Gross went green as a teen to combat psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease. After reading a number of nutrition books, including You Are What You Eat by Dr. Victor Lindlahr, Gross discovered that a surfeit of protein may have been exacerbating her condition. As she changed her diet, the symptoms retreated, and Gross developed a voracious appetite for knowledge. She studied nutrition, animal food production, biochemistry and philosophy.
In 1959, she and physiologist husband Dr. Robert Gross co-founded the pioneering Pawling Health Manor in Staatsburg (now the Belvedere Mansion) to help others help themselves to healthier lives. For over 30 years, more than 60,000 guests, including many Hollywood and Broadway stars, came for regimens of vegetarian meals, seminars, yoga and supervised fasting. Gross acted as director, chief cook and lecturer, and wrote her first three books: The 30-Day Way to a Born-Again Body, Thin Again! and The Vegetarian Child.
Joy’s newest book extends her narrative through the post-Pawling years, testifying to the sustainability and success of her nutritional methods. As a result of nearly seven decades’ adherence to mindful vegetarianism, Gross is a healthy, vibrant octogenarian who sees no primary care physician, takes no medications or supplements and counts skydiving among her many activities. She hopes that others will be inspired to inform themselves, make dietary changes and experience similar benefits.
“I wrote this book to encourage others to better themselves so that they won’t have to be afraid of the later years – so they won’t be at the mercy of procedures and surgeries, heart bypasses and cancers, arthritis and worse. People don’t generally connect them to what they’re eating, and their bodies just aren’t getting what they need,” said Gross.
Our bodies need six things to sustain their natural defenses, writes Gross: sunlight, oxygen, water, food, excretion and rest. Highly alkalinizing fruits and vegetables are ideal fuel, processed quickly and efficiently. Chlorophyll contains a roster of vitamins and minerals closely resembling those found in human blood. Dark, leafy greens, sprouting nuts (e.g. almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts) and potatoes contain enough protein to meet the body’s needs. High-water-content fruits, such as bananas (80 percent), keep the body hydrated.
Today, Gross estimates that her diet is “95 percent vegan.” Her refrigerator is filled with fresh vegetables and a cornucopia of fruits: watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, papaya, grapes. They are the building blocks of the favorite recipes shared in her book: Five-Fruit Sundae, Eggplant Supreme, Squash à la Joy, Cashew Butter Balls. For a treat, she enjoys banana ice cream and pineapple sorbet, drizzled with real maple syrup. A typical breakfast is a dish of almonds (30 to 40), a large bowl of fruit and a Green Smoothie Supreme: a light, bright frappé of fruits and vegetables. The combination leaves Gross satiated and satisfied.
“It stays with you a long time. When you start your day with cereal, it sets you up for wanting more. Your cells adjust themselves to what they’re working with. It doesn’t exactly satisfy, and your body is always looking for the missing nutrients,” she said.
While Gross advocates balanced vegetarianism, streamlining need not be extreme. Making some adjustments to fruit and vegetable intake could have long-term health benefits, no matter what your age. “It’s never too late to make some changes,” said Gross.
On Saturday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m., join Joy Gross for a discussion and signing of Joy’s Recipes for Living Younger... Longer! An Eighty-Something Beauty Reveals Her Secrets at Oblong Books & Music, located at Montgomery Row (Route 9) in Rhinebeck. For more information, call (845) 876-0500 or visit www.oblongbooks.com.