After Years of Chronic Illness, Amie Valpone Shares Her Story and Cures in First Cookbook

Despite her years of suffering from chronic pain and digestive issues, doctors told Amie Valpone, the writer behind popular health-food blog the Healthy Apple, that there was nothing wrong with her. Bedridden and eager to find answers, Valpone eventually renounced the advice of conventional medicine and got to the root of her health problems through the help of integrative medical doctors. From there, she discovered she was battling heavy metal accumulation, hypothyroidism, adrenal fatigue, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), chronic fatigue, an IGA deficiency and was born without the gene MTHFR, which is vital for detoxification.

Subsequently, Valpone was also diagnosed with Lyme disease, which prevented her body from digesting gluten, soy, sugar, and many other foods rampant in American cuisine. Recognizing the limitations of medicine, Valpone had to do more than just change the way she ate. By adopting a clean lifestyle with the use of homeopathic remedies such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and herbal medicine as well as eating organic, fresh, unprocessed foods, Valpone says has finally overcome the symptoms that once plagued her. 

To share her cure with others who go through life bogged down by pain and illness, Valpone's first cookbook, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, is a comprehensive overview of the detox plan she used to improve her health and wellness. Along with numerous recipes that are free of gluten, dairy, soy, refined sugar, and eggs, Valpone also shows readers how to clean up their lifestyle, from the products they use on their bodies to the things they use to clean their homes. 

Valpone discusses the goal of her recipes, how she continues to manage her pain, and the difference between a cleanse and a detox. 

New Times: You mention in your book that readers can add organic meats to each recipe, so what is the difference between detoxing with a diet that includes organic meats versus a diet that only includes vegetables? 
Amie Valpone: I'm not a vegetarian or vegan, but I want people to eat more vegetables in order to alkaline their bodies. Vegetables and fruits should be the base of your meal, and then the chicken, eggs, or whichever protein you decide can be added to that. I decided to keep it very simple for this book because I learned a lot of people had trouble digesting a lot of animal protein and eggs. Since there is no one diet that's for everyone, the recipes get back to the basics and focus on clean eating. 

Are you completely free of all illness since changing your diet, or have you experienced any relapses? 
Certain foods at certain times will bother me. It's not like I ever ate a lot of processed foods before I changed my diet, but people don't realize that even products that claim to be gluten-free are still made with things like white rice flour and gelatin. Nowadays, everything in my fridge is completely fresh. And I also really had to go through everything described in my book, such as infra-red saunas and skin brushing and Epsom salt baths, along with at least eight hours of sleep a night. Eating 100 percent organic removed all of the bad stuff from my body, like growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. 

I think most people have an issue adopting new habits because of time. Do you have any tips for city dwellers to make it easier to adapt this lifestyle?
I had no choice because I was on drugs and in pain. My side effects stopped me from doing everything. Once I started feeling the amazing effect of all these things, I would never live any other way. I think a lot of people are just fish in the cities, where they can do everything while out. Everyone stays very busy and doesn't take the time for themselves to learn what's best for their bodies, but that's really how your body is going to get back to a normal pace. 

A lot of people think they can reset their bodies through juice cleanses. What are your thoughts on them?
The number-one problem is half of them are not organic, so you're really just eating condensed pesticides and herbicides. It's really just a toxic cocktail. And juice cleanses do not provide any amino acids, so all of the toxins are getting stuck in your liver and recirculated throughout your body, which is why you can experience headaches and nausea. Amino acids are important for removing toxins, so that's why it's important to eat complete proteins like chicken or anything similar to that because those foods help pull the toxins that are added to your liver. 

Then what is the difference between a cleanse and a detox? 
That’s a huge part that people don’t realize — a detox is not a cleanse. It's a reset. You're starting from scratch with a detox to get all of the bad stuff out of your body, which is why I also cover cleaning supplies and beauty products in the book. Everything you put on your skin or are using to clean your home gets into your skin and bloodstream. After all, our skin is our biggest organ. 

How do you stay competitive in this market with all of the different food bloggers out there also promoting detox diets and living a healthier life?
I'll be honest here: I don't believe in competition. I don't even think there is any competition because we're all doing something different. I have a story, and I still continue to heal chronic illness. I know firsthand how to do it. And I was pushed here, because ten years ago, I was working at Vogue. I think I was put here to help so many people, because my story is unlike anybody else's, so I don't look at what anyone else is doing. 

Fabulous Lemon Basil Millet Burgers with Mango Salsa
Serves 6

These fresh-tasting burgers make an easy weeknight meal. No buns here; you can serve these wrapped in romaine or Bibb lettuce leaves and eat them with your hands. Make sure your millet isn’t too dry or the burgers won’t stick together!
  • 1 cup millet
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus a pinch for cooking millet
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 6 large romaine or Bibb lettuce leaves
  • 1 recipe Mango Salsa, for serving
  • Large drizzle Cumin Cashew Cream Sauce, for serving
Cook the millet with a pinch of salt. Set aside to cool.

Combine the flaxseeds and water in a small bowl; set aside for 10 minutes until the mixture forms a gel, then mix well.

While the millet is cooking, combine the carrots, scallions, basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Once the millet is cool, add it to the bowl with the flaxseed mixture and mix well. Using your hands, shape the mixture into six burgers.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Place the burgers in the pan and cook until golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes on each side. Serve warm wrapped in lettuce leaves with a dollop of Mango Salsa and a drizzle of Cumin Cashew Cream Sauce on top. Uncooked burgers will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator or 1 month in the freezer, stored between pieces of parchment paper in a sealed container.

Mango Salsa
Makes 1 ½ cups
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and finely diced
  • 1 medium English cucumber, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl; toss to combine, and serve. Add more red onion, if desired, for a spicier salsa. Serve immediately.

Cumin Cashew Cream Sauce
Makes 1 ½ cups
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Store leftover sauce in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Text excerpted from Eating Clean, © 2016 by Amie Valpone. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
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Gillian Speiser
Contact: Gillian Speiser