Monthly Archives: July 2015

Only 9% of Us Eat Enough Vegetables

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control or CDC(1) claims we need 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. The report concluded that only 9% of us eat enough veggies and only 13% of us eat enough fruit for maximum health. This varies by state with the South being the least fruit/veggies friendly and the West the most.

Why is this important? Fruits and especially vegetables contain numerous antioxidants, proteins, vitamins and minerals that reduce the occurrence of heart disease, cancer, and weight related disease(diabetes and hypertension). Some studies even correlated fruit/veggie consumption with increased longevity. There are too many studies to mention here that confirm the health benefits.

The American Heart Assoc. defines a serving of fruit as the size of a baseball or 1/2 cup chopped or 1/2 cup of juice. One serving of veggies is one cup if raw and leafy, 1/2 cup if chopped or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice. For grains, a serving is 1 slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal or pasta.

That’s great, but how do I include all this into my diet? That’s exactly what Jack LaLanne thought when he decided to juice all his fruits and veggies. His juice was better than store bought since it didn’t have the additives. He lived to 96, so it certainly worked for him.

I prefer to eat solid foods, so I put a large bowl of fruit right in the center of my kitchen. It serves as a constant reminder to eat fruit for all my snacks. I also add fruit to anything I’m eating at the time. I add raisins and apples to my oatmeal for breakfast. I add strawberries and spinach to pre-made superfood salad mixes from the grocery. I often eat a large bowl of super salad for a meal. I mix in some quinoa for more protein and I don’t get hungry afterwards. I wake up in the morning feeling lighter and hungry–I just love it and so will you–happy eating!    L. Johnson from www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)Sifferlin, A (7-9-2015) “Only 13% of Americans Eat Enough Fruit” Time. Retrieved on 7-13-2015 from: http://time.com/3950253/fruits-vegetables-intake/

The Aging Brain

Have you noticed small perceptual changes as a result of your aging brain? We are all concerned about losing our mental abilities as we age. It’s no surprise that the rate of decline is correlated to certain aspects of our physical health.  The brain’s primary function of cognition is a broad term that includes comprehension, memory, judgment and reasoning. This includes learning, decision-making, and language skills. These are skills of intelligence that we have used all our lives and taken for granted. Cognitive impairment can occur at any age, but I’m referring to Age Related Cognitive Decline or ARCD.

A normal function of aging brain is that neurons shrink and die. One of the primary reasons for this is oxidative stress, or an imbalance between reactive oxygen and the body’s ability to detoxify itself. Oxidative stress figures into Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and ARCD.

Chronic systemic inflammation caused by cigarette smoking, poor diet, insomnia, and obesity allows irritants to enter the brain. This inflammation causes a delay in reaction time and memory impairment. If you still smoke, preserving your mental functions is yet another important reason why you must stop.

Obesity and diabetes have a surprising effect on brain function. There are a number of studies that conclude that as body weight increases, brain size decreases, which leads to decreased cognitive abilities. There is a relationship between BMI (body mass index) and brain volume deficits. Childhood or midlife obesity can be a predictor of later life dementia. The cognitive impairment becomes worse when compounded with high blood pressure. Diabetes studies also show greater brain atrophy and lower test scores on performance and learning for this population.

Lack of challenging mental activity also contributes to mental decline. The brain is like a muscle that needs to be exercised. Learning new information encourages the brain to establish new neural networks that can be used to compensate for other age-related impairments in brain function.

What to do:

OXIDATIVE STRESS:  A diet rich in antioxidants foods will help mitigate the effects of oxidative stress. I have previously outlined the importance of superfoods like spirulina, green tea, and quinoa. The best antioxidant diet is plant based  rich in vegetables and fruits. A routine of moderate exercise is also very important.

INFLAMMATION:  The most important thing you can do for your brain and overall health is to not smoke. Make a list of all the anti-inflammation foods beginning with your breakfast. Green tea, cloves and ginger are high on this list. You must avoid fatty, sugary, and salty  junk foods.

