Sunday, June 17, 2018

Are there anti-aging foods?

Who doesn’t want to slow down the aging process? Are there foods you can eat to slow down Father Time?  WebMD has an article called, 7 anti-Aging Foods for Your Skin.  In this article, dietitian Kerri-Ann Jennings is quoted, “Everyone wants smooth, radiant skin.  What you eat can bring you closer to that goal.”  

The Dietary Basics for Slowing the Aging Process:
1.      Eat foods full of nutrients, called nutrient dense foods, which pack in the vitamins and minerals your skin needs.  These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish.
2.      Change it up.  Go for variety – lots of color, lots of different fruits and vegetables.  Each color delivers different antioxidants so mixing up colors means you are getting a lot of antioxidants which means a healthier you.
Mix colors and eat a variety of fruit
3.      Go beyond food – get enough sleep and exercise and don’t forget the sunscreen.  (I use sunscreen on my face 365 days a year.)

The author of Younger Next Week  says all of these basics will help you look younger.

What are some foods you should put on your grocery list for a younger looking you?
1.   Oats – choose that oatmeal or Cheerios for breakfast.  Whole grain oats are a complex carb so slow to digest without spiking your blood glucose.  Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York dermatologist, recommends “complex carbohydrates like oats because they are low-glycemic”  She notes that high-glycemic foods  (white bread, white rice, white pasta) are known to cause wrinkles.  Also, oats “have a natural plant chemical that helps prevent damage to skin cells and smoothes skin irritation”.
2.    Oranges – loaded with vitamin C which helps promote collagen production.  Vitamin C can be termed the anti-wrinkle vitamin as it helps keep your skin younger longer.  Other vitamin C foods would include any citrus foods and tomatoes.  Tomatoes offer vitamin C and lycopene which protects your skin from sun damage. And cooked tomatoes are great.  Enjoy that salsa or spaghetti sauce. 
Make or buy some salsa
3.   Avocados – enjoy that guacamole.  Avocados have fat, but a healthy monounsaturated fat that help keep your skin hydrated.  The fat in avocados also helps you absorb vitamin A and carotene that your skin needs to be healthy.
4.    Lean protein – protein helps build collagen.  Low fat milk, low fat yogurt, low-fat cheese like 2% mozzarella,  lean beef, chicken, fish all provide high quality protein. 
5.    Salmon –healthy omega 3 fats are good for your skin. Serve it with quinoa or brown rice and you add some healthy complex carbs to the meal.
6.   Grapes – has the unique anti-aging resveratrol which is in the skin of the grapes.  It may slow the aging process but also helps our skin fight off the bad effects of UV light and sun damage.
7.    Berries – add some blueberries, raspberries, strawberries to your day. Berries add many different antioxidants to your body. They help protect your skin from pollutants in the environment and promote cell regeneration. 
WebMD also notes eating lots of yellow and green vegetables can lead to fewer wrinkles.  Additionally, focusing on antioxidants and foods rich in antioxidants is also a good strategy for healthier, younger looking skin. 

    What are some common foods with the most antioxidants?  WebMD provides a list of the 20 Common Foods with the Most Antioxidants
1.      Fruits – cranberries, blueberries and blackberries rank the highest
2.      Vegetables – beans, artichokes and russet potatoes
3.      Nuts – pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts rank high in the nut category
4.      Other foods with good antioxidant capacity include:  prunes, kidney beans, raspberries, strawberries, red delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, sweet cherries, plums, black beans and Gala apples.  
Enjoy some Granny Smith apples
 5.      Green tea – this tea is rich in antioxidants and may improve skin.  
6.      Chocolate – WebMD notes a study found that women who drank hot chocolate had softer, smoother skin in 3 months.  But they drank a special hot chocolate with higher cocoa content.  I add some cocoa to the low calorie hot chocolate mix I buy.  Just a teaspoon or so to enhance the flavor but also to get more nutritional benefit.

     Among all of these foods there should be some you can add to your diet.  Farmer’s markets are getting in fresh crops of fruits and vegetables.  We just bought locally grown blueberries last weekend.  And since Granny Smith and Gala apples are rich in antioxidants, maybe an apple a day isn’t such bad advice after all. 

