My husband and I recently took a relaxing and fun vacation to Maine. The weather was enviable in August coming from hot and humid Charleston. So were the food, landscape and the Mainer’s way of life. Yes, there were plenty of lobsters, haddock, and halibut up there on which to dine.
Also plentiful and tasty were tiny, wild blueberries that seemed to be growing everywhere. One day our curiosity got the best of us and we stopped to see how the berries were picked. As I stood there watching and listening to this “local,” I couldn’t help but wonder, what’s so special about these little fruits and how were they different from the larger kind I buy at my local grocery store?
But since we all know that fruit is an important part of a healthy diet and that you should be consuming the equivalent of 1.5 to 2.5 cups a day, I wanted to find out more. What I found out is these wild blueberries plants are only one of three fruits native to North America. They have grown naturally in the rocky barren fields of Maine and Canada for thousands of years. Unlike commercially produced blueberries, they grow on a low bush and are “raked” off the plant. Most are sent to packing sheds where they are cleaned, frozen and put up for worldwide distribution.
Wild blueberries are a nutrient-rich food packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They have twice the antioxidant capacity of cultivated blueberries because their battle for survival all these years yields a particularly hardy fruit packed with megadoses of antioxidants and medicinal compounds.
However, all blueberries are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and K and manganese. And they have the highest antioxidant power of any other fruit. These antioxidant compounds are found in their deep blue colors. The pigments, called anthocyanins, are known for their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They help us win the battle against cognitive decline, prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, aid in having healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of cancer. Need I say more?
So whether you prefer the wild varieties, which are mostly frozen at the height of their ripeness, or the fresh kind you buy at the produce stand or grocery store, consume blueberries and lots of them. Use them in your smoothies, in homemade pancakes and muffins, and on cereal, yogurt, and salads. And, if you want to splurge a little like we did in Maine one evening for dessert, enjoy a slice of wild-blueberry pie chocked full of blueberries, real sugar, and a buttery, flaky pie crust. Yummy!
We all know water intake is important … after all it is August in Charleston. But even though it can feel like 100 degrees outside this time of year, as we age our sense of thirst is not as sharp, so it’s easy to become dehydrated and not even know it.
As the mercury rises, is it necessary to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to stay hydrated? Although there is little science behind this precise advice, there are plenty of good reasons to drink a lot of water. Doing so either plain or in the form of other liquids or foods is essential to your health. Most of your body is made up of water, and you lose it daily when using the bathroom, exposing your skin to the sun, when you sweat and even when you breathe.
Here are six reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
—Drinking water helps maintain balan
ce. Your body is composed of about 60 percent water, which is necessary for digestion, absorption, circulation, saliva transportation of nutrients and maintenance of body temperature. When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. Listen to thirst cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk or d
ecaf coffee — but not alcohol.
—Water has no calories. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While it doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for high caloric beverages certainly helps if you are trying to lose weight. Food with high water content looks larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal and beans.
—Water helps energize muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which causes muscle fatigue. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink 17 ounces of fluids two hours before exercise and continue at regular intervals to replace what’s lost by sweating.
—Water helps keep skin supple. Your skin contains plenty of water and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. Dehydration dries and wrinkles skin. But more is not necessarily better here. If you adequately hydrate, your kidneys will pass any excess as urine. You can also help “lock” moisture into your skin with moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep water in.
—Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood-urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that passes through the kidneys and is excreted. When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color and odor increase because the kidneys trap extra fluid needed for normal bodily functions. If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones.
—Water helps maintain bowel function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along in your gastrointestinal tract. When you don’t get eno
ugh fluid, your colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration — and the result is constipation. Adequate fluid and fiber is a perfect combination to keep your bowels functioning properly.
Here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1. Have a beverage (alcohol excluded) with every snack and meal.
2. Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high-water content adds to your hydration. About 20 percent of fluid intake comes from such foods.
4. Keep a bottle of water with you and drink whenever and wherever possible.
5. Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, water is your best choice because it has none.
So this summer and always, make water your beverage of choice.
In an earlier blog, I talked about the MIND diet (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative delay) as it relates to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is one of several healthy “diets,” but the truth is any healthy diet can add years to your life, and life to your years. We all can start now and reap the benefits today of aging well from the food choices that we make. It’s all about quality of life, right?
To become a nationally board certified health coach, (I take my national exam in September) a candidate must have a general understanding of good nutrition and how it plays a part in weight loss, healthy aging and preventing specific chronic diseases.
