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: Should We Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?

This week, Dr. Bob Murray asks the question, “should we walk and chew gum at the same time?” It may sound humorous, but he presents some research that may have you grabbing for some gum at the grocery store checkout line! Thanks for your insights, Dr. Bob!

Gum chewingFrom the often-quirky world of science comes a study from Japan that reported increased fat burning in research subjects who chewed gum while they walked. Evidently, there is somewhat of a minor fixation in Japan on chewing as reflected by a Japanese government program called Kamingu 30 that encourages people to chew each bite of food 30 times before swallowing in an attempt to slow eating speed and thereby help combat increasing obesity in Japan.  It turns out that chewing gum stimulates our nervous system in ways that might increase the calories we burn during exercise. (The idea of chewing each bite of food a prescribed number of times hearkens back to Horace Fletcher, American health food enthusiast of the Victorian era. Horace, nicknamed “the great masticator,” believed that each bite of food should be chewed 100 times until it is liquefied before swallowing…even liquids were to be “chewed!”)

person_holding_chewing_gum_chewing_gum_and_IBSIn fact, a study published in 2018 showed that chewing gum while walking increased heart rate, calories burned, and the distance walked, so the same group of scientists followed up with a study that added other measures to get a more complete understanding of how gum chewing while walking might benefit weight control.  Fifteen healthy volunteers (10 male, 5 female), ages 27-58, completed two exercise sessions, both requiring them to walk at their own pace for 15 minutes on an indoor track.  During one session, the subjects chewed two pieces of gum throughout their walk.  During another session, they chewed and swallowed a tablet containing the same ingredients but without the gum portion.

In both sessions, the subjects wore heart rate monitors and other equipment that allowed the researchers to measure their energy (calorie) expenditure along with other measures such as step count, distance, and fat oxidation (fat burning).

The results were similar to that of the first study: when the subjects chewed gum while walking, they walked faster, took more steps, had higher heart rates, and burned more calories and more fat.  The differences were small but statistically meaningful.  The researchers speculated that the differences they found could positively affect weight control when the results were extrapolated over months of normal daily walking.  Scientific speculation of this sort often doesn’t pan out as predicted, but in this case, chewing gum while walking is not likely to cause any harm and might possibly add up to a meaningful calorie-burn over time. Other studies have shown that chewing gum reduces the number of calorie consumed at meals and increases the number of calories burned when gum is chewed after meals.

There are thousands of published studies on the effects of gum chewing.  It turns out that chewing gum is a simple way to help restore intestinal function after C-Sections and colorectal surgery.

Sugar-free gum aids dental health by stimulating saliva and remineralizing tooth enamel. Gum chewing also helps lower psychological stress.

It improves alertness (maybe that is why we’re seeing more pro golfers chew gum during tournaments?)

 92545738-56b007375f9b58b7d01f92dbNone of these results leads to the conclusion that we’d all be thin if we only chewed more gum.  The moral to this story is that there are little things we can do each day to help us burn more calories.  Sitting less, fidgeting when we do sit, moving more whenever possible, portion control at meals, staying hydrated, eating more fiber, and yes, chewing gum while walking can all add to managing our daily energy (calorie) input and output.

To learn more about eating well, moving well, and being well check out our book 

Food & Fitness After 50.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Assessing Your Weight

midlifeweightgain-smallManaging your weight after 50 brings some challenges, but not obstacles that can’t be overcome. It’s true that as we age there are changes to our body composition, including:

  • Increase in abdominal fat (the dreaded “belly fat”)
  • Increase in  fat deposits in muscles, heart, and liver
  • Increase in body weight until about age 70
  • Redistribution of fat with more fat in the trunk and less in arms and legs

But, before you jump on the latest popular diet, take stock and assess your weight. In Food & Fitness After 50 we offer assessments in every chapter to get you thinking about where you are and where you want to go with your diet, your strength, your endurance, your weight, and many other health and lifestyle issues. And, on our new web page for the book we’ve added the “Assess Your Weight” for you. So, take the quiz!

  1. Do you have a scale that is accurate and reliable?
    • Yes
    • No
    • If yes, how do you know?
  2. How often do you weigh yourself?
    • Daily
    • Weekly
    • Monthly
    • Periodically
    • Never
  3. How do you usually feel when you see the number on the scale?

_______________________________________________________

  1. Compared with when you were 25 years old, do you weigh:
    • The same
    • More
    • Less
  2. Do you know your Body Mass Index (BMI)?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. Do you know how to interpret your BMI?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. What is your waist size (circumference just above the hip bones and below the belly button)?

