Key Strategies for Preventing Loss of Muscle Mass

Maintaining muscle mass is paramount  for weight control, metabolic health, and overall functionality and quality of life.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation recently sought to review past, worldwide studies to identify the most effective nutritional avenues for preventing loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. Their scientific review identified the following key strategies:

  • Optimal protein intake: As we age, it takes higher doses of protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Unfortunately, most people eat less, not more protein as they age. The ideal intake of daily protein based on this evaluation was 1 to 1.2 grams/kilogram of body weight a day. For clearer perspective – that is about ½ your body weight in pounds. In other words, if you weight 150 pounds you would need 75 grams of protein a day. Based on my experience, I would estimate that less than 10% of the elderly are getting optimal intakes of protein for maintaining or building muscle. (Those with kidney disease need to consult with their healthcare provider about optimal protein requirements).  Z
  • Adequate vitamin D intake: Vitamin D plays a pivotal role in preservation of muscle mass and muscle function. To ensure adequate intakes, get regular, safe sun exposure, consume vitamin D rich foods regularly (fortified dairy products, eggs, and oily fish), and take a daily vitamin D supplement. I recommend 2000 IU’s of vitamin D3 a day for adults or as directed by your healthcare provider based on your blood level measurements.
  • An alkaline-based vs. an acid-based diet: Meats, sweets, and processed grains and carbohydrates give rise to acidic metabolic by-products. Consuming fruits and veggies provides an alkalizing effect in the body. For best results, consume an abundance of fruits and veggies while restricting meats, sweets, and processed foods.

There is growing evidence that vitamin B12 and folic acid are also important for improving muscle mass and strength. If you are age 50 or older, get your blood levels periodically checked to be sure you do not need supplements. Please also note that resistance exercise (yoga, bands, Pilates, free weights, andweight machines) is essential for maintaining muscle mass with aging and the most powerful of all muscle-preserving strategies! Strive for 15-20 minutes (that is about a minute a muscle) twice a week.


weight lift

Stress Slows Metabolism

We already know that acute stress can trigger risky “emotional” eating, and new research suggests slowing down metabolism may an additional way that stress piles on the pounds. For this new study, scientists carefully questioned a group of female adult study subjects about their previous days’ stressors and then fed them a single high-calorie, high-fat meal in a controlled laboratory setting. The make up of the test meal was equivalent to a typical fast food double burger and fries. After consuming the test meal, the researchers measured the subjects’ fat burning abilities (metabolism) for seven straight hours along with other key markers of metabolic function. Women who reported one or more previous day stressors burned 104 fewer calories after the test meal vs. women who reported no stressful events. To correlate with the study subject’s impaired fat burning, the stressed women also released significantly more of the “fat hormone”, insulin, after the test meal relative to the unstressed women. (Insulin is called the “fat hormone” because it promotes fat-storage and blocks fat burning.) The researchers concluded that over a one-year period, daily stress combined with even a single high calorie meal could result in more than 10 extra pounds of weight gain! (Biological Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.05.018)

I have no doubt that chronic stress is a huge driver of unhealthy weight gain along with virtually all chronic diseases. Here are my favorite stress-relieving tips.

7 Sensational and Delectable Foods for Heart Health

Eating for pleasure and to make your heart healthier tomorrow than it is today can go hand in hand. Here are 7 easy ways to do it.heart lifting

  1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil– This highly flavored, for real make-me-healthier fat provides four separate benefits to your arteries – making it hands down the very best oil for your heart.  It’s unique combination of monounsaturated fats and antioxidant polyphenols have been shown to lower bad (LDL) cholesterol, boost good (HDL) cholesterol, decrease inflammation, and lower blood pressure.
  2. Walnuts – Nuts in general score a perfect 10 when it comes to heart-healthy performance, but walnuts are the true gold medal winner.  Walnuts are rich in fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin E, and provide more omega 3 fats than any other nut.  Strive to include a small handful daily.
  3. Steel Cut Oats – Known as the “gourmet oatmeal” – this delicious, physically intact whole grain is overflowing with goodness including a uniquely powerful form of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber called beta-glucan, along with the  heart-healthy minerals manganese, selenium, and magnesium. Filling, yet low in calories, a bowl of steel-cut oats for breakfast topped with some fresh cut up fruit or berries will keep your waist trim and your heart happily pumping.
  4. Dark Chocolate – This sweet indulgence is truly a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Dark chocolate is teaming with super-charged antioxidants called flavanols that tend to work magic on the cells that line your arteries, resulting in enhanced blood flow and lower blood pressure. For best results, enjoy a prudent portion (1/2 – 1 oz.) of high quality (60% or greater cacao content) dark chocolate regularly.
  5. Wild Alaskan Salmon – Fresh, frozen, or canned, this superstar protein is nature’s very best source of heart-healthy omega 3 fats.  Omega 3 fats provide 7 separate benefits to your arteries qualifying them as virtual wonder fats for cardiovascular health.
  6. Lentils – When it comes to heart health, this simple food has a stellar nutritional pedigree.  Lentils are brimming with cholesterol-lowering fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6 and provide more folate than any other food.  Lentils cook quickly, requiring no presoaking and tend to cause less gas than other beans/legumes.
  7. Salsa – This tasty, low-calorie dip provides a cornucopia of heart-healthy foods including tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic.  These foods provide fiber, vitamin C, potassium, beta-carotene, and antioxidants, all working together in powerful synergy to protect your heart and arteries.