The basics of understanding a healthy diet includes knowledge of what is unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods, lean protein, adequate fiber, healthy fats and the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. We understand the need for water intake, and the roles hunger and thirst play in maintaining weight balance.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describe what healthy eating is all about for people over 50. These guidelines are flexible enough so you can choose a diet of nutritious foods that you like, are readily available and fit your budget.
They suggest people 50 and older choose these foods every day.
Fruit — 1½ to 2½ cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped fruit? A fresh two-inch-in- diameter peach or 16 grapes.
Vegetable — 2 to 3 1/2 cups. What is the same as a half-cup of chopped vegetables? Two cups of uncooked leafy vegetables.
Grains — 5 to 10 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of grains? A small bagel, a slice of whole grain bread, a cup of flaked, ready-to-eat cereal or a half-cup of cooked rice or pasta.
Protein foods — 5 to 7 ounces. What is the same as an ounce of meat, poultry or fish? One egg, one-quarter cup of cooked beans or tofu, a half-ounce of nuts or seeds or one tablespoon of peanut butter.
Dairy — 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk. What is the same as one cup of milk? One cup of plain yogurt or 1½ to 2 ounces of cheese. One cup of cottage cheese is the same a half-cup of milk.
Oils — 5 to 8 teaspoons. What is the same as oil added to cooking? Foods like olives, nuts and avocados have a lot of oil in them.
Keep fats solid at room temperature and added sugars and sodium small. If you eat too many foods containing these ingredients you will not have enough calories left in you daily allotment to get in the more nutritious foods you need.
So how much should you eat? It depends on how active you are. It’s calories in, calories out as determined by how active you are each day. If you eat more calories than you use, you will gain weight.
But don’t get obsessed with counting calories. Try to use your daily calories wisely and choose foods that have a lot of different nutrients but not a lot of calories. That way you can eat more food, and if you are like me, you love to eat.
Consider these foods as an example, which can be eaten together or separately: A medium banana, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a glass of milk. The milk gives you more calcium than the peanut butter but the peanut butter gives you more protein. The banana gives you potassium. That’s why it is so important to eat a variety of healthy foods.
How many calories do people over 50 need each day?
A woman who is not physically active needs about 1,600 calories a day. One who is somewhat active needs about 1,800 calories. A woman with an active lifestyle needs 2,000 to 2,200 calories per day.
A man who is not physically active needs about 2,000 calories. One who is somewhat active needs 2,200 to 2,400. And a man with an active lifestyle needs 2,400 to 2,800 calories per day.
And one last tip: Aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of physical activity each week.
Strolling down the vitamin isle of your favorite drug store is like taking a long walk off a short dock. If you aren’t careful, you might be all wet when it comes to having good health. This is especially true of so-called heart-healthy supplements.
Consumer Reports says in its July 2017 issue of “On Health, the Truth About What’s Good for You,” that most of those shelves loaded down with expensive dietary supplements touted to help you heart are a waste of money. These include omega-3 fish-oil pills, Q10 (or CoQ10) and red yeast rice.
Consuming foods — like sardines, tuna and mackerel — do contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for maintaining a healthy heart. But taking a pill as a substitute is extremely “iffy” based on numerous studies endorsed by the American Heart Association. People who have already had heart attacks or been diagnosed with heart failure might benefit from taking heavy doses of fish-oil supplement, but only reduce their chance of dying of heart disease by a mere 10 percent.
Coq10 is another supplement that is not all that it is hyped up to be. Supplements of this compound, produced by the body as well as some healthy foods, are touted as been good management tools in the prevention of heart failure and alleviating muscle aches associated with cholesterol-lowering statins. But here again, there is a significant lack of conclusive evidence that this supplement does what it is supposed to do.
Red yeast rice pills are the latest unproved heart-healthy supplement making the vitamin shelf rounds. Red yeast rice is said to lower LDL (or “bad’) cholesterol in the human body. However, Consumer Reports lists red yeast rice as one of 15 supplement ingredients to avoid.
Remember, with over-the-counter supplements, the user seldom knows what she is getting because there is little or no government regulation by the federal government. Although there are some high-quality supplements available, it is best to get them through your trusted health-care provider. Otherwise you might be wasting not only your money but also your health because some over-the-counter supplements interact badly with certain prescribed medications.
We are in an exciting time in life. Just as we had the beginning of the digital revolution at the end of the last century, we are now experiencing a personal transformation revolution. It’s about becoming healthier, happier and living your own life with purpose. But better health and positive change won’t come unless you know what you’re doing.
Here are five steps to help you begin your own journey on the road to personal development:
- Set goals: The first step to living the way you want is to set goals for each part of your life. Those would be your health, career, finances, spirituality and family, but not necessary in that order. Setting separate goals in each area of your life allows you to prioritize what you want to achieve so you can increase your chances of doing so.
