You’ve heard about coffee’s benefits. But have you heard them all? What about its fat-burning potential? Earl Williams, owner of Georgetown’s Definitions Personal Trainers’ Gym, interviews Katherine Tallmadge (me), about coffee, the scientific facts about its health and fitness benefits, and 9 tips for how you can make coffee work for you.
Earl: I developed Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) to help clients optimize fat burn and I’m always looking for other ways to complement this. What are the benefits of drinking coffee for those who exercise with the goal of fat loss?
Katherine: The caffeine in coffee enhances physical performance. “Caffeine may act directly on muscle to enhance its capacity to exercise,” according to “Essentials of Exercise Physiology,” by William D. McArdle and Frank L. Katch. It facilitates the use of fat as fuel for exercise, thus sparing the body’s limited glycogen reserves, according to McArdle and Katch. “Coffee can be a positive part of a sports diet if a person chooses to drink a cup of coffee before they work out,” said Nancy Clark, author of Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Coffee / caffeine also increases metabolism causing the body to burn more calories, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1).
Earl: Coffee drinkers commonly add sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk, syrups, etc. How do these additives affect the benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: Most of them add calories. So, keep in mind that one syrupy, high calorie drink (some as high as 500 calories — 1⁄4 of one day’s calorie needs) can make the difference between losing and not losing weight. That said, a Latte or Cappuccino are especially good to drink, not only because of the caffeine, but also because of the protein, carbohydrate, potassium and other nutrients contained in the milk.
Earl: Is there a window of time before, during, or after the workout that coffee should be consumed?
Katherine: “People have different sensitivities and reactions to caffeine,” said Clark. But, “peak concentration is within 30 and 120 minutes after ingestion to exert an influence on the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems,” according to McArdle and Katch.
Earl: Any guidance on the daily amount consumed?
Katherine: That would be personalized and depend on a person’s tolerance level of coffee/caffeine. But “drinking the amount of caffeine (330 mg*) in 2.5 cups of coffee one hour before exercising significantly extends endurance in intense aerobic exercise,” according to McArdle and Katch. Which means you can exercise longer before feeling its effects, thus increasing endurance.
Earl: Caffeine in coffee helps mobilize fat in tissues and the bloodstream making the fatty acids available as fuel for exercise—thus sparing and making accessible—muscle and liver glycogen for performance. What are fatty acids?
Katherine: Fat, called triglycerides, partly comes from food and ends up in the bloodstream. When you exercise regularly (every 24 hours), fat/triglycerides are sent into the muscles where it is burned as fuel. If you do not exercise often enough, the triglycerides stay in the bloodstream causing obesity, high bad (LDL) cholesterol and high blood triglycerides – all associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Earl: The fitness community once thought coffee was a diuretic and could not provide the hydration water could. Is this still the case?
Katherine: Coffee and tea are now considered good hydrators, according to the most recent scientific analysis and report by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board (2).
Earl: Under what circumstances should coffee be avoided?
Katherine: You should ask your doctor if you should avoid or limit coffee, especially if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Earl: What are some of the other health benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: The research is promising. Some recent studies suggest that coffee may be associated with a reduced incidence of all causes of death and cardiovascular disease (3), of Type 2 Diabetes (4), Parkinson’s Disease (5), Alzheimer’s (6), Multiple Sclerosis (7), liver cancer(8) – the second leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide – and perhaps other health conditions. Of course, though exciting, the research is just in its beginning stages. More controlled human clinical studies are needed to learn more specifics as to why and how coffee may or may not work to improve your health.
Earl: Any other thoughts about coffee?
Katherine: It is important that the exerciser test the effect of different levels of coffee/caffeine on their performance several times to determine the ideal amount and achieve the best level of performance before any major competition or long term bout of exercise.
(1) Normal caffeine consumption: influence on the thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postboxes human volunteers. AG Dulloo, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins and DS Miller. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1989:49:44-50;
(4) “Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women,” Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, An Pan, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu, Diabetologia, online April 24, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7
(5) Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease. G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674.
(8) World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project (CUP)
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The GOOD news: According to the author of a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, “You are ten times more likely to change by making a New Year’s resolution.” The study showed that 50 percent of people who seized the New Year as an opportunity for change met their goals.
The BAD news: It’s not that simple. There are some basic steps you need to follow to turn a wish for change into reality. Here’s what the study shows will work:
7 Steps to Making Your New Year’s Resolution Stick
1. Set Your Positive Long Term Goal. Have an exciting vision of yourself having achieved your goal. See yourself – how you look and feel – crossing a goal line, as professional athletes do; envision how great you’ll look in those upcoming wedding photos; see your doctor congratulating you for your success
2. Develop a Specific Action Plan for the Year. “In one year I will achieve a 50-pound weight loss.” Develop a sense of urgency about your goal by pondering the negative consequences of not making your goal, “How would it feel to be the same weight next year?”
3. Break up your Goal into Bite-Size Pieces. It’s more gratifying to achieve your goals every day or every week. For instance, instead of thinking about your year’s goal, say, “I will lose 1 pound per week,” or “daily I will eat fruit and/or veggie snacks.” Again, ponder the consequences of your actions, “Should I roll back into bed instead of getting up to exercise? Do I want to feel good today – or do I want to feel crummy today?”
4. Reward yourself for your Successes. The latest research finds financial rewards can be very successful. But daily pats on the back are important, too.
5. Don’t Make a Backup Plan, as you are less likely to work toward your main goal and may more readily accept failure
6. Develop Genuine Confidence. It’s a potent predictor of who succeeds.
7. Expect Occasional Slips. Studies of successful weight losers show they experience similar stressors and slips as relapsers, they just react differently to them: They pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start all over again.
The battle of the bulge is won at the margins. Sweeping dietary overhauls are impractical and don’t work over time. Shrewd, small, concrete, positive changes which can be easily incorporated into your daily routine lead to success.
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A new study confirmed what I’ve suspected for the twenty (or more) years I’ve been a diet counselor. Eating hearty meals earlier in the day instead of in the evening leads to weight loss and better health, even when the same foods and same calories are eaten.
A recent study published in the scientific journal, “Diabetologia,” found people with Type 2 Diabetes eating a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with those eating six small meals with the same calories – lost more body fat, liver fat, and improved insulin sensitivity.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be eating dinner, as scientists often exaggerate conditions to get measurable results in their studies. But you can likely use the study’s conclusions to make positive changes for your health and weight, as did my client, Mark Indre.
“I lost more than 35 pounds and have kept it off for more than two years,” said Mark Indre.
