Food & Fitness After 50: Clearing the Confusion on Probiotic Supplements

intestinal-gut-bacteria-balancing-microbiomeA friend asked a simple question, “should I take a probiotic supplement?” I wish there was a simple “yes” or “no” answer, as I’m sure that is what she wanted. But, as with many questions in nutrition, the answer is it depends. It depends on:

  • What is the reason for taking a probiotic supplement?
  • Is there a specific health problem that you are trying to alleviate by taking a probiotic supplement?
  • What dietary sources of probiotics are you consuming? And, is your diet rich in not only probiotics, but prebiotics and dietary fiber? Diets high in fat, sugar, and excess alcohol do not promote the good bacteria in our guts, while a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, pro-and prebiotics contribute to a healthy balance of bacteria in our guts. (For more information on dietary sources of pre-and probiotics, click here and here.)

I had the chance to ask Dr. Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas* to help us  navigate the landscape on probiotic supplements. First, let’s understand that probiotics won’t completely alter your gut microbiome because “probiotics do not sustainably colonize the adult gut, but should be thought of as temporary, transient residents that interact with the body and its microbial ecosystem to influence function and health,” according to Dr. Thomas.

Let’s start with the definition of probiotics:

  • “Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (WHO/FAO definition).

The key words in that sentence, according to Dr. Thomas are live when administered, adequate amounts, and health benefit.

He explained that the probiotic has to be live when you take it. How do you know? “Choose products that include the “Best Used Before Date” date and avoid products that declare potency “at time of manufacture,” as this measurement does not reflect the amount still alive when purchased and consumed. A transparent, quality manufacturer lists the guaranteed minimum number of live cells, measured in CFUs, per serving when stored as recommended and used prior to the “best used before date.” Dr. Thomas goes on to explain that while probiotics don’t really expire, but the number of live cells may not meet label claims if not stored as stated on the label and used beyond that date. The “time at manufacture” almost certainly over represents the quantity of live cells because the normal manufacturing process results in some die-off of live probiotics.

probiotic_identification_graph
Identification chart courtesy of Jarrow Formulas

Adequate amounts mean not only quantity of probiotics in a supplement, but quality. “Probiotics are strain, dose, and condition specific.” Strains should be designated on a supplement label, so you know what you are getting. Dr. Thomas explains, “not all strains perform equally, and more strains are not better, better strains are better.” For example, if looking for a supplement to help with bowel issues, Lactobacillus (genus) plantarum (species) 229v (strain) is clinically proven to reduce bowel discomfort at dosing of 10 to 20 billion live cells daily.” The probiotic identification chart illustrates the difference between genus, species, and strain in a way that is understandable to those of us who might have forgotten what we learned in biology!

And, that leads us to the last part of the definition, health benefits. A probiotic must be studied to know if it conveys a health benefit. If a label simply says something like 40 billion CFU with 16 probiotic strains, it may or may not be clinically relevant. “Don’t be swayed by a large number of colony forming units (CFUs is how probiotics are measured). What you really want is the right strain in the right amounts,” says Dr. Thomas.

There are a lot of resources to help consumers know if a probiotic meets the definition from the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP). It takes some homework to take the guess work out, but if you are going to pay good money for a supplement, isn’t it worth knowing that it has evidence to support it will do what you want it to do?

I think this statement from the ISAPP sums up what we know, “probiotics are not a “cure all” and it is not necessary to take them to be healthy. But they may help you even if you are generally healthy. Probiotics will have different benefits – look for a product with studies that support the benefit you want.”

Dr. Thomas cautions us to be aware of “disingenuous marketing masquerading as education” for some probiotic supplements. A product claiming to be “ancient” might sound impressive, but if the product doesn’t list the strains, 100 billion CFUs per serving is meaningless.

Resources:

To learn more about a specific supplement check out the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Produces Available in the USA to help you understand the evidence supporting a probiotic supplement.

And, here is a link to helpful infographics on probiotics from ISAPP.

*I heard Dr. Thomas speak at a sponsored food and nutrition conference, but I was neither asked nor compensated to write this post.

 

Fit to Eat

“Fit to Eat,” focuses on nutrition concerns of active people and showcases inspiring stories from adults who eat well, move well, and be well. Whether you are in your 50s, 60, 70s, or beyond you will find information to keep you healthy and active.

