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Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.

What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.

Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.

So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?

Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.

Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!

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20% Genes + 80% Lifestyle= ?

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My Great Aunt, 108 years old.

I have a great aunt that is 108 years old. She is still mobile, lives at home and is mentally sharp. She is one of the oldest citizens of North Carolina and often interviewed by the media on secrets to longevity and quality of life. Although her sister (my grandmother) lived to be 97, her health and quality of life declined in her late 80s.

What’s the difference between these two sisters even though both had longevity?

Researchers agree that a person’s genes account for only 20 percent of human longevity. The balance depends on how you live life in your younger years. Both ladies owned their own businesses. My grandmother worked until her late 70s, my great aunt until her early 90s. Neither had regular exercise routines, but both were always very busy with their businesses. My aunt walked, climbed stairs and did a bit of lifting in her younger years because she owned an interior design business. She never seemed to sit down. My grandmother was a little overweight most of her life, and my great aunt was always thin and still remains a snappy dresser. Neither of them watched very much television.

My grandmother smoked occasionally earlier on. My great aunt never did. They both enjoyed a little wine with their food, and my grandmother would have a beer occasionally. They both ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet — especially lots of olive oil and fish. I’m convinced that their diet is the second key contributor to their longevity.

The four basics to a Mediterranean diet:

1. Eat more plants — Plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to good health, yet most of us come up short on these.

2. Choose healthier fats — The Mediterranean diet is not low in fats. But olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and fish are extremely good for you, so eat as much of them as you can.

3. Lean protein — While plant-based foods make up the majority of a Mediterranean diet, lean meats can also play a key role. Protein consumption via seafood, poultry, eggs and lean meats in moderation are important.

4. Beverages — A little wine may be included in a Mediterranean diet, but moderation is extremely important. Water is by far the critical staple. So drink lots of it throughout your waking hours.

Do you want to make changes in you lifestyle and look and feel better? Is the quality of your life important now as well as in the future? I can help you make the necessary changes and help you stick with the program. Consider taking advantage of my free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session. It is designed to improve your eating and other health habits critical for enjoying a long and quality way of life.

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How to Make Weight Loss Last

How to Make Weight Loss Last

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, especially after 50 years of age, you know it’s an extremely difficult challenge. You should also know that keeping off those extra pounds is even harder.

According to the International of Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent who lost at least 10 percent of what they started with were able to keep it off long term. And those who lost more are less likely to keep it off. So why is this?

The key to lasting change in any area of your life is developing healthy habits and sticking with them. So start now to develop good dietary choices. This makes managing the weight loss far easier. It’s also important to establish reasonable goals ahead of time. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. When it comes to maintaining your body weight, keep that goal in mind and hold yourself accountable.

But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track occasionally. As I often tell my health-coaching clients, change is not linear. It’s OK to slip occasionally. Just get back on track as soon as you can and continue working toward becoming the best that you can be.

It’s also important to customize your diet to fit your lifestyle once you are in maintenance mode. The key is to find what works for you personally. One diet does not fit all, and neither does one diet-maintenance plan.

Fun times, vacations, dinners out, etc. are important. It’s fine to enjoy these times. They are a part of enjoying life. So plan accordingly. Keep your overall diet healthy and practical for your lifestyle. Here’s a time-tested rule of thumb: If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can splurge for the other 20 percent.

Of course, no article on maintaining weight loss would be complete without reference to exercise. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Exercise is a great way to break through weight loss plateaus and help you manage your weight once you have reached your goals. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk around the block, an intense 10k race, or anything in between, exercise is great for maintaining your weight, your energy and a critical can-do attitude.

Once you have hit your weight-loss goal, it’s wise to continue to build muscle mass with exercise such as resistance training. As we age, we lose muscle mass. But many women don’t want to build muscle, only lose fat. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Muscle burns fat and it important for maintaining your weight and keeping your metabolism revved up. The best way to lose fat is to build lean muscle with exercise and the right amount of protein, plant based protein counts too.

If you find you are struggling with losing weight, or keeping it off, accountability may be the missing piece for you. Give me a call for a free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session to see how I might be able to help.

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Don’t Forget to Eat Your Pears

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An apple a day really is a great way to stay healthy, but don’t forget pears! The nutrition benefits of the lowly pear rank right up there with the best of fruits. Pears are juicy, sweet, crunchy and full of juice. They also contain dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins — especially when the skins are left on the fruit.

Pears are easy to digest, low in calories, full of vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and non-allergenic for most people. They are especially promising in the treatment of type-2 diabetes in women as well as beneficial in fighting heart disease and treating colon problems.

There are basically two kinds of pears: European (which include Bartlett’s) and Asian. The best way to determine if a pear ready to eat is to gently press the flesh near the stem. If it is spongy, it’s ready. If your pears are still hard, put them in the refrigerator and wait until they soften. Some people also put them in paper bags to hasten ripeness.

When ready to eat, some cooks dice pears and add them to salads which can include mustard greens, kale, watercress, walnuts, and raisins. Chopped pears also go well with grated ginger, honey, and cereals. One of my favorite ways to prepare pears is to make a cobbler or what is known as “pear crisp.” (Recipes for Pear Crisp can be found online or in cookbooks.) An excellent site to visit is http://usapears.org.

