Food & Fitness After 50: Clint Eastwood Revisited

Guest blog post by Dr. Bob Murray

In a previous post Dr. Murray wrote about the powerful benefits of maintaining a young mindset on our healthspan—the number of years we enjoy good mental and physical health. In today’s post, he expands on maintaining a young mindset. (For the post, click here.)

attitude is everythingfamous study published in 2002 demonstrated that negative perceptions of aging can significantly influence longevity. Older adults with a positive mindset—a positive attitude—about aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who harbored negative perceptions of aging. Putting a more personal spin on the topic, Hollywood director and actor Clint Eastwood—still incredibly energetic and productive in his 80s—said that when he gets up every morning, he tries not to “let the old man in.”  In other words, Clint strives to maintain a young mindset in everything he does.

The incredible power of maintaining a young mindset is worth revisiting because we all have control over how we think about ourselves and our place in the world and that control allows us to reshape negative perceptions about aging that may have inadvertently crept in over time.

That very message was the central theme of a One Day University lecture by Professor Catherine Sanderson of Amherst College.  To help make her point about the benefits of having a young, positive mindset, Dr. Sanderson spoke of how mindset has been shown to alter perceptions of pain, susceptibility to illness, surgical outcomes, hormonal responses to eating, and the benefits of physical activity.  And she mentioned the 2002 study as an example of how mindset can affect aging.  In a nutshell, mindset is powerful stuff.

bad attitude Dr. Sanderson stressed that in addition to having a positive mindset about aging, other factors such as maintaining a strong sense of personal control and good overall health habits (including a nutritious diet and regular physical activity) also contribute to longevity, as does how we react to the inevitable stresses of life.  Those who typically view stress as negative and debilitating live shorter lives than those who embrace stress as unavoidable yet positive challenges that enhance life.  Successfully coping with stress improves our capacity to handle life’s ups and downs and directly contributes to our overall happiness.  We all know people whose glass-is-half-empty approach to life is a burden to them and to those around them.

Do you wallow in feelings of rejection when things don’t work out the way you had hoped, or do you accept rejection as an impetus for redirection?  The first reaction—an adverse response to stress—has many negative physiological and health-related consequences.  Although it is not easy to alter how we deal with stress, it can be accomplished.

Dr. Sanderson suggests ten ways we can change our outlook on life, including how we handle stress:

  1. Work to change our stereotypes about what happens with age. For example, if we think that becoming more forgetful is inevitable as we age, that self-fulfilling prophecy is likely to come true.
  2. Physical activity—every movement counts. Housework can be just as valuable as a fitness class.
  3. Meditation each day, even if it that amounts to only a couple minutes of mindful solitude, can positively affect mental health and physical function.
  4. Learning—both mental and physical—helps restore, maintain, and expand neural circuits in the brain and throughout the body.
  5. Faith of any sort. The stronger the faith in a higher power, the more positive the impact on longevity.
  6. Spend  time in nature.  Good things happen to physical and mental health when we spend time outside, even when we just sit and enjoy our surroundings. (We wrote about the concept developed by the Japanese called forest bathing as enjoying nature. For the post click here.)
  7. Get a dog (or cat).  Not only do pets prompt us to move more, having the responsibility to care for an animal’s welfare adds a purposeful dimension to life. (see out blog on the benefits of owning a pet by clicking here.)
  8. Maintain good relationships. Healthy relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, leads to happiness and happiness leads to longer, healthier lives.
  9. Manage stress. Often easier said than done, but how we react to unexpected events is usually under our total control.
  10. Embrace adversity. We can’t avoid it, so we might as well welcome adversity as a way to improve ourselves.

churchill quote on attitudeThere is a lot of compelling science to support Clint Eastwood’s advice to not let the old man (or woman) in.  The fact that our attitude—our mindset—has direct bearing on how we age gives all of us an amazing amount of control over our destiny.

For more tips on being well as we age, see Food & Fitness After 50 available on Amazon or from other book sellers.

 

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

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Citicoline for brain health?

In 2015 I wrote a post on a dietary supplement called citicoline. For the post click here.

HealthyBrainIn the post I wrote about learning of citicoline at a conference and was given a sample. My husband had been experiencing some trouble finding the right word when he was speaking so he wanted to try the supplement. From that day on he has continued to use the product. Although his report of improved brain health is anecdotal (one person’s subjective experience does not equal a fact) there is some research to support the positive effects of the supplement. He is such a disciple of citicoline that many of his family and friends now take it. But, should you?

