Invest with Nutrition Now to Age Better Later

 

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

Avoid accelerated aging with diet. Photo Credit: Stone Soup

You can also view this article on the Food & Nutrition Magazine blog, Stone Soup.

From the moment of conception, the human body is aging. And while it cannot be stopped, it’s possible to influence how quickly the body ages. One of the most significant ways is through diet. Think of every bite as a deposit into the bank of health, with nutrient-rich foods being valuable currency. And remember: It’s never too late to make contributions. Here are some tips for each decade of life that promote healthy aging.

Twenties

With the “need it now” mentality fueled by social media and technology, 20-somethings are accustomed to quick and convenient, especially when it comes to food. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean healthy. Convenience foods can be high in calories, fat, sugar and salt. Few provide the right amount of quality protein — an important nutrient for this age group since muscle mass peaks in this decade. A Journal of Gerontology study showed that lean mass, and the muscle that comes with it, could decrease by up to 40 percent from age 20 to 70. Eating a high-protein diet together with exercise can counteract this loss. Include protein-rich foods like lean meats, dairy, fish and lentils with each meal.

Thirties

Many in their 30s enjoy good health and are untouched by the visible signs of aging. Unfortunately, many also are preoccupied with work and family and neglect their health and take for granted their body’s resilience — a resilience quickly chipped away by poor diet. Enter multivitamins. A survey from the market research company NPD Group suggests that the average American adult meets dietary guidelines just seven days out of the year. Almost all fall short of the estimated average requirement for vitamin E, and more than half don’t meet needs for magnesium, folate and vitamin D. Taking a multivitamin helps supply the nutrients needed to support healthy aging.

Forties

In this decade, the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese sharply rises, and with it comes health risks, mostly notably type 2 diabetes. The Obesity Society reports that almost 90 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Weight gain is largely preventable by following a healthy diet. For those in their 40s, it’s important to avoid foods high in refined sugar like soda, candy and pastries. Instead, eating balanced meals with complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber can help manage blood sugar and weight.

Fifties

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, trumping cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being over the age of 50 increases the risk. Add other factors — African-American ethnicity, a family history of heart disease — and the risk increases even more. While some factors cannot be mitigated, diet and exercise are effective tools for preventing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week (or taking a daily supplement) to increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Sixties and older

The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, and most individuals with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. The likelihood of developing the disease doubles every five years after age 65. While there is no cure, research has focused on delaying, slowing and preventing symptoms, and nutritional interventions show promise. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests 2,000 IU of vitamin E as part of a comprehensive care plan that helps slow dementia. More research is needed, but there’s no denying the benefit of a healthy diet and lifestyle to support brain health.

No matter the decade of life, the goal should always be to invest wisely with nutrition.

5 Foods To Fight PMS

Instead of binging on chocolate, try these five foods to help manage PMS symptoms. Credit: Verily Magazine

Instead of binging on chocolate, try these five foods to help manage PMS symptoms. Credit: Verily Magazine

Getting your period may be a natural part of being a woman, but it’s still a total pain. Bloating, headaches, moodiness, cravings, and fatigue are just some premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms that can make the pre-period week uncomfortable and unpleasant for you—and for anyone who stands between you and the last doughnut hole.

Before the late 1980s, PMS was thought to be a psychological disorder rather than a physiological response to hormonal fluctuations necessary to have children—which surely irritated women beyond normal PMS levels. It’s now commonly considered a medical condition. And with evidence about effective dietary treatment options slowly unfolding, it’s apparent that certain nutrients can actually help reduce PMS symptoms.

Read my latest article in Verily Magazine to find out which five foods you should include in your diet when PMS symptoms start acting up.

Comprehensive Care for Anxiety: The Role of Diet

anxiety

What you eat can influence anxiety symptoms. Credit: Food and Nutrition Magazine

Reaching into the mailbox to find the latest Food and Nutrition magazine at my fingertips is always a special treat. I can’t wait to cuddle up on the couch and dive into the fascinating articles on hot nutrition topics or salivate over delectable recipes. That’s why I am over-the-moon thrilled to share with you my first contribution to the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup, on a topic that affects many people, myself included: anxiety.