Some points to consider…
Does this sound familiar? You get home from work, stressed and ravenous. You head straight for the kitchen, grab a bowl of nuts or a plate of cheese and crackers. You nibble as you’re preparing dinner. After dinner, you settle on the couch, most likely in front of the television, and zone out with some favorite snacks, such as popcorn, chips, nuts, ice cream, peanut butter or sweets—whatever is tasty and easy to grab.
Welcome to the typical American evening! For many people, it’s an endless graze that doesn’t stop until they go to bed.
Evening overeating is an issue that contributes to many peoples’ weight problems. I’ve been surprised at just how many people struggle with this. I used to myself. Even disciplined people who carefully watch their intake during the day break down at night. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard these refrains: “I’m fine during the day, my problem’s at night,” or “If I could control my eating at night, my weight problem would probably disappear…. ”
This is important because more and more research is confirming the importance of eating lighter at night and heavier during the day – for health, not just weight. A recent study published in “Diabetologia” found people who at a large breakfast and lunch – and no dinner, as compared with people with type 2 diabetes who ate 6 small meals – lost body fat and improved insulin sensitivity. This occurred while eating the same calories, just distributed differently.
It’s become clear to me that evening overeating is not just an isolated problem but the convergence of a host of lifestyle issues—stress, exhaustion, loneliness, disorganized eating and hunger.
In today’s fast-paced world, many people are constantly hopping from meeting to meeting or from chore to chore during the day and don’t have time to sit down and eat a decent meal. So we become ravenous. In the evening, there’s more time for eating, so we not only eat larger meals, but continuous ones. Those who are tired or stressed find that food is an easy way to reward themselves at the end of the day. Food can provide a little companionship for the lonely or depressed. Researchers who have identified “night eating syndrome,” the most severe form of evening overeating that affects about five percent of obese people seeking treatment, say it is stress-related.
“We believe it’s a stress disorder which causes people to eat more than one-third of their calories after the evening meal,” says obesity researcher Albert J. Stunkard, who has studied nighttime overeaters since the 1950s and recently co-authored “Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome: A Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking the Cycle” (New Harbinger Publications, 2004).
Evening overeating is an important problem to solve because Americans who eat most of their daily intake of food at night eat more overall calories, according to a study reported in the Journal of Nutrition. And that makes them more susceptible to weight problems.
“The late-night period was when the highest-density foods were eaten. Eating a high proportion of daily intake in the late evening, compared to earlier in the day, was associated with higher overall intake,” researcher John M. de Castro concluded in the study, which analyzed food diaries of about 900 men and women.
De Castro, professor and chair of the department of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso, also found that evening eating was less satisfying for people, which may help explain why they eat more.
“In the evening, you get lower satiety. People tend to eat very large meals but then eat again shortly afterward,” said de Castro.
For those who succumb to nighttime overeating, I recommend you attack this problem by assessing why this may be happening to you and then devising specific personalized strategies for eating lighter at night. Some points to consider:
Breakfast: De Castro’s study found that a “high proportional intake in the morning is associated with low overall daily intake.” This finding confirms my experience of 25+ years: Eating a bigger breakfast is the single most effective way of curbing evening overeating. Other studies have confirmed the importance of breakfast for maintaining weight loss.
I advise my clients to eat one-third of their daily calories in the morning. For most people, that’s at least 600 calories, much more than they’re used to consuming.
While solving other issues such as end-of-day stress, exhaustion and emotional issues are important, too, I’ve found that nothing works unless morning eating is beefed up first. Eating more in the morning is a scary proposition for many people who fear that they’ll continue their evening overeating on top of the bigger breakfast. But my clients who bite the bullet and give it a try are amazed to find that it reduces cravings and gives them a sense of control, so that it is easier to eat more moderately later in the day.
Interestingly, de Castro found that people are more sated with the food they eat in the morning. “If they eat a large breakfast, they’ll wait a long time before eating again. They get a lot of bang for the buck,” says de Castro.
Organized eating: Researchers have found that most people with the more severe “night-eating syndrome” don’t have regular meal and snack times. I have also found this is true for evening overeaters. Most overeating is due simply to undereating throughout the day and poor planning. I hear so many people say “I have no will power,” or “I hate myself because I have no discipline.” But they somehow regain their “discipline” and “will power” by simply planning and eating regular daytime meals and snacks.
That’s why I advocate cooking in large batches and regular grocery shopping so that you have healthy and delicious foods at your fingertips when you get home from work in the evenings.
Trigger foods: Many people who overeat in the evenings have “trigger” foods, specific foods they crave and are more likely to overeat, such as chips, chocolate or peanut butter. The experts find the avoidance of trigger foods can reduce evening overeating.
Assessing hunger: Your body lets you know what it needs. One key to lasting weight management is being in touch with your body and its signals. In the evening, before eating, get rid of distractions, take a few deep breaths and stop to think if you’re physically hungry. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, or if you’re not sure, you shouldn’t eat.
Stress management: Many people overeat in the evenings as a way to cope with the stress and exhaustion they may feel or to reward themselves at the end of a hard day. But this is a self-defeating response to stress or rewards. When you come home, never head straight for the kitchen. Instead, hop in the shower or tub to decompress, take a walk or stretch. Once relaxed, then decide what you’d like for dinner. Better yet, hopefully you’ve already planned your dinner.
Of course, these actions are only possible if you’ve fed yourself properly during the day and you’re not ravenous.
Reducing behavioral associations: Like Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s famous dogs, we can train ourselves to salivate and crave food in connection with just about any activity. Playing cards, eat. Watching a movie, eat. Going to the mall, eat. Talking on the phone, eat. Reading in bed, eat. Watching TV, eat. The experts recommend you eat only when seated at your dining or kitchen table, without distractions, so that you don’t develop an association between eating and any activity, place or person. The only stimulus for eating should be hunger. Distractions tend to reduce inhibitions to overeating.
When to eat: There is no hard-and-fast rule governing the timing of your last meal in the evening. I recommend that evening calories don’t exceed lunch or breakfast calories and that you eat at least two-thirds of your day’s calories before dinner. It’s important to go to bed feeling light, not full. This way, you awake hungry for a big breakfast.
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Have you noticed your weight creeping up this winter? Are you experiencing more cravings than usual, especially for heartier, more fattening foods? Well, take heart. You’re not the only one experiencing “blizzard bloat,” the creeping up of body fat hitting a large number of people during the winter months.