Food & Fitness After 50: It’s a Good Time to Pass Along Kitchen Tips and Family Recipes

Keeping our social distance, my neighbor, Amy and I were talking (well, sort of shouting) across our yards and she said she had an idea for this blog. After listening to her ideas, I am posting a Q&A to share her great suggestions for passing along her favorite kitchen hacks and family recipes to the next generation. Thank you, Amy Clark!

fuel-nutritionMost of us value family meals and for good reasons. A recent systematic review confirms that family meals improve fruit and vegetable intake and improve family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving. And, sharing family heritage through cherished family recipes and teaching children some easy kitchen tips and tricks can improve the bond between the generations.

Question: What made you think about sharing recipes with your family at this time?

Self-isolation and family lock-down is a perfect time to teach kids some kitchen basics that they can use for a lifetime and help to instill the love of cooking. I also think that showing our children how to master simple tips can help making cooking more streamlined to save time in the kitchen. This can help them realize that cooking isn’t a daunting task.

Question: What are your top tips to engage younger kids in the kitchen?

For the younger kids, get them to help with some easy tasks. We probably all know that overly ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen and used in banana bread*, muffins, or pancakes, but another use for bananas is this trick that I use. Have kids peel ripe bananas and slice into ½-inch to 1-inch slices and lay them on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Slide the tray into the freezer for an hour or two and then transfer to a gallon-size freezer bag. I like to stack the layers on top of each other inside the freezer bag by reusing the parchment or wax paper. They don’t take up much freezer space and it prevents food waste of those tasty bananas.

The kids can pull out the slices when they want to make smoothies, put on cereal, or make pancakes. I like to use them for a breakfast bowl.

Amy’s Breakfast Bowl

½ cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon of shelled, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Handful of frozen blueberries

4 or 5 sliced frozen bananas

Mix together in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir and microwave for another 40 to 45 seconds.

LemonAnother kitchen hack that is easy to pass along to kids is how to save time by having lemon zest and juice at the ready. Wash lemons and grate the zest. Show kids how to use a cheese grater (carefully, of course!) by grating the lemons on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. If you have a zester, that works well, too. Wrap the zest/peel from each lemon in a piece of parchment paper and store flat in a sandwich-size freezer bag. Once zested, cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, removing seeds in the process. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. (Your kids may have never seen an old-fashioned ice cube tray!)  Once frozen, remove the lemon cubes and store in freezer bags. One of my absolute favorite recipes for lemon zest and juice is a Lemon Dutch Baby, which the kids will love. If you’ve never tried it, search online and you’re bound to find several recipes using lemon juice and zest. Kids can easily help with this recipe. I like making it in a cast iron skillet because it crisps the crust and some of the iron from the skillet gets absorbed into the food, making it a richer source of dietary iron.

Question: You said that this is also a good time to pass down recipes from one generation to another. What treasured recipes do you have that you want to share with your sons?

I get concerned that some family recipes may be lost over time.  All three of my sons enjoy cooking and grilling but would rather come up with something on the fly or go online to look up a recipe. I want to not only share family recipes but teach them how to make them. My favorite recipes are those passed down from my husband’s grandmother, Estelle.  Grandma Estelle was an amazing woman and fabulous cook who lived to be 99 years old. Maybe she got her love of cooking because one of her first jobs was working at a dairy farm testing the milk for safety. My two favorite recipes are her amazing pie crust (for her famous Coconut Cream Pie) and chicken and dumplings. Both comfort foods to be sure, what we could all use a little comfort right now!

Homemade pie crust is easier to make than you might think. It is cheaper than buying a frozen or refrigerated crust and the taste and flakiness is unbeatable. Pie crust is a good recipe to make with your kids and watching them learn to use a rolling pin is priceless! The crust can be used for pies, of course, but also for homemade chicken pot pie. Once made, the dough can be frozen in individual balls until you are ready to thaw and roll out, which saves you time.

Chicken and dumplings
Amy’s version of Grandmother Estelle’s chicken & dumplings

Our family’s favorite is Estelle’s chicken and dumplings. To make the recipe a bit less daunting, I substitute a large rotisserie chicken for a raw broiler chicken. I remember watching her make it when she would visit us in the summer. I’m sure many of her generation cooked and baked the same way and trying to pin down the exact measurements was a challenge. She would say, “just use a little of this and splash of that.” But even though she didn’t measure a single ingredient, it always came out just right.