YOUR WEIGHT:  Being over-weight causes so many health problems in addition to a shrinking brain. Obviously, a healthy diet with restricted calories paired with a good exercise plan is essential. I used to teach the psychology of eating in a weight reduction clinic, so I know that being involved in an organized program is the most helpful. Here is a post on how to eat less from my work in the program: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/eat-less/

MENTAL ACTIVITY: Physical activity pumps fresh oxygen into your brain and improves memory. Social activity exercises our cognition and produces endorphins. Mental exercise of establishing new neural pathways is another fun part of improving your mental abilities. You can enjoy doing crossword puzzles, playing scrabble, Sudoku, writing, solving math problems or doing any other new or challenging activity that you enjoy. The good news is that the expected cognitive decline is so gradual that most of us won’t notice, as long as we’re healthy.  L. Johnson  (www.creativeretirementforwomen.com)

Superfood: QUINOA

The superfood quinoa(KEEN-wah) has recently become popular in healthy restaurants and homes. Since quinoa is a vegetable seed and not a grain, it is low in carbohydrates, low in sodium, high in protein, high in antioxidants and gluten free. Lets take a look at why this seed is considered a superfood.

Here is a summary of a study(1) that has outlined 10 benefits of quinoa:  Quinoa is incredibly nutritious because of its protein, fiber, manganese, magnesium.  It contains the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol which are anti inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer. Its very high in fiber helping reduce blood sugar and lower cholesterol which helps with weight loss. It is gluten free. The protein contains all the essential amino acids. It’s also high in minerals where most of us fall short. It should improve your metabolic health by reducing blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels. It has one of the highest antioxidants levels on the planet.

In a life extension study(2), “Scientists continue to find evidence that this versatile grain substitute may inhibit inflammation, reduce cholesterol, quench free radicals, improve glucose levels, promote cellular energy production, support weight loss, act as a prebiotic and potentially help prevent cancer and heart disease(p97).” Quinoa contributes to your health and longevity on different levels.

There is not one food that can provide all of the essential nutrients, of course, but quinoa comes close with all of its high quality proteins. Grains often provide only partial proteins and are higher in carbs. Even the fiber in quinoa is higher compared to whole wheat or brown rice. The life extension study cites other studies which conclude that quinoa can reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides resulting in a reduction in cardiovascular disease.

You can find quinoa in most grocery stores near the rice section. Just rinse it off and cook it just like rice on the stovetop. It can be used as a side dish, but I’ve been mixing it into salads and veggie dishes. Many people use it as a breakfast cereal by adding fruit. If you haven’t tasted it yet, its a very mild flavor similar to brown rice. If you are looking for a more complex flavor, I’ve tried a mix of bulgur(durum wheat) and quinoa that works well.

The most common way I use quinoa is to mix it into my salads because it is so light and versatile. I also mix quinoa with sautéed or steamed veggies, add a little soy sauce, shrimp or chicken optional, and you have a high protein Asian entree. You can stuff avocados or bell peppers with a quinoa salad mix. You can easily replace all your rice dishes with it.  There are many recipes for quinoa on the internet and if you have a favorite, please let me know.   L. Johnson of www.creativeretiremetforwomen.com

 1. Gunnars, K (no date) “11 Proven Health Benefits of Quinoa” Retrieved on 7-9-2015 from: http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-benefits-of-quinoa/                                                                    2. Downey, M. (July 2015) “Superfood Quinoa A Complete, Gluten-Free Protein” Retrieved on 7-9-2015 from: http://www.lifeextension.com//Magazine/2015/7/Quinoa-A-Complete-Gluten-Free-Protein/Page-01

Common Worries of Women

The common worries of women may be a result of uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck there.  Once you’re aware of the cause of your particular worry, you’re on the path to resolve it. Here are the 7 most common worries(1)and what to do about it.

1. Will I end up alone? The article believes this most common of worries is senseless because we all have friends. Yes, but friends come and go and many women are referring to a partner. Anything you worry about is not senseless to you. Solution: social networking forever.

2. Do I look good? Appearance is always important no matter what stage of life. As we age, it may take a little more effort and we may have to adjust our standard. Solution: Take time to care and love yourself. The goal is not to look young, but to look healthy and fit regardless of age.

3. Will I succeed(in life)? We all have self-doubt at times and I find that some worry is motivational in this area. In the working world, our feeling of success must come from within as with many things. Solution: Don’t compare yourself to others. Set your own goals and focus on internal rewards not external symbols of success. Build your confidence with many small successes.

4. Does he like me? The article claims that if you are not worried about this, then something is wrong with you. I don’t agree that worry is the correct state of mind. This also stems from uncertainty that can be directly addressed. Solution: I believe this starts with liking and loving yourself. Relationships are complex by their nature and ongoing concern is natural. When you address the issues openly in your relationship, worry is replaced with awareness and understanding.

5. Can I afford it? We ask ourselves this most of our lives, even if you have money. That’s because it’s an inescapable reality. You will ask yourself this more often when retired or when on a fixed income. Solution: Learn more about money and investing by taking classes, joining an investment club, reading business sites, and talking to advisors. Be sure you have an eye toward advancement in your career.

