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Archive for the ‘NUTRITION & AGING’ Category

As we push beyond the 40-year mark, we detect slight physical changes. Maybe eyesight isn’t as keen. We have difficulty keeping up with that two-year old grandchild, or even our teenager. What other changes draw our attention? Along with our bodies reminding us of creeping age, our brains no longer function as we would like. We notice subtle decreases in our ability to recall names of people or events. Maybe forgetting a friend’s name is far into the future, but for many, by the time 50 rolls around, remembering facts and faces could require more effort.

The 60s may send attacks of panic as we go from room-to-room and wonder why we are there. While memory losses occur with advancing years, many can be slowed and become less frequent. What can we do?

Someone recently asked me if any foods are directly related to health or disease conditions. Well, yes. Let’s start with memory (See “Part 1: Can Diet Affect Memory?” and “What’s On Your Mind?”).

An article published in Neurology on December 20, 2017 reported the effect of green leafy vegetables on the aging brain. Researchers found that one serving daily of green leafy vegetables helped slow cognitive decline―that’s thinking and remembering. For the approximately 1,000 participants over a period of almost five years, that lone serving was equivalent to being eleven years younger mentally compared to those who rarely or never ate their spinach or similar greens. However, eating greens does not guarantee slower brain aging, but it does suggest an association between the two.

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And what are the best choices? Spinach, kale, and collards seem to top the list. As a side note, if you have a yard, kale grows easily among flowers or shrubs. The curly type adds a nice touch to the landscape. Kale prefers a sunny location. Generally, plants die down during the hot summer season but revive in the fall to produce until frost. If you live in an apartment, try sowing seeds in planters or pots. You can enjoy this healthy food for salads or cooked as a vegetable serving. It’s great mixed with other types of greens or in many entrees.

Growing your own kale gives you the option of omitting pesticides and harmful chemicals. To harvest, clip or pinch stems close to the base of the plant. Within several days or a week, new leaves will produce enough for another harvest. While other green leafy vegetables are good, I find kale the easiest to grow. Before using wash thoroughly and remove any thick stems. Store in the refrigerator in a covered plastic container (not bag) for a few days. To leave in the refrigerator longer, place in a covered container and wait until ready to use before washing. This food is not only rich in antioxidants to help the brain, it is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.

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While green leafy vegetables aren’t the only foods to thwart aging brains, it is one easy way. Try adding to your diet, regardless of your age. It’s worSee the source imageth a try.

 

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News reports and advertising alert us to the connection between many types of foods and health. Most recognize that too much sodium (salt) may increase blood pressure. We know that obesity may make us more susceptible to many health conditions including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Certain types of fats have been linked to heart disease. We don’t hear as much about the effect of foods on our brains. Do certain diets make a difference? For the next few weeks, I will share current research on the impact of what we eat and memory.

As we age, every little slip in remembering someone’s name or misplacing our car keys may stir fear and panic. While a few blunders here and there may be no cause for worry about developing dementia, or worse, full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), memory loss is real. More than five million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a common form of dementia. What if certain foods or diets could make a difference? Would we pay attention? For several years, research has sought answers. We now know that the foods we eat can make a difference.

Dr. Lisa Moscone, author of Brain Food, compared brain imaging scans of healthy dementia-free 30- to 60-year-olds. One group ate the typical Western diet of high saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar. The other group followed a Mediterranean diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein such as fish or chicken. Good fats (mono- or poly unsaturated) like avocado and olive oil replaced saturated fats, and the diet limited red meats and added sugars. Scans at the beginning of the study showed that those who ate Western-style foods had more beta-amyloid deposits and less brain activity, both indicators of early development of dementia.

Follow-up studies two or more years later revealed increases in beta-amyloid deposits and reduced active energy levels in those who ate Western diets, regardless of other potential risk factors for AD, i.e. sex, age, and a specific gene linked to AD. Changes in brain scan images showed up in areas of the brain most likely to be affected by AD.