Even at 50+, I am still discovering unique family recipes that I can pass on. Last summer, when my husband Randy and I were visiting his parents, I saw his dad cutting up the entire rind of a watermelon. When I asked him what he was doing, he shared another family recipe I did not know about. My mother-in-law showed me how to cook the rinds down and create Watermelon Preserves. She learned how make the preserves from watermelon rinds when she was young from her mother-in-law! The preserves have a unique flavor and we really enjoyed it. When I got home, I made a batch and shared a jar with my son and his fiancé. (See photos below.) I told her the story and she was excited for me to teach her how to make them…another mother-in-law inspired recipe! I love how that recipe, which was created to use every part of the watermelon, is now something preserved (pun intended) and is being passed down by to another generation.

Question: What do you think is a good way to pass along the family recipes?

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-14-outline_002Some of us have a little more time at home right now so it is a good time to clean up your recipe files and pass along your favorites to your kids…. you can create a recipe box, a recipe book, or more likely for this generation, a digital file shared on a flash drive! Along with each recipe, write a little history of the origin of the dish or why you like it. No matter which way you choose to share the family recipes, I think your kids will appreciate them for years to come.

Banana bread

 

*One of Chris’ favorite recipes for banana bread comes courtesy of California Walnuts, Old Soul’s Banana Walnut Bread. After baking and cooling the banana bread, it freezes well. I have a loaf in my freezer right now! Click here for the recipe.

 

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: What I’ve Learned About Obesity

I’ve been a registered dietitian for 45 years and I still have a lot to learn about the disease of obesity.

I had the chance to meet and interact with medical experts in the field of obesity medicine at a recent sponsored conference and through a webinar on World Obesity Day (March 4, 2020) on changing the narrative on obesity by addressing weight bias and stigma.

Here are the big takeaways:

  • Obesity is a disease. That’s right, obesity is a disease and was classified as such in 2013 by the American Medical Association , but most of us were slow to catch on. “Obesity is a disease of abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.” This from Dr. Gabe Smolarz, Diplomat, American Board of Obesity Medicine. “Obesity is a chronic disease and is marked by progressive weight gain over many years.”
  • Because obesity is a disease the words we use matter. You wouldn’t call a person who has cancer by her disease (“she is cancer”) yet we routinely say, “she is obese.” Changing the way we talk about obesity can help chip away at the bias and stigma surrounding the disease.
  • Obesity is underpinned by genetics. Seventy percent of obesity is determined by genetics. Yet many, including health care providers, still think obesity is a lifestyle choice. “Eat less and move more” might be the only medical care that a person with obesity receives from his or her doctor.
  • Personal choice is important but should be viewed in the context of the disease. As Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth puts it, “genetics sets the table and the environment serves it up.” We should all be eating a healthy diet and getting regular physical activity, but we wouldn’t tell a person with serious heart disease or advanced cancer to only eat well and exercise. We would provide quality medical care to address the underlying disease while helping them modify their lifestyle. And, another myth is that exercise is the cure for obesity. To be sure, it is crucial for good health, but a “cure?” No.
  • Bias towards those with obesity is strong. Explicit bias towards weight (the things people say) is going down, yet implicit bias (Ted Kyle describes this type of bias as the “knee jerk” reaction we have to an issue) is going up. We have many demeaning stereotypes of people with obesity as shown on this slide from Ted Kyle.

Ted's slide

In a recent episode of the Hulu series, Shrill, starring Aidy Bryant as a young journalist who lives in a larger body, her character has an emotional conversation with her roommate. This honest scene really touched me and brought to life all the demeaning stereotypes listed on the slide. Her character Annie says, “You don’t think I know that the whole world isn’t constantly telling me I’m a fat piece of s__ who doesn’t try hard? Every magazine and commercial and weird targeted ad telling me to freeze my fat off and at this point I could be a licensed nutritionist because I’ve literally been training for it since the 4th grade.” (To hear an interview with Aidy Bryant on NPR’s Fresh Air, click here. It’s worth a listen.

Shrill

  • Weight bias and stigma leads to stress which can make the disease worse and people sicker. To recognize this a Joint International Consensus Statement for Ending Stigma of Obesity was recently published in Nature Medicine calling on health professionals, the media, and basically all of us to think about our actions to end the stigma surrounding obesity. In addition, a campaign and pledge to end obesity stigma was started and you can click here to lend your support by taking the pledge. I did.
  • For a video on stigma and obesity, watch this one from Ted Kyle.

And, stay tuned for a PBS Nova special, “The Truth About Fat,” airing April 8 at 9 PM. I’m set to record!

