Tucson cardiologist Dr. Salvatore Tirrito never craves an ice cream sundae and hopes one day you won't, either.

Tirrito, who works at Pima Heart Associates, will host "How Plant Based Eating Can Save Your Life" on Monday, when he will explain a way of eating that he says changed his life.

"After starting my practice, I really just started thinking that everything we do in medicine is wrong," Tirrito said. "We're not really solving anything, we're just throwing pills at people."

He said he thinks medicine is ignoring the issue of the "horrible lifestyle" Americans lead.

After years of fiddling with his own eating habits, Tirrito said he found something he likes and loves sticking to.

He cut caffeine, ditched alcohol and committed to plant-based eating with an emphasis on raw foods.

He's been eating this way for a little over a year, and for the first time in his life isn't envious of others' entrées, he said.

"I've never felt this good in my life," he said. "It's not hard at all, because when you feel great you'll do anything to keep that feeling."

While there is temporary pleasure from that chocolate doughnut, filet mignon - or even that bowl of oatmeal, he said, these things keep people from feeling good long-term. While people associate milk with calcium, meat with protein and oatmeal with fiber, Tirrito said that thinking comes from people who want to sell those products.

It's possible to get all of one's nutritional needs through plant-based eating while avoiding chemicals found in other foods, he said.

He said the majority of information the public gets about the food they eat is misleading and that things get complicated when the word "healthy" is thrown around because it is such a relative term.

A granola bar may seem healthier than a chocolate bar, but that doesn't mean a granola bar is a good choice, Tirrito said.

Tirrito stressed that eating raw doesn't require a lot of time.

The downside, he conceded, is that consuming raw foods can take away some of the social aspects of eating.

Still, when he goes out, Tirrito said he can almost always find a salad. And he believes the social expectations of eating have fed into society's weight troubles, since portions are large and people tend to drink and overeat when they go out.

The seminar will include samples and a demonstration from the Willow Healing Center in Nogales, Ariz., which recently started catering raw food.

The center's Alberto Romero has been a vegetarian for 20 years, and said he and his wife started offering raw catering since it was difficult for people to do it themselves. Romero has a degree in food technology from the University of Sonora, and his wife, Karla, is a certified raw-food chef with a specialty in low-glycemic dishes.

The seminar will allow people to get information and actually taste the kinds of changes they could be making in their eating, Tirrito said.

One of the samples will be raw lasagna, which uses zucchini instead of pasta.

"People will be blown away from how good everything tastes," Tirrito said.

IF YOU GO

"How Plant Based Eating Can Save Your Life."

Tucson Heart Center, 2404 E. River Road, July 9 at 5:30 p.m.

The cost is $15 per person.

Registration is required. Call 297-9060, Ext. 1333

For more information on the Nogales, Ariz.-based Willow Healing Center, which caters raw food, go to www.willowhealingcenter.com

Bethany Barnes is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com or 573-4117.