Treating My Osteopenia

osteopeniaGrowing old. What a nuisance. Wrinkles, gray hair, enlargement of the suborbicularis oculi fat pads – a.k.a. eye bags big enough to pack a picnic lunch. And now bones returning to dust right inside of me.

This tirade stems from the results of my Dual X-ray (DXA) bone densitometry test. In the past eleven years, my osteopenia has gotten worse (surely, it’s a measurement error!) to greatly increasing my risk of hip and spine fractures as I age. (But I love to ice skate – talk about falls!)

No surprise as I have so many risks: older, white, small-boned female, lowish BMI (cosmetically slim), never took estrogen, bisphosphonates (Actonel) did nothing, used to smoke, loves wine (modestly reduces calcium absorption) and coffee (modestly increases calcium excretion).

My diet is balanced enough, albeit lowish in protein because I don’t eat much meat and eggs and, like most others, I don’t meet my personal requirements for calcium and vitamin D: 1,200 milligrams of calcium – some say 1,500 – and 600 i.u. of vitamin D- some say 800) per day. And what about boron, vitamin K, phosphorous, and other key nutrients for bone health? I’ll comment only if you ask.

I do eat yogurt faithfully and, sometimes, milk in cereal. I eat my dark leafy greens and nuts and, sometimes, fish with bones; however, calcium from plants is not well-absorbed (oxalates and phytates interfere with absorption), I rarely drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, and I never have calcium-fortified orange juice or breakfast bars. (Personal preference: yuck!) According to the lab, I’m not vitamin D deficient (vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption), but I’m sure I don’t eat enough fatty fish, liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, radiated mushrooms, or fortified milk – most yogurt is not fortified  – and I don’t get enough strong sun. But I’m not about to eat more because, as a short older women, I practically can’t eat without gaining weight. (Young ones, wait and see.)

And so, I have to take supplemental calcium and vitamin D. I take Nature Made adult gummies Calcium with Vitamin D3 four a day at doses of 500 mg or less between meals to increase absorption. (Add another 150 calories.) These suplements are acceptable because, frankly, they taste like candy. Each gummie contains 250 milligrams of calcium and 350 i.u. of vitamin D, which should keep me within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for  gender and age. The calcium is tricalcium phosphate, a well absorbed source, and vitamin D3 (vs. D2), the best form. Still, research tells me not to expect much.

Weight-bearing exercise also helps to build bone. I walk a lot, jump on the mini-trampoline a bit and do Pilates consistently. But that doesn’t cut it. Now, I have to take up running or jumping up onto and down from a box at least 15 inches high to generate enough force to help build bone. (See the New York Times, Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones.) Since 15 inches is more than a quarter of my height, jumping on the box won’t work, and if I liked to run, I’d have done it by now, but like the supplements, it’s therapeutic. What a nuisance.

Your thoughts: Have you had a bone densitometry test? What did it reveal? Do you take calcium supplements?

Tafathalo! Welcome to My Arabic Dinner

This year the Arab American Institute conducted their biyearly poll of American attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims. Favorable attitudes towards Arabs and Muslims are lacking to say the least: 68% of Americans are critical of Arabs and 73% dislike Muslims. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans admit they don’t know enough about Islam, Muslims, and Arab history and people. A narrow-minded bunch are we, which brings me around to my Christmas theme for 2014:

Jesus was Arabic.

He was born in the Middle East, he spoke Aramaic and he probably had dark skin. Look at the desert in the nativity scene. Arabic people can be Jewish because Judaism is a religion, not an ethnicity. Furthermore, every Arab is not Muslim. 

To honor my theme, I hosted a pre-Christmas-eve Arabian dinner. My menu came from the Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook by Tess Mallos (Gulf States section, mostly.) I got the cloth-bound hard-covered edition from my local library. (Frugality is another one of my themes.)

The Arabic cuisine is mainly a combination of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It has been affected by the mingling of Arab and non-Arabs over the centuries. European cultures such as the Spanish, Italian, French and Greek had impact on Arab cooking. Turkish cuisine impacts the entire Arab world, while Persian and Indian cuisine influences eastern Arabic countries.

Sharing a meal with others is an old honored tradition in the Arabic World and an expression of hospitality. “Tafathalo” means “Do me the honor”. It is an invitation to come to the table. This is what I served:

Starters
Hummus and Khoubiz (Flat Bread) from Sam’s Bakery in Fall River, Massachusetts
Endives with Oranges and Almonds (Spanish/Arabian influence, generously provided by a guest)

Soup
Shaurabat Adas (Red Lentil Soup)

Salad
Fattoush Salad

Entrees
Samak Quwarmah (Fish Curry)
Mushkoul (Rice with Onion)
Kebat Al Batatis Wal Burkul (Bulghul and Potato Cakes with Lamb and Apricot Filling) – (We thought this needed a yogurt sauce.)

