Food & Fitness After 50: Lean Pork for the Protein Win

(Disclosure: The National Pork Board sent me a meal kit to try a lean pork dish. However, they did not ask me to write this post and I was not compensated to do so. As with everything I write, these are my opinions.)

We often talk about the importance of getting adequate protein as we age. In a recent post, we talked to three protein experts and the consensus is that older adults should aim to:

  • eat nutrient-rich sources of high-quality protein at every meal
  • ensure adequate protein to repair and replace proteins in the body
  • choose meats, fish, eggs, and dairy foods for highest quality protein (while vegetable proteins are popular, they are lower quality than animal proteins)
  • spread protein foods throughout the day.

One way to accomplish these goals is by choosing lean meats, like pork loin. Pork is a versatile meat that checks all the points listed above. It is no surprise that pork makes an appearance on many global tables. From soul food to Hispanic dishes, to summer grilling and holiday meals, pork is often the centerpiece.

Choose nutrient-rich protein

Pork is a nutrient-rich meat of high quality, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and maintenance. It is recommended that older adults get about 30 grams of protein per meal…sounds like a lot, but easy when lean meat is part of the diet. A 3-ounce serving of lean pork has 24 grams of protein. Check out the serving sizes of other proteins that you would need to eat to equal 24 grams of protein.

Pork is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals needed for healthy aging: vitamins B1, 2, 3 (also called thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin), vitamins B6 and B12, and the mineral selenium. And while there are fattier cuts of pork (hello, bacon), there are 8 cuts of pork that are lean by the USDA definition (less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving). Pork tenderloin and pork sirloin roast are leaner still. An easy way to remember to choose lean cuts of pork is to look for the word loin or chop in the name.

Even for those who are eating a plant-forward diet, animal foods do not have to be eliminated. Using small servings of meat can enhance the protein in a meal while still including lots of veggies, fruit, and grains.  You can see from my plate, that meat takes only a portion of the plate while veggies cover more than 2/3rd.

Safety First

Folks of my generation were afraid that under-cooking pork would give them a food-borne illness, so we overcompensated by overcooking. Overdone, leathery pork is not good! But, with current pig farming practices and safety inspections, we know that cooking pork to the proper internal temperature of 145⁰F (ground pork should be cooked to 160⁰F) eliminates any risk for food-borne illness. After it reaches the correct temperature, remove from the heat and let it rest for 3 minutes to preserve the juices. I always use a meat thermometer to ensure I don’t OVERCOOK the meat.

Setting the Record Straight

There are some other concerns people have about pork, or more specifically raising pigs. I reached out to registered dietitian, owner of Farm to Form Communications, and 5th generation South Dakota pig farmer, Charlotte Rommereim, to set the record straight on a few persistent myths.

Myth #1: All pigs are raised by “big ag” who care little for animal welfare.

“There are over 67,000 pig farms in the United States today.  Those pig farmers raise pigs in a variety of different ways based on their area, their farm’s history, and available resources and labor.  No matter the size of the farm, type of housing or pig farming practices, good animal care remains important to all pig farmers.  Through the over 100 years of pig farming on our family farm, we have changed the type of housing used, and I have seen good animal care practiced no matter whether they were housed in small huts like my grandfather had or indoors in the barns we built in 2005 and 2018,” says Rommereim .”

Myth #2: Raising pigs is bad for the environment.

“Pig farmers are continually improving their practices and have reduced their environmental impact over the last 50 years while continuing to have the best in animal care.  Research at the University of Arkansas showed a 75.9% reduction in land use, 25.1% less water, 7% less energy use, and 7.7% fewer carbon emissions from 1965-2015.”

Myth #3: Pork is full of hormones.

“NO, I repeat NO, hormones are used in raising pigs,” reports Rommereim. “Growth hormones are prohibited in raising pork or poultry. There is no advantage to the pork product labeled “no hormones added” as this is true for all pork so please don’t spend any extra money to have that on your label.”

I also asked Charlotte what she thinks about including pork in the diet for an older adult. Her reply echoes what was said earlier in the post. “Pork is an economical, versatile, and lean, nutritious protein choice for the older adult.  It can bring the familiar with a pork chop dinner or be the protein choice for a new taste experience.  Pork is the most popular protein in the world so you can take the opportunity during the pandemic to “travel the globe” by trying new pork recipes.  Pork pairs well with other food groups making it easy to have a healthy plate, for example pork stir fry with vegetables, or grilled peaches with pork tenderloin.” For another Powerful Pairing with pork, consider pulses, also called dried beans and peas. Pulses are unique and are counted as both a vegetable and a protein-rich food. The link to the Powerful Pairing website contains some great recipes, so give them a try.

Rommereim adds, “As a dietitian, I recommend the 8 great cuts of pork that meet the USDA criteria for lean including my favorite pork tenderloin.” She also stressed cooking to the proper temperature of 145⁰F for “tender, tasty, and safe pork.”

Her favorite recipe? “There are many on this website”and Charlotte adds, “I enjoy pork tenderloin a variety of ways, from a grilling with a simple dry rub of spices to stir frying with vegetables after a quick marinade.  I can get a nutritious meal on the table in a short amount of time. Like many, I struggle with meal planning and this fits my more spur of the moment decisions for a healthy meal.  When I have more time, my favorite recipe is one our family enjoys featuring pork tenderloin and our favorite summer fruit, peaches.”

Grilled Peaches and Pork

One- approximately 1-pound pork tenderloin

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, divided

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large peaches, peeled, halved and pitted

4 cups salad greens

1 teaspoon turbinado or granulated sugar

Combine 2 Tablespoons vinegar, juice, thyme, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Reserve 1 Tablespoon juice mixture. Pour the remaining juice mixture in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork, seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 1/2 to 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Place peaches, cut sides up on a plate, drizzle with remaining 2 Tablespoons vinegar.

Place pork on grill; grilling on each side, cooking until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Set aside to rest.

Place peaches cut sides down, on grill; grill 4 minutes or until soft and slightly browned.  Turn and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Cut each half into 4 slices.  Cut slices of pork for serving.

Drizzle salad greens with reserved 1 Tablespoon juice mixture, tossing to coat. Divide salad greens evenly among 4 plates. Top with grilled pork tenderloin slices and peach slices; sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.

Yield: 4 servings

And, here is the recipe in the video that was sent courtesy of The National Pork Board.