___________ inches

  1.  Have you ever been on a weight-loss diet?
    • Yes
    • No
    • If yes, which one(s)?
  2. Did you lose weight on the diet?
    • Yes
    • No
    • If yes, how much, and how long did you keep the weight off?
  3. What do you think is a healthy weight for you?

__________________ pounds

Review Your Answers

  1. The first step to managing your weight is knowing your weight, an accurate weight, not a guess. If you have a scale, check its accuracy by using a known weight on the scale (like a 5-lb dumbbell) and recalibrate the scale if necessary. If you don’t have a scale, buy one!
  2. We suggest weighing yourself every day or every other day. Don’t worry about fluctuating a couple of pounds up or down from day to day; that is simply a normal change in water weight. But, by regularly weighing yourself, a pattern will emerge if you are maintaining, gaining, or losing weight.
  3. The numbers on the scale aren’t good or bad; they are just numbers to help you assess your body weight.
  4. As we age, weight-creep can happen. Many adults gain a pound or two each year, but after 20 years that can add up to an extra 20 or 40 pounds. By comparing your current self to your younger self, you might find that the extra pounds have been accumulating through the years.
  5. If you don’t know your body mass index (BMI), accurately measure your height and weight (for tips on accurate measurement, see Chapter 8 of Food & Fitness After 50).
  6. Enter your height and weight into an online calculator to determine and interpret your BMI at this website.
  7. Measure your waist just above your hipbone and below your belly button. For women, a waist size of 35 inches or greater, and for men, 40 inches or greater, often indicates storage of excess belly fat.
  8. There are hundreds of weight-loss diets and many people have tried them all. You can lose weight on any diet that restricts calorie intake; the hard part is keeping it off. We slowly lose weight whenever the calories (energy) we consume are less than the calories we expend.  For example, if we expend 500 calories more each day than we consume in food and drink, we will lose about a pound of weight each week.  The goal is to lose mostly fat weight rather than water or muscle weight.  Rapid weight loss is often comprised of mostly water and some muscle. Gradually losing fat weight is the best way to ensure that the weight stays off because gradual weight loss helps us establish new lifestyle habits that are easier to maintain over the long haul.
  9. If you lost weight on the diet, congratulations, but if you gained it back, that can be defeating. Read more about weight loss and maintenance here: from an international obesity researcher in this interview.
  10. Be honest in your assessment of a healthy weight; let the BMI numbers guide you in your assessment. As we age, it is normal to gain a little weight. We suggest focusing on good overall health instead of a number on a scale.

More information, tips, and personal insights into managing your weight is found in Food & Fitness After 50 available on Amazon and from other booksellers.

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

 

Food & Fitness After 50: No Challenge, No Change

SallyI first met Sally when she was 62 years old and teaching aerobics classes. She described herself as a “retired, healthy woman who lived her profession.” For 30 years she was a high school health and physical education instructor who loved being active. One thing she always used to say that has stuck with me is “no challenge, no change.” She was referring to our physical body, encouraging us to lift the heavier weight, go for a few more repetitions, or pick of the pace to get the heart and lungs moving to reap the benefits of exercise.

A new meaning to “no challenge, no change”

Now, at 66, Sally has learned that “no challenge, no change” can also refer to the physical and mental changes that can occur when least expected. At the age of 60 she had a total hip replacement, and then about 5 years later, her knee started to bother her. She backed off high impact exercise to give the achy joint a rest. During that time, she started feeling some abdominal pain, but didn’t think too much about it. But, as she was preparing for an upcoming trip to Spain, she decided to check it out. The discomfort she was feeling was ovarian cancer. Sally was aware of her risk factors for diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis that run in her family, but the cancer diagnosis took her by surprise.

A new mind set

After surgery and four months of chemotherapy, Sally is dealing with the major life change. “I had to slow down a bit during treatment, but I was as active as a could be, even if that meant a short walk each day.” The hardest part, she says, is “no longer being the healthy one in the family. I had to redefine myself and the reality was hard to accept.” However, Sally now sees this obstacle as a positive. “I never once said, ‘why me,’ instead, I choose to dwell on the positive.” With faith and supportive family and friends, Sally is back to old activates, as well as a few new ones. “I am trying new things, like fly fishing, pickleball, and stand-up paddle boarding.”  She fills in for aerobics instructors when needed, but no longer teaches regular classes, “I don’t want the commitment!” she says with a laugh.

