Women over 50: Beautiful and Fit!

Menopause is a natural biological process and in brief terms it is the time when a woman stops menstruating.  The hormones estrogens and progesterone production will be low and the ovaries no longer produces eggs. In women estrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries. It is also produced in fat cells and adrenal glands.

Most women approaching menopause will have hot flashes, a feeling of warmth spreading over the entire body resulting in profuse sweating.  The hot flashes varies from mild to severe, among women.  Mood swing, irritability, insomnia, headache are also common symptoms during this period.  No worries! Regular aerobic activities will help control all these symptoms.

Post-Menopause is tied to long-term health problems if healthy food intake and regular physical activity is not practiced. The loss of estrogens along with unhealthy food habits and sedentary lifestyle might lead to the following complications:

Drop in estrogen levels has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The hormone estrogen help protect the inner layer of the artery wall, thereby keeping the blood vessel flexible.  Which means they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow. So, Menopause does not cause the heart disease. It is the decline in the hormone estrogen that is considered one among the causes of heart diseases. As per American heart association, women should do 150 mins of physical activity each week to prevent the heart diseases. Walking, dancing, cycling and swimming are good aerobic activities women can enjoy to keep themselves fit. Regular consumption of omega rich fish like-salmon, tuna, mackerel, nuts like almonds and walnuts are considered good for heart health along with whole grains, lean protein meats, fruits and vegetables.

The influence of estrogen on osteoporosis

In women bones are protected by the hormone estrogen. During post–menopause there is no production of estrogen through ovaries and the body depends only on fat cells as a source of this bone protecting hormone. During the first half of the life, there is a balance between the bone formation and the bone loss. But in the first few years after menopause, a woman may lose bone density rapidly.   That is, more bone being broken down than formed. The lower a person’s bone density, the higher the risk of developing osteoporosis, a progressive disease that makes the bones get weaker and increases the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures

Weight – bearing exercises, 3-4 times a week will help prevent osteoporosis. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, climbing stairs, dancing are all good weight-bearing exercises. Women should consume foods rich in calcium & vitamin D. Along with regular weight-bearing activities, foods like, milk and dairy products (low-fat), seafood like salmon, sardines, egg, dry beans, vitamin C rich fruits and green leafy vegetables will help build bones throughout your life.

During the menopausal transition, women are more prone to overweight / obesity.

When women go through menopause, their metabolism declines.  If the diet and the daily calorie requirement is not controlled, the excess amount of calories consumed will be stored as fat.

Consuming a balanced meals that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates along with regular moderate activities 30 mins every day, will help maintain the weight.

After menopause, obese women are at higher risk of breast cancer.

Estrogens created by fat cells have been linked to breast cancer formation in obese women. Estrogens are essential for women, but higher the estrogens, the greater the driving force behind breast cancer. Fat cells are very active cells that creates estrogen. Excess amount of body fat cells will produce more estrogen which in turn increases the insulin production. Insulin, a hormone, delivers glucose into the cells where it will be stored as fat.  Excess the fat you have, higher the levels of estrogen and eventually higher the insulin production.  The more the insulin in the blood, higher the storage of glucose to fat. And the cycle goes on and on.

“Excess” fat: the main culprit.

Regular exercise will help reduce the body fat which eventually decreases the risk of developing breast cancer with no side effects. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radishes, watercress, and mustard greens will in addition help protect the cells against cancer.

Regular exercise and food rich in wholegrains, fruits & green leafy vegetables, low-fat dairy products, nuts, fish, lean meat, dry beans will help you stay healthy after menopause.

 

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Sugar Rush: Insulin Spike

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If you want your days to be more productive and rewarding, launch them with a nourishing meal. You will be more productive all day long if you could just invest few minutes in eating a healthy breakfast. Yes. A healthy breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day! Hot cereal or granola or an egg omelette with toast that jump-starts the brain, and fire up the metabolism and gives you energy that lasts till midday, sounds great!  But not all food is created equal. Foods burn at different speed. Sugary cereal and drinks goes up faster than the food packed with little fat and protein.

What you eat impacts your insulin level. Unable to believe? Do you know that more than any other hormones in our body our diet is key in regulating the insulin level?

Everything you eat is converted to sugar. Yes… The carbohydrates, the fats, the proteins are converted to glucose, that ends up in your blood, and are ready to travel around the body, no matter where they come from your meal!

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Fast foods are more tempting especially when you are hurry and hungry. They are a complete package of fats, calories and sodium that leads to your “blood sugar soaring!” Do you know that fast food meals spikes blood sugar levels by 30% even in a healthy person? An average hamburger size in early 60s were just 1.5 oz/42.5g but today it is more than 8 oz/227g! Can you imagine the sugar rush! The regular sodas and juices in this package are loaded with sugars and in fact, your body doesn’t need so much!

