Nutrition

Lactose Intolerance Can Sneak Up on Elders

By Carol Bradley Bursack -
 

Dear Readers: Several years ago, I used this space to highlight lactose intolerance, an issue many older adults face. Due to some recent questions, I felt it was time, once again, to share some anecdotes regarding this sometimes hidden problem.

Many of our elders enjoy milk, ice cream and other dairy products. In general, dairy products can provide valuable nutrition and needed calories, but dairy products contain lactose, a milk sugar that requires the enzyme lactase for proper digestion. Even people who’ve enjoyed dairy products for decades can gradually lose their ability to produce enough lactase to digest milk or other dairy products. When this happens, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea can result.

My 80-year-old neighbor, for whom I was a primary caregiver years ago, provided me with some education in this area. During one of our daily chats he confided to me that he was experiencing severe diarrhea. I was concerned about the many serious health issues someone his age could have, so I scheduled an appointment for him to see his doctor. His primary physician then scheduled him for a number of tests, all of which proved negative.

Since my neighbor seemed to have no alarming medical issues, I thought that an experiment was worthwhile. Lactase drops had recently become available over the counter at the pharmacy. The only dairy product that my friend consumed regularly was milk for his cereal, so I purchased some lactase and added the appropriate number of drops to my friend’s weekly quart of milk. Problem solved. He was able to enjoy his morning cereal and milk with no adverse effects.

Unfortunately, the source of lactose isn’t always this obvious. A reader wrote to tell me that his wife had suffered lactose intolerance for years, but had successfully worked around the problem. However, after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she was given new medications. She then began suffering from severe diarrhea.

“After fighting the problem for many months,” he wrote, “we found out that some of the medications she is on contain lactose. Not only that, lactose is considered to be a non-active ingredient, so it is not usually listed in the ingredients.”

The reader suggested that people who suffer from lactose intolerance ask a pharmacist to check all of the ingredients in their medications, including the non-active ones. The solution for this woman was to continue to take her medications, but to take a lactase enzyme pill at the same time.

Digestive issues can be a symptom of many serious illnesses, so always check with the doctor if your elder develops diarrhea or other severe digestive problems. If no other cause for digestive discomfort is evident and the doctor doesn’t suggest lactose intolerance, bring up the possibility. This is one of those health issues that can begin with such vague disturbances that it continues undetected for quite some time. Lactose intolerance can be managed once it’s discovered, but it may take some detective work. Remember to read labels on food items, as well. Some prepared foods also contain lactose.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

New Year’s Resolutions That Will Stick: Floss Your Teeth Every Day

By Elaine Magee -

One of my past New Year’s resolutions that sure stuck was to floss my teeth daily. Clean, healthy teeth form an important part of our overall health. Flossing makes it so we can hold onto great smiles as we age and all seniors can enjoy clean teeth.

In fact, I have dental floss containers in my purse, my car, and in my bathroom to this day. Once I got used to having nicely flossed teeth, I began to really dislike the feeling of anything being stuck between my teeth (which explains my need to have floss containers most places I go). Cleaning between your teeth encourages clean gums…and clean gums are a part of being as healthy as possible!

We all like to avoid bad breath and decaying food between your teeth will definitely promote bad breath. Are you convinced yet? To accomplish this resolution all you need to do is set yourself up for success by having plenty of floss packets positioned where you will be reminded to use them. Extra clean teeth, gums, and breath await!

Keep smiling,

Elaine

You can read Elaine Magee’s bio to learn more about her. You find more articles by Elaine in the Health Nutrition section of our library.

New Year’s Resolutions That Will Stick: 9 Cups of Water

By Elaine Magee - 

Have you had your daily cups of water today?

How many cups of water have you drunk today? Was it more than 8? We generally forget how important something as simple as water and hydration is to our daily health. Being over 50 only makes it more important. As we age, our thirst mechanism can get a little lazy so we cannot rely as much on this to guide our liquid intake. One study found older people may suffer from dehydration more often in hot weather because of aging nerves in their mouth, throat, and stomach. These thirst monitors are all sending weaker signals to the brain about needing water.

What’s a good amount of water too shoot for each day? According to the 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine on the Dietary Reference Intakes For Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate, an adequate intake for drinking water and beverages for men and women (ages 19 to 70+ years) is about 13 cups (101 fluid ounces) for men and 9 cups (74 fluid ounces) for women. Keep in mind the ideal amount of water for you personally can depend on many factors such as the temperature, your weight and how long you exercise.