     Sources:  7 anti-Aging Foods for Your Skin, Younger Next Week, tomatoes, 20 Common Foods with the Most Antioxidants , study Image sources:  fruit, salsa, apples

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Eat more fiber

Last week we discussed probiotics and how important it is to have probiotics like yogurt in your diet.  But we also noted that you have to feed the probiotics, the healthy bacteria.  One way to “feed” the healthy bacteria in your gut is to add fiber to your day.  Although our bodies can’t digest fiber, the good bacteria need it.  Fiber also plays many healthy roles in our body.  

Why add fiber to your day?                                    
1.       Weight loss – fiber helps fill you up.  Fiber has no calories so adding it to your meal fills you up without filling you out.  Fiber also takes longer to digest so when you have fiber in your meal, you will fill fuller longer.

2.       Lower your cholesterol – ever see the Cheerios commercials?  Cheerios are advertised as being “heart healthy”.  That is true.  The fiber in Cheerios grabs onto cholesterol and takes it out of your body.  That is why Cheerios can say it has “a soluble fiber proven to help lower cholesterol as part of a heart-healthy diet”. Oatmeal is also loaded with this same soluble fiber so having oatmeal for breakfast is also a heart healthy way to start your day.  Many people like the instant oatmeal.  Yes, some flavors of instant oatmeal have some added sugar, but you are still getting the benefits of the fiber so enjoy.

3.       Prevention of diverticulitis, constipation – fiber helps keep your gut healthy.  It helps move the digested food through your system.

4.       Healthy Blood Sugar levels – they always recommend diabetics have fiber in their day?  Why?  Because fiber helps keep your blood sugar levels normal.  Since fiber slows down absorption of food, fiber helps prevent spikes in your blood sugar.  

How much fiber do you need each day?

How much fiber?
Fiber – grams per day
Women 18-50 years old

For most people getting enough fiber in their day is quite challenging.  Studies have found that most American men get only 19 grams a day and American women get only 15 grams of fiber a day.  Start reading package labels and for a day or two try counting how much fiber you get in a day.  You may be surprised you are quite under the recommended amount.

How can you add fiber to your day?
First, find out how much fiber you are getting now.  When adding fiber, do it SLOWLY.  You don’t want to go from 10 grams of fiber per day to 25 or 30 grams.  Your stomach and intestines won’t be happy.  Increase your fiber slowly over a two week period or longer.  

1.       Grains – look for whole grain cereal (all General Mills cereals are whole grain).  Look at the package for how much fiber there is per serving of cereal.   Choose cereals that offer at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.  In “The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood”, Dr. Sears noted how he taught his kids and grandkids to look at cereal labels for at least 3 grams of fiber.
Tasty choice - easy to bring to work
Bread – look at the fiber content of each slice or each bagel or English Muffin.  Some breads are packed with fiber.  I like Dave’s Killer Bread which provides 5 grams of fiber per slice.  Have a sandwich and you added 10 grams of fiber to your lunch. And it is super healthy bread with 21 grains and lots of seeds.
Dave's Killer Bread
2.       Fruit and vegetables – eat them fresh and whole for the most fiber.  Going to a cook out?  Enjoy some baked beans and watermelon.  Add some fresh fruit to your yogurt, smoothie, or cereal.

3.       Nuts and seeds – have a handful of nuts a day.  Dr. Oz recommends a handful of nuts a day for overall good health.  Adding nuts and seeds to your day is an easy way to boost the health of your diet, fill you up, and add some fiber.  Pack a handful of nuts in a baggie for a healthy afternoon snack. Choose a bread that has some seeds in it.

4.       Water – hydration.  Increasing fiber means you also need to up your fluid intake.  Fiber attracts water like a sponge as it moves through your system.  Drinking more fluid will help your digestive system process the fiber you are taking in. 

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has these hints to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet.  Eat This, Not That! has a good article on “The 43 Best Foods for Fiber”.  

Foods high in fiber
Amount of fiber (grams)
7 grams
1 c. Raspberries
8 grams
Almonds 1 oz.
3.5 grams
Black beans ½ c. cooked
7.5 grams
Popcorn 3 cups popped
3.6 grams
Orange - fresh
3.1 grams
Banana – fresh medium
3.1 grams
Apple – medium
4.4 grams
3.6 grams
Avocado ¼
3.4 grams
Carrots 1 cup raw
3.6 grams
Sweet potato – 1 medium
3.8 grams
Potato –baked Russet
4 grams
Sugar Snap Peas 1 c.
4 grams
Pasta – whole grain – 1 c.
4.9 grams

What are some ways you can add fiber to your day?  I like a banana for breakfast and eat one almost every day.  I also enjoy Cheerios or some instant oatmeal.  Lunch – I enjoy some baby carrots, fresh fruit and often a cheese sandwich with whole grain bread.  Dinner – I enjoy refined bread at dinner – some good Ciabatta, French bread.  No, refined breads don’t add much or any fiber, but they can be delicious.   I focus my fiber intake on breakfast and lunch and dinner not so much.  If we have pasta at dinner, we often add some whole grain pasta to it.  All whole grain pasta spaghetti is not too appetizing.  But a little whole grain spaghetti noodles and you can hardly taste it.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

How to eat for a healthy gut

Who knew that there are bacteria that are good for us.  It’s true, there are some bacteria that actually improve your health.   What foods provide healthy bacteria?  Some people know that yogurt has healthy bacteria.  But did you know you also have to “feed” the healthy bacteria?  What can you do to add some healthy bacteria to your day for a healthier gut? And not just your digestive system benefits.  Research is now showing that probiotics may help our health in many ways including:  “immunity, weight, heart health, and even memory”.  But skip the supplements and get your probiotics and prebiotics from real food. 

What are the “good” bacteria for a healthy digestive system?
You may have heard of “probiotics”.  According to WebMD, probiotics are “live bacteria and yeast that are good for your health, especially your digestive system”.   Probiotics are the good bacteria that promote a healthy gut.  But you not only need to eat foods that provide probiotics, your diet also needs food that feed the healthy bacteria.  These types of foods are called prebiotics.  

What foods provide probiotics? 

  • Yogurt – look at the label for “live cultures” to be sure you are getting the healthy, live bacteria.  Usually you will find, lactobacillus, a common probiotic in yogurt.   Surprising, lactobacillus helps digest the lactose in yogurt.  So many people who are lactose intolerant, can enjoy some yogurt.
Yogurt with fruit
  • Kombuchas – these are fermented beverages with probiotics.  My daughter has gotten into these drinks and tries to drink a Kombucha drink every day.
Kombucha- Gingerade
  • Olives – get the cured Greek olives and you will get some probiotics, not to mention the healthy oil in olives
  • Apple Cider vinegar – use to make salad dressings
  • Dairy products – besides yogurt, buttermilk,, and soft cheeses provide probiotics

What foods have prebiotics?  So healthy bacteria need to eat.  What do you feed them?  Fiber.  We can’t digest fiber but the good bacteria thrive on fiber. By “feeding” your healthy bacteria fiber, you promote a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut and promote the growth of healthy bacteria.   If you don’t feed the healthy bacteria, then they can naturally decrease in number.  Thus, “prebiotics are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut”.

  • Vegetables – some vegetables contain prebiotics.  These include:  leeks, garlic and onions.  Add some of these to a salad with the apple cider vinegar and you will get the benefit of probiotics and prebiotics.   Other vegetables to choose are asparagus, Jicama, legumes. 
  • Grains – whole grains like oats, whole wheat, barley and rye provide fiber and thus prebiotics.  Enjoy some oatmeal, Cheerios, whole grain English muffins to add some prebiotics to your day.
  • Fruit – blueberries are not only filled with heart-healthy antioxidants, they also promote the health of your good gut bacteria.  Add some blueberries to your favorite yogurt and you once again will be getting probiotics and prebiotics.  Bananas are another good choice for prebiotics.  Apples provide pectin which has “prebiotic effects”.  The pectin in apples not only promotes growth of the healthy gut bacteria but also lowers the number of harmful bacteria in your gut.
  • Cocoa chocolate – a favorite of so many people.  “Cocoa is a tasty prebiotic food.  It contains flavanols that increase healthy gut bacteria, lower cholesterol and improve heart health.” 
  • Flaxseeds – many people sprinkle flaxseeds on their cereal or add flaxseed powder to their morning smoothie.  Or you may see “flaxseed” as an ingredient in a healthy whole grain bread.  It is the fiber in flaxseed that helps feed your good gut bacteria. 

If you would like to know more about probiotics and prebiotics, then read this helpful article, Probiotics 101.

Add some probiotics and prebiotics to your life this week.  Have some yogurt and blueberries at lunch.  Put banana slices on your morning oatmeal or Cheerios.  Make some salad dressing with apple cider vinegar.  So many easy ways to promote a healthy gut.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

What food manufacturers don’t tell you

Do food manufacturers have secrets they don’t want you to know?  My sister recommended an MSN article on a number of things food manufacturers want to keep secret as outlined in  the article 50 Secrets Food Manufacturers Don’t Tell You That Could Change the Way You Eat.  Some of the changes food manufacturers are making are good for our health.  More manufacturers are cutting back on the added sugar in foods.   Also, manufacturers are reducing the artificial flavors and artificial colors in foods.  For example, Kraft has removed the artificial color in their macaroni and cheese.  Even fast food chains are focusing on healthier options by getting rid of the antibiotics in chicken.   What are some things you should be aware of?

     1.  Crackers – are you being fooled by crackers?  Are crackers healthy?  Most crackers are made from refined flour (white flour) and sugar and salt.  Add some preservatives and you have your typical cracker.  But there are healthier cracker options.  Choosing whole grain crackers is a great way to add some whole grains and nutrition to your day.  Choose Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or other whole grain crackers.  Look at the ingredients for the word “whole” to be sure it is made from whole grain flour.  Don’t be fooled by low-fat.  We were buying low-fat Triscuits for awhile and then my husband noticed the calories per serving weren’t much different than regular Triscuits.  Some Ritz crackers are labeled whole grain but aren’t’ 100% whole grain.  Still they would be a healthier choice than crackers made with enriched flour.  And if you are just starting to eat whole grains, the whole grain Ritz crackers would be a good way to start.  Consumer Reports ranked crackers and some of their recommendations are whole grain options. 
Ritz crackers have some whole grain
     2.  Natural – manufacturers love to fake you out by using the term “natural” on food packages.  Trouble is there is no FDA approved definition of “natural”.  In 2016 FDA polled consumers as to how FDA should define “natural” and how the term “natural” should be used on food labels.  I always think it amazing when white table sugar added to foods can be termed “natural” when it is highly processed and almost devoid of nutrients.  
    3.  Hidden sugar – cutting back on all the added sugar in our diets isn’t easy.  Who doesn’t’ enjoy desserts?  We expect added sugar in our ice cream, cakes, cookies.  But manufacturers sneak added sugar into almost everything.  Look at your catsup bottle, to see the added sugar in the ingredients.  Look at your spaghetti sauce and find the added sugar.  But the label doesn’t have to say “sugar” to have added sugar in the product.  Sugar has many aliases:  high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, invert sugar, malt syrup, sucrose, cane crystals, dextrose, evaporated cane juice.   It isn’t easy to cut back on the added sugar in your every day foods.   We buy the spaghetti sauce with no added sugar.  We buy the catsup with no high fructose corn syrup.  Yes, it has some cane sugar added but we try to avoid high fructose corn syrup.  Enjoy your desserts but try to cut back on the every day foods that have the added sugar.
Spaghetti sauce with no added sugar
     4. Cheese – who doesn’t love cheese?  Cheese pizza is one of America’s favorite foods.  I love cheese sandwiches for lunch.  But are you buying real cheese?  Try to buy some real American sliced cheese.  Not easy.  What most people buy is a “cheese product”.  Food manufacturers take out some of the real milk and “replace it with processed milk protein concentrate or whey protein concentrate”.  FDA won’t let these manufacturers call this product, “cheese” so the label reads “cheese product”.  We like American cheese and we try to buy “real cheese” and often get the 2% American cheese slices.  
Choose real American Cheese
5.   Multi-grain – doesn’t “multi-grain” sound healthy?  So many people are easily fooled by this term.  Yes, the product has more than one grain, but that doesn’t mean any of the grains are whole grain.  Look at the ingredient list.  If the first word is “enriched” it is not a whole grain product.  It may have some whole grains in it but the healthiest choice would be “whole” as the first word and the first ingredient.  Thus, whole wheat flour or whole rye flour.  Barley and quinoa would be other whole grains.  Some multi-grain crackers are whole grain and these would be a healthy choice.
These Multi-Grain Crackers are 100% whole grain
 So, have you let manufacturers fool you? Check out some labels on the foods you eat to see if food manufacturers have a leg up on you.  Try to buy some real American cheese slices.  Buy some whole grain crackers.  For your next barbecue, buy some catsup without the high fructose corn syrup.

Sources:  article,  FDA, crackers, Sugar, Image sources:  cheese, Ritz, crackers, spaghetti sauce

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Enjoy some Fruit and 100-calorie Picnic Foods

Who doesn’t like some fresh fruit?  My husband brought home a watermelon this week.  It was summer sweet.  All kinds of fruit will soon be coming your way as summer approaches; strawberries ripened on the vine, cherries from Washington, blueberries from Michigan.  Not only is fruit delicious it is super healthy, low in fat and low in calories.  Consumer Reports has an excellent article on 100 calorie summer fruits (June 2018) and 100 calorie picnic foods.   If you are going on summer picnics or barbeques soon, read what a 100-calorie serving of barbeque foods look like.  

Enjoy some 100-calorie fruit:  most fruit is so low in calories that you can eat a handful or more and enjoy a number of servings throughout the day.  Yes, fruit has “sugar” but this is the natural sugar, fructose.  It is the “added sugar” that we should be cutting back on, not the natural sugar in fruit.  Some people mistakenly believe fruit will make you fat.  Not true.  Fruit has no high fructose corn syrup and no added sugars which can add on the pounds.  Because we eat the whole fruit including the fiber, the sugar in fruit doesn’t spike your blood sugar as the added sugar in a soda would.  Berkeley notes:  the fiber and other components in fruit slows the absorption of fructose.  Some studies have shown that people who are a healthy weight, eat more fruit than people who are obese.  Even Weight Watchers has revised its stance on fruit.  Fresh fruit now has 0 points so one can enjoy as much fresh fruit at they want and still be adhering to the Weight Watchers diet plan. 

What does a 100-calorie serving of fruit look like?

28 or 2 cups
2 medium
128 or 1 ¼ cups
12 ounces (2 cups diced)
¾ large banana
1 large

For a more comprehensive listing of what 100 calories of fruit looks like, go to Spark People.   They provide a long list of pictures of what 100 calories serving of fruits looks like and 100 calories of many other foods:  vegetables, grains, etc.  
Enjoy watermelon and fresh fruit
Picnics and Barbeques – going on a picnic or to a barbeque soon?  Plan ahead and know which foods pack in the calories and which you can enjoy and not really worry much about the calories.  Fruit and vegetables are always a good choice to fill up on.  Enjoy all the foods being offered but beware of which foods pack in the most calories.   Maxine Siegel, R.D. heads up Consumer Reports’ food lab.  She offers some advice for barbeques:  “We normally don’t think of picnic foods as being good for you, but many of them are.  For example, watermelon is low in calories and a source of potassium and the heart-healthy lycopene.  Corn on the cob is a good source of magnesium and potassium and supplies vitamin A in the form of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants important for eye health.”   Enjoy some vegetables and if you are the host, grill some vegetables:  asparagus (grilled asparagus recipe), corn, mushroom, peppers.  Consumer Reports recommends grilling fruit including peaches, pineapple, plums and even watermelon.

Grill some corn on the cob
 What does 100 calories of barbeque foods look like?