In the animal kingdom, fattening up in winter is critical for survival. Animals overeat to store enough excess fat to survive until spring. The human animal has a similar natural instinct, probably leftover from the days when food was scarce in winter and shivering in the cold caused us to burn our fat stores too quickly, leaving us too thin to survive (aaaah, those were the days!). But now, with temperature control, improved agricultural techniques and a cupcake shop on every corner, that leftover but highly frivolous instinct just causes trouble. Because of modern conveniences, we humans fatten up following the old instincts when we no longer need to!
Though these old instincts are plausible as a cause of winter weight gain, there are more complex—and controllable—causes too. The most important probably involve decreases in both sunlight and physical activity. Together, they can contribute to enough of a calorie imbalance to cause weight gain. Here’s how.
- Sunlight. Some people are particularly susceptible to light deprivation, caused by the decrease in daylight hours during the winter. This affects the neurochemical serotonin, responsible for your mood and appetite, prompting increased food cravings and weight gain.
- Physical Activity. When it’s cold outside, we’re less physically active and cut back on subtle calorie-burning activities such as short walks and light outdoor chores. These caloric expenditures may only add up to about 100 calories per day, but this translates into a 3-4 pound weight gain (or more) during the winter months.
What to do to both improve your mood and curb your cravings?
- Increase exposure to sunlight. Bundle up and go outside to reverse the symptoms of light deprivation. You’ll feel refreshed and less bored, and your appetite may be more controllable. The amount of needed daylight varies for each individual. In general, the more the better. One hour daily in the morning, ideally at sunrise, is most helpful. If you’re not an early bird, several hours on the weekends may help make up for a lack of sun during the week. Some people may benefit from getting daily “light therapy” which would be prescribed by your doctor. Some popular products are from “sunbox.”
- Up your activity level, even just a little. During just one exercise bout, your brain releases feel-good chemicals, called endorphins into your body. These chemicals reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and elevate your mood. If you’re regularly active, these benefits multiply. A brisk 30-minute walk just three times a week relieves major depression just as effectively as an antidepressant in most adults, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Wear a pedometer to keep track of your activity level and to motivate you to get more (I recommend the latest “Omron” models).
- Increase your intake of a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. These low-cal but filling carbohydrates increase serotonin production, helping to regulate mood and appetite. They also help you feel more satisfied for fewer calories, and research shows adding them to a meal could save at least 100 calories (translating to 4 – 5 pounds during the colder months)…some tips:
- To lower the calories and increase the portion size of a favorite recipe, pump up the volume by adding vegetables as often as you can. This way, you can eat your usual portion for fewer calories.
- Choose fresh fruits over dried fruits or juices. For 100 calories, you could eat 1/4 cup of raisins or two cups of grapes. (You’re more likely to fill up on the grapes.)
- Start lunch or dinner with a bowl of broth-based vegetable soup or a big vegetable salad with low-calorie dressing.
- Turn main courses into soups or salads by adding broth or vegetables.
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Do you need Gluten Free? 29% of Americans are trying to avoid gluten… Gluten free food has grown to a $4 billion industry
See me explain how a gluten-free diet may do more harm than good by clicking above or on ABC-7
This article appeared in The Huffington Post
Hear me – and three other experts – discuss “The Gluten-Free Craze” on National Public Radio’s The Diane Rehm Show.
It’s all the rage right now; in fact, you may be thinking of going on a gluten-free diet. Before you do, here are some things to think about:
First, you are likely to miss out on critical nutrients and health benefits only gained with gluten-containing whole grains (see below for the list). Most of those studies you’ve heard about proving the benefits of whole grains have used gluten-containing wheat, America’s (and the Mediterranean Diet’s) staple grain.
Second, a gluten-free diet is a therapeutic diet for those with debilitating celiac disease, a serious auto-immune disorder which virtually destroys the intestinal tract. But celiac only affects about 1% of the population.
Third, the danger of self-diagnosing and taking gluten out of your diet prematurely is that you will would never be able to get an accurate diagnosis of your symptoms. An intestinal biopsy is the only way to detect celiac definitively.
People try a gluten-free diet because they are overweight, feel tired, bloated, and/or depressed, and find reducing gluten correlates with feeling better or losing weight. But that is more likely because they’ve cut out excess calories found in many flour-based snack foods and sweets. They mistakenly attribute feeling better to taking out gluten.
Fourth, gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient, low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, B12, phosphorus, and zinc. That’s because so many “gluten-free” products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories, but very few vitamins and minerals.
The new $4 billion gluten-free industry is taking advantage of Americans’ desperation to feel better and lose weight. There has been an explosion of gluten-free junk foods, which has fueled this trend, and I hope you don’t become a victim.
But I have great news… many clients have thought they might need a gluten-free diet, but when we worked together at improving their nutrition and life balance, symptoms vanished! Perhaps that could be you? If you take the following steps and find you do need a gluten-free diet, it can fill all your nutritional requirements, but only if done CAREFULLY…
Do You Need A Gluten-Free Diet? A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Have a complete check-up with your family physician,
2. Consult with appropriate specialists, such as an allergist for wheat allergy and a gastroenterologist for celiac or another GI disease, A. If you have a wheat allergy, you must avoid wheat, but you do not have to avoid gluten from other grains, B. If you have celiac disease, you must avoid gluten – even the tiniest amounts (you must be eating gluten for the diagnosis to be made),
3. If you do not have a wheat allergy or celiac, visit a registered dietitian to verify that you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrient-dense, naturally fiber-rich foods and adequate physical activity. A healthy diet and lifestyle reduces negative gastrointestinal symptoms, inflammation, boosts the immune system, improves brain function, reduces depression, and anxiety. If you are overweight, lose weight, as body fat can be toxic and produces hormones and pro-inflammatory chemicals which regulate metabolism, the immune system, inflammation, and the progression of artery hardening, so that when you have less body fat, you get many biological benefits, and feel better,
4. If symptoms persist, though in most cases they do not, you may be one of the rare people who are “gluten sensitive.” To confirm the diagnosis, and if a gluten-free diet is absolutely necessary for you – even though a gastroenterologist has verified you do not have celiac disease - visit your gastroenterologist, or the University of Maryland’s “Center for Celiac Research,” where they specialize in, among other things, detecting “gluten sensitivity,” which may be a newly identified disorder.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein in wheat and some other grains, such as rye and barley. A gluten experiment in Food Science at the University of Maryland left a lasting impression on me about the function and importance of gluten. I kneaded bread dough under flowing water. As I kneaded the dough, the starch slowly washed away. What remained was a rubbery mass – the gluten – the protein in wheat which gives bread its structure.
