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Fruits and Vegetables for a Healthy Tan

New research from England suggests that the safest route to a golden glow is eating lots of fruits and vegetables. What's more, the tan you get from healthy eating looks better than the one you could get from baking on a beach. That’s the word from the Perception Lab at the University of Nottingham published online in December, 2010, from Evolution and Human Behavior. The investigators said that the carotenoids in fruits and vegetables are the driving force for the change in skin color. Carotenoids are antioxidants that are responsible for the red, orange and yellow colors of fruits and vegetables. The researchers reported that given the choice between skin color caused by suntan and skin color due to carotenoids, people in their studies preferred the carotenoid skin color. The lead investigator said that the findings are important because evolution would favor individuals who mate with healthier men or women. It also would seem to suggest that healthy eating is better for the appearance of your skin than tanning.


What Makes a Nutritious Lunch?

Ever wonder what nutrition researchers eat? See what was presented to the world's leading nutrition scientists and educators, who gathered in Chicago, Illinois in May of 2009 for the Nutrition and Health Conference developed by Dr. Weil. The annual conference is co-sponsored by the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and Columbia University.

What makes a nutritious diet overall? I explain how to eat the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.


Race, Location, Gender Boost High Blood Pressure Risks

Because high blood pressure increases the risks of heart disease, new data about the factors that influence blood pressure could help explain why deaths from heart attack and stroke vary by geography. A study from the University of Michigan Medical School published in the Dec. 6, 2010 online issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association reveals that race, gender and even where you live play a role in whether or not you develop high blood pressure. The study found that high blood pressure in middle age is most common in African American women, followed by African American men, Caucasian men and Caucasian women. These findings came from a 20 year study in four cities: Birmingham, AL, Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, CA.  The risks of heart disease and stroke were highest in Birmingham, followed by Oakland, Chicago and Minneapolis. Although overall deaths from heart disease and stroked dropped by 65 percent between 1968 and 2006, the researchers noted that cardiovascular deaths remain higher in the southeastern United States, in African Americans compared with Caucasians and in men compared with women.

My take? You can't do much about your gender or your race, and most people are unlikely to make a move to a different section of the U.S. to lower their risks of high blood pressure, but you can do a lot to lower or eliminate other risks. You may be able to optimize your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle measures - losing weight if necessary (even a 10 percent weight loss might do the trick), quitting smoking if that's an issue, limiting intake of caffeine (in coffee, tea and sodas) and alcohol, all of which can contribute to the problem, as well as cutting back on salt (processed foods are the biggest sources of sodium in today's Western diet) and practicing relaxation methods. If you have a family history of hypertension, lifestyle measures may not be enough to keep your blood pressure under control - you may need medication. But no one should depend on drugs alone. A healthy lifestyle, including relaxation practice, is also key to keeping blood pressure in the safe range.


The Best Cleanse?

Even though the body has sophisticated processes to keep the digestive tract healthy - especially if you support it with good nutrition, regular exercise and other healthy habits - many people are still interested in an intestinal cleanse. Instead of trying one of the trendy, dubious methods that are advertised online, I suggest a daylong or weekend "juice fast" plus some powdered psyllium seed husks to give your intestines bulk. A juice fast can be healthful and is simple to do:

  • Juice: Drink at least four 8- to 12-ounce glasses of juice daily, plus at least four 8-ounce glasses of water and, if you like, some unsweetened herbal tea. If possible, prepare the juice yourself from organically grown fruits and vegetables. One combination I like is apple, carrot and lemon juice, diluted with plain or sparkling water. If you can't make your own juices, buy natural ones without added sugar and dilute them to taste with water.
  • Psyllium Seeds: Stir one tablespoon of psyllium powder (available at health food stores) into a big glass of water, drink it, then drink another glass of plain water. Do this once a day, preferably in the morning.

While you fast, take 100 mg of vitamin C twice a day, but skip your other supplements.  A daily sauna or steam bath can help the body eliminate unwanted materials through sweating (be sure to drink extra water during and after). Also be sure to eat lightly and carefully when you end your fast in order to transition back to your normal diet.

