Food & Fitness After 50: Answering Your Questions

Slide openingI enjoyed talking to an engaged and inquisitive audience of about 100 older adults in Asheville, North Carolina on my favorite topic, Food & Fitness After 50. There were so many good questions that Dr. Bob and I will answer a few of them in this post. For some of the questions, we will refer you to some older posts that covered the topic in greater depth.

Question: What is the best oil to use…I am confused about so many choices?

The cooking oil aisle has become as crowded as the yogurt dairy case! With so many choices, brands, and health claims it is a challenge to sort it all out. In my opinion (based the nutritional properties of the oils) and the oils I use in my kitchen I recommend extra virgin olive oil for sautéing, salad dressings, and drizzling over roasted veggies and pasta. I like some flavored olive oils, too, like lemon, Tuscan herb, and garlic. For everyday cooking, I use a neutral-tasting canola oil. Both have a high percentage of monounsaturated fats with low levels of saturated fats. I also use peanut oil for stir-frying because it has a high smoke point, meaning that it can be heated to a high temperature without setting off the smoke detector. In addition, I use a dash of sesame oil at the end of stir-frying to give the meal a distinct flavor. The other factor in recommending these oils is economic. They are affordable compared to some of the new kids on the shelf.

Here’s a chart of the various oils; choose the oils with the yellow and blue bars and limit the ones with red bars.

oil-comparison-chart

Question: What is the difference between extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and light extra virgin olive oil?

Light extra virgin olive oil is more refined than regular EVOO, making it lighter in color, giving it a neutral taste and a higher smoke point. It is not lighter in calories or fat.

Question: Is vitamin K good for bone health and what foods is it found in?

The fat-soluble vitamin K works as a co-factor for making proteins important in blood clotting and bone metabolism. Deficiency of vitamin K is rare in the U.S. and it is unclear if supplementation will reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but this is a robust area of research, so stay tuned for more information as it becomes available. For now, your best bet is to eat plenty of leafy green veggies, one of the richest food sources of vitamin K. Collard and turnip greens, spinach, kale, and broccoli are all excellent sources. Also, canola and soybean oils contribute to our vitamin K status. You will probably find vitamin K in your multi-vitamin supplement as well as some calcium supplements touting bone health.

Contrary to popular belief, people on warfarin (Coumadin®) don’t need to eliminate vitamin K, but they do need to maintain a consistent intake of the vitamin so as not to interfere with the drug’s action. For more information of vitamin K, check out this fact sheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Question: Is Tai Chi helpful for arthritis?

older-adults-tai-chi-outside-e1505160556655I asked Tai Chi expert, Chris Cinnamon, founder of Tai Chi Chicago, and he gives Tai Chi an enthusiastic “yes” as a good exercise for those with arthritis. A recent review of research on the health benefits of Tai Chi reveals that the strongest evidence is for reducing fall risk and reducing pain from knee osteoarthritis. To learn more about the benefits of Tai Chi check out this interview with Chris from our blog.

Question: I love to swim and is swimming the only exercise I need, or do I also need to some strength training?

Swimming is a fantastic whole-body exercise that can help build and maintain muscle strength, improve stamina, and spark weight loss.  As with all types of exercise, we get out of it what we put into it.  In other words, we can’t expect great benefits if we constantly swim at a casual pace.  We need to push ourselves in the water so that our lungs and our muscles are frequently taken out of their comfort zones.  Isolating the legs with kicking exercises and doing the same with the arms by using a pull buoy can add variety and challenge to your swimming.  Out of the water, if you can make time for additional exercise—even if that’s only an extra 5 minutes a day—then briskly walking stairs or jogging or weight lifting or calisthenics are good ways to place stress and strain on your bones to help keep them strong, something that swimming does not do.

Question: Can you recommend specific exercises for fall prevention?

Falls can have devastating health consequences, especially in older adults.  We are all going to fall from time to time, so our goal should be to minimize the number of times we fall, along with the damage that occur when we do fall.  Improving our balance is just one aspect of fall prevention because on those occasions when we find ourselves off balance, we need the leg and core strength, along with quick reactions, to prevent ourselves from toppling over. Happily, there is good scientific evidence—coupled with common sense—to indicate that staying fit through a variety of different activities is a great way to reduce the risk of falling. Balance exercises such as standing on one leg for at least 20 seconds can help improve balance, but that shouldn’t be surprising.  More useful are exercises that require stepping over obstacles to mimic walking through a crowded attic or tiptoeing through a garden.  Exercises that increase leg and core strength are helpful, as are activities that improve agility—our ability to change directions quickly and accurately.  Dancing of all sorts, tennis, team sports, pickle ball, and handball all fit that bill.

Question: Can I get enough quality protein on a plant-based diet?

Absolutely. According to the Plant-Powered Dietitian, Sharon Palmer. “There are many examples of high-quality plant protein foods—similar to the quality of animal protein. The star plant protein is soy—it is similar in quality to animal protein. In addition, pulses (beans, peas, and lentils) are high in quality, too. The important point is that if someone consumes a balanced plant-based diet, with adequate sources of a variety of plants—pulses, soy foods, whole grains, vegetables, nuts, seeds—they can get the all of the amino acids needed by the body from those foods. It’s not necessary to “combine” or “complement” proteins at each meal. However, it is important to make sure you are selecting a variety of protein-rich foods at each meal to ensure adequate protein intake. One note: vegans may need slightly more protein daily to accommodate for digestibility—the high fiber nature of many plant foods means that the proteins are not quite as digestible. So, it’s a good idea to get servings of protein-rich foods at each meal and snack. And don’t forego soy needlessly—this is a really important plant protein source for vegans.”