So, the next time you head out looking for a healthy fruit to eat, don’t forget the pears. They’re plentiful this time of year and should cost between $1.50 to $4 per pound, depending on freshness and where you find them.

Do you have a good pear recipe to share with me? If so, let me know and I’ll include it here in my blog. Thanks!

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Are statins safe AND effective?

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Statins lower cholesterol in most people’s blood. There is no disputing this fact. But questions still remain about whether the results are worth the risk.

Researchers and doctors do not yet know what the long-term effects might be for people who are prescribed statins. They are not sure about side effects, and they don’t know for sure if statins can help prevent heart disease.

Statins are prescribed under different names. They include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). Generic versions of these medications are also available. They block substances required to make cholesterol in the body, and also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on your artery walls. These plaques can clog blood vessels and cause heart attacks.

But high cholesterol alone does not make the case for prescribing statins, especially for people under the age of 50, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include race, gender, blood pressure and whether you have diabetes or smoke cigarettes. The following guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association apply to people who are likely to be helped by statins:

— People who already have cardiovascular disease. These include victims of heart attacks, strokes caused by blockages in a blood vessel, mini-strokes, peripheral artery disease and those who have had prior surgery to open or replace coronary arteries.

— People who have very high LDL (bad) cholesterol, those who have diabetes and patients whose risk of a heart attack is high within the next 10 years.

But there are things you should start doing now whether you have been prescribed a statin or not. They are:

— Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.

— Establish a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, refined carbohydrates and salt. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.

— Establish a proven exercise regimen and stick with it.

— Maintain a healthy belt size, which is less than 40 inches in men and less than 35 inches in women.

And this is where integrated health coaches can help. They will work with you on a regular basis to help you to reach your health goals and to maintain them. Also remember: If you are prescribed a statin, be sure to be tested regularly and follow your doctor’s advice.

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Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake Strawberries

Fourth of July is synonymous with cookouts and barbecues, but healthy eating isn’t always a priority. If you are health conscious or thinking about beginning a healthy lifestyle, start with your food choice for this red, white and blue weekend. I like to bring a healthy dish to my Independence Day celebrations so I know there will be a healthy option available. This 4th of July, I’m bringing this easy, healthy and festive recipe.

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This dish can be used as an appetizer or dessert and includes the patriotic colors of red, white and blue.

Happy 4th of July from Lisa Burbage and Wellness Beyond Fifty,LLC.

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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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Statins Cut ‘Bad’ Cholesterol

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You have your blood tested, your “bad” cholesterol is high and your doctor prescribes a statin to cut plaque buildup on the walls of your arteries, thus reducing the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke.  Which, of course, is good.  But should you worry about side effects of this potent drug?

Although proper diet and exercise is critical in the fight against heart disease — the nation’s leading cause of death — most health experts agree that the benefits of statins largely outweigh the risks associated with this prescription medication.  That’s why more than one in four residents of the United States have increasingly been using statin drugs since it was introduced in 1987.  It’s also interesting to note that about twice as many men than women 65 and older are currently prescribed this medicine.

Statin drugs block the action of a chemical in the liver that is necessary for making both high-and low-density cholesterol.  Even though cholesterol is necessary for normal cell and body function, very high levels of it can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition where cholesterol-containing plaques build up in arteries and block blood flow.  A high-density cholesterol level is the most common reason that a person is prescribed a statin.

Most people who take this drug do not experience side effects.  Those who do have a reaction report headaches, a feeling of pins and needles in their arms and legs, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or a rash.  Only a few experience memory loss, cataracts, liver failure and skeletal muscle damage, so it is very important for users to report ill effects to their doctors.

Meanwhile, studies indicate that statins may play a role in slowing the aging process. As we get older, our cells do not divide and multiply as quickly as they used to.  Statins delay cell deterioration, a recent study in Naples, Italy, has found.

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Get Smart with Exercise

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Regular exercise is not only a young person’s game.  Studies show that as your age, getting a regular workout affects the brain in such a way that strengthens cognitive abilities.

How long do you exercise daily?   Do you wear a tracking device that records the number of steps you take each day?  If not, then consider buying one.  Fitbits and other brands are now available where ever sporting goods are sold.  An investment of  $100 to $150 for an easy-to-use tracker worn on your wrist is well worth the time and expense. You establish a goal — say, 10,000 steps (or about 5 miles) — and get going.  By the end of the day, your tracker tells you where you stand. But, remember, check with your doctor or health-care provider first to determine your daily goal.

Exercise is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body — and especially your brain — in good working order.  New studies show that people 65 and older who stay active, don’t smoke and eat healthy have less trouble remembering things.  And the more intense your daily exercise, the more your brain works as it should.  Again, be sure to check with your health-care provider to determine your maximum limit.

“Physical activity is an attractive option to reduce the burden of cognitive impairment in public health because it is low cost and doesn’t interfere with medications,” said Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our results suggest that moderate to intense exercise may help older people delay aging of the brain, but more research from randomized clinical trials comparing exercise programs to more sedentary activity is needed to confirm these results.”

Exercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to Dr. Wright’s population-based observational study.

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Get Smart with Blueberries

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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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