Cherry Balsamic Pork Chops (Recipe from HelloFresh)

2 6-ounce center cut pork chops

1 small shallot, chopped

5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons cherry jam

1/3 cup water

½ teaspoon sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper

Pat pork dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until browned, about 4-6 minutes per side. Use meat thermometer to measure temperature and when it reaches 145⁰F, remove pork chops from pan and set aside.

In the same pan used to cook pork, add another drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Add vinegar; simmer until slightly reduced, 30-60 seconds. Add jam and 1/3 cup water. Cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and up to ½ teaspoon sugar to taste. Turn off heat. Stir in butter until melted. Return pork to pan; turn to coat in sauce.

Yield: 2 servings

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: The Menopause Diet Plan

I am often asked what diet plan is best for managing the short and long-term symptoms of menopause. So, I was excited when two of the best in the profession, both personal friends and colleagues, authored a new book, The Menopause Diet Plan, A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health and Happiness available TODAY, September 8! I preordered my copy as soon as I heard about the book, but I reached out to the authors to answer some of your questions about menopause.

First, meet the authors. Elizabeth (Liz) Ward and I met years ago through volunteer work for our professional association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Liz writes an awesome blog, Better Is the New Perfect (there is a link on her website to sign up and receive an email when she publishes a post) and a top-notch recipe developer. She is the author of Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy and is a mom of three daughters.

Liz introduced me to one of her best friends, Hillary Wright, who is a mom of three sons. Hillary is the Director for Nutrition Counseling for the Domar Center for Mind Body Health in Waltham, Massachusetts and she has a part time position as a Senior Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Hillary has written two books, The PCOS Diet Plan: A Natural Approach to Health for Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and and The Prediabetes Diet Plan: How to Reverse Prediabetes and Prevent Diabetes through Healthy Eating and Exercise. They teamed up to write The Menopause Diet Plan.

 Question: You’ve been friends for a long time, and you have authored other nutrition books. What made you decide to collaborate on this book and on this topic?

 Ward starts the conversation: “We met in college and became friends, and we went to the same school for our graduate degrees. We share a lot in common on our outlook on women’s health. At this point in our lives and as we experienced perimenopause and menopause, it just seemed like the right time to work together.  We both feel strongly about the importance of midlife nutrition and other beneficial lifestyle habits for women as they reach their 50s and beyond.”

Wright agrees: “As registered dietitians with expertise in women’s health – and good friends since college — Liz and I have often batted around ideas on how we might collaborate.  When as we entered menopause it triggered many conversations about what we were experiencing, including what was “normal.”  In the process of trying to educate ourselves we found that resources for this life phase were sorely lacking, and realized we’d finally landed on our collaboration idea.  And it was a personal as well as professional decision.”

Question: Menopause has been medicalized as a disease therefore women seek treatment and often find lots of “cures.” How did you approach the topic of menopause and what one piece of advice would you give to women as they approach menopause?

“Menopause is often referred to as a “transition” for a reason, and the transition begins earlier than many women think,” says Wright. “Hormone fluctuations and accompanying symptoms roll out over a period of years, generally starting in the mid-40’s, so this is a great time to start talking to your health care providers about what is “normal,” and what to be on the lookout for.  For example, one of the biggest concerns for women as they approach midlife is weight gain. Research shows most women start accruing a little extra fat starting in their 40’s, related to body composition changes and hormone shifts through the perimenopause years. This is the best time to pay attention to your eating and exercise habits to help curb the weight creep and decrease in fitness.”

Ward agrees. “There is no “cure” for menopause, but there are ways that women can help themselves feel better during perimenopause and after menopause occurs.  My advice is to start talking openly about symptoms – to friends, to health care professionals, and to family – so that they better understand what is happening and what can be done to reduce symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain. Think of the menopause transition as an opportunity to get educated about what’s happening in the body and how good nutrition, regular exercise, stress reduction and other lifestyle habits can help you feel your best.”

Question: There are real body composition changes that occur during menopause…how do you balance that fact with helping women who are fearful of gaining weight as they age?

Ward has empathy for women going through changes, and she reveals that she gained 10 pounds during perimenopause.” I don’t think any woman escapes some weight gain with the run up to menopause and in her later years. I understand the fear that a woman might have, but armed with the facts, it’s easier to understand why weight gain and body composition changes happen, and how to keep weight gain to a minimum. Weight control during midlife and beyond is not about taking drastic measures; it’s about learning how to eat better in a way that’s right for you. Focus on eating for health, not for the scale.”

“Hopefully, with age comes the wisdom that we can’t micromanage everything about our body,” adds Wright.  “Weight gain around menopause is not solely related to declining estrogen; there are many other factors that affect body composition around midlife, some of which are controllable. Women often face many stresses and it is impossible to avoid the stress of demanding jobs, caring for kids still living at home, or the caregiving needs of aging parents, but we can decide take time out to eat healthfully, trade in some Netflix time for physical activity, or seek support around the things that are the biggest stressors. Some weight creep through these years may be the reality for most women, but prioritizing self-care can go far towards mediating how much weight is gained.”

Question: It seems that women seek relief for the acute effects of menopause (hot flashes, sleep issues) but might ignore the more consequential long-term health problems (increased heart disease risk, bone health, cognitive health). Can you give me the top line nutrition plan that will help with both short-term and long-term health issues?

 “We developed The Menopause Diet Plan to address weight control; protect bone health, brain health, heart health; and to help women feel their best. Our eating plan uses the latest research to address the prevention of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and more. It’s a plant-based (but not animal-free) way of eating that includes the nutrients you need to help prevent and manage long-term health issues,” says Ward. “In doing our research we were happy to learn that the same plant-based diet and lifestyle strategies that lower risk of many chronic diseases may also help manage menopausal symptoms,” adds Wright. “Studies show that, along with regular physical activity, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, and limiting added sugars, alcohol, ultra-processed foods, and many animal foods, may improve sleep, curb hot flashes, and increase energy levels.”

Both Ward and Wright recognize that there are women who eat well and stay active yet still have hot flashes or suffer too many miserable sleepless nights. “But aiming for a diet that is high in fiber, encourages more plant-based proteins and healthy fats, and is loaded with disease -fighting anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants checks many boxes for avoiding long term health problems like heart disease and diabetes.” Another advantage of a plant-based diet is that high fiber foods are more filling which can curb the appetite and control excess calorie intake. “Our plan makes plant-based eating easy by offering simple suggestions to promote balance at meals, while also encouraging women to budget in small portions of their “foods for fun” so they don’t feel like they’re “dieting,” says Wright.

