Cooking classes point to plant-based living

CARIBOU, Maine — Cary Medical Center hosted a Healthy Hearts seminar on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the hospital. During the four-hour program participants learned about the benefits of ‘plant based’ nutrition. Tami Smith, RN, presented the program with additional clinical support from her husband, Wayne Smith, MD, and the assistance of friend and fellow vegan Deborah Simpson.

In addition to a lecture type presentation, the group also enjoyed a plant-based luncheon and dessert. Bill Flagg, director of community relations and development for Cary Medical Center, said the program is impacting heart disease here in Aroostook County.

“More than 100 individuals have now participated in the Healthy Hearts seminars since we began the program in 2011,” said Flagg. “We began the program thanks to funding from the Astrazeneca Healthcare Foundation and we have been able to sustain the project through participant fees and the generous support of Tami Smith and Dr. Wayne Smith.

“We know that many of the participants have continued to follow a plant based lifestyle and that by doing so they are reducing their risk for heart disease and other serious health problems,” Flagg said.

The Healthy Hearts program was inspired by on the work of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic and noted author and frequent PBS guest, Dr. Joel Fuhrman. Both physicians have bestselling books promoting the benefits of plant-based nutrition. Through their own research they have demonstrated that plant-based nutrition can prevent and even reverse heart disease.

Following the seminar, participants will now take part in a four-month program where they will learn how to prepare multiple plant-based recipes. The cooking classes will occur once each month for two hours in the Chan Center at Cary. The cost of the program will be $10 per session. Individuals who have been involved in the Healthy Hearts program in the past or those wishing to learn more are welcome to attend the cooking demonstrations.

Flagg said plans are also underway to offer plant-based food potlucks in the coming weeks and he will reach out to previous program participants.

“We have heard from a number of people who have attended the program that additional support is needed to help maintain or stay with the diet,” said Flagg. “We will be hosting these potluck meals in the Chan Center and we hope a number of people will join us. It will be great fun to try different plant-based recipes and learn how to create more options for individuals wanting to eat this way.”

For more information or to register for the upcoming cooking classes, call Cary’s office of community relations at 498-1112 or visit the hospital’s website at us.

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