Diet is the first line of treatment for many physical health conditions, and with good reason. There exists an extensive body of scientific literature supporting the connection between what we eat and our physical health. But can diet affect mental health?

Mental health disorders or diseases, including anxiety disorders, come in a variety of forms and are thought of mainly as biochemically based or emotionally rooted conditions that can’t be affected by diet. Although this may be true in most cases, these can manifest debilitating physical symptoms — increased heart rate, stomach discomfort, stiff jaw, and muscle tension — exemplifying the undeniable link between mind and body.

Forty million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. For many, the care plan is limited to psychotherapy, medication or both. However, advances in nutritional neuroscience suggest that what we eat (and what we don’t eat) can influence the onset, occurrence and severity of anxiety symptoms in meaningfully significant ways.

While a majority of the population suffers from nutritional inadequacies, those with mental health conditions are often exceptionally deficient, bringing into question whether or not specific nutrients may contribute to an effective treatment plan for those with anxiety disorders.

To find out which nutrients you should include in your diet to decrease occurrence of anxiety symptoms, continue reading this article on the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup.

Benefits of Coffee Addiction

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If coffee is your addiction, it’s a good one to have.

As I sit in the airport sipping my venti-iced-skinny-vanilla-latte, I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with college girlfriends at Starbucks the week prior.

“Sometimes I have two cups of coffee in one day,” one said with a tone of guilt and embarrassment.

“I’m trying to switch to tea instead of coffee,” added another, going on to say she dislikes feeling “dependent” on the drug-like liquid. “I hate waking up feeling like I need coffee to function. If I don’t have time in the morning, I find a way to sneak out of work to get my fix.”

I chimed in saying proudly that I drink two cups of coffee daily, one on my way into work and the other after lunch. They looked at me—the never-eat-anything-unhealthy nutritionist—in shock. Wasn’t coffee a harmful beverage packed with addictive caffeine?

My theory: If coffee is your addiction, it’s a good one to have.

While excessive intake of caffeine can be harmful (as we’ve seen with teens chugging multiple caffeine-filled energy drinks usually accompanied with alcohol), a cup of coffee has on average 90 milligrams of caffeine. That’s a far cry from the 250 milligrams in some energy beverages.

Beat the brain drain

Caffeine has substantial scientific literature supporting its ability to improve cognitive performance including increased focus and alertness (1). It temporarily blocks the fatigue-inducing neurotansmitter, adenosine, in the brain so you can function optimally. Studies in everyone from athletes to nurses have shown caffeine can improve mental performance.

Caffeine has also been linked to improved memory. A recent study done at Johns Hopkins University found that caffeine enhances certain memories for at least up to 24 hours (2). But its brain health support isn’t just for short-term benefits. Studies also show better cognitive function in older adults who are regular coffee drinkers (3).

Fight free radicals

Coffee beans contain polyphenols—plant compounds that act as antioxidants to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, a result of exposure to factors like ultra-violet rays, poor diet, pollution, and cigarette smoke. Polyphenols help protect the body and may play a part in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

While many foods and beverages provide polyphenols (including fruits, vegetables, red wine, and chocolate), coffee stands out as one of the richest sources with almost four times the antioxidant content of its greatest beverage competitor, tea (4).

Before you go running to the coffee shop down the street because a dietitian said coffee is good for you, it’s important to note that coffee loses it’s health benefits when it’s diluted with full-fat milk, doused with sugar-laden sweeteners, and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Some drink concoctions on coffee shop menus can run upwards of 500 calories with 30 grams of sugar. This type of coffee addiction can cause damage in the form of an expanding waistline.

The bottom line: there are far worse concerns than a coffee addiction—such as realizing you subconsciously sipped your coffee drink dry while writing an article. Time to get another “fix” before my flight. Cheers.