Question: Tell me about the recipes in the book…and thanks for sharing the recipe for Lazy Lentil Soup (I can attest is delicious!)

Ward, known as a creative recipe developer, says, “Recipes reinforce the concepts in The Menopause Diet Plan and they show readers how they can easily enjoy delicious and nutritious foods.  The recipes are healthful…low in saturated fat, rich in plant foods, and free of added sugar. They are practical, everyday recipes that women can make for themselves and for their families because they are healthy and delicious.” Wright and Ward developed all of the recipes for the book and Wright adds they also include some family favorites that have passed the test with their husbands and kids.

Question: What do you do to eat well, move well, and be well?

Wright makes exercise a daily priority with outdoor activity her favorite (despite living in a cold Massachusetts climate). “Cycling and walking are my go-to activities and I also take strength training classes and yoga at a local gym.” She adds, I grew up in a house with two siblings with Type 1 diabetes so I fully attribute my healthy, plant-based eating habits to my mother who made it happen at the dinner table every night, and my mom and grandparents who taught me how to cook at a young age.  It takes a village!”

Ward says she used to focus on aerobic exercise but has started to do more weight training to preserve muscle mass. “I work out 6 times a week, walk the dog every day, and generally try to stay active as much as possible. As for eating, I follow the principles in The Menopause Diet Plan – lots of plants, whole foods, and seafood. I also eat a treat (usually chocolate) every day. I don’t weigh what I did when I was 25, but I’m healthy and I’ll take it!”

The Menopause Diet Plan gets a 5-star rating in my book! I always enjoy books written by qualified health professionals based on science, not speculation. And, with 25 recipes and resources for more information, it is a woman’s guide to good health.

Lazy Lentil Soup

Makes 4 servings.

Lentils double as a vegetable and protein source, and using the canned kind gets this soup on the table in about 20 minutes. (Hint: make a double batch and freeze half!). Pair with yogurt and fruit for a complete meal.

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup cooked lentils, canned or fresh

1 15-ounce can no added salt fire-roasted tomatoes, not drained

1 ½ cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups, packed, raw baby spinach

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and carrots, and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and continue to cook until the carrots are fork-tender.

Add the lentils and broth and cook, covered, for about 10 minutes over medium heat.  Add the spinach, salt, and black pepper. Stir until spinach is wilted. Serve warm.

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Coffee with Ted Kyle of ConscienHealth

Meeting Ted in Budapest

I have coffee every morning with Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth. Not literally, but his thoughtful commentary arrives in my email box every morning and I read it as I sip my morning coffee. Seven days a week, Ted produces an insightful commentary on issues surrounding obesity. His goal is to provide sound science to health professionals and consumers to foster solutions to obesity prevention, care, and research. He started ConscienHealth in 2009 and his influential work now reaches more than 20,000 readers around the world.

I’ve admired Ted for his passion, dedication, and commitment to contributing to solving complex problems. After hearing him speak at a conference earlier this year, I examined some my biases about obesity and wrote about it for this blog (click here for the post). It is one of my most shared posts so it must resonate with many people. I wanted to learn more about Ted’s journey to becoming a tireless advocate for obesity and health and gain some personal insights into how he eats well, moves well, and stays well.

Question: I know you as a respected obesity expert and founder of ConscienHealth. Before that you were a registered pharmacist and then worked in the pharmaceutical industry. How did you start on that path and how did you end up developing ConscienHealth?

Ted explained, “in high school I had a part-time job in my hometown pharmacy, and I enjoyed both the science of pharmacy and the interactions with a variety of customers. I also enjoyed creative pursuits, like photography, but a degree in pharmacy seemed a viable profession to earn a living and to help people along the way.” He pursued a 5-year program in pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and found time to take some courses to feed his creative side. Journalism and photography classes led him to writing and editing college publications and he landed an internship at Eli Lily in marketing. “My internship combined my love of science with communications and as soon as I graduated with my degree in pharmacy, I decided an MBA would help further my career.”

He landed his first job with a large health care company doing market research. “It allowed me learn about new product development and introduced me some giants in medicine.” One of those giants was Trudy Elion , a pioneering female scientist who developed breakthrough drugs for leukemia, for organ transplant rejection, and for viral infections. Elion earned the Nobel Prize for her work in drug development in 1988.

As his career continued, Ted ended up in Pittsburgh, working on drug development as well as rapid, convenient testing for HIV. One of the drugs he worked on was Orlistat, a medicine to augment diet and lifestyle changes for obesity. It was at that time that his passion for empowering people living with obesity was born. “I interviewed hundreds of people living with obesity and learned a lot about the stigma and bias they face. Through a lifetime of living with a chronic disease, one that involved both biology and behavior, all they ever heard was it was all their fault. I met people who were deeply grateful to have someone listen to them and try to understand their experiences. Hearing the stories of the burdens people face was a deeply moving experience.” Around this time, public health experts recognized what came to be called an obesity epidemic, but Ted found that “the public talked of concern about obesity but mostly just blamed the people affected. Well-intended public health messages were actually counterproductive, and it was then I decided to do something different.”

Question: How did you grow ConscienHealth into the “go to” place for experts around the world?

“It started slow, but I knew that an online presence was needed. Initially, I designed a rather crude website, but then hired a pro to design a simple, easy to navigate website to house our content. I work with a group of people committed to a scientific approach to improve our understanding of obesity and to breaking through the weight bias that exists in us all. I came to understand the science, not just the physiology, but also the behavioral and psychological aspect of living with obesity. Stigma is real and it makes health outcomes worse.”

“Recently, I’ve been writing more about the effects of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes. A European colleague in Italy reached out to me and said there was something going on with obesity and poorer outcomes in those who were infected with the virus. So, I did a lot of digging as more and more compelling data emerged. I have been able to participate in an exchange of knowledge about the interaction between obesity and COVID-19. It’s been quite a journey.” (Click here to read Ted’s post from March of this year.)

Question: Shifting gears here, but you care for many others, what do you do to care for yourself? You are now in your 60s, how do you stay well? How do you eat well, move well, and be well?

“I credit my wife for her smart approach to eating well. We eat what we think is a healthful diet. I have oatmeal and fruit at breakfast, big salads loaded with all kinds of summer veggies, and grilled protein foods for dinner. During the pandemic, grilling fish has become more of a mainstay for us.

For activity, we walk every day. I used to log between 6,000 to 10,000 steps a day but during the pandemic I’ve almost doubled that to 12,000 to 18,000 steps. I love being outdoors so walking and biking are my favorite ways to keep moving.”

