The Compassion Diet 

Kindness and active empathy are good for you – and for those around you.

A past article in the New Yorker made a profound impression on me. It was about the high suicide rate at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (the most popular bridge for committing suicide, according to the article). It is always sad and upsetting to think that some people are so unhappy and disheartened that they take their own lives. I can’t help but think that somehow as a society and individuals we inadvertently contribute to someone’s despair when we neglect being kind and compassionate.

One of the incidents the article mentioned was about a gifted 14-year-old girl who had a close relationship with her mother. The teenage girl killed herself because she couldn’t live with her appearance—she was overweight. It’s tragic that such a young person was driven to take her own life just when it was beginning. What circumstances could have led her to believe that the only way to end her suffering would be to end her life?

Another suicide incident mentioned in the article was about a man who left a written note saying that, if on his way to commit suicide, he found a person that would smile at him he would return home—he never returned.

One of the things this article reminded me of is that communication is perhaps one of the most important factors that determine our happiness, though we often don’t realize it. Our words, body language, decisions, actions and even inaction have consequences not only directly affecting us but also those surrounding us, especially the people closest to us but also strangers who cross our paths.

Learning to communicate accurately is a matter of principle and an important aspect of living a healthy and socially responsible life. Our Amira Elganwell-being is not only dependent on our diet but also our physical and mental states of health.

In addition to eating healthfully and exercising regularly we also need to have a healthy outlook and attitude about life and the environment we live in, most importantly, our interaction and communication with others.

As human beings we enjoy the power of language but often don’t use it effectively and fail to communicate with each other giving ground for misunderstandings, arguments, fights and even violence.

We often hear but don’t really listen; we don’t admit when we’re wrong about something and refuse to acknowledge our mistakes. We like receiving compliments and feeling flattered but rarely compliment others; we pass judgment but reject criticism; we don’t hesitate to point out someone’s shortcomings or what we might perceive as other’s physical imperfections but don’t see our own. And too often we think we’re right and everyone else is wrong. We use much of our mental energy to stay on the alert for people who might insult or abuse us.

At the same time, we’re all capable of changing ourselves. We can enter a room, a job, a house or, more importantly, somebody’s life and make considerable impact on it. We have the power to make it better or worse than we found it with our actions and our words. It is up to us to choose to communicate with sincerity and humility and make everything we touch better leaving a trail with traces of goodness behind where it will make a full circle back to us, for our own well-being.

Compassionate living is good for you and everyone around you!

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Food For Thought

What happens when you eat nothing but McDonald’s food for a month?

Within days the body deteriorates, cholesterol increases by 40%, the liver becomes toxic, libido tanks, headaches and depression become the norm and weight increases by 25 pounds—that’s right, in just 30 days.

The above are the findings by a healthy film student called Morgan Spurlock who decided to become a guinea pig for his own experiment. He's made a documentary film called "Super Size Me," which has won Spurlock the Documentary Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival.

This is just one example of the rapid damage fast food does to our bodies but the really scary reality is that many adults and children rely on several fast food meals each week as part of their diet. It is no wonder why obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are so prevalent in the U.S.

Words of Wisdom

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality:”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Research Department

Gout, an extremely painful condition, may affect the joints in the big toe, ankles, heels, knees, wrists, fingers, and elbows is on the rise in the U.K. According to a recent report, the number of cases has doubled since the 1950’s and fad low-carb diets such as the Atkins seem to be the culprits.

Although gout is often a hereditary disorder, which results when excessive and concentrated amounts of uric acid (a byproduct of protein metabolism) build up in the bloodstream, can also develop as result of rapid weight loss diets that limit carbs and increase animal protein and fats. High concentration levels of uric acid make it difficult for the kidneys to do their job of flushing it out. Instead, the acids crystallize and build around the joints and can eventually cause complete immobility.

Reader Comment

Dear Amira,

I remain a grateful fan of your newsletter. May I suggest that the nutritional data for the recipes you provide be included as well, especially, the protein, carb and fat grams per serving?

Thanks a million; you're an inspiration to many.

D. B., Burlingame, California

REPLY: That’s a great idea. I’ll do that, starting with this week’s recipe below!

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Spicy Tomato Soup with Tofu (vegan)
Serves 6

With a hint of fire and smoke flavor and zesty spiciness from the chipotle chile, this creamy and savory soup makes a wonderful starter in a meal or a very succulent main dish when preceded by a salad. Dairy lovers can use low fat crumbled or shredded cheese as topping.

About the ingredients:
Chipotle is a smoked-dried and very hot chili (jalapeńo) pepper that is generally added to soups, stews and sauces for flavor and spiciness. The chipotle chile, which is dried by smoking, has a deep dark red color and looks wrinkled. Dried chipotle is often not easy to find but canned chipotle “en adobo”, a tomato base sauce flavored with spices and vinegar is sold at most supermarkets and all Mexican grocery stores. Canned chipotles will last a several weeks to months. Once the can is open transfer the remaining peppers and sauce to a glass container and keep covered airtight and refrigerate for later use. Dried chipotles will last for several months but must be stored in a cool and dry place.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
6 fresh garlic cloves
1 small yellow onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
10 ripe plum tomatoes, skinless (or 28-oz canned whole peeled tomatoes)
1 dried or canned chipotle chile pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
˝ teaspoon chili powder
˝ teaspoon paprika
˝ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fat free vegetable broth or stock
1 cup regular creamy soy milk
14 to 16 ounces firm tofu cut into ˝ -inch cubes (let tofu drain first on cloth or paper towel)
Sea sat
Fresh cilantro finely chopped for garnish

1. In a large pot, heat oil over low heat. Meanwhile, process garlic and onions in the food processor or blender until very finely chopped. Add one third of the garlic and onion mixture to oil stirring and sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. In the meantime, add tomatoes to the food processor and the remaining onions and garlic mixture pureeing completely. Add half of the tomato puree to the sautéed onions and garlic, stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, add chipotle pepper, oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder, paprika and black pepper to the food processor with the fresh tomato mixture and process until finely pureed. Add the fresh tomato and spices mixture and tofu to the pot and stir well simmering for 5 minutes.

4. Add vegetable broth and soy milk mixing well and bringing to a soft boil. Reduce heat, add salt to taste, lightly cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve and add freshly chopped cilantro as garnish and for added flavor if desired.

Cook’s tip: To peel and seed tomatoes immerse them in boiling water for about a minute then transfer tomatoes onto a colander and place them under cold running water for 30 seconds. Peel skin away, cut in half and remove seeds and core if desired.

Nutrition Facts:


Amount Per Serving




Calories From Fat (24%)



% Daily Value

Total Fat 5.05g


Saturated Fat 0.59g


Monounsaturated Fat  1.90g


Polyunsaturated Fat  2.01g


Trans Fatty Acids 0.00g


Cholesterol 0.40mg


Sodium 199.16mg


Potassium 561.19mg


Carbohydrates 16.45g


Dietary Fiber 2.90g


Sugar 8.39g


Sugar Alcohols 0.00g


Net Carbohydrates 13.55g


Protein 8.40g



% Daily Value

Vitamin A 914.15IU


Vitamin C 33.78mg


Calcium 88.08mg


Iron 2.70mg


Thiamin 0.21mg


Riboflavin 0.09mg


Niacin 1.52mg


Vitamin B6 0.26mg


Folate 21.03µg


Pantothenic Acid 0.35mg


Phosphorus 132.61mg


Magnesium 48.93mg


Zinc 0.97mg


Copper 0.38mg


Manganese 0.43mg


Selenium 2.49µg


Percent daily value based on a 2000 calorie diet.



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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003-2004 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.