4 Totally Liberating Grocery Shopping Tips

As a busy working Mother 100 percent committed to feeding my family wholesome and nutritious home-cooked meals– I have mastered the art of efficient grocery shopping. Here are 4 time and sanity saving tips for your trips to the grocer that are guaranteed to improve the nutritional health of your loved ones.

  1. Ignore the dizzying array (60 plus varieties!) of flavored and specialty yogurts now complicating the yogurt aisle and limit your selections to the one and only truly healthy yogurt—low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt. Choose the large containers for the best value and go for the Greek-style for a double shot of muscle-building, appetite-quieting protein. Here are three great ways to healthily sweeten it yourself.
  2.  Unless a cereal has five grams of fiber per serving and 10 grams or less of sugar, leave it on the shelf. Thankfully you will find at least 20 plus brands that satisfy these two basic ground rules.
  3. Walk right on past the whole section of bottled salad dressings. None can begin to compare in taste, health, or value to what you can make at home in less than two minutes with extra virgin olive oil, a little mustard, and vinegar. Here are links to my favorite homemade vinaigrettes.
  4. Skip the entire aisle of bottled beverages (soda, fruit drinks, etc.). It makes no sense to spend your time or money on something that is demonstrably harmful to you and your loved ones.

grocery bag

Almonds for Heart Health

almonds 1Like other nuts, almonds are on a roll for health, and this delicious food just landed another scientific triumph. For this new study, scientists had a group of young to middle age men consume a handful of almonds as a snack everyday for one month. A control group of study subjects consumed their regular diets without adding any almonds. At the end of one-month study, those consuming the daily almonds had higher blood levels of antioxidants, better blood vessel function, and lower blood pressure– validating that almonds improve blood vessel function. (Free Radical Research, 2014;48 (5))

Almonds are home to seven separate nutritional attributes known to be especially beneficial for heart health. Scientists believe it is this unique “matrix” of heart-healthy compounds that make them such a sensational food for cardiovascular protection. Click here to see the other superstar foods for heart health.

How to Get Optimal Levels of Calcium from Food

Current recommended daily calcium intakes for adults are:

1000 mg for males and females < 51

1200 mg for females 51+

 soy milk box

If you consume three daily servings of a calcium-rich food (see below) and make a point to regularly consume green vegetables like collards, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and cabbage you should achieve optimal intakes.

Calcium-rich Foods:

8 ounces low fat or non-fat yogurt (plain best)

1.5 ounces cheese (part skim or 2% milk best)

6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice ( avoid if weight or diabetes and issue)

8 ounces skim or 1% milk

8 ounces calcium fortified soy milk

3 ounces sardines with bones

½ cup tofu made with calcium sulfate

3 ounces canned salmon with bones

1 serving calcium-fortified cereal (those providing 30% or more of daily value/serving)

Vitamin D for Life

pill on forkAlthough controversy still exists in terms of optimal supplemental dosages of vitamin D, the evidence is now clear that having low blood levels of this all-important nutrient is associated with a higher risk of premature death. In a large scale new analysis that pooled the data from 32 formerly published studies, researchers found a clear and consistent link between higher death risk and lower blood levels of vitamin D. The analysis included over half a million adults with an average age of 55. Study participants with lower blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to die prematurely vs. those with higher levels. Even more alarming, about half of the study subjects who showed a greater death risk had blood levels of vitamin D around 30 ng/ml. This is considered the “low” end of normal by current standards, and about two thirds of American adults have levels below this.

Vitamin D plays an instrumental role in all aspects of human health, particularly heart health, brain health, bone health, immune health, and modulating the body’s inflammation status. I think it is best for everyone age 50 and older, and anyone of any age who has any type of chronic disease, including mental illness to get their vitamin D level checked yearly. Click here to see my best advice for maintaining normal vitamin D levels.

American Journal of Public Health, 2014 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302034

Superstar Foods for Appetite Control

  • Healthy animal proteins – fish, shell fish, skinless poultry, omega-3 eggs, low-fat dairy products (especially plain Greek yogurt).
  • Plant proteins – whole soy foods, nuts, seeds, and beans (especially beans!).
  • Non-starchy veggies – cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, dark lettuces, bell peppers, avocados.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Non-tropical fruits – berries, cherries, plums, apples, pears, grapes, kiwi, peaches, and melon.
  • Physically in-tact whole grains – oats, brown rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa and kasha.
  • High fiber cereals – choose those with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving (avoid those with >10 grams of sugar).



Sweet Potatoes Trounce White Potatoes

When it comes to nutritional value and eating for better health, sweet potatoes trounce white potatoes. Whether your goals are improved weight control, heart health, cancer protection, or anti-aging, sweet potatoes are a far superior tuber. Here are 5 great reasons to choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes.

baked sweet potato meal


If you want to improve your shuteye and brighten your spirits, losing a little weight may do the trick. In an uplifting new report presented at a recent scientific meeting, researchers found that losing as little as 5% of existing body weight was enough to improve sleep quality and mood in overweight study subjects. For the study, scientists assigned 390 obese adults to one of three different weight loss interventions, and followed them over a 24-month period. One group received printed materials, while the other two received lifestyle counseling or counseling with weight loss medications or meal replacements. Regardless of how the weight loss was achieved, those who lost 5% or more of their starting weight gained an average of 21.6 minutes of sleep a night and reported less symptoms of depression relative to those who lost < 5%.  (Meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology, Chicago June 2014)

Previous studies have shown that modest weight loss also works wonders for cutting the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, while significantly improving functionality and overall quality of life so be encouraged if weight is an issue for you. Here are 21 things that I know can help you lose weight.