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 some of the richest sources?  Low fat dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt).  Beans (white beans & black-eyed peas are the richest sources). Collard greens, Kale and Turnip greens. Bok Choy. Broccoli.  Canned salmon and sardines with edible bones. Dried Figs. Firm Tofu. Oranges. Rhubarb. Blackstrap molasses. Chia, poppy and sesame seeds. Almonds. Tahini (sesame seed paste). Calcium fortified orange juice.

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.

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.

Why Should You 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.

Body fat is what we need to keep our eye on; reducing fat so that we have more fat-free mass no matter what we weigh.  Fat and weight loss often coincide, but they are different.   Our body weight 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 body weight varies throughout the day and it varies day by day and week by week; 2 variables are water and stored glycogen. 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.

Progressive strength training takes us out of our comfort zone and builds our foundation of strength, brick-upon-brick. 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 challenged. Our bodies adapt, so our training shouldn’t stay the same. There are many tools to use for strength training: Bodyweight properly utilized, resistance bands, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc.  There are techniques and tools that are utilized in periodized training such as Supersets, Complexes, and Circuits. For the beginner, focus on 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. Trust 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.

I’m Not Eating a Cheesecake

Here I am again – with a cup of coffee starting my day. As I wrote yesterday, it has been a while since I’ve wanted that soothing cup to start my day. I woke up again with heavy thoughts. The 1st and 2nd Amendments to the US Constitution are indeed heavy subjects. We are living in frightening, unsettling times right now. Since I was a young child, I’ve used food as my drug of choice. I didn’t realize it then, but I now understand that I’ve struggled with emotional eating for most of my life. In recent years, I’ve gotten it under control primarily through awareness and mindfulness. We can’t fix anything unless we are aware or as “they” say: you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Typically my reaction to the stress and emotion of uncertainty I’ve been experiencing this year would be to eat a cheesecake. An entire cheesecake. I’m not doing that now. Instead, I’m feeling healthier, than I have for quite a while.

You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. You have to be aware of what is broken before you can start the process of fixing it.

I’m aware that eating a cheesecake would have been my go-to response, and I’m equally aware that I have no real desire to do that. Instead, I’m drinking a cup of coffee and eating a protein chip cookie and will soon head to the gym to ride a stationary bike and do some strength training. The feeling of being healthier and lighter in body and spirit feels so much better than drugging myself with cheesecake. Maybe exercise is my new drug. I think it may be. I’m aware of that and I roll that thought around in my mind to see how it feels. It feels OK. It feels good, but I’m also very much aware of my need to keep myself balanced. Too much of a good thing is still too much. March – June I let myself get out of balance, I did too much. I was vaguely aware of it at the time, but it felt so good I kept doing it. Walking outdoors in the fresh air which is so meditative to me. Walking 5 – 9 miles a day, every day, up hills, down hills on pavement that wasn’t forgiving to my feet, and my always in a state of sprain right knee. Our bodies are ultimately in control and mind said: NOPE! That’s enough. After a week of barely being able to walk down my hallway, I have myself in better balance with my exercise. I exercise for the health of it because I can. I don’t take it for granted. I exercise my ability to improve my body, mind and spirit. Exercise truly is medicine. Dosage. It’s all in the dosage.

Two books that I recommend to my coaching clients are: “When you Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair” by Geneen Roth and “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” by Brian Wansink, Ph.D. I highly recommend that you give them a read. Awareness is power.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

Starting the Day with Coffee

It’s been a few weeks since I started my day with a single, delicious cup of coffee. It has been too hot and I’ve just not had the taste for it. Today, I felt a tug toward my tea kettle to boil up some water for a cup of coffee – I’m a fan of the pour-over method. I woke up at 4 AM in a pensive, restless mood. So many thoughts in my head and a cup of coffee felt soothing to me. Here I am, sipping and typing.

Life has felt so strange lately hasn’t it? Oh, you know, life is always kind of strange. I’ve always found that real life is indeed stranger than fiction. This year though! I go to bed every night and wake up every morning feeling that I’m walking through something that I need to get through, that I stepped through one more day, but what will today bring? I miss waking up energetic and ready to conquer tasks, accomplish some things toward my ever growing list of things to do, and to perhaps in some small way make a difference in the world, in someone’s life. But lately … I don’t seem to be able to get anything done except the very basic tasks to get through the day, the week. The world seems bleak, unstable, without much joy to be glimpsed or even hold out hope for. Each day has more bad news and more uncertainty. Things that you had trust in, things you thought “it can’t happen here”, are happening and you feel powerless to stop it. It messes with a person’s OOMPH. And yet, you do hold on to hope that love will prevail over hate and that there are more good people than bad and if we all pull together we can indeed change the world. At least I do. It’s the faith I hold on to in the midst of the sometimes overwhelming feelings of anger, resentment, despair and impatience that boil up within me.