As for staying well, Ted has his family, friends, and colleagues for social support, but he admits his biggest challenge is sleep, or lack of it. “There is just so much to do that I find it hard to get 8 hours of sleep. I get up about 3 am each day so I can write my commentary for ConscienHealth to get it online by 6 am.” (And, just in time for my morning coffee!)

Question: What 3 tips or advice would you give to others to eat well, move well, and be well?

“The first is to stay curious about everything. Whether it is people, nutrition, health….just stay curious.. Second, be objective about what is known. For me, the essence of communication about science requires sophisticated and ethical messages that are engaging and approachable. This is what I try to do every day with my commentary. The third piece of advice is to care for the needs of the others around you.”

I think we can all agree with his good advice! And, if you are not following ConscienHealth…do so!

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Is There an Optimal Protein Intake for Older Adults?

A recent paper from three international protein gurus reviews the science behind the recommendations that older adults need more protein than young, healthy adults. The opening sentence of the paper sums up the current state of the science: “The optimum protein intake for adult health remains controversial.” How could that be?  The authors explain that why we know general requirements for protein we don’t know optimal intakes. Why there are limits to what we know about protein and aging?

  • Older adults, especially older women, are often not included as participants in research studies on protein needs.
  • Recommendations for protein are often derived from young, healthy adults. Healthy is a key word because we know that many older adults have chronic health conditions. Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer affect 3 of 4 adults over the age of 65.
  • Research studies that look at protein intake and muscle mass in older adults are of short duration; most last less than 6 months. Since muscle loss is gradual, the short-term studies may not have time to show a positive effect of increasing protein.

While we may not have the definitive answer to the question posed in the title of this post, there is much we do know and here are some key points from the article:

  • The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is inadequate for older adults due to something called the “anabolic resistance” of muscle. (Anabolic means building up and is the opposite of catabolic or breaking down.) Anabolic resistance means that the signals to build up muscle through strength training or eating protein is muted in older adults. This resistance can be overcome with an increased amount of strength training or a higher intake of protein.
  • When older adults experience a period of muscle disuse, which can occur during illness or injury, signals to muscle protein are blunted and a practical way to overcome this is through a higher protein intake, especially protein-rich foods that contain a key amino acid, leucine. Protein is made up of units called amino acids and 9 of the 22 amino acids are considered essential, meaning that we can’t make them in the body, so they must be consumed through diet. Leucine is one of the 9 essential amino acids and has been found to play a critical role in protein synthesis.
  • Sarcopenia, literally meaning vanishing flesh, is the progressive loss of muscle as we age. It doesn’t start when we are 60; it starts at about the age of 40 (even earlier in those who are inactive). Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sarcopenia and inactivity.

So, where does all of this leave us? The authors conclude that older adults should increase protein…both quality and quantity at meals. Consuming at least 30 grams of protein per meal, with 2.5 grams of leucine or more can overcome the anabolic resistance of aging muscle. While not all studies agree on meal timing, the authors also conclude that spreading the protein evenly across meals is better than backloading all the protein at one meal.

So, what does that mean for us? To recap to maintain muscle you need two things: progressive, resistance strength training and nutrition. Protein is a key nutrient for building and keeping muscle.  A few facts about protein:

  • High quality protein contains all 9 of the essential amino acids (EAAs) and includes:
    • Animal protein (beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, kefir, yogurt)
    • Soy protein (tofu, edamame, soy burgers, patties, crumbles, soymilk, cheese, yogurt)
  • The following foods do not contain all the EAAs, but they contribute to total protein intake:
    • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.), almond butter, seeds (sunflower, chia, flax), legumes (peanuts, pinto, navy black beans, split peas, black-eyed peas, and other starchy beans and peas), peanut butter, pasta, rice, and whole grain bread.
  • Try and spread the protein evenly in 3-4 meals each day.

Examples of 30-gram protein meals

Sample meals and snacks with ~30 grams of protein

6 oz Greek yogurt (18)*

1 oz granola (4)

Small banana (1)

Skim milk latte (6)

2 scrambled eggs with 1 oz cheese and spinach (21)

8 oz soymilk (7)

½ slice whole grain toast (2)

Smoothie made with 1 ounce whey protein powder (20)**

6 oz Greek vanilla yogurt (18)

½ cup frozen berries (1)

Large green salad with veggies (2)

4 oz grilled chicken or salmon (28)

1 Tablespoon sunflower seeds (1)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 oz tuna mixed with mayo (21)

2 slices of whole grain bread (7)

Lettuce, tomato, banana peppers or other veggies (2)

1 cup pasta (6)

3 oz turkey or beef meatballs (21)

Green salad with balsamic vinegar dressing (1)

1 cup cottage cheese (28)

1 Tablespoon chopped nuts (1)

3 slices fresh or canned peaches (1)

Stir fry with ½ cup tofu (10)

Carrots, broccoli, edamame (16)

1 cup brown rice (5)

3 oz cheddar cheese (21)

6 whole grain crackers (2)

8 ounces skim milk (8)

*grams protein in parentheses

 **most protein powders have ~20 grams protein per serving, but check labels

For those not used to thinking in terms of grams of protein (probably most of you), here are a few keys to understanding protein:

  • 1-ounce of beef, pork, fish, poultry, and cheese has about 7 grams of protein. Most of us don’t eat 1-ounce portions of these foods, so if you eat a 5-ounce portion of grilled salmon for dinner, you’ve eaten 35 grams of protein and that doesn’t count the other foods you have with the meal.
  • Dairy foods are rich in protein, the amino acid leucine, as well as other nutrients needed for muscle health such as vitamin D and calcium. 8-ounces (1 cup) of dairy milk has 8 grams of protein, but 8-ounces of ultra-filtered milk, such as Fairlife, has 13 grams of protein. Contrast that with Silk Almond milk that has only 1 gram of protein per serving. The point is that not all “milk” is a rich-protein source.
  • Foods carry a nutrition facts panel that tell you 2 important pieces of information: the serving size is of the food and how many grams of protein are in in one serving. That’s an important thing to keep in mind because you might be eating more than the stated serving size, meaning you are also getting more protein.

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  • I like to look for snacks that are nutrient-rich but not too high in calories. My recent favorite is kefir, a fermented milk drink with 11 grams of protein in 8-ounces, and is rich in probiotics, too.

I reached out the authors (aka, protein gurus) to ask them for a practical take-away from their article.

Meet the gurus

Dr. Stuart Phillips is a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada (follow him on twitter @mackinprof).