However, if you are like most people, you set goals but fail to achieve them because they are too vague. When I work with my health coaching clients, one of the things we work on is setting SMART goals. So what is a SMART goal?
S — Specific: If you want to lose weight, for example, you need to specify how much.
M — Measurable: The easier it is to track your progress, the better your chance of attaining it. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” said Lord Kelvin. Tracking your food intake is one way to do this and makes it less difficult to determine if extra efforts are in order in case you experience a setback or come up short on the progress you desire.
A — Achievable: Although you should aim high, make sure your goals are still achievable and action-oriented.
R — Realistic: While some goals are achievable, they might not be realistic for this moment in time. An example might be you have decided to do a marathon but you have not even run a mile yet. Running is realistic, but you might want to start by building up to running a marathon by completing a 5k (3.1 miles) or a 10k (6.2 miles) race first.
T — Time-based: Setting a deadline will help you remain focused and ensure you stay on track. Using the same example above, you might say, “starting June 1 I will begin jogging and complete a 5k race by Sept. 1, 2017.”
- Create an action plan: Once you’ve set your goals and have written them down, create an action plan on how to achieve them. What activities do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you have a long-term goal, break it down into small steps to make it manageable. Don’t forget to track your progress so you can look back and pat yourself on the back every time you move one step closer to your goal.
- Make time for growth activities: Even though life is very busy, it’s vital that you make time for yourself and your own personal growth. Take 15 minutes to read, learn, or listen to a podcast. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to read or write in your journal. If mornings are tough for you, block out 15 minutes during the day or before you go to bed at night. Whenever you chose is up to you but make sure to try and do it daily.
- Adopt a positive mindset: Optimists are more likely to enjoy and succeed in life than people who always see the negative in a situation. Fill your head with positive information and people. Before long you too will have a sunnier disposition and all the health benefits that come with it.
- Keep a journal: Journaling allows you to keep a record of your progress. It helps you learn from the challenges you face and your triumphs and everything in between. I personally like to have two journals going at all times, a gratitude and goal journal. Writing everything down gives me a chance to reflect on my journey, embrace the challenges and savor the joyful moments along the way to the destination.
If you have already set your goals and accomplished them you are in good shape. Give yourself a pat on the back. Even though there is no special prize, if you have managed to do it by yourself, you’ve learned it takes longer and with more mistakes.
However, have you tried to succeed alone and failed? Health coaching can help you dive a little deeper. I know the reason that people lose weight but never seem to keep it off. People THINK that the reason they give up exercise is that they’re lazy but there’s a surprising reason they don’t stick with it. Meditation is something one can use to relieve stress; I know what it takes to cultivate a daily practice with little effort. People feel they should be restricting calories and avoiding certain foods to eat a healthy diet and are shocked when that’s not the case. Would you like to have a wellness breakthrough session with me? You’ll discover the top 5 things that can get in the way of your health goals, and the #1 thing you need to move forward.
Research shows that three similar diets are proven to protect older folks from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They are the MIND (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, the original DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet.
Lately I’ve been hearing from many clients that the only way to lose weight is to eat lots of protein and cut carbs. “How is a diet that limits many of the foods you love like pasta, crusty French bread, alcohol, etc. going to work long term?” I ask them. “Isn’t enjoying good food with family and friends one of the things you enjoy in life?”
We actually are having winter this year in the Lowcountry even though freezes have been few and far between. That means the grocery shelves should still be full of fresh greens. If not, check out local farmers markets, especially if you’re looking for tasty kale, chard and collards.
Packed with vitamin A, C, K and E, these vegetables are also rich iron, calcium, manganese and potassium, as well as a wealth of antioxidants, which have numerous beneficial effects for our health.
Kale is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. Simply remove the leaf from the stem sauté quickly with a little bit of lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. You can also make a salad with it or add it to quinoa to make a healthy and satisfying meal.
Collards here is the South are extremely healthy too. My husband and I own a farm in Hampton County where this deep green vegetable is one of our favorites. We wash our collards carefully and use kitchen shears to cut them into thick, two-inch shreds, which we add to a pot of boiling organic chicken broth and fresh green onions, including the stems, seasoned to taste. We make sure to not leave them on the stove for more than 20 minutes. The longer you boil them, the less the nutritional value. So keep sampling until they reach the consistency you like.
Collards also are excellent when added to various soups; so don’t be hesitant to experiment.
