By Elizabeth Cohen
CNN Medical Correspondent

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — This week while you’re traveling, if you happen to spot a man applying hand sanitizer as he gets off an escalator, there’s a good chance it’s Dr. Mark Gendreau, a senior staff physician at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts.

7C05F634-D1EB-4A6B-B03B-502C6357DE31.jpg
Travel season can be a germ fest. Make sure to keep your hands clean.

Gendreau studies germiness while traveling, and he knows just how infectious travel can be.

“The risk of contracting a contagious illness is heightened when we travel within any enclosed space, especially during the winter months, when most of the respiratory viruses thrive,” Gendreau said.

Studies show that germs can travel easily on an airplane, where people are packed together like sardines.

For example, a woman on a 1994 flight from Chicago to Honolulu transmitted drug-resistant tuberculosis to at least six of her fellow passengers, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study.

In 2003, 22 people came down with SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, from a single fellow passenger who had SARS but didn’t have any symptoms, according to another New England journal study.

But the airplane isn’t the only place along your travel route where germs thrive. Here are five ways to avoid germs while traveling.

1. Sit toward the front of the airplane

“Pick a seat near the front, since ventilation systems on most commercial aircraft provide better air flow in the front of the aircraft,” Gendreau advised. If you can afford it, sit in first class, where people aren’t so squished together.

2. Don’t drink coffee or tea on an airplane

Monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that water in airplanes’ water tanks isn’t always clean — and coffee and tea are usually made from that water, not from bottled water, according to Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association.

The EPA advises anyone with a suppressed immune system or anyone who’s “concerned” about bacteria to refrain from drinking coffee or tea on an airplane.

“While boiling water for one minute will remove pathogens from drinking water, the water used to prepare coffee and tea aboard a plane is not generally brought to a sufficiently high temperature to guarantee that pathogens are killed,” according to the EPA’s Web site.

According to the EPA, out of 7,812 water samples taken from 2,316 aircraft, 2.8 percent were positive for coliform bacteria. Although that sounds like a small number, this means 222 samples contained coliform bacteria.

3. Sanitize your hands after leaving an airplane bathroom

A toilet on an airplane “is among the germiest that you will encounter almost anywhere,” said Charles Gerba, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona who’s also known as “Dr. Germ.”

“You have 50 people per toilet, unless you are flying a discount airline; then it is 75,” Gerba said. “We always find E. coli on surfaces in airplane restrooms.”

You should wash your hands after using the restroom, but because the water itself might have harmful bacteria (see No. 2 above) and because the door handle on your way out has been touched by all those who went before you, Gendreau also advises sanitizing your hands when you return to your seat.

4. Wash or sanitize your hands after getting off an escalator

Gendreau says tests show that escalators in airports are full of germs.

To confirm these tests, here’s a fun activity while you wait for your flight this Thanksgiving: Look at your watch, and count how many people get on an escalator in a five-minute time period. Multiply that by 12, and you have how many people are on that escalator every hour.

High-volume handrails are why Gendreau sanitizes his hands as soon as he can after he exits an escalator.

5. Wash or sanitize your hands after using an ATM

Gendreau says ATMs, especially in busy places like airports, are full of germs. As with escalators, he sanitizes ASAP after using one.

Gendreau says that keeping healthy while traveling can be summed up in six words: “hand hygiene, hand hygiene, hand hygiene.”

Keeping your hands clean is crucial, he says, when you’re spending the day touching surfaces that have been touched by hundreds or thousands of people before you.

……………………………………………………

Conquering the ‘ewww’ factor of the public potty

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Most of us have them — the personal ritual to deal with the “ick” of a public bathroom: wiping the seat with toilet paper, using a paper seat cover or even rolling up several pieces of toilet paper to create a thicker barrier between the skin and … the unknown.

4AA59C38-ADB2-4539-8577-99B4DB9C4102.jpg
Public bathrooms may be teeming with bacteria, but the toilet seat is probably safe for sitting.

But the toilet seat is actually the cleanest part of the bathroom, one expert says.

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona who has studied restrooms and other germ-infested environments for more than 20 years, says that because of the care people take when they’re about to sit, other parts of the bathroom are much more prone to delivering bacterial infections.

