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.
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.
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:
- Arm curls
- Side arm raises
- Chair dips
- 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.
Get smart. Eat brain food. And here’s a handy list to think about:
- Fish, the oily the better, like salmon, tuna and sardines. AARP calls it “Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
- Blueberries and grapes. Same as above.
- Beets. Increases blood flow to promote neurons in the hippocampus, the “re-membery” part of your brain.
- Tomatoes and avocados. Same as above. They help you learn and remember things.
- 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.
- 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.
- Red wine and red grapes. Same as above, minus the caffeine.
- Dark chocolate. Go no lower than 72 percent cocoa.
- 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.
- Olive oil. Same as above plus Omega 3.
- 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.
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.
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?
Women outlive men two-to-one. But it hasn’t always been this way.
I read a study recently that found men and women died of so-called natural causes at about the same rate until about 1900. But by the year 1970, men have become twice as likely to pass away of old age than women.
Why is this?
Because of heart disease and stoke.
Ok, then why are men more likely today to die of hear
t disease and stroke compared to women?
Men appear to be more vulnerable to these diseases because their body fat — called “adiposity” — tends to collect between the chest and hips. And it is between these areas where men need to work on their “core” values.
By that I mean men should focus their exercise to include leg-lifts, full sit-ups and weightlifting that strengthens the core muscles. This combined with a proper diet will do wonders for men’s health.
So wise up, men, and get with the program.
Moderation is Key in Salt Consumption
Too much salt in your diet can kill you. Not enough can kill you too. So how much is enough?
Although everyone requires some salt intake, the American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 1,500 milligrams daily for adults. That’s slightly less than three-quarters of a teaspoon. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees, but only for adults over age 50. Those younger than 50 and in good health may ingest up to a full teaspoon (2,300 mgs), it says.
Unfortunately, nobody really knows. What is for sure is salt causes your body to retain water, but too much water stretches the tissue of your artery walls, which leads to high blood pressure, and over time high blood pressure can result in a disease called “hypertension,” which can kill you.
So be careful. Have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis by a health-care professional. If he or she determines that you have a problem, set your treatment goals and take action — which typically includes monitoring your salt intake and regular exercise.
Regarding salt consumption, if you eat processed foods, you are probably getting more salt in your diet than you need. So read the labels on packaged foods, and stay under 1,500 mgs of salt daily, which also means stay away from the saltshaker. If you are one of those rare people who do not eat packaged food, remember it’s best to consume less than a teaspoon of salt daily.
And those who can afford to dine out often, you’d better get word to the kitchen that none of the chef’s recipes are good enough “to die for.”
It’s been said before that eating chocolate can improve declining memory loss, and now it may be good for our heart as well. Former “no-nos,” could actually be a “yes” for heart health.
Eating up to 100 grams of chocolate a day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. There also doesn’t seem to be evidence for cutting out chocolate to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher chocolate intake is associated with a lower risk of future cardiovascular events.
Contrary to popular belief, milk chocolate and dark chocolate may have similar benefits. Not only flavonoids, but also other compounds such as calcium and fatty acids, provide proof for the association between milk and dark chocolate.
Moderate consumption of chocolate doesn’t appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A common and considerably healthy daily consumption of chocolate is around 7 grams.
Higher levels of consumption are often associated with younger age and lower weight (BMI), waist: hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, inflammatory proteins, diabetes and more regular physical activity — all of which add up to a favorable cardiovascular disease risk profile.
Eating more chocolate was found to be associated with higher energy intake and a diet containing more fat and carbs and less protein and alcohol. Those who have a higher intake of chocolate have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease, around 11 percent, and a 25 percent lower risk of associated death. Those eating the most chocolate seem to have an 18 percent lower risk of disease than those who ate the least.
Researchers have found a significantly lower risk of both conditions associated with regular chocolate consumption. A 25 percent lower risk of any episode of cardiovascular disease and a 45 percent lower risk of associated death.
Reverse causation — those with a higher cardiovascular disease risk profile eating less chocolate and foods containing it than those who are healthier.
So, enjoy that scrumptious, delicious bite of chocolate! Me, I go for the dark stuff. What about you?