Mayo Clinic physicians are increasingly suggesting that the path for healthy humans is one paved by eating plants — not meat.
Dr. Donald Hensrud says in the Mayo Clinic Health Letterthat foods coming from animals "are generally high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which are key contributors to your risk of heart attack, stroke and other diseases related to artery health."
Health professionals generally say that it's perfectly fine to eat a lean serving of meat from time to time, whether it's skinless chicken, beef or fish. But they increasingly advise going green with plants instead of red with beef.
"A plant-based diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, grains, beans and legumes, and nuts, is rich in fiber, vitamins and other nutrients," says an online Mayo Clinic healthy-heart description. "And people who eat only plant-based foods — AKA vegetarians — generally eat fewer calories and less fat, weight less, and have a lower risk of heart disease than non-vegetarians do."
How can you and your familystart following a more plant-based diet?
A local restauranteur has some suggestions for you.
"I, 100 percent, wholeheartedly agree that a plant-based diet will keep you alive," said Nicci Sylvester, owner of Tonic restaurant on Second Street S.E., across from Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys. "In fact, I eat one every day.
Sylvester suggests investing this summer in a CSA — Community Supported Agriculture — from which you or your family can get weekly, seasonal food deliveries from area farms. You pay the farmer a set fee ahead of time and then get supplied for the summer with crops as they become available.
"You get these boxes week after week," said Sylvester, whose restaurant uses locally sourced organic foods. "That's the best way to get a ton of variety, because you're going to get things that are grown locally that you need to do something with."
In other words, once you've got fresh greens in the springtime, you'll need to make a salad or a quick meal of some sort to use them up while they're fresh.
"Whether it's root vegetables, or whatever's fresh and in season, those are perishable," Sylvester said. "And I feel like a CSA encourages you to look outside of your comfort zone, because they're going to give you what's freshest and what's growing and it really helps you move back in time and eat cyclically with Mother Nature."
Sylvester believes you're supposed to eat spinach and fresh greens in the spring. Then, in summertime, you should enjoy the bounty of squashes and peppers, Sylvester said.
Then, in the fall, the varied vegetables. And, in winter, potatoes and parsnips and turnips and carrots and roots and stews.
"You know, it's just so important that you follow those natural rhythms. And a CSA is a great way to get you to do that," Sylvester said.
A CSA can also save costs, she said, because you get regular deliveries of fresh produce all summer long. Think raspberries, sweet corn, peas, beans, strawberries and grapes.
Each CSA will be different and offer its own specialties from the items mentioned above — and more.
Sylvester said you have to ask questions. You can ask about genetically modified produce, pesticide use, herbicide use and other concerns you might have.
"Go out and visit the farms. Do they have weeds?" she wonders. They should. A perfect example, she said, is Sleepers Produce, which supplies raspberries for Tonic.
"They're three miles away … it's very obvious that this is a very natural environment," Sylvester said.
Farms free of pesticides will offer produce that's different from tomatoes that smell like herbicides.
When you put a tomato to your face, it should smell like a tomato, Sylvester said.
"You smell it. You taste it," she said. "Those pesticides change the flavor of your food."