The Food Swap: A New Way to Diet

Have you been on a diet recently? Low salt, low fat, and low carb, even the Paleo diet—I bet some of you have tried them all.  Every day a new “diet” pops up. I watched a report over the weekend on the early news that talked about what is now considered good and healthy by U.S. Dietary Guidelines. As I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, whole milk and cereal were considered a good breakfast because you were getting protein and grains. Of course, we thought Captain Crunch was great! Not so much. Healthy, multi- grains and skim milk are much better.
As we age, our doctors warn us about family genetics: high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes…you name it. And what we put in our mouths has directly affects how we feel. But seriously, who wants to diet? The approach of “swapping” one food for another may take the pressure of dieting off our backs a little. Here are a few little tips:
Lower your blood pressure by removing some of that salt. Eat walnuts, NOT roasted or salted mixed nuts.    Peanuts are the worst.    Eat peanut butter with some fresh blueberries instead of blueberry jelly. Eat salsa or guacamole, not queso dip.
Want to be in a better mood? Who doesn’t? Try this: be like Popeye and eat your spinach salad with cherry tomatoes. It has much more magnesium than kale. Eat that grass-fed beef rather than the farm-raised beef. Try herbal tea instead of soda. Cut down on the sugar intake as well. And, dark chocolate completely trumps processed chocolate.
If you have ever been told you are on the cusp of developing diabetes, take note. You heard it before and it is true: salmon, tuna and sardines are packed with rich omega-3s, which reduce your risk of diabetes. Cut down on white bread, rice and pasta, and try red grapes, blueberries and cranberries instead. Farmer’s markets are just starting to sprout, so this is the perfect time to start a new routine by picking up some fresh produce every week. Like green tea? Brew it yourself instead of buying the processed bottles of it. Use olive oil on that salad instead of soybean oil.
Experts have found that protein is more important than ever as we age. In fact, aging adults need more than growing teens to help replace bone loss and build muscle. It also supports good heart health and helps you recover from surgery faster. You have heard of quinoa, right?
This high protein super food has 8 grams of protein per cup. That is double what is in a cup of white rice, and it can be added to salads, mixed with hot veggies or oatmeal. I personally like protein shakes in the morning. There are all kinds on the shelf, and you can mix your own. Look for the amount of grams of protein in each serving. The higher the better. My latest favorite food pick is grilled fish tacos, and guess what? They are better for you than beef tacos because they boost your “good” cholesterol levels and don’t clog the arteries as much as red meat.
I tend to dine out a lot. Many restaurants have taken note that customers want healthy choices, so they make it easy for you to follow that path to a healthier lifestyle. The calories are easily listed next to the entrée, and/or the healthy or “light” meals are separated out. Take notice and choose wisely.
Well, after writing this, I must say I have a little appetite. Time to go and focus on what I need to swap out to feel better and eat healthier.


Keep Your Brain Healthy

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Researchers across the world are racing towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But as prevalence rates climb, the focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies. What they’ve discovered is that it may be possible to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias through a combination of healthy habits. Most causes of dementia are not preventable. However, many drug companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations are all actively researching ways to slow, delay, and prevent dementia. Many are particularly focused on Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia is caused by a series of small strokes. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke. If you smoke, quit. If you have high blood pressure and/or diabetes, talk with your doctor about getting those under control. Many studies strongly suggest that a low-fat diet and regular exercise may also reduce the risk of vascular dementia.
Some conditions mimic dementia or have dementia-like systems. Those include changes in blood sugar, sodium and calcium, as well as low vitamin B-12 levels. If caught early, these may be treatable. If you have symptoms, don’t delay seeing your doctor.
Diet
Evidence suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet may decrease your risk of developing AD. A Mediterranean diet consists of little red meat and large amounts of the following:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Nuts, olive oil, and other healthy fats

Social Engagement
Research suggests that seniors who spend most of their time in their home environment are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who travel out of town. It is unclear whether better health results in more travel or more travel results in better health.
Raise Your C Level
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, essential for healthy skin and blood vessel functioning, but some studies suggest it may also protect against dementia-related brain plaque. Oranges, limes and lemons are a convenient source of ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), as are sweet peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens.
Get Full of Beans
Beans and green peas provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which may play a role in protecting against brain shrinkage, as well as in maintaining blood sugar levels and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine and folic acid) is also found in enriched grain products and cereals.
Get Some Sun
New research suggests that adults with low levels of vitamin D may have a higher risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems. Exposing your sunscreen-free face, back, arms or legs to no more than 10-15 minutes of sunshine a few times a week could boost D levels.
Get Plenty of Omega-3 Fats
Evidence suggests that the DHA found in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by reducing beta-amyloid plaques. Food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. You can also supplement with fish oil.
Learn Something New
Study a foreign language, learn sign language, practice a musical instrument, read the newspaper or a good book, or take up a new hobby. The greater the novelty and challenge, the larger the deposit in your brain reserves.
Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms, your brain’s clock response to regularity.
There’s less of a separation between brain and body than you might think. As mentioned above, what’s good for the body — like sleep, exercise, and nutritious food — is also good for the brain. And that also means that the converse is true: things that are bad for the body are also damaging to the brain. You owe it to yourself to work with your body to keep your brain healthy.