“One of the cleanest things in the bathrooms we find are the toilet seats,” Gerba said. “I’d put my fanny on it any time — unless it’s wet; then you’d want to wipe it first.”

The Internet has come through for people who just want a clean place to go. New tools like MizPee (nationwide) and Diaroogle (New York only) will point you to the nearest public restroom and display extensive comments about those facilities from users, even delivering the information to your mobile phone. (Warning: CNN makes no promises about the cleanliness of the language in these bathroom locators.)

MizPee launched a year ago for people in San Francisco, California, after co-founder Peter Olfe saw that the city’s public library bathroom was “so disgusting,” said Dhana Pawar, vice president and co-founder of Yojo Mobile, which created MizPee. “Unfortunately, [MizPee] was inspired by that trip.”

Fueled by demand, MizPee has expanded to more than 22 cities in America and six in Europe, and has had more than 300,000 unique visitors. Users rate toilets on a scale from one to five toilet paper rolls and nominate the best and worst toilets for the Flush of the Year award. The site also gives users information on deals at restaurants, shops and services nearby, in addition to toilet trivia called “looisms.”

Women tend to have higher standards for bathroom cleanliness than men, often rating any given unisex bathroom lower than men, Pawar said. In general, many more women than men use the site, but male bikers and older men, especially colitis patients, also come to MizPee.

Women are also particularly concerned about finding clean bathrooms with changing stations, Pawar said. “You’d be surprised how few there are.”

Pawar said she herself is “really paranoid” when it comes to the restroom.

“I’m one of those really anal people who have to have a clean bathroom,” she said.

For many people, public bathrooms generate feelings of anxiety, fear and disgust.

“Basically, everybody is fearful of public restrooms,” said Dr. Lisa Bernstein, assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, who admitted that her mother always told her that she should never make direct contact with a toilet seat.

Research indicates that fear of the commode itself may be misdirected.

Public bathrooms may contain several kinds of harmful bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella, coliform, rotavirus, cold virus and the potentially deadly form of staph known as MRSA, experts say. But people are more likely to pick up these nasty bugs through touching things in the bathroom with their hands, not their behinds.

“I don’t think anyone would voluntarily sit on a seat with urine, but, in reality, urine touching intact skin on the tush won’t do anything,” Bernstein said.

More concerning, however, is a child who steadies himself or herself on a toilet seat by holding onto it and then leaving without washing hands, she said. Those germs could lead to an infection once the child’s hands touch the nose, mouth or eyes.

And don’t forget that unwashed hands have handled everything from the door knob to the lock to the flusher. Again, if you touch one of these objects and then rub your eye, nose or mouth, you’re apt to transmit that bacteria.

But there is hope. Here are hygiene helpers:

Wash your hands

Yes, it’s basic. But, in general, washing your hands is the most effective action you can take to prevent bacterial infections from a public bathroom, experts say.

“You can remove all gastrointestinal and respiratory infection bacteria by washing hands,” said Judy Daly, clinical microbiologist at the University of Utah and spokesperson for the Clean Hands Campaign. “Seventeen seconds of a little bit of friction, water and soap will really mediate bacteria.”

The American Society for Microbiology, which sponsors the Clean Hands Campaign, found in a study last year that about 77 percent of men and women washed their hands in public restrooms, down 6 percent from 2005. The observational study also found that women washed their hands more than men.

“It’s such an easy intervention,” Daly said. “If you get it to be a habit for a 30-day period, it’s something you do automatically.”

Use automatic devices

Recent bathroom additions like automatic hands-free faucets and paper towel dispensers diminish contact between your hands and bathroom items that may bear bacteria, Bernstein said.

Don’t let your belongings touch the floor

Gerba’s research found that the highest concentration of germs in a public bathroom are on the floor, the outside of the sanitary napkin disposal and the sink and water taps.

When Gerba looked at women’s purses, he found that one-third of them had fecal bacteria on the bottom. Make sure you hang your shoulder bag on a hook. If none is available, some people swear by hanging the strap around their necks.