Barley, Bulgur, Cereal Binding, Couscous, Durum, Einkorn, Emmer, Filler, Farro, Graham Flour, Kamut, Malt, Malt Extract, Malt Flavoring, Malt Syrup, Oats which are not labeled “Gluten-Free” because they have been contaminated by gluten in the field or in the processing plant, Rye, Semolina, Spelt, Triticale, Wheat, Wheat Bran, Wheat Germ, Wheat Starch, and others…
Naturally Gluten-Free Whole Grains
Eat these instead of buying processed “gluten free” foods.* Brown Rice, Whole Corn, Gluten-Free Oats, Millet, Teff, Sorghum, Wild Rice, Buckwheat, Amaranth, and Quinoa.*
WA is an adverse immunologic reaction to wheat proteins, a classic food allergy affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract.**
CD is an immune-mediated enteropathy (intestinal disease) triggered by the ingestion of gluten in susceptible individuals. The onset of symptoms is usually gradual and characterized by a time lag of months or years after gluten introduction.**
When both allergic (WA) and autoimmune mechanisms (CD) have been ruled out (diagnosis by exclusion criteria), individuals who experience distress when ingesting gluten may be considered as having GS, though there is no definitive test for this diagnosis and it has not yet been proven by science that it exhists.* *
** “Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: consensus on new nomenclature and classification,” BMC Medicine 2012, 10:13 doi:10.1186/1741-7015-10-13; Sapone, Bai, Ciacci, Dolinsek, Green, Hadjivassiliou, Kaukinen, Rostami, Sander, Schumann, Ullrich, Villalta, Volta, Catassi, Fasano.
It is critical that you are examined by a gastroenterologist before switching to a Gluten-Free diet. Why? Once you eliminate gluten, it is virtually impossible to diagnose celiac, and the diagnosis of celiac, an extremely serious auto-immune disorder, should be your primary concern.
My Favorite Gluten-Free Guides
“Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide” by Shelley Case, R.D.*
“Easy Gluten-Free” by Tricia Thompson, M.S., R.D. and Marlisa Brown, M.S., R.D.*
“Gluten-Free, Hassle Free” by Marlisa Brown, R.D., C.D.E.*
Anyone giving gluten-free dietary advice should be a registered dietitian, and have the “R.D.” after their name.
Don’t forget, Diet Simple is filled with recipes, including some marked “Gluten-Free!”
Hear me – and three other experts – discuss “The Gluten-Free Craze” on National Public Radio’s “Diane Rehm Show”…
See me explain how a gluten-free diet may do more harm than good by clicking above or on ABC-7
This article appeared in The Huffington Post
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Is it true that a chocolate a day will keep the doctor away? That’s what many chocolate companies would like you to believe in their Valentine’s Day advertisements. While it looks like cocoa has many health benefits, the chocolates you buy from your local stores may impart little of those benefits.
A Rich History
The cacao bean, grown mainly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, is loaded with beneficial compounds. In fact, its early uses, dating back 3,000 years were mainly medicinal. They have ranged from curing fatigue, angina, constipation, dental problems (tartar removal), dysentery, gout, an “overheated” heart, skin eruptions, fevers, and seizures. One doctor in the 1500s found it made people “extraordinarily fat” if used frequently and so it was prescribed for the thin and weak, according to an article in The Journal of Nutrition. It has been highly prized for centuries, which is reflected in its scientific name, Theobroma cacao, meaning “Food of the Gods.”
Eurpoeans discovered cocoa in the 1500s and over the next few centuries, chocolate, which we know and love so well was born. In this century, chocolate (processed cocoa with added fat, milk and sugar) has been enjoyed for its melt-in-your mouth texture and flavor, with its health giving properties largely forgotten by the civilized world, until recently.
In 1997, Harvard professor Norman K. Hollenberg published a landmark epidemiological study focused on cocoa. He found that high blood pressure was a rarity among Panama’s Kuna Indians who also didn’t experience the typical age-related increases. He at first attributed it to genetic protection. But, when the Kunas migrated to Panama City, their blood pressure increased, pointing to an environmental cause. Upon examination, Hollenberg found the Kunas drank large amounts of indigenous, unprocessed cocoa. Subsequent experiments conducted by Hollenberg and others, have found that cocoa, if high in flavanols, the beneficial plant compounds scientists believe impart most of cocoa’s benefits, relaxes the blood vessels, an important protection against hypertension and heart disease.
The Growth of Chocolate Research
Since Hollenberg’s findings, cocoa research has intensified, mainly due to the largess of companies like Mars, Inc, most famous for Milky Ways and M&Ms. What’s striking is that candy companies, such as Mars and Nestle’s, have hired respected nutrition scientists and have been largely responsible for the advancement of cocoa research. Mars has collaborated with such institutions as Harvard, the University of California at Davis, and even the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Through their research and others, many interesting discoveries about cocoa’s health benefits have been made.
The flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels, they reduce blood clotting – an aspirin-like affect –reduce oxidative damage, and improve blood flow. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found cocoa also reduces inflammation. All of which reduces heart disease risk.
There have been some suggestion that flavanols can be used to treat vascular diseases like dementia, pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and anything related to blood flow. Emerging research is looking into cancer as well.
But what about that chocolate bar in your vending machine? Are there any health benefits there? The answer: probably not much.
Most research about chocolate’s health benefits have used unsweetened cocoa or specially formulated high-flavanol chocolate. Unfortunately, these compounds are rarely in the chocolate we eat in 21st century America. Flavanols impart a bitter taste so they’ve been removed from most popular products to improve their flavor.
Most of the flavanols are in the cocoa beans and the level decreases with each processing step when it goes from the bean, to the cocoa powder and ultimately a finished chocolate product.
Since flavanols and their health benefits are a new discovery, chocolate companies are just beginning to see if there are ways to keep flavanols consistently high, but still have a tasty, popular product.
Katherine’s Chocolate-for-Health Tips
You’ll get more flavanols, and therefore health benefits, with less processing. The first choice is cocoa, which isn’t Dutch processed – as when cocoa is “Dutch processed with alkali” the flavanols are reduced. Look for chocolate which has the highest percentage of cocoa as possible and to save calories, look for chocolate with lower fat and sugar levels. In general, cocoa is your best first choice. Second choice is a semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates go as high as 85% cocoa, but legally can be as low as 35%. I recommend no more than an ounce a day, which may be about 110 – 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control.
Type of Chocolate Mg Flavonols Calories
1.3 oz Dark Chocolate Bars, Average*: 82 mg 187
1.3 oz Milk Chocolate Bars, Average*: 42 mg 198
1 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Average*: 75 mg 12
*USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory
Use this incredible chocolate fondue recipe for berries, sliced pears, bananas, apples, pears, candied orange peels, and dried such as mangos, or any favorite fruit!