I was interested in finding additional and more current, research since the 2015 post was written but didn’t find much. One reason might be that dietary supplement companies tend not to invest in rigorous experimental research trials because they are not required to do so to market a supplement. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements don’t have to prove they work to be sold; that’s why there are so many supplements readily available.

Citicholine
Chemical structure of citicoline

To begin, citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical. It is not found to any great extent in foods (there is some in organ meats) but when taken as a supplement it is broken down into choline (a B-vitamin) and a compound called cytidine which is then metabolized to uridine. That’s important because citicoline can’t cross the protective blood brain barrier but choline and uridine can. Once in the brain the compounds convert to citicoline, sometimes called CDP-choline. In turn, citicoline increases the brain chemical phosphtidylcholine that helps brain function and increases the number of chemical messengers in the brain.

When I first reviewed the literature the small number of studies that had been published cautiously suggested that supplemental citicoline could be an effective treatment for mild cognitive impairment but more research was needed to see if the effect was long term (most studies are short term…a few weeks to a few months) and if it could slow the progression to dementia.

A study published in 2012 was well-controlled: by a well-controlled study I mean the participants in the study were randomized to treatment and it was double-blind…neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting the citicoline or placebo. The researchers studied 60 healthy women, between the ages of 40 and 60, and showed that when given either 250 or 500 milligrams of citicoline both groups improved on tests to measure mental attention compared to the placebo group. However, this was another short-term study; just 28 days.

My quest to find more current research was unsuccessful so I turned to Natural Medicines Database for their review. The conclusion, which was last updated in November of 2019, was that citicoline is “possibly effective” for a decline in memory and thinking sills that occur with normal aging. Supplemental citicoline “seems to help memory loss in people aged 50 to 85 years.” The review noted there is insufficient evidence to say it prevents or reverses memory losses in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are minimal side effects, although some people report trouble sleeping, headache, or nausea.

The dose of citicoline ranges from 250 milligrams to 2000 milligrams a day, but the range of 250 to 500 milligrams is a usual dose used the research studies.

If you choose to try citicoline, it is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider. And, be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, including dietary supplements, when your doctor asks about medications you are taking.

CDP_suplrgI found over 150 products marketed that contain citicoline, some with fanciful names, liked Active Mind or Brain Wave that claim to “speed up your brain.” Many of those products also contain caffeine; the likely source of “speeding” the brain. If you get the blessing from your physician and want to try it, stick to one that just contains citicoline. Two reputable products are Cognizin (Kyowa Hakko) and Citicoline CDP choline (Jarrow). The Jarrow formula is the one that my husband takes.

As for me, my memory is good and I haven’t found a reason to try a supplement, but my husband believes it has helped him.

To learn more about dietary patterns and supplements for those 50, 60, 70, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50available on Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no financial connection to any dietary supplement, including the citicoline brands mentioned in this article.

 

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

 

Food & Fitness after 50: Beyond Google for Answers

We all do it. We use Google to search for information. That is fine when we are looking for a restaurant in a new town or curious about a historical figure after watching a Netflix movie, but when it comes to food and nutrition information it can lead to disinformation.

GoogleCase in point, I searched for citicoline (the subject of next week’s post on brain health, so stay tuned) and 796,000 results showed up. The first 3 results were sponsored posts or ads and many of us don’t pay attention to that distinction. Later in the list of results was a WebMD article but with no date on when the article was first published or recently reviewed, we don’t know how current it is. Then, while reading the article, an ad for another heavily advertised supplement, Prevagen, popped up. (For an interesting take on Prevagen, see this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled “Prevagen: How Can This Memory Supplement Flunk Its One Trial and Still Be Advertised as Effective? “To read the article click here. So, my faith in Web MD as an unbiased source of information has waned!

Most of us don’t go beyond the first page of Google results so we’re stuck with advertisements and sponsored content. So, where can you go for good information without wading through all the scientific journals which can leave you even more confused?

When I am researching a nutrition or health topic, I start with Pub Med, a free search engine containing more than 30 million citations for medical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Most of the citations will allow you read the research abstract but only some of the citations include links to full-text articles. Lucky for me, I have access to my university library…one of my favorite perks of being an emeritus professor.

I also use the Natural Medicines Database to research dietary supplements, but a subscription is required to fully use the site. Again, I’m lucky because membership in a practice group of sports dietitians, includes access to the database as part of my membership fee.

