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.

 

Collagen. For our Joints, Tendons & Skin

I’ve been learning some things about tendons, specifically how to give your body the ammunition it needs to heal tendons after an injury or in my case, a tendon injury that required surgical repair.   What I found is that collagen isn’t just for our faces, which is what most of probably think about first when we hear the word collagen.

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.

Now, 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.  As with any supplement, it is only as good as our body can absorb it; capsules and pills are not as well absorbed as liquids or powders that are added to liquids.

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.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a class, lifting weights circuit style are all options.  Find an activity and get out there and do it!   Eat your lunch and take a walk during your lunch break.

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).

Bone Broth made from beef or chicken 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, then keeping your eye on your health relative to collagen production is essential and vitally important.  I hope that I have shown you that 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!

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 Women 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.

Avoid the Hump

That hump that you see on the upper back that is often called a dowager’s hump. A dowager’s hump is a severe rounding of the upper back. In older women, it is a sign of advanced osteoporosis; the result of compression fractures of weakened vertebrae. These fractures can be painful, although in many cases there are no symptoms other than abnormal posture. This change is not a “growth”; it is an alteration in the shape of the spine due to weakened, damaged bone.

So how can you avoid the hump?  By implementing osteoporosis prevention and bone density improvement measures via nutrition and weight bearing and resistance based exercise.

What are the Risk Factors?

  • Genetics– Women are more at risk, but anyone of thin build and of Northern European or Asian descent is at higher risk. Studies of mothers and daughters have shown that heredity plays a role in bone density. Men are not immune to osteoporosis. Bone loss is more gradual in men, but once they reach age 70 their risk for osteoporosis increases significantly.
  • Menopause– After menopause, the rate of loss of bone density and muscle increases.
  • Poor intake of calcium– Calcium intake in the diet plays a vital role in bone mineralization during the growth years and is essential to depositing an abundant supply of calcium into the bones as we continue to age.  In general, women over 50 need 1200 mg of dietary calcium; men up to age 70 need 1000 mg., then 1200 mg after age 70.
  • Lack of Vitamin D– Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in allowing the body to absorb calcium. Many people do not produce enough vitamin D or get enough from food. Vitamin D deficiency can be a problem for older adults and those who are homebound or bed-ridden.
  • Inactivity–A sedentary lifestyle promotes bone loss as well as muscle loss. Conversely, muscle use promotes the building of bone. Regular physical activity strengthens both muscles and bones, slows down bone loss and decreases the risk of injury from falls.
  • Smoking– The relationship between bone loss and smoking has been confirmed by numerous studies.

What Can You Do?

  • Eat more Calcium-rich foods
    • Dairy Products such as milk, cheese, yogurt (low sugar Greek & Icelandic yogurt will also provide additional protein)
    • Dark Leafy Greens
      • Collard greens; Kale; Spinach; Turnip & Mustard greens; Broccoli Rabe; Beet Greens; Bok Choy; Swiss Chard
    • Beans
      • White Beans & Black-eyed peas are the richest sources
    • Other Foods Rich in Calcium
      • Okra; Sun-dried tomatoes; Broccoli; Canned salmon & sardines (eat the bones); almonds; dried figs; oranges; tangerines; kiwi; rhubarb; dried apricots; dates; prunes; kumquats; mulberries; seaweed; sesame seeds; black-strap molasses. Calcium-Fortified orange juice.
  • Make sure you get enough Vitamin D
    • Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. As we age, we lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D. In addition to eating more Vitamin D rich foods, ask your doctor to routinely screen your Vitamin D levels.
      • Oily Fish is rich in Vitamin D & Omega3 fatty acids. Trout, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, halibut, swordfish
      • Portabella mushrooms
      • Beef liver
      • Hard boiled eggs (the D is in the yolks)
      • Cod-Liver Oil
  • Eat Magnesium-rich foods every day
    • Magnesium enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. Most adults are deficient in magnesium.
      • Spinach; Almonds; Pumpkin seeds; Avocado; Dark Chocolate (60% cacao or higher); Black beans; Banana; Lentils; Goat cheese; Broccoli. Cashews
  • In general, eat plenty of vegetables and fruit
    • Potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and beta carotene (found in fruits and vegetables) have been associated with higher total bone mass.
  • Be less Sedentary
    • Aim to be a mover, not a sitter. Turn off the TV and get up and do something! TV is a tremendous contributor to a sedentary lifestyle. Volunteer your time to a non-profit organization.  Get outside and take a walk. Go visit a friend and go to the grocery store and walk the aisles.  For more ideas on how you can develop of habit of Moving More and Sitting Less (even if you don’t leave the house) visit:  Quitting the Sitting @ www. QuittingTheSitting.org
  • Engage in Weight Bearing activities
    • Walking, Dancing, Weight Training, Bodyweight Isometric Exercises

Aim for 30 – 60 minutes; you can do it all at once, or in increments of 10 minutes throughout the day; start where you can and then build up to a consistent 30-60 minutes daily.

