Better Aging: 5 Tips to Make it Happen

So, do you want to look your age?  This topic can get pretty dicey as we push through the decades.  I have one friend that says she’s earned her wrinkles and intentionally sports her gray hairs. No more hair coloring for her!  I think it’s certainly a personal decision. I also think that if we implement diet and lifestyle strategies that make us look a bit younger than our real age, we might reap some positive health benefits.  After all, our health has to be our top priority as we get older. Better health usually means a better quality of life. We want to be able to enjoy our second 50 years, right?

Here is my top five list:

Wear your sunscreen.  This is a huge point and it’s never too late to start.  Anti-aging dermatology procedures are pricey. They are almost all self-pay.  If you can protect your skin early in life, it will help your appearance in your second 50 years.  When I was in graduate school, I had a strange rash that brought me to the dermatologist.  She told me at that point to never go in the sun again.  I followed her advice (for the most part), and now that I have a Medicare card, I am so glad I did.  Wrinkle removal is expensive and time consuming, prevention is much easier. The health benefit: lessened skin cancer risk.

Exercise when you can. We all know we should be moving our bodies more, right? For some, it is easier said than done.  Lots of us have knees that hurt, but even for osteoarthritis, the current recommendations are to work through it and just keep moving.  Options for lessening joint stress while working out include using a stationary bike and an elliptical.  If you are able to move, you really should be sure to do so.  After counseling thousands upon thousands of clients over my career, it never ceases to amaze me how much younger the exercising crowd looks in middle and later life.  The health benefit:  weight management.  And, weight management can help diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and hypertension.  And, this is only a partial list!

Manage Your Weight.  Again, those people that are at an appropriate body weight always seem to look younger.  For women in particular, weight gain seems to happen easily during menopause when our estrogen levels decline.  A common “sign” of middle age in both women and men is the increased fat in the abdominal area-known as visceral fat.  This pouch does not need to happen with a healthy eating plan matched to energy requirements and limited in alcohol.  The health benefit: losing this visceral fat will lessen inflammation and decrease your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep.  It can be difficult to get enough sleep. It seems like each decade brings its own sleep issues.  I know of so many seniors that will fall asleep but cannot stay asleep.  Getting up at 3:00 AM is not ideal, and many of us already did that when we raised our kids.  Tips are to not overstimulate your brain before bed.  Get off the iPad or phone if it is too stimulating before nodding off. Try to set a routine and stick to it most of the time.  Discuss sleep issues with your physician.  Lastly, a little melatonin (3-5 mg) may be helpful.  We make less as we age, so this supplement makes sense.  The health benefit: you just feel so much better, it’s like magic!

Eating Well. Don’t give up on a healthy eating plan.  Consult with a nutritional professional if you are totally confused about what you should be eating to maintain or improve your health.  There is just so much information out there that is often incorrect or not correct for you as an individual. Most nutrition health care providers would suggest a diet high in fruits, vegetables, with the appropriate amounts of whole grains and lean protein.  Some supplements might be in order as well, depending up your individual circumstances.  For thoughts on those supplements:  5 Dietary Supplements for Baby Boomers!

 
For those of you in your second 50 years, what else can you add?

Tapping Into Tap Water: Fluoride for All?

Water is an essential nutrient.

For most of my life I never really thought much about fluoride or my drinking water. My teeth are in pretty good shape, and the only time I thought about fluoride to any extent was when I taught a college level introductory nutrition class. The text books noted the “benefits” of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, and then always showed the classic brown spots on tooth enamel due to overexposure of fluoride.  We discussed that fluoride was delivered to municipal tap water in the Chicago area (our location) and that bottled water was not typically fluoridated. While it may have natural fluoride, fluoride is not typically added to bottled water.

Fluoride is not considered to be an essential nutrient from a dietary standpoint.  For the last 70 or so years, it’s role in public health has been one of preventing tooth decay.  Once teeth have erupted through the gum, fluoride added to the tooth surface plays a role in preventing tooth decay through remineralization of the weaker spots on the tooth enamel as well as controlling the amount of acid that bacteria of plaque produce.  Indeed, I remember even as a young adult having fluoride treatments in the dental office because I had great dental insurance and it was covered. And, of course, there is lifelong use of fluoridated toothpaste.

But, should it be delivered to everyone in tap water when all are not at the same risk for tooth decay?

