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Now is the Time to Eat Your Leafy Greens

Now is the Time to Eat Your Leafy Greens

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.

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Is Healthy Eating One of Your New Year’s Goals?

Is Healthy Eating One of Your New Year’s Goals?

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.

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Now’s the time for spring veggies

If you’ve been meaning to clean up your diet, there is no time better than right now to get started. Farm-fresh spring vegetables are hitting the Lowcountry, S.C., and you’d be very smart — health wise — to buy them.

Most plentiful at the moment are nutrient-loaded greens — turnips, kales, lettuces, chards and collards. Asparagus, peas and Spring onions are ready as well. Here’s a quick rundown on some of my favorites:

— Turnip Greens: The green, leafy tops of the turnip plant are among the most nutritious veggies in the world. Turnip greens are excellent sources of essential vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that can offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia.

Most folks say turnip greens are fall and winter crops. But the ones you find for sale right now are superb. Try the small Japanese variety called Hakurei, or Tokyo, turnips. The greens are extremely tasty, and the peppery roots — no larger that a golf ball in size — are excellent cooked, or sliced and eaten raw. Simply wash them and serve as you would water chestnuts. No need to peel the skins.

Turnip roots should be stored unwashed in a sealed plastic bag in the hydrator drawer of your refrigerator. Store greens separately wrapped in damp towel or in a plastic bag, but use them as soon as possible.

— Asparagus: Asparagus is freshest and tastiest in spring. One stalk contains only four calories and delivers healthy doses of foliate, potassium and fiber. Buy the fat ones whose buds have yet to spread. They will keep for a couple of days if you stand the spears upright in a glass of water. Eat them raw or sautéed in vegetable or regular olive oil.

— Peas: Take advantage of tasty peas now because 95 percent grown nationally are either frozen or canned. Choose sugar snaps if you’re looking for tasty edible pods to throw in a salad or to simply sauté. Choose shelled varieties if fresh and simply shell them yourself. Peas are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, iron, fiber, vitamin B1 and foliate.

Select peas that are bright in coloring without brown, bruised or withering ends. Peas hold up well in plastic bags. Try to squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing them. They’ll stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to four days.

— Salad Greens: Seasonal salad greens including lettuces, spinach, kale, watercress and arugula are peaking here now. But no need in wasting time and money on iceberg lettuce, which has little or no health value other than water.

Salad greens are almost calorie free, but provide lots of foliate, vitamin C, fiber, potassium and carotene, which help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals.

Buy triple-washed greens singularly or mixed in bags and plastic tubs. Or get them fresh, and clean them yourself. Avoid greens that are brown, yellow, wilted, blemished, bruised or slimy. A good place to check is the stems. If they’re whole and firm, they’re probably fresh. Be sure each leaf is dry before storing in the plastic bags in your refrigerator crisper. You should get up to five days of freshness that way.

— Spring Onions: Also known as scallions, spring onions are in fact very young onions, harvested before the bulb has had a chance to swell. Both the long, slender green tops and the small white bulb are edible, either raw or cooked. They have a similar flavor to onions, but milder.

Look for firm bulbs and bright green, perky leaves. Avoid those that are slimy or wilting. The skin covering a spring onion bulb can be either white or deep red fading to white at the roots. The bulb can be quite pronounced or more like a leek in shape, with no noticeable swelling.

Store spring onions in a perforated bag in the fridge. They do not last as long as onions, about five days at the most.

So do yourself and your family a healthy favor. Stop by your favorite grocery store and roadside stand, and load up on all sorts of spring vegetables. They are currently available almost everywhere, and soon there will be lots of fresh, local tomatoes too. Find out more benefits of tomatoes here.

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Focus on a Plant-Based Diet

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Plant based diets can be very beneficial to your health. Switching to a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean you must give up meat all together. But for most people, it does mean a change in food priorities.

In other words, when planning your menu, build meals around fruits and veggies, and not meats. This simple shift will do more to ward off chronic disease, spark energy and keep you in shape more than any other diet plan. Such a plant-based diet allows for lots of fish and some lean meat, but the focus is on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

A type 2 diabetes time bomb has already been set off in the United States, especially here in the South, and it is doing more damage than any terrorist attack thus far. The best defense for contracting diabetes? Change your diet so that the emphasis in on fresh vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats.