I do not recommend sea-salt flushes for cleansing.


Vitamin D + Exercise = Fewer Falls

That's the conclusion from a review of 54 studies that included data from more than 26,000 seniors. Investigators from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force analyzed the studies in an effort to determine the best recommendations primary care physicians could make to patients age 65 and older in order to prevent falls. The injuries from these accidents are the greatest cause of death, disability and loss of independence among seniors. The incidence of falls has been rising in recent years, due in part to the increasing number of older adults in the population. The review found that taking vitamin D, with or without calcium, cut the risk of falling by an average of 17 percent. In half of the studies reviewed, the daily doses of vitamin D were greater than 800 international units. The researchers also found that exercise reduced the risk of falls by 13 percent. This benefit was seen whether the activity involved was designed to improve balance, strength and flexibility or was weight training or aerobic exercise such as walking. The review was published in the Dec. 21, 2010 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

My take? As you may know, I recommend that everyone take 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily, not only because it helps strengthen bones, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis, but also because it helps boost the immune system and protects against a number of serious diseases. Exercise is also key to maintaining optimum health in general, and to preventing falls in particular. In addition to aerobic activity, resistance training and exercises to increase flexibility and balance, I also highly recommend tai chi, a gentle form of movement training that has been shown to reduce risk of injury from falls among seniors.


Broccoli Salad with Avocado

The contrasting textures of crunchy broccoli and creamy, soft avocado make this quick salad interesting and delicious. It is rich in monounsaturated fat and full of protective phytochemicals and fiber. Don't forget to use the broccoli stems, which, if properly trimmed, are as good to eat as the florets. Cut a slice off the butt end of each large stalk and peel the stalks just below the outer fibrous layer to expose the tender, lighter-colored flesh within.


1 pound broccoli
1 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grainy prepared mustard


  1. Trim and wash the broccoli and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Steam or boil the broccoli in a large pot until it is just crunchy-tender and bright green, then drain it well, and cool.
  2. Peel and pit the avocado, then cut it into small cubes. Fold the avocado into the broccoli.
  3. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and mustard together in a small bowl, until well mixed.
  4. Toss the broccoli and avocado with the dressing.

Another favorite broccoli recipe: Vegetarian Kung Pao with Broccoli and Peanuts


Exercise May Reduce Risk of Cancer Death

Yesterday's post discussed fitness and healthy aging. Today's post further illuminates why exercise is so important.

Researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis compared the physical activity of more than 150,000 men and women, using reports gathered between 1982 and 1997. The investigative team then correlated these activity levels with cancer diagnoses between 1998 and 2005, and with cancer deaths between 1998 and 2006. They found that those who exercised on a daily or near daily basis for at least 10 years had the lowest risk of dying from colon cancer. Meanwhile, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of California, San Francisco, studied the exercise habits of 2,705 men diagnosed with prostate cancer over an 18 year period. The data suggested that those who walked 90 or more minutes per week at a normal to very brisk pace had a 46 percent lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who walked less than 90 minutes per week at an easy pace. In this study, more than three hours a week of vigorous activity was associated with a 61 percent lower risk of prostate cancer death compared with men who did less than one hour a week of vigorous activity.


Healthy Aging: Fitness

The aging process is a natural part of life, and growing old is not something to deny, avoid or fear. However, taking some simple measures now - no matter what your age - can help to make the physical and mental changes that accompany aging easier to handle. Regular exercise is an important step in the right direction, one that can help lessen the risk of disease, promote sleep, increase energy and ward off a host of health issues. Along with a sound diet, activities that stimulate your mind and social connections, exercise completes an optimum approach to aging well. Make sure that whatever type of exercise (or exercises) you decide to engage in, your body receives a workout for the heart, as well as for bones and muscles. Walking, strength training, yoga and tai chi are some good choices; talk with your physician about options that are best for you.