Use the first stall

The middle stall of a public restroom usually has the most bacteria because people use it the most. “I guess people like company,” Gerba said. The first stall will probably be cleaner.

Recognize the best and the worst

As a rule, the cleanest toilets are usually in hospitals, because they use disinfectants heavily, but the worst are in airports and airplanes, Gerba said. The small size of airplane bathrooms, including the sinks themselves, make it hard for people to wash their hands — in fact, Gerba’s study found a thin layer of E. coli in an airplane bathroom.

As for the airports themselves, “In the men’s room at Chicago O’Hare, I don’t think the toilet seat ever gets cold,” Gerba said.

Don’t hold back

It’s fine for a woman to hover over the toilet seat if she doesn’t want to sit down, but if she doesn’t empty her bladder completely, she’s at risk for a urinary infection, Bernstein said.

“You may be doing yourself more harm than good,” she said.

Along the same lines, you can develop urinary infections from “holding it in” too long just because you don’t want to use a particular facility. Better in a public stall than not at all.

Put it in perspective

Although the bathroom seems like a nasty place, the possible infections from the dreaded stall are no different from the ones you can get anywhere else in public.

“They’re the same bugs we transmit shaking hands,” Bernstein said. “People are more freaked out about restrooms, but the same thing applies anywhere in public.”

After all that research — he’s had the cops called on him while prowling around bathroom floors — Gerba has no problem with sitting down on public toilets. But Bernstein still uses one or two seat covers, “because of what my mother taught me,” she said.

……………………………………………………

WebMD Talks Turkey With Light Leftover Recipes

Our ‘Recipe Doctor’ offers tips on how to use up the rest of that bird

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

One of the best parts about the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays actually comes the day after — leftovers! What’s your favorite: the leftover stuffing, the mashed potatoes, or a slice of pumpkin pie?

In honor of the season, and the leftover turkey we all hope to have sitting in our refrigerator after the hordes of dinner guests have departed, Here are a few favorite leftover turkey tips and recipes.

10 Light & Tasty Ways to Enjoy Leftover Turkey

10) Make a turkey salad sandwich by mixing a little light mayonnaise with just as much fat-free sour cream and stir in diced turkey along with some chopped celery, a pinch of Dijon mustard, and a sprinkle of toasted pecans or walnuts. Serve on whole-grain bread or a whole-grain roll.

(Check out my Turkey and Cranberry Sandwich recipe below.)

9) Add diced turkey to whatever soup, stew, or chowder you enjoy. You can even buy low-fat canned soup (like chicken noodle, minestrone, etc.) and stir some diced turkey into the saucepan when you are heating it up.

8) Use shredded turkey in place of chicken in your favorite Mexican recipes, such as enchiladas, quesadillas, tamales, etc.

7) Add shredded turkey to your favorite pasta dish, such as light fettuccine Alfredo (see recipe below), lasagna, pesto and pasta, even chilled pasta salad.

6) Add shredded turkey to your favorite rice dish, such as a rice casserole, a saffron or savory rice dish, or even a cold rice salad.

5) Make an individual serving of stuffing casserole. Stir about 1/3 cup of shredded turkey meat (and 1/3 cup of some vegetables if desired) into a small microwave-safe bowl, along with about 1 cup of leftover stuffing. Top with a spoon of gravy or grated reduced-fat cheese, if desired. Cover and reheat mixture in the microwave about 2 minutes on HIGH.

(Or try out my Irish Shepherd’s Pie recipe below!)

4) Turkey chili will heat things up the day after Thanksgiving. Make your favorite light chili recipe but instead of adding in browned ground beef or beef chunks, stir in some diced or shredded turkey.

3) Enjoy a light turkey Caesar salad the next day. Mix up a quick Caesar salad using Romaine lettuce, tomato wedges, and fat-free or low-fat Caesar salad croutons (available in most supermarkets). Top the salad with plenty of shredded turkey and drizzle bottled light Caesar salad dressing over the top. If you can’t find light Caesar dressing in your market, make up your own by blending 1/2 cup of regular Caesar dressing with 1/2 cup of apple juice.

