Dr. Neil Barnard, right, was joined by Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, for a tour of the Sag Harbor Farmers Market on Saturday and stopped to talk with Matt Laspia, left. Photo by Stephen J. Kotz.
By Stephen J. Kotz
It was a bit like preaching to the choir when Dr. Neil Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, whose books on the advantages of a plant-based diet, are widely read, paid a visit to the Sag Harbor Farmers Market on Bay Street on Saturday morning.
Dr. Barnard, who is based in Washington, D.C., led a whirlwind, “Shop the Nutrition Rainbow” tour of the various stands, pointing out the health benefits of everything from tomatoes to watermelons, as part of an annual weekend visit the East End.
On Friday, he held a talk on nutrition and signed copies of his books at Urban Zen on Bay Street, Saturday night, he attended the “Passion for Compassion” benefit at the Amagansett home of John Bradham.
For Saturday’s tour, he was accompanied by Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, who praised the farmers market. “Other farmers markets have tried to mimic this,” the mayor said of other locations on the East End, “but none have succeeded like this one.”
Dr. Barnard said he decided to visit Sag Harbor, in large part, because of the reputation of its thriving farmers market. “The market here is legendary,” he said. “What they are providing is so wonderful and fresh.”
Stopping by Bonac Farm’s stand, tended by Matt Laspia, Dr. Barnard pointed out fresh tomatoes.
“Honestly, I eat them out of the field like apples,” Mr. Laspia replied when asked how he prepared them.
A few minutes later, Dr. Barnard was offering slices of fresh watermelon that David Falkowski was selling from his stand.
Both tomatoes and melons contain an important antioxidant that reduces the risk of prostate cancer, he said. “As a doctor, I like them because they are cancer fighters,” he said.
The new potatoes offered by yet another stand “don’t raise your blood sugar like your normal baking potato,” he added.
The Nutrition Rainbow focuses on eating a “naturally colorful,” heavy on the fruits and vegetables, light on the meats and dairy products, because of the presence of so many cancer fighting compounds contained in them.
It’s well known that America is suffering an epidemic of obesity. “What’s happening is Americans are starting to die earlier,” said Dr. Barnard. “By the time they are in their 30s, they are overweight. By the time they are in the 40s they are on four or five prescription drugs. By the time they are in their 50s, they have quit exercising because they are too unhealthy.”
His simple message, he said? “Let’s stay healthy.”