All posts in Nutrition

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

Senior Man In Fitness Clothing Running Along Beach

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

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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Use It or Lose It

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“Use it or lose it!”

You’ve heard this cliché practically all you life, right?  That’s because it is absolutely correct.  You could buy a brand new car, park it in a brand new garage, protect it from all the elements etc., but if you don’t crank it up regularly and go for a ride, it will fall apart.

The disintegration process is called “entropy,” which refers to the errors in a system that causes it to fall apart because the object is not being used properly, if at all.  The “thing” that falls apart for lack of use in this instance would be your body.  “Entropy” happens as we age unless we continue to use what God has given us, so to speak.

Exercise your muscles or they will disappear.  Move your joints or they will become arthritic, eat properly or suffer energy loss or stoke, use your brain or become senile, learn to relax or have a heart attack.  You get the message.

Let’s zero in on senility.  Studies have shown that some people in their 70s, 80s and above have high levels of Alzheimer’s disease in their brains, but retain normal cognition.  Why is that?  Have they simply not lived long enough for the disease to manifest itself?  Or have they used their brain efficiently to ward off the effects?

The later appears to be correct.  Lots of people in the twilight of their lives pass away with normal cognition.  They are as sharp mentally as they were when they were 50 years or so younger.  The obvious answer is:  They never quit exercising their brains.  They socialized, read, worked crossword puzzles, continued working and, yes, even learned how to rest their minds through meditation.

So, it is very important to not only to nourish our physical bodies, exercise them properly and rest them with at least 8 hours of sleep daily, the same sort of cycle applies to our brains.  Eat food low in saturated fats, keep hypertension and cholesterol in proper balance, learn how to meditate instead of sitting around sleeping throughout the day, read more and watch less television, interact with people, work at a vocation and/or avocation and remain productive.

Also note that, while it’s harmful to be overweight when you’re young, carrying the proper amount for your age is critical as you enter into your 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Being too thin can kill you too!

Here are some other interesting findings:

  • People who live longer drink two to three cups of coffee.
  • People who exercise live longer than those who don’t, even if it’s only 15 minutes of walking a day.
  • People who do something rather than sitting and watching TV live longer, as do those who continue to engage socially, go to church or other place of worship, remain active politically and read, write, play bridge or solve problems that require using their brains.

In other words, maintain a healthy lifestyle from “head to toe” in order to live a full, conscious life.  Strive to use every part of your body as you age.  It won’t be the same as when you were younger but that’s natural.  And this applies especially to your brain.

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It’s OK to Age in Place But Plan Ahead

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As members of the Baby Boomer generation enter their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, it may be time to get serious about where they will live comfortably, content and autonomous. One’s dwelling is a very important consideration should be at the top of the list as preventive medicine, exercise and other therapies continue to catch on.
So now is the time for older folks to take a good look around their homes and decide now if remodeling is a wise investment, or if it would be better to move on. Many of us would prefer to “age in place” for a variety of reasons.
Your finances, of course, are a major consideration. Is your house paid for? What is it worth? Can you afford to buy or build a new one? Is moving to a retirement community acceptable?
Or, is it possible to improve on what you already have by installing an elevator, access ramps and wider doors? If your bedroom were upstairs, would it be possible to use it as a guestroom, and move downstairs? If so, consider the size of your “new” first-floor room or rooms.
It’s especially important to upgrade your bathroom with more safety and convenience in mind. Should you add a powder room and a shower? You may want to hire an architect or contractor and develop an affordable plan. The services of a financial advisor should also be given serious attention.
And consider your heating and cooling system. Does it need upgrading, or will installing new insulation do the job? Wise spending today can net long-term future savings. Install a carport now instead of later. Or simply add grab bars to your shower and tub.
Just remember, planning now is a matter of perspective. It never hurts to be prepared. And this includes getting an honest, up-to-date appraisal of your property in case you decide to sell. Those numbers will change with the times, but staying on top of the value of your home is critical when considering your future.
But by all means don’t go overboard. Acting on an extreme resolution — like installing an elevator before you need it — may be over the top. You might be wiser just to know where an elevator shaft could go at this stage of the aging game. So channel irrational fears if need be. Sometimes, just knowing improvements are possible will make life easier.

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No More Excuses

progressnotexcuses

Good question:  What is “apathy?”