So, today, I want to share some free websites that I use and think will help you gain a clearer picture of  nutrition and health information. These are good places to begin your search instead of simply “googling it.”

Your Aunt Sue raves about the Eco-Atkins Diet and you’re scratching your head wondering if you should try it. Check out the website from the U.S. News & World Report Best Diets for 2019. This website is more than a ranking of “best” diets….it gives you detailed information on every aspect of the diet. And, they review 41 different diets…. from the most popular to those you’ve never heard of (Eco-Atkins?). I rely on this site when someone asks me about the latest and greatest diet. With the new year upon us…. dieting questions are bound to come up. The site includes commercial weight loss programs, diets for diabetes and heart health, plant-based diets, and of course, weight loss.

OSSHave you seen the documentary “The Game Changers,” featuring amazing vegan athletes? Documentaries can be very convincing but often one-sided. That is when I turn to McGill University Office of Science and Society for their take on everything on the latest nutrition trends, fads, and crazes. Their mission is to “demystify science for the public, foster critical thinking, and separate sense from nonsense.” They do that with good humor, sharp wit, and an engaging website. I love the short videos from Dr. Joe Schwarz and team and their answers to curious questions such as “should you put collagen in your smoothie, or should you wash eggs before cracking them?”

Keeping up with obesity research is daunting, and it seems like every day there is a new study with headlines telling us which food or beverage causes obesity or which diet will reverse the global tide of overweight and obesity in children. So, I turn to ConscienHealth and read their short post every morning. Founder, Ted Kyle, describes it thus, “our guiding principle is to connect sound science with the needs of consumers to develop obesity solutions that allow people of all sizes to be the healthiest they can be.” The daily post is always thoughtful and balanced and recognizes that black and white thinking won’t help us tackle the health problems facing Americans.

cspiLastly, I’m often asked about biotechnology. The word sounds scary, but it is just a combination of biology and technology. We all love technology (where would we be without our hand-held computers, or as we call them, smart phones?) but when it comes to our food, we are leery of using the latest technology tools to improve agriculture to feed the world. Biotech is moving so fast that it is hard to keep up with what is currently happening and what is coming. I like following The Agricultural Biotechnology Project from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This non-profit organization is not tied to industry and offers a clear-headed take on GMOs, gene editing and other tools used in agriculture. Before you dismiss all biotechnology practices as “bad,” take a look at this website for answers to your questions.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to seek new sources for information on nutrition and food and health. So, in 2020, here’s to good health and good information!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Keep Active Every Day

Cibola Nat'l Forest
Barbara at Cibola National Forest

I met Barbara through exercise classes at the YMCA and volunteering at our local county library, but I didn’t really know her, and my hunch was that this 65-year old energetic, vibrant, kind woman would have lots to offer on eating well, moving well, and being well. So, I invited her to lunch and my intuition was correct. She was joining me after a visit to the assisted living facility where her father lived until his death about a year ago. She was dropping off home-made banana muffins to the staff and residents because she gained an affection for them for treating her father so well. That is a definition of a kind person!

Barbara spent her working life in administration and moved into sales for a financial product. Like many who live in this small town, she and her husband were weekenders to the lake and when they retired about 5 years ago, they moved into their lake house for full time residence. She says she is busier than ever, a refrain that is frequently heard from retirees. With five children and four grandchildren she still finds time to do the things she enjoys, mainly keeping active every day.

Move Well

shinrinyoku“I’ve always been an outdoor person,” says Barbara. ”I love being in nature and I embrace the Japanese concept of forest bathing (not bathing in the sense that we think of it), but the idea that being surrounded by trees in nature brings peace and rejuvenation.” She is right; being in the presence of trees is part of a public health program in Japan, stated in the 1980s called “shinrin-yoku” or an appreciation of nature. A walker for most of her life she enjoys hiking, pickleball, and rollerblading. “There was an office park near by my office and every day after work I would roller blade 10 miles. It was my absolute most favorite exercise! If I could find a suitable place to roller blade, I would still be doing it.”

gardening-www5At the YMCA, she can be found in 2 classes most days as well as playing pickleball on some days. “Dance aerobics, yoga, and boot camp are my go-to classes…I do one for fun and one for a tough workout.”  As member of the local botanical garden, she has learned enough to care for her garden which she calls “organized chaos,” but it keeps her outdoors, her happy place.

She has also paid more attention to her balance, something we all took for granted when we were younger. “Besides yoga, I try to work on my balance every day. I stand on one foot when brushing my teeth and practice getting up from a seated position on the floor without using my hands. I haven’t mastered that yet, but I’m trying!”

