All posts in Nutrition

Eat Your Fiber

fiber foods

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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Drinking Causes Hangovers; Effect is a Matter of Degree

Friends Eating An Al Fresco Lunch, Holding Wineglasses
If you drink alcohol — which includes beer, wine and liquor — you WILL have a hangover. The difference in severity is a matter of degree.

The human body is a well-oiled machine, built to last well into old age — an average of 81 years for American women and 76 for American men. The introduction of any amount alcohol into the body throws your system out of whack. (Note: this includes red wine). So the best advice for folks who wonder about alcohol consumption is “don’t drink.”

But for those who do decide to take the risk, it’s best to remember the following advice:

  • One drink (4 ounces of alcohol content) is enough, two is chancy, three is dangerous and four is insane.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food slows the effects as alcohol, an alien substance, moves through your system.
  • Drink plenty of water. (Same as above).
  • Alcohol poisons your body, especially your brain.
  • There is no cure for a hangover. Absolutely none.

Some studies indicate that moderate use of alcohol may be of benefit to older consumers who run the risk of heart disease. But those findings are debatable. What is not debatable is there are other ways to avoid heart problems. These include proper diet and exercise.

But what is proper?

There is a lot of information out there about alcohol consumption, dieting and exercise, and it is wise to study them. And once you have a plan, be sure to run it past your family physician. This is especially true for anyone more than 50 years of age.

Once you do have a doctor-approved diet and exercise regime, you should consider another factor that is essential for your success: Who will hold you to it? That’s where a health and wellness coach comes in. Certified health coaches will discuss your situation with you (and your doctor if need be), review your diet and exercise plan, help you understand your personal benefits and then hold you accountable.

Cheers!

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Don’t Forget To Eat Your Beans!

legumes

The guidelines are simple for a healthy diet: Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, unsaturated oils, whole grains, omega 3 fats, no red meat and lots of water. And don’t forget your beans.

Beans are cheap, convenient, versatile, filling and nutritious. They come in red, green, yellow, white, black and brown. They’re full of protein, folate (B vitamins) and fiber. They are antioxidant and also provide iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Beans, of course, are also good for the heart. They can lower bad cholesterol, blood pressure and the risk of type-2 diabetes. They also provide protection for both colon and breast cancer.

Smart people eat lots of beans daily. Beans “feed your brain,” give you energy and combat depression, as do nuts, greens and, occasionally, low sugar (no less than 72 percent cocoa) dark chocolate.

It pays to know your beans. A serving cost only about 9 cents. You can buy them fresh, frozen, dried and canned, and serve in dips, soups, salads, burritos, with red peppers or eggs or by themselves. The delivery system doesn’t matter provided it’s not loaded with salt and sugar.

So tell me. What are your favorite bean recipes?

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