Americans especially are subject to heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. One in three American adults have high blood pressure. The best way to protect yourself? Change your diet. Emphasize fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of fatty meats. Fact: The higher your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, the lower your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating eight or more servings of fruits and veggies a day (most of us eat only 1.5 servings), cuts your risk of a heart attack or stroke by 30 percent.

A smorgasbord of recent dietary studies have shown that vegetarians consume fewer calories, and thus weigh less and have lower body mass indexes, than non-vegetarians. So why not shift your entrée priority from meat to fruits, veggies and whole grains? You will feel fuller on fewer calories, weigh less and have a lower body-mass index. Hello? Can you hear me?

Another fact: Fiber keeps you regular by aiding in digestion and preventing constipation. It also helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Consuming mostly plant-based meals packs your system with fiber, thus helping it run clean.

Worried about failing vision? Eat carrots, which are loaded with vitamin A. But don’t stop there. Your eyes also benefit from a plant-based diet rich in spinach, kale, squash, kiwi and grapes. The lutein and zeaxanthin pigments in these foods combat cataracts and macular degeneration.

How’s you skin? Dry and itchy? You need oil. By cutting back on saturated fats from animal products, there will be less chance of your skin pores clogging with the wrong stuff. Focusing on a plant-based diet means consuming more vitamins, pigments and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene in tomatoes, for example, helps protect your skin from sun damage, and the vitamin C in sweet potatoes smoothes wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen.

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Get Smart with Blueberries

Blueberries

It’s the spring growing season in South Carolina.  Have you forgotten that this is the time to get your garden ready for organic delectables?  Why not try blueberries this year?  The small blue fruits that grow happily on bushes in sandy soil gives your brain the juice it needs to run smoothly year after year, according Science Daily about healthy aging.

Just about everyone likes blueberries.  You can eat them raw, in smoothies, on pancakes with yogurt or, occasionally, on homemade ice cream.  Meanwhile, blueberries have recently gained an enhanced reputation of being a “super fruit” because it has been determined that they have not only the potential to lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, but are also a help older folks stave off the onset of memory problems.

New research was presented recently at the 251st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society that certain antioxidants in blueberries help prevent the devastating effects of dementia, including the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults,” says Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., leader of the research team. He adds that blueberries’ beneficial effects could be due to flavonoids called anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve animals’ cognition.

Currently 5.3 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s. But that number is expected to increase as the U.S. population ages. Estimates are that, by 2025, the number of Americans with this degenerative disorder could rise 40 percent to more than 7 million, and it could almost triple by 2050.

One recent study involved 47 adults aged 68 and older who had mild cognitive impairment, a risk condition for Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers gave them either freeze-dried blueberry powder, which is equivalent to a cup of berries, or a placebo powder once a day for 16 weeks.

“There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo,” Krikorian says. “The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.

In the future, the team plans to conduct a blueberry study with people aged 50 to 65. The group will include people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, such as those who are obese, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. This work could help the researchers determine if blueberries could help prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.

A brief history

Blueberry farms did not exist until the 1900s. They are native to North America and grew in the wild until scientists figured out a way to plant and cultivate them. Today blueberry bushes are grown commercially or in the backyard in slightly acidic soils, and can produce for 20 years or more.

Blueberries are relatives to rhododendrons and azaleas. The bushes offer scarlet fall foliage and creamy white spring flowers. They are also resistant to most pests and plant diseases.

They come in three varieties: Highbush, lowbush and hybrid half-high. Most people plant the highbush in moist, but well-drained soils that are high in organic material.  The ph should be between 4 to 5.  Purchase bushes from a reputable nursery. Each bush should be around three years old.  Plant in early spring, and in full sun. Be sure to give each plant plenty of room to grow.  Keep them weeded and fertilize sparingly according to directions.

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Don’t Buy Supplements Without Doctor’s Approval

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Walk into a name-brand drug store and check out the colorful vitamins and minerals aisle.  Look at all the health supplements!   Need more energy? Less wrinkles? Sleep? Iron? Goat Weed?  It’s like a Yellow Brick Road. A bottle of every vitamin and mineral you’ve ever heard of and more are right there waiting for you.  All you need is red shoes for clicking and a credit card.