Eat Well

Family Beach 2018About 11 years ago, Barbara became a pescatarian, eating fish and seafood, and avoiding meat. “I didn’t do it for health reasons, but for environmental and ethical reasons.” She enjoys a mostly plant-based diet with lots of veggies. “I love the hydroponic lettuce that is grown here in town and I buy it by the case as a base for my daily salads.” I love to eat, but I try to control my portions and fill up on the good stuff.” She does treat herself every night to something sweet, usually dark chocolate, but is mindful of the portions.

Be Well

I used to tell my sons, “every day when you get up you can choose to have a positive attitude or choose to be a grump. I try to keep a positive attitude and always look for the good in a situation; I surround myself with positive people and have no time for negativity and complaining. That keeps me well.”

pexels-photo-319834She is an active volunteer keeping her connected to her community and provides the social aspect of being well. When we met, I encouraged her to join me in the Friends of the Library and she is now the president of our little group. She also belongs to a neighborhood dinner club and the previously mentioned botanical gardens.

Challenges

When I asked Barbara what challenges she faces, she laughed and said that number 1 was she loves food! Doesn’t seem like a challenge to me, but she explains that she when dining out or going to parties she wants to eat everything, so she practices restraint, but still enjoys all the foods.

And, despite her love of nature and being active, she says there are some days when she doesn’t want to go to an early morning exercise class. “I have a hard time giving myself permission to listen to my body and take a morning off. But my friends remind me it’s OK and I’m trying to heed their advice.”

Tips for healthy aging

Barbara offers these succinct tips to eat well, move well, and be well.

  1. Say no to diets and enjoy any food you like in moderation.
  2. Do stuff that makes you happy.
  3. Do things with people that you enjoy. The social connection is critical as we age.
  4. Aim for financial freedom; stay within your budget and don’t put yourself needlessly into debt by buying a bigger house or newer car.

I think we can all get on board with those tips!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Fish Oil Supplements

We’ve been exploring the benefits of seafood in the diet (for the previous posts click here and here). Today let’s answer your questions on fish oil supplements.

As a quick reminder, health organizations like the American Heart Association recommend at least 2 servings (a serving is equal to 3.5-ounces) of fatty fish twice each week to get the recommended 250-500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids of EPA and DHA (sometimes referred to simply as fish oils). But there is nothing simple about sorting through the many fish oil supplements on the market for those who don’t eat enough fatty fish. Add to that, trying to wade through the sea of health claims and understanding the label is even trickier. I checked in with Senya Joerss, Technical Manager for Trident Seafoods Corporation to ask about fish oil and omega-3 supplements.

While I don’t want this to turn into an organic chemistry lesson, this infographic can help explain the different types of omega-3-fats. While we tend to lump them together under the umbrella of omega-3s, what we are really after are the EPA and DHA, the two omega-3s that have been extensively studied to promote heart, brain, and eye health.

 

ALA-EPA-DHA-infographic

That leads to the first question on the various formulations on the market.

Question: Is salmon oil a better choice for a supplement than other omega-3s on the market?

Salmon oil contains a good amount of omega-3s but some fish contain more (sardines and mackerel for example). But, the omega-3 content of fish is dependent on what the fish eat. Salmon is one of the fattier fishes and therefore salmon oil is a good choice for a supplement due to its omega-3 content. As a consumer, that means you can take fewer capsules. Also, salmon oil is a natural form of the fats meaning better absorption, so it gets in to the blood stream more readily. Joerss responded this way, “Trident’s product, Pure Alaska Omega Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil delivers the same whole fat omega nutrition as eating two portions of cooked wild salmon per week; it’s the closest supplement option when you cannot eat fish for dinner.” And while the health benefits of EPA and DHA are what we are after, Joerss states that “fatty fish, like salmon, contain many other fatty acids and omega fats (examples: Omega-7, Omega-9, Omega-11 fatty acids) that are not as well researched as EPA and DHA fatty acids, but there is a plethora of evidence to support overall health for populations eating fatty fish regularly.” She believes there is a synergistic effect in consuming multiple fats together to provide balance. So, while eating fatty fish is the best way to get the health benefits, salmon oil is the next best thing.

Question: How do you read a nutrition label for fish oil. I find it confusing. For example, the front of the bottle says 1000 milligrams yet the supplement facts panel on the back of the bottle says 2 softgels contain 600 milligrams of omega-3s.