Apathetic answer:  “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

You are not apathetic. You care.  If you didn’t, you would not be reading my health blog.  You would not know that apathy is a leading cause of death.

Yet, in the context of your wellbeing, it’s critical to remind yourself every day that “apathy” means you have no passion about your health.  So get busy!  Move!  Inspire yourself because you have everything to gain.  Remember:  It’s never too late to stave off mental and physical discomfort of aging.

Bad Excuses

Here, compliments of Grandparents.com is a list of typical reasons people have for not exercising:

—  “Don’t feel like it.”

So, how do you really feel right now?  Great?  Probably not. Again, you would not be reading this blog if all is hunky dory.

Ask yourself, “Why am I even thinking about exercising?”  To feel better?  To be healthier, happier and able to get around?  To make new friends?  To enjoy your family? To live long enough to know your great-grandchildren?

Picture yourself at your peak of happiness.  How would you look and feel?  What would you be able to do that you cannot now?  What’s keeping you from doing something about it starting right now?

—  “Don’t have the time.”

Yeah, right. You don’t have even 10 minutes to exercise. Who are you kidding?

Stretch for a minute or two.  Get yourself warmed up.  You can stretch even if you can’t get out of bed much less off the couch. Get some resistance bands and use them.  They cost $6.  Do this as often as you can.  It’s good exercise.

Jog for five minutes.  You can do this standing up or sitting down by simply lifting and lowering your feet.  Now try jogging faster for one minute.  Work your way up to 10 minutes moving your feet faster for at least two minutes.  You don’t even have to leave the room to get it done.

—  “I can’t.”

Then get into a routine of standing up and sitting down for a few minutes every hour.  Work your way up to doing this 50 times a day.  Prove to yourself that you can do some form of exercise.  That’s half the battle.

—  “I’m tired.”

That’s because you haven’t been doing anything all day.  As I said earlier:  Get busy!  Do something that actually makes you tired.

—  “Too old.”

Who are you kidding?  There’s no such thing as “too old” to exercise.  You can improve your heart health. You can build muscle mass. You can improve your breathing. You’re never too old to do something.  So develop a simple routine, run it by your doctor or you best friend if need be, and slowly rebuild your strength and stamina.  Shoot for a total of at least 30 minutes of steady moving a day.

—  “Don’t like it.”

Exercise with others.  “Get a buddy,” says celebrity trainer Sean Foy. “Then the two of you can argue about how much you hate exercising while you’re leaning against a wall to squat or sitting on chairs doing side bends.  To make exercise more fun, try some jumping jacks with your grandchildren and watch them giggle.”

—  “Too expensive.”

It doesn’t cost anything to walk. And there are several pieces of exercise equipment (like the resistance bands) that are not expensive.

—  “Can’t get back on track.”

Why not?  Don’t beat yourself up because you used to be active but gave up because you could do as much as before.  You’re only hurting yourself. Talk to your friends and family.  Ask your exercise buddy to help.  Say a prayer.  There is no good reason not to exercise.

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Are Nutritional Shakes Worth It?

nutritional shake

Are those powdered protein shakes everyone seems to be purchasing now from stores as well as home dealers good for you?  Are they the secret to losing weight?

“Maybe,” according to a recent report published by the Mayo Clinic.  But they certainly are not a secret elixir to weight loss.

The key to dieting is the fact that dropping pounds requires that you burn more calories than you consume each day.  Therefore, protein shakes will help you lose weight if, all total each day, drinking them cuts down on your calorie consumption. But a healthy diet has always been (and still is) eating fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean sources of protein, plus adding at least 30 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine.

So, if you are inclined to drink the shakes, check the calories in each one you consume, and then combine these calories with those that come from fresh foods to reach your daily goal.  Also remember, powdered shakes are processed foods.  If you rely too heavily on them to replace whole foods, you will not get the nutritional benefits that your body requires.

The average adult needs 46 to 56 grams of protein a day, depending on weight and overall health.  As long as you are eating a healthy diet, adding extra protein — either through protein shakes or other sources — isn’t necessary.  And the unfortunate irony is, consuming too many protein shakes daily in addition to your usual diet will cause you to gain weight, especially if you don’t burn off calories through exercise.

Also, ask yourself, “Am I going to drink the shakes for the rest of my life?”

The answer, of course, is:  Heck no!

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