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Your doctor will see you now -- in the kitchen

Cardiologists do the cooking in the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute’s Heart Protection Kitchen
Heart Protection Kitchen
Dr. Sergio Fazio, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, shares heart-healthy cooking tips during a presentation at the Heart Protection Kitchen program, November 8, 2016. Dr. Fazio's wife Elisabetta Fazio (right) cooked a meal of chicken cacciatore with polenta drawing on the couple's upbringing in Rome.(OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Preventive cardiologist Sergio Fazio, M.D., Ph.D., takes his place behind the stove in OHSU’s demonstration kitchen. Sitting on the other side of the kitchen island are rows of cardiology patients who have signed up to be part of a monthly cooking class at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, or KCVI.

“Today,” Fazio says, “your doctor will cook for you!”

The dinner -- spinach and artichoke salad and a main course of chicken cacciatore with polenta -- is a prescription for heart health and also an opportunity for learning.

“Do you know what polenta is made of?” Fazio asks. “Yes, cornmeal. What disease do you get from eating just corn?”

“That’s right, pellagra,” he continues. “Pellagra is a disease that develops when you don’t have enough niacin.”

This is an example of how nutrition education and practical dietary instructions are given a central role in heart disease prevention at the KCVI. To help patients improve their diet, the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute created the Heart Protection Kitchen cooking class program as an extension of its nutrition counseling for patients, says Tracy Severson, R.D., director of the program. 

Heart Protection Kitchen
Dr. Sergio Fazio, director of the Center for Preventative Cardiology at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, shares heart-healthy cooking tips during a presentation at the Heart Protection Kitchen program, November 8, 2016. Dr. Fazio's wife Elisabetta Fazio (right) cooked a meal of chicken cacciatore with polenta drawing on the couple's upbringing in Rome.(OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Fazio, who leads the institute’s Center for Preventive Cardiology, is one of several cardiologists who serve as guest chefs in the cooking classes. He and his wife, Elisabetta Fazio, selected the menu to share the common-sense approach to heart-healthy eating that they learned growing up in Rome, Italy.

The goals of the November class were to share ways to improve patients’ diets by:

  • Using unsaturated fats such as olive oil to prepare meal.
  • Incorporating less common types of whole grains and vegetables into recipes to add more nutritional variety to meals.
  • Providing an example of an easy-to-prepare meal as a way to encourage patients to cook at home more frequently. People who eat at home for about 14 of their meals each week have less weight gain over time and a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who are more dependent on restaurant meals and processed foods.
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