One side effect of the medications and less active lifestyle has been a slight weight gain. Women past the age of 50 can relate to that. Sally found a 12- week on-line program called Bod E Talk, that is described as a weight loss and health program (Note: this is a fee-based program, not a freebie). She has always believed in “moderation and variety” in her food choices, and the on-line program has helped her understand the importance of listening to hunger cues. “We tend to eat when the clock says it is time for meal, instead of paying attention to our hunger.”

Sally’s advice for all of us over 50 is simple, but powerful. “Stay as active as you can, eat foods that nourish and satisfy your body to keep you active, and remember it is all about the choices you make every day that count.”

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Health = A Lifetime of Activity + Good Nutrition + Thankfulness

“You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger!”

Do you weigh the same as when you were 20? I’m guessing that few people in their late-60s can say they do, but Phil can. He attributes his long running career to the fact that he doesn’t carry excess weight, which puts extra pressure on knees and hips when running.

Intrinsic Joys of Being Active and Eating Well

 

Phil Sparling bike trail in Sanibel
Riding on bike trail at Sanibel

Phil grew up in pre-screen days where playing a variety of team sports with neighborhood kids was the norm. In the 8th grade he discovered a knack for distance running and ran competitively in high school, college, and for another decade after college. At his peak, he was running 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year; the equivalent of running more miles in a year than from Atlanta to Las Vegas and back. Today, he runs “a lot less, and a lot slower,” but still runs three days a week for about 10 miles a week or 500 miles a year. In addition, he does calisthenics, stretching and enjoys gardening and hiking in the surrounds of his north Georgia home.

 

Phil is motivated to stay active for the “personal satisfaction of the physical effort of moving; feeling the body at work still motivates me after all of these decades.”
Of course, to stay at your college weight, diet is also important. Phil and his wife focus on eating a plant-centered diet with “real food, including plenty of fruits and vegetables while minimizing highly processed foods.” He also adds that “preparing food and eating together is relished, as this simple pleasure wasn’t always possible with busy careers.”

Overcoming Challenges

Sometimes we look at people like Phil and think it must be easy for him to stay active and eat well, but, for everyone it is a choice. Phil says he understands the challenges, including the tendency by many to be complacent regarding their health. “People think if they aren’t sick, why bother to change. Over time, sedentary living and convenience foods become the default comfort settings.” And, while he recognizes medications can be modern miracles, “too many people think pills are the answer to every modern ailment when sometimes small lifestyle changes can fix a health issue without drugs.” Another challenge is the “slick advertising hawking magic pills or short cuts to exercise or diet. We are inundated with pseudo-science making us more vulnerable to believing the hype.”

Four Tips for Healthy Aging

When asked to give tips for optimal aging, regular exercise and healthful eating were at the top of the list, but Phil also encourages us “to continue to set goals and stay engaged.” For those who haven’t been active, “start by developing a plan to do something every day; even if it is just a 10-minute walk, stair climbing, or stretching. But, tell yourself you will do something every day and then do it.” Phil also is thankful. “We need to be thankful for the people in our lives, the body we were given, and simple everyday joys.” When considering the big picture, he reminds us: “There’s no single pathway for living a long and full life. There are many possibilities. Embrace the challenge and act on it! You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger.”

From Scientific Writer to Creative Writer

Phil was a professor at Georgia Tech for 30 years and was a prolific researcher and Sparling_coverscientific writer, as the adage “publish or perish” is true in academia. These days, he turns his attention to creative writing and has published his essays in a new book,  The Sneakers in the Closet, reflecting on a lifetime of sports, health, and a life well lived. And, he and wife enjoy traveling from decades of “pent up wanderlust when we had limited time off to travel.” You can also read some of his essays in Smoke Signals, a north Georgia community newspaper (click on Smoke Signals to read a sample column.)

 

Food & Fitness After 50: It’s True! Good Things Come in Small Packages

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns, Comedian

For 38 years, Bo worked in IT for IBM and then “retired” and worked for 3 years in the “best job I ever had.” That job was for the local Chamber of Commerce where “everyday was different, unpredictable, and fun.” But, being the people-person, she is, Bo says the best part was the people she worked with and the interactions with others in her community. Having just celebrated her 69th birthday, Bo is now fully retired, but she spends a good part of every day at the YMCA taking aerobic classes three days a week from Jean the Dancing Queen.”  She also plays pickelball for several hours 4 to 5 days a week.

