What makes the Mediterranean Diet a good choice?
There is so much confusing information available about the best foods to eat to be healthy. But now with the latest update of the MyFoodPyramid to MyPlate, even the American diet is shifting towards a healthier focus with ½ the plate being composed of fruits and veggies. This way of eating is followed in the countries around the Mediterranean. In a temperate, warm climate by the sea, people there eat a lot of fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. Their Mediterranean Diet (MD) is known for its nutritional content and is a good choice for healthy eating.
I think you should evaluate your current diet and strongly consider adopting a diet that is rich in nutrients and vegetables such as the MD diet. Whether you decide to fully adopt the MD diet or begin to transition toward eating more fresh food, you will improve your eating. Limiting processed foods and carbs is a lifestyle modification that will take some work. The majority of the diet revolves around vegetables.
Bach-Faig looks at the Mediterranean Diet as a pyramid that outlines necessary daily, weekly, and occasional guidelines of how much and of what to eat for a balanced diet. She works to create a new visual graphic representation of the MD lifestyle. The new pyramid of the MD demonstrates the composition of what meals should consist of and how much should be eaten. The MD diet has been shown to be extremely effective at protecting against chronic diseases as well as aiding in other health benefits. She shows that plant-based foods make up the majority of the food that should be eaten on this diet to provide proper nutrients and should be eaten frequently and in high proportions. Olive oil is considered to be the “principal source of dietary lipids” and should be used for everything from cooking to dressings. The focus is to update the MD diet to the current day but maintain and preserve the rich cultural history associated with the region and its way of eating. This revised MD pyramid was created to visually portray the diet to facilitate adherence to this healthy dietary program and its lifestyle components. Besides the guidelines presented, frugality and moderation are also stressed to deal with the current obesity epidemic.
To begin trying this diet you should have about 1-2 servings of fruit at every meal. Then have more than 2 servings of vegetables of different colors and textures (cooked or raw) at every meal. You can eat 1-2 servings of olive oil and whole grains in addition at every meal. Make sure you have adequate hydration with enough water and tea. Every day you should aim for about 2 servings of low fat dairy and 1-2 servings of nuts and seeds. On a weekly basis you should limit sweets to twice or less, less than 3 servings of potatoes, more than 2 servings of fish/seafood, 2 servings of white meat, 2-4 servings of eggs, more than 2 servings of legumes, and less than 2 servings of red meat and none or 1 serving of processed meat. Then keep your alcohol to a minimum; typically wine is the beverage of choice to drink in moderation. Also keep in mind that you could take hints from the Mediterranean lifestyle and begin walking more rather than driving, and also do your food shopping daily.
And if you have the means – might I suggest you begin your new diet with a trip to the Mediterranean? That should help get you in the proper mindset to change your eating habits as you experience the culture and cuisine.
Bach-Faig, A., Berry, E. M., Lairon, D., Reguant, J., Trichopoulou, A., Dernini, S., . . . Mediterranean Diet Fdn Expert, G. (2011). Mediterranean diet pyramid today. Science and cultural updates. [Article]. Public Health Nutrition, 14(12A), 2274-2284. doi: 10.1017/s1368980011002515
"I’m an older woman and I wonder if it is worth the effort to try Resistance Training?"
Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle, is often associated with aging and can lead to frailty, impairments and a lowered quality of life. Resistance training is a method that has been successfully shown to help alleviate the occurrence or slow down the effects of sarcopenia. Resistance training is extremely important for maintaining your muscle and bone density, especially as you age. I think you should do resistance training because it doesn’t require a lot of time to complete and the benefits from it are tremendous. This will help in so many ways from ensuring that if you fall your bones won’t be as brittle to being able to carry your baby great-nephew without hurting your back to having more stamina for walking the dog to being able to pick up heavy groceries!
A study by Benton on untrained middle-aged women found that, regardless of frequency, training produced initial strength and lean body mass production. Whether training for 3 nonconsecutive days with traditional total-body work or 4 consecutive days with an alternating split-training protocol, both groups produced a positive correlation between gains in muscle mass and training volume and both groups had similar improvements. Benton writes that the muscle fiber characteristics in adults over 60 years of age can be changed with resistance training. Consider that training done for 2-3 days a week for only 12 weeks can produce muscle hypertrophy and increase type I and type II fibers, which affect your strength and muscular endurance. This is so important for being able to continue your activities of daily living uninhibited.