I make sure I have some water or tea near me almost all of the time. You can try buying 4, 16-ounce water bottles and numbering them with a marker from one through four. See if you get through all four bottles (which gives you 8 cups of water) by the end of the day. If you have a cup of tea, it counts as one of those 8 cups of water. Every time you drive in the car, bring a bottle of water (or another beverage) with you. Every time you exercise, take a water bottle with you. You’ll get to 8 cups a day before you know it!

That’s easy!

Elaine

You can read Elaine Magee’s bio to learn more about her. You find more articles by Elaine in the Health Nutrition section of our library.

New Year’s Resolutions That Will Stick: Bake with Half Whole Wheat Flour

by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD -

If you like to bake, this could be the resolution for you: Every time you add flour when you are baking, make half of it whole-wheat flour.

I’ve been doing this for years and it always works out, be it breads, muffins, bars, brownies, cakes or cookies. Just get in the habit of always doing this.

Pull the whole-wheat flour out of the pantry every time you reach for white flour. If the recipe calls for 2 cups of white flour, add one cup of whole-wheat flour and one cup of unbleached white flour.

Your whole grain goal should be to eat at least 3 (1-ounce) servings per day of whole grain foods, preferably in place of refined grains.

Baking with half whole-wheat flour will definitely help you reach this healthful goal. What will baking with whole-wheat flour add to your diet?

Every 1/4-cup of whole-wheat flour adds 4 grams of fiber along with a powerful assortment of phyto-chemicals like phytic acids (that bind with metals and may offer some cancer protection), phyto-sterols (that help lower total and LDL cholesterol), and ferulic acid (which has antioxidant activity and may inhibit inflammation and cancer growth).

There it is, easy as that!

Elaine

You can read Elaine Magee’s bio to learn more about her. You find more articles by Elaine in the Health Nutrition section of our library.

Citrus Season: the Superhero Fruit Season for Seniors and Us All

by Laura MacDougall - 

Now is the time to enjoy the benefits of this winter fruit. We all know citrus has lots of Vitamin C, a great antioxidant. But did you know that you need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body? It helps the body make collagen, an important protein used to make skin, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. Vitamin C is needed for healing wounds, and for repairing and maintaining bones and teeth.

Vitamin C can help fend off heart disease, high blood pressure, the common cold and cancer. It is also good for osteoarthritis and age related macular degeneration. (Read more at the University of Maryland Medical Center Vitamin C information page)

So how can you add more citrus into your diet after the OJ in the morning? Easy.

Here are some suggestions to get you thinking.

Breakfast:

  • Make smoothies using orange juice
  • Mimosas for brunch – use grapefruit, blood orange or Meyer lemons for a twist
  • Use citrus juices and zests mixed with a little honey over fruit salad – combine citrus for depth of flavor
  • Add orange zest to your favorite waffle, pancake or muffin recipe then top with segments of fruit
  • Halve grapefruit and top with a little brown sugar – broil 1-2 minutes to melt

Lunch:

  • Add grapefruit, orange, or tangerine segments to your salad
  • Substitute citrus juice for vinegar in your favorite dressing
  • Mix lime juice, chopped peppers and celery into your tuna salad for a little kick
  • Snack on a Clementine, tangelo or blood orange – a little less tart than other varieties
  • Top your ham and cheese with a low sugar marmalade
  • Place cranberries and orange chunks in the food processor, pulse until finely chopped and add to frozen or fresh yogurt, or mix into your chicken salad for a little tang

Dinner:

  • Use orange slices (any variety) fresh basil and garlic on your fish -drizzle with EVOO, wrap in foil and bake
  • Like Picatta? Try the same recipe swapping citrus – orange pairs nicely with basil, ginger, chilies, rosemary, black olives and red onion. Lemon pairs with lavender, capers, thyme and sage. Lime goes great with cilantro, cumin, chili powder, and garlic.
  • Use blood orange juice in your next cocktail for a deep red color
  • Beef stew is wonderful cooked with orange juice, beef broth and cumin
  • Pork goes great with lemon and prunes or kumquats
  • Make a citrus curd and layer with Greek yogurt for a healthful dessert.

Cooking Tips – when zesting citrus, avoid the pith (white part), as this can be very bitter. Always wash your citrus when using whole fruit or zest in a recipe…. ever see the grocery store floor? Euwwww

Pick heavy fruit for the size…they’ll have more juice. Try new varieties of citrus too as the sweetness will vary.  From kumquats to pumellos, Key limes to Meyer lemons – ‘tis the season to taste these little powerhouses for yourself.

Get peeling and be healthy! Bon Appétit!