Thanks to the experts, Dr. Gabe Smolarz, Dr. Matthew Hutter, Dr. Robin Blackstone, and Ted Kyle for their insightful presentations.

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: Eating Well in the Time of Coronavirus

keep-calm-and-eat-healthy-125Coronavirus is everywhere…on the news, in our social media feeds, on our minds, and, most worrying in the air! Good nutrition and feeding your family is never old news but now might be a good time to plan to:

  1. clean out your pantry, freezer, and fridge to use up those hidden gems or toss those that have gone bad,
  2. manage your supplies so you don’t have to run to the grocery store,
  3. think about what staples you should have on hand in case things get worse before they get better.

refrigerator-22592466Let’s start with #1. Many of you are food hoarders. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but you might have more food hiding in the cupboards or the freezer than you realize. I am sure we’ve all bought cans of tuna on sale only to realize that we had plenty of it on hand. So, start with a thorough inventory of what you already have. I like this comprehensive approach from Real Mom Nutrition, registered dietitian, Sally Kuzemchak. She has tools to help you inventory and organize everything from your pantry to your freezer. While you are taking everything out of pantry, fridge, and freezer, take time to clean the spaces. We are concerned about the spreading the coronoavirus, we often forget basic food safety practices, including cleaning food storage spaces. Toss anything that is old (I found a box of granola that had a 2017 date; clearly time to toss!)

Next step, rotate food by “use by dates”, just like they do in the grocery store. Then, get creative. Find recipes or assemble meals based on what you have on hand. Today I am making a lighter version of sweet and sour chicken in the crockpot because I had a couple of chicken breasts, a red bell pepper, half an onion, and 2 carrots that I wanted to use. I added some chicken stock, low-sodium soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and Thai chili paste for the sauce. I will stir in some pineapple juice mixed with cornstarch to thicken the sauce and serve it over steamed rice for dinner. If you struggle with meal assembly, go online to any of the hundreds of websites to help you find a way to use the foods you have on hand.

Managing your supplies means keeping track of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to plan meals. I know, planning sounds like a lot of work, but many of us have a little more free time right now and planning saves you money and reduces food waste. Did you know that up to one-third of all of world’s food is wasted? That food could feed 3 Billion people….or the equivalent to 10 times the population of the USA! 

Picture1

Lastly, if you do need to restock, consider keeping these staples on hand (personalize as needed for preferences, allergies, etc.)

1389969431643For the pantry:

  • Canned beans, black, kidney, garbanzo, baked beans (I am partial to Bush’s Beans because they keep their texture in soups, stews, etc.)
  • Chicken, beef, and vegetable stock
  • Canned soup
  • Pasta
  • Rice and rice mixtures
  • Canned tomatoes and/marinara sauce
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Dry lentils and split peas
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly or Jam
  • Crackers
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Shelf-staple milk
  • Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Yeast

For the freezer:

  • Chicken (whole, parts, breasts, etc)
  • Lean ground beef and turkey
  • Pork loin
  • Lean beef (flank steak, strip steaks, top round, Tri-Tip roast)
  • Fish fillets
  • Shrimp
  • Frozen vegetables (I prefer bags to boxes)
  • Frozen fruit
  • Veggie patties (I like MorningStar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger and Original Chick Patties)

For the fridge

  • Cheese
  • Yogurt or kefir (good for gut health!)
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Apples, Oranges, Mandarins
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Carrots

This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, just the basics with longer shelf life in case you aren’t able to get to the store. Take some time to learn some new culinary skills…I plan to learn to perfect pizza dough (hence, the yeast on this list) instead of the cardboard crusts found in most grocery stores and take out pizza!

For more tips on eating well check out Food & Fitness After 50.

 

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Lessons from a Late Blooming Ballroom Dancer

FoxtrotNYDF20
Chandra and Ian Folker doing Foxtrot

At the age of 55, Chandra did something that not many of us would do. Sure, we might take up weight training or pickleball, but ballroom dancing? That is exactly what Chandra did and ten years later she is competing in smooth ballroom dances…waltz, foxtrot, tango, and quick step. “Ballroom dancing is the ultimate full body and mind exercise,” she says.