Katherine’s Hot Cocoa:
1 tsp or 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa, to taste
1 tsp or 1 Tbsp honey
1 cup Skim Milk or 1% Milk or Soy Milk
Heat in microwave for 2 – 3 minutes and stir to blend the chocolate.
Using 1 teaspoon of cocoa and sugar, contains approximately 25 mg flavanols and 115 calories (zero saturated fat), depending on the milk used.
Using 1 Tablespoon of cocoa and sugar, contains approximately 75 mg flavanols and 153 calories
Are you interested in chocolate’s health benefits? How much chocolate do you eat? Let me know in my “comments” section below…
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Nutrition makes a difference!
by Viggy Parr with contributions by Katherine Tallmadge
When men move to the United States or adopt a more westernized diet, their prostate cancer rates increase dramatically.
Based on international comparisons of prostate cancer rates in different countries and over time, studies where researchers examine the lifestyle and health of a group in one location and compare that to the lifestyle and health of a group in a different location—have shown that Asian men, who have some of the lowest worldwide rates of prostate cancer, increase their risk of that cancer when they adopt a Western (American) diet with more animal foods. A recent study (Ahmedin et al, 2010) found that rates of prostate cancer are rising in countries with formerly low rates, such as Japan and Singapore because of westernization, including a sedentary lifestyle, diets filled with animal fats, and rising rates of obesity. These results prove that there is not necessarily a genetic protection against prostate cancer in Asian men, but rather a strong environmental factor.
I hope that the following lifestyle advice can benefit all men and help them to significantly reduce their risk of prostate cancer and help them to live a long and healthy life! (1) Learn more about PSA testing controversies..
1. Body fat: The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to reduce body fat and help prevent cancer in general. This recommendation is particularly important for prostate cancer.
“Although most men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, the cancer often remains dormant and never impacts their health. Only a small minority of men will develop the aggressive form of prostate cancer that can be fatal,” ccording to Karen Collins, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
Overweight men are more at risk for aggressive prostate cancer than men of normal weight. The reasons behind this are not entirely clear; Collins suggests that the hormone changes involved in weight gain or even obesity-caused chronic low-grade inflammation could be the culprit. Inflammation is associated with many cancers for reasons that are not fully understood. Collins explains that inflammation could set off changes in cell signaling pathways that could lead to changes in cell growth and reproduction and the cell’s ability to self-destruct, ultimately leading to cancer.
- Bottom line: You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to get the cancer-preventing health benefits of exercise—a simple walk through the neighborhood can do wonders for your health. Exercise can be fun, too—try an active game of golf or badminton with friends, yoga, kayaking, paddle boarding, volleyball, swimming—any activity that gets your heart pumping is perfect!
- Body fat: 8 Steps to Determine – Are YOU dangerously overweight? Learn more about PSA testing controversies!
2. Lycopene (Red fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava): Many studies have shown that lycopene-rich foods reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but the mechanism behind that reduction was not well understood until now. A recent study found that lycopene has a substantial protective effect against prostate cancer by interfering with the genes that would allow the prostate cancer cells to grow and survive. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that men take advantage of lycopene’s cancer-preventing effects and fill their diets with foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and guava.
- Bottom line: Fill your diet with lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit. Remember—the cancer-fighting properties of lycopene in tomatoes are much stronger when the tomatoes are cooked, such as in marinara sauce or tomato soup.
- Source: Rafi, MM, S Kanakasabai, MD Reyes, and JJ Bright. “Lycopene modulates growth and survival associated genes in prostate cancer.” Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2013.
3. Selenium: The AICR recommends incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet to help decrease your prostate cancer risk. Selenium is essential to proper immune system and thyroid functioning, and it has been shown to be anti-carcinogenic. In addition to its powerful preventive effects, selenium may also slow prostate tumor growth. One of the best sources of selenium is the Brazil nut. Besides being a great selenium reservoir, Brazil nuts are high in protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus, along with vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, and iron, just to name a few. These nutrient powerhouses can also help lower cholesterol.
- When paired with vitamin E, selenium packs an extra punch in preventing prostate cancer. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E and have a host of other health benefits, as well.
- Bottom line: Enjoy selenium-rich foods such as brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, mushrooms, grains, and onions to help lower your risk of prostate cancer.
- Source: Yang, Jun. “Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 42(10): 2009.
4. Cruciferous vegetables: Consumption of vegetables in the crucifer family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage has recently been linked to a decrease in prostate cancer risk. Chemicals in vegetables like broccoli can suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells and therefore prevent development of the disease.
- Source: Watson, GW, LM Beaver, DE Williams, RH Dashwood, and E Ho. “Phytochemicals from Cruciferous Vegetables, Epigenetics, and Prostate Cancer Prevention.” The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Journal: 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23800833
- Bottom line: Even if delicious, nutritious foods like broccoli and cauliflower don’t definitively reduce your risk of prostate cancer, they are still incredibly healthful foods with a huge variety of proven benefits. Toss some broccoli into your salad or replace the mashed potatoes with some smashed cauliflower!
5. Vegetable fats: A long-term study of men with prostate cancer found that men who ate more vegetable fats (think nuts, avocados, and nut oils) had a significantly reduced risk of dying from any cause. Simply swapping ten percent of daily carbohydrates for vegetable fats lowered the men’s risk of death by 26 percent, and swapping vegetable fats for ten percent of daily animal fat reduced the men’s risk of death by a whopping 34 percent.
- Bottom line: Instead of cooking foods in trans-fatty oils or bacon fat, use olive or peanut oil. Foods such as nuts, avocados, peanut butter, and olives are good sources of vegetable fats, as well.
- Source: Richman, Erin L., Stacey A. Kenfield, Jorge E. Chavarro, Meir J. Stampfer, Edward L. Giovannucci, Walter C. Willett, and June M. Chan. “Fat Intake After Diagnosis and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer and All-Cause Mortality.” JAMA Internal Medicine 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23752662
6. Animal fats: Frequent meat-eaters beware: studies have shown that diets high in animal fats can increase your risk for prostate cancer. Studies of the often vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists show decreased rates of prostate cancer in that population compared to the national average.