What does this study tell us? Diet does make a difference. What is more important, to modify our diet in younger years with the potential of improved memory in later years or eat what we want, a Western diet, and wonder why we are so forgetful? Is our priority to eat whatever we want with no regard for the future or had we rather make a few changes to improve our odds of reaching old age with our brains mentally intact? Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating condition. Even if we aren’t concerned about our future mental health, is it fair to our potential caregivers―children, spouses or friends―not to take care of ourselves? Diet may not prevent all memory loss, but it can make a difference for us and our families.

 

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June is National Dairy Month. In recent years, cow’s milk has taken a bad rap for several reasons. A few individuals have food sensitivities and more readily tolerate milk from other animal sources. Some people prefer omitting any meat or meat-related products and opt for plant-based forms of milk such as coconut, soy, or almond. These milks lack many of the nutritional values of animal milk and often have added sugars and other substances. (See my blog, “Milk―It’s Your Choice”)

Woman Drinking Milk

Cow’s milk, which most of us drink, is available in four forms: Whole milk has 3.5 percent fat. In an eight-ounce serving, it has 8 grams of fat and 150 calories. Reduced fat milk has 2 percent fat plus 5 grams of fat and 120 calories per eight ounces. Low fat milk contains one percent fat with 2.5 grams of fat and 100 calories per eight-ounce serving. Fat free (skim) milk has no fat and provides 80 calories per eight-ounce serving.

All forms of cow’s milk contain major nutrients but vary in fat content. Each eight-ounce serving of milk provides eight grams of protein. Milk is a significant source of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A and D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and others.

Vitamins A and D are found only in the cream (fat) of whole milk. All other cow’s milk must be fortified with 400 I. U. per quart for vitamin D and 2,000 I. U. per quart for vitamin A. Even whole milk with less than the required amount must be fortified to these standards.

A student once asked, “Is skim milk made from whole milk that has been watered down?”  While I stifled a smile, the student was serious. In recent years, I have learned she is not the only one with that misconception. How would you have answered her question?

Milk Terms to Know:

  • Organic: Organic milk is produced from cows without any exposed to hormones or antibiotics. Today, very little milk has these two substances. More recently, guidelines for organic milk require a certain amount of free-range time for cows.
  • Lactose-Free: Some individuals are sensitive to lactose. The lactose-free form is real cow’s milk with the natural sugar (lactose) broken down for easier digestion. Lactose-free milk has the same nutrients and standards of other forms of  milk.
  • Flavored: While chocolate is the best-known flavored milk, it is also available in other flavors and has the same nutritional qualities of unflavored milk. Lower fat choices are available, but most will have added sugar.
  • Raw: The raw form comes straight from the cow without any processing. Federal law prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines. For health reasons, raw milk is not recommended.

Benefits of Milk:

A few studies have indicated adverse effects from drinking cow’s milk, but the benefits more than outweigh any harm. Milk provides nearly one-third of the daily requirement of calcium. It works conjointly with other nutrients, especially vitamin D, in the development of bones and teeth in children. While significant throughout the life cycle, it is particularly important in aging as a deterrent of osteoporosis and other bone conditions more common to those over age 50. The body also needs calcium and vitamin D for several other functions.

Milk is a major source of protein. The higher quality protein in milk may benefit weight management because it helps to maintain lean body mass. Muscle, as opposed to fat, assists in burning more calories. In addition, higher quality protein increases satiety, reduces hunger, and fits into appropriate weight-loss plans.

What can be more refreshing than a tall glass of cold milk? Well, for me, that may be a steaming cup of hot chocolate. Whatever your choice, milk is a healthy option in any eating plan. During National Dairy Month, enjoy more milk in your diet. It’s good for you.
Cows grazing on a green field.

 

 

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This Mother’s Day give Mom a priceless gift we all strive toward―better eyesight, healthier heart function, and improved memory. Who doesn’t want that? Mom can anticipate this health package while salivating over a box of dark chocolates tied with a lovely bow.