6. How much longer(do I tolerate this)? This refers to being unhappy in your current situation. We all feel in a rut at times, but if you’re really unhappy, you probably need to change something. Solution: If it’s a relationship, you open up the problem solving discussion or consider counseling. If its life in general, then you want to re-write you life goals. There is nothing wrong with changing direction in midlife. Follow your passions and what’s right for you.

7. Am I healthy enough? Questioning our health is always a good idea. We tend to ask ourselves this more as we age. We all know that the difficult part is making healthy changes that stick. Solution: Our goal is not to just be on a diet, but to develop a healthy lifestyle that becomes part of our routine. Two other posts address this: How to Eat Less: http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/eat-less/ and Exercises for Women over 50 http://blog.creativeretirementforwomen.com/exercises-for-women-over-50/

In conclusion, I’ll quote Abraham Lincoln “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I do believe that happiness is a mind set, a frame of reference. So, lets set our mind today to smile when we have a worry and laugh when we make a mistake. Maybe we can’t change the past, but we can certainly feel better about it. Carpe Diem.   L. Johnson  of  www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1) Riordan, H.(no date) “7 Common Things Women Worry About.” allwomenstalk. Retrieved on 6-03-2015 from: http://lifestyle.allwomenstalk.com/common-things-women-worry-about

Superfood: SPIRULINA

Maybe you haven’t heard about the superfood spirulina yet, but its multiple health benefits might surprise you. Spirulina(Artgrisoura platensis)is an algae that grows in spirals of a green-blue color with a mild taste. Its history goes back to Aztecs who harvested it in Mexico. It is about 70% plant based protein. Since it doesn’t have hard cell walls, the protein is quickly and easily absorbed. It provides all eight essential amino acids making it easy to digest. It also provides 10 non-essential amino acids, eight minerals, and 10 vitamins. It is considered one of the best antioxidants on the planet.

Antioxidants are so important because they repair DNA cellular damage that leads to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and slow recovery from exercise. Performance athletes are well aware of this. Spirulina significantly increases exercise performance and fat oxidation(1). This study put runners on treadmills for two hours. They gave them 6 grams of spirulina a day. Blood samples were used for measurement and showed that fatigue was significantly improved and more fat was burned which continued after exercise.  This allows athletes to feel less fatigued while exercising and recover faster.

An interesting study in India focused on pan tobacco chewers(2). These people commonly have leukoplakia, a form of oral cancer. The study provided only one gram(a quarter of a teaspoon) of spirulina per day for 12 months. During this time, the lesions(an area of abnormal tissue) that were present in the subjects regressed or went away. “Complete regression of lesions was observed in 20 of 44(45%).” There was no toxicity from this use and within only one year of stopping the spirulina, 45% had recurrent lesions. So, the continual use of spirulina kept the cancer at bay.

Another study in Greece gave subjects only 1 gram a day for just 12 weeks. Through blood testing, they found reduced triglycerides, reduced high and low lipoproteins, and lower total cholesterol, all at significant levels(3). The authors described this effect as “powerful.”

If you have PKU talk with your physician regarding that amino acid. If you take anti-coagulation drugs, are pregnant, or have autoimmune disease, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor for that as well.

In terms of its form, Supirulina comes in powder, pills and tablets. In general, a powder usually has better absorption into the body. Pills and tablets often contain fillers that bind the powder together. A powder also allows you to mix it into may different drinks or meals.

I’ve personally been using organic spirulina powder for over two years and I like to mix a tablespoon into my orange juice with broccoli powder every morning. The powder is easy to find on amazon and I notice that I have more energy and am less hungry during the day. If you’re dieting, a smoker, enjoy exercise or just want more antioxidants for health reasons, this superfood is for you.      L. Johnson  www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1) Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Jan;42(1):142-51. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ac7a45.                     (2) Mathew, B et al. “Evaluttion of chemoprevention of oral cancer with Spirulina fusiformis” Nutr Cancer. 1995;24(2):197-202. Retrieved on 6-29-15 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8584455                                                                      (3)Mazokopakis, E. E., Starakis, I. K., Papadomanolaki, M. G., Mavroeidi, N. G. and Ganotakis, E. S. (2014), The hypolipidaemic effects of Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis) supplementation in a Cretan population: a prospective study. J. Sci. Food Agric., 94: 432–437. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.6261               PHOTO:  http://yurielkaim.com/7913/6-surprising-facts-spirulina-doctor-doesnt-know/