“I’d recommend emphasizing the consumption of nutrient-dense sources of high-quality protein like dairy and eggs at meals that are traditionally lower protein: breakfast and lunch. My go-to protein food at breakfast (and sometimes lunch too) is Greek-style yogurt or Icelandic Skyr. Both are cultured dairy, rich in high quality protein, and many other necessary nutrients, and tasty and versatile as a base for berries and nuts.”

Dr. Doug Padden-Jones is a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism at The University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas .

“For generally healthy adults, establish a dietary framework that includes a moderate amount of high-quality protein at each meal. Factors such as energy needs, physical activity, health status, body composition goals, and satiety should be weighed to determine protein needs. But, During periods of  physical disuse (injury, illness, inactivity) middle-age and older adults are at increased risk of muscle/function loss so just meeting the RDA for protein ( 0.8 g protein/kg/day)  is insufficient. Aggressive support with high quality protein (whey /leucine) and activity may help preserve muscle health.”

Dr. Donald Layman is a an emeritus professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition a the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois. (Follow him on twitter @donlayman).

 “A key for maintaining muscle health as we get older is dietary protein. Surprisingly, adults have higher protein needs than children because we have a continuous need to repair and replace proteins in our body but our efficiency of making new proteins declines with age. The best proteins are meats (including fish), eggs, and dairy. Vegetable proteins are popular, but they always have lower quality than animal proteins. You will need to consume 30% to 50% more total protein if you chose to use plant proteins. So, a 25 g whey protein shake would require at least 35 g of soy protein to be equivalent.” 

 

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Health Resources Available at Your Fingertips

If you are watching or reading the news about the coronavirus you’ve gotten no nonsense information  from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or NIAID. What you might not know is that is that NIAID is one of 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health or NIH.

apple-blue-background-close-up-1353366The NIH is the world’s largest medical research agency and the website contains a vast amount of health information not just for scientists or researchers, but for everyday consumers, like us.

Many of my friends and neighbors know I am a registered dietitian and that I write about health and aging, so it is not unusual for me to get questions about diet and disease prevention or management. While I taught classes on medical nutrition therapy when I was on faculty at Georgia State, that was a while ago and I haven’t kept up with all the research on diet and disease management. Too often when people ask their doctor for nutrition advice, they get generic advice, such as “eat better and exercise more.” So, what do I tell people? I usually start by telling them that there is a lot of great, free information from reputable websites that they miss when they just google their specific concern. Enter the NIH websites.

What constitutes a reputable website? For me, it is one that provides information that is grounded in science and backed by evidence.  Another hallmark of a good health website is one that doesn’t rely on anecdotal testimonies from satisfied customers. Anecdotes make for compelling stories, but they don’t constitute evidence. I also stay away from websites that are trying to sell me something…the profit motive can bias the information.

That leads me to share some of my favorite NIH websites to learn more about the latest prevention and treatment strategies for various disease which affect many Americans. You won’t find flashy supplements that promise to cure you (and take money from your pocket) and you won’t find the magic, easy solution that many look for. You will find sound, credible information. So, when you have questions on (fill in the blank) check out these sites from the NIH:

  • When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 the first place I looked for information was the National Cancer Institute .From general information on cancer types, treatment and prognosis to specific cancers, this is a great place to start gathering information, including a list of questions to ask, before you talk to an oncologist.
  • For all things eye health, check out the National Eye Institute. As we age, we have more vision changes, from the normal age-related change presbyopia (the reason we need bifocals) to diseases like age-related macular degeneration. To learn about the symptoms, treatment, and latest research to prevent disease, start here. And, there is the good advice to get regular eye exams and give your eyes a break after 20 minutes of screen time.
  • The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute covers a variety of disease affecting the cardiovascular system and blood disorders. From A-Fib to Varicose Veins, this is the place to go. And, there is a lot of helpful information on medical devices like pacemakers and CPAP. heartHealth-1034500194-770x553-650x428
  • We’ve featured information on the National Institute on Aging in previous posts for information on healthy aging, but there is much more than nutrition on the site. Learn about the advances in geroscience, exploring the intersection of aging, biology, chronic disease, and health. Or get a free copy of Exercise & Physical Activity from Go4Life.
  • Arthritis is a common complaint of aging adults and you can learn about treatments at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. You will also find information on bone health and osteoporosis in this Institute.
  • I’m often asked about diet for digestive issues and the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases is a good place to start. I’m sharing the link for the diet and nutrition section because there is timely information on diet for irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, gallstones, and many other disorders.
  • While there are many for institutes within NIH, and I encourage you to browse the website, the last center I want to mention is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine . Many of you are interested in alternative treatments and this is good place to start learning about how various alternative treatments can complement traditional medical care. From herbs to acupuncture to Ayurvedic medicine, know the research that supports (or in some cases, refutes) what you think you know.

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Sadly, many people are rejecting science today. They complain that scientists are always changing their minds, so they are not trustworthy. But it is the nature of science to continue exploration which can lead to new information, especially with emerging and rapidly evolving diseases, such as COVID-19. The same is true for nutrition and health information, stay on solid ground and get good, unbiased information in your quest for good health.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: The Scoop on Collagen

Bob bike 2
Dr. Bob enjoying his just desserts after a long bike ride

Survey data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a trade association for dietary supplements) shows that 78% of adults over the age of 55 take supplements. Reasons for supplement use include overall wellness and healthy aging. It is no surprise that people are asking about one of the hottest supplements…collagen. I reached out to my friend and co-author of Food & Fitness After 50 to ask him some of your top questions about collagen. Dr. Bob Murray is an exercise physiologist and is passionate about exercise and health. He consults with many companies on hydration, protein, and supplement use in active populations, including older adults.

Let’s start with the basics. What is collagen and are there different types of collagen in the body?

Collagen-structure.800x345-wWe can think of collagen as the glue that holds us together. Collagen is the name for a large family of proteins found in the body.  In fact, there are so many types of collagen proteins that collagen turns out to be the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen proteins make up connective tissues throughout the body.  The term “connective tissues,” makes many people immediately think of tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, three good examples of connective tissues.  Muscles, skin, and bones also contain large amounts of connective tissues and therefore large amounts of the collagen proteins that intertwine to give those tissues the structure, strength, and elasticity required for the many different roles required of connective tissues. It should be obvious that the connective tissue in bone has a different role to play compared to the connective tissue in muscles or skin. That’s why so many different kinds of collagen proteins are needed throughout our bodies.