For the municipalities that deliver fluoridated water, there is no choice in the matter. If you want to avoid ingesting fluoride in the Chicago area, you must find a means to remove it from your tap water or stick with purchasing spring water. Although safety limits are set in terms of public health policies on safe fluoride levels, it is a one-size fits all situation.

According to a recent article in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2018), these points should be considered regarding fluoridation of water and dental health:

  • Current evidence clearly suggests that the protective mechanism of action of fluoride is mainly topical.  In other words, we do not need to be ingesting fluoride to reap the dental benefits.
  • 1% of the population appears to be highly sensitive to fluoride (yes, I am in that 1%).
  • Certain subsets may be particularly vulnerable to ingesting fluoride: the elderly, diabetics, the malnourished.
  • Once the fluoride is put into the water, what about those individuals that need to inherently consume larger quantities of water? Those individuals might include manual laborers, diabetics, and athletes.
  • Interestingly, on the international front, most European countries have rejected water fluoridation. Only Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom practice water fluoridation.

While the debate on the pros and cons of fluoridated water will most likely rage on, there are a few other dietary factors that come to mind for preventing tooth decay in the young and old:

  • Choosing a healthy diet low in sugar will help prevent tooth decay. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables will stimulate saliva production to help rinse the sugar away.
  • Avoiding cariogenic foods like sugar, sticky foods (like raisins), and soda will help prevent tooth decay.  
  • If indulging in sugary foods, try not to do so all day long. Best to splurge and then brush, instead of exposing your teeth all day long.
  •  Apply that fluoride through toothpaste, mouth rinse, and in the dental chair.

My last comment will be simply that in the concept of “clean eating”, I see no reason to be putting fluoride into my digestive tract.

Where do you stand on the issue of ingesting fluoride through tap water?

Probiotic Primer: 5 Purchasing Tips

When my father lived in an assisted living facility, I wanted him to be receiving a probiotic which needed to be ordered by the facility physician. I remember the doctor sitting at his desk writing the order and at the same time quipping that “all probiotics are the same!” The comment took my breath away because this was only a few years ago, and most health care providers should know that probiotics are not all the same!  There is plenty of research available on how probiotics are both similar and different-and there is plenty to consider when purchasing a probiotic.

Two popular probiotics.

Our gastrointestinal tract contains hundreds of different species of bacteria and these bacteria are referred to as intestinal flora. A healthy functioning gastrointestinal tract has a healthy balance of bacteria.  Occasionally, that balance of bacteria becomes unbalanced due to antibiotic use, illness, stress, or even a poor-quality diet.

Research on the health benefits of probiotics is vast.  Researchers are evaluating how probiotics may affect mental health, lipids, weight, and various GI conditions.  Even our pets are taking probiotics!

 Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when making a probiotic supplement purchase:

  • Packaging. Probiotics need to be alive to be effective in your body. If they are dead on arrival in the bottle or purchase package, they will be useless to your gut. Take a good look at the packaging. Many probiotic strains need to be refrigerated to stay alive, or they may be sold in blister packaging to assure viability. If the product needs refrigeration, be sure online shippers are shipping the product with dry ice during warm weather to protect the product. With blister packaging, there is no need to refrigerate. Keep in mind that the companies selling the probiotics are doing their own regulation, so you might want to use a name brand product to help assure the organisms are alive upon purchase.
  • Dosages. Potency is usually noted on the label as CFU which stands for “colony forming units”. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by the strain and intended therapy. For general use, it would be recommended that the CFU be at least 1 to 10 billion. Many reputable brands have much higher dosages which are still deemed safe.
  • Strains. Contrary to the thoughts of my father’s former physician, bacterial strains do matter.  For instance, for antibiotic-related diarrhea, it may be advisable to start taking a common drugstore brand such as Culturelle which contains Lactobacillus GG. Other research suggests that it may be even more effective to take a probiotic with multiple species of organisms. In adult women with IBS, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to reduce pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. For cholesterol reduction, Lactobacillus reuteri may be therapeutic for LDL-Cholesterol reduction.
  • Dosing.  If you are taking probiotics for overall wellness, keep in mind that the organisms only survive for a few days to weeks, so it is necessary to keep taking them. Speaking of surviving, some probiotics have an enteric-coating to ensure stomach acid survival and intestinal delivery.
  • Food.  Many foods also contain probiotics. Think yogurt, kefir milk, and kombucha. And, nutrient dense foods are usually great sources of prebiotics-the food probiotics use. Those microorganisms need their own fuel and fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the fuel of choice for probiotics.