Healthy Habits to Control Weight

Bo 2Bo has always been petite and the only time she gained weight was during her pregnancies with her 2 boys, but she quickly got back to her usual, healthy weight. While many adults gain weight as they age, Bo manages her weight by eating smaller portions, eating lots of fresh veggies, limiting sweets and sugar, and paying attention to how much and when she eats. “I’m lucky that I like the healthy stuff!” She often finds she doesn’t have much of an appetite, but eating breakfast and a mid-day meal around 2 pm (which she calls a cross between lunch and dinner as “linner”) keeps her fueled without being full. Her only dietary indulgence is a “real Coca-Cola” a couple of times a week. She also pays attention to hydration and is sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish water loss during activity.

Keep moving

As she has gotten older, Bo knows she needs to pay attention to her body and adjust as needed. “Know what you can do and what you can’t do.” TRX is all the rage at our local Y, but she knows that it isn’t for her. “Understand your body, but stay involved and active.” Her words of wisdom are “the more you use it, the better it gets.” Great advice for everyone!

Keep motivated

Many sedentary folks look at active people and think it is easy for them or that it comes naturally, but Bo makes exercise a priority in her life. Bo’s advice is “don’t be lazy; tell yourself you have to go to exercise class, an activity, or for that daily walk. “Feed your body right and use it every day!” Her words reminded me that while I often would prefer to skip morning exercise class and sleep in a bit longer or linger over a second cup of coffee, I have never once said, “I wish I hadn’t exercised today!” We all feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally after a good workout!

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Busting Myths on Fibers

bread-and-grainsI put the “s” on the end of fiber for a reason. While you have probably heard for the need to increase fiber intake, Dr. Julie Miller Jones, a professor and researcher from St. Paul, Minnesota, says, “We should talk about fibers, like we talk about vitamins, because they do different things for our health.” I heard Dr. Miller Jones at a recent conference discussing carbohydrate myths. (The session was sponsored by the Grain Foods Foundation, but I was not asked, nor was I compensated to write this post).

One of the myths she addressed is that fruit and vegetables provide all the fiber anyone needs. Look at these three breakfast choices and guess which contains the most fiber: keep in mind that women over age 50 should aim for 25 grams of fiber a day, and men 38 grams.
#1
12-ounces of Bolthouse Farms Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

#2
Multigrain bagel thin with peanut butter and a small apple with the skin

#3
½ cup Fiber One Cereal, ½ cup Cheerios, ¾ cup milk, and ¼ cup of blueberries

Breakfast #1 has only 2.1 grams of fiber, #2 contains 8.6 grams of fiber, and #3 has 19.5 grams of fiber. The biggest contributor to fiber in the third breakfast is the high-fiber breakfast cereal, not the berries (and, is my usual morning breakfast).

The stats of fiber intake are sad! The average intake in the U.S. is 17 grams with only 5% meeting adequate intake for fiber. But, let’s get back to that fibers comment made by Dr. Miller Jones.

Fiber is defined as the fibrous material or roughage in foods that can’t be broken down in the stomach or intestines, so it passes through the body. Fiber can aid in regular bowel movements, can bind with cholesterol to speed its removal, and help keep blood sugar in check. Fiber comes in basically two types:

Insoluble fiber is the kind found in cereals and other grains and acts like a broom to sweep clean the gastro-intestinal tract.
Soluble fiber is found in fruits and vegetables and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol.

Most foods have a bit of both and we need both, but if you want to tackle the fiber shortage, choose grains. It takes a lot of fruits and veggies to get to the recommended intake of fibers. To illustrate, remember that Fiber One cereal? A half cup has 14 grams of fiber. Compare to 4.4 grams in a medium apple with the skin or 3.8 grams in a half cup of blackberries or a half cup of stewed prunes.

Here is a link to a list of high fiber foods.

Label claims can lead you think a food is higher in fiber than it is. If a food product claims to be a “good source” of fiber, that means it has 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. An “excellent” source means a serving has at least 5 grams.

So, don’t ignore the contribution that grains make to your fiber intake; I’ll be the first to admit that high fiber cereals like Fiber One or All-Bran aren’t the tastiest, but mixed with another cereal, used as a topping on yogurt, or crushed like crackers in soup can give you big benefits. People who eat more fiber have less chronic diseases, like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, and have lower body weights (for the complete run down on fiber, check out this position paper on the health benefits of fibers.)

Dr. Chris Rosenbloom, along with co-author Dr. Bob Murray, are the authors of Food & Fitness After 50, a guide to helping you eat well, move well, and be well at 50, 60, 70, and beyond. The paperback on Kindle edition are available at Amazon.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Running Away from Diabetes

“What are you taking for your diabetes?” was the question Bill was asked when he had a physical exam for his employer’s insurance. He almost fell out of his chair and replied that he didn’t have diabetes, but the blood test showed otherwise. After a momentary “freak out,” his doctor said he could try changing his diet and start exercising but if that didn’t lower his blood sugar level than medication was on the horizon.