But there is lesson in the story of the magnanimous Wizard of Oz.  He’s a nice guy.  He’s also a fraud.  So don’t be fooled by the glitz.  Nutritional supplements are not all they’re cranked up to be.

We mentioned this subject before in this space because it is very important. The message is worth repeating.  Americans spend $11 billion annually on vitamins and minerals, and “baby boomers” are especially vulnerable to the latest fads because they are at the age where they are especially vulnerable to quick fixes regarding their health.  So get real.  If you’re feeling like something’s missing in your diet, it probably is.  But the solution will not be found in an over-the-counter pill.

Supplements cannot prevent or cure illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.  Supplements are no substitute for a good, well-rounded diet.  Consuming too many supplements on a regular basis is not healthy — especially if you are on an aspirin regime or blood-thinners.

Also understand that too much Vitamin A increases your risk of osteoporosis.  Too much Vitamin E can elevate the chances of your having a stroke.  Too much iron can raise your risk of heart problems.  Excesses of anything in pill form can build up in your body fat and become toxic.  Also try to get outside in the sunshine daily for a while.  It’s the best source of Vitamin D.

The key to proper consumption of vitamins, minerals and all the so-called natural supplements is to talk first to your doctor or dietitian about it.  Tell her what’s bothering you. Give her a list of what you typically eat each day, including fruits, vegetables, fortified cereal and low-sugar juices.  Ask her if a multivitamin is right for you, and listen carefully to her instructions.

Also, don’t be fooled by labels that proclaim a supplement is “all natural.”  This is a typical sales gimmick.  But do pay close attention to the nutritional information panel on the bottle.  The percentage of the recommended daily value (DV) of each ingredient should be no lower than 100 percent and no higher than 300 percent.

Ask you health professional about that too. She knows!

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Eat Your Fiber

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Be sure to eat your fiber! It’s a critical dietary admonition for healthy living.  But what exactly is dietary fiber and why is it good for you?

Dietary fiber — also called ‘roughage’ — are coarse substances in grains, fruits and vegetables that aid in digestion and clean intestines, which, when you really stop and think about it, is not proper dinner-table conversation.  So, if your mother says anything about this while dishing out the veggies, it’s best to go ahead and eat them instead of asking, “Why?”

Healthy fiber also comes from long, narrow plant cells with walls thickened by a substance called “lignin,” which help the plant support itself. Ligneous substances when viewed under a microscope appear to have a woody texture. In other words, they are fibrous.

Some fibers are “soluble” and others are not (insoluble).  Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance.  These come from oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barley, some vegetables and psyllium (plantain seeds).  Insoluble fiber is in whole-wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables. Fiber, whether it is soluble or not, is important because it helps keep your intestines clean.

Studies show that high fiber intake can protect you from heart disease by cutting intake of cholesterol, colon cancer, weight gain and Type-2 diabetes by reducing blood sugar and insulin.  Ask your doctor. He or she can further explain this. But it’s best to ask about it in the privacy of his office, and not over lunch.

Anyway, the following is some good advice about consuming more fiber that I found on MedicineNet.com:

  • Increase fiber slowly. First determine how much fiber you are eating daily.  Generally speaking, for men the total should be 38 grams and for women it is 25 grams.  Increasing too quickly can lead to gas, bloating and/or diarrhea.
  • Add fluids.  If you do not have enough fluids (preferably water) with your high-fiber diet, you may end up with the problem that you are trying to avoid: constipation. Get into the habit of drinking a minimum of 2 cups of a calorie-free beverage between each meal.
  • More is not always better, so try not to eat more fiber than your body can comfortably handle.  Pay attention to how your bowel movements are responding to your fiber intake, and ask your physician if you have any questions.
  • You don’t need to get all of your fiber in one meal.  Be creative, and have sources of fiber throughout the day. Add flaxseeds, seeds, or nuts to your salad, soup, cereal, or yogurt.  Keep frozen blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and add to cereal, dessert, shakes or yogurt.  Have cut-up veggies in small baggies available to take with you for snacks.  Choose cereals with a minimum of 4 grams of fiber in each serving.  Add beans and peas to your meals or snacks.
  • Eat whole-wheat flour instead of the processed stuff.
  • Have veggies with your meals whenever possible. Anything that you add will count. The more variety, the more we eat, so have as many different veggies at one meal as you can.
  • Eat lots of fruit at any time, and remember that the fiber is in the skin and/or seeds.
  • If you tend to get bloated or gassy from raw veggies and/or beans, take Beano with your meal. It will greatly reduce these side effects and make eating much more pleasurable.  But check the ingredients and consult with your doctor to make sure Beano is right for you.
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New Year, New You

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Are you one of the many who start the New Year with resolutions about improving your health? If so, congratulate yourself. Wanting to make things better is an excellent start. But it’s the follow up that is too often lacking. Accountability is critical, and that’s where a health and wellness coach can help.