Has probiotic use helped your health? Share your thoughts!

My Food Sensitivity Journey: A Dietitian’s Personal Perspective

To eat or not??

When I was 40 years old, I became very ill-so ill I headed to the emergency room. The doctors said something was going around and I should go home to rest.  And rest I did! In fact, for at least a week I was barely able to move.  I followed up with my primary care physician who proceeded to do a complete medical evaluation.  All tests came back negative.  So, I rested some more and tried to pretend that I felt normal.  As time progressed, I mentioned my fatigue issues to every physician I saw, and the responses ranged from “You have medical conditions that cause fatigue- IBS, fibromyalgia, asthma”, to “You seem OK, you aren’t acting tired now”, to “You are the healthiest patient I’ve seen today!” My energy levels continued to wax and wane. Sometimes I was near normal and other times I needed to drag myself to bed. Fatigue was my partner in life, and although rest didn’t solve everything, I was often tired enough that I simply could not move. My goal became to get through the day as a functioning person and carry on with my commitments as best I could.

During the second 50 years of my life, it seemed that my energy levels were worsening. I figured at this point I was functioning at less than 50% of normal. Then, last year, a college friend asked me about food sensitivity testing as she was considering going that route due to ongoing headaches and IBS symptoms. I told her I had mixed feelings about it, but said that maybe we could go down that path together.  I am so grateful that I took that path as my life has actually changed course.

Food sensitivity testing is controversial. Some medical “experts” question accuracy of any food sensitivity testing process and the clinical relevance to a patient.  For those practitioners that feel it may help a patient, there is controversy as to the best test to use. I used the Alcat test which evaluates how your white blood cells react in contact with various foods, chemicals, and food additives.  Based on your white cell response, your reaction to various foods, additives, and chemicals is assessed on a scale of non-reactive to severe.

It’s important to keep in mind that food sensitivity testing is different from allergy testing. With an allergy, there may be an immediate response. With a food sensitivity, the response in terms of symptoms may be delayed by days so it does become difficult to determine what foods may be problematic. In my case, I would never have been able to succeed by just eliminating foods speculated as often problematic because one of my severe responses was to fluoride. Turn on the tap water and there is fluoride.  Grab coffee at a restaurant, there is fluoride. Grab that toothpaste, there is fluoride. That is just one example of how the testing can help you come up with a customized eating plan just for you.  I would never have been able to determine that something found in my water was a contributing factor in causing my fatigue, muscle, and joint pain.

Today, I still look OK but I also feel pretty good!  I am now able to work with a trainer, and regularly work out on a treadmill and elliptical.  I even have competitions with my active grandchildren to see who can get the most steps in a day!  My energy level is far more consistent, and when I’m tired, that’s all it is-tired, and not fatigued to the point of being unable to move.  I have come a long way from the fatigue that has haunted me for the last 25 years.  I am so thankful that I was able to access testing.  While it can be very challenging to make the necessary dietary changes, it is worth the effort if the quality of your life changes!  My only regret is waiting so long.

Do you have a personal story to share about your food sensitivity testing experience and outcome?

5 Favorite Thanksgiving Foods: Skinny Version

The big turkey day is upon us in a few weeks and many cooks are already planning their menus for Thanksgiving.  Across the country, people will eat dinner with family and friends in homes and restaurants.  Many of my clients feel it is difficult to focus on health and wellness at this time of the year.  For Thanksgiving gatherings, I tell my clients it is “just one day” of dining.  If you exercise control over the aftermath of the meal, then it should be viewed as a meal enjoyed with those that matter in your life, a time to be thankful, and a time to reflect.  Controlling the “aftermath” means that you get rid of the leftovers that may sabotage your healthy eating plans or plan appropriately to avoid having leftovers in the first place!  With that stated, I think we can also think about the traditional Thanksgiving meal as having the potential to be a meal that can even offer health benefits to your diet.  Here is a sampling of traditional Thanksgiving foods and the potential impact on your health:

Pumpkin.  Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene which is the plant derived form of vitamin A.  Consider offering your guests a slimmed down crustless pumpkin pie option in addition to traditional desserts.

Sweet potatoes.  This is another beta-carotene superstar.  Keep the calories in tow by limiting the brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows used in traditional recipes.

Mashed potatoes. Potatoes are loaded with potassium!  Slim down your recipe by limiting the butter used in your recipe.  Consider using skim milk, low sodium chicken broth, or fat-free sour cream in your recipe to slash the fat and calories.