Read Laura’s bio or find more articles by Laura MacDougall

New Year Resolutions That Will Stick: “Go Fish” Twice a Week

by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD -

The American Heart Association isn’t the only one suggesting healthy people should eat fish two to three times a week. More and more research is showing that omega-3 fatty acids (among many other health benefits) seem to improve arterial health in general and they help make blood less likely to form clots that cause heart attacks. According to the American Heart Association, in a statement dated November 18, 2002, the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on heart disease risk is seen in relatively short periods of time. So, if you make eating fish your New Year’s Resolution, you can potentially start reaping the benefits fairly quickly.

Unless fish is a part of your culinary culture, this can be a hard food habit to follow through on. I try to make sure I have a lower fat tuna sandwich for lunch each week. Then I’m halfway there! I try to cook a fish dish for dinner at least once a week too—which gets me to the “eating fish two times a week” goal.

I have three tips to help you with the fish for dinner option.

  1. When you eat out in restaurants, see if there is a fish entrée on the menu that interests you.
  2. Start collecting fish recipes (hopefully lower in fat and not deep fried) that you want to try. This might help motivate you to make fish for dinner more often.
  3. Add cooked fish and shellfish to your green salads or stir fry dishes. You can buy cooked shrimp frozen (deveined and without tails) or frozen grilled fish filets and then all you need to do is thaw slightly before adding them to your dishes.

You can read Elaine Magee’s bio to learn more about her. You find more articles by Elaine in the Health Nutrition section of our library.

New Year Resolutions That Will Stick: Daily Flax Seeds

by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD -

Two tablespoons of ground Flaxseed twice a day it an easy resolution that offers many health benefits.

I truly believe ground flaxseed is one of the most powerful plant foods on the planet. Research has been shedding light on the potential benefits of this light brown seed over the past 10 years, most of which is very exciting. I wrote a book all about ground flaxseed a few years back called The Flax Cookbook.

The more I read the research on flaxseed though, the more convinced I am that there is synergy between the different components within this tiny seed that make it most important to consume the seed ground rather than in its whole form. One preliminary study reports that within two weeks of consuming 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed twice each day, perimenopausal women cut their hot flashes in half AND the intensity of the hot flashes dropped by 57% as well. Any woman battling hot flashes will appreciate the intensity decreasing too trust me! This may not work for every single menopausal woman but at least you will know if it’s helping you within two weeks.

Editor’s note: Flaxseed provides a good source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids beneficial to both men and women. One tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 3.5 grams of fiber and 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Naughty or Nice? Eating Through the Holidays

by Laura MacDougall -

We all know the big man in red knows if you have been naughty or nice….but what about your waistline? As we all know, the holidays are full of treats, big meals and often a slightly bigger waistline come the New Year. But how do we avoid gaining weight over the holidays? Do we need to sacrifice celebration dinners, holiday parties or the un-endless cookies we encounter? Are we doomed to be heavier in January?

Without having to give up everything and live on the carrots left for the reindeer, there are some simple substitutions that can be made to save fat, calories, and add a bit of added nutrition to our holiday dining. With some simple substitutions, you won’t need that new belt for 2012…..that is unless you wanted one!


Naughty Nice Why be Nice?
Baked Brie Goat Cheese on wheat cracker Less fat, calories, fiber
Eggnog Champagne Saves a ton of fat, calories
Onion Dip Hummus Healthy carbs, less fat
Pate Mushroom Crostini Cholesterol, fat, calories
Prime Rib Filet Mignon Fat, calories, portion
Double Stuffed Potatoes Roasted Potatoes Saves a ton of fat, calories
Creamed Spinach Sauteed Spinach
w/ Garlic & Raisins
Added iron, minerals, less fat
Cheesecake Gingerbread Cookie Less fat!! More fun too!
Hot Chocolate Lite Peppermint Mocha A little caffeine, less fat,
reason to walk
Fruitcake
(Who likes fruitcake anyway??)
Poached Pears Less sugar, calories

Small food changes can make a big difference in the way you feel too. Think about when you may have eaten too much…how miserable and sluggish you may have felt. By opting for lower fat, lower calorie options, you can still enjoy the holidays and have enough energy to chase the grandkids! Take a walk after dinner, go dancing with friends, or skating if you dare. Plus all that holiday shopping is a great ways to burn calories too.  Enjoy your holidays, celebrations and happy, healthy New Year to all! Oh, and leave the carrots to the reindeer and maybe some fresh fruit for Santa!

Eat Well,
Laura

Fun with Food for Senior Nutrition

Dr. Marion Somers -

You can help elders enjoy their food and boost their nutritional level.