Trainers do not all agree about what type of resistance training you should do. Should you use free weights, machines, or body weight? First decide that you want to take your body in your hands (literally) and begin strengthening it. Then see what options are available where you like to work out – is there a program like Women on Weights or Weightlifting for Beginners? Those classes can help teach you basic safe form. I recommend free weights working your major muscle groups as a way to ease into resistance training or use the Cybex equipment machines which have fewer components to focus on during a lift and require less musculature that needs to be stabilized during the movements. Try a row – it will train your biceps as well as your lats, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids…(3 sets 10 reps 10 lbs). While you likely will not see as much result from lifting small free weights as you will from using more resistance, you need to get started. A row will allow for a greater load to be used since you will be engaging more musculature to assist with the movement. You can increase the intensity when you no longer tire. Just remember that compound movements that use multiple joints offer substantially greater benefits than single joint movements, ie. you’ll get more bang for your buck [time].
I have just begun a regimen using my own body weight and will eventually work up to using weights. I am doing body weight squats in parallel (it burns your glutes, hamstrings, quads, etc); scapula retractions and pushups. I’m already able to do more pushups (which works my pecs [chest], arms and back all at once. This training uses the weight of gravity against my body against me. I am only doing 2-3 x a week for 20 min. and I’m already seeing results. Body weight resistance training can be a little more daunting but if you want to try it – perhaps try taking a Pilates full-body class that will help you tone up but strengthen too!
Resistance training is a way to prevent muscle loss! Don’t lose your strength and your health. This is quick and easy to do and it will help keep you going – after all, you want to last long enough that you can play with your grandchildren.
Benton, M. J., Kasper, M. J., Raab, S. A., Waggener, G. T., & Swan, P. D. (2011). SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE TRAINING FREQUENCY ON BODY COMPOSITION AND STRENGTH IN MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN. [Article]. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(11), 3142-3149. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820f505f
Benton, M. J., Whyte, M. D., & Dyal, B. W. (2011). Sarcopenic Obesity: Strategies for Management. [Article]. American Journal of Nursing, 111(12), 38-44. doi: 10.1097/01.naj.0000408184.21770.98
Cardiovascular training is important for improving health. Just looking at the physiologic changes that occur in our cardiorespiratory system during exercise are evidence that the benefits are large: increases in heart size and volume, VO2max (amount of oxygen consumption at maximal capacity), lung volume, cardiac output, stroke volume and blood volume. ‘Cardio’ causes your resting heart rate to decrease and can even lower your blood pressure, not to mention how it can help improve your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your bad (LDL) while increasing your strength and helping you shed excess weight and fat. Cardiovascular training comes in many forms: from running to swimming to dancing.
I think you should begin cardiovascular training. I am preferential to dance, through Zumba (Latin Dance Fitness Aerobics). However, the most important thing for you to do is begin moving. Start getting energized and get your blood flowing. Zumba can be thought of as a form of interval training because it requires short duration bursts of energy (for example, a 3 minute high intensity choreography) with then a rest break for catching your breath or grabbing water. Cardio intervals can also be done by sprinting up a hill or stairs for X amount of time and then walking for X time before repeating.
Gosselin measured the responses from high intensity aerobic workloads in young adults responding to different intervals. The work-to-rest-ratio varied over 5 different interval protocols to be measured. The 90/30 (work/active rest in seconds) aerobic interval training protocol produced the best results in terms of a high VO2, HR (heart rate) and RPE (rate of perceived exertion). The caloric expenditure was highest in the moderate intervals of 30/30 and 60/60. This study found that interval aerobic training is comparable to steady state exercise and that the responses to interval training depend on the work-to-rest-ratio. Interval training takes less time to complete yet can accomplish the same results with cardiorespiratory training.