When I was younger, I remember my friends dissolving Knox gelatin in water and drinking it to strengthen their nails. Is gelatin the same as collagen?

The connective tissues of cows, pigs, and chickens are the primary source of gelatin produced for human consumption.  As a result, gelatin is rich in collagen proteins.

Is collagen a complete protein, that is one that contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body?

Collagen is an incomplete protein and is low in the amino acids that are associated with building muscle mass and strength.  However, collagen proteins are high in two amino acids—glycine and proline—that appear important in stimulating the growth of connective tissues in physically active people.

There are many claims for collagen supplements…from preventing wrinkles and strengthening skin to improving joint flexibility and strengthening muscles and bone. Is there any good human evidence that collagen supplements will help with any of those body systems?

The best way to sum up the current state of affairs is that the benefit claims for consuming collagen are long on theory and short on evidence.  That’s not to say that there isn’t some evidence suggesting benefits to skin, joints and muscles, but that evidence has yet to reach the levels of quality and quantity required to draw comfortable conclusions about the magnitude and reproducibility of the benefits associated with consuming collagen proteins on a regular basis.

It is well known and accepted that protein is needed for muscle protein synthesis, is collagen any better than simply getting more protein from whey protein or other protein-rich sources?

iStock Older man lifting weights smallMaybe, but much more research is needed to either confirm or deny that consuming collagen benefits muscle mass and strength beyond what we know occurs by increasing dietary protein intake. There are a growing number of studies that report benefits to muscle strength, joint pain, and repair of connective tissue, but there are a greater number of studies that report no benefits.  The unsatisfying answer to your question is that we’re going to have to wait and see what future research has to say,

Do you think older adults need to use collagen as a supplement?

Collagen production does naturally decline with age and there are studies that report benefits of collagen consumption in older adults.  Maybe the best news is that there is little to no risk of trying collagen supplements, aside from the possibility of spending money on something that does not work.

There are so many forms of collagen being sold…hydrolyzed, peptides, raw, undenatured and found in various forms from liquids, powders, tablets, chews and even gummies….if someone wanted to take collagen what is the form and dose that is currently recommended?

The current research indicates that the effective dose seems to be 15-20 grams of collagen per day, along with 200-250 mg of vitamin C to aid in collagen synthesis. The body seems to respond best to the presence of collagen peptides—short chains of a few amino acids—and most forms of dietary collagen contain such peptides. Look for products containing hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides on the label.

1800ss_getty_rf_vitamin_cI’m glad that Dr. Bob mentioned vitamin C and its role in collagen production. Vitamin C is most frequently thought of a nutrient that helps our immune system, especially fighting the dreaded winter cold, but it has a fascinating history (well, fascinating to most dietitians!). At the end of the 15th century, a disease called scurvy was the major cause of disability and death of sailors undergoing long sea voyages. Without access to fruits or vegetables, sailors developed bleeding gums, lost their teeth, had poor wound healing, and frequently old wounds would open up (called dehiscence). All because they were deficient in vitamin C and its important role in collagen production. Collagen helps anchor teeth in our gums and jawbone, as well as helping to keep skin healthy and elastic. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a Hungarian scientist, Dr. Albert-Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered and isolated ascorbic acid (a contraction of anti-scorbutic), better known as vitamin C.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved

Food & Fitness After 50: Finding the Silver Lining for Active Older Adults During the Pandemic

Food & Fitness After 50 is built on the pillars of eating well, moving well, and being well. So, when Tivity Health, the parent company of of SilverSneakers™, invited me to be a member of their scientific advisory board, I enthusiastically agreed. SilverSneakers embraces the same principles that I hold and while most people think of it as an exercise program, they have an equal emphasis on health, wellness, nutrition and connectivity.

iStock-Older couple runningNow with in-person group exercise classes on pause to stop the spread of COVID-19, how has the change affected SilverSneakers members? Researchers at Tivity Health conducted a number of surveys through the SilverSneakers newsletter on social connections, exercise, and nutrition to understand the concerns of newsletter readers. The survey provides a snapshot of an engaged community and their changing health habits. The infographic shown below (Source: Tivity Health) shows the highligts of the survey conducted between March 26-April 16, 2020. Let’s take a look at how sheltering at home is affecting older adult’s activity, nutrition, and social connections and provide tips on how to make the best of a bad situation…sort of the silver lining for SilverSneakers members.

Being Well and the Power of Social Connection

SilverSneakers Pulse Survey

Let’s start with the loss of social connection. Not surprisingly, ranked as the number one disruptor is the inability to visit with family and friends. I’m sure my SilverSneakers friends miss their coffee corner at our local gym as much as they miss the opportunity to exercise at the facility. The survey also found that limited social interaction contributed to feelings of stress and anxiety.

iStock-Older friends enjoying meal smallSocial support is big part of being well. Research from the Harvard Study of Adult Development found that participants derived their greatest happiness and joy in life from relationships. Men who were socially connected to family, friends, and community were healthier and happier, and they lived longer, than those who had less social connection. Tivity Health’s own research backs up that finding. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Applied Gerontology found that membership in SilverSneakers not only increased physical activity but also improved health through decreased social isolation and loneliness.

The Silver Lining? Learning how to stay in touch using video chats, live streaming, or social media sites, such as Facebook Live. About 75% of survey respondents say that using various technology tools to stay in contact with friends and family members has helped bridge the physical distance. And with more use comes more confidence in using technology. Everything from religious services, to virtual bridge clubs, to reading stories to their grandchildren, older adults are embracing video capabilities and becoming more comfortable and proficient. That proves that you can teach new skills at any age.

Moving Well: Staying Active in Creative Ways

A big part of SilverSneakers is exercise, and with fitness facilities temporarily shuttered, how do older adults stay active? Survey results show that 93% of all members are still engaging is some form of exercise. Spring brings people out of doors and many find that they can still walk or bike, even with social distancing. And they recognize that activity of any kind is also exercise; from gardening to completing home projects keeps people moving.

iStock Older man lifting weights smallWhile walking is a wonderful fitness activity, we still need to balance our exercise plate with strength training and the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination). Keeping muscles strong is always important but even more so now. Between the ages of 20 and 90, we can lose over 50% of our muscle mass due to sedentary lifestyle and sarcopenia (which means “vanishing flesh.”) For those who get ill and are confined to bed, a loss of 1% of muscle mass per day compounds the situation. The good news is that strength training just 2 days per week for about 30 minutes per session can reverse muscle loss.

older-adults-tai-chi-outside-e1505160556655Agility, balance, and coordination helps older adults stay active, reduces musculoskeletal injuries, and reduces the risk of falling. While we may never be as agile and coordinated in our body movements at 70 as we were at 20, simple exercises can help improve the ABCs. Yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, balancing on one foot, all can help improve balance.