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Your body is unprepared for this sudden sugar rush, and have to release a massive amount of insulin all at once to deal with the rise in blood sugar. High spike in insulin lead to a dramatic drop in blood glucose, which can cause your body to feel hungry again. What next? You will end up eating more food since you are hungry and the cycle repeats. The sad thing is the frequent sugar rush and the insulin spikes can lead to mood swings, constipation, and lower your energy levels. Ultimately it can worsen the diabetes condition and promote weight gain. In addition to this cycle repetition, the huge amount of sodium that is hidden in the food will increase your blood pressure, too!

Sugar rush, insulin spike, high blood pressure, weight gain and all these together, sounds terrific!

What you eat with your carbohydrate also matters. Sugar level rises about 15 to 20 minutes after you eat. But it peaks the same time if your meal is with quickly digested carbs like white bread, white rice, candy, soda and juice! Larger the portions of processed carbs higher the spike of sugar! Eating too much food can make you feel uncomfortable and tired.

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If your meal is very well balanced with complex carbohydrates, protein, fats, and fiber, the blood sugar tend to peak about one to two hours after eating. Protein and fats tend to slow down the absorption of glucose. A bowl of rice with beans / lean meat and vegetables will naturally reduce the blood sugar impact of the whole meal! Beans are digested slowly, hence the small impact. You can enjoy your dessert too, as long as it is a part of a healthy meal plan that is combined with exercise.

So, you need to be mindful of portion sizes, the quality of the carbohydrates, proteins and high fat add-on like salad dressings, sauces and cheese.

It is wise to stay away from high GI foods like white bread / rice and sugary drinks. Rice cakes & crackers, baked potato, breakfast cereals, cakes & scones, donuts, made of refined flour are High in GI

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Eat less refined carbohydrate and more whole foods like apple, plums, beans, lentils, barley, whole meal bread, nuts, pasta, green jade noodles, buck wheat soba noodle, shirataki noodle that are low in GI. Other Asian noodles like udon, rice vermicelli, hokkien-mee  are medium in GI

Large spike in insulin can cause muscle loss!

The body normally combats low blood sugar by releasing energy from stored fat, but the high level of insulin will not allow this process to happen. The only source of energy left in this situation is protein. Your body will breakdown the protein. You gain fat and at the same time you loose muscle. Not a good sign!

High insulin, turns off the fat burning and turns on the fat storage switch. This is not we want!  We only want the fat to be broken down for energy generation and this can be achieved only when the insulin levels are low!

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Eating meals rich in whole grains, lean meat, unsaturated fats, nuts, fruits & vegetables at regular intervals along with regular exercise – combination of aerobics, strength and stretching exercises, for 30 minutes every day, will help to keep the insulin and blood sugar well balanced.

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References:

http://www.webmd.com

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/fitness/basics/stretching-and-flexibility/hlv-20049447

http://www.glycemicindex.com/

http://www.diabetes.org

 

Flashy fruits & vegetables: To strike out cancer!

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If you are concerned about lowering the risk of cancer, take comfort in the fact that “Some simple lifestyle changes can make big difference.” Yes, the primary prevention of cancer is through better lifestyles like  healthy eating, regular physical activity, smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, UV-exposure reduction and screen to precancerous lesions.

Maintain a healthy weight

A BMI of 25 or less is optimal. Waist size should also be considered, for higher the amount of body fat deposited in and around the waist signifies higher risk of cancer. Having too much belly fat is linked with an increased risk of colorectal, prostate pancreas, edometrium( linging of the uterus) and breast cancer ( in women past menopause). Higher intake of dietary fat & alcohol and low level of exercise is the leading cause of colorectal and prostate cancer in men. Men tend to accumulate more fats than women!! It is obvious that all men should lose the belly fat to reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.  In women, though estrogen levels dip during the menopause, far more women experiences the symptoms of estrogen dominance-the increase in hunger and  the decrease in metabolism,  that leads to fat gain around the waist! Gaining weight after menopause will increase the risk of breast cancer in women. So, after 40 years, women should focus on small-frequent -healthy meals with regular physical activity to maintain their weight. 

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If you are overweight or obese, no worries…………. Just work to lose the weight! Excess body fat can be reduced by lowering the number of calories you consume (lowering the portion size), choosing a low-fat diet, and increasing the physical activity!

Regular physical activity will help reduce your risk of cancer and recurrence through several powerful and synergistic mechanism. Strive for at least 30 mins of moderate aerobic exercise. Combining aerobic and resistance exercise will have a wonderful effect on glycemic control in individual with type 2 diabetes. Enjoy performing some light stretching exercises often.