Bill Pratt 1Bill, now age 60, had that wake-up call 4 years ago. Today his blood sugar is normal, and diet and exercise did the trick. But, he had a lifetime of poor eating and sedentary behaviors to overcome.

Bill has always struggled with his weight; as a kid his not-so-nice nickname was “Fat Albert.” As an adult, his weight reached a high of 220 pounds and on his 5’10” frame, that equated to a body mass index (BMI) of 30.1, putting him in the obese category. (To learn if your BMI is in a healthy range, plug your height and weight into this online calculator).

After his diagnosis of diabetes, Bill started running 2 miles every day. Exercise is one of the pillars of diabetes management, with diet being the other. But, Bill said he “was afraid to eat so he just stopped.” His wife was concerned he would suffer from of malnutrition, so she called upon a neighbor, a former registered dietitian. (She was profiled in an early blog post; to read about her, click here.)

Bill said that today he is reminded to practice good health by thinking of the quote, attributed to baseball player, Mickey Mantle; “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

His strategies for aging well include exercise. “Running is not only good to manage my blood sugar, it is a great stress reliever and my ‘epiphany’ time. I get my best ideas when my mind is free while running.” He has also come to appreciate the value of rest and a good night’s sleep. “I’m a proponent of the 20-minute power nap!” And, he also stays young at heart by learning from his sons, ages 29 and 26, who keep him abreast the latest trends, cool new music and bands, and exposing him to new influences that he would not otherwise get in his circle of friends.

His advice for others is to get and stay on a path to healthy aging by planning. “Planning when I can fit running into my day and what to eat helps me execute my wellness strategy.” This is great advice, too often we think we lack will power but what we really lack is advance planning as a tool to help us with weight loss or managing chronic diseases. This is summed up nicely in a tweet by registered dietitian, Jill Weisenberger:

Jills quote

Bill reminds us to take a hard look in the mirror and ask, “Am I living a sustainable lifestyle?” Bill’s answer four years ago was “no,” but today it is “yes.” He wants to be around for his wife, kids and future grandchildren. “Just be committed; that and have a supportive spouse like I do!”

 

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: The Value of Life-Long Learning

Elizabeth CarlsonWe often hear about the value of life-long learning, but how many of us are stuck in our daily grinds and tell ourselves that someday we’ll get around to reading that book or taking an online class to improve a skill that has eluded us? Well, not Elizabeth, who at age 89, is still learning. Recently, she enrolled in financial planning courses so she could manage her own investments (which she does quite well from her laptop!) Elizabeth had to learn to do for herself at an early age. Her husband died when she was just 43 years old so she set her priorities: get a job, raise her three children (who were in high school at the time), and make sure she had enough money to help her kids get to college. From a research librarian to working in consumer affairs for a regional grocery store chain, she did whatever she needed to do to support her family.

When asked about her path to healthy aging, Elizabeth recounted how her parents set a great example on healthy eating, which she has passed on to her children. “My father had a garden and we always had fresh vegetables on the dinner table. I learned to can what we grew so there would always be vegetables in the house, even in the harsh New England winters.” Her parents also raised chickens and had fresh eggs, and they encouraged her and her three siblings to choose “colorful” foods, long before the dietary mantra to do so came to be popular. She became a canning leader for the local high school to teach boys and girls how to preserve food. She thinks that Americans have “come full circle,” enjoying gardening and shopping at Farmer’s Markets and trying to choose healthier foods.

As for exercise, she was always active. “I grew up before the Internet and screen time was a thing; we were just outside all of the time. My dad played baseball so there was always a game going on in the field near our house.” Today, she belongs to the local YMCA, but hasn’t exercised as much as she would like as she recuperates from a broken wrist, but she knows she will get back to it soon. “I love group exercise for the social aspects; my fellow exercisers are my friends, even if I never see them outside of the gym.” She loved riding a bicycle, but she gave that up 3 years ago (at the age of 86), because she didn’t feel “safe” on the bike any longer.

Elizabeth worries for many older adults who live on a fixed income and can’t afford healthy foods. Indeed, food insecurity, the lack of money to buy food, is estimated to affect 5 million older adults in the U.S. Elizabeth admits she is a “worrier,” but she is learning to relax and urges everyone to “enjoy their life.”

I am sure that Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday in February, surrounded by her children and 5 grandchildren and will be setting her next learning goal, while enjoying her life. Thank you for sharing your journey, and keep on inspiring us to be life-long learners.