References

1. Smith A. Effects of caffeine on human behavior. Food Chem Toxicol, 2002;40(9):1243-55.

2. Borota D, Murray E, Keceli G et al. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 2014;17:201-3.

3. Vercambre MN, Berr C, Ritchie K et al. Caffeine and cognitive decline in elderly women at high vascular risk. J Alzheimers Dis, 2013;35(2):413-21.

4. Perez-Jimenez J, Nevey V, Vos F et al. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application of Phenol-Explorer Database. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2010;64(3):S112-120.

Secrets to Living Longer, Better

The mineral-rich water sourced from a volcano in Soufriere, St Lucia, that many refer to as "the fountain of youth".

The mineral-rich water sourced from a volcano in Soufriere, St Lucia, that many refer to as “the fountain of youth”.

Mark Twain couldn’t have said it any better: “life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.”

From wrinkle creams to age-preserving supplements, we are constantly trying to slow the aging process. Why? Aging is commonly associated with low quality of life due to the symptoms of disease such as memory loss and immobility. It is no surprise then that we spend countless hours and dollars trying to avoid this time of our lives controlled by failing health.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we could live healthfully well into old age?

I recently finished reading a fascinating book called “The Blue Zones” by Dan Buettner. In it, he and his team travel the world looking for areas where an unusual number of people live long enough to celebrate their 100th birthday. These people—known as centenarian—were sought out in a quest by the researchers to discover the secrets behind healthy aging.

Out of the five Blue Zones that are discussed in the book (Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, CA) there were four main commonalities I found among centenarians:

1. Vegetarianism: All of the centenarian interviewed ate little to no meat, mostly because they could not afford it. Only on special occasions would they slaughter one of their animals or splurge on buying meat at the market (which usually involved a five to ten mile walk). Instead, their diets consisted mostly of beans, grains, vegetables, and fruits.

The link between vegetarianism and healthy aging is supported by a recent study, which found that those following a vegetarian diet had a 12 percent lower mortality rate that non-vegetarians.

If you feel compelled to turn down meat but you don’t think you have the willpower to stick to it, try committing to the “weekday vegetarian” lifestyle.

2. Daily physical labor: Another commonality among the centenarian was that they engaged in some form of physical labor daily. Whether it was tilling land or shepherding sheep, they were up and moving for a good portion of the day.

Think of your average day: Drive to work. Sit at desk. Drive home. Sit on couch. Lay in bed. Where’s the physical activity?

Getting exercise is essential to support health aging. Not only does it help with weight maintenance, it supports muscle growth and cardiovascular health. Think of the benefits you could reap just by walking to work, going to the gym at lunch, or attending a fitness class a few times each week. (Or try these exercises you can do while sitting at your desk!)

3. Wine: Red wine seemed to be the drink of choice among the centenarians. Many reported drinking the antioxidant-rich tonic throughout the day and at gatherings with family and friends. Although I find it hard to believe wine is the “answer” to health aging, it probably doesn’t hinder it. In fact, I would think that having a glass of wine daily would help with stress reduction, allowing the body to relax and recovery at the end of the day. Of course that depends on exactly how much you drink—drinking too much alcohol can weight heavy on the function of your liver. Cheers to red wine! …in moderation.

4. Purpose: I thought this was the most interesting characteristic of healthy aging the researchers found. It makes sense when you think about it though—when you lose purpose in your life, you are less motivated to care for yourself.

Most centenarians lived with their children and grandchildren (even great-grandchildren in some cases) and were involved in the daily activities around the house such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for the yard. It is much different in the US, where elderly people are often placed in facilities where strangers care for them.

In addition to being a contributor to their families, they were also closely tied to their communities. Although each culture had their own name for it, they all participated in regular gatherings with friends where they would gossip, give advice, and tell jokes. It was something they could look forward to each day.

Though there has been no discovery of the fountain of youth, there do seem to be a few lifestyle habits you can follow to increase your chances of living a longer, healthier life. I wholeheartedly believe that prevention is the key. Make the changes now to slow the process of aging.

Curious what your overall life expectancy is? Take this cool quiz from the Blue Zones website. My biological age is 21 and I am expected to live until I am 92 years old. What about you?