Practice Good Posture.  Stand and Sit up straight. Back straight; head neutral and shoulders back.   Don’t slump when you sit. Develop the habit of walking, standing and sitting with good, erect posture.   An exercise to practice daily:  Stand up straight, shoulders back. Shrug your shoulders up then bring your elbows back to bring your shoulder blades together.  I call that the Shrug-Stretch.  Practice it in front of a mirror so you can see how it is working.  It feels good, it works the upper back muscles and helps keep your scapulas (shoulders blades) in good shape and that contributes to better posture.

 

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!

Nutrition’s Role in Functional Aging

Nutrition. What is it? It is nourishment for our bodies and we obtain it from the food that we eat and it is critical for our health.  However, do you give it enough thought?  I’m pretty sure we all think about Food; how it tastes and what we like to eat, but I’m afraid that way too often we don’t think about the nutrients that our food supplies us (or not).  Our bodies are amazing and they can survive on pretty much anything we feed them, but can they Thrive?  Sadly, most individuals don’t think about their Health until their Health forces them to think about it. Now is the time.  Now is when we should be focused on what we are feeding our bodies, what we are giving our bodies as nourishment to Thrive, not just Survive.  Don’t wait until something goes wrong – do it Now.

What do our bodies need?  Food with nutrients: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, phytonutrients, omega 3 fatty acids, and fiber.  These are substances that our bodies need to thrive, not just survive.  We find these nutrients in vegetables, fruit, unbroken whole grains, healthy fat from whole food sources and lean protein (animal & plant-based).  We should base our diet (the way we eat) on these whole foods. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is an across-the-board great dietary habit to get into since produce is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The more colorful the better; Think dark green, orange, purple, yellow and red.

When it comes to your food, keep your food choices as close to their natural state as possible. For example: a  baked white potato has excellent nutrition while deep fat fried French fries are not such a great choice. Both choices are indeed potatoes, but the nutrition is vastly different.  French fries are an example of a treat food, not a regular staple of our diet.

Throughout life, we need to have a good foundation of nutrient dense foods in our diet. As we age (& especially if we want to age well) our nutrition needs are even more important and there are some specific nutrients we should be mindful of to keep our bodies thriving.  We are all aging every single day.  These guidelines are for everyone, but are especially critical after age 50 when bone density and muscle fiber density and strength decrease dramatically and we need to take extra effort with nutrition and exercise to push against the tide.

Calcium

We must get enough dietary calcium to maintain bone health as well as our muscles, nerves, heart, and blood clotting.  Low calcium levels cause bone to break down; post-menopausal women are at greatest risk and that risk increases 5 years after menopause.  In general: Women 50+ need 1200 mg/day; Men up to age 70 need 1000 mg/day; Men over 70 need 1200 mg/day.

Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption and supports bone health. As we age, we lose the ability to synthesize Vitamin D and we often need to supplement; ask your doctor to routinely screen your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D-rich foods:  Oily fish (trout, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, halibut, swordfish). Portabella mushrooms. Cod liver oil. Beef liver. Hard-boiled eggs (the D is in the yolks).  Oily fish is also rich in very beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids.

Dietary calcium, what are the richest sources?  Low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, Greek yogurt).  Beans (white beans & black-eyed peas are the richest sources). Dark Leafy greens.

The vegetables with the highest amount of calcium: Collard greens; Kale; Turnip greens; Mustard greens; Spinach; Okra; Sun-dried Tomatoes; Bok Choy; Broccoli Rabe; Beet greens. Other foods rich in calcium: canned salmon (be sure to eat the bones); almonds; dried figs; oranges; tangerines; kiwi; rhubarb; dried apricots; dates; prunes; kumquats; mulberries; seaweed; sesame seeds;  black-strap molasses.

Don’t depend on calcium supplements which may not be well-absorbed by your body. Instead:  incorporate more of these foods that are rich in Calcium and Vitamin D to your daily diet.

Protein

Protein is present in every cell of the body and is needed to perform a variety of functions from muscle repair to immune function to fluid balance.  Our bodies don’t store or manufacture the protein we need, so we must get it from the food we eat. Older adults have an increased need for protein to improve bone health, strength, function and muscle mass – all of which decline with age. In general, older adults need between 1 – 1.5 g per 1 kg of body weight.  To keep it simple: 100 lbs. of bodyweight = 50 – 75 grams of protein. Protein is found in a variety of animal and plant based foods; ensuring you are getting in a good amount of protein isn’t difficult.  Aim to have protein with each meal and snack.

