Tag Archives: diets

Stevia Replaces Sugar

Stevia is healthier than sugar because it has zero calories, has little aftertaste, has no effect on blood sugar, and is 200 times sweeter than sugar(1). The Stevia plant, sterol glycosides, originates in South America and is part of the sunflower(Aster) family. It has been used there for 100s of years to sweeten drinks and food. Stevia was approved for use by the FDA in 2008.

We all grew up on sugar and have been suffering the consequences ever since. Lets count the ways that sugar is quietly hurting us according to studies: 1. Sugar increases your cancer risk 2. It increases your risk of heart disease 3. It causes insulin resistance(diabetes) 4. It decays your teeth 5. It increases your calories and weight 6. It is addictive due to the dopamine effect 7. It can overload your liver leading to fatty liver disease.

According to the Life Extension(1) article, the most important dietary step you can take to decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and other age related diseases, is to avoid elevations of blood sugar and insulin after eating. A study is mentioned that gave Stevia(250 mg) to subjects three times a day for one year. The results were a significant and lasting decrease in blood pressure for patients with mild to moderate hypertension. The benefits were so effective at lowering blood pressure, it is now suggested as an alternative therapy.

Stevia additional health benefits work as a diuretic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-tumor, and immunological agent. Additionally, subjects who ate stevia felt more satisfied on less calories and did not eat more throughout the day. This is most likely because blood sugar and insulin levels remained stable. Stevia can actually help reverse insulin resistance to prevent diabetes.

I find the contrast between the hazards of sugar and the benefits of Stevia, to be night and day. I find it amazing that the FDA took so long to approve it and that its inclusion into drinks and foods is slow to materialize. But, as health oriented people, we can take charge of our own diets. I have personally been using Stevia for a couple of years now and I have to honestly say that I do not miss sugar at all. In fact, I find myself using less and less sweeteners because Stevia helps me slowly lose the taste for sweetness.

When buying Stevia, I was surprised that it was not in my local grocery store. I find health food stores overpriced in my area, so I head for the internet. Since Stevia is packaged under different brand names, just check the ingredients. It’s okay to be sweet again.   L. Johnson      http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Iafelice, R. Superfoods: Sweet As Sugar. Life Extension Magazine, 2014 Feb. 95-99


The best diets are ranked by doctors, nutritionalists and dietitians for U. S. News and World Report(1) annually. There are many factors that go into the ranking like its heart and diabetes ratings, weight loss potential, ease of following and best plant based diets. These different ratings are combined to afford its overall rating.

One of the first things you notice reviewing the list is how the trendy diets are near the bottom. Here is a list of the top and bottom five diets:

The Worst:

The Fast Diet–weak on dietary guidance when not fasting

Atkins–good for weight loss, not for nutrition or heart health

Raw food–3rd for weight loss, but too hard to follow

Dukan–not proven with a ton of rules

Paleo–not proven and ignores certain food groups, hard to follow

The Best:

DASH diet-(Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension)This started out to lower blood pressure, but ranks high due to its safety, nutritional completeness and prevention of diabetes and blood pressure.

TLC diet (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) was created by the National Institutes of Health. Its described as a complete diet and is especially heart healthy. Its a do-it-yourself diet, so you just get organized with meal planning.

Mayo Clinic Developed at the clinic to make healthy eating a lifestyle. It has great nutritional balance and safety, but not necessarily as a weight loss diet.

Mediterranean Diet This diet is heavy into veggies and fruits, olive oil, fish, nuts, and grains. It’s a longevity diet, but not necessarily for weight loss.

Weight Watchers The only commercial diet on the top 5. It’s a nutritionally sound diet that’s easy to follow and has group support to encourage weight loss.

I found it interesting that cancer prevention wasn’t included as part of the ranking criteria considering it’s the second cause of death in the U.S.(heart disease is first). A plant based diet is good for cancer prevention as many of these are, but you may want a more specific diet. For example, we know that onions, mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables provide more cancer protection than other veggies. So, adapting a diet specific to cancer is better than a general good diet, if that is your situation.

After examining the details of these diets, I find the DASH and the Mediterranean diets to be similar with their heavy emphasis on whole grains and veggies. I personally follow the Mediterranean diet because I have a cerebrovascular(stroke) history in my ancestry and I like the freedom it provides. I encourage you to choose a diet based on your genetic predispositions as well. So, take a little time to find out your family medical history to help determine your direction. Then you can choose a diet specific to your genes and family history. Bon Appetite.

L. Johnson        www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

(1)U.S. News staff. Jan. 2015. “Best diets overall” Retrieved on 9-14-15 from website: health.usnews.com/best-diet/best-overall-diets

Over-Cooking Causes Cancer

Over-Cooking your foods is a slow way of shortening your life. A recent article discovers startling dangers when foods are cooked at high temperatures. Studies reveal that, “breast and prostate cancers are sharply increased in those who eat heavily cooked meat such as hamburgers(1)”.