The Fountain of Health

Hydration

Summer is coming and temperatures are rising. Whether you are training for a marathon or simply enjoy hiking once in a while, it is extremely important to stay hydrated during these blistering Arizona months.

Fast Fact: There is a 10% decrease in your mental performance when you feel thirsty.” -Kendrick Fincher Hydration Foundation

Water makes up about 70% of total body weight. Exercising in the heat can cause the body to lose excessive amounts of water, leading to rapid onset of fatigue, swelling, joint pain, dizziness, cramps, nausea, headaches, confusion, and more.

Here are some tips on how you can make sure your body is getting the hydration it needs:

  1. Follow a schedule: Do what works best for YOU. Have a glass of water first thing in the morning and right before bed. Drink before, during, and after exercise.
  2. Recognize the early signs of dehydration. DO NOT rely on thirst; by that time, it’s too late. Check the color of your urine. The less clear it is, the more you are in need of hydration. Are your lips dry and cracked? If so, grab a bottle of water.
  3. Get a water bottle/jug that displays measurements on the outside. By having a water bottle that shows exactly how much you are consuming, you are more likely to actively stay hydrated.
  4. Eat foods that have a high water content: Fruits & vegetables are great carbohydrate snacks and are packed with water. Pair with protein such as peanut butter, beef jerkey, hard boiled egg or string cheese for a balanced snack.
  5. Freeze your drink. Put bottles of water in the freezer overnight to allow the drink to stay cold longer.
  6. Make water tasty. Fill ice cube trays with fresh lemon or lime juice to make delicious frozen cubes to throw in a glass of water. It’s an easy and healthy way to add some flavor.
  7. Weight yourself. Chart your weight before and after exercising to see how much weight you lost– this is mostly due to water loss. After activity, drink 24 oz for every pound of weight loss (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics-Sports Nutrition). Remember that it is dangerous to overhydrate as well.

water bottles

So how much water should you drink each day??

0.5 ounces x Body Weight in Pounds = Daily Fluid Requirement in ounces: For example, a 130 lb adult would require about 65 ounces of water per day.

To put things into perspective, standard water bottle is about 16.9 ounces. So a 130 pound person would have to drink about 4 standard water bottles per day to reach adequate hydration.

Fast Fact: If you are intensely exercising (especially if it is in extreme heat) for 60 minutes or more, a sports drink may be beneficial in helping with electrolyte replacement. 

I like this idea for keeping track of how much water you drink throughout the day:

water measurements

Box of Greens

Need a quick lunch?? Stop by the Whole Foods salad bar! My mom and I went this weekend when we are out running errands and I was amazed at the selection they had. From raw coconut strips to falafel bits, stuffed olives to pesto tofu, there were so many options, my box was overflowing before I knew it!! My entire salad box was $7… An extremely reasonably price for fresh, delicious food.

 

The Juice is Worth the Squeeze

The newest food craze, “Juicing,” is an amazing way to get 5 to 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If you were to actually chew and eat that many raw fruits and veggies, you would probably suffer from TMJ! Using a blender to combine vegetables such as spinach, kale, and cucumbers with fruits such as apples, blueberries, and strawberries, allows you to get a punch of vitamins and minerals in a delicious smoothie. And it is filling!!

The first thing you need is a good blender. There are infomercials and advertisements out there that say you need a special “juicing blender,” and of course they are hundreds of dollars. I have a KitchenAid blender that was not cheep, but definitely not anything close to those that are advertised. Bottom line: Do a little research before splurging on a fancy-shmancy blender.

The second step is to decide what F&V you want to include. There are millions of recipes online. I used one that my mom’s nutritionist, Rebecca Green, gave her. It makes about 4 servings, so you can keep the left overs in the fridge for the next 2 or 3 days. You will be surprised at how delicious it is and how good you feel after drinking it!!