Joerss understands the confusion and says “it is challenging for the consumers to interpret fish oil labels because they all look slightly different.” For Trident’s product, what you are taking is “Salmon Oil” so that is the name of the product and the largest font callout on the front of the label. The 1,000 mg is the amount of Salmon Oil you get with each softgel. This is typically the way “Fish Oils” are marketed especially if the oil is not refined because fish oil contains more than omega-3 fatty acids. (Another example would be “Cod Liver Oil” softgel products, they list the amount of cod liver oil consumed per unit or per softgel on the front, so you know how much cod liver oil each unit/softgel delivers).

PAO_Salmon-Oil_Costco.com_v7FAThe suggested serving size for the Pure Alaska Omega Wild Salmon Oil is 2 softgels which is 2,000 mg (2 grams) of salmon oil per serving. The salmon oil omega-3 content, other fatty acid contents, vitamin content (A & D), and other fat-soluble compounds remain present in the same portions and amounts you would find in the lipid (fatty) portion of wild salmon.” Which is why the amount of EPA + DHA don’t add up to 1000 milligrams.

However, Joerss adds that “while there are some products that do not list EPA and DHA exclusively on the label all fish oils should include a total omega-3 value.” She explains that some products, like “whole omega” fish oil calls out only total omega-3s because it is a natural product.

Watch out for the claim that omega-3 supplements contain a certain percent of the Daily Value or DV.   This is a meaningless claim because there is no Daily Value set by the USDA or FDA for fish oils. You will find a DV for nutrients like vitamin D, but not for fish oil.

Question: What is astaxanthin and is that unique in fish oil products?

Astaxanthin is an antioxidant or carotenoid found in bacteria and algae. It gives the pink color to shrimp and salmon and other crustaceans. Joerss explains that “astaxanthin is present in wild fish that eat and feed freely on algae and other fish in nature. Salmon oil that is cold-pressed, similar to extra-virgin olive oil, uses an extraction process that preserves the astaxanthin that is present in the wild salmon – so that is unique compared to most other fish oils which remove this as part of the refining/concentration process.” However, Joerss points out that astaxanthin in Trident’s salmon is oil is small when compared to products that add this carotenoid to their fish oil supplement.

Question: Is there a fish oil for vegans?

Algal oil is a good option for vegans. Algae is where fish get their EPA and DHA so oil made from algae can supply omega-3s to plant-based eaters. Algal oil is more costly than other fish oils but can meet the needs of vegans.

Question: Many people complain of a fishy aftertaste when taking fish oil…any tips for reducing the after taste (i.e., taking with meals, taking at a certain time of day, refrigerating the capsules?)

Some people do complain with the “fish burb” or aftertaste, but Joerss recommends taking the supplement at the beginning of a meal and a substantial meal, like lunch or dinner would be best. “Some people report taking it with orange juice, but I do not think oil and seafood typically pair nicely together with OJ!” She adds that “we do not recommend freezing or refrigerating the capsules because that will prolong the rupture time of the softgel. If the softgel does not rupture soon after being swallowed that is less time for your body to absorb the nutrients within each softgel.

For more information and resources for omega-3s, check out Trident’s brand, Pure Alaska Omega and also the website for the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s or GOED.

For more information on eating well in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50.

Disclosure: I was a guest of Trident Seafoods, Women of Seafood, to learn more about wild Alaska fishing. However, I was not asked to write this post or compensated to do so.

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

 

 

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.

Food & Fitness After 50: Assembling Healthy Meals

Eating well coverI’m often asked if I develop recipes. The answer is no. I am great at following other’s recipes and I enjoy cooking, but I most often assemble meals. With basic cooking skills anyone can assemble a great tasting and good-for-you meal. I was happy to see the that the latest issue of Eating Well Magazine was called “The Convenience Issue” because it paired convenience foods with ingredients most of us have in our kitchens. As I talked about in a recent blog, frozen meals can be used for convenience and as the base to assemble a quick meal.

Today, I’ll share four meals that can be quickly assembled. These are favorites in my house.

#1          Thanks to my brother-in-law, Lew, for this meal assembly hack. I’ve modified the sauce to make it a bit lower in calories and saturated fat (I eliminated the cream and butter, sorry, Lew!) but it is still delicious and easy to make. Start with refrigerated ravioli (like Buitoni spinach ricotta, spinach artichoke, butternut squash, or mushroom agnolotti) and make a fresh tomato sauce. For the sauce, dice 2 fresh tomatoes, mince 3 cloves of garlic, and shred some fresh basil leaves. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick pan and add tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Cook down until tomatoes and garlic soften and add a little white wine; cook some more. Add a dash of milk and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  As the sauce cooks, boil water and cook the ravioli according to package directions. Plate the ravioli, top with tomato sauce, sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese and more fresh basil. Pair with a big green salad and enjoy!