A Valentine’s Day Surprise

It started with social dancing with her husband and he surprised her with ballroom dance lessons one Valentine’s Day. While he “retired” from dancing, she went full steam ahead. After working with a few different dance teachers, she found the ideal teacher, Ian Folker, and they have been dancing together for the past three years. “Ian has helped me meet my goals and competing was one of those goals. Ballroom dancing is like other sports…first you have to learn the fundamentals and then improve on that skill set with practice and repetition.”

FoxtrotNYDF20bJPG
Foxtrot

Chandra practices 4 to 5 times each week and competes on a regular basis. “Competing is intense, as intense as any sport!”  She also practices restorative yoga to help her dance movement and finds it mentally and physically therapeutic.

Functional and Integrative Nutrition

Least you think that this is her full-time job, it is not. Chandra has a private nutrition practice and has gravitated toward functional and integrative nutrition as a wholistic way to help clients reach their goals. (To learn about her nutrition practice, click here for her website, Nutrition in the Now. Prior to starting her business, she worked in clinical nutrition research at Emory University. “While running clinical trials on the role of different diets in treating breast, lung and colorectal cancer, the medical director wanted everyone working on the project to try the diets. I did and found the lower fat diet felt good for me.” The goal of functional nutrition is to identify the foods and nutrients that function to keep your body healthiest.  Chandra reminds her clients that “Food Is Your Medicine.”

Using Foods to Manage Disease

TangoNYDF20c
Tango

Chandra, the mom of 2 girls, was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy which is a form of high blood pressure. “I basically had pre-hypertension.  I was later diagnosed with Mitral Valve Prolapse.  Given these pre-cardiovascular disease conditions, I understood how important lifestyle was in managing my disease risks. I have learned to understand the way sodium and salt affect me and I am very attuned to reading labels to look for the hidden salt.” She eats a whole foods diet with minimal processing, as salt is a main ingredient used to process and preserve foods. Her favorite meal is fresh seafood; something she can readily find when she spends time in Florida or California. “Walking to the docks and buying fresh seafood as it comes off the boat makes for the perfect meal.”

She has also learned to appreciate the role of nutrition in treating disease through her yearly visits to Germany. Her daughter, a neuroscientist, introduced her to a European way of treating disease. “They rely much less on medications, as we do in the U.S., but use herbs (botanicals) and spices and food as restorative, healing agents. That approach may take longer, but they use significantly less drugs than we do and have good results.” We agreed that most Americans are quick to take a drug but slow to change their lifestyle.

Challenges to optimal aging

When I asked Chandra to identify challenges to healthy aging, she said that she is trying to live a life as stress-free as possible. Spending time with her daughters and four grandchildren makes her realize that what is important is relationships, not things. “I am really trying to declutter…we have so much but want more and more and living with less can help reduce stress.”

Chandra’s tips for healthy aging include:

  • Have a vision for your life.
  • Have a support system to help you reach your vision.
  • Live the best you can live and aim for inner peace.

And, while she didn’t name laughter as a tool for healthy aging, we laughed a lot during this interview!

P.S. The photos in the post are from Chandra’s most recent ballroom competition. “The competition was so exciting as well as overwhelming.  It was the largest US Ballroom competition this year.  For a beginner, I was pleased; of course, a little nervous, however, once I began dancing, I had to remember all my coaching instructions.  I competed from 8:30 am and my last competition was at 6:30 pm.  I was completely exhausted, hungry and so out of energy. My lesson learned, I have to be sure and fuel the night before and during!”

WaltzNYDF20b (2)

 

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

Food & Fitness After 50: What is Clean Eating?

A funny meme circulated among my dietitian friends. The first woman says, “I can’t eat that, I’m trying to eat clean.” The second woman (probably a dietitian) replies, “It’s banana bread, Susan, not heroin.”

clean eatingIt’s funny and sad at the same time. Many people limit delicious, healthful foods (banana bread) because they don’t fit into what they consider “clean” eating. Some people rely on the front-of-pack “free-from” claims to judge if a food is worthy…. free from sugar, white flour, gluten, additives, colors, GMOs, and on and on.  Which leads us to the concept of clean eating. Most dietitians don’t like the term because the opposite of clean is dirty and no one wants to say they are eating “dirty.”  Saying you eat clean implies a certain moral superiority to the rest us who are microwaving a frozen meal.

But it doesn’t matter if I like it or not, the term clean eating is here to stay. I counted over 70 books for sale on Amazon with “clean eating” in the title.