Something that I’ve found that helps my mental health and my physical energy is exercise. I’ve always known that to be true, but this year, I’ve really come to understand how true it is. I get it. In fact, I got it too much. There is a balance. There is always a balance, there must always be balance, we need balance. How do we find balance in an unsteady world? Oh … I wish I had THE answer, but I think the best we can do is find the answer that fits for us. The answer that fits for us without judgment. Who is judging you ask? We judge ourselves. I know I do. I’m guilty of telling myself: It’s not good enough! You should be doing more! Can you relate?

Kindness. It has to start at home, with yourself. If we can find our way to being kind to ourselves, we can be in a better place to spread kindness to others. We cannot control the behavior or the attitude of others, but we can control ours – can’t we? How can we show kindness to ourselves?

Give ourselves permission to just “Be”. To be enough, to be OK with just sitting with our thoughts, our cup of tea, our book, or to take a nap with our dogs without “accomplishing” anything today.

  • Take some time for yourself. Do something that gives you joy each day. Read a book, lie in a hammock and watch the birds or look at the stars, draw, knit, listen to an audiobook, take a bath with rose petals. Whatever! Be kind to yourself by giving yourself some “me” time each day. It’s OK to give yourself some time just to “Be”.
  • Acknowledge your achievements. Give yourself recognition for what you bring to the table and what you have accomplished. We are not perfect and if you are a perfectionist like I am, I’m betting you don’t give yourself the credit and acknowledgement that you may grant to others.
  • Forgive yourself. Have you messed up? Have you done something that you are not proud of? Have you not done something that you think you should have? Quit beating yourself up about it. Forgive yourself. ONWARD!
  • Take care of yourself. We cannot begin to take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. Don’t just survive, thrive! Prioritize getting good sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising every day. Exercise is truly medicine for the body, mind & spirit. Put on your favorite lipstick and fix your hair if those things make you feel good – just for you! Find a way to alleviate the stress in your life. If something or someone is bringing you a load of anxiety and negativity – take a hard look at kicking that to the curb. You are totally worth it!
  • Be compassionate. Show yourself compassion. We are often more critical of ourselves than we are of others and we beat ourselves up. Compassion is a sympathetic awareness of distress combined with a desire to alleviate it. How can we show ourselves more compassion? How about starting here? https://positivepsychology.com/self-compassion-5-steps/

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

Peanut Butter Protein Balls

We are our habits. I like to create habits that are sustainable and if it a habit is being created around food – make it delicious! Making healthier choices doesn’t mean deprivation or eating things that you don’t like. Let’s face it: Nobody has time for that.

I love Reese’s peanut butter cups. I could eat my bodyweight in them and that’s a lot of peanut butter cups. Unless I want to weigh 300 lbs., I cannot make a habit of eating candy bars. In fact, I’ve not had a bonafide candy bar for many years. Have you read the labels on those things? Always read the nutrition labels on anything you pick up and are considering eating. It can be eye opening (& sometimes scary).

Protein is satiating and so is healthy fat. If I have a snack, I always aim to have protein. If you are satisfied, if you are not hungry, then you put yourself in a better position to not overeat throughout the day. Protein bars that you can purchase can be problematic. Often they have more sugar than protein; they may have sugar alcohols which can cause intestinal distress; they have ingredients that make you go “huh?”; they can have enough calories for a meal, not a snack; and they can be expensive. I make my own. I’ve had many kitchen experiments over the years in my quest for protein snacks. Two of my “go tos” are these peanut butter protein balls (or you can make them into bars) and Protein Chip Cookies.

Grab a bowl, a big spoon and whip up a batch. No baking required! You can use peanut butter or any nut or seed butter that you like. Drizzle with your favorite dark chocolate.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 scoops vanilla or peanut butter protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons applesauce
  • Dark chocolate squares or chips

Mix ingredients in a large bowl, by hand, until well blended. Batter will be the consistency of very thick cookie dough. Form balls with a cookie scoop or roll by hand. Place on a large plate and put in the freezer for 15-30 minutes. Melt your dark chocolate. Remove your protein balls from the freezer and drizzle the top of each with chocolate (or you can dip them!) The chocolate will harden pretty quickly. Refrigerate in any container you’d like to use. ENJOY!

