The Power of Plants

When food and travel connoisseurs think about the Napa Valley, they oft envision rolling hills covered in aged grapevine, tours and tastings with some of the world’s most established winemakers, and decadent meals involving locally sourced game prepared by some of the country’s best chefs. Meanwhile, in the small Napa Valley community of St. Helena, there is a different kind of highly curated travel and food experience taking root and drawing people from all across the country to experience it’s literal life-changing effects.

Originating in 1878 as the ​Rural Health Retreat ​ , the Adventist Health St. Helena Lifestyle Medicine Institute today offers a 10-day, in-residence retreat called TakeTEN. Founded by the husband/wife team of Doctors James and Cheryl Peters, TakeTEN uses a lifestyle medicine approach comprised of evidence-based therapeutic remedies including a plant-based diet, regular physical activity, communion with nature and relationship building to treat, cure and prevent chronic disease.

A visit to TakeTEN feels a bit like a stay at an adult retreat. Instead of cabins, guests stay in well-appointed rooms with balconies overlooking vineyards that disappear into undulating horizons. Team-building exercises take the shape of group bike rides through the countryside, hikes up and down rolling hills. And the food… The food is the star at TakeTEN.

The TakeTEN Original Veggie Burger includes some of the following ingredients; Medium or firm organic tofu, onions, celery, carrots , ground sage, dried chives, walnuts, brown basmati cooked and puffed rice.

Building upon Dr. Cheryl Peters nutritional medicine foundation, chefs prepare a menu of plant-based dishes in which greens sing, tomatoes are exalted, and sauces made from nuts and herbs transcend what most presume plant-based cuisine to be. Nutritional value is extremely important, as each meal is treated as an Rx of sorts. TakeTEN guests participate in cooking classes to learn easy preparation techniques that translate back at home. A Lifestyle Coach and exercise physiologist offer tips and advice to TakeTEN graduates throughout the year following their completion of the program.

With all the luxurious refreshment and progressive wellness a retreat at TakeTEN affords, it’s easy to forget that this is real medicine. However, one only need look at the impressive statistics recorded by program participants in ten short days to be reminded. Most guests are able to reduce or eliminate certain diabetes, cholesterol and heart drugs with days of checking in. Heart and lung capacity measurably increase, while stress and cortisol levels decrease. Sleep improves, pounds are shed, BMI lowers. An astounding 99% of smokers that attend leave smoke-free after 10-days.

“In my ten short days at TakeTEN, I was able to drop two diabetes medications from my protocol,” says program alumna Claire Critzer, a 70 year old female from Miami, who came to the program with a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis.

Seven months after completing TakeTen, Claire’s blood glucose remains down seventy points and she continues to lose weight. Now, she and other TakeTEN participants say their attitudes toward food haven’t completely changed so much as they have evolved. Food is still very much something to savor, celebrate and gather family with. And in addition, it is something with which to nourish, heal and sustain.

“I no longer view food as the enemy in managing my diabetes,” explains Claire. “Instead, filling and delicious plant-based dishes have become both my comfort and my cure.”

Doctors, corporate wellness coaches and healthcare administrators are taking notice of programs like TakeTEN that center on natural and sustainable ways to reduce healthcare costs and prescription drug use while improving quality of life and longevity. Consequently, health professionals are recommending TakeTEN to their own patients dealing with everything from diabetes and menopause to heart disease and addiction and reporting that insurance providers are stepping up to cover program costs.

A little mind/body wellness never hurt anyone. Perhaps a stay at TakeTEN and implementation of the Dr. Peters’ lifestyle medicine program is just what every doctor should order, and perhaps one day soon North America’s most famous wine-growing region will become known for seeding an entire lifestyle medicine revolution.