That’s right. Dark chocolate―the most craved food by women―is a present that keeps on giving in the form of more positive health outcomes. New research finds that decadent rich dark chocolate helps protect from several health issues that are more likely to progress as we age.

Don’t expect a prescription for dark chocolate from an ophthalmologist any time soon, but this yummy “melt in your mouth” sweet continues to show promise in improving vision. Researchers compared 26-year-olds given a 1.5 ounce of Trader Joe’s 72 percent Cacao Dark Chocolate bar with a Trader Joe’s Crispy Rice Milk Chocolate bar of similar size. About two hours later, participants underwent vision tests using the standard letter-based eye chart. Those who consumed the dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate showed a slight, although significant difference in visual acuity.

Dark chocolate contains greater amounts of flavanols, often referred to as heart-healthy compounds. How this affects eyesight isn’t known but may result from increased blood flow to the retina or to the cerebral cortex of the brain.

With brain function in mind, dark chocolate may reduce stress levels and inflammation. A bar or piece with at least 70 percent cacao, the source of flavonoids, stimulates areas of the brain involved in memory. It’s also a mood elevator and may improve sensory processing, the ability of the brain to receive and respond to information that comes through our senses.

This tasty treat may have positive effects on the cardiovascular system. Moderate amounts of dark chocolate may lower the risk of atrial fibrillation. The delectable food seems to help loosen stiff arteries and prevent white blood cells from sticking to artery walls. As little as one chocolate square may slightly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. To some extent, small amounts may lower LDL cholesterol.

Other health issues have been linked to chocolate. It benefits the immune system through increased numbers of white blood cells which fight infection and disease. Limited studies found it may play a role in preventing diabetes. Who knows what other health conditions may be linked to something so enjoyable to eat?

Like many things, there’s a caveat. Chocolate is high in calories. However in the studies cited, researchers emphasized that limited amounts (in one study a square of dark chocolate had 30 calories) can benefit our physical well-being. The smallest portion may help maintain health.

Show Mom extra love this Mother’s Day with a special gift for better health and a delight to her palate. How can she resist a box of chocolates?

Assortment of Beautiful Sweet Chocolates in Box Top View. Chocolate Pralines Mix Background

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HEALTHY MEAL 2

Who doesn’t want to extend years of life as long as possible? Researchers confirm that even after middle age, we can lengthen our life span. In a study of nearly 74,000 health professionals 60 years-of-age or older, those who shifted to better eating habits lived longer. What changes did they make? Those who increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus other healthy foods in their diets lowered their risk of premature death compared to those whose diets remained the same. Likewise, those who let their eating habits slip to less healthy fares in their older years increased their risks for dying.

Researchers used three scoring systems based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While those diets differ somewhat, all promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, olive oil, and nuts. Some foods may include more of certain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, or other nutrients, but all of these received higher scores and are good options. In all diets, less healthy choices such as sweets, processed foods, and red meats received low scores. The higher the overall score, the lower the risk of premature death.

Even changing a few items, such as fish or legumes in place of red meat, made a slight difference.  Alice Lichtenstein, spokesperson for the American Heart Association stated, “The key is to make changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life.” She added, “There are no magic-bullet foods or nutrients.” The message isn’t new. However, many believe if they haven’t followed healthy eating rules throughout their lifetimes, change is hopeless. Not so. It’s never too late to improve eating habits.

Choosing healthy foods helps prevent an early death and assures that the years we live will be less hampered by the many diseases resulting from poor diets. Quality of life is a precious commodity for everyone, especially as we age. Making slight diet changes can improve physical well-being and make those extra years’ worth living. It’s a win-win choice.

 

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It’s strawberry season, my childhood favorite time of year. I grew up on a small farm where my dad grew strawberries. Fond memories linger of those days when fresh-from-the-field strawberries were often a part of every meal. I ate all the berries I wanted throughout the growing season plus unending amounts of frozen berries during the year.

