Jun 03, 2014

Beany Creamy Sauce + Which Vegan Eating Plan is Best for You?

Where do I begin? At the beginning I suppose. Rewind to three years ago when I was eating animal foods. I loved cream sauce. No. I adored it. I was the Roux Queen. Give me some flour, butter and milk or cream and I was off with my whisk to create the cream sauce of your (my) dreams. I’ve even made cream sauces from bacon fat. Wow. Sorry, arteries!

All that changed when I began my nutritarian journey. That’s when cashews took over my life. Yes. If you’ve been hangin’ around my kitchen for any length of time you will know that I have used them …  a lot  plentifully … for almost everything! I buy them in bulk onlineβ€”5 pounds at a time. I eat cashews and other nuts (and seeds) for their nutrient-rich health benefits. But I’m now eating them with more moderation. Time for a lighter fare for summer.

There’s been a new resurgence of “talk” lately within the vegan blog circles about the differences between Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live plan and Dr. McDougall’s dietary recommendations. One of the main differences is the use of nuts and seeds. Dr. McDougall does not recommend any nuts or seeds (or avocado) in the diet. Yes, nuts and seeds are high in fat. But used minimally (1-2 ounces per day) nuts and seeds impart tremendous benefits to the cardiovascular system[1], help with weight loss[2] and enhance life span[3]. Avocados have been an important source of human nutrients for thousands of years. The oldest evidence of avocado use was found in a cave located in Puebla, Mexico, that dates to around 10,000 BC. The fat contained in avocado is unusual and provides research-based health benefits.

While we all have the same DNA, as humans, we are not all alike with regard to our nutritional needs and caloric requirements. Dr. Fuhrman and Dr. McDougall agree on many points. The small differences in their approaches are negligible in my opinion. What they agree on is a diet that is plant-based, with no oil, no sugar, no salt and no refined foods. If one just stuck to those guidelines they would be doing so much better than most people in our country are doing by eating the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Drs. Fuhrman and McDougall debate their different dietary approaches in this short video.

Do what works for YOU. Consuming nuts and seeds in small amounts and a moderate amount of starch works for my body. My inherited Mediterranean genes blessed me with a slow metabolism. That’s right, I said “blessed.” Check out Dr. Fuhrman’s article: Slow Metabolism Linked to Longevity. Perhaps you need to add more whole grains to keep your hunger in check. Maybe when you eat nuts and seeds, you don’t have the discipline to use them sparingly. I personally will always favor NUTRIENT-DENSE foods. Potatoes and rice will fill you up and that’s fine, but that’s about all they do. They do not contain many nutrients, especially as compared to dark leafy greens, antioxidant-rich berries and all of the phytonutrients in the many colorful vegetables we have at our disposal today.

There is one more point, which Dr. Fuhrman touches upon in the above video. And that is the need for micronutrients now in these modern times more than ever. We live in a toxic world and our bodies need all the antioxidant protection we can afford to give them. That combined with years and years of bad eating (me) is another reason why I will always choose kale over a potato.

But it’s really all about you and your own personal needs. Once you get past the toxic hunger stage of eating a whole food, plant-based diet, then listen to your body’s signals. Try different plant-based approaches and if you need to lose a lot of weight, yes, be sure to limit those fatty foods such as nuts, seeds and avocados until you are at your ideal weight.

Now, with all of that said, I just HAD to come up with something to replace my heavy, albeit yummy, cashew sauces. Enter the white bean. Ta-da!

You can use any white bean for this sauce. I used navy. But butter beans, Cannellini or great northern beans will work just as well. No, the sauce does not have the same, smooth mouth feel of an actual cream sauce or a cashew sauce. But it’s delicious, low in calories and fat and we get all of the amazing health benefits of beans. I’m stoked about it! I am going to try it on pasta soon. I’ll let you know the results. So far, I’ve only had it on my greens and it rocks. Oh, and it’s a breeze to prepare! You don’t even need a high powered blender. Any blender will do.
Please excuse my shameless gushing, but I’m doing a happy dance about this one!


  • 1 can salt-free white beans, drained (or a scant 2 cups if you make your own)
  • 1 cup unsweetened plant-based milk (I used soy milk, but you could also use water)
  • 1 date
  • 1 TBS white miso
  • pinch of grated nutmeg


  • Blend.
Makes about 3 cups. Enjoy!

Healthy trails,

  1. Kris-Etherton PM, Hu FB, Ros E, et al: The role of tree nuts and peanuts in the prevention of coronary heart disease: multiple potential mechanisms. J Nutr 2008;138:1746S-1751S.
  2. 2. Salas-Salvado J, Casas-Agustench P, Murphy MM, et al: The effect of nuts on inflammation. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008;17 Suppl 1:333-336.
  3. Rajaram S, Sabate J: Nuts, body weight and insulin resistance. Br J Nutr 2006;96 Suppl 2:S79-86.
  4. Guasch-Ferre M, Bullo M, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al: Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in the PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Med 2013;11:164.