- Source: Le Marchand, Loic, Laurence N. Kolonel, Lynne R. Wilkens, Beth C. Myers, and Tomio Hirohata. “Animal Fat Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in Hawaii.” Epidemiology 5(3): 1994. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8038241
- Milk: A recent studyfound that whole milk, which is high in animal fat, is associated with more aggressive, fatal prostate cancer. Skim/low-fat milk was associated with less aggressive prostate cancers. Some researchers believe that the calcium in milk may be behind milk’s association with prostate cancer, while others believe that natural growth factors in milk are the true cause. Men are urged to be careful about calcium supplements—as with many types of foods, it’s necessary to find the middle ground between too much and too little calcium. Whereas excessive calcium (1200-1500+ mg/day) is associated with increased prostate cancer risk, adequate calcium consumption in general is pretty clearly associated with lower risk of colon cancer. According to Collins, “You’d hate for men to get the idea that they should totally minimize their calcium intake, since some calcium in moderate amounts doesn’t seem to increase prostate cancer risk.”
- Source: Song, Y, JE Chavarro, Y Cao, W Qiu, L Mucci, HD Sesso, MJ Stampfer, E Giovannucci, M Pollak, S Liu, and J Ma. “Whole milk intake is associated with prostate cancer-specific mortality among U.S. male physicians.” Journal of Nutrition 143(2): 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23256145
- Bottom line: It’s not a bad idea to reduce your meat intake. If you do eat meat, opt for leaner meats such as chicken and fish instead of fatty beef. It also wouldn’t hurt to cut back on milk or switch to skim milk.
7. Soy: Stanford researcher Dr. David Feldman has found that soy can have protective effects against prostate cancer. Genistein, a soy phytochemical, can boost calcium absorption by protecting a vitamin D-derived chemical, calcitriol, against breakdown. A study involving rats found that when placed on a high-soy diet and given supplements of calcitriol, the rats were much less likely to grow prostate tumors.
- Bottom line: This doesn’t mean that you should load up on soy and vitamin D—some of the mice in the soy-vitamin D study developed hypercalcemia, a condition that occurs when there is too much calcium in the blood. Enjoy minimally processed, nonfermented forms of soy every now and then, such as tofu and soy milk.
- Source: Studying D, Soy and Prostate Cancer. AICR Newsletter. http://www.aicr.org/publications/newsletter/2013-winter-120/studying-d-soy-and-prostate.html
- Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-cooper/soy-and-chocolate-too-muc_b_756604.html
8. Fried foods: A new study from the University of Washington has found that regularly eating fried foods such as French fries and fried chicken could increase your prostate cancer risk. The high heats involved in deep-frying create new molecular compounds that may be carcinogenic. You don’t necessarily need to swear off doughnuts and fries forever—the study also found that men who ate fried foods one to three times a month did not have an increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Bottom line: Try to replace fried foods with fresh foods whenever possible, but if you simply have to have a doughnut or fries, limit yourself to one or two indulgences per month.
- Source: Stott-Miller, Marni, Marian L. Neuhouser, and Janet L. Stanford. “Consumption of deep-fried foods and risk of prostate cancer.” The Prostate 73(9): 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23335051
9. Omega-3 fatty acids: A recent study by Dr. Theodore Brasky and colleagues found that high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. However, the study suffers from several serious methodological flaws. The study did not examine any aspects of diet in the volunteers, nor did they ask if the men were taking fish oil supplements. All assessments of omega-3’s were performed by measuring omega-3 blood levels. Karen Collins of AICR cautions that the real issue is all about balance; the balance of omega-3’s and omega-6’s (another type of essential dietary fat) seems to be very important for inflammation. People who eat little to no fish and fill their diets with processed foods may have inadequate consumption of omega-3’s, whereas someone else could go too far in the other direction and throw off that delicate balance by eating a low fat diet with omega-3 supplements. There is likely a tipping point at which omega-3’s cease being helpful and start to be harmful due to the imbalance that too many omega-3’s can cause, much like calcium and milk. It’s important to recognize that although omega-3’s are important, the rest of the diet and lifestyle must also be taken into account. For example, the Inuits, the native people of Greenland, have a diet rich in fish, giving them plenty of omega-3’s. The Inuits also have incredibly low rates of prostate cancer.
- http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/12/health/salmon-cancer-time/index.html (Brasky research)
- Brasky, TM, AK Darke, X Song, CM Tangen, PJ Goodman, IM Thompson, FL Meyskens, Jr., GE Goodman, LM Minasian, HL Parnes, EA Klein, and AR Kristal. “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute: 2013. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.abstract
- Dewailly, E, G Mulvad, H Sloth Pedersen, JC Hansen, N Behrendt, and JP Hart Hansen. “Inuit are protected against prostate cancer.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: 12(9): 2003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14504206
By eating in accordance with the most up-to-date scientific evidence, you could help reduce your risk for prostate cancer. Start by filling your diet with lycopene-containing foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit, selenium-rich foods like brazil nuts, eggs, and mushrooms, vegetable fats like nuts and avocados, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. What you add in is just as important as what you leave out—try to cut back on red meat, whole milk, and fried foods. Top everything off with at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and you’ll be doing both yourself and your family a whole lot of good. Collins points out that “for cancer overall, we are discovering so many protective compounds in food that we should focus on variety rather than a few superstars to eat over and over again.” Take her advice and mix it up once in a while. If you follow all of the tips in this article, you’ll be taking full advantage of the most up-to-date prostate cancer prevention science and improving your overall health along the way!
Jemal, Ahmedin, Melissa M. Center, Carol DeSantis, and Elizabeth M. Ward. “Global Patterns of Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates and Trends.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2010. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/8/1893.long
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Don’t say good-by to summer yet. There is still plenty of summer’s most lovely seasonal produce, particulary heirloom tomatoes – my favorite – to entertain with, as evidenced by Four Seasons’ beautifully prepared Greek Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, and other recipes from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes. They were uniquely and beautifully interpreted by the Four Seasons Hotel Executive Chef Douglas Anderson for my presentation, “Four Steps For Strengthening Muscles – Some Surprising News” exclusively for Four Seasons Health Club members.
Every vegetable in the recipe – the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, sweet onions, and garlic – can be found at the local Farmers Markets at Rose Park on Wednesday or Dupont Circle on Sunday or any other Fresh Farm Market locations. The possibilities are endless! This is a naturally vegetarian recipe. But for the meat lovers, it’s great with grilled chicken or seafood on the side.
“Katherine’s Market Recipes,” are designed to be delicious, easy, quick, family-friendly, nutritious (heart-healthy & diabetes-friendly), and to highlight produce found at our local Farmers Markets this week. At your Farmers Market, you’ll find produce picked at peak ripeness, which means maximum flavor, texture and nutrition. You’re also helping save the environment when you buy at your Farmers Market. Here’s how…
Greek Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes
From Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season!
