All posts in Nutrition

No More Excuses

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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?

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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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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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Red Wine Gets Thumbs Up

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Alcohol of any kind — beer, wine and spirits — is harmful to your health, but again a qualifying notation may be necessary regarding red wine.  A recent study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine says people with Type 2 diabetes benefited from a daily glass of red vino.

The two-year study was done in Israel on 224 patients with controlled Type 2 diabetes.  The subjects were alcohol abstainers who typically drank water and followed a Mediterranean diet without calorie restrictions.   Each participant agreed to drink either 5 ounces of mineral water, 5 ounces of white wine or 5 ounces of red wine at dinner during the study period.

After two years of participation, the red wine drinkers increased their HDL (“good’) cholesterol by about 10 percent, and generally decreased their ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol. The positive changes did not occur in white-wine the drinkers.

However, both red- and white-wine drinkers lowered their triglycerides and fasting plasma glucose levels compared to the water drinkers.

But it’s very important to note that the wine drinkers consumed only 5 ounces daily.  So, as we’ve noted here previously, be very careful if you drink any kind of wine.  Do not over do it!

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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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When to Take Vitamin Supplements

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Are vitamin supplements effective?

The answer is yes — especially for older folks — but it’s best to check with your doctor or dietitian first about the need for a supplement, and your trusted pharmacist about the supplement’s brand, before starting any vitamin regime. Also ask them what a particular supplement will do and not do, then carefully follow instructions.

Needless to say, all of your daily vitamins should be consumed through whole foods, but for some people this may be difficult. If you are not sure what and how much vitamin-rich foods you should have, ask your doctor or dietitian for dietary recommendations that pertain specifically to you and your condition. Keep your list handy so you don’t forget. And always remember, supplements are not intended to be a whole-food substitute.

Whole foods contain the nutrients your body needs to function properly. But you need to know the combination and proportions of these foods in order to get the proper result.  Certain whole foods will also provide essential fibers to prevent constipation and help ward off diseases, including diabetes and heart problems. Healthy foods contain natural chemicals and antioxidants to protect you from cancer, keep blood pressure in check, prevent heart disease, slow oxidation and protect cell tissue.

Try to eat a wide variety of healthy foods including fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish. These foods typically contain all the vitamins and minerals you need. However, the Mayo Clinic, notes there are certain situations that may require individuals to take fortified supplements in addition to a balance diet:

  • Adults 50 and older should consume B-12 supplements or foods fortified with this vitamin.
  • Adults 65 and older who are not receiving daily nursing care should take 800 international units of vitamin D daily to reduce the risk of falls.
  • Pregnant women should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily from supplements or fortified foods in addition to eating whole foods that naturally contain foliates. They should also take a prenatal vitamin that includes iron. But it’s best to carefully follow your doctor’s orders.

The Mayor Clinic also recommends taking approved supplements if you:

  • Consume less than 1,600 calories daily.
  • Are vegan or vegetarian and eat a limited variety of healthy foods.
  • Don’t consume at least two servings of fish a week.  Otherwise, you may need a fish-oil supplement as recommended by your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist.
  • Are a woman who experiences heavy bleeding during menstrual cycles.
  • Have a medical condition that affects how your body absorbs nutrients.
  • Have any medical procedure in which your doctor recommends supplements.
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Make Strength Training a Part of Your Daily Routine

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Regular physical activity is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is important to make daily activity a regular part of your life. But research has shown that strength training is just as beneficial as an aerobic exercise.

Strength training regularly can reduce signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions such as, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain and depression. In particular, those with diabetes can better manage and control their glucose levels by adding strength training to their lifestyle. A little strength training can also have a positive impact on a person’s mental and emotional health.

As you age your balance and flexibility tends to weaken, and that can lead to falls and broken bones. Adding strength training and properly executing each exercise can increase your flexibility, balance, bone strength and agility.

When beginning a strength-training regimen, it is important to start slowly and work your way up. Try to do strength-training exercises for all of your major muscles groups at least twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. Be sure to alternate muscle groups throughout the week. There will be slight fatigue and muscle soreness, but that should only last for a few days.

Execute these strengthening exercises to target upper and lower body:

Upper Body

  • Arm curls
  • Side arm raises
  • Chair dips

Lower Body

  • Squats
  • Toe Stands
  • Leg curls

As you get comfortable with your exercise program, you will learn what your body can and cannot handle. Strength training will allow you to perform day-to-day tasks with ease and help you maintain your independence. Also, as with any exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor before starting.

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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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