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get After It!

Protein Chip Cookies

Protein Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn’t love them? I certainly do, but let’s face it – they are delicious, but don’t provide us with much nutrition. How about a low sugar, protein chocolate chip cookie? Now we are talking!

Grab a bowl, a sturdy spoon and let’s make some cookies! I use Ghirardelli or Toll House dark chocolate morsels. Dark chocolate has less sugar and a deeper chocolate taste because they have more cacao. I like to use a digital scale to weigh out higher calorie ingredients such as the nut or seed butter. The digital scale I use is a basic EatSmart scale. ** I like to add collagen peptides for an added boost of protein and collagen for my joints and skin. ** If you use Tahini or Almond Butter, you will be increasing your calcium intake.

  • 1 cup (260 grams) peanut butter (or almond butter, cashew butter, Tahini, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned whole oats
  • 1/2 cup protein powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 egg whites (or 1 whole egg)
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 2 TB honey
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 3 scoops Vital Proteins unflavored collagen peptides **

Preheat oven to 375. On a parchment lined cookie pan or a silicone mat, scoop out 13 cookie balls. I use a Pampered Chef cookie dough scoop. This recipe will make exactly 13 “normal size” cookies. Gently press down the dough ball with your fingers. Bake 8 – 12 minutes. Ovens vary. Don’t overbake. Your choices of ingredients/brands will change the macros, but each cookie will generally have 190 calories, 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 11 grams of carbohydrate and 12 grams of fat. The macros of these cookies are a nice balance. I like to put my cookies in a freezer bag and keep them in the freezer because I like the texture of them straight out of the freezer.

I typically will eat one with a cup of collagen coffee or some of my homemade chocolate milk for breakfast and it fuels me through a morning of exercise and other activity. I make my own chocolate milk with unsweetened cocoa powder and very little added sugar – just enough to take the edge off the cocoa powder. Commercially made chocolate milk is very sugary sweet and often made with high fructose corn syrup.

Pro tip: You can calculate the macros of any recipe by using a recipe builder in Apps such as LoseIt! or MyFitnessPal.

ENJOY!

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER IT!

Jen’s Apple-Walnut Bread

Headed out the door in the morning for a walk, a strength training session, work or maybe you are savoring a cup of coffee and a chapter in a good book to start your day? A breakfast that has some protein, fiber rich carbohydrate and healthy fat = WIN. A slice of quick bread that is healthier and delicious can be an excellent “go to”. I approach any quick bread asking myself how I can make it healthier without jeopardizing taste or texture? Two of my typical tweaks are: Plain Greek yogurt instead of oil and I decrease the sugar by up to 50%.

This is my current favorite. I tried it with all oat flour instead of half-half and it didn’t end well. I do recommend using 1 cup of flour. I do think you could use white whole wheat or whole wheat instead of all-purpose. I didn’t try that because I didn’t have any on hand, but I think it would be A-OK. Be cautious about adding any other moist ingredients (or adding too much Greek yogurt) – you could end up with a mushy texture that just won’t bake. How do I know that? Let’s just say that the opossums and raccoons that live in the woods near my house are used to finding some tasty things in my compost pile. Since it is made with Greek Yogurt, I slice it and keep it in the refrigerator until I’m ready to eat it. Here you go!

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (ground into flour)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 /2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups shredded apples (2 large) plus a few extra chopped apple chunks for texture
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots (optional)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Stir all ingredients except apples and walnuts together until well blended. Stir in apples and walnuts at the end. Pour batter in to a loaf pan that has been lined with parchment paper and lightly sprayed with cooking spray. You can sprinkle some finely ground walnuts on the top of the loaf before baking to make it extra “pretty”. Bake at 350 F for 60 – 70 minutes until done. Ovens vary, so I’d start with 60 minutes then check on the status and go from there. Remove from the pan onto a cooling rack. Slice into 10 generous slices or 8 very generous slices. Using the ingredients stated above and 10 slices, each slice will be about 200 calories with 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Note: You can use any recipe builder to calculate calories and macros of any recipe. MyFitnessPal and Loseit! are examples of free nutritional tracking apps that have recipe building capabilities.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

Protein Mousse

I few years ago I was hungry for a dessert and wanted something like cheesecake or ice cream. I went to my fridge to see what I had and I came up with what has become a very simple and versatile recipe that I call Protein Mousse. 3 primary ingredients with optional ingredients such as berries, chocolate. crushed nuts or graham crackers. You will need a food processor or a heavy duty blender. I use my food processor since it’s easier to get the mousse out of without wasting any of the good stuff and it is much easier to clean.