2) Don’t wait until lunch to enjoy your leftover turkey. Add some shredded turkey to your breakfast omelet or frittata. Turkey goes well with the fixings we normally add to our omelets and frittatas — green onions, avocado, vegetables, reduced-fat cheese, fat-free sour cream, etc.

1) Transform leftover turkey into an elegant turkey divan by topping a turkey and broccoli casserole with melted reduced-fat cheese and a light crumb topping.

Turkey and Cranberry Sandwich

I know you are all going to want to make turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving. To give you yet another sandwich to enjoy, other than the standard turkey sandwich, here’s a sandwich that uses the leftover cranberry sauce as well!

2 slices whole-grain bread or 1 whole-grain roll
1 to 2 tablespoons light cream cheese
1 to 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
A couple of carved slices of turkey (about the size of the palm of your hand)
Lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, alfalfa sprouts (as desired)

# Spread the cream cheese over one of the slices of bread or roll. Spread cranberry sauce over the top of that.
# Add the slices of turkey and top with lettuce, tomato, sliced onion or alfalfa sprouts as desired. Enjoy!

Makes 1 sandwich.

Per sandwich: 339 calories, 33 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 6.5 g fat (3.2 g saturated fat, 0.9 g monounsaturated fat, 0.7 g polyunsaturated fat), 81 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 419 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 17%.

The Day After Irish Shepherd’s Pie

This is a wonderful way to enjoy the leftover mashed potatoes, green vegetables, and gravy, too!

Canola cooking spray
2/3 cup chopped mild or sweet onion
2 cups diced roasted turkey
2 cups leftover gravy
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1-2 cups assorted leftover vegetables (optional)
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon butter or no/low-trans fat margarine
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

# Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Coat the inside of a deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
# Coat a large, nonstick skillet with canola cooking spray, add the onion, and cook until the onion is lightly browned. With the spatula, stir in the diced turkey, gravy, Worcestershire sauce, and leftover vegetables, if desired.
# Spread the turkey mixture evenly in the prepared pie plate. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the meat. With the fork, make a design in the mashed potatoes. Set aside.
# In a microwave-safe cup, melt the butter in the microwave (or melt it in saucepan over low heat on the stove). With a pastry brush, brush the top of the potatoes with the melted butter. Sprinkle black pepper over the top if desired.
# Place pie dish in the oven and cook until heated through and golden on top (about 25 minutes).

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving (using a store-bought gravy): 234 calories, 18 g protein, 24 g carbohydrate, 7.3 g fat (2.2 g saturated fat, 2.8 g monounsaturated fat, 2.2 g polyunsaturated fat), 42 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 500-700 mg sodium (depending on the gravy). Calories from fat: 28%.

Turkey Fettuccini Alfredo

You will love this totally creamy and comforting dish.

2 to 2 1/2 cups roasted turkey breast, cut into strips (skinless)
1/4 cup light cream cheese
1 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half or whole milk, divided
1 tablespoon Wondra quick-mixing flour
1 tablespoon butter (or no/low-trans fat margarine)
3 cups hot cooked and drained spaghetti or fettuccine noodles
Salt and freshly grated pepper to taste
Pinch or two of nutmeg (add more to taste if desired)
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (add more at the table if desired)

# Boil fettuccine noodles.
# Combine cream cheese, 1/4-cup fat-free half-and-half, and flour in a small mixing bowl or food processor. Beat or pulse until well blended. Slowly pour in remaining half-and-half or milk and beat until smooth.
# Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large, nonstick frying pan or saucepan over medium heat. Add the milk mixture and continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is just the right thickness (about 3-4 minutes). Turn the heat to low and add the hot noodles and turkey strips. Toss to coat noodles and turkey well with sauce. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste if desired. Stir in grated Parmesan and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 419 calories, 37 g protein, 44 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat (3.8 g saturated fat, 2.8 g monounsaturated fat, 1.6 g polyunsaturated fat), 79 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 332 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 23%.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

WebMD Green Bean Casserole

A Thanksgiving classic gets a healthy makeover.