#2          I love stir-fry, and this is so easy. I have an electric wok (I know, probably not Lean Beef Stir Fryauthentic, but it works for me). Thinly slice chicken breast or lean steak (if partially frozen, it makes it easy to get thin slices).  If you like a beef stir-fry, click on this link for the best stir-fry cuts. Clean out your refrigerator veggie bin…carrots, bell peppers, onion, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms…..whatever you have will work. Chop veggies into bite-sized pieces before starting to cook. Heat oil in wok (I like peanut oil because it has a high smoke point) and when oil is hot, quickly add meat and stir-fry until done….it only takes a couple of minutes. Remove the meat from the wok, heat up a bit more oil and toss in the veggies and stir-fry until tender crisp. Add the meat to the veggies and toss all together. If you want a sauce, mix a teaspoon of cornstarch in cold water and add a bit of soy or teriyaki sauce, some grated fresh ginger and minced garlic and add the sauce at the end of cooking. Push the veggies and meat to the sides of wok and pour in the sauce and let it get bubbly. Then toss everything around to get it all mixed. Serve over brown or white ready rice (a super speedy way to cook brown or white rice in the microwave is to use the pouches of ready rice). And, if you don’t like brown rice, that’s ok…. the recommendation is to make half your grains whole.

channa masala#3          This next one is a yummy vegetarian dish, that my friend Lisa Carlson made last spring when I was in Chicago.  Start with a package of Indian Channa Masala (you can find it in the Asian or Indian section of your grocery store). Break up a head of cauliflower and broccoli and steam in the microwave until the veggies have lost their crunch but are still firm. Mix steamed veggies with the package of Channa Masala (it is a blend of chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, and spices) and add a can of drained, rinsed chickpeas to the mixture. Spread on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until the veggies are done. If you want to add protein and make it a meat-based dish instead of a vegetarian dish, stir in some cooked chicken. You could serve it with rice if you want to but the added chick peas make it a hearty dish without the rice.

#4          Have you ever thought of grilling watermelon? Sounds crazy but grilling brings out the sweetness of the melon. For this dish, use frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp and cubes of watermelon. Thread the shrimp and watermelon on skewers and drizzle with olive oil. Grill over medium heat, turning skewers frequently to get an even cook. It only takes a few minutes per side to cook the shrimp and grill the melon. When done, place the skewers on a plate and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint. Serve with favorite sides, such as an ear of grilled corn, roasted new potatoes, quinoa, or coleslaw.

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All of these meals are easy; experiment with cooking times and seasonings and you can’t go wrong! I’d love to hear your favorite quickly assembled meals, so please share!

For more ideas on food and fitness, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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

Food & Fitness After 50: Supplements for healthy aging?

VitaminsType “supplements for healthy aging” in Google and 26,200,000 results show up! I’m constantly being asked about supplements but I want to know what supplements are on your radar. I’m working on an article for health professionals on supplements commonly used by those of us in our 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. And, your input is important to help me narrow down the wide field.

I know from consumer survey data from supplement trade groups that that vitamins (like vitamin D) and minerals (like magnesium) are popular, as are supplements that claim to support “healthy aging,” “heart health, and “bone health.” But, I don’t know what supplements fit neatly into those boxes and would like to know if you take any supplements or are curious about supplements you’ve read about or seen advertised in print or on television.

When I reviewed some of those 26,200,000 results, I was impressed with the creativity of the names and claims. From youngevity to longevity to herbal supplements that claim to be the “root of anti-aging.” (And, of course, we all know there is no such thing as anti-aging; even animals kept in the purest environments age.)  And, the names are cool, too, sort of like the names of the paint samples in Home Depot: “cell shield,” “ReVerse,” “Imortalium, ” and my favorite…. Super Ultra Mega longevity, because super isn’t a strong enough descriptor.

Broccoli and pillsSo, email me (chrisrosenbloom@gmail) or hit me up on twitter @chrisrosenbloom and help me compile my list. And, of course I promise to share what I learn about the supplements (what works, what doesn’t, what might, and what is just plain hype) with you in a future post.

Thanks!