At a recent conference, I learned from Kris Sollid, a registered dietitian and senior director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, that clean eating was the the number 1 diet trend in 2019. Some people think clean eating is diet of whole, unprocessed foods. Some people are OK with processed foods if they don’t contain artificial coloring or flavors with hard to pronounce ingredients. Other think foods labeled organic tick the clean eating box, while some ascribe a vegan diet as the only way to eat clean.

2019 Diet Trend for CR

But, when it gets down to the definition of clean eating, it depends on who you ask. “The bottom line is that while the definition isn’t clear, ‘clean’ is often used as a proxy for ‘healthy’” adds Sollid.

Hand-in-hand with clean eating is a trend in the food industry to develop “clean” labels. Many food manufacturers are reformulating products to limit the number of ingredients to satisfy consumer demand.  In many cases this is a good thing; finding ways to reduce salt by using fewer sodium-based ingredients or lowering sugar by finding the sweet spot of less sugar without changing taste are all good moves. But, when a product simply replaces sugar from sugar beets with “pure cane sugar” and makes you think it is healthier, well, sugar is sugar and just because the word “pure” is front of cane sugar it doesn’t make it a healthy ingredient.

So, instead of focusing on eating clean, let’s just focus on healthy eating. Some ways to do that are:

  • Focus on the positives in a food, not the negatives. Choose foods with nutrients that you need, like vitamins, minerals and fiber instead of focusing on sugar or fat content. Sugar and fat are important but take a wider view when choosing foods. For example, as we age, we still need bone building nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium. Look for foods with those nutrients and keep in mind that not all dairy foods or plant-based alternatives to dairy contain vitamin D.
  • Ignore the buzz words like “all natural,” “real ingredients,” or “minimally processed.” They don’t mean anything.
  • Recognize the value of processed foods, like frozen berries, canned tomatoes, or ready to eat breakfast cereal. These foods provide big nutrition for little money. Amy Cohn, a registered dietitian with General Mills reminds us that cereal is the number 1 source of whole grains, fiber, B-vitamins, iron and zinc for all Americans at breakfast. And, when paired with milk, the “average bowl of a Big G cereal is about fifty cents.”
  • Don’t be afraid of words you can’t pronounce on list of food ingredients: pyridoxine hydrochloride may sound strange, but it just the chemical name for vitamin B6.

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

Disclosure: I attended a sponsored conference where both Kris Sollid and Amy Cohn spoke, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post.

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.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Is There a Best Diet for Losing Weight?

dieting

Each week Obesity and Energetic Offerings arrives in my inbox. It is a weekly roundup of research from Indiana University School of Public Health and University of Alabama Birmingham Nutrition Obesity Research Center. One of my favorite features is called “Headline vs Study,” and a recent one on weight loss diets was intriguing.

The Headline: Study Reveals the Best Diet for Actually Losing Weight and Keeping It Off.

The Study: Exploratory, observational analysis: “Small differences in metabolic outcomes were apparent in participants following self-selected diets… However, results should be interpreted with caution given the exploratory nature of analyses.”

Being a nutrition nerd, I read the study titled “Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise,” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here are the key takeways:

  • Conducted in New Zealand and Australia, the current study was a secondary analysis of data from a study on support strategies for three different diets and two different modes of exercise to understand different monitoring strategies that might encourage adherence to diets and exercise.
  • About 250 individuals who were healthy and had a body mass index that classified them as having overweight were selected and screened for height, weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
  • Individuals could choose one of three diets: Mediterranean, Paleo, or Intermittent Fasting (IF) and one of two exercise plans (recommended national guideline for exercise or high intensity intermittent training (HIIT). All participants were given detailed guidelines for the chosen diet and exercise plan.
  • The IF plan was the most popular, with 54% of participants choosing it, followed by Mediterranean diet (27%) and Paleo (18%).
  • Only half of the participants who choose the IF or Mediterranean diet were still following it at 12 months and one-third of the Paleo dieters were following the plan.
  • Adherence to any diet rapidly declines over time.
  • No matter which diet was followed, outcomes for weight loss, blood pressure, or blood sugar were modest.
  • There is difficulty following diet in a free-living environment without intensive ongoing support.

And, this is why it pays read beyond the headline and to dig deeper to get the real story.

All of this made me think of a recent presentation from Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth and LeeAnn Kindness, of Tivity Health (Nutrisystem is one of their products) on the heterogeneity of obesity. According to Kindness, “77% of adults are actively trying to improve their health and more than 120 million are actively trying to lose weight.” Over the past 12 months, consumers have tried over 18 different dietary patterns to improve their health or lose weight. Yet, as was shown in the study on the three diet patterns, it is hard to stick with the plan.