Food is one of the areas in your elder’s life that is sometimes neglected, but you can step in and make sure it is something they look forward to, and can have fun with. Nutrition might be more important to them now than ever before, so fill the house with healthy foods that they enjoy eating, as long as their doctor approves. Always consider your elder’s likes and dislikes (within reason) and shape their diet accordingly. It sounds obvious, but many elderly are given processed liquid drinks and hard-to-handle food, and many do not get anything resembling balanced meals.

If you have time to cook yourself, find your elder’s favorite cookbook and go to the dirtiest pages – that’s where their favorite recipes are. Prepare these recipes for your elder, allowing them to help you, if he or she wishes. Cooking the meals together can turn eating into a fun activity. Make sure the diet plan and eating routine you create lets your elder to feed him or her self as often as possible to maintain independence. You also have to remember to make eating elder-friendly. If your elder has lost some manual dexterity, encourage finger foods, smaller portions, and use non-breakable plates.

It is important that your elder eats regularly, and gets the right amount of calories for their age, height, and weight. Check with your elder’s doctor for proper nutritional details, as well as any dietary restrictions. Change up the meal plan occasionally, so that food remains fresh and interesting for them. Many elderly lose interest in food and just don’t eat enough, and you don’t want that to happen.

To supplement any meals you prepare yourself, find out if Meals-On-Wheels, or a similar delivery service, is available in your town. Also, investigate the local restaurants that are within delivery distance of your elder’s residence. Try them out with your elder, and find the ones he or she enjoys. This can be a good way to add variety to your elder’s meals. Always look for healthy options on the delivery menus. Check with the restaurants and see if you can set up a tab ahead of time, so your elder doesn’t have to worry about paying every time there is a delivery. Also, look into deliveries from a local grocery store, to ensure there are always fresh fruits, vegetables, and other staples available.

 

Fall Produce Options for Seniors and the Rest of Us

Enjoy the fall harvest, eat local, and be creative!

Laura MacDougall

Fall produce offers options to many dishes.

Fall produce – butternut, acorn, pumpkin and other winter squashes. Kale, brussel sprouts and other greens. Apples, pears and cranberries.

Need new ideas for cooking these wonderful old crops? Read on…

Apples and butternut squash cooked together make a delicious soup, with thyme, sage, or warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. A little blue cheese adds a unique flavor. Roasted squashes are sweet on their own, or pureed into a dip with garam masala and a little tahini. Add cubed roasted squash to your lasagna with a bechamel sauce and asiago cheese for a fall inspired dish.

Acorn squash is great baked with maple syrup, or stuffed with quinoa, feta, sunflower seeds and cranberries. Apples, sausage, currants and cornbread make a hearty filling too. You can steam squash halves over boiling water or microwave them whole (pierce well to avoid exploding gourds) for a tender option to baking. Cube squashes into your favorite stew recipes for color and antioxidants.

Spaghetti squash is a low carb alternative to pasta, and roasted pumpkin seeds are just a tasty benefit of the orange globe. Pumpkins are edible in savory or sweet recipes, adding vitamin A to your dishes. Think cake, bread, stews and risotto. A hollowed out pumpkin provides a festive serving bowl – just skip the Jack-o-Lantern cutouts.

Kale, collards and other greens can be bitter, pairing nicely with sweet raisins, apricots or roasted garlic. A touch of balsamic adds extra depth and a little tang. Add greens to soups, stews and even baked pasta dishes for an extra kick of calcium. If the bitter flavor turns you off, drop your greens in a boiling water bath for 1-2 mins, drain and saute to cut down the bitterness.

Apples or pears and cranberries are a natural pairing for applesauce, pie fillings, chutneys or strudels. Pears and pork are wonderful, cooked slowly with honey, broth and herbes de Provence. If you prefer, use thyme, cream and shallots.

Braise chicken or pork in apple cider or use to poach salmon. It is wonderful for basting your turkey, adding a sweet flavor to your Thanksgiving gravy.

Heat cider with cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel for a warming drink and homey room freshener.

Poach pears in simple syrup infused with lemon, orange or vanilla beans. Use red wine for a more dramatic presentation, adding orange peel, sugar, cinnamon stick and cardamom for more flavor. Bake apples filled with nuts and honey, orange zest, or an oatmeal raisin and brown sugar filling.

Sliced apple with a little peanut or almond butter is a quick energy snack, or chop an apple into cottage cheese with cinnamon and raisins for a great breakfast. Slice pears in a salad with blue cheese and pecans. Dip pear slices in chocolate for a decadent dessert or add moisture to a favorite spice cake recipe with chopped apples or pears.

Enjoy fall produce, eat local, and be creative! Good eating and happy holidays.

Visit Laura’s Home Plate Advantage Personal Chef Service.