Hydration

Older adults have lower sensitivity to dehydration due to a lower thirst sensation which in turn decreases kidney function.  Being mindful and staying on top of your water intake is vitally important. Get in the habit of drinking water throughout the day and take care to drink more water if outdoors or in a hot environment.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water – get in the habit of keeping a tumbler of water with you at all times and drink regularly throughout the day.  Making water your primary beverage at meals is another way to ensure better hydration levels.   Water means water.  Since thirst sensation is low and kidney function may be impaired due to lower levels of hydration, don’t fill up on beverages that are not beneficial to your hydration.  In general, adults over 50 should aim for 3 liters per day.  A liter of water is 4 1/4 cups.   To make it easy, purchase a 32 oz. insulated tumbler and strive to drink 3 of those each day.   If you want some flavored water, try adding slices of citrus fruit, strawberries, cherries, cucumber or fresh mint leaves to your tumbler of water.

As always, if you have a chronic medical condition or are on prescription medications, consult with your physician about your specific dietary needs and/or ask for a referral to a registered dietician.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It.

Functional Aging. For. The. Win.

No matter how old we are chronologically – we are absolutely aging every single day.  It is never too early or too late to start making some changes that can make a huge difference in how we age.

First of all, what is aging?  Aging is the gradual loss of functional ability and it varies by individual.

Our chronological age is measured by the years since our birth.  Functional aging relates to attributes: Our appearance, our mobility, our strength and our mental clarity.  We cannot change or control our chronological age, but we can absolutely make a difference in our functional age. We can functionally be younger (or older) than our chronological age.  Lifestyle choices make a Difference. The interaction of lifestyle, environment and genetics affects the aging process. The lifestyle choices we make relative to our physical activity and nutrition are up to us as well as some healthier choices within our home environment.

Some statistics:  Currently adults 65+ make up 12.5% of the US population. Projections are that by 2050 that number will be 25% or greater than 70 million individuals.  85% in that age group suffers from at least 1 chronic condition and 57% of our annual total healthcare expenditures in the US are within that age group or $12,000 for every older adult.  Many chronic conditions are greatly affected by our lifestyle choices – up to 80% according to many functional medicine physicians and researchers.   What is the most prevalent cause of death in older adults?  Heart Disease.  Coronary artery disease develops early, but symptoms do not present until later in life.  If we lead a healthier lifestyle, the less impact coronary artery disease has on us. The later in life symptoms present equals a longer life with less disability.   The earlier we adopt healthier lifestyle habits the better.

What is the number one habit you can adopt right now that will make the greatest impact?  ACTIVITY.  Be more active every single day; physically and mentally.  Sit less, move more.  Get up out of your recliner and get moving.  Take a walk.  Take a bike ride.  Sweep your leaves off your deck instead of using a leaf blower.  Make 2 trips instead of one when carrying in your groceries.  Visit your neighbor and ask him or her to go with you to Lowe’s and walk around the warehouse if the weather isn’t cooperating for an outdoor walk.  Do some bodyweight exercises such as wall push-ups or squats while you brush your teeth, prepare dinner or while you are on hold waiting for someone to answer the phone. If you do have a favorite TV show you think you just can’t miss – you can do planks for your Core strength while you are watching.   Look for opportunities – they are there.

I’m going to be blunt.  Being sedentary is a shortcut to the cemetery.  I’m not hankering to get there any quicker and I certainly want to be independent and feeling as great as I possibly can all the way to the grave.  Let’s be honest:  I want to look as great as I can too.  Why not?  Life is going on now so why spend any of it feeling less than awesome if you can do something about it?

When it comes to exercise, make it weight bearing for your heart, bones and muscles. Walking and dancing are weight bearing exercises.  Taking part in a strength training program that incorporates cardio-respiratory, stabilization, and power is vitally important throughout our life, but especially when we are over 30.  Yes, 30.   Our bone mass peaks around age 30 and starts gradually declining after that. After age 50, that decline accelerates and that significantly increases our risk of osteoporosis.  In addition to bone mass decline, we are also losing skeletal muscle each and every year unless we are doing something about it. We can put the brakes on that decline by using and challenging our musculoskeletal system: skeletal muscle, bones and joints. Without strong bones and muscles we lose our strength and mobility which means our independence; and we are at risk for injury, fractures and death.   One-Third of adults over age 65 will suffer an accident, primarily falls. 25% of older adults die within one year of sustaining a hip injury due to a fall.  WHOA!  Many of these risk factors are preventable and can be modified by exercise interventions.

With that said, you need to be smart about starting a new exercise program especially if you are an older adult and/or have medical conditions.  Seek professional guidance and training from individuals who are trained to work with older adults and will work with your healthcare provider to ensure you are training safely and correctly.

Have your own health care improvement plan and get started today so that your functional age knocks your chronological age out of the ball park.   The earlier you start the better.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG. Get After It.