It never occurred to me how healthy thImage result for free clipart strawberriesose bright red fruits were or the many nutritious benefits from eating them. Today, researchers assure us that strawberries are a part of a healthy diet and may contribute to well-being in many ways. They are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and phytochemicals. Flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimutagenic properties. Strawberries have been associated with many health conditions and may help or prevent the following:

  • Reduce total cholesterol, LDL oxidation, and cell inflammation: These factors influence risks of heart attacks. A diet high in strawberries significantly lowers cholesterol levels. Researchers found that women who ate three servings per week of strawberries or blueberries reduced their chances of heart attacks by nearly one-third.
  • Prevent weight gain: According to studies in the British Medical Journal, flavonoid-rich foods like strawberries may help manage weight more easily.
  • Improve insulin resistance: Anthocyanins, responsible for berries’ bright red color, may improve insulin sensitivity. Researchers found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month were at a lower risk for diabetes.
  • Improve cognition: Strawberries and blueberries may help prevent age-related cognitive decline. They offset negative effects of cell oxidation and inflammation in the brain and protect women’s memory. Eating strawberries may delay mental aging in older women by as much as 2.5 years. In one study, women who ate more than two servings a week experienced less deterioration than those who ate one or fewer servings.

As a bonus, strawberries also seem to improve motor skills in women. What a delicious way to improve health and keep our brains intact. Make it a point to include ample servings in your diet. During this plentiful strawberry season, remember you are helping your overall health and brain function while enjoying a tasty treat.

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 If you thought the title referred to your opinions, think again. The more correct question should be what’s on your MIND Diet? That’s right. Although the diet has been around for a few years, we don’t hear much about it. But maybe we should.

Rush University Medical Center developed a diet to slow cognitive decline, namely Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults. The diet combined the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and was referred to as the MIND Diet―Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

How significant is finding a diet to thwart this leading neurodegenerative condition―Alzheimer’s disease? More than five million people over age sixty-five are affected. The MIND diet may lower the risk of this disease by more than 50 percent. Even those inconsistent in following the diet can cut their risk by 35 percent.

The MIND diet has fifteen dietary components with ten brain-healthy groups and five unhealthy-brain food groups. See how closely you follow this diet to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Healthy foods                                                           

  • Green leafy vegetables: Six servings or more per week of foods like spinach, kale, and salad greens.
  • Other vegetables: At least one-half cup cooked or one cup raw once a day.
  • Nuts: Five servings per week. One-third cup equals a serving.
  • Berries: Three servings per week. Blueberries and strawberries are the best choices for a positive impact on the mind.
  • Beans: Three or more servings per week. These include one-half cup of cooked lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and similar varieties.
  • Whole grains: Three or more servings per day. Look for labels that say “100 percent whole grain.”
  • Fish: At least once per week. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines are preferred choices.
  • Poultry: Two or more servings per week. Remove skin and bake, broil, grill, or roast. Avoid frying.
  • Olive oil: Use as the main choice for cooking oil.
  • Wine: No more than one glass a day.

Unhealthy foods       

  • Red meats: Less than four servings a week. Use lean cuts and trim fat from those you do eat.
  • Butter/margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily.
  • Cheese: One serving each week. Most cheeses are high in fat and sodium. Swiss cheese is low in both and can add more cheese servings per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week. These contain high levels of sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week.

While this diet has many beneficial qualities that may lower the risks of many health issues―hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies present as we age―there are drawbacks. Due to high levels of potassium and phosphorus, those with kidney disease should avoid this diet. Increased consumption of whole grains and other higher calorie foods may be inappropriate for those with diabetes.

For most of us, efforts to closely follow this diet may keep minds sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For this eating plan to become a part of our lifestyle, keeping a chart for several weeks helps. Below is one example.

To borrow from part of a cliché, the mind is a terrible thing to let waste away. Keep it healthier with the MIND Diet.

mind-chart-4

 

 

 

 

2016-10-06

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