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Meatless Monday: You Say You Want a Revolution?

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Among this morning's e-mails was one my spam filter didn't catch - Revolutionary Weight Loss Pill. I hit Delete. Revolution does not come in pill form. No pill will give me longer legs, no pill will magically convert your couch time watching Dancing with the Stars to a power workout. No pill will make healthy choices for you.

A few hundred years ago, our forefathers had no revolutionary pill to help them break with British tyrants. Their revolution took nerve and hard work, but it turned out okay. So okay, in fact, it's time to try it again. This time, we're not taking aim at the Brits - we like the Brits - but an internal enemy.

One in three Americans is obese. The price of obesity? The health costs, last tallied, are an astronomical annual figure of $147 billion. Then there's the other cost -- heart disease, stroke and cancer -- America's three leading causes of death. I believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but I'm sorry, we did not have a revolution in order to stuff ourselves to death.

And yet, that's how it's looking. One in four of us will be fast fooding today. Fast food is a $178 billion-a-year industry. Compare that to organic food sales, which have grown in the past decade, but now only top out at $26.7 billion a year. You can get summer-fresh local produce all across America, at over 6,000 farmers markets. But compare that to the 300,000 fast food joints across the country and you've got odds that make me angry.

They should make you angry, too. You can blame our crazy capitalist system for creating the freemarket economy that encourages fast food restaurants to outstrip farmers markets five to one or you can do what our forefathers did. Take matters into your own hands. Yes, you. America wants you.

As we prepare to celebrate the anniversary of the American revolution with food and fireworks, do something truly revolutionary. Make a conscious effort to eat a vegetable. At your Fourth of July barbecue, burger if you must, but try the meatless kind, or fire up a meaty Portobello, instead. Commit to one meatless meal this week - it could drop your saturated fat intake by 15%, according to our friends at Meatless Monday . Buy (and eat) one organic or locally-grown fruit or vegetable.

I'm not saying do it all, just do one. I'm not saying commit to doing it forever, just commit to making a start. I'm cheering for you all the way, because I know it seems boring and difficult. But you'll be taking responsibility for yourself and the planet, and that's got to feel pretty good.

Alas, there's still no such thing as a revolutionary weight-loss pill. There's just effort and dedication, and in time, payoff. Eating healthfully -- and meatlessly -- will foil the tyranny of obesity and illness. It'll slim down your body and slim down our budget. Do it, if not for America, then for the good of yourself. Revolution happens one bite at a time.

Fireworks Black Bean and Mango Salad

This salad is so quick and easy, it barely qualifies as a recipe. But it explodes with pizzazz, pairing the sweet summer burst mango (let's hear it for fresh, seasonal and local -- summer means mango season in South Florida) with a zing of chili. Black beans make for protein palate and everything works with basic black. All this and it's fat-free, too.

Serve atop the fresh farmers market greens of your choice.

1 jalapeno, minced (wear gloves when handling chilies -- really. Yes, even you.)
1 red pepper, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained (or 4 cups cooked black beans)
1 teaspoon cumin
juice of 1/2 lime
2 mangos, peeled and diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for garnish, optional but adding fabulous crunch, not to mention goodly amounts of manganese and magnesium
3-4 cups fresh greens like spinach, arugula or frisee

In a large bowl, gently mix together jalapeno, diced red pepper and celery. Add the black beans and combine well.

Add the cumin and the lime and toss to coat.

Just before serving, add the mangos and chopped cilantro. Season to taste. Place atop greens and serve at once, garnishing with toasted pepitas, if you like (and you will).

Serves 4 to 6.

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