EXERCISE IS LIKE A SEAT BELT THAT CAN REDUCE YOUR CANCER RISK”

Eat healthy food

Healthy selections at the grocery stores and at mealtime will help reduce your cancer risk.

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  • Fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and pulses are generally low in calories and fat. They are considered the good food choices that help you control your weight and reduce your cancer risk. They are also rich in vitamins & minerals that strengthen the immune system. Dark colored beans, vegetables & fruits are high in antioxidants which prevent the cell damage that leads to cancer. The fibers, linked to reduce the cancer risk! Scientists at Cancer Prevention Institute of California have found that a diet high in fruits & vegetables may significantly reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Eating lots of vegetables, especially cooked tomato-based foods, rich in lycopene, can lower the risk of prostate cancer in men. Watermelon, grapefruit, red & pink guava are also good sources of lycopene. Aviary Photo_130279416386388766
  • Berries are high in antioxidant properties. Blueberries rank number one in terms of their antioxidant power. Antioxidants neutralizes the free radicals, an unstable compounds that damage the cells and lead to diseases including cancer.  Aviary Photo_130298342051170378Grab the blue berries!  
  • Eating a diet high in fiber can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Dietary fibers protect against breast cancer through inhibition of the intestinal reabsorption of estrogen.
    • Soluble fiber has been shown to be more effective in controlling the blood glucose, insulin, which have been positively related to the risk of breast cancer.
    • Insoluble fiber are more effective in binding and excreting estrogen. 

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  • Nut eaters are less likely to die of cancer! The unsaturated fatty acids, minerals and other nutrients from heart-healthy peanuts, almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pistachios are not only cardio protective, also anti-carcinogenic, and with antioxidant properties, that aid in lowering the cholesterol, inflammation and reducing the risk of cancer. Nuts are goods sources of selenium, that helps destroy cancer cells and aid cells repair their DNA. Enjoy a handful of nuts with fresh green salads rich in fibers, vitamins & minerals and antioxidants.

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  • Choose wholegrain, for refined foods are high in GI, the glycemic index. Research has shown that women even with BMI < 25, had an increased risk of breast cancer with an increasing amount of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates!!!
  • Limit eating processed meat like – smoked, cured, salted, added preservatives, for the diet high in processed meat is linked to bowel cancer!
  • Controlling the intake of foods high in calories, fats and sugar will help reduce the risk of bowel and breast cancers!
  • Culinary herbs like garlic, mint, basil, oregano, cilantro (coriander leaves), chives, parsley not only add flavor and color to meals, they also help to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer and diabetes!Aviary Photo_130298358633601086IMG_7098
  • Choose baking, boiling, steaming or stir frying as healthy cooking options, for they limit the use of fat and reduce the risk of being overweight! Broccoli is a good source of cancer-protective flavonoids. Micorwaving destroys 90% of its flavonoids. So, it is wise to steam it, or stir fry this vegetable to hold the cancer preventing flavonoids.

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Go moderate on alcohol.

Alcohol is a known cause of mouth, throat, liver, colon and rectum cancers. People who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than a drink per day.

Protect yourself from the sun

Many skin cancers are caused by excess exposure to UV rays from the sun or other sources. Stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun rays are strongest. Avoid tanning beds, for these are just as damaging as UV rays.

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Don’t use tobacco

Cigarette smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths. It has been linked to various types of cancer, including the cancer of lung, bladder, cervix and kidney. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

Good, if you don’t smoke. But exposure to second hand and sidestream smoke might increase the risk of lung cancer! So, provide a safe, enjoyable and accessible environments for yourself and your family.

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You have the power, to reduce your cancer risk, by having a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.Aviary Photo_130298303425323766

References

  • Yikyung Park, Louise A Brinton, Amy F Subar, Albert Hollenbeck, and Arthur Schatzkin. Dietary fiber intake and risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr September 2009 vol. 90 no. 3 664-671
  • Wanqing Wen, Xiao Ou Shu, Honglan Li, Gong Yang, Bu-Tian Ji, Hui Cai, Yu-Tang Gao, and Wei Zheng. Dietary carbohydrates, fiber, and breast cancer risk in Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr January 2009 vol. 89no. 1 283-289
  • Martin Lajous, Marie-Christine Bourton-Ruault, Alban Fabre, Francoise Clavel-Chapelon, and Isabelle Romieu. Carbohydrate intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer in a prospective study of French women. Am J Clin Nutr May 2008 vol. 87 no. 5 1384-1391
  • Ernest H Rosenbaum, M.D. David Spiegel, M.D. Patricia Fobair, L.C.S.W., M.P.H. Hollyl Gautier, R.N. With Louise Maffitt, B.F.A. Everynone’s Guide to Cancer Survivorship; A Road Map for Bette Health. 2007
  • www.cancer.ie
  • http://www.aicr.org

Why eat Fungus?