Cranberries.  This traditional side dish is loaded with cancer fighting plant chemicals, vitamin C, and fiber.  No need to limit its use to cranberry bread and sauce-consider using it in a fruit compote instead.

Turkey.  Turkey is full of lean protein.  Watch your serving sizes and the gravy added to your plate, and consider this a healthy meat option for your Thanksgiving gathering.  Roast your turkey without the stuffing inside, baking it in a separate casserole dish.  This keeps your stuffing lower in calories as well.

Watch your servings sizes for all your foods and leftovers, and enjoy the day and the health benefits of traditional Turkey day fare.  Top your meal with a nice family walk, and you will be slim and ready for the next round of holidays in December!

 Do you have any healthy Thanksgiving recipes to share?

Halloween Stew: Easy One Pot Comfort Food

This one pot stew was always fondly referred to as “Halloween Stew” by my kids because year after year I made this for my children to enjoy after trick or treating. This one pot meal can be prepped ahead of time and then popped into the oven to cook effortlessly while you step out with your kids to make the trick or treat rounds.  It was always a pleasure, after a raw and windy October Halloween, to come home to this nutritious and already cooked one pot meal.  It is comfort food at its best, and can be enjoyed throughout the crisp fall days ahead.  Enjoy, and happy trick or treating!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean beef (sirloin works well)
  • 12-20 oz. can of tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved in ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup red wine (optional ingredient)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cut up carrots
  • 2-3 stalks cut up celery
  • 4 or more large potatoes
  • 1 small package frozen peas
  • ¼ cup tapioca

Directions

Take the lean beef and cut into 1 inch cubes. Spray a large corning ware dish and the inside lid with a spray such as PAM. Place the beef cubes in the bottom of the corning ware. Lay all the vegetables (except the peas) on top of the meat. Pour the tomatoes, wine, tapioca over all. Bake for 3 hours, covered, in a 325 ° oven. Fifteen minutes before stew is done cooking, sprinkle the peas on top.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

We need your help to make this happen!

Diet and lifestyle improvements are not the only tools for cancer prevention and treatment.

Research dollars are needed to fight cancer as well. Please read the inspiring story of one family fighting AND giving back, in an effort to end pediatric brain cancer.  As this month supports childhood cancer, this post will stay up until the Chicago Marathon is complete. All donations will go directly to pediatric brain cancer RESEARCH at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

Parting words, Awareness = Funding = Research
Annie’s fundraising link

THANK YOU!

5 Tips to Fight Winter Overeating

I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so blue this winter. So, barring a vacation in the tropics or moving, here are a few steps that can be taken to lift your spirits and hopefully help stop inappropriate eating that can go hand in hand with the winter blues or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD):

  • Catch the rays when possible.  Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny,  so be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so.  Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine and you will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect the balance of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins.
  • Consider blue light therapy.  Along the lines of catching natural light rays, researchers are aware that certain light spectrum, such as blue light, seems to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue lights are available for easy purchase online. When it’s a particularly bleak winter, these lights can be of benefit.
  • Check your vitamin D levels.   Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting seasonal affective disorder.  Bleak days and lots of warm bulky clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin, which can be produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin.  If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D.  During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure.
  • Control your eating environment.  While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD or depression.  Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods.
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy, low sodium soups and entrees.  They can nourish and “comfort” you appropriately through the rest of the winter. Increase  your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber.  Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter.   When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to winter blues.

Here’s to wrapping up winter. It’s almost March! Remember, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By watching your diet this winter, you will be in a better position both mentally and physically for spring when it springs!

 

 

 

Leftover Turkey Scraps: New Comfort Food Recipe

Those turkey scraps that don’t fit nicely on a serving platter for Thanksgiving lend themselves very well to a favorite family recipe of mine. I would put these croquettes in the “comfort food” category. They are easy to make, use up all your leftover meat scraps, and are a healthy meat entrée. Enjoy the whole traditional bird on Thanksgiving, then enjoy this great leftover dish later in the week.Turkey Dinner

Take all those scraps of turkey and place into a food processor or a blender.  This recipe calls for about 2 cups of shredded meat.  The meat mixture will be mixed with a light roux sauce to bind it and then baked in the oven for a healthier alternative to a traditional fried croquette recipe.