A qualified integrative health coach focuses on you as a whole being. She understands the science and psychology behind successful behavior modification. Through a mutual partnership she works with you to understand your personality as well as your past successes and failures. She helps you to turn good ideas and aspirations into reality.

Wellness Beyond Fifty works closely with you to transform resolutions into solutions— pain free.

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Healthy Eating as You Age

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Did you know that eating healthy can help you live longer and stronger? Good nutrition keeps your muscles, bones and organs in tip top shape. A proper diet can reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Also, eating healthy leads to consuming fewer calories and more nutrient rich foods that will keep your weight under control.

Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy diet can sharpen your mind. Nutrients are essential for the brain to function properly and do its job. Those that eat colorful and consume nuts that are packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods enhances memory and mental alertness as you age.

Consuming wholesome meals that are rich in nutrients will give you more energy and help you look better. Looking better will in turn boost your self-esteem. The way you eat and the way you feel are connected, if you eat well you feel good.

With the holidays approaching eating healthy can be challenging. The holidays bring family and friends together to celebrate traditions and spread the love. They also bring many opportunities for socializing, eating and drinking. Holiday eating and the consumption of alcoholic beverages can result in adding an extra pound or two every year. The holidays do not always have to result in weight gain as long as you focus on eating healthy and staying physically active. Here are some tips for healthy holiday eating:

  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Avoid “bad” carbs – white flour, refined sugar and white rice
  • Look for hidden sugar
  • Put five colors on your plate – fruits and veggies rich in color correspond to rich nutrients
  • Eat until you are satisfied
  • Be mindful of beverage consumption ­- Alcohol can induce overeating
  • Make time for exercise – Exercise relieves stress and helps prevent weight gain

Eating healthy is an ongoing commitment and it can be tough when the holidays roll around. Don’t restrict yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday treats just keep in mind how much you are consuming. Enjoy the holidays, incorporate healthy recipes into your holiday meals and make time for physical activity. Give the gift of health to yourself this year.

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Put ‘Brain Food’ on the Daily Menu

Mediterranean omega-3 diet.

Get smart.  Eat brain food.  And here’s a handy list to think about:

  1. Fish, the oily the better, like salmon, tuna and sardines. AARP calls it “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
  2. Blueberries and grapes.  Same as above.
  3. Beets.  Increases blood flow to promote neurons in the hippocampus, the “re-membery” part of your brain.
  4. Tomatoes and avocados.  Same as above.  They help you learn and remember things.
  5. Walnuts.  The No. 1 nut for helping clear plaque from your brain.  Almonds, pecans, peanuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios and a host of others are good for you too.  But only about a handful a day is right.  And make sure you’re not allergic to any of them.
  6. Coffee.  Contains a protein that promotes neuron growth.  Caffeine does wonders too.  Drinking coffee is like having a fine red wine.  Try smelling and swirling your first sip, and appreciate the genuine flavor of the bean.  You may never want to add sugar or cream again.
  7. Red wine and red grapes.  Same as above, minus the caffeine.
  8. Dark chocolate.  Go no lower than 72 percent cocoa.
  9. Leafy greens, including green tea.  Broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, beet greens, kale, collards.  All are superfoods loaded with antioxidants.  Some inflammation in the body is necessary to help heal wounds and remove irritants.  But uncontrolled inflammation (rashes, psoriasis and the like) is a warning that something might be destroying neurons in your brain.  Antioxidants intervene.
  10. Olive oil.  Same as above plus Omega 3.
  11. Water.  Playing tennis and having trouble keeping the score?  Even a mild case of dehydration can reduce your mental energy and capacity.

BONUS:  And don’t forget your vitamins — especially B6, B12, C, iron and calcium.

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