It is not confined to low quality meat such as ground beef. When any food is cooked above 300 degrees, damaging chemical changes occur. Upon ingesting this chemically altered food, we are exposed to mutagens that effect our DNA by increasing cancer risk. This altered food also causes glycation and inflammation that destroy our body’s proteins which leads to premature aging.

If you are skeptical about the proof, please see the life extension reference at the end of the article. This study included over 100 supporting scientific studies. These studies discuss how well done steak, bacon, and hamburgers dramatically increase breast cancer risk. Eating deep fried foods are even worse due to their link to a wide number of cancers. Even over cooking healthy foods like fish, can create a similar danger.

What to do: This article really woke me up and scared me into changing my cooking routine. The worst methods of cooking are deep frying, oven broiled and pan fried. The best methods are steaming, stewing, poaching and boiling. If you never had steamed fish, it’s much moister and cleaner than other methods.  It turns out that small changes in cooking make all the difference. You can boil eggs in the morning rather than fry them. If you are a big meat eater, consider stewing meats which also makes them very tender and flavorful. Steaming all your veggies also helps keeps the nutrients intact.

Besides cooking better, eating cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) contain Idole-3-carbinol which offers protection against cancers caused by over cooking. Chlorophyllin, the green pigment from plants, is also another way to mitigate this damaging effect. If you are a big fan of bar-b-q or grilling, you might consider this supplement. Chlorophyllin is sometimes sold as an herbal supplement, so be sure you get a high quality product with proper absorption.

A positive attitude about making healthy changes is just part of our lifestyle. I am research driven and absolutely determined to get the best out of life. I’ve already eliminated foods from my diet like beef, pork, butter, deep fried foods, etc. I figure that it’s never too late to get healthier. If that means making changing the way I cook to improve health and increase longevity, I look forward to it.  L.  Johnson from: http://www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Fallon, Wm., “Live Longer by Changing How You Cook”. Life Extension 2015 Aug. Vol.21. No.8, p7-15.

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/

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/



How to eat less is easier than you may think. When I taught a class in the psychology of eating for the weight reduction program, we made a few easy adjustments that actually worked to change habits. Changing habits can occur when new behaviors are practiced and supported. Here are a few of the important principles to follow:

1. STRESS MANAGEMENT: We all need a stress reduction list of replacement behaviors to follow. Rather than eat when stressed, we will: 1. Take a walk; 2. Call a friend; 3. Meditate; 4. Go dancing or whatever you put on your list. What has worked best is to practice your replacement behavior as soon as you get home from work every day. You reduce your stress before it builds while creating a healthy habit.

2. CONTROL YOUR TRIGGERS: When we see or smell food, it causes or triggers a biochemical change in our brain of increased gherkin, a hormone that causes hunger. Stores place impulse items near the check out area counting on this effect. Start out making a list of the things that trigger hunger in you. The common ones are TV and magazine food ads, shopping when hungry, eating out, and talking about food. I like to mute and look away from TV ads, eat before I shop, eat out less, and avoid concession stands.

3. SOCIAL SUPPORT: The more people you involve in you diet plan, the more likely it is to work. In the diet clinic, we would always pair people so they could exercise, dine, and socialize together. When one didn’t feel like taking a walk, their partner would call with encouragement. Husbands sometime feel threatened when their wife loses weight and looks better. So, they need to be a support too.

4. SLOW DOWN: I guess we are all in a rush because Americans eat very fast. The food goes down so fast, it doesn’t register with your brain. So, we keep eating until we are stuffed. One preventative technique we use is to count your chews and take smaller bites. If that’s too boring, just put your fork down between bites.

5. NO TELEVISION: TV distracts us from paying attention to our intake. The main behavior that’s correlated with being obese is TV watching while snacking. I wish I could find the source. It’s easy to just dine at the table especially if others are eating. I’m single, but I still eat at the table with a book or relaxing music. It’s an enjoyable period of calmness in a hectic day.

There are more principles, but these should be enough to get you started that fall under the category of easy to do. Once you get used to these replacement behaviors, you do them without thinking. So, go ahead and make your list, get people involved, and have fun with your new lifestyle.    More at: www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Green Tea and Dr. Oz


Regardless of how we feel about Dr. Oz or green tea, we still want to get the best advice based on the best research. He has taken a lot of flack over his weight loss program that does not involve diet or exercise. So, lets take a look at the green tea part.