Desserts / Beverages
“Sweet Sesame” (a Sam’s Bakery bread made with honey, sugar, cinnamon, and sesame seeds)
Dates
Candy (re-gifted by the teachers at the table)
Decaf coffee/Black tea
Wine
Arak (Now I know to water it down.)

Your thoughts: Do you eat Middle Eastern food? Do you know enough about Arabic culture?

Hunger Signals Are Linked to Brown Fat

“Is it hot in here?”

That would be me asking, the day after I overate. I could literally feel the extra calories leaving my body as heat. My brown fat must be up to snuff, probably because I exercise and I don’t “weight cycle” (loose weight and regain.)

Brown fat (also called BAT, brown or beige adipose tissue) is a new critical determinant of energy expenditure. BAT seems to be an endocrine organ that influences metabolism. Aaron Cypess, M.D., a metabolic researcher from the Joslin Diabetes Center, explains that 54% of the variation in metabolic rate correlates with an individual’s activated brown fat. Wow! Maybe it’s time to retire the Harris–Benedict Equation and other formulas that predict basal metabolic rate.*

Last week, I wrote an article about new brown fat research for DietsInReview.com. In my opinion, the research links a healthy supply of brown fat to “intuitive eating” – in mice.
See my article, and the TIME magazine report, that got me thinking.

Your thoughts: Do you love brown fat as much as I do?

* Basal Metabolic Rate:  The rate at which energy is used by an organism at complete rest, measured in humans by the heat given off per unit time. It is expressed as the calories released per square meter of body surface per hour. 

Healthy Vending Machines Are Here to Stay

bettervendingmachinesAn important diet trend is unfolding. The food in vending machines is changing for the best.

You can’t believe how often people eat from vending machines. Teens get around one third of their calories from snack foods eaten away from home. At work, school and in public places, machines may be the only option. I ate from vending machines I worked in the cubes. :( I used to buy two ounces of salted Planter’s Peanuts, full of calories but also nutrients, I was starving, and the other food was crap. I should have packed a snack.

Anyway, the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, (Michelle Obama’s) federal law that affects public school food, mandated that food sold in schools, including vending machines, meet the USDA’s “Smart Snacks in Schools” nutrition standards. In turn, several major cities, and now the State of California, mandated that vending machines on government property be healthy. That drove the market for suppliers and (surprise!) people liked the healthy food better (well not all.) Still, it looks like a healthy vending machine franchise is good financial bet.

To learn more, read my article, Healthier Vending Machines are a Win-Win for All Hungry Consumers, at DietsInReview.com.

Your thoughts: What do you buy from the vending machine?

Aglio e Olio, A Pasta Story

Aglio e OlioOn his blog, Ed Writes, Stories of the 40’s & 50s, my friend, Dr. Ed Iannuccilli, asks, “Do you have a pasta story to share?” Well, I can think of a pasta story that remotely involves him.

A long time ago, about seven years into my career, I worked as a dietitian in the medical office of Dr. I and his partners, where mostly everyone – professional and support staff alike and the patients too – were of Italian American heritage. I was not.

I had a patient with Anorexia nervosa, a psych condition characterized by a fixation on food and weight, although is really about deeper, difficult emotional issues. Nutrition therapy is an important part of treatment.

Anorexics usually have strange food rituals, such as eating the same food over and over because it feels safe. This patient’s “safe food” was Aglio e Olio [pronounced AH-lyoh ay AW-lyoh], a simple pasta dish that was unknown to me at the time. The patient shared an intimate history. It wouldn’t be right to interrupt. “Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio Aglio e Olio….” Follow the bouncing ball. It was all the patient ate. 

When the appointment finally ended, I burst out of my office into the common area where my coworkers sat. “Help!” I said, “What the hell is Aglio e Olio??!!”

Here’s a recipe for Spaghetti Aglio E Olio. Eat it with other foods as part of a balanced diet

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti
  • salt
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 8 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to hold the pasta. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not overcook. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
  • Boil and drain the pasta.
  • Carefully add the reserved pasta-cooking water to the garlic and oil and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by about a third.
  • Add the drained pasta to the garlic sauce and toss. Off the heat, add the parsley and Parmesan and toss well. Rest the pasta for a few minutes. Serve warm.

Your thoughts: Do you have a pasta story to share?

