The concept of food as medicine has become more popular recently, but Chris Sylvain has been teaching it for almost 20 years. In March, the pharmacist/adjunct instructor at Xavier University opened the Best Life Pharmacy and Restaurant, bringing his years of experience and passion for health to the community around South Broad and Tulane Avenue. His business combines nutrition and medicine with the opportunity for free one-on-one nutrition, lifestyle, and medical counseling. A social worker is also available for appointments, adding mental health to the holistic model.
What makes Sylvain's idea so practical, so surprising, is that as patients come in to grab lunch, they chat with their pharmacist and develop a relationship. This increased depth of interaction, which can be unusual in large chain pharmacies, leads to talk about how people can make choices for a healthier life.
Sylvain explains the medicinal power of different foods on his menu—the omega 3 fish oil in salmon; fiber from wraps, beans, and brown rice; antioxidants from vegetables; and protein from chicken, tilapia, and roast beef. The restaurant even offers whole grain grits, which Sylvain says were quite difficult to find.
Sylvain was inspired when his older brother gave him a book that demonstrated the uses of different foods as medicine. Foods such as onion and garlic contain pharmacological properties, he said.
As a pharmacist at Walgreens for 30 years, and a professor at Xavier for 18, Sylvain instructed pharmacy students in a nutrition and herbal medicine. The program included a clinical nutrition course and an herbal component of a pharmacy practice course, as well as a six-week clerkship program. Students in the clerkship spent eight hours a day with Sylvain in the pharmacy, learning how to educate patients on nutrition and medication.
One problem Sylvain noticed was that, although educators were telling patients what foods to buy, patients were still eating at fast food restaurants when they didn't have time to cook. That's where the idea for Best Life came in. He noticed the “for lease” sign on the old Popeye's building at South Broad and Tulane, which he knew would be equipped with kitchen equipment. Sylvain was excited about the prospect of being closer to the community and having the freedom to do what he thought would best serve the neighborhood. Now, as people enter the building, they are greeted by a cook and a pharmacist, reflecting Best Life's holistic mission.
Best Life is located at 2657 Tulane Avenue, at the corner of South Broad. The restaurant is open Monday- Saturday from 7 am -10 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 7pm. The pharmacy is open Monday-Friday, from 8 am- 7 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm.