How CHERRIES can impact your Health

Cherries. They are beautiful.  They are cheery little morsels that are sweet, but also tart.  Have you ever thought about how a handful of cherries per day could be a dose of medicine that you are missing out on?

As Hippocrates said: “Let food by thy medicine and let medicine by thy food”. 

Cherries are loaded with antioxidants.  Tart cherries have properties that are different, and often more potent, than sweet cherries.  Sweet cherries can be a delicious lower glycemic load snack (important for diabetics and others with insulin resistance), but when it comes to supplementing your diet with cherry juice, make it tart!

Tart cherries have long been used as a natural pain killer and are particularly effective against gout. Scientists believe that compounds in the cherries called anthocyanins are responsible for the effect. Cherries have been shown to lower levels of uric acid in the blood which is one of the most common causes of gout pain. Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis triggered by high levels of uric acid in the blood.  Look for tart cherry juice at the grocery or health food store (Knudsen is a common brand) and get in the habit of having a small glass each day. Tart cherry juice is, well you know: Tart. It is straight up juice, no added sugar or other ingredients.  I like it chilled and I drink it from a juice glass. I’ve been working with a gentleman for a few years now as his health coach and he hasn’t had a flare up of gout since he added tart cherry juice to his daily routine.

Anthocyanins from cherries are also highly anti-inflammatoryConsuming them on a regular basis may help lower the risk for heart attack, stroke and even colon cancer.

In addition to cherries, foods that are rich in anthocyanins include blueberries, blackberries, purple carrots and pomegranate juice.  The richer the color of the fruit or vegetable, the greater likelihood it’s loaded with the health-giving compounds.

Osteoarthritis and Muscle Pain.  These are ailments that I struggle with and I’m betting many of you reading this also feel the same pain.    A cup and a half of tart cherries or one cup of tart cherry juice daily can reduce joint pain of osteoarthritis and muscle inflammation and soreness.

What are some other benefits of adding cherries, specifically tart cherries and tart cherry juice to your diet?

  • Can help you sleep better. Drink cherry juice 30 minutes after waking and 30 minutes before your evening meal to boost melatonin. Cherries are a good source of melatonin and have also been found to help with jet lag.  There is a higher level of melatonin in tart cherries compared to sweet cherries.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association includes cherries as one of the memory boosting foods because they are rich in antioxidants.
  • May reduce the risk of stroke. Tart cherries provide cardiovascular benefits. The anthocyanins may activate PPAR which regulates genes involved in fat and glucose metabolism and thus, reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Improve the aging of our skin. Cherries and their high antioxidant level help the body fight the aging process.
  • Help regulate heart rate and blood pressure. The phytosterols in cherries help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol levels.

I don’t know about you, but that is a lot to Cheer about. Why don’t you head out to find yourself a jar of tart cherry juice and put it in your fridge to chill.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

 

I share my thoughts with you to provide information and food for thought aka pondering. Pondering which will lead to more reading, education and Eureka! moments. However, please don’t take it as medical advice. It isn’t. If you have a medical condition, or suspect you have one, always seek care from a licensed medical professional. That way — it’s all BAMtastic! 

Music, Movement & Joy

Music.  It makes us happy or it makes us cry – depends on the song and what emotion it evokes.  Music connects us to memories.  We sing if we hear a song even if we are not good singers. We tap our toes, snap our fingers, we move our arms, legs,  heads, or our entire bodies.  I’d be surprised if we consciously make a decision to do any of those things – we just do it.  The music moves us.

So why was I so surprised a few weeks ago when something truly WOW happened?  The best way I can describe it:  Pure Joy.   It made my day, week, month, maybe my year.  It is leading me on new path. What happened?

I lead senior adult fitness classes. I work with older adults to improve their cardiovascular system, functional strength, balance, core strength  – it’s what I do.  I’m passionate about helping others stay healthy, strong and independent as they age.  Music is always part of the workout because music makes us happy, encourages us to move and it sets the tempo, the mood.   The training I’ve done, the fitness classes I’ve led have always been with active adults in a studio setting  – they come to me.  Until recently.  An opportunity crossed my path recently to lead a Saturday morning class in an Assisted Living facility and my intent was to lead a “structured” class which is “how things are done”.  I quickly discovered that that isn’t the case when you are working with much older adults  and/or adults that have varying degrees of dementia. So I do what I do:  I winged it – made it up as I went along – I let the music guide me.

I’d been with these awesome ladies for about a month.  Participation was low.  It was “exercise” class and most folks stayed in their rooms because you know:  Exercise.  The few who were participating were marginally participating; others were with me physically in the room, but not mentally.  The morning that “it” happened, after 15 minutes of a “no go” morning, I told them we’d play “Name That Tune”.  They name it, I’d play it.  Someone asked for Elvis.  I played Elvis. Toes were tapping.  More Elvis.  More toe tapping and fingers keeping beat against chair arms.  Doris Day “Everyone Loves a Lover” got fingers snapping.  Ladies were leaving their rooms with their walkers to come see “where that music was coming from” and then their toes were tapping, hands moving, big smiles on faces.  Chubby Checker and his Twist was next and before I knew it  –  it was game on.  A 90 year old typically in a fog of dementia got up and was dancing, eyes closed.  Someone got up to dance with her, then another.  Another reached her hand out to me and told me she wanted to dance.  As we were dancing, I looked up and saw staff watching in awe taking pictures, taking video and shouting encouragement.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see a very frail 97 year old moving her feet trying to get up – her aide comes to assist her and asked “Miss Margie, are you wanting to dance?  Margie told her “I am going to dance!” so with the help of her walker and her aide helping support her, she danced.  We danced for two hours.  They wore me out.   I played old gospel songs and they sang every single word.  I was asked for “one more fast one”  so Jerry Lee Lewis saw us dancing to the dining room for lunch.   I sat and had a very good conversation with a lady who typically is not able to have a steady conversation. She had been awakened and it was pretty darn awesome sauce.

Since that day, I’ve been reading up on how music can affect the memory and how individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can benefit from music. It doesn’t have to be formal programs of music therapy and anyone with time, energy and passion can make a difference in someone’s life.  I’ve watched the documentary “Alive Inside”  and have signed up for training with Music and Memory and have decided to get involved with elders in my community on a volunteer basis.   In my small way, I want to make a difference.  Music. We can all bring some music to folks can’t we?  All of us together can make a big difference.

For more information and a big dose of WOW head over to Music and Memory as a starting place.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

 

Chamayne – Why She Runs

This is a guest blog from my friend, Chamayne Metcalfe Johnson.  Chamayne and I graduated from high school together in 1981 and are 55 this year.  Age 55 may not be the same as it was for our mothers, but the years tick on for all of us.  One thing that is  different for us is that we are better equipped to change up our habits so that we can be stronger and healthier as we age.  This is Chamayne’s story.

I did indeed have a very special birthday this year. I ran my first 5K race — at age 55.  I placed 5th in my age group and only started running 3 months ago.

Here’s the story: After steadfastly refusing for years, um…decades, when asked by friends, I started running on August 22, 2018. Well, maybe more like shuffle-jogging at times but still…

I had never run in my entire life. And I do mean never. In high school and into my 20’s, I was what most people might consider to be fairly fit and “athletic.” However, there’s a big difference in being “athletic” and being an athlete. I was not an athlete. I never participated in organized sports teams, never had a coach making me run, and therefore, I.NEVER.RAN. EV-ER. And in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, well….enough said.

But then…

For the last two summers, for some unknown reason, I’d wake up and see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and have a real urge to hop out of bed, go out the back door, and actually run. I never did it, but something was just there — a nudging, an itch, a restlessness.

I ran into a teaching friend a couple of weeks into school who made changes to his lifestyle for the sake of his health and because of his loved ones, so that he’d be here for them. He told me that every day, he looks in the mirror, points at himself, and says, “You will NOT be a sorry ass!” For some reason, that hit me hard. It began to motivate even the stubborn no-I’m-never-gonna-run me. It resonated and stuck with me.

The final piece of the puzzle, the determining factor, the catalyst… Kenny. My sweet husband has coal miner’s pneumoconiosis…black lung disease.  He is also a non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. He’d give anything to have his health back, to breathe easily. He’d love to be able to inhale our beautiful mountain air deeply and exhale fully until his scarred belly is concave. He’d love to run. He can’t, but by golly….I can.  And so I am.

All of those things just came together in God’s perfect timing and I made my mind up to start one day after school. I’m doing it. Running. I’m more tortoise than hare, but I am a runner now. I love it. I’ve fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. I’ll probably never be fast but then that’s not my goal anyway.

My goal is not to waste the health that God has so graciously bestowed upon me. I’ve been so very blessed with strong legs, healthy lungs, a heart that’s still beating, and eyes and ears that can gaze upon the majesty of nature and hear the beauty of birdsong as I run.

My goal is to be healthy, to be here for my loved ones. My husband needs me, my mother needs me, my son needs me. I’m doing it for me, for them, and for those who can’t.

I’m doing it for my mother, who due to ulcerative colitis, grief, and other concerns, is in very poor health and begs me to do whatever I must to stay healthy, maintain good balance, prevent falls, and promote strong muscles and bones.

I’m doing it for my mom’s lifelong best friend who’s had two total knee replacements.

I’m doing it for Mamaw, who, before her death, was crippled and confined to a wheelchair by degenerative osteoporosis.

I’m doing it for my brother, Britt, who died by suicide. I think of him often as I run here on the farm.

I’m doing it for Daddy and Pappy who died of heart disease.

I’m doing it for Papaw, Memmy, and my cousin Karen, who each died from stroke complications.

I’m doing it to set a good example for my and Kenny’s kids and grandkids.

I’m doing it to encourage others, especially anyone who’s never run before, anyone in their 40’s, 50’s, or 60’s…anyone who’s never really been active and thinks it’s too late. It’s not! No matter your age, young or old, teenager or grandparent, you CAN make a change. If I can do it, you can do it.

When I first started, Wednesday, August 22, 2018, I didn’t even know if I COULD run. I truly didn’t know if it was possible at 54 years, 11 months, and 6 days old. I have beginning cataracts, damaged cervical vertebrae from a car accident, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis curvature from childhood, arthritic-like joints at times, and numerous kidney stones just waiting to be jarred about and send me to the ER again. Not to mention, zero cardiovascular stamina.

I solicited the help of my friend Erica. She and another friend started back in January, asked me to join them, and I practically laughed in their faces as I categorically refused, saying, “This ole gal don’t run!” Oh, but I ate those words, incorrect grammar and all, and now needed advice on apps and some “coaching.”

I started the Fitness22 5K app, an eight-week program. You run 3 times per week, building up run time. You always start each run with 5 minutes walking to warm up and end with 5 minutes walking to cool down. Between warm up and cool down, you alternate run time with walk time. For instance, Week 1 Day 1 is: 1 minute run/1.5 minute walk, 6 times. That’s it. Sounds doable, right?

Guess what? I thought I’d DIE trying to run ONE MINUTE. Yes, 60 seconds! It was awful, even with 1.5 minutes walking in between. But I stuck it out. I did the next day and next day and the next day, week after week. If I couldn’t finish one of the training runs, I’d repeat it again until I could accomplish it before moving on to the next level. At the end of the 5K app, you’ve built up to running 35 minutes non-stop with no walking in between. (I’ve actually worked up to 53 minutes and over 3 miles a few times.)

So, I started running literally 60 seconds at a time, gasping for breath like a galloping horse, and today, I completed a 5K, running the whole way, never walking one step and never stopping one time.

I can’t wait to do it again.       ~  Chamayne

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the “good” types of fat that blunt inflammatory responses. They may help lower the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and arthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients; like all other essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, they are used routinely by the body in critical metabolic functions. In the case of omega-3 fats, they are incorporated into cell membranes and are a major construction material for a large family of hormones known as prostaglandins.   Prostaglandins are, among other things, regulators of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory responses. Some classes of fat, including most omega-6 fats, are used to construct prostaglandins that accentuate inflammatory responses. The prostaglandins manufactured from omega-3s tend to help weaken such responses, and this is why fish oil is often called “anti-inflammatory” because it leads to the manufacture of hormones that blunt inflammatory responses.

Where can you find them?

 FISH & SEAFOOD

  • Salmon (Wild Alaskan Salmon is best)
  • Arctic Char
  • Sardines
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Rainbow Trout
  • Anchovies
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Mussels
  • Crab
  • Cod

Those are the fish and seafood that are highest in Omega 3s.  However, eating any variety of fish that lived in the sea or rivers and lakes that are abundant with a variety of algae will reward you with some Omega 3s.

FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS

You are looking for at least 500 mg of EPA and DPA per dosage, not the total amount of Omega 3 fish oil used to make the product (which is what the label usually highlights)Fish oil supplements from Nordic waters are noted to be especially high quality.  Single source Cod Liver Oil is also an option. Brands that I recommend:   Carlson’s and Nordic Naturals

SEA PLANTS 

“Seaweed” is the common name for countless species of marine plants and algae that grow in the ocean as well as in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies.

  •  Kelp
  • Kombu
  • Wakame
  • Dulse
  • Nori

NUTS and SEEDS

  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds (ground or grind the whole seeds yourself)
  • Pumpkin (pepita) seeds

OILS

  • Cod Liver oil
  • Flax Seed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Mustard oil [can be found in Indian food stores]

 Try mustard oil in salads instead of olive oil; dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale have Omega 3s

VEGETABLES & FRUIT

Dark leafy greens

  •  Spinach
  •  Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccoli rabe

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels Sprouts

Winter Squash

Berries

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  •  Blueberries
  • Mangoes

Honeydew Melon

SPICES & HERBS

Virtually all herbs and spices have a great Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio; the ones with highest Omega 3s:

  • Oregano
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon
  • Cloves

OSTEOARTHRITIS. Eat Well & Move your Joints!

Arthritis pain and stiffness can make you feel that you don’t want to move, so you find yourself sitting more and moving less. That seems like the thing to do, but it isn’t.  Our joints need movement.   When healthy joints move, the bones glide against one another little friction due to a layer of slick articular cartilage and slippery synovial fluid.  Synovial fluid provides cushion and lubrication for the joints. When a joint is at rest, cartilage absorbs some of the synovial fluid. When the joint is in use the synovial fluid is squeezed out of the cartilage; moving our joints is essential to circulate the synovial fluid.  Gently moving the joints for 10 minutes each morning will start your day off with less stiffness and can lessen pain when you continue to move throughout the day.  Even if you are sitting, you can be moving your joints.  Exercise that is joint friendly without impact to the joints is essential.  Creating a habit of 10 minutes of Ageless Grace® practice is a great way to start your day for your body and your mind.

Food What we put into our bodies matter.  Food is indeed medicine.  A basic place to start is eating more fruits, vegetables and crowding processed sugars out of your life. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Sugar is added to many commercially prepared foods, many that you wouldn’t expect.  White flour products (bread, rolls, crackers and many cereals) are refined and lack fiber. These foods fuel the production of advanced glycation end (AGE) products that stimulate inflammation.

Beyond those basics, add more Omega-3 fatty acids to your life.  Omega-3s blunt inflammatory responses that may help lower the risk of arthritis, dementia, heart disease and depression. Prostaglandins are regulators of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory responses.  Omega-3s help weaken inflammatory responses while Omega-6 fats increase inflammatory responses.  We tend to get more Omega-6 fats in our diet due to convenience foods, and we don’t get enough Omega-3s.

Where can you find Omega-3s?  Eating more fish and seafood is an excellent way to get more Omega-3 fats. The fattier the fish, the richer it is in Omega-3s.  Best choices are: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Arctic Char, Sardines, Halibut, Mackerel, Tuna, Rainbow Trout, Cod, Anchovies, Oysters, Shrimp, Mussels and Crab.

Nuts and Seeds also have some Omega-3s. Walnuts have the greatest amount. Chia seeds, Flax seeds (ground or grind the whole seeds yourself) and Pumpkin (pepita) seeds also are good sources.  Flax seed oil, Walnut oil and Mustard oil are also rich sources. Mustard oil can be found in Indian food stores. Try mustard oil in salads instead of olive oil. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale have Omega-3s; try a salad made with those greens and mustard oil for an Omega-3 punch.

Vegetables and Fruit also contain Omega-3s. The richest sources are: dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli rabe.  Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Winter squash, Berries, Mangoes and Honeydew melon.  Citrus fruits due to their rich Vitamin C content, aid in collagen production which is beneficial for joint health.  In fact, read my blog post on Collagen.

Get excess weight off your joints.   If you are overweight and certainly if you are obese, getting at least 10% of your extra bodyweight off your joints will help tremendously.  Every additional pound of excess bodyweight puts approximately 4lbs of extra stress on our joints.  Less stress on your joints = less wear and tear and less pain.

In summary, rid yourself of excess weight on your joints, eat less processed sugar and commercial baked goods. Eat more vegetables and fruit especially leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and berries. Eat more fish. Eat more walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Consider taking a high-quality fish oil supplement or a vegan algae supplement.  Get movement into your life and your joints every single day.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

 

Love for your Body, Mind & Spirit

Warmer weather is nudging its way to us and getting outside on a regular basis will be a reality that I encourage to embrace.  The simple act of walking has so many health benefits that if the pharmaceutical companies could capture all the benefits and stuff them into a capsule they’d surely do it and charge several dollars for a single capsule.

Walking doesn’t require any special training. Most folks can do I and it doesn’t take any equipment other than a decent pair of shoes.  You can walk at the park, around town, around the block in your neighborhood, around the perimeter of your parking lot at work on your lunch break, around the inside of a large store or shopping mall (just don’t stop to shop – keep on walking! – then shop).   30 minutes of exercise per days does so many good things for our bodies, minds and spirits. Start at your fitness level.  Walking at a slow pace is fine if that is where you are; challenge yourself to increase the intensity so that you are eventually walking at a pace that talking is possible, but you can’t carry on a chatty conversation with someone.

Let’s list a few things that WALKING can do for you:

  • Strengthens your BONES
  • Strengthens your HEART
  • LOWERS disease risk
  • Keeps WEIGHT in check
  • Can help prevent DEMENTIA
  • Gives you ENERGY
  • It makes you HAPPY

WHOA!  Did you just read that?

Regular walking has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. It lowers levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) while increasing levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) and keeps your blood pressure in check.   A walking habit can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and can keep insulin resistance in check. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and plays a role in many chronic health conditions.  Active walkers have around a 20% lowered risk of developing cancer of the colon, breast and uterus.  30 minutes a day. That’s all you need to reap these benefits.

Walking uses calories – you are expending energy.  Walking is weight bearing so it stimulates and strengthens bones, increasing their density. This is especially important for women.  Post-Menopausal women are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Research shows that post-menopausal women who walk approximately 1 mile per day have higher bone density than women who don’t walk.   Walking helps maintain healthy joints and that is bad news for arthritis.  Walking strengthens and shapes your leg muscles, giving definition to calves, quads, and hamstrings and gives OOMPH to your glutes – especially if you add hills.  If you pay attention to your posture as you walk, your core muscles will get in on the benefits too.

Speed walking comes from your arms.  Hold them at a comfortable level at your waist, bent at the elbow, and swing them backwards and forwards as your walk.  Swing them faster and you’ll automatically speed up.  That movement is working the muscles of your arms, shoulders and upper back.  Using all those muscles challenges them and the more muscle we have and use, the more calories we burn, even at rest.

A brisk walk is one of the best natural energizers.  Walking boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in our bodies, helping us to feel more alert and alive.  Think about that the next time you find yourself plopped down on the couch watching TV bemoaning that you “never have time” or are “too tired” to exercise. Get up, lace up the shoes and walk for 15 minutes. I guarantee that you will feel better.   Those 15 minutes will become 20, then 30.   Walking can clear a cluttered mind.  Walking alleviates stress and symptoms of depression.  Exercise releases “feel good” endorphins into the bloodstream, reducing stress and anxiety.

Physical activity has a protective effect on brain function and regular exercise can help us avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass.  Dementia affects one in 14 people over age 65 and one in 6 over age 80.   A study from Harvard a few years ago looked at walking and its many benefits.  That study found that later in life, walking becomes as much an INDICATOR of health as a PROMOTER of it.  After age 65, how fast you walk may predict how long you have to live. Researchers have found a consistent association between faster walking speed and a longer life.  Can you get your shoes on fast enough for a longer life with more memory?

In a nutshell:  Walking improves physical and mental function and it makes us feel GOOD.

Stay Healthy. Be Strong. Get After It.

Collagen. How to Get More Of It.

Anytime you are faced with a change you want to make to your health, always look to nutrition first and what you can do differently to support your body in taking care of itself.  If you don’t go to the source, you are merely putting a band-aid on something and sometimes you are working against your body if you don’t provide it with the nutrients it needs.

Collagen is an abundant protein in our bodies and it is found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and our tendons and ligaments.  It is what gives our skin strength and elasticity and is what keeps our joints, tendons and ligaments healthier and moving with ease.  Tendons are thick bundles of collagen that connect muscle to bone and allow movement, while ligaments are flexible bundles of collagen that connect bone to bone and protect your joints.

Good collagen production can also ease the pain of osteoarthritis.  As we age, our collagen production naturally slows down.  This degenerative process is accounts for signs of aging such as wrinkles sagging skin and joint pain due to weakened or decreased cartilage.  Collagen helps our tendons ligaments and muscles heal after an injury or surgery.

Collagen is a long-chain amino acid compound of the individual amino acids proline, glycine, hydroxyproline and arginine.  Collagen accounts for 30% of protein found in the body and 70% of protein in skin.   Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.

The good news is, there are some things we can do nutritionally to help support collagen production.

First, a couple of things to stop or dramatically cut down on:  Smoking, excessive sun exposure (yes, that especially means tanning beds which are harmful in so many ways to our skin) and junk food/sugar consumption.  We need the Vitamin D benefits of real sunshine, but we don’t need to be baking ourselves.  Smoking, excessive un exposure and a diet high in added sugar speeds up the deterioration of collagen.

Secondly, the good things to add to your diet that support collagen production.  The biggies are:  Protein / Amino Acids and Vitamin C.

Vitamin C supports collagen production.  Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C helps our bodies to maintain and build collagen.   The top 10 foods for Vitamin C are:  Oranges, Red Bell Peppers, Kale, Guava, Kiwi, Green Bell Peppers, Brussels sprouts, Broccoli, Strawberries & Grapefruit.

Protein from plant or animal based foods such as eggs (the protein is in the egg whites), beans, lentils, plain or lower sugar Greek or Icelandic yogurt, cottage cheese, hard cheese, quinoa, fish (canned tuna & salmon are easy options) chicken, turkey, beef, pork and to a lesser extent: nuts, seeds and higher protein vegetables.  Vegetables highest in protein are:  asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, artichoke, watercress and yellow corn.  Nuts and seeds have protein and healthy fat.  However, you cannot depend upon nuts and vegetables as your primary protein source.   Quality protein powders whether whey protein or vegan proteins such as hemp, brown rice or pea protein with added BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) can be used to supplement your diet, but I don’t recommend relying on supplements.  Real food is always best.

Collagen Peptides are another supplement you can consider for boosting your collagen production.  Choose an unflavored powder and mix it in a glass of juice, add it to a smoothie or add it to a batch of banana bread.   There are also Collagen supplements in capsule form.  One I especially like has hyaluronic acid in the formulation which is excellent for our joints, eyes and skin.

Exercise is beneficial for our overall health so it’s no surprise that exercise supports collagen production.  30 – 60 minutes of continuous exercise each day (30 minutes minimum, but building up to 60 minutes is optimal and you can do it in two 30 minute sessions).   Walking is excellent and can be done by almost anyone anywhere.  A walk around town, at the park, the parking lot at lunch, the perimeter of a large warehouse store or up and down your driveway gets the job done!  Jumping on a mini trampoline is also a good option that also has great benefits for our lymphatic system and bone density.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a group fitness class, lifting weights circuit style are all options.  Find an activity and get out there and do it!

Other foods to eat more of to support collagen health.

Red fruits & vegetables due to the lycopene they contain

Dark green vegetables are rich in lutein and vitamin C

Beans help produce hyaluronic acid which is a lubricating fluid found in skin,                                                 eyes, joints and connective tissue

Prunes & Blueberries are high in antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals before they can do damage

Omega 3 fatty acids help create an ideal environment for collagen production. You find Omega 3s in seaweed, fatty fish, walnuts, chia and flax seeds as well as cod, flax, walnut and mustard oil (can be found in Indian food stores).

Broth made from beef, chicken or fish bones is rich in collagen and can be consumed by itself or used as a base for soup.

Ensuring that we are eating nutritious foods that support collagen production is important for every single person.  If you are an older adult, or someone who is recovering from an orthopedic injury or surgery or an injury or surgery involving your skin, keeping your eye on your health relative to collagen production is essential and vitally important.  It truly isn’t that difficult to do; we just need to know what to do.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

ZUCCHINI

Squash is plentiful right now and you may find yourself being gifted with loads of zucchini.  Local farmer’s markets will toss in extra in your bag when you aren’t looking.  You may be the victim of a hit and run: your neighbor hits up your doorstep with zucchini then runs.  What can you do with all that zucchini?  What are the health benefits?

1 medium squash has 33 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 2.4 grams of protein and provides the RDA of these vitamins and minerals:  Calcium 3%; Iron 3%; Vitamin C 58%; Vitamin A 7%; B6 15% and Magnesium 8%.  It also has a whopping 512 mg of potassium, which is great for keeping our blood pressure healthier.

How about reducing age-related macular degeneration?  Yep.  Zucchini has plenty of the carotenoids lutein & zeaxanthin which are powerhouses for eye health.  Manganese too, which aids in the production of collagen which is essential for wound healing and like Vitamin C, manganese is an antioxidant that protects against cellular damage from free radicals. Vitamin C, best known for protecting sailors against scurvy, is a water-soluble antioxidant that also helps our bodies metabolize cholesterol.  Squash in general has high water content which makes it a “high volume” food which means there is a LOT of good stuff for very few calories.

How can you add zucchini to your life?  Chop it up and add it to soup. Make a casserole with layered slices of zucchini, yellow squash, onion, green tomatoes and cheese.  Thinly slice it length-wise and use those slices instead of noodles in lasagna. Slice them in half, remove the “innards” and fill up the slices with marinara or meat sauce, sprinkle with cheese and bake.  Whip up a skillet of calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a traditional vegetable dish in New Mexico that my friend Carla introduced me to years ago. It is easy and delicious.  I always use a cast iron skillet.  Grab one and add a bit of olive oil and put the pan over medium heat; throw in some chopped zucchini along with some salt, pepper and garlic.  Stir it around a bit then add some fresh corn and some green chiles.  No recipe, it is a throw-it-together dish that takes just a couple of minutes to prepare.  Generally, I’d say 2 medium zucchini, 1 ear of corn, and half a can of diced green chiles.  Add to your taste; can’t really go wrong. Get out that skillet and whip up a batch.

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It.

The Power of Pineapple

Food is medicine, and it is delicious medicine.  We are indeed what we eat, and if we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, we are giving our bodies premium fuel.

Let’s talk pineapple.  When it comes to produce, remember: Fresh is always best!  Frozen is the next best.

The fruit is made up of many individual berries that fuse together around a central core. Each pineapple scale is an individual berry.  Pineapple contains:

  • Bromelain – an enzyme that has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Vitamin C – lots of it!
  • Manganese – a mineral important to bone health 
  • Thiamin – a B vitamin that is involved in energy production

In 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus found pineapples on Guadeloupe Island in the Caribbean. The fruit is also native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. Historically, Hawaii was the world’s largest pineapple producer and source for U.S. pineapples. Today the largest producers include the Philippines, Brazil, and Costa Rica. Pass over sour-smelling or bruised pineapples. Fruit from Hawaii or Central America tends to be freshest.

To make your pineapple softer and juicier, keep it at room temperature for 1 or 2 days before cutting.  One cup of fresh pineapple chunks has about 82 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, is low in sodium.  Pineapple is a tropical fruit and tropical fruits are a higher in sugar.

Don’t stress over sugar that is in your produce, because that sugar comes with nutrients and fiber. Instead, be mindful about how it fits into your total intake.  For example, make sure you are eating a balance of foods, not a lot of any single food.

Last but not least: Pineapple is a fabulous meat tenderizer because the Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme.  Use pineapple juice in marinades for flavor and to tenderize.  Pineapple juice works very well as a marinade for jerky.

What are the benefits of adding some pineapple to your life?

  • Anti-Inflammatory benefits – especially cited as helpful with reducing osteoarthritis pain
  • Can reduce tumor growth
  • Blood clot reduction
  • Immune system support
  • Bone strength
  • Eye health
  • Aids digestion

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

 

Why SQUATS Should be in Your Life

SQUATS.   If you’re looking for a powerful way to boost your overall fitness and health, look no further than the squat. This is one exercise that should be a part of virtually everyone’s routine. The squat is relatively simple to perform, requires no or very minimal equipment, and can be done just about anywhere.

WHY are they so good?

Builds Muscle in Your Entire Body

Squats work the two biggest muscle groups in your body: the glutes and the quads. Assistance movers for this exercise include the hamstrings and the calves. Squats also help build lower back strength and develop core strength and stabilization. Squats are a functional exercise in that they aid your ability to live a full, healthy life. Anything from getting out of a chair, to squatting down to pick something off the floor requires squat strength. Especially as we get older, proper squat technique is critical to maintain health and longevity.  There are many variations to this very effective compound exercise.

Functional Exercise Makes Real-Life Activities Easier

Functional exercises are those that help your body to perform real-life activities.  Squats are one of the best functional exercises out there, as humans have been squatting since the hunter-gatherer days. When you perform squats, you build muscle and help your muscles work more efficiently, as well as promote mobility and balance.

Increase your Metabolism

One of the most time-efficient ways to raise your metabolism is to have more muscle. Muscle is active tissue and it requires more energy (calories) to maintain throughout the day – even when at rest or sleeping.

Maintain Mobility and Balance

Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are excellent for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is the #1 way to prevent bone fractures.

Prevent Injuries

Most athletic injuries involve weak stabilizer muscles, ligaments and connective tissues, which squats help strengthen. They also help prevent injury by improving your flexibility and balance.  If you can prevent a fall, you’ve prevented a potentially serious injury – especially as we age.

Prevent Disease

Few exercises work as many muscles as the squat, so it’s an excellent activity useful for toning and tightening your buttocks, abdominals, and your legs. These muscles participate in the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism and insulin sensitivity, helping to protect you against obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regular exercise is a key player in disease reduction, optimal mental, emotional and physical health, and longevity. Exercise also slows down the rate of aging itself, even stimulating the regeneration of the energy-producing mitochondria in your cells, providing perhaps the closest example of a real-life fountain of youth as we will ever find.

Prevent / Improve Osteoporosis [Increase Bone Density]

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are both characterized by low bone density. Areas that post-menopausal women are most affected by loss of bone density is in their femoral neck (near the top of the femur), hips and spine. Osteoporosis is often called a silent disease because bone loss occurs without symptoms. People may not know that they have osteoporosis until their bones become so weak that a sudden strain, bump, or fall causes a fracture. Collapsed vertebrae may be first noticed when the person suffers severe back pain, loss of height, or spinal deformities such as stooped posture. The creation of new bone, and how dense, strong, and well-rounded it is in content can be at least partially manipulated by our activities. Weighted squats are an excellent exercise to improve bone density in the femoral neck,  hips and lower spine.

HOW DO YOU GET AFTER IT?

The bodyweight squat (squatting without weights) incorporates elements of resistance training because you’re lifting your own body weight. Using added weight (with a front squat variation such as a Goblet or Zercher squat) increases the intensity of the workout , which builds muscle, accelerates your metabolism and strengthens bone density.

Athletic Stance.  Knees are slightly bent, feet are firmly planted on the ground, and toes pointed outwards slightly, which helps with stabilization. The wider you put your feet, the more it works your glutes and hamstring (back of the leg), and the easier it will be to stabilize. The closer in you put your feet, the more your quadriceps will be emphasized (the front of the leg).

Head Neutral – Straight Ahead.   Pick a spot on the wall that’s in line with your eyes as you are standing straight, then as you squat down, keep your eyes on that spot. Your head is automatically in the correct position.

Back Straight. Chest Out – Shoulders Back.   By keeping your shoulders back and your chest out, your lower back will most likely have the correct natural curve.

Butt Back – Sit Down.  Knees behind your Toes. Weight on Heels.  Each time you squat you should hinge your hips so that your butt moves backwards during the downward phase of the squat, your knees should NOT be over your toes (if you are tall, this may happen, but make sure it does not put pressure on your knees). Finally, the pressure of the squat will be on your heels instead of your toes and you will be able to get more depth to your squat.

Practice your form with squats using a bench, ottoman or a chair behind you to sit down – squat to.   The depth of your squat (how low should you go): In general, try to shoot for your hamstrings about parallel with the floor, which deeply engages your thighs, hips, and glutes. If you can go lower than parallel that’s fine, just make sure you don’t experience any pain in your knees, or lower back, and always keep your lower back flat, to slightly arched.

 

Fiber for our Body & Brain

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Having just one of these conditions doesn’t mean you have metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions increase your risk of serious disease. Having more than one of these might increase your risk even more.  If you have metabolic syndrome or any of its components, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.  Daily exercise and changing up the types of carbohydrates that you eat have significant impact on these conditions.

Where to start?  Choose to eat more complex carbohydrates, that is, foods higher in fiber.  By eating more fiber-rich carbohydrates, you should be crowding out refined, processed carbohydrates.  Pay attention to the types of carbohydrates that you eat! Make sure you are choosing carbohydrates with fiber.  This is important. Focus on the TYPE of carbohydrates that you are eating.

Eating higher-fiber foods improve your health in many ways:

  • Controls your appetite
  • Gives you long-lasting energy
  • Helps you reach & maintain a healthy weight
  • Provides vitamins, minerals, antioxidants & phytonutrients
  • Provides balance for blood-sugar levels
  • Helps reduce blood-cholesterol levels
  • Helps reduce blood pressure
  • Promotes a healthy digestion
  • Enhances brain function

What are some higher fiber (2.5+ grams per serving) carbohydrates?1 cup of vegetables; 1 average size fruit; 1 oz. nuts/seeds; 1 cup legumes; 1 cup unbroken grains = 1 serving

VEGETABLES & FRUIT (fresh or frozen are the best options)

 Spinach, Collard Greens, Kale, Turnip Greens, Artichoke, Carrots, Broccoli, BrusselsSprouts, Cabbage, Onions, Sweet Potato, White Potato, Pumpkin, Apples, Blackberries, Pears, Blueberries, Raspberries, Avocado, Guavas, Kiwi, Dates, Figs, dried Figs, dried Plums, Oranges, Strawberries, Banana

 NUTS & SEEDS

 Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, Walnuts, Flax seed (ground), Chia seed, Pumpkin seeds, Sunflower seeds

 LEGUMES (a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas & lentils; are a good plant-based protein source)

 Lentils, Lima Beans, Pigeon Peas, Pink Beans, Pinto Beans, Black Beas, White/Navy Beans, Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Split Peas, Green Peas, Peanuts

WHOLE GRAINS (unbroken grains that must be cooked before they can be eaten. Flour is an example of a broken grain as well as any other grain products that are not in their natural-whole state)

Old Fashioned/Rolled or Steel Cut Oats, Quinoa, Rice, Pearled Barley, PopcornWhole Grain, High Fiber Cereal with minimal ingredients:  Bran Flakes, Grape Nuts, Shredded Wheat with Bran

 By adding more of these foods into your diet and crowding out foods made with processed flour (which usually come with sugar and unhealthy fats) you are on the path of better health – now and in the future.   Don’t wait until you have a serious health condition to pay attention, do it now!   Prevention is the best medicine.  Food is Medicine.   When we eat better, we feel better.   Often, we don’t realize how great we can feel until we do – or the reverse of that:  how bad we feel until we don’t.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

Why You Need to Strength Train

Muscle. I’m sure you’ve heard of it.  Do you think about it? Do you realize why it is so important?  Muscle is not just for bodybuilders and athletes.  It is for everyone.   It is vitally important for women.  Muscle is critical for our health, our functional strength, our ability to do day-to-day activities, and our body composition. More accurately, it is critical if we want to be leaner – less fat with more fat-free/lean mass.

Why Should Women Strength Train?

  • Improve / Maintain muscle strength
  • Improve / Maintain coordination
  • Improve / Maintain balance
    • These 3 things together help to prevent falls & related fractures
    • These 3 things together allow us to perform everyday activities
  • Strengthen our bone mass – bone density and strength
      • Decreased bone density = osteoporosis and fractures
  • Change our body composition to one that is leaner and less fat
      • Body composition (body fat – lean body mass %) Weighing less on the scale won’t necessarily get us a lower body fat %, in fact, we can have higher body fat & less lean body mass when we simply aim to lose weight.

Fat is what we need to keep our eye on; reducing fat so that we have more fat-free mass than fat- no matter what we weigh.   Fat and weight sometimes coincide, but they are different.   Our bodyweight is a reflection of our relationship with gravity and our weight includes our bones, organs, muscle, blood, fat and water.  Our bodies are more than 60% water.  Our bodyweight varies throughout the day and it varies day by day and week by week mainly due to a big variable:  Water.  When you weigh yourself you are getting all that information.  If your bones are stronger due to a resistance training program then they are stronger and heavier.  We want and need that kind of weight.

Let’s talk muscle.  Typically, when we talk about Muscle, we are referring to skeletal muscle.  There are 3 types of Muscle – Skeletal, Smooth and Cardiac.  Skeletal muscle is a series of muscle that moves the skeleton.  The nervous system is the control center for movement production, and the skeletal system provides the structural framework for our bodies. To complete a cycle of movement production, the body must have a device that the nervous system can command to move the skeletal system and that is the muscular system.  Muscles generate internal tension which manipulates the bones of our body to produce movements.  Muscles are the movers and stabilizers of our bodies.   Tendons are the structures that attach muscles to bone and provide the anchor from which the muscle can exert force and control the bone and joint.  Ligaments connect bone to bone, provide stability and input to the nervous system.  Muscle, just like Bone, is living tissue.  Muscle needs calories and stimulation via exercise to maintain and grow.  The stronger and fitter our muscles are the Better we are.

Exercising and Training are different.  Training takes us out of our comfort zone and it is designed to build brick-upon-brick of your foundation of strength. Working in a way that stimulates and continually challenges our muscles is what strength (resistance) training is.  True strength training isn’t aerobic exercise with weights.  Strength training is using resistance that keeps our muscles under tension and it is training that is progressive.   Without challenge and without progression – we are exercising, not strength training.  There are many tools to use for strength training: Bodyweight, resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.  There are techniques and tools that are utilized in progressive & periodized training such as Supersets, Combinations, Complexes, Circuits, Eccentrics and Cardio Intervals.  For the beginner, it is about learning basic compound exercises with good form and building a foundation of stability and strength to build upon.

We all should be builders of our bodies. We only have one so shouldn’t we build it to be as strong, healthy & functional as possible?   To have stability, balance and mobility- we need our muscles.  To do everyday activities with independence and reduced risk of injury – we need our muscles.  To have the body composition we want – we need our muscles.   Don’t have fear of morphing into a rippled muscle bound “bodybuilder” if that isn’t what you want.  Believe me – that doesn’t happen easily or casually.   Becoming a builder of your body = Smart.

When it comes to fighting obesity which is about having less fat – we need our muscle.  Muscles need calories; Muscles shape and define our bodies; Muscles move our bodies and keep us balanced and coordinated.   Be aware that many weight loss plans are detrimental to our muscles, our bones, our metabolism and our health.  If we take care of our muscles we can become fat-burning machines as a normal course of business; we will have stronger bones; we will have a good framework for our bodies that will improve our functional strength, balance and coordination.  And yes –look pretty darn FABulous.

Maintain a nutritious diet that keeps you thriving, don’t lead a sedentary lifestyle and have strength training in your life – Do it for the Health of It.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It.