We have a new email newsletter! Everything you need to get started on the anti-inflammatory diet for healthy aging. Each Monday, receive actionable advice on getting started and sticking with this "eating plan for life," including seasonal food information, shopping checklists, cooking tips and foods for health. It's helpful for anyone who wants to eat for optimum health, regardless of age.
Many health professionals now recommended increasing intake of vegetables from the cruciferous family. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, rutabaga and turnips all provide vitamins and fiber and are renowned for their cancer-fighting properties, especially against prostate and breast cancer. But not everyone enjoys them. You can help keep your diet healthful and your taste buds interested by adding cruciferous vegetables to other foods you enjoy:
- Try mustard greens and sun-dried tomatoes on pizza.
- Add cauliflower to curries or collard greens to stir-fries.
- Roast Brussels sprouts and turnips as a side dish - garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked pepper.
- Break cauliflower into small pieces and roast for snacking, as an alternative to popcorn.
Cruciferous vegetables giving you gas?
This vegetable-platter classic - along with other cruciferous vegetables - is tasty both raw and cooked, and is a standout in soups, casseroles and salads. I have long recommended broccoli as part of a healthful diet. This versatile vegetable:
- Promotes a healthy nervous system. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which can help calm and nourish nerve fibers.
- Supports bone health. Broccoli is a good source of vitamin K and calcium - both of which help keep bones strong and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Can improve energy through its high levels of vitamin C, a micronutrient which supports the normal processes of cellular energy production.
The nutrients in broccoli may also help protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts and birth defects, while promoting a strong immune system and supporting optimal gastrointestinal function. One of the healthiest ways to prepare broccoli is to lightly steam it, which can help to retain the nutritional components better than other methods such as boiling.
If you do like broccoli, try these recipes. If you don’t like broccoli, read tomorrow’s post for some healthy cruciferous alternatives.
One of the most popular American quick breads, cornbread is traditionally made with milk or buttermilk and eggs. This vegan alternative can be spiced up with chopped jalapenos or green chile for a delicious Southwestern twist.
1 ¼ cups yellow cornmeal (organic and stone ground, if possible)
1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ cups boiling water mixed with 2 tablespoons expeller-pressed canola oil, plus a little extra for oiling the skillet
1. Heat oven to 425° F. Lightly oil a cast-iron skillet with a little canola oil. Heat it in the oven while you mix the cornbread batter.
2. In a large bowl stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, brown sugar and salt.
3. Add the boiling water mixed with 2 tablespoons canola oil and stir to mix, but do not overbeat. Add additional hot water if necessary to make a light batter.
4. Spoon batter into the hot cast-iron skillet. Batter should sizzle when it contacts the skillet. Bake 30 minutes or until the cornbread is light brown on top and springs back to the touch.
5. Cut into wedges and serve.
Food as Medicine: Coarse, stoneground cornmeal is a significant source of dietary fiber, which is important to healthy bowel function. Diets high in fiber have also been shown to help in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
Try this cornbread alongside my Vegetarian Chili for a full meal.
Inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A study from researchers at Emory University School of Medicine revealed a possible link between poor quality of sleep or not enough sleep and inflammation. The researchers evaluated sleep quality in a survey of 525 middle-aged men and women. They found that participants who reported sleeping six hours or less had higher levels of three inflammatory markers: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP). Notably, CRP levels were 25 percent higher in individuals who reported sleeping fewer than six hours a night compared to those who reported sleeping six to nine hours. The difference remained significant even after controlling for other risk factors including smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Even with the increase in inflammatory activity, the researchers noted that CRP levels among this group were still in the range of what is considered low to medium risk. Earlier research has shown that sleeping between seven and eight hours a night is associated with longer lives. The researchers aren't sure exactly how short hours of sleep may contribute to heart disease deaths. The data were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago this month.
Despite the advertising hype for various neon-colored concoctions, good old water is actually the best "sports drink" available. While some sports drinks can raise blood sugar and recharge electrolytes, many also contain unnecessary calories, artificial colorants, sweeteners and flavorings, and caffeine and other stimulants as well. If you exercise for less than 60 minutes at a time, water is your best bet for avoiding dehydration and improving your performance. There's no need for casual exercisers who eat a balanced diet to replenish potassium and sodium during a moderate workout - leave that to the endurance athletes. To avoid dehydration, however, you should drink plenty of water before, during and after working out, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate.
More on the essential nutrient that is water.
If you have noticed a change in your voice - and you aren't a boy going through puberty – it may simply be a natural part of aging. Both the volume and quality of the voice is affected as we grow older, often resulting in a pitch change or slight breathiness or hoarseness when speaking. This is due to normal changes in the vocal cords: in men, the cords tend to become thinner, smaller and vibrate faster, resulting in a higher pitch. In women, the vocal cords can thicken and vibrate less, resulting in a deeper voice. Cartilage tissue in the larynx also becomes stiffer and less flexible, frequently causing a weaker-sounding voice.
To help prevent or reduce the effect of aging on the voice, try using your voice more - those with a trained singing or public speaking background often maintain stronger voices as they age. Also - don't smoke: it accelerates the voice changes associated with aging.
More on healthy aging: having a good attitude
Plain old, garden-variety procrastination is very common. But whether it is related to work, home or personal life, chronic indecisiveness and delay can eventually undermine a healthy lifestyle. The good news is there are simple ways to help overcome these tendencies. You can address procrastination - through behavioral workshops, group therapy, individual therapy, or with some of the following lifestyle strategies:
- Break large jobs into small ones. Start with a yearly plan, break it down into months, then weeks, then days. Feel free to specify detailed tasks for the days and weeks only a month or so in advance.
- Organize your environment. Chaotic surroundings can be distracting and stressful, and pull your focus from the task at hand.
- Schedule your time. If you need to, awake an hour earlier or use part of your break time as a temporary strategy to get tasks accomplished.
- Set reasonable goals. Trying to achieve too much in too little time can actually set you back.
- Set deadlines to accomplish your larger tasks. When you achieve them, treat yourself to some flowers or a small piece of dark chocolate.
- Pace yourself. Work on a task you've been postponing for ten minutes and then decide whether or not to continue. If you discontinue the task, schedule another time to get it done.