For those who have replaced their exercise routine with only walking during this time, be sure to start slow when you do return to your pre-COVID-19 workout to avoid injury. In the nutrition world when refeeding a malnourished patient, we use the phrase, “make haste slowly,” and that applies to kick-starting your exercise routine.

The Silver Lining? SilverSneakers offers video home workouts with over 200 videos on demand, so no chance for boredom! There is also the SilverSneakers GO fitness app for smart phones, so workouts are portable. And, with Facebook Live exercise classes offered multiple times per week, activity is possible for these times. Don’t have Facebook but would still love to take part in live classes? Tivity Health recently launched SilverSneakers LIVE, where members can enjoy full-length, live classes and workshops directly through the SilverSneakers website. Create or log in to your account to see the class schedule.

Even without videos, much can be done with exercise bands. I have a set of three bands…light, medium, and heavy resistance that I use for bicep curls, triceps extensions, and shoulder exercises. I hang them on a doorknob as a visual reminder to use them every day.

Eating Well: Get Creative

iStock-Older couple making salad smallSurvey results for nutrition habits show a mixed bag. 56% of respondents report eating more home-cooked meals. Generally, cooking results in healthier meals, so that is a good thing. However, about 25% report making less healthy choices and 30% are eating out of boredom. Comfort foods are definitely “in” right now, but comfort food doesn’t have to be unhealthy food. This might be the right time to lighten up an old family favorite and there are plenty of recipe sites online to help you make substitutions, not sacrifices. Keep healthy snacks on hand so when boredom has you heading to the kitchen choose a snack of fresh fruit, yogurt, or a handful of nuts.

refrigerator-22592466The bad news is that about 1 in 5 people worry about having enough food or being able to restock their supplies. With disruptions in the food supply chain and home delivery of groceries hit or miss (or delayed) it can be a good time to do an inventory of everything in your freezer, fridge, and pantry and plan creative meals around what you have on hand. (For more on this strategy, click here and here.)

The Silver Lining? Many home delivery meal systems are offering significant discounts for meal and snack delivery. And while you may think of meal delivery such as Nutrisystem* as “diet” food, the meals are healthful and could be used to supplement what you have on hand. This is also a good time to dig out appliances hiding in a closet…a George Foreman grill, an Air Fryer, or Crockpot can be used for easy to prepare meals without a lot of fuss. Crockpot cooking can be  an especially affordable and easy way to r batch prep meals, so you can cook once and eat two or three times.

These unprecedented times have us moving in new directions, but the survey results clearly showed that older adults are resilient. We are strong and creative in finding new ways to eat well, move well, and be well. We might just find that we like those Zoom happy hours with our friends and exercising online!

*Nutrisystem is part of the Tivity Health portfolio of products.

Thanks to Tivity Health researchers Dr. Justin Barclay and Lisa Jameson, and Janna Lacatell, Executive Director of Social Determinants Solutions for Tivity Health for providing information about the SilverSneakers survey.

Dr. Christine Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Tai Chi for Your Knees

Last year I interviewed Chris Cinnamon, owner and head instructor of Chicago Tai Chi™ and an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified exercise physiologist about the benefits of Tai Chi for older adults.  In the post, Chris answered your questions about Tai Chi for overall health, and we explored his path from Navy flyer to lawyer to Tai Chi expert and healthy aging advocate. To read the post, click here.

Tai Chi book coverToday I want to talk about his new book, Tai Chi for Knee Health, available at Amazon as a softback or E-book by clicking here.

The book is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to performing this low impact exercise for preventing knee problems, treating knee issues, or recovering after a knee injury or surgery. Since knee osteoarthritis affects about 14 million adults it is likely that you, a family member, or friend have some issues with knee pain. Let’s start with a few observations about the book and then ask the author to elaborate.

The book is divided into 4 parts and 18 chapters, loaded with illustrations to make the content relatable.

The first part is devoted to getting to know your knees and establishing the reasons why Tai Chi is beneficial for knee health. This part is replete with illustrations of the knee and the many structures that support your knee…. bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, and the inner working of the knee itself. I’m sure you’ve all heard of people (or perhaps yourself) who have meniscus tears or ACL repairs. Chris’s clear explanations and accompanying illustrations will help you understand what these structures are, where they are located, and the functions they serve.

The second part focuses on the first three movements of the seven movement Tai Chi for Knee Health exercise system. The basic elements of the movements are discussed, and each step is illustrated, along with practice exercises to make sure you are doing the exercises in a manner that promotes knee health.

Part three presents the next two movements, reinforcing and building upon the lessons in Parts one and two. Part four guides you through the final two movements, then a complete set of movements 1 through 7.

Each chapter ends with a bulleted list of the content wrap up; I found it helpful to read this first and then read the chapter and ending with a review of the wrap up. (I like the bottom-line up-front approach to learning!)

The book includes links to online practice videos where Chris leads you through the exercises, providing helpful cues.  In addition, the book provides a wealth of references for further reading.

What I like most about the book is that is great for beginners, but also a useful tool for seasoned pros to take their practice to the next level.

Question: Can you explain your 3 objectives for writing this book?

I wrote the book for 3 main reasons:

  1. To help more people discover how Tai Chi-based exercises, when properly taught and practiced, can restore knee health, and improve, even eliminate, knee pain.
  2. To guide readers through a gentle exercise program, anchored in solid science, that gives people an alternative, or compliment, to more invasive, and risky, interventions for knee osteoarthritis and other conditions.
  3. To provide a clear, practical, no nonsense guide for knee pain sufferers so they can accomplish the 3 main objectives of the Tai Chi for Knee Health System because until now, these skills have rarely been taught in the west. The skills are to:
    • develop the sensitivity to feel inside your knees
    • develop the skill to precisely align your knees during dynamic movement, so you stop hurting them
    • learn to move in ways that stimulate physiological mechanisms that can restore knee health.

Question: You make a pretty bold claim that Tai Chi can eliminate knee pain. How do you support this claim?

I appreciate your question. That may seem like a bold claim, but when you dig into the science, it’s entirely supportable.

Let me start with my own experience. In my late 40s, after a lifetime of high impact athletics, multiple knee injuries, and surgery, I endured chronic knee pain. It hurt to climb or descend stairs. It hurt to kneel. It hurt to sit at a desk. I took lots of ibuprofen and worried about my ability to stay active.