So, what is “best?” Ted Kyle reminds us that the responses to diets vary. Study data usually report outcomes as averages of aggregate data, and we all know what an average is…that means that some people will lose weight on a specific plan while some people gain weight. He showed data from a study called DIETFITS on low carb vs low fat diets…. some people lost weight on both plans, but some people gained weight on both plans. “The same is true for any diet, drug regimen, or surgical intervention and the bottom line is one size doesn’t fit all,” says Kyle.

That is why programs like Nutrisystem are recognizing that “sustainable weight management requires a personalized approach, considering age, gender, food preferences, and goals,” says Kindness.

When choosing a plan for lifelong health, find something that works for you and seek the advice of a health professional who can help guide your choice and stick with the plan.

For more information on healthy food and exercise choices, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I attended a conference that paid for my travel expenses and the session mentioned was one of many over four days of education. I was not asked to write this post and was not compensated for it.

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

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Bones

A recent article in the Washington Post caught my attention because it related to an issue that older adults frequently ask about….how to protect their bones as they age.

Hip-Fracture-Surgery-Infection-640x444According to the study published in JAMA vitamin D supplements showed no effect on reducing hip fractures where as vitamin D plus calcium had about a 16% reduction in the risk of breaking a hip. Hip fracture is one of the most serious threats to health as we age. Here’s a few facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.
    • Women fall more often than men.
    • Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.

Dietary Supplement Use for Bone Health

A recent survey from the Council on Responsible Medicine, a leading trade association for dietary supplements, shows that among consumers over 55 years of age who take dietary supplements, 31% cite bone health as a reason for supplementation. For younger age groups, bone health is not mentioned as a reason for supplementation. That is too bad because the time to build bone is when we are young! Peak bone mass is achieved somewhere around the age of 30 or 35 so waiting until you are 60 to start worrying about bone health is a bit too late. It’s like getting concerned about your cholesterol level after you’ve had a heart attack. (Side note to my older readers…encourage your grandchildren and great grandchildren to get plenty of bone building nutrients now!)

boneMass35Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas puts it this way, “Maximizing peak bone mass is important when we are young to protect against age-related bone loss.  A 10% increase in peak bone mass is estimated to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture later in life by 50%, so early life deserves more attention to ensure sufficient nutrient intake and status to support bone health across the lifespan.”

It Takes More Than Calcium and Vitamin D to Make a Healthy Bone

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Natto

While the media focuses on calcium and vitamin D, Dr. Thomas reminds us that bone is more than those two nutrients. Healthy bones need the minerals magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, silicon, boron, and zinc. Two underappreciated vitamins are also key, vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in the body and building block of bone. Vitamin K helps calcium get deposited into bones. There are two forms of vitamin K, referred to as K1 and K2. K1 is most well-known for its role in blood clotting. But the K2 form promotes bone building. It is hard to get sufficient K2 from foods. Dr. Thomas points out that “vitamin K2 is from bacterial origin, so it is found in fermented foods in which bacteria are used as starter cultures in cheeses and sauerkraut.  The best dietary source of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 is the traditional Japanese dish natto, cooked soybeans fermented by the bacteria Bacillus subtilis subspecies natto, that while popular in Japan, is not much appreciated in the U.S.“ The best way to get this form of the vitamin is with supplements sold as MK-7.

“Based on emerging research, the supplemental doses used in research is a daily dose of vitamin K2 as MK-7 is 45 micrograms upwards of 360 micrograms is recommended,” adds Dr. Thomas.

Fall Protection

While foods and supplementation can help provide nutrients for healthy bones, don’t forget the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination) as keys to help preventing falls. We’ve written about this before (click here for the post), but it pays to work on your balance with activities like yoga, Tai Chi, or simple exercises such as balancing on one foot when you brush your teeth. When it comes to balance, we can use it….or, we can lose it!

Check out this video from Silver Sneakers for easy exercises to improve your balance

For more information on foods and supplements for bone health and tips to improve your agility, balance, and coordination, see Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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

Food & Fitness After 50: Cultural Connections Through Cuisine

My ancestry results came with some surprises. I’m 78% of Eastern European and Russian descent (no surprise) and 13% Eastern Jewish ancestry, which was a surprise. So, when I got the chance to spend time in Budapest, Hungary, I was excited to explore the cuisine that has deep ties to my ancestry.