Green bean casserole has a pedigree: invented by Campbell Soup Company in 1955 to prompt happy housewives to buy more cream of mushroom soup, it’s a piece of American marketing history. A culinary icon, but one, like many from its era, that falls squarely in our makeover sweet-spot. Traditionally made with butter, canned soup and canned French-fried onions, this classic is high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. We get an equally delicious result by using fresh mushrooms, low-fat milk and lightly pan-fried sweet onions coated with garlic-seasoned flour. When you taste our version, we’re sure you’ll agree this is one culinary icon that was ready for a re-invention.

WebMD’s Green Bean Casserole

Makes 6 servings, about 3/4 cup each

TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes

ACTIVE TIME: 30 minutes

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy

This healthy revision of green bean casserole skips the canned soup and all the fat and sodium that come with it. Our white sauce with sliced fresh mushrooms, sweet onions and low-fat milk makes a creamy, rich casserole.

3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 medium sweet onion (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided
8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup low-fat milk
3 tablespoons dry sherry (see Ingredient Note)
1 pound frozen French-cut green beans (about 4 cups)
1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder (see Ingredient Note)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.
3. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.
4. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tips: Don’t use the high-sodium “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets. Instead, purchase dry sherry sold with other fortified wines.

Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco Buttermilk Blend, in the baking section or with the powdered milk in most supermarkets.

Per serving: 212 calories; 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 5g mono unsaturated fat); 10 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 533 mg sodium; 259 mg potassium. 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings. Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 fat

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Lightened Kraft Cheesy Brunch/Lunch/Supper Casserole

Ingredients:

12 cups of 1/2-inch cubes of whole wheat bread (whole wheat sourdough works well), (or substitute rice or left-over rice, to your taste, adjust according to number of servings)

1/2 cup chopped red pepper, divided use

12 ounces Kraft shredded, reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided use

3 cups small fresh broccoli florets

4 large eggs (use a higher omega-3 brand if available)

1 cup egg substitute

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

2 1/2 cups fat-free half-and-half (or substitute low-fat milk)

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.
2. Layer half of the bread cubes, half the chopped red pepper and half the shredded cheese in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle all the broccoli florets over the top then repeat the previous layers with the remaining bread cubes, red pepper and cheese.
3. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs, egg substitute, and sour cream until blended. Pour in the half-and-half and beat until blended. Pour egg mixture evenly over ingredients in baking dish. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden brown on top and the center of the casserole is nicely set (not runny). Let stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Yield: Makes 12 servings

Is your diet the key to longevity? Find out why eating right just may mean aging right, too.

By Elizabeth M. Ward, MS
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Aging: everyone does it, yet some people seem relatively unaffected by getting older. Could good nutrition be the key to a healthier, longer life?

Does Aging Equal Illness?

“Aging is often associated with the development of one or more chronic diseases, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

It’s not always just a matter of time before you have a heart attack or stroke, get type 2 diabetes or cancer, break a hip because of osteoporosis, or develop Alzheimer’s, even though these conditions are often associated with aging, Blumberg says.

Your risk for disease and disability increases with inadequate physical activity, genetic susceptibility, and poor diet.

Aging: Defy It With Diet

So what’s the best eating plan for preventing, delay, or minimizing the conditions associated with aging, including inflamed joints, flagging memory, and failing eyesight?

“The most beneficial diets rely heavily on fresh vegetables, fruits, and legumes — foods that are naturally lower in calories and packed with nutrients,” says Bradley Willcox, MD, MPH, co-author of The Okinawa Diet Plan and professor of geriatrics at the University of Hawaii.

Experts suspect the antioxidant compounds found in produce, legumes, and whole grains are largely responsible for holding back the march of time.

Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and other compounds, including polyphenols and anthocyanins, battle free radicals — unstable forms of oxygen that damage cell function. Free radicals form from normal metabolism. Your body also produces them in response to strong ultraviolet rays from the sun; air pollution; smoking; and secondhand smoke.

The buildup of free radicals contributes to the aging process and to the development of a number of age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and inflammatory conditions, including osteoarthritis. What’s worse, aging increases free radical production. That means your diet should be healthier than ever with the passage of time.

The question, of course, is how do we do that?

Anti-Aging Nutrition

Antioxidants generate a lot of buzz when it comes to longevity, but aging well takes more. You must optimize a myriad of beneficial nutrients, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D, and minimize detrimental dietary components including saturated and trans fats.