Fresh chard is somewhat of a new staple for traditional Southern cooks. A relative of the beet family, chard offers beautiful green, yellow and red color to winter dishes. Fresh young chard is great in salads, while more mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked. The bitterness typically fades with cooking, so also sample often until you get the taste and consistency you like.
So, don’t be shy. No need to wait until spring. Ask your grocer or you favorite farmer for fresh kale, collards and chard now. Your body will thank you.
Over the holidays, I read a book by David Perlmutter, MD, called the “Grain Brain.” It has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years but only recently caught my eye. Maybe subconsciously I knew I was eating too much grain, especially wheat, over this holiday season. After reading this book and skimming another one, “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD, I decided to make some changes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love wheat products. However, what I read has encouraged to cut way back, if not eliminate, whole wheat from my diet.
Historically, wheat is not bad for you. But since the 1980s, the new forms of wheat that have been genetically modified cause inflammation in our bodies, our guts to leak and trigger the increase in autoimmune diseases.
So, what’s the solution? Resorting to the new gluten-free replacements foods on the market today? And why is wheat bad for you? Here’s what I have learned from Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist, and Dr. Davis, a cardiologist:
- Did you know whole wheat is full of sugar? Yes, eating two slices of whole wheat bread could spike your blood sugar as much as eating two tablespoons of pure sugar. Not good because it could put you on the path to diabetes.
- This chronic spike in blood sugar and insulin can increase visceral fat around your belly. This abdominal fat manufactures excess estrogen in both men and women and can lead to breast cancer in women, “man boobs” in men.
- You may know that skin is our largest organ and part of our immune system. But did you know that excessive amount of wheat can advance aging and cause wrinkles? Wheat has also been linked to skin inflammation and psoriasis.
- And it doesn’t seem to matter what type of wheat. Organic, sprouted or stone ground, it’s still wheat. Wheat in and of itself triggers high blood sugar, visceral fat and inflammation.
- Wheat and baldness are linked. It seems that eating wheat can fuel a certain type of baldness, alopecia areata. This is the non-heredity kind, a type of hair loss that occurs in patches, usually from the scalp. Dr. Davis says he has patients who quit eating wheat products and regrow hair in their bald spots where skin once had inflammation.
- Wheat is the only plant food that generates an acidic by-product, which can affect your body’s PH level. You need to maintain a healthy PH level and non-acidic environment in your body so you don’t pull calcium from your bones. Bones that have become calcium depleted are ripe for fractures and osteoporosis.
- And lastly, elimination of wheat from your diet can help with fewer mood swings, better moods, deeper sleep and better concentration. But caution! If you decide to take yourself off wheat, be careful. Some folks experience withdrawal symptoms that include brain fog, irritability and extreme fatigue.
Although wheat hides in foods besides the bread aisle, going wheat-free is easier than you think. Eliminate processed foods and start cooking from scratch again. Create simple salad dressing from extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and spices. Avoid fast-food restaurants and convenience foods in the grocery stores. You’ll save money and your health.
Healthy eating can benefit you in many ways. It can help you live longer and become stronger. Good nutrition keeps your muscles, bones and organs in tip-top shape. A proper diet can also reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Also, healthy eating leads to consuming fewer calories and more nutrient-rich food that will keep your weight under control.
Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy diet can sharpen your mind, too. Nutrients are essential for the brain to function properly. Most kinds of nuts, but particularly walnuts, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that can improve focus and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s’ disease. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods enhances memory and mental alertness as you age.
Consuming wholesome meals rich in nutrients will give you more energy and help you look better. Looking better improves self-esteem. The way you eat and the way you feel are connected. If you eat well by properly nourishing your body, you feel good.
This holiday season try to incorporate some of the following tips into your daily eating habits. If you start now by incorporating small changes, you won’t’ be so overwhelmed come January.
— Reduce sodium intake.
— Avoid white flour, refined sugar and white rice.
— Put five colors on your plate. Fruits and vegetables rich in color correspond to being rich in nutrients.
— Eat until you are satisfied, but don’t stuff yourself.
— Be mindful of beverage consumption. Alcohol induces overeating.
— Make time for exercise. It relieves stress and helps prevent weight gain.
And let me leave you with these thoughts:
Don’t’ restrict yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday treats. Just be aware of how much you are consuming and limit the amount. Think twice about drinking a second glass of an alcoholic beverage. Instead, incorporate healthy options of things you enjoy. One of my holiday favorites is alcohol-free eggnog. I have found the soy version every bit as rich and satisfying but with half the calories. Enjoy the holidays, incorporate healthy recipes into your holiday meals and make time for physical activity. Give the gift of health to yourself starting now.