Then I received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in both knees. Knee OA is typically degenerative, meaning it keeps getting worse. I didn’t like that. About that time, I discovered Tai Chi. I was soon hooked by its graceful, powerful, yet low-impact movements. Soon my knees began to feel better. As I continued to practice Tai Chi, my knees continued to improve. Today, my knees are virtually pain-free. And as the Head Instructor of the leading Tai Chi school in Chicago, I lead an active life.

I’ve guided hundreds of students and clients through my Tai Chi for Knee Health system. They learn the material, practice it, and consistently report a reduction in knee pain. All that is anecdotal, I recognize. But there is solid science to back it up.

Multiple research studies have tested Tai Chi as an intervention for knee OA. All of the studies show significant improvements in pain. Most of the studies show significant improvements in function. All without drugs or surgery. In short, Tai Chi for Knee Health works. (Note, there is a comprehensive list of references in the book.)

Question: How long and how many times a week should Tai Chi be practiced for knee health?

I recommend people practice my Tai Chi for Knee Health exercises 15 – 20 minutes per day for 4-6 days per week. A small investment of time for a big payoff in healthier knees and a more active life.

With one important qualification, however. If that amount of exercise causes discomfort, then the person needs to back off and do a lower volume and duration of exercise. Say 3 days per week for 10 minutes per day. Then gradually build from there.

As I explain in the book, you can’t reduce knee pain by moving in a way that hurts your knees. Especially when dealing with knee OA.

Question: You talk about the 70% rule…please explain that because everyone thinks you must give 100% to anything to make it successful.

The 70% Rule holds that we perform no movement or practice greater than 70% of our maximum.

For people like me, raised in a “No Pain, No Gain” society, that may initially seem bizarre.

But when it comes to healing your knees, the 70% Rule makes total sense. By moving within your 70% range, you reduce tension, allowing chronically tense tissue to relax. Relaxation of tissue improves circulation of fluids, which promotes healing. So, when healing is the goal, the 70% rules applies.

In the same vein, by moving within your 70% range (or less depending on your circumstances), you avoid a range of motion that irritates arthritic tissue and triggers pain. Viewed in this way, the 70% Rule helps you avoid hurting your knees while the gentle movements of Tai Chi for Knee Health promote healing.

Question: If you could explain the book in a tweet of 240 characters, what would you say?

My book Tai Chi for Knee Health will guide you, step-by-step, through a low-impact Tai Chi-based exercise system that will:

  • Transform your knee health
  • Eliminate pain
  • Get you moving again

Beyond the limit of 240 characters, The Tai Chi for Knee Health System provides an ideal exercise program for adults experiencing chronic knee pain from knee osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome, and other causes. It can be incorporated into prehab and rehab for knee surgery and knee replacement.

The Tai Chi for Knee Health System combines time-tested Tai Chi principles with cutting edge scientific research to deliver a step-by-step program that anyone can do. Richly illustrated, with access to online videos, Tai Chi for Knee Health delivers an ideal resource to help you take charge of your knee health, eliminate pain, and enjoy moving again.

Question: Would you like to add anything else?

I developed the Tai Chi for Knee Health System to help millions of knee pain sufferers experience the transformation I and hundreds of my students have experienced—from chronic knee pain to virtually pain free knees.

The response to the book has been outstanding. Readers across the US and 8 other countries are enjoying the program, checking in with questions, and reporting their progress.

There are lots of sore knees out there. Tai Chi for Knee Health can help many of them.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

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

Food & Fitness After 50: Recovery After Hard Exercise

iStock-Older couple runningMany folks over the age of 50 are incredibility active: pickleball, tennis, swimming, running, hiking, and cycling are all popular with the 50+ crowd. I am often asked about hydration and recovery strategies and sometimes I hear some crazy things. So, what do you really need to help your body recover after a long, hard work out or competition? First let’s talk about two things you don’t need.

One, a new fad called “dry fasting,” or in other words, starvation and dehydration. The idea of dry fasting (no food or water) for a set period (anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks) is just plain dumb for everyone, but especially for older, active adults. We’ve talked about the important of hydration in previous posts, so click here for more information on the importance of hydration for older, active people. Just say no when you come across the YouTube videos of dry fasting enthusiastic followers and stick to your tried and true fueling and hydration strategies.

Another thing you don’t need is expensive waters that claim to be “smart” by changing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of your blood. Organs, like lungs and kidneys, tightly control our blood pH in the range of 7.35 to 7.45; if gets higher it is called respiratory or metabolic alkalosis and if it is lower it is respiratory or metabolic acidosis and both are life threatening. There is no need to try to acidify or alkalize your body because your lungs and kidneys won’t let you do it anyway. The only thing “smart” about these waters is the money they are making for their promoters.

blood ph

For real recovery and hydration, here is what we know:

  • Fluids help restore body water.
  • Carbohydrates replenish muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen).
  • High quality protein provides key amino acids for repairing muscles.
  • Antioxidant-rich beverages like tart cherry or blueberry juice provide plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and help with muscle soreness after a hard workout.
  • Omega-3s (often called fish oils) are also anti-inflammatory and most Americans don’t get enough of these healthy fats in their diets.

ERSA Norwegian food scientist, Janne Sande Mathisen, has combined all these ingredients into a new recovery beverage called Enhanced Recovery Sports Drink. The beverage contains 20 grams of whey protein with 2 grams of leucine (an amino acid referred to as the anabolic trigger), and 1600 milligrams of omega-3s. It was tricky to find a form of omega-3s that worked in solution that didn’t taste fishy.

The carbohydrate source is from fruit juices (apple, pear, and black current) to give both rapidly absorbed carbs and polyphenol-rich fruits (those antioxidant healthy plant compounds).

I was sent some samples to try and I shared them with some very active friends. The overwhelming consensus is that it is a tasty drink, not too sweet, and serving size of just a little over 8-ounces is the right amount to drink after a workout without bloating, aftertaste, or too much volume. I think it tastes like kefir; others say it tastes like a yogurt smoothie.

I like the food forward approach of this recovery drink and think it might be a good solution for combining recovery elements in to one simple-to-drink beverage. For competitive athletes who may have to undergo drug tests, the product is certified by Informed Sport to contain no banned substances that could disqualify an athlete from competition.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of the product to try, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post. I have no connection to the company.

For more tips on staying healthy while being active, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon or other booksellers.