While none of these foods is the “Fountain of Youth,” including them on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet can reduce the toll time takes on your body.

Nuts

Nuts are cholesterol-free protein sources, and are worthy substitutes for fatty meats. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in a group of nearly 35,000 women, those who ate foods rich in vitamin E, including nuts, lowered their risk of having a stroke.

Top picks:

Almonds for their high vitamin E levels; pecans, for their antioxidants; and walnuts, for omega-3s.

Tips:

# Top breakfast cereals, yogurt, salads, and cooked vegetables with an ounce of chopped nuts.
# Snack on an ounce of whole almonds (about 24) for almost half the vitamin E you need for the day.
# Enjoy a nut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread.
# Concoct a smoothie by blending a medium frozen banana, 1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, and 2 teaspoons sugar (optional).

Fish

According to the American Heart Association, fish harbors omega-3 fats that reduce the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries; decrease blood triglyceride (fat) levels; help lower blood pressure; and lessen the odds of sudden death. Fish is a wise protein choice because of its relatively low saturated fat and cholesterol content.

Top picks:

Salmon, sardines, and canned tuna are among the fish with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Tips:

# Have at least two fish meals a week instead of fatty meats.
# Add canned light tuna or canned salmon to salads instead of chicken or cheese.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and beneficial plant compounds. It’s also free of the trans fats found in some margarines and other processed foods, and that’s a good thing. A study published in the journal Neurology found that among healthy people 65 and older, the higher the saturated and trans fat intake, the greater the cognitive decline during a six-year period.

Top pick:

The extra virgin variety. A recent report in the Annals of Internal Medicine found extra-virgin olive oil more beneficial than other types for increasing the high-density lipoprotein levels (HDL or good cholesterol) in men.

Extra-virgin olive oil also offers beneficial levels of oleocanthal, a compound that mimics the effects of anti-inflammatory medications including aspirin and ibuprofen.

Tips:

It’s good for you, but don’t go overboard; olive oil is caloric. Limit total oil consumption to 7 teaspoons daily (assuming all of the added fat you use is from olive oil) on a 2,000-calorie diet; 5 for a 1,600-calorie plan.

# Make salad dressing with one part olive oil and three parts balsamic vinegar.
# Choose olive oil instead of butter or margarine.
# Lightly coat chopped broccoli, sweet or white potato, or carrots with olive oil and roast on a baking sheet at 400 degrees until done.

Fruits and Vegetables

Produce provides fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as hundreds of anti-aging phytonutrients. When it comes to age-defying properties, some produce is better than others, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s tests for antioxidant activity.

Still, any fruit and vegetable is better than none. People who take in the most produce — upwards of 10 servings a day — have higher levels of antioxidants in their bloodstream, which probably translates to better aging. Produce-lovers also have stronger bones, thanks to the magnesium and potassium that fruits and vegetables supply (dark greens are also rich in vitamin K, necessary to bolster bones).

Top picks:

Fruit: Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, apples, and cherries.

Vegetables: Kale, spinach, broccoli, artichokes, avocado, asparagus, cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, pumpkin, and onions.

Tips:

# Include berries at least once daily on top of breakfast cereals, in smoothies or salads, or snack on them as is.
# Add dried cranberries or cherries to cooked whole grains.
# Make a quick guacamole by mixing a ripe avocado and large, diced tomato with 1 tablespoon each of olive oil, fresh chopped cilantro leaves, and finely chopped onions.
# Prepare a pumpkin smoothie with 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 cup low-fat milk, and ground cinnamon and sugar to taste. Heat the remainder of the can as a side dish. Add chopped frozen kale or spinach to soups and pasta dishes.

Legumes

Legumes are packed with complex carbohydrates and fiber to ensure steadier blood glucose and insulin levels, and they provide a cholesterol-free source of protein. Legumes are also packed with antioxidants.

Top picks:

From black beans to soy beans, they’re all good for you.