2 Tablespoons Freshly Harvested Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (1 Lemon)
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Oregano or Basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 Clove Garlic, Minced (optional)
Salt and Pepper to Taste (Salt is not necessary with the cheese and olives)
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced into a half-moon shape
1 onion, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 medium yellow, purple or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, chopped into large bite-size pieces
1 cup pitted Kalamata or other Greek Olives
4 Heirloom Tomatoes, quartered, and cut into large, bite-size pieces
4 ounces Feta or Goat Cheese, broken into small bits
Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a large salad bowl and whisk until blended. Add the cucumbers, onion, pepper, and olives and toss into vinaigrette. Let sit for twenty minutes to marinate. Add the heirloom tomatoes and cheese when ready to serve.
Tomatoes are one of the “superfoods.” Men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products a week had a 35% decrease in risk of prostate cancer relative to those who consumed 1.5 servings or fewer per week. This is largely attributed to “lycopene” in the tomatoes, which is also in other red fruits such as watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava. Men with lycopene levels in the top 20% had a 46% decrease in risk of heart attack compared to those in the bottom 20%. Lycopene is a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals. But don’t expect to get it from a supplement. You must eat the tomato as you need the whole food to receive the benefits! Here’s an explanation…
Lycopene (Red fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava): Many studies have shown that lycopene-rich foods reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but the mechanism behind that reduction was not well understood until now. A recent study found that lycopene has a substantial protective effect against prostate cancer by interfering with the genes that would allow the prostate cancer cells to grow and survive. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that men take advantage of lycopene’s cancer-preventing effects and fill their diets with foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and guava.
- Bottom line: Fill your diet with lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit. Remember—the cancer-fighting properties of lycopene in tomatoes are much stronger when the tomatoes are cooked, such as in marinara sauce or tomato soup.
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Any change in your life: Leaving home for college, Getting a new job, Getting Married, Moving… Disrupts your healthy routine. It’s important to be aware of these habit changes so you can protect your health and healthy weight!
Melissa is 19 years old and spent her first year at college gaining about 15 pounds. She was pretty miserable when I first met her in June. But, thankfully, we spent the summer working together to lose the weight and she’s exactly where she wants to be before returning. At 5 foot 1, she now weighs in at a very reasonable 115 pounds. Melissa is thrilled with her new body. She feels more confident, more energetic, and happier than she did before—and she can finally wear skinny jeans!
But Melissa’s weight gain is not unusual. A 2003 Cornell University study found that college freshmen gain an average of 4 pounds in just the first 12 weeks. Some contributing factors include: all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; late-night study sessions, which beget late-night snack fests; alcohol—and lots of it; a heavy course load that leaves little time for physical activity; and on and on.
Some factors adding to this weight gain are…
- Being faced with all-you-can-eat buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner,
- Late-night studying – and the snacking and eating late which inevitably goes along with it… fattening take-out dinners of pizza or Chinese food,
- Alcohol- and lots of it,
- Pressure to take too many classes so precluding physical activity in the regular routine,
- Skipping breakfast or lunch time, then overeating between meals and later in the day and into the night.
I understand the struggle: I’ve been there. My weight gain occurred during my sophomore year—my first year away from home. I ate all my favorite foods any time I wanted (ice cream, pastrami sandwiches, chocolate chip bars, chips). And I went from being very physically active in high school—cheerleading, dancing, and more—to doing virtually nothing in college. I was getting flabby—and fast. I distinctly remember complaining to my grandmother how tired I felt. Her unsympathetic admonition,”You’re too young to feel this tired!” shocked me into action and I immediately started changing my ways.
For Melissa and other students going back to school this fall, the temptation to return to unhealthy habits will arise. You’re up to the challenge. Try these tips:
• Figure out when to fit in a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Skipping meals can promote overeating.
• Determine when you can be physically active. For instance, will you be able to get your physical activity by walking to and from classes on certain days? Will you need to hit the gym on others?
• Wear a pedometer to ensure you’re getting at least the daily 10,000 steps it takes to maintain your weight—and more if you want to lose weight.
• Sign up for an exercise class for credit. During my later college years, I took scuba diving, rescue diving, deep diving, tennis, fencing—basically, anything that allowed me to get credit for staying active and learning a new and interesting sport. This is also a way to meet other people with similar interests.
• Schedule your routine so that you are not hungry at night. If you must study late into the night, drink diet sodas or green tea (my favorite is Jasmine scented), and munch on fruits and veggies.
• Dump friends (subtly, of course) who push you to overindulge.
• Cultivate friendships with healthier folks who share your commitment to staying in shape.
You don’t have to undo your hard-earned summer results.
College weight gain is not inevitable!
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One of my 50-something clients, who lost twenty pounds with a few “Diet Simple” tricks, increased pedometer steps, and weight training, confided in me that she feels sexy for the first time in years! On the tennis court, she performs better, is more flexible, stronger and quicker. Who could ask for more in your 40s, 50s, 60s – or even older?
My clients regularly ask me, “How do I maximize my workouts to gain muscle as quickly and effectively as possible?”
My answer: “What you eat and when you eat it profoundly improves your ability to build muscle mass and strength, and new surprising studies show an ancient beverage and a simple stretching routine can make a huge difference, too. Let me explain…”
1. Your Workout
While nutrition is important, the quality of your strength training workout is a key factor for building muscle mass. The National Institute on Aging recommends strength training all of your major muscle groups at least three times a week for 30 minutes. I encourage all my clients to get some kind of strength training so that when they lose weight, they not only look more toned and have more strength (who wants to be a flabby skinny person?), they’re healthier. This can be accomplished by working with a skilled trainer, but also through vigorous yoga and pilates - whenever there is resistance and you work your muscles to exhaustion – that is, you can’t do just one more pushup – you’re building muscle.
It’s also important to build muscle because the more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body burns because muscle mass increases metabolism. That’s why a man who weighs the same as a woman can eat so much more, and will lose weight more easily. He has relatively more muscle so he burns more calories, even at rest!
Studies of 80-year-olds show muscular strength can mean the difference between independence and a nursing home… it improves balance, walking, and reduces falls.
But it’s not easy to build muscle for a variety of reasons.
First, muscle mass declines as you age, starting in your mid 30s. An average person will lose five to seven pounds of muscle between age 35 to age 50 due to disuse. For every pound of muscle lost, you lose the capacity to burn 35 to 50 calories per day. That means if you’ve lost seven pounds of muscle by the age of 50, at 50 calories per muscle, that’s 350 calories you can’t eat just to prevent weight gain, let alone lose weight.
