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Wednesday
Dec162009

3 Simple Alzheimer's Disease Prevention Ideas

To help preserve mental function and protect against age-related cognitive decline including dementia and Alzheimer's disease, consider implementing these healthy lifestyle strategies:

  1. Get 30 minutes of physical activity per day. Regular physical exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, can help slow memory loss and improve mental function.
  2. Develop healthy habits in all aspects of life. Not smoking, drinking only in moderation, staying socially involved, managing stress, getting adequate rest, and cultivating a positive attitude and outlook - have all been associated with a lowered risk of Alzheimer's.
  3. Keep an active mind. "Use it or lose it" applies to mental as well as physical health. Enjoy crossword puzzles, mind games, challenging reading, and take educational classes.
Tuesday
Dec152009

A Note on Walnuts

Walnuts are a mainstay of my nutrition recommendations, walnuts are an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids, protective fats that promote cardiovascular health, cognitive function, and anti-inflammatory activity. (I recommend eating omega-3 fats daily to help protect the body against heart attack, stroke, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.) Walnuts also provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, ellagic acid, an immune-supportive antioxidant compound, and high levels of the essential amino acid l-arginine, which promotes healthy blood pressure.

Tuesday
Dec152009

A Note on Bell Peppers

Available in appetizing colors including green, yellow, orange, red and black, bell peppers are a crunchy, refreshing way to add aesthetic appeal and nutrients to your meals. A low-calorie vegetable, bell peppers are excellent sources of vitamins A and C and provide dietary fiber, folic acid and vitamin B6. Plus, if you choose red bell peppers, you will be getting lycopene, an important carotenoid that helps protect against prostate and other cancers.

Monday
Dec142009

Yoga for a Bad Back

Iyengar yoga can help to relieve low back pain. New evidence from West Virginia University suggests that Iyengar training not only eased back pain and improved mobility, it also reduced symptoms of depression among study participants who had been suffering with lower back pain for more than three months. Researchers divided 90 patients into two groups - one group attended two yoga classes per week for 24 weeks while the other group received the usual care for back pain, which included medication. After 24 weeks, the yoga group reported less pain and less disability than the "usual care" group and scored better on a standard measure of depression symptoms. In addition, six months after the study ended, patients in the yoga group were still doing better, on average. Iyengar yoga stresses proper body alignments and uses props including blocks, blankets and walls to support participants in performing yoga poses. If you decide to try it, be sure to find a certified instructor who is experienced in therapeutic Iyengar yoga, the research leader advised. The study was published in the September 2009 issue of Spine.

Saturday
Dec122009

Healthy Holiday Drinks

The best way to minimize empty calories this holiday is to limit sugary and alcoholic drinks, or avoid them all together (yesterday I talked about unhealthy holiday drinks). But that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy traditional beverages, just be sure to moderate your intake of sugars and alcohol, and drink water between cocktails to keep hydrated. The following drinks are lower-calorie holiday options when you want something sweet or alcoholic.

  1. Sparkling non-alcoholic punch. The calories can vary, but most holiday punch can easily be diluted with additional sparkling water to reduce calories and sugars. If you are making your own punch at home, use unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate.
  2. Red wine. The antioxidant activity of red wine has been linked to heart health benefits, reduced stress, and even preserving memory. Limit yourself to a six-ounce glass, which typically has about 120 calories.
  3. Hot toddy. A combination of lemon, honey, cinnamon, cloves and brandy, this beverage has between 100 and 150 calories and provides some vitamin C thanks to the lemon juice.
  4. Champagne. This celebratory drink has about 90 calories in a four-ounce glass. 
Friday
Dec112009

Unhealthy Holiday Drinks

With the holiday season beginning in North America, parties and gatherings are sure to be part of your social calendar. You can help minimize empty calories this holiday season with our list of unhealthy drinks to avoid.

Eggnog: Made with milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, eggnog can pack up to 460 calories in an 8-ounce serving - not including added alcohol. Think of it as an indulgent dessert, and limit yourself to one glass during the holidays; sip it slowly to savor the taste.

Other beverages with alcohol: Watch your overall alcohol consumption during the holidays, as its calories can add up after just a few glasses. Be especially aware of beverages that contain added sugars, creams and other unhealthy fats, such as:

  • White Russians. This cream-and-Kahlua concoction can have as much as 350 calories in a six-ounce serving.
  • Hot buttered rum. Hot melted butter, rum and brown sugar make this holiday classic top out at 350 calories per eight-ounce serving.
  • Tom and Jerry. A hot version of eggnog, this combination of eggs, milk, rum and spices has between 340 and 460 calories per eight-ounce serving.

(Tomorrow I'll cover healthier options!)

Thursday
Dec102009

Eating to Keep Your Mind Sharp

The more antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet, the greater your chances of keeping your wits about you as you get older. German researchers in collaboration with investigators at Temple University in Philadelphia and Italy's Perugia University looked at the relationship between fruit and vegetable intake, antioxidant status and cognitive performance in 193 healthy men and women aged 45 to 102. Those who ate the most fruits and vegetables (400 grams or about 14 ounces per day), had higher plasma antioxidant levels, lower indicators of free-radical damage and better cognitive performance than healthy subjects regardless of age who consumed less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of fruits and vegetables daily. The findings were independent of factors that can influence antioxidant and cognitive status including age, gender, body mass index, education level, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and levels of the liver protein albumin that can indicate liver or kidney disease. The study was published in the August, 2009, issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Wednesday
Dec092009

4 Vegetarian Holiday Dish Ideas

I have long advised people to eat less animal protein as a strategy to lower their intake of saturated fats and avoid environmental toxins. While traditional holiday meals are centered around meat-based entrées, eating habits are evolving and people understand that less meat is better for their health. This year, consider serving a vegetarian holiday meal - or at the very least, provide some of these options for your vegetarian friends and family members. Try the following healthy tweaks this holiday season.

  1. Put the emphasis on familiar meatless dishes - mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed vegetables and crisp green salads are already staples at many holiday meals - make these the stars of the dinner!
  2. Swap out vegetable broth for chicken stock in dishes that call for it. You can also look for vegetarian versions of “chicken” and "beef" stock for side dishes such as gravy and wild rice casserole.
  3. Substitute beans, legumes and other protein-rich plant-based foods for meat in recipes. Tempeh and other whole soy products such as tofu or edamame are also good sources of vegetable protein.
  4. Try new types of cuisine. Celebrate other cultures by incorporating dishes from around the world - many ethnic cuisines offer meat-free entrees, and you may not miss the meat when you have new flavors to entice you!