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RMA Presents: The Case for Putting Plants First in Your Diet

Dr. Katie Takayasu spoke about the importance of plant-based foods in your diet.

By Fred Wu

At the October 26 meeting of the Retired Men’s Association, Will Morrison introduced the speaker, Dr. Katie Takayasu. Dr. Katie Takayasu is an Integrative Medicine Physician and author of Plants First: A Physician’s Guide to Wellness Through a Plant-Forward Diet. She practices holistic health, bridging the gap between traditional Western medicine and the evidenced-based health tools of nutrition, acupuncture, meditation, botanicals and lifestyle. She works one-on-one helping patients to recognize their own balance in mind, body, and spirit as well as in group settings with the gentle but effective jumpstart to reclaiming wellness and lifestyle balance by harnessing the body’s natural propensity for detoxification. Dr. Takayasu attended the University of Michigan and Wright State University where she graduated with an M.D. and M.B.A. She completed her residency in Family Medicine at Columbia University/New York Presbyterian where she became Chief Resident.

Dr. Takayasu is married with two sons and resides in Darien, but she was born in the cornfields of northwest Ohio. Her father was the town’s family doctor, delivering the old-fashioned full spectrum of healthcare. Katie often had opportunities to assist her father, and that is how she decided to become a doctor. But she was very stressed out during her time in medical school at Wright State University, and by the time she arrived at Columbia University, she realized that her lifestyle was harmful to her health. Her primary care doctor at Columbia advised her to pay attention to her lifestyle, change her diet, get more sleep, and try meditation. This was her introduction to integrative medicine.

Dr. Takayasu advocates paying attention to the four pillars: 1) how am I eating, 2) how am I sleeping, 3) how am I moving, 4) how is my spiritual self? Starting with fitness – people tend to either under-exercise, or over-exercise. Over-exercising can drive up your stress hormones. She believes in 20-40 minutes of gentle exercise every day. On sleep – people’s sleep patterns tend to change as they age. After having children it is very rare for an adult to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. For longevity, it is best to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a day, even it is not continuous. Naps are fine and welcomed, as long as they do not disrupt your nighttime sleep. Short 20-30 minute naps not too late in the afternoon are best. It is also good to wake up at the same time every day. Then you are naturally tired at the same time every night. Recovering from social jet lag (staying up late on weekends) is just as difficult as recovering from actual jet lag. Sleep is the body’s natural way of pruning unimportant memories. As for spiritualilty, if religion is important in your life, you should tap into it. Yoga or mindfulness is also good. Dr. Takayasu meditates for 9 minutes as soon as she wakes up. Focusing your mind by meditation can improve cognition throughout the day and improve your spirits. It is also important to maintain hydration – most people should consume 1-2 liters of water a day before 4 or 5 pm. Try not to drink much late in the day because it can disrupt your sleep. Drinking half a glass of water frequently is better than larger amounts at one time. Avoid drinking a lot of water with meals.

Now we come to nutrition. Dr. Takayasu recommends that we look at a meal as veggies with a side of meat. Use smaller plates, and dedicate half the plate to non-starchy vegetables, dividing the rest of the plate among protein, fat, and starches. Try to minimize man-made food products. Fiber is great for your digestion because it acts like a squeegee, keeping things moving. Consider butternut squash versus Skittles – both have sweet flavor but the squash includes fiber which reduces the insulin rush. Our meals are generally structured around meat protein. Fish like salmon, halibut, or other wild fish provides omega-3 fatty acids. That is the only animal protein Dr. Takayasu prioritizes in her diet. Omega-3s are also good to avoid cognitive decline as we age.

What about fats? Plant fat is good, but animal fat is bad, mainly because of their different balance between saturated and non-saturated fats. Cooked, wild mushrooms like oyster mushrooms, shiitake, etc. are turning out to be especially good for you.

Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, miso, have probiotics and are good for your microbiome. We have about a kilogram of bacteria in our gut, and probiotics feed them. Green tea is recommended too, either caffeinated or decaffeinated. Dark chocolate (80-95% cacao) semi-sweet has more protein and less saturated fat and sugars. And the kick of caffeine is good to perk you up in the afternoon. One or two cups of coffee a day in the morning is fine. People in Fairfield County tend to drink too much alcohol. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day, and women no more than 1 drink a day, to avoid damage to the liver.

Dr. Takayasu says that we should try to make good choices 80% of the time, but allow ourselves the freedom to make other choices 20% of the time. Fruits and vegetables are often lumped together in dietary recommendations, but the vegetable to fruit ratio should be 4:1 because that lowers sugar and raises fiber consumption. Supplements are not as satisfying as whole foods, and should not be the foundation of a healthy diet.

At the conclusion of her talk, Dr. Takayasu fielded a large number of questions from the audience. The audience was very appreciative of Dr. Takayasu’s information and advice.

Note: The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speaker, and not those of the RMA.
To see the full presentation, go to https://greenwichrma.org/, cursor to “Speakers” and click on “Speaker Videos.”
RMA speaker presentations are presented as a community service at no cost to in-person or Zoom attendees. The RMA urges all eligible individuals to consider becoming a member of our great organization, and thereby enjoy all the available fellowship, volunteer, and community service opportunities which the RMA offers to its members. For further information, go to www.greenwichrma.org, or contact our membership chairman (mailto:members@greenwichrma.org).

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