 

For the croquette meat mixture you will need:

2 cups of chopped or shredded leftover turkey

dash of salt and pepper

1 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

1 tsp. chopped parsley (optional)

Combine these ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Next, make the light roux sauce.  You will need:

4 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1 cup milk

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the flour and seasonings and blend.  Slowly add the one cup of milk, stirring continually with a wire whisk until the mixture thickens.  After the mixture thickens, add into the chopped meat mixture. You want the mixture to be firm enough to shape, so use only part of the sauce mixture initially, and then added the rest as needed.  It is helpful to chill the mixture for awhile in order to allow for shaping the mixture into firmer patties.

After the roux sauce and chopped meat are mixed together, shape your croquettes into eight hamburger like patty shapes.

The next step is to coat the croquette patties with the bread crumbs.  You will need:

1 cup fine bread crumbs
1/4 cup butter
one egg with 1 tbsp. water or alternatively you may use eggbeaters

Place the butter in a shallow baking dish and melt.  Dip the croquettes into the bread crumbs, egg, and then back into the bread crumbs.  Next place the breaded croquettes into the melted warm butter and coat all sides. Preheat the oven to 350 ° and bake for about 30 minutes until crisp.  This can be served with a dollop of any leftover roux sauce if not needed for the croquette mixture.  Garnish with a sprig of parsley and enjoy that turkey again.

Nutrition information per croquette:

200 calories

9 grams of fat

15 grams of protein

15 grams of carbohydrate

360 mg sodium

Tip:  If you would like to decrease the fat and calorie content further, skip rolling the bread coating mixture in the melted butter.  Turkey scraps can also be frozen to make this recipe at a later time. And, no turkey?  This recipe also works very well with leftover chicken.  Bon appetit!

 

 

Chronic Fatigue: 4 Diet and Lifestyle Tips to Tackle

It goes by many names: chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), myaligic encephalomyelitis (ME).  Whatever you want to call it, it requires lifestyle changes to cope, and bed rest is not a quick fix for those that are truly afflicted.  If you have this condition, you know who you are!  You may also remember your life before the condition and after, that red line of health and when it was crossed and what triggered your seemingly endless fatigue. This condition may also be associated with fibromyalgia.

http://www.phytodoc.de/files/bilder/erkrankungen/Muedigkeit.jpg

Here are some tried and true tips to help this condition:

Manage your weight.  Under the circumstance, this can be a huge challenge. If you are needing to pace yourself with rest (which is how most people cope), then you will be sitting more. This means that your overall calorie intake needs to be vested in nutrient rich foods that do NOT also yield a lot of calories. It’s amazing what a difference there is in terms of calorie burn on days you are mostly sitting vs. being able to walk around all day when you may be feeling more normal.

I am a huge fan of fitness trackers for just this reason. Knowing real time energy output on bad days and then better days, helps immensely in weight management. By looking at the data, one’s food consumption can be adjusted accordingly. Remember that to maintain weight, calories consumed must match calories burned!

Do eat a nutrient dense diet. Your calories need to “count” from a nutritional standpoint because there may not be a lot of discretionary calories for you to be eating if you are burning few calories due to your fatigue and limited activity.  The better quality diet will only increase your chances of feeling better.  There’s no guarantee, but it can’t hurt.

Too tired to prepare food?  Never cook for only one meal.  Double batch and use your freezer.  Don’t be afraid of a frozen meal such as Healthy Choice brand meals.  I guarantee they are healthier than that fast food or take out meal you might eat because you are too tired to deal with dinner!

Consider certain supplements.  The condition remains one that the established medical community cannot open a text book and find solid direction on how to treat.  With that said, there are a few supplements that may be helpful.  Consider CoEnzymeQ10, D-ribose, and probably a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement.  I don’t uniformly recommend the latter to patients, but when calories need to be restricted to manage weight, it is not a bad idea in my opinion.  The CoQ10 and D-ribose are tied in with our biochemical energy cycle, and I personally find them to be helpful.

Know your boundaries.  While boundary setting is not necessarily a nutrition tip, it is an important lifestyle tip. Learn to say “no” if you feel it will compromise your health.  Many of us are so eager to be normal, that it is very easy to overdue it when we feel on the normal end of the spectrum.  Both mental and physical pacing need to be first and center in your life.  If you are reading this, you are probably all too familiar with the “crash and burn” cycle of both chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.  Doing too much at a time can result in being a limp rag doll later. Best to manage that precious resource called energy and pace yourself all day and every day-even when you may be feeling “normal”.

What tips can you share to live your best life?