Tips:

# Add beans to soups, salad, egg and pasta dishes
# Puree cooked beans (includes canned) and add to soups or stews
# Snack on bean dips and fresh vegetables or whole grain crackers
# Munch roasted soy nuts or thawed edamame (green soy beans)
# Substitute firm tofu for meat in vegetable stir-fry dishes

Whole Grains

Whole grains retain more of their natural nutrients, particularly age-defying vitamin E, fiber, and B vitamins, than refined varieties. They are also a wealth of antioxidant compounds.

Top picks:

Quinoa, millet, barley, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, cracked wheat, wild rice.

Tips:

# Wrap sandwiches in whole-wheat tortillas instead of white
# Choose whole-grain cereal for breakfast and snacks
# Try wild or brown rice or whole-wheat pasta
# Add leftover cooked whole grains to soups

Low-Fat Dairy

Dairy foods are excellent sources of bone-strengthening calcium. They also supply protein that bolsters bones and muscle, and is needed for peak immune function.

Top picks:

Milk, either 1% low-fat or fat-free. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, necessary for calcium absorption. Adequate levels of vitamin D may reduce prostate, colon, and breast cancer.

Tips:

# Sip café au lait or cappuccino made from decaffeinated coffee and fat-free milk
# Make mashed potatoes with fat-free evaporated milk
# Enjoy a smoothie made with milk, berries, and crushed ice
# Indulge a chocolate craving with fat-free chocolate milk

Fight Fat, Live Longer?

It’s not only what you eat when it comes to stalling the aging process. Calories count, too.

“Being overweight stresses your heart, blood vessels, and joints, accelerating age-related diseases,” says Willcox.

Excess body fat also plays a role in the development of dementia, certain cancers, and eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Cutting a few hundred calories a day from your regular eating plan may be all it takes to make it into your 80s or 90s in relatively good health.

That’s what Willcox and his colleagues found when they related eating habits to death rates among 2,000 nonsmoking men. In his study, the men who consumed an average of 1,900 calories per day — about 15% below the average for the entire group — were less likely to die over the 36-year study period.

Nobody knows exactly how a lower calorie diet works to lengthen life. Perhaps the secret lies in a slower metabolism that comes with eating less food. A reduced metabolic rate means your body produces fewer free radicals.

Calorie reduction plans also lower the body’s core temperature and insulin levels, two indicators of longevity. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight people who cut their daily calorie intake by up to 25% were more likely to have a lower core body temperature and normal fasting levels of insulin in their blood.

Aging: We’re all doing it. Perhaps combining a diet rich in “anti-aging” foods with fewer calories overall may help us do it better — and live longer.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Secrets of Longevity

National Geographic Magazine features the research of the doctors behind the Okinawa Diet.

An exerpt from the cover story by Dan Beuttner follows…

The first thing you notice about Ushi Okushima is her laugh. It begins in her belly, rumbles up to her shoulders, and then erupts with a hee-haw that fills the room with pure joy. I first met Ushi five years ago at her home in Okinawa, and now it’s that same laugh that draws me back to her small wooden house in the seaside village of Ogimi.

This rainy afternoon she sits snugly wrapped in a blue kimono. A heroic shock of hair is combed back from her bronzed forehead revealing alert, green eyes. Her smooth hands lie serenely folded in her lap. At her feet sit her friends, Setsuko and Matsu Taira, cross-legged on a tatami mat, sipping tea.

Since I last visited Ushi, she’s taken a new job, tried to run away from home, and started wearing perfume. Predictable behavior for a young woman, perhaps, but Ushi is 103. When I ask about the perfume, she jokes that she has a new boyfriend, then claps a hand over her mouth before unleashing one of her blessed laughs.

With an average life expectancy of 78 years for men and 86 years for women, Okinawans are among the world’s longest lived people. More important, elders living in this lush subtropical archipelago tend to enjoy years free from disabilities. Okinawans have a fifth the heart disease, a fourth the breast and prostate cancer, and a third less dementia than Americans, says Craig Willcox of the The Okinawa Centenarian Study.

What’s the key to their success? “Ikigai certainly helps:” Willcox offers. The word translates roughly to “that which makes one’s life worth living.” Older Okinawans, he says, possess a strong sense of purpose that may act as a buffer against stress and diseases such as hypertension. Many also belong to a Okinawan-style moai, a mutual support network that provides financial, emotional, and social help throughout life.