  • 3 cups (24 oz container) cottage cheese
  • 2 cups (16 oz) plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 package Sugar Free Jello pudding or gelatin mix (powder only)

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or powerful blender and process until smooth. You only use the pudding or gelatin powder – you don’t prepare it as pudding or gelatin. The consistency will be that of a cheesecake batter. The mousse will firm up more once it is refrigerated. This recipe makes 5 generous servings. If you use 2% cottage cheese, fat-free Greek Yogurt and sugar free pudding mix: 180 calories per serving, 25 grams of protein.

VERSATILE. Use any flavor of pudding powder that you want. I like cheesecake, banana cream and coconut cream the best. I’m also a fan of lime gelatin powder.

Before serving / eating: Spoon individual servings of mousse into a bowl or tall glass cup if you want to make it pretty. You can layer the mousse with fresh berries, slices of bananas, sprinkle nuts, coconut, chocolate, etc. on top. For example: If you’ve made your mousse with banana cream pudding powder, layer the mouse with sliced bananas and crush a graham cracker or vanilla wafers on top for a banana pudding dessert. If using a gelatin powder such as lime or orange: Adding pineapple or mandarin orange slices to your serving of mousse immediately before eating = DELISH.

To make a frozen dessert similar to soft ice cream: Before serving, stir in frozen berries of your choice and place back into the freezer for a couple of minutes. Stir again. ENJOY! You can also add chocolate or any other ingredients to the protein mousse, freeze it for a couple of minutes at a time, stir, repeat until you get the consistency you want. DO NOT stir up an entire batch and freeze it solid. Things won’t end well.

Do NOT put any optional toppings into the mousse and store it in the fridge. You want your mousse to stay nice and firm. Add your optional ingredients right before serving.

Stay HEALTHY. Be STRONG. GET After It!

Jen’s Un-Fried Fried Apples

Apples.  They are awesome aren’t they? Fiber. Vitamin C. Polyphenols.  They are delicious raw all by themselves or with a slice of cheese or a smear of peanut butter.  Sometimes, I want my apples to be warm and “dessert-y”.   When I do, I grab a skillet, a knife and some cinnamon and get to work. It only takes a few minutes and you have some un-fried “fried” apples ready to eat straight from a bowl with your fork.

Here is what you do.  This is more of a process than a recipe, so make it your own.  The amount of water, spices, and optional sugar depends on how many apples you slice and throw into your skillet.

Slice your apples.  You can peel them or leave the peel on.  Add enough water to the skillet to cover the bottom and the apples are just barely sitting in some water.  You need the water, but not too much! The apples will release their own juice/water as they cook.  Turn the heat to medium and start cooking your apples, stirring them every so often as they are cooking. Add about a IMG_0669Tablespoon of butter.  Stir, and continue cooking until they apples are to your desired level of tenderness.  Add cinnamon to your taste.  I like to add a little nutmeg and ground clove. If you want your apples to be a little bit sweet, this is when you can add a small amount of sugar or honey. Stir it all up.   That’s it!  Takes only a few minutes.   ENJOY!

Stay HEALTHY.  Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!

Jen’s Greek Yogurt Banana Bread

Quick breads can be a delicious part of your healthy lifestyle way of eating.  Traditional recipes typically include a cup of oil and a cup or more of sugar. GEEZ!  That’s a lot of oil and sugar.  What is a person to do?  Make a few tweaks that don’t jeopardize the taste or texture.  An easy tweak that you can make is to substitute plain Greek Yogurt instead of the oil in any quick bread recipe.  The Greek yogurt provides needed moisture to the recipe plus you get some extra protein. I have found that using Greek yogurt doesn’t change the texture of the quick bread.  Another tweak is to half the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.  BOOM.  That’s it.   The recipe I’m going to share with you originally called for 1 cup of sugar, I use 1/3 cup; it called for 1 1/2 sticks of butter, I use 1 TB and 1 small container of Greek yogurt.

10 SLICES.  190 calories per slice.   8 grams protein.

IMG_0595

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour **
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 overripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 TB melted butter
  • Small container (5 oz) Plain or Vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

**  Without jeopardizing texture, can substitute 1/4 cup of the flour for 1/4 cup vanilla or unflavored protein powder 

Place bananas and sugar in a large mixing bowl; mash the bananas and stir well with the sugar.  Let sit for a few minutes then stir again.  Mix in the melted butter and Greek yogurt then beat in the eggs.  Add the flour, baking soda, salt and vanilla.  Mix well.  Pour into a well greased loaf pan. Optional:  sprinkle with crushed walnuts or pecans.  Bake at 350 F  for 60-ish minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Ovens vary, you may need to bake your bread a few minutes longer. Be careful not to overbake.   Let cool in the pan for a couple of minutes then remove the bread from the pan to a cooling rack.  Once the bread has cooled, slice it into 10 pieces.

