It’s all about healthy living

Published 9:27 am Thursday, February 26, 2009

Becoming a vegetarian literally saved Albert Lean Norah Nainani’s life.

She was practically in a wheelchair, paying about $500 a month in medications, when her pastor’s wife suggested she stop eating meat products for a month to see how she’d feel.

One month passed and she felt a little better, she said. Two months passed and she felt better yet. After three months, she had flushed her medicines down the toilet.

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Because of the change she experienced in her own life, she gained a passion for helping others live healthy lives as well — particularly without meat or animal products.

This passion will soon take the shape of a local market and cafe opening at 112 Broadway Ave. The market and cafe will be called Great Grains Market & Cafe, and it will be a nonprofit organization, Nainani said.

She hopes to open it by March 16.

Nainani, who has lived in Albert Lea for 14 months, was born in Ireland and lived for 30 years in California and 10 years in Georgia. She’s been a vegetarian now for more than 20 years.

She said the idea for the market and cafe has taken on a life of its own so that it will be a nutritional center as well.

It will allow people who have gone through the Coronary Health Improvement Program, along with others who choose to be a part of it, to have a place to meet as friends and to have access to healthy foods. The local CHIP is held at the local Seventh-day Adventist Church.

When people walk into the building, there will be a section in the front for health books and other nutritional information.

Then there will be products — such as grains, lentils, essential oils and frozen products — needed for healthy cooking, along with leaflets explaining the products and how to use them.

Next to the products there will be several tables for people to use to socialize or even to use wireless Internet.

Then will be the kitchen, set up with steamers, sinks and other food preparation areas, that two vegetarian chefs — one from Tennessee and one from New York — will utilize.

At the back of the building is an overlook area, which Nainani called “The Gathering Place.” It will have comfortable seating and a television, where people can meet to relax and visit with other people.

In addition to having the market and cafe, the place will provide opportunities for cooking classes, seminars and other instructional opportunities.

For example, there will be opportunities for low-income families to learn how to cook healthy meals, while making their dollars stretch further, along with a depression recovery program.

Physicians and nutrition specialists are slated to come to the market and cafe to share their expertise.

One of those doctors, Nainani said, is intervention cardiologist Schubert Palmer, who practices at the White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Yolanda, are already scheduled to come. The Palmers have seen firsthand the consequences of poor health habits.

The Palmers will be in Albert Lea four days before the opening of the building to put on a four-day program called, “Is There a Doctor in the House?” she said.

She noted that she hopes all of the informational services can be provided free of charge.

“Our mission is to help the people of Albert Lea get an experience of eating healthy food,” she said, pointing out scientific evidence that living without animal products can greatly benefit peoples’ lives.

Because the market, cafe and nutrition center will be part of a nonprofit organization, donations are welcome, Nainani said. She’s hopeful that enough will be received to provide more classes than planned.

“I would like the community to feel they have a part in this,” she said. “The more sponsorship, the more they’ll feel like owners.”

Initially, the plan is to have the cafe open until 3 p.m. each weekday with the market portion open until 5 or 5:30 p.m. If there’s enough demand, the cafe could be open for brunch on Sundays.

Nainani said the project has even gained positive feedback from leaders involved with the 10-month AARP/Blue Zones City Health Makeover, considering the next year will be a time for Albert Lea residents to learn how to live longer, healthier and more satisfying lives.

Blue Zones Founder Dan Buettner has agreed to host a book signing at Great Grains in the near future, she said.

People interested in making donations, can do so with a check made out to the Albert Lea Chamber Foundation with Great Grains written in the memo field. Nainani can be contacted at 279-9022.