Second, weight loss causes muscle loss. When you lose weight, about half of what you lose is muscle -though you can minimize muscle loss by eating right (so read on!). This makes it even harder to keep the weight off because you’re reducing your muscle and therefore your metabolism as you lose pounds.
This brings us to the obvious: Building muscle as you age, eating the right kinds of foods to make that happen – and to minimize muscle loss as you lose weight – is essential to keeping lean.
Now for the nutrition…
Protein is essential for healthy living. It is one of the most important nutrients in the human body, second only to water. Bone health, muscle function, muscle strength, muscle mass and immune function — all are impaired with a low protein intake. But how much protein do we need?
New research has found that eating the right amount of protein - and at the right times – is essential not only for your health, but also for effective muscle gain and weight loss. Eating enough protein while losing weight is more likely to minimize muscle loss and maximize fat loss. Keeping muscle stores high is critical as losing muscle decreases resting metabolic rate, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat.
The National Academy of Sciences, in a recent report, recommended Americans eat at least 15% of their calories as protein but never exceed 35 percent, as that may be when adverse symptoms begin to appear (Low carb diets are often as high as 80% protein, and have many adverse health consequences).
If you’re losing weight or are worried about muscle or bone loss, consider increasing your protein.
How Much Protein? A personalized formula: The studies of aging populations find about 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of (2.2 lbs is 1 kg) helps to reduce age-related muscle – and bone – loss. This amount should also be adequate for you to maximize your workouts, especially if you are in your mid-30s or older. Though some in the body-building community believe you can go as high as 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight. You may also need this higher amount if you’re sick or bed-bound to minimize muscle loss.
Example: So, if you weigh 150 pounds, this means the amount of protein you should eat is: 150 lbs (divided by 2.2 lbs per kilogram) = 68 kg; 68 kg X 1.2 grams of protein per kg of ideal body weight = 82 grams protein daily. For the maximum amount of protein, multiply 68 kg X 1.6 grams of protein per kg = 109 grams of protein per day
Where Do I Get Protein? Protein can be found in a wide range of foods. Animal protein is in seafood, dairy, meat, poultry and eggs. Vegetarian protein can be found in legumes, soy, vegetables and grains. And while it’s true that high-protein foods often bring fat and calories along as uninvited guests, it doesn’t have to be that way. The lowest-calorie animal protein sources are the leanest. Go for seafood, poultry with no skin, lean veal cuts, pork tenderloin, lean beef cuts such as the round or tenderloin or 95 percent lean hams (less than 3 grams of fat per ounce). Skim milk, nonfat yogurt, lowfat cheeses are also great options. Soy products also provide great low-calorie options and are high quality proteins similar to meat.
Toss four ounces of lean beef, chicken or seafood or 12 ounces of spiced tofu into your salad and gain 28 grams of high-quality protein and no more than 150 to 200 calories.
8 ounces milk/yogurt: 8 grams protein
1/2 cup cooked beans/tofu: 8 grams protein
1 ounce meat/fish/chicken/cheese (the leaner the meat,the more protein and the fewer calories): 7 grams protein
1 large egg: 7 grams protein
1/2 cup cooked or one ounce dry (1 slice bread) grain: 3 grams protein
1/2 cup cooked or one cup raw vegetables: 2 grams protein
3. Timing is Everything!
Eat a food or beverage high in protein 20 minutes before, and again, immediately after your strength training workout or after a vigorous cardiovascular workout, such as tennis, swimming, or kayaking, or even just a long walk. When you work out, you break down your muscles. Taking in protein when your muscles are being broken down and are metabolically active will build your muscle mass and strength more effectively. You also need to make sure you hydrate yourself properly!
My personal regimen includes drinking some skim milk before my workout – all you need is about 1/2 cup – and eating yogurt immediately after my workout or after yoga. If I forget the yogurt, I’ll run to the nearest coffee shop after my workout and buy a skim latte for my protein, which contains milk, or soy milk. But, I like yogurt the best: It contains important probiotics which keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy. It also contains high quality protein, carbohydrate, calcium, potassium and magnesium – important nutrients which you need to replenish your muscles. Eating immediately after your workout could have other benefits: It prevents the “extreme hungries” some people feel after heavy exercise, and it could prevent muscle cramps, according to a client who used to have muscle cramps regularly until she started eating yogurt after her exercise.
Current thinking among protein researchers is that protein is most bioavailable for your muscles (and your cells and organs) if eaten in relatively small quantities through the day. For women, 20 grams per meal is what the body can utilize efficiently. For men, that can go up to 30 grams per meal. So, with my personal protein goal being 60 grams per day, I’m sure to have about 20 grams in the morning, 20 grams mid-day and about 20 grams in the evening, as my body may not benefit from more at one sitting.
If you’re a man who needs 100 grams per day, you could spread out your protein intake through the day to 4 meals – separated by at least two hours – of about 25 grams each. So an 8 ounce steak at night, containing 56 grams of protein, just won’t cut it!
A new study found tea improves muscular strength. Tea? Apparently, as we age, oxidative stress and inflammation cause age-related muscle and bone breakdown. Tea’s healthy compounds, called “polyphenols,” reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, preventing this breakdown, and even improve muscular strength and bone mass. In a recent study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, when post-menopausal women with osteopenia (the beginning of osteoporosis – brittle bones) were given tea and/or Tai Chi exercises, after six months, the tea alone caused an improvement in muscle strength and bone-building biomarkers. Learn more about the health benefits of tea… So did the Tai Chi alone – certainly not a rigorous or impactful exercise, which we’ve been taught all along was necessary for muscle and bone building! Apparently, Tai Chi also reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.
With the amazing results of this study in mind, it makes sense that any foods high in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, such as fruits and vegetables, may help improve bone and muscle strength. And, if Tai Chi helps improve bone and muscle mass, shouldn’t other forms of meditation or meditative exercise, such as yoga? More research is needed to establish the facts, but these results certainly are promising.
See more specifics of my own personal regimen below!
In the meantime, I’m drinking tea every day, doing vigorous yoga at least 2 to 3 times a week, working with a trainer once a week, walking A LOT to keep body fat down, at least 10,000 pedometer steps is a daily average, in my posture-improving MBT shoes, from Comfort One Shoe Store (ask for Manager, Shawn O’Neill), eating plenty of yogurt, and my own delicious batch recipes filled with healthy foods found in Diet Simple and Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes (only $4.95) to keep my muscles and bones strong, and my body in shape!