After learning that your exercise duration could be shortened thanks to the research shown by Gosselin you will surely want to begin interval training. Start by first figuring out where you want to exercise, and the modality you want to use (the exercise you do will be what you improve in, so if you have a goal to be able to bike to work for example, you may want to utilize that training modality in your high intensity training). Do you want to go to a gym, to a track, to a stairwell? Then buy a stopwatch so that you can time and measure yourself. Start by taking your heart rate at rest for 1 minute after sitting for 5 minutes. Let’s say you got 60 beats per minute. Now calculate your max HR (220-your age). You got 198? Great! Now you have a range (give or take 10-15 bpm) of what your highest HR should be. Time to remember your math skills: if you want to sprint at 50% of your HR max you divide your HRmax in 2 and get 99bpm. So if you are working at 80% of your HR you would be at ~158bpm. Now you have your goal: you want to sprint up the stairs getting your HR at around 158 after your sprint and then while you walk you want your HR to lower to 99 before you do another sprint. You can play with your intervals (say sprint stairs for 60 sec, walk for 30 sec). Go out and improve your cardiorespiratory fitness now with interval training!
After cardiovascular training for as little as a few weeks, you should see improvements in your endurance, your ability to keep breathing while exerting, and very likely in your clothing size!
Gosselin, L. E., Kozlowski, K. F., Devinney-Boymel, L., & Hambridge, C. (2010). Metabolic and Cardiovascular Response of Different High Intensity Aerobic Interval Exercise Protocols. [Meeting Abstract].Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42(5), 139-139. Retrieved from doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318241e13d
Food journals, dietary logs and survey questionnaires are common practice for assessing what type of nutrition you take in. They can help to identify deficiencies in your diet and help you determine how you feel with certain foods to having more energy when you are eating properly.
Chronicling what foods you eat is important for improving your health and monitoring your lifestyle choices. As 1 lb = 3,500 calories weight fluctuations are often caused by diet. Food logs also allow you to ensure that you receive proper amounts of key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are necessary for maintaining and improving your health.
Several journal articles provide insights about why monitoring food intake is useful. While they each address different issues with determining what we eat, as a group they document that food intake is important to understand.
Bezerra did a review article looking at the association between eating out and your body weight. If you eat out you aren’t always aware of what goes into your food during the cooking/preparation process. Often restaurants don’t give diners the correct portion size for an individual and so it can be easy to overeat or exceed your caloric goals.
Sandstrom analyzed the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG) for the European Union. The goal was to create recommendations that were achievable, representative and suitable for different cultures. Sandstrom identified which nutrients were eaten from possible food sources, what the most popular foods for the population were, what forms of food intake were reflective of adequate nutrition, and finally deciphered what the FBDG portion sizes, frequency, types of food and the ideal makeup of a meal should be.
Sharma looked specifically at the diets of inner-city low-income African Americans older than 18 and worked to develop a Quantitative Food Frequency Questionnaire (QFFQ) for this population to determine what type of intervention program could be established to help improve nutrients ingested and therefore diminish risk of chronic diseases.
These three studies explain in detail why being aware of what we eat is important. Dietary assessment doesn’t need to be a daunting task. With technology it is now possible to not only keep a written food journal but enter your data online, through your phone or even by documenting with pictures (www.meallogger.com).
MyFitnessPal.com is my recommendation for beginning to monitor your food and physical activity levels. I even have mine as an application for my smartphone and it is set with alarms to remind me if I forget to enter my meals. It has been a useful log so that I have been able to determine when I tend to have certain types of food cravings. I can quickly see when I make serious progress and lose weight and I can also use it as a tool to get healthier with my family since I can see their progress and send encouragements. I have mine set to specifically look at my carbs, fat, protein, fiber and caloric intake. This way I can at a glance look at whether I am meeting my nutritional objectives with proper nutrients and vitamins. Your first step is to create your free account with MyFitnessPal or whichever service you prefer and start keeping track of your meals. After a few days you will get into a rhythm and it will not feel like a chore but part of your regular daily schedule
Bezerra IN, Curioni C, Sichieri R. Nutr Rev. 2012 Feb;70(2):65-79. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00459.x. PubMed PMID: 22300594.
Sandstrom, B. (2001). A framework for food-based dietary guidelines in the European Union. Public health nutrition, 4(2A), 293-305.
Sharma, S., Cao, X., Arcan, C., Mattingly, M., Jennings, S., Song, H. J., & Gittelsohn, J. (2009). Assessment of dietary intake in an inner-city African American population and development of a quantitative food frequency questionnaire to highlight foods and nutrients for a nutritional invention. [Article]. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 60, 155-U190. doi: 10.1080/09637480902755061.