ENJOY!

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 cosmic-daisyneeds.

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.Orange Slice

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, if you are not eating a sufficient amount of protein (on average 100 – 125g of protein per day for older adults).  Real food is always best, but if you are not getting enough protein, then supplementing can be a wise choice.

Millie foot Walking picExercise 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 has great benefits for our lymphatic system and bone density.  Bicycling, dancing, taking a group fitness class, lifting weights circuit style are all options. Strength-Resistance training is very important as we age so be sure to prioritize resistance training.  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.

Collagen Peptides| Collagen Proteins is a supplement that 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.  Be aware of the different types of Collagen. If you purchase a Collagen product, there are products with a blend of different types of Collagen.

  • Type I: This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.
  • Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in elastic cartilage, which cushions joints.
  • Type III: This type supports the structure of muscles, organs and arteries.
  • Type IV: This type helps with filtration and is found in layers of your skin.

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.

Stay Healthy. Be STRONG.  Get After It!
I share my thoughts with you to provide information and food for thought aka pondering, Pondering leads 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 that you have one, always seek care from a licensed medical professional.

Massage and Stretch Your Feet

Our feet are our foundation.  We stand on them, they carry us around from place to place, and if our feet hurt, everything hurts – or so it seems.  Each foot is made up of bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.  A foot out of alignment results in discomfort and pain to the foot, ankle, knee, hip and back.   What can we do to give our feet some extra love and attention?

EPSOM SALT SOAK

Soaking your feet for 10-15 minutes in a warm water with Epsom Salts will help soothe your tired feet and relax your muscles.  Magnesium is the relaxation mineral and Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate.

POINT YOUR TOES

Lift one foot and roll it downward until the toes are pointed toward the ground; hold for 10 seconds then flex your foot; hold for 10 seconds. Repeat using the other foot. This exercise will help stretch out all the small muscles that are on the bottom of your feet, which can help relieve aching and improve blood circulation.

SPREAD YOUR TOES

Spread your toes apart as wide as you can; hold them spread apart for 5 seconds.

SQUEEZE YOUR TOES

Interlace left fingers with right toes (as if holding hands with your foot). Squeeze fingers and toes together and hold for 10 seconds, then stretch wide for 10 seconds. This helps relax, stretch and align your toes.  If this is difficult for you to do you can use toe separators such as a product called “Yoga Toes”. A product such as Yoga Toes might be beneficial for you if you have chronic foot pain, bunions, hammertoe or plantar fascitis. 

ROLL YOUR ANKLES & “Pump the Gas”

Rotate each ankle by doing circles with your ankles, rolling your ankles clockwise for a few rotations, then rolling them counterclockwise for a few rotations. Pump your ankles/feet up and down as if pumping the gas in your car.  “Pumping the Gas” is a good exercise to improve circulation and is something you can do whenever you’ve been sitting for a while such as in a car or a chair.  It is also good to do before you stand up to walk when getting out of bed.

MASSAGE YOUR FEET

Using gentle pressure, start with your toes, using your thumb to massage them in circular motions then move to the arch under your foot and gradually work your way down to the heel, applying pressure with your fingers and palm of your hand. Use lotion to allow your hand to move smoothly over your foot.  Squeeze the back of your calf and massage up and down while pointing and flexing your foot. End with long, upward strokes from the top of your feet to your knees paying attention to the front of your leg and the back of your calves.

Roll a tennis or golf ball back and forth from your toes to your heels. If you are having pain and inflammation in your feet, you can use a frozen juice can for some cold therapy with your massage.

TOE LIFTS

Sit in a chair and place a small towel on the floor. Lift the towel with your toes. Most likely you can lift it with your big toe—for a challenge try lifting it with your little toes.  Progress the exercise by using a marble or a dice instead of a towel.

TOWEL CURLS

Place a small towel on the floor and curl it toward you using only your toes.

Did you do those stretches are you read through this post?  I hope you did.  It felt pretty darn good didn’t it?  If we get in the habit of doing those stretches every day, we will have happier feet and if our feet our happier, then we are happier.  That’s a Win-Win!

STAY Healthy. Be STRONG. Get AFTER It!