My Grandmother, the Chicken Killer

Ninja Chicken
Eat only the animals you kill.
Yesterday, while sitting in a restaurant with my 94-year old aunt, Jean, she told me that her mother, my grandmother, was an exceptionally skilled chicken killer. (From living in Brooklyn, I know that backyard chickens are great.)
Mary:  Really, did my grandmother raise chickens?
Jean:  No, she killed chickens as a favor to the neighbors.
Mary:  Where did she get the live chickens to kill?
Jean: The man sold live chickens off the truck. Chickens in cages were loaded onto a flatbed truck that was driven into the neighborhoods.
Mary: Why didn’t my grandmother buy chicken at the store.
Jean: That was expensive and she knew these chickens were fresh.
(Mary: FRESH? I guess. She had to kill the damn things! Nowadays, people can’t even touch a raw chicken, let along MURDER it.)
Mary:  So, what was this skill? How did she actually kill a chicken?
Jean: She would feel the neck and SNAP it in the right place. It was so fast. She pulled the head away from the body.

Backyard chicken lovers, let’s take this relationship to the next level.
How to kill a chicken*
“The recommended neck dislocation method is to grasp the bird’s legs in one hand (usually the left), holding the legs at about waist level, and the head in the other hand going diagonally across your body down to below your right hip. The beak should protrude between your first two fingers and, gripping tightly, you use the heel of your palm against its upper neck to provide the necessary pivot. In the one movement, you’re supposed to wrench downward (that is, up with the legs, down with the head) and twist the head sharply up and back. There should be an audible click of dislocation but the very strong may pull a head right off, which would be rather upsetting. If you practice beforehand (perhaps on an already deceased chicken) you will certainly know what force to use as well as if you have the strength to do it.”
*www.backyardpoultry.com

But wait (sorry) there’s more. The chicken gets dunked in scalding water followed by an ice bath to make feather plucking easier. But, before that, the bird gets decapitated and eviscerated with the skill of a surgeon. Finally, the chicken is cooked very quickly before rigor mortis sets in.

Just think, that was only eighty years ago and, still, many (most?) people around the world kill the meat they eat. At least they know it’s fresh.

Your thoughts?
Would you eat meat if you had to kill it first?

Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

Oops! It’s a rogue blog. Hello.

I released this ditty to the public by mistake because I forgot how to use WordPress – and I switched to a Mac – during my absence. I stopped blogging last December when I sold my Brooklyn apartment (number one) – packed and moved my stuff into storage – subleased a cute little Brooklyn apartment (number two) from a professor on sabbatical – moved into a Brooklyn AirBNB (number three) that I’m leaving this week. It’s all too hard to explain. I like freedom and variety.

But through it all, I still have to write for DietsInReview.com, the best contracting agent ever! Here is the assignment for the week; “We have a new partnership with Shape magazine in which we write one article for them each week. For next week the topic is: What about the #1 thing you should do when you first start a diet to make you more likely to succeed?”

I turned to my best bud’s stuff. Diane Petrella writes about the power of the mind to change weight and get healthy. It’s free, it works, and it’s way underused. It’s the secret sauce.  It’s too bd that I scooped Shape by pushing the wrong button!
But now that I’m in the water, my promise to you, should you care, is that I will blog once a week to stay in practice. God knows, I am not a writer. But I am a bit of a different nutritionist with something to say.

 

The Number One Thing Needed to Ensure Diet Success

 

News flash: There is no one best way to lose weight. It is up to you to find a healthy eating approach and activity pattern that is unique to you. Don’t change anything until you document the “real you” by keeping a food journal. It will give you a clear picture of what to change. Most people need to dump the junk, reduce food portions, and rarely eat when not actually hungry.  Setting clear positive goals such as “I will eat oatmeal with fruit and nuts at least three times a week,” or “I will go to Zumba on Saturday morning and Tuesday evening,” enhances your chances of success.

But the greatest predictor of weight loss success is how you see yourself. Old images of the “heavy you” making unhealthy choices are replaced with new images of the “healthy you” choosing to act in healthier ways. When you “act as if” you are already there, you shift energy towards the positive, which makes way for intuition to move you easily towards your goal. Think of a time when you accomplished something by first creating a vision. Success is always created with a picture in the mind.

“Visualization” is a actual process of deliberately using your imagination to create a mental model. Since the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, when you visualize, your subconscious encodes a new picture as if it happened for real.  Sports psychologists and peak performers always use the power of visualization to build confidence and imagine success.

A small study* recently showed the power of visualization to improve eating habits. Subjects were asked to eat more fruit for one week, One group was simply asked to set a goal to eat more fruit, while the other group was told to visualize buying fruit and eating it at particular times. While both groups ate more fruit, the groups that used visualization ate twice as much.