21 responses to “Beany Creamy Sauce + Which Vegan Eating Plan is Best for You?”

  1. Michelle B says:

    I've recently started using white bean-based sauces; there is so much potential! I got great results adding horseradish. And I'm planning to experiment with a sweet sauce for fruit salads…

    By the way, the web page your link goes to on Dr. Fuhrman's website is not easily readable…they seem to have mistakenly used too small a font on that page.

  2. Awesome idea. Similar to your gravy recipe which I love!!! I bought some navy beans (dried) to make homemade baked beans in the slow cooker but have not got around to it yet. Will perhaps cook the beans this weekend and leave some spare to try with this. I reckon this would work really well for lasagne!

  3. I have been reading about 80/10/10 diet too…..I do eat a lot of fruit and veg but seriously I don't think I could even eat 10 bananas or 2 whole paw paw or 3 mangos in a sitting…..and all the rice……they eat like 3000 calories a day. I counted calories out of interest to see what I eat and even on a big day I reckon I might get to 2000 (and I am active so burn at least 500-1000 extra on exercise)……what is your take on the high carb…..I would prefer to fill up on salad / veg beans etc than rice…..still carbs but other stuff too….brown rice has some nutritional value but no where near what fruit and veg have…..

    • Wow! 3000 calories is a ton. Yes, I would also rather get my carbs from beans and veggies than from grains. Like I said, I have a slower metab than some and all those grains don't do well with my body.

  4. Diane Kass says:

    too simple! just as great at Chef AJ's yummy sauce!

  5. moonwatcher says:

    Helyn, thanks for your measured and thoughtful comments about what I agree are negligible differences between the good doctors.I, too, am a person who can eat "just one" slice of avocado or one or two nuts at a time. Is it the Italian in us? πŸ™‚ And your white sauce looks yummy. I like the addition of nutmeg.

    • I think it very well may be the Italian genes, Maria! Haha! Yeah, my mom and grandmother both had trouble with weight and diabetes runs in the family as well. Thank goodness for the knowledge we have now!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I think I used too much nutmeg and maybe my medjool date was too large…it came out very sweet, almost like a dessert sauce. I fixed it by adding another 1/2 TB of White Miso, juice & zest from 1/2 a lemon and one small garlic clove. I like the Miso flavor better than the mustard in AJ's sauce. Thanks for the recipe!

  7. I make a very similar white sauce, except that I don't use a date and add some sauteed onion and a bit of mustard powder. You've motivated me to make my "white bean alfredo" sauce recipe my next post!

    And you are totally right about there being more in common between McDougall and Fuhrman. I totally admire Chef AJ for doing exactly this and coming to a conclusion about what works best for her body. She absolutely glows!

    I know feel best when I focus on the veggies, beans and seeds/nuts instead of the starchier foods, but I do eat a few more servings a day of brown rice, sweet potatoes, etc. than Furhman would recommend.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Carry! Oh yay! Can't wait to see your alfredo recipe :))

    • Arlene says:

      Speaking of white bean 'alfredo' sauce, I came upon Helyn's site in January and have been following it ever since. I was inspired to try a white bean hummus recipe I believe is listed here somewhere and while I had everything whizzing in the blender (roasted garlic, beans etc.) my 15-year old son went past and asked; Mommy what is that, alfredo sauce? Yup, I replied without blinking an eye and that's what it became. I cooked some pasta and we had a deliciously creamy, no cheese sauce and no one knew the difference. Thanks for all your wonderfully inspiring recipes Helyn. I found you because although I'm not a full time nutritarian as yet, I'm a born again Dr. Furhman believer and was looking for recipes that incorporated his philosophy of eating. It will soon be mango season where I live so I can't wait to try the Tomango Salad posted on Saturday!

    • Great story, Arlene! Thanks for sharing… glad you found me! πŸ™‚

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Helyn!
    Thanks for the sauce recipe! I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the difference of the two diets. I totally agree with you and eat exactly like you do and thoroughly enjoy it. Everybody really just needs to listen to their body and my body says, "Fill me up with greens, beans, onions(purple), mushrooms, seeds and berries!"


  9. Gira says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on the two doctors' philosophies. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I tend to overeat potatoes and starchy foods, so I need to eat more veggies and beans which I also enjoy but do not tend to overeat. I do like to add some nuts to salad dressings and soups because it makes them so much for satisfying! I try to eat nuts only in recipes and not by themselves because they are another thing that I will overeat. Thank you for this very thoughtful and insightful blog entry!

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