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The Hungarian Parliament

The conference, FoodFluence, is an intimate gathering of food and nutrition influencers for 4 days of content, connections, and culture.  The conference includes a local, cultural speaker and Andres Jokuti, a Hungarian writer and authority of Budapest food culture, told us that Hungarian cuisine is truly a melting pot of cultures as well as a product of climate and location. As land-locked country with long, cold winters, hearty dishes of beef, pork, and poultry are staple proteins with the addition of grains, root vegetables, and beans. And, of course, we can’t forget paprika…spicy, sweet, or smoky, it is the lifeblood spice of Hungarian cuisine. The traditional Hungarian Goulash (a soup, not a stew, in Hungary) is a classic example. Hungarian cuisine is heavily influenced by Turkish, Italian, Austrian, Saxon, and Russian cultures, as well as the large Jewish population that once was a vibrant part of Hungarian life. It was the Hungarian Jewish cuisine that was of great interest to me.

Our first meal was at Kőleves Vendéglő in what remains of the Jewish ghetto. The starter was matzoh ball soup made with goose broth. I associate matzoh ball soup with chicken stock, but in Hungary goose is a common fowl and makes for a very rich and flavorful broth. At another famous Budapest restaurant, Rosenstein, I had matzoh ball soup with beef broth….both were delicious!

 

cholant
Cholent with Goose and Tongue

The most memorable meal we had was prepared as a private dinner by Miklaus, an older gentleman who runs a cooking school in his apartment, but this night prepared a traditional Jewish meal and served it to us in his daughter’s restaurant, M, a small dinner-only restaurant in the Jewish ghetto. Matzoh ball soup with goose broth and goose neck, roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts, and a classic, totally and completely Jewish dish, cholent. You could say that cholent is the original slow cooker meal long before the advent of crock pots. Since observant Jews did no work on the Sabbath, including cooking, a dish of meat, beans, grains, vegetables, and often egg, was made as a stew on Friday before the lighting of the Shabbat candles. The dish was put in a slow oven to cook overnight. In Budapest, Jewish families would take their cholent to the local bakery and use the baking ovens to slow cook their dishes overnight and retrieve them in time for the Sabbath dinner. Every family had their own recipe and it reflected the local ingredients and time-honored family traditions. Miklaus’ cholent was made with barley, beans, goose, and beef tongue. I remember the first time I had tongue served by my mother-in-law; stewing the meat for a long time makes it tender but for most of us it isn’t very appealing. But, using every bit of the animal made eating very sustainable for families with limited means. We finished the meal with a less traditional dessert, by Miklaus’ daughter, a pastry whiz. A decadent molten chocolate cake with salted caramel ice cream was the best sweet I’ve ever eaten!

IMG_3404We also enjoyed Hungarian wines, with 22 wine regions, an empty glass is not an option. I wish Hungarian wines were imported to the states but I not many leave the region.

Another traditional Jewish dish is a dessert called Flodni. The most famous is made by Rachel Raj, a Hungarian celebrity with a warm, vibrant personality, sometimes called the Rachel Ray of Hungary. But, after meeting her, I think Rachel Ray is the Rachel Raj of the U.S. The pastry is made with layers of poppy seeds, apple, walnuts, and plum jam between thin layers of flaky pastry, from a secret family recipe. Rachel made Flodni for all the participants at FoodFluence and it was greatly appreciated.

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I enjoyed meeting Rachel Raj 

I mentioned beef-broth matzoh ball soup at Rosenstein, and I also tried Hungarian stuffed cabbage made with goose instead of ground beef and served on a bed of sauerkraut. Loads of cabbage and very rich and different from the Ukrainian stuffed cabbage that was a staple during my childhood. IMG_3485 2

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The immersion into Jewish culture and cuisine was made all the more meaningful because during our visit it was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz. During a private tour of the largest synagogue in Europe, we learned that in May of 1944, toward the end of the war, more than 424, 000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz in just 8 weeks-time. In total, more than 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered in the holocaust. It was a sober reminder that we must all stay vigilant and replace hatred of those different from ourselves with love and acceptance.

If you are reading this post you know I usually write about the nutrition and health value of food, but the cultural meaning of food is just as important. The bottom line is that food is more than nutrients or the ability to lower cholesterol or fight inflammation. Food is love. I am grateful for the experience of eating the meals prepared with love by the warm and welcoming Hungarian people.