1/3 of a burger – hamburger and bun
Corn on the Cob
1 and 2/3 ears
Hot dog
1/3 hot dog and bun
Shrimp, grilled
5 large
Baked Beans (Bush’s)
1/3 cup
1/3 cup
1 pound (yes a whole pound)
Potato salad
¼ cup

When shopping this week, choose that watermelon or other fresh fruit.  Pack some fresh cut up watermelon in your lunch.  Take along some grapes.  Grilling?  Add some fresh vegetables to the grill.  
Grilled asparagus

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Diet Pitfalls 2

Last week we discussed five diet pitfalls you may be making.   Here are four more diet pitfalls to be aware of.  These are from  9 Things You Should Never Do When Starting a Diet.   If you are trying to take off a few pounds, be aware of some diet mistakes you might be making.  As I noted last week, so many people start a diet, then go “off” the diet.  Rather the focus should be on changing your eating habits and your exercise habits. It is a lifestyle change to a healthier you.   Change your habits and you can be a healthier you.   

Diet Tips – Don’t make these mistakes (continued):

Mistake #6 – Don’t Keep your Diet Goals a Secret
Hiding your “diet” from everyone may actually make it harder to stick to it.  Go out to eat and your friends will keep asking you to “have another bite” or let’s try a dessert.  Get a “diet buddy” or an “exercise buddy” to help you stick to your action plan.  When you are tempted to go off your plan, call your “diet buddy”.  Have someone there to cheer you on.  For many years I walked at lunch with 2 friends.  We almost never missed – rain, we walked.  Snow, we walked.  It really helped having friends to share the walk with.  So, find a “diet buddy” to share your successes with and to help you through the tempting times.  
Find a walking buddy
Mistake #7:  Exercise Yes, but Change Your Diet too
Exercise is so important in adopting a healthier lifestyle.  But exercise alone won’t take off all the pounds.  And choose the right exercise.  You want to add some strength training to keep toned and to change that fat into muscle.  Muscle burns more calories than fat so building up some muscle will actually help you burn more calories all day long.  Ladies – toning up is important for ladies too.  One doesn’t have to lift barbells to be toned.  Work with a personal trainer and do some machines for your legs and some for your arms.  At a recent family get together, I noticed how toned my sister-in-law was.  She said she had been working with a personal trainer.  If you don't want to work out individually, join an aerobics class to not only tone but to burn the calories.  Or add some walking into your day.  At work, take a walk at lunch with friends.  Walk around the office – go talk to someone instead of sending an email.  Build more walking into your day.

Mistake #8:  The Scale Isn’t the Only Measure of Your Weight Loss Success
You may be adding muscle and losing fat, but the scale may not show it yet.  Muscle weighs more than fat.  You also want to focus on health goals like lowering your blood pressure, getting your cholesterol in normal limits.  Focus on your overall health and not just the number on the scale.  Some weight loss diets promise quick weight loss.  These quack diets can result in dropping a few pounds at first. But some of this is water loss.  Go off the quack diet and the water is retained and you are back where you started.  Focus on healthy lifestyle changes and your health will improve, you’ll have more energy and the number on the scale will also show results.

Mistake #9:  Don’t Go ON A DIET
Stop the roller coaster ride of “on the diet” then “off the diet”.  One really shouldn’t go “off” the diet.  Your “diet” should be learning healthier ways of eating. That is why Weight Watcher’s is such a good plan for losing weight.  They teach you better eating habits and promote exercise.  Once you learn healthier eating habits, you won’t need to go “off” the diet as it will be the way you eat everyday and not just on “diet days”. 

We looked at 5 diet pitfalls last week.  If you missed them, go here to read about them:  Diet Pitfalls.  What diet mistakes are you making?  Take one “mistake” or pitfall and try to change it for one week.  The following week, work on another diet mistake or pitfall.  Soon you will have changed a lot of pitfalls and have developed healthier habits.  If you would like to read about more “traps” you may be falling into, check out 16 Diet Plan Pitfalls That Can Be Easily Prevented.  Even more traps you may be falling into that sabotage your healthy eating goals.   

Last week we discussed diets that give up an entire food group.  So many people have given up dairy.  We need dairy for calcium and vitamin D, not to mention the high-quality protein dairy provides.  If you have given up dairy, time to add some back to your diet.  Bring a yogurt to lunch every day this week.  Good for your bones, good for your gut and good for your overall health.