For more on plant proteins, here is an interview with Sharon and be sure to check out her website for terrific tips, recipes, and lots of other great stuff.

Question: Can you recommend some online sites or videos for exercises designed for older adults?

There are plenty of websites and YouTube videos that focus on exercises for older adults.  Here are four examples:

1) National Institute on Aging has educational materials and videos targeted at getting older adults more active through basic exercises that can be done at home.

2) Fitness Blender offers a wide variety of at-home workouts of varying durations and difficulty.

3) For those interested in yoga, Yoga with Adriene is a good place to start.

4) For older adults who desire challenging strength training, along with an understanding of the science behind it, take a look at videos from Athlean-X.

All of these resources provide great ways to get started with new activities, all of which can be modified to suit individual needs and interests.

To learn more about foods and physical activity for those in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, check out, Food & Fitness After 50 , available at Amazon (both as a soft-back or an E-book) or other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Cruise Control: Tips to Enjoying Great Food and Maintaining Your Weight on a 2-week Cruise

2017_Viking_Homelands_956x690_tcm13-15581We just returned from a 2-week Viking Ocean Cruise, visiting 7 countries and 10 cities in Scandinavia and on the Baltic Sea. It was a trip of a lifetime and before we left we heard the same thing from friends who are serious  cruisers….”the food is fabulous, with loads of options and endless buffets.” All that is true, and it made us pledge to enjoy the food but set the intention to not gain weight.

In Food & Fitness After 50 we advise four principles of a healthy diet for older adults:

  • Include all the energy-containing (calorie) nutrients of carbohydrate, protein, and fat
  • Choose nutrient-rich foods (foods packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy plant-compounds)
  • Consider your risk for chronic disease when choosing foods
  • Enjoy food and mealtime

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On a cruise it is easy to focus solely on the enjoyment of food and mealtime. I’m not about to tell anyone to wear blinders when choosing their meal, but with these tips you can enjoy it all and still fit into your clothes when disembarking the ship.

Before you decide where or what to eat (ships have many options from intimate small dining to endless buffets to white table cloth fine dining, as well as specialty restaurants) check them all out. At the buffets, do a walk through before filling your plate, focusing on the regional cuisine and vow to sample one food that is new to you every day. Since Viking is a Norwegian cruise line the seafood options were endless; salmon, crab, lobster, shrimp, halibut, and cod were our staple proteins. In a previous post I wrote about smoked salmon and lox. I tried another variation….gravlax, a Nordic dish of salmon cured in salt, sugar, and dill. It has a sweeter taste than the lox or smoked salmon than we eat in the U.S. My husband had kippers one morning for breakfast; a whole herring, butterflied and hot-smoked. The taste (and smell) was too strong for me!20190915_113831 (1)

Ask for smaller portions; yes, it is possible! Ask for a one-egg omelet instead of 3 eggs and load it up with spinach, peppers, and onions (a good definition of a nutrient-rich meal) and request entrée portions be scaled back. I often opted for a “sampler platter,” trying a small portion of many foods on one plate. Yes, it sometimes made for odd combinations, but it was fun to try so many foods without feeling stuffed at the end of the meal.

Fill up on foods with a low-energy density; that means foods lower in calories but with high volume to keep you full. Soup is a great way to start a meal and I often found that the soups were so delicious that one bowl of soup was all I needed to eat for lunch. Fruit is also low-energy density and the fruit options were plentiful and tasty.

IMG_3151And, back to smaller portions, what about dessert? The pastry chef turned out beautiful, decadent desserts and many were right-sized but there is opportunity to go overboard at the gelato station! Ask for one scoop of gelato to enjoy the sweet taste without blowing your food budget. I always tell folks that the second half of the dessert tastes just like the first half; so, no need to eat a big piece of cake, pie, or a cookie the size of a man hole cover!

IMG_3142Talk to the chef and take a galley tour. These tours are not advertised but ask guest services if you can get a look behind the scenes. I was impressed with how organized, efficient, and clean everything was in the kitchen. I enjoyed talking to the Chef de Cuisine, Ivan Paineman, about how he delivers high quality, delicious food for the many restaurants on board, as well as room service. We also took part in a special “Chef’s Table” meal one evening, featuring a regional cuisine 5-course meal with wine pairing and got to talk to the chef about how he decides which cuisines to feature.

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Don’t abandon your exercise routine; no need to do so with a world-class gym on board and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. (My favorite was the infinity pool at the back of the ship….feels like you could go over the ship and right into the ocean.) We spend some time in the gym, but we got most of our exercise on walking tours of the cities. Guided walking tours were included in most cities and we got lots of steps in while seeing the sights of Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin, Aalborg, Tallinn, and Bergen. It doesn’t feel like exercise when listening to a knowledgeable, engaging guide showing off his or her favorite city. Most days, we got over 15,000 steps.IMG_2739

I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up alcohol as it pours freely at lunch and dinner on-board. No need for a drink package on Viking unless you want to add breakfast drinking! Alcohol adds extra calories and loosens your resolve to eat healthy. We certainly enjoyed the wine with meals but breakfast, mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and late-night imbibing is something that no one needs! But, when in Germany, I couldn’t resist a local beer! For more on alcohol and health, click here.IMG_2969

Thanks to Viking for delicious food, charming cities, luxurious accommodations, and attentive staff. We met our goal of not gaining weight, but it was hard to transition to land lubber status and making my own meals and cleaning my house!

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.