Dr. Oz’s Rapid Belly Melt Plan includes green tea as one of the three parts. The green, white, black, oolong and matcha teas are all derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Each of these teas are harvested from a different part of the plant and processed or oxygenated differently. Amazing-green-tea.com(1) has identified 16 green tea benefits:

1. ANTIOXIDANT EFFECT: The catechins in tea can prevent heart disease, strokes and cancers.
2. EXERCISE LONGER AND BURN FAT: Exercise endurance increases as the catechins burn fat and enable you to exercise longer.
3. CANCER PREVENTION: Tea blocks the production of destructive enzymes that promote cancer.
4. SLOWS AGING: Studies show the more tea consumed, the less change of premature death.
5. REDUCES STRESS WHILE INCREASING CONCENTRATION: Theanine in tea calms the body by producing alpha brain waves and results better attention spans.
6. CARDIOVASCULAR PROTECTION: The epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in tea speeds the recovery process from heart attacks and strokes while reducing heart disease risk.
7. BLOOD PRESSURE: Tea drinkers are 65% less likely to develop hypertension.
8. DIABETES: Tea tends to regulate blood sugar levels by increasing insulin activity.
9. INFLAMMATION REDUCTION: This is especially for women who are three times more likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis caused by inflammation.
10. LUNGS: Cell damage caused by cigarettes leading to lung cancer is reduced.
11. ARTERIES: Tea helps inhibit arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
12. ORAL HEALTH: Green tea fights mouth viruses, tooth decay, and bad breath.
13. LIVER PROTECTION: It reduces liver damage from alcohol and possible other substances.
14. OSTEOPOROSIS: Tea preserves bone density and reduces this risk.
15. IMMUNE RESPONSE:  Antigens found in tea can increase our immunity level.
16. HYDRATION: There is a myth held by some doctors that any caffeine dehydrates you. It turns out that not only does tea hydrate you, you get all the extra benefits as well.

There are thousands of scientific studies on green tea that confirm the above results. The most antioxidant potent of the teas is Matcha, then white, green, oolong, and black tea. Matcha is simply green tea leaves grounded to a power. It’s then mixed into hot water like instant coffee. This is over 100 times more potent than just pouring hot water over leaves. I’ve been drinking matcha for about two years now and it has replaced coffee. It is a much calmer alertness in my opinion and I love the health benefits.

So, the studies certainly support Dr. Oz’s recommendation of green tea. Maybe some of you have visited an Asian tea tasting room that is popping up in many metro areas. This is a good way to become familiar with the world of teas. The finer teas available in the tea rooms or online are greatly improved over the cheaper bag teas and are much easier on the stomach.

1. Amazing Green Tea Staff.(2014 copyright) “Green tea benefits: The 16 things that make miracles possible”. From ‪amazing-green-tea.com‬.
Photo: Ruven Afanador

More:             ‪www.creativeretirementforwomen.com‬

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet

In our attempt to find the best diet for health and longevity, the research behind the Mediterranean diet certainly seems to put it in that category. If you eat the Mediterranean diet, studies show that your will not only have longer life expectancy, but will reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and hypertension. So, your quality of life can improve as well. This is primarily due to the use of olive oil in place of other saturated fats like butter.

I recently discovered a recipe oriented book with a ton of ideas and even a daily meal planner.  There are a few different variations of the diet and this one allows meat and desserts. It all has to be cooked in a clean and healthy manner, of course.  But, I honestly believe we can enjoy this type of diet and not feel deprived while improving our health.

The book is The Mediterranean Prescription by A. Acquista, M.D. and his first point is to know the difference between the different types of fats.  The goal is to consume unsaturated fat as in olive oil and plant based foods while reducing trans and saturated fats.  Don’t worry, it’s all spelled out on the package labels and recipes in his book. Many people are staying away from wheat or starch these days, but there are good and bad starches too. Organic whole grain bread, for example, is one of the most healthy foods available. It’s prudent to avoid the white starches in bread, pasta, and rice and just replace them with the whole grain versions. Some studies even correlate how much whole grain products you eat to how long you will live.

In case you are new to the Mediterranean diet, Dr. Acquista lists the 12 guiding principles:

1. Eat lots of fruits.                2. Eat lots of vegetables.            3. Eat lots of legumes

4. Eat nuts and seeds         5. Eat whole grains            6. Use olive oil on salads and cooking

7. Eat low-fat dairy products in moderation       8. Eat fish     9. Eat the right fats (have a high

ratio of unsaturated fats to saturated fats)    10.  Regular physical activity 

11. Drink Wine(red)        12.  Very small portions of other meats.

Most studies say that one daily glass of wine is most beneficial for women and two for men. There are a few variations of this diet and some allow small amounts of red meat. In terms of pork and red meat, I find it easier to just eliminate them altogether. I’m avoiding the saturated fat and the cholesterol because I have a history of strokes in my family.       L.J

More at:     www.creativeretirementforwomen.com

Acquista, A. M.D., The Mediterranean Prescription, New York: Ballantine Books, 2006, p.17.      Chart: hellthhylifestylelive. com