The power of visualization is truly an under-used free tool for weight loss success. As you lie in bed in the morning or before falling asleep at night, calm your mind, relax your body, and picture yourself at your goal weight. See yourself making choices as the new healthy you. Hold a picture of yourself calmly eating delicious healthy food and watch as your body moves with ease. Notice the feelings and sensations associated with the images because connecting with your feelings as your visualize strengthens the effects. Deep relaxation internalizes the new images. In only three to five minutes a day, you can visualize your way to weight loss success.

* McGill University. “Planning and visualization lead to better food habits.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110225122818.htm>.

My Favorite Christmas Gift (Orange You Glad?)

Citrus Fruit Gift BoxMy favorite gift is one that disappears. Eat it, drink it, burn it, rub it on the skin, throw it away like a withered bouquet.  Just make it go.

Tops on my list is a box of seasonal fruit, straight from the farm. Aromatic and soooo delicious; it’s peak season for citrus fruits: red grapefruit, clementines, Cara Cara oranges, Meyer lemons. Super foods, as they say. I really mean it.

That’s what told Joan Wickham on a sweaty scorcher of a day last summer. Joan is the manager of advertising and public relations.for the Sunkist Growers. We met at The Capital Grille on E 42nd Street during her visit from Los Angeles. Sunkist a citrus growers’ cooperative of 6,000 members from California and Arizona. They are the largest fresh produce shipper in the United States.

Citrus Gifts

Joan presented me with a mesh bag of variegated pink Eureka lemons. (Sunkist calls their Pink Variegated Lemonsvariety “Zebra”.) It has green and off-white stripes on the outside and a pink flesh inside. Sporadically, pink lemons are available winter through mid-summer. They are a perfect garnish for cocktails. Look for them where Melissa’s Farm Fresh Produce is sold – and in fine bars. The variegated pink is a mutant variety first discovered on an ordinary Eureka lemon tree in a Burbank home garden around 1930.

As for my favorite Fresh Citrus Gift Box, California citrus can be ordered from farms such as Shields Date Garden and Pearson Ranch and, of course, on Amazon. To guide your choice, Sunkist makes a varietal chart of all the California citrus fruits available by month.

Lékué Citrus MisterAnd here is citrus gift, that doesn’t disappear, but gets a pass for being so darn practical and cute. It is the Lékué Citrus Mister I saw demonstrated at several cooking events this year. Just pop the mister right into the fruit to spritz salads, seafood, cocktails, your hair, the room, and more. The gadget is so much fun to pass around the table.

My citrus gift to you is this recipe for Grapefruit Avocado Salad, my favorite winter salad. It was first served to me at the Zuck’s dinner table and now, I make it all the time. Add pomegranate seeds to dress it up for Christmas and spritz the avocado to stay green.

Your thoughts: What’s your favorite holiday gift?

Double-Double Gratitude, Happy Thanksgivukkah!

A Turkey-shaped Challah

A Turkey-shaped Challah

This year, I think I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in a Jewish home because I don’t want to miss out on Thanksgivukkah. That’s the pop culture portmanteau neologism for the first day of Hanukkah that falls on Thanksgiving this year. (Such a phrase! Oy, the fun!)

This is the first and only Thanksgivukkah in our lifetimes. The next one is 70,000 years from now. Since both holidays are about giving thanks, it’s double-double gratitude happy happy joy joy, 2X the love.

The Thanksgivukkah Meal

A Thanksgivukkah menu combines the best foods from both holidays: Manizchewitz-brined turkey….challah stuffing….pumpkin pie with caraway and seeds in the crust. The Internet is a cornucopia of creative and healthy Thanksgivukkah recipes. My favorites are from Christine Byrne for BuzzFeed who has nine original recipes that combine the best foods from both holidays for us. I am considering these recipes:

Your thoughts, Will you be celebrating Thanksgivukkah? What’s for dinner? 

Squatters Get Free Subway Rides

Subway Squat

This is right up my alley. I ride the subway, I worship squats, and I’m all over free stuff. The proof is in my archives:
Do You Know (How to) Squat?
If You See Something Say Something
3 Degrees of Separation from Snackman
Cock-a-Leekie Soup and Free Yogurt

And so, you can imagine my excitement when I read the headline today:

—-   Russian Commuters Can Earn Free Subway Ticket by Doing Squats   —-

The news is that the Russian Committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics (in Russia) came up with a cool promotion for one month. They are giving away a free travel ticket to anyone who does thirty squats. How clever is that? And look at how easy it was to set up the ticket machine:

If this is another Space Race, then Russia is beating us for supremacy in physical fitness, public health and public relations campaigns. Our subway stunts don’t promote healthy behavior. Do you remember when Heineken Took Over the NYC MTA? You know, I’m going to email Mike Bloomberg, Michelle Obama, and Stephen Colbert too right now.

Your thoughts: Should Americans get free subway tickets for doing squats?