I going to eat? What am I going to do? What have I done? I don’t know what I am doing.’”
“I knew that I wasn’t gonna eat a salad for the rest of my life. I knew that.”
“On my Ted Talk you all heard, I called my brother and he said: ‘You’re becoming one of those vegan people.’”
“‘Me? A vegan? Am I those people? They’re mean, they’re food cops.’”
“I could see me eating something and somebody tackling me: ‘You’re not supposed to eat that!’ and ‘Are these leather seats in your car?’ You know like, oh my god!”
“Then I went to this vegan cooking class and the lady running it mentioned macaroni and cheese. It totally threw me off.”
“Like I’m sitting in there, I’m looking around at everybody, and I’m wondering: ‘Where am I?’ Because I know she said macaroni and cheese. And there was absolutely nothing vegan about macaroni and cheese.”
“I’m like: ‘Is this the vegan cooking class?’”
“And she said: ‘Yes.’”
“I was feeling so good and I realised I’m gonna be okay. I can still eat the food I love, just remove the animal ingredients and replace them with healthier ones.”
“If you saw me eating and you didn’t understand what vegans eat, you probably would think that I wasn’t practising what I preach. Cause you would’ve probably seen me eating vegan pancakes or tofu scrambled eggs.”
Inspiring people through being happy and healthy
Just by being herself, Brenda stamps over that oh-so-tired but nonetheless prevalent stereotype that all vegans are angry, shove-my-ideas-down-your-throat types.
“You know, when I’m speaking and I use the word vegan you kinda feel the negative energy in the crowd like: Wow, did I just say a bad word? And I’m like: Wait wait wait, I’m not that kind.”
“One day a guy I know came to me and he said: ‘Brenda! Oh my god! I - somebody just told me that you're a vegan! Are you?’ And he’s looking like he couldn’t believe it.”
“He’s like: ‘I’ve been telling you about going out, me and my girlfriend, and we had this nice steak and all of that. And you didn’t crucify me. Why didn’t you crucify me?’”
“I said: ‘Because that’s your journey. And if you open that door and allow me to come in I will. But I’m not gonna do that.’”
“He said: ‘This is amazing! That makes me want to check out your lifestyle. Because I cannot believe that you didn’t tackle me. You didn’t talk bad about me. You didn’t make me feel guilty.’”
“I said: ‘No, I would never do that.’”
Brenda’s advice for people considering veganism?
“I tell everyone: ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time. And really truly allow food to be your medicine and not your poison. Because it could be either or.’”
That-lightbulb-moment mac and cheese
In February 2018 Brenda was talked into joining a vegan mac and cheese competition in Maryland. 3000 people showed up to judge and the recipe you’re about to receive was a runner up.
(Shout out to Dr Bradley for sharing. We just had to try it for ourselves.)
Simply Delicious Mac-n-Cheese
16 ounces brown rice elbow pasta (cook according to package)
4 cups of unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
1 tablespoon paprika
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¾ cup nutritional yeast
2 cups olive oil (cold-pressed virgin)
2 tablespoons of herbamere or spike seasoning
1 cup non-dairy mozzarella cheese (such as Daiya)
1 tablespoon dried or fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place cooked pasta in a bowl and set aside.
Place milk, salt, garlic and onion powder, herb seasoning, mustard, pepper, and nutritional yeast in a blender. While blending these ingredients, remove center top from blender and pour oil in the center hole and blend until thickened.
Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni noodles, add vegan cheese, stir and mix well. Pour macaroni mixture into a large baking dish and sprinkle parsley on top for garnish.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.