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If you are like millions of weight watchers, with a fat-phobia and counting calories, here is an interesting weight losing tip!  Make room for mushroom and it is definite that you can maintain a pretty decent, healthy weight.

Mushroom – to lose weight? 

In the game of weight loss, the pretty & tiny sponge like mushroom is one of the powerful player.  Mushroom substituted for meat, aid in weight loss!  Sounds great. Isn’t?

Yes, 100 g of mushroom has only 25 kcal when compared to a grilled – lean beef of same weight that provides 175 kcal!

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A one-year randomized clinical trial by researchers at the Weight Management Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that substituting white button mushrooms, for red meat can be an useful strategy for enhancing and maintaining weight loss.

Increasing intake of low-energy-density foods like mushrooms, in place of high-energy density foods, like lean ground meat, can be an effective method for reducing daily energy and fat intake, while feeling full and satiated after the meal.

Lets make room for mushrooms, for their prominent flavor and health benefits. You can definitely make a difference in your health from this dainty mushrooms’ copious supply of favorable nutrients.

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Many think mushroom is not good for health because it is not green.   Surprisingly,  It has more potassium than a banana, which helps to maintain the rhythm of our heart!  It’s really a very valuable food for diabetic and heart patients, for its least quantity of carbohydrate and fat.   A tiny yet exquisite, is a wise addition to your plate!

The glutamic acid found in mushroom, is an amino acid, a natural flavor enhancer that entice even the most fussy eaters, to relish this low-energy- density fungus.   It is also formed naturally in the body, from other amino acids that you consume through a balanced diet.  Dairy products, meat, fish, eggs and cocoa are the other natural foods that are good sources of glutamic acid.

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Broccoli, mushroom with garlic

If you do not eat enough protein foods, you may not be able to get sufficient amount of glutamic acid.  Glutamic acid with glucose is one of the principal fuels for the brain. It helps get rid of ammonia, a metabolic by-product that is  toxic to both brain and muscle cells, from our body.Aviary Photo_130298985520354896

Mushrooms are available in different sizes, shapes, textures, and colors!  Portabella, shitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms are very common that are available in the grocery stores.

Mushroom, not only aids in weight loss, as a super food it helps prevent cancer and heal infection, too!  Studies have proven that Shitake mushroom will lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, and heal infections. 

Mushroom is packed with selenium, copper and zinc. A real powerpack!

Selenium a powerful antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals and prevents the body from chronic diseases.  Along with vitamin E, selenium aids in the prevention of skin damage, too!  

The absorption of iron in the body relies on copper.  Iron is essential for the formation of hemoglobin that carries oxygen to all cells in the body.

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Zinc supports the metabolic rate, the speed at which our body creates and use up the energy.  Shitake and Crimini  mushrooms are good sources of zinc. 

I know that you are already convinced to have a room, for this tiny, cute mushrooms………………………..

 

Mushroom is great for what it is. Low in calorie and good for weight loss!  At the same time, it is low in protein also!  It has only 3-4% protein when compared to beans, 8-13% and red meat, 25-35%. However, this is easy to compensate.  Combination of mushroom with beans (like red kidney beans, black beans, soybeans), lean red meat, poultry and fish will provide one of the best tasting protein!  

Black bean with mushroom is heart healthy!  How about a bowl of brown rice with mushroom & kidney bean curry, for lunch? Sounds great!  

To conclude, I’d like to say that mushroom is highly nutritious, low in calorie that aids in weight loss and at the same time would also like to emphasis on exercise that is equal to diet when it comes to losing weight.  Aerobic exercise has important cardiovascular and metabolic implications.  The age-old advice, “Eat less and move more to lose weight, still holds true!

References:

  • Boston University Medical Center (2013, April 22). Mushrooms can provide as much vitamin D as supplements. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422132801.htm
  • Leslie M Klevay, MD, SD in Hyg: “Lack of a Recommended Dietary Allowance for Coppermay be Hazardous to Your Health,” J Am Coll Nutr August 1998 vol. 17 no. 4 322-326
  • D. Craig Willcox, PhD, Bradley J. Willcox, MD, Hidemi Todoriki, PhD, Makoto Suzuki, MD, PhD: “The Okinawan Diet: Health Implications of a Low-Calorie,Nutrient-Dense, Antioxidant-Rich Dietary Pattern Low in Glycemic Index,” Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 28, No. 4, 500S–516S (2009)
  • www.medicalnewstoday.com
  • http://www.eatright.org