Here is the recipe I tried from Rebecca Green. (Visit her website for more information on her services if you are interested: www.fitnessroad.com)

1 Cup 100% Pomegranate Juice

1/4 Cup Water (or more as needed*)

2 Cups Spinach

2 Cups Kale (peel the leaves from the thick stocks)

2 Stalks Celery

1/2 Bunch Fresh Parsley

1 Large Cucumber

1/2 Cup Baby Carrots

Chop and Blend until smooth.

1 Medium Apple

1/2 Cup Blueberries or Strawberries

2 Scoops Protein (but not necessary)

Blend Well.

Makes approx 6-8 cups, It will be thick in consistency. *You can add more water to thin it down.

Can be stored in containers and used over a 2-3 day period.

AND FINALLY, make it your own! Feel free to substitute F&V or try different juices.

Stop Mindless Eating

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Don’t let mindless eating derail your diet.

Do you ever find yourself licking your plate clean when you could have been happily satisfied with half of your meal? Portions at restaurants can make you nauseous before you even take your first bite. Just step into a Claim Jumper and look at one slice of their Chocolate Motherload Cake. That is enough dessert for a small birthday party!

There has been some interesting research investigating how external cues can cause us to overeat. Brian Wansink is a professor specializing in Marketing in the Applied Economics and Management Department at Cornell University, and he has found that being mindful while eating can prevent overindulgence. A part of being mindful is being aware of your surroundings and how it may trigger overeating. So what are these cues??

Emotions. We are more likely to overeat when we are bored, tired, or upset. Hence, the classic ice-cream and chocolate indulgence in movies after a breakup.

Serving size. The more there’s on your plate, the more you eat.

Food Name. Studies have shown that the name of a food product can trigger overeating. Wansink found that there was a 27 percent increase in food consumption when names of items were changed to more extravagant terminology. For example, when “chocolate cake” was changed to “Belgian Black Forest Cake,” people ate more of it. 

Location. Wansink describes this as the “halo effect.” If a restaurant is perceived as being a healthier option (say Subway vs. Burger King), we are more likely to underestimate the calorie counts of items, and thus, over-consume food.

Who you’re sitting with. If we are eating with a heavier person, we may think that we can “afford” to eat more.

Here are some tips to combat these external cues and prevent eating more than is necessary:

  • Use smaller plates and bowls.
  • Organize your pantry and refrigerator so that healthier options catch your eye first. Have a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter instead of a candy dish.
  • Use 100-calorie snack packs.
  • Never eat straight from a big bag… If you want some chips, put a few in a bowl. This will cut back on mindless eating.
  • Avoid eating in front of a TV.

If you would like to read the article this information was adapted from, click here.

Is your house making you FAT?

images-4When planning to starting eating healthy, you probably are thinking about the color of your kitchen walls or the size of your dinner plates. However, the environment plays a key role in what and how much you eat.

Follow these tips to make sure your household environment is aiding in your weight loss goals rather than hindering them.

  • Paint the kitchen walls blue: Studies have shown that emotions linked with different colors can make you salivate (red and yellow) or suppress your cravings (blue). Just take a look at the logos and signs for fast food restaurants. If painting the walls is out of the question, opt for a blue tablecloth or plates.
  • Turn up the lights: People generally eat more in a dark environment. Keep your kitchen open and bright to avoid urges to binge.
  • Move out of the kitchen: When it is not mealtime, don’t allow yourself to linger around the fridge or pantry. Don’t sit at the table to do work or walk around the kitchen on your phone.  Easy access to food will tempt you to sneak a snack even when you’re not hungry.
  • Use smaller plates and cups: Eating off a smaller plate (think salad plate) tricks your mind into thinking your portion sizes are greater than they actually are. The same theory can be applied to using a smaller drinking glass.
  • Keep workout equipment around the house: Even if you hide 10-pound dumbbells in a cabinet, keep workout equipment accessible so you can do sets while you watch TV or while you’re waiting for the oven timer to go off.
  • Clean your closet: It’s time to throw your “fat pants” out. They are a security blanket that holds you back from losing the pounds.

Reference: NBC’s Today Show (8/19/2010)