Dr. Katie Takayasu still loves a “really good steak,” she says.
She just doesn’t think you should let it fill your plate.
“What we know now is that really the pathway to anti-inflammation and the pathway to longevity really is trying to prioritize more plants on the plate,” she said. “So now I’ve sort of switched my plate composition around to be at least half vegetables, sometimes even a little bit more than that, and that kind of gets me moving in the right direction.”
Takayasu knows that might sound a bit surprising given her roots in northwest Ohio. Both of her parents grew up as children of farmers, and she remembered eating lots of animal proteins for dinner, along with a starch such as potatoes.
Over time, she’s realized the benefits of eating more plants. A few years ago, she launched a website, drkatie.com, to share tips with patients at her integrative medicine practice in Fairfield County, Connecticut, on better living habits and recipes that help with that. Now, she’s compiled them into a book, “Plants First: A Physician’s Guide to Wellness Through a Plant-Forward Diet,” published by Victory Belt Publishing.
“I think we, as Americans, really over-emphasized animal protein in this effort to be low carb and to sort of think about carbohydrates as the enemy,” she said. “But honestly, the enemy is not carbohydrates. It’s processed food and sugar that are fast-burning carbohydrates.
“If you look at something and you’re like, ‘I’m not really sure how this got on our planet,’ you know, this isn’t made by nature.”
Her book also includes tips on a five-day, plant-powered health reset.
It’s a lesson she learned the hard way after leaving Delphos to attend the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree and then on to medical school at Wright State University. During her residency at Columbia in New York City, she felt sluggish. That’s when she learned more about complementary and alternative forms of medicine to put into her toolbox. It all starts with good foods.
“If we give the body the right input from the start, we create this fertile soil in which to plant things like a medication,” Takayasu said.
That’s not to say she doesn’t treat herself to a hearty meal straight from her childhood, with a twist. She said her mother is a fantastic cook who raised her five children with good meals.
“The sheet pan-roasted chicken recipe is one that would have been sort of a riff on a very common theme for Sunday night dinner for us as a family,” she said. “The idea’s roasting chicken with lots of different vegetables. I just, you know, increased the vegetables to where the chicken may have been the star of the show back in the day. Now the vegetables are the star of the show.”
Takayasu said she’s an experimenter in the kitchen, and she’s found ways to play with foods to make them delicious and nutritious. She faces some tough critics at home, including her husband, Jun Takayasu, and their twin 9-year-old sons.
She’s found balancing “delicious carbohydrates” such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and steel-cut oatmeal, help balance out dishes, instead of using processed foods.
Takayasu said she’ll always be grateful for the foundation she found from teachers, friends and family.
“Northwest Ohio was a really beautiful place to grow up,” she said. “I had a really idyllic childhood. I lived amongst cornfields. I had a really beautiful role model in both my parents, my dad being a family physician in the community and really showing me what it meant to be a doctor, and having a mom who was so caring and involved in our lives and taking care of us and making sure we’re growing up into nice humans.”
David Trinko is editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.