A lean diet may also be a factor. “A heaping plate of Okinawan vegetables, tofu, miso soup, and a little fish or meat will have fewer calories than a small hamburger;” says Makoto Suzuki of the The Okinawa Centenarian Study. “And it will have many more healthy nutrients.” What’s more, many Okinawans who grew up before World War II never developed the tendency to overindulge. They still live by the Confucian-inspired adage “hara hachi bu–eat until your stomach is 80 percent full.”

And they grow much of their own food. Taking one look at the gardens kept by Okinawan centenarians, Greg Plotnikoff, a traditional-medicine researcher at the University of Minnesota, called them “cabinets of preventive medicine.” Herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables, such as Chinese radishes, garlic, scallions, cabbage, turmeric, and tomatoes, he said, “contain compounds that may block cancers before they start.”

Ironically, for many older Okinawans this diet was born of hardship. Ushi Okushima grew up barefoot and poor. Her family scratched a living out of Ogimi’s rocky terrain, growing sweet potatoes, which formed the core of every meal. To celebrate the New Year, her village butchered a pig, and everyone got a morsel of pork.

During World War II, when U.S. warships shelled Okinawa, Ushi and Setsuko, whose husbands had been conscripted into the Japanese Army, fled to the mountains with their children. “We experienced terrible hunger;” Setsuko recalls.

Ushi now wakes every morning at six and eats a small breakfast of milk, bananas, and tomatoes. Until very recently she grew most of her food ( she gave up gardening when she took a job). But her tradition-honored daily rituals haven’t changed: morning prayers to her ancestors, tea with friends, lunch with family, an afternoon nap, a sunset social hour with friends, and before bed a cup of sake infused with the herb mugwort. “It helps me sleep:” she says.

Back in Ushi’s house we’re finishing our tea. Outside, dusk is falling; rain patters on the roof. Ushi’s daughter, Kikue, who is 78 and finds little amusement in the attention her mother draws, shoots me a glare that I take to mean “you’ve overstayed your welcome.” (When Ushi ran away from home, she was actually fleeing an argument with Kikue. She packed a bag and boarded a bus without telling her daughter. A relative caught up with her in a town 40 miles away.)

Ushi, Setsuko, and Matsu take the cue and fall silent in unison. These women have shared each other’s fortunes and endured each other’s sorrows for nearly a century and now seem to communicate wordlessly.

What is Ushi’s ikigai, I ask — that powerful sense of purpose that older Okinawans are said to possess?

“It’s her longevity itself;” answers her daughter. “She brings pride to our family and this village, and now feels she must keep living even though she is often tired.” I look to Ushi for her own answer. “My ikigai is right here,” she says with a slow sweep of her hand that takes in Setsuko and Matsu. “If they die, I will wonder why I am still living.”

After Thanksgiving Day, WebMD to the rescue with a 7-Day Diet

By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic-Feature

What It Is

If eating a bottomless bowl of cabbage soup, along with a few other low-calorie foods, for a solid week appeals to you, the Cabbage Soup Diet is sure to lead to quick weight loss. However, since the food choices are so limited and the calories so low, boredom — and inadequate nutrition — are inevitable.

Versions of this very restrictive diet have been buzzing through fax machines and circulating around water coolers for years. A few books have documented different variations of this simple, anonymously written diet plan, which surprisingly has survived the test of time

The Cabbage Soup Diet plan is not in any way individualized. There are no recommendations about exercise, no behavioral tips, no advice on changing bad habits — just a strict list of what to eat each day of the week. And meals need to be eaten at home, because these foods won’t be found on most restaurant menus.

The Cabbage Soup Diet plan promises a 10-pound weight loss in one week, and dieters are restricted to one week at a time on the plan. If they want to lose more, they are advised to wait awhile before commencing another week on this super-low-calorie diet.

What You Can Eat

The 7-day Cabbage Soup Diet plan promises all you can eat — as long as you stick to the small list of allowed foods on alternate days, along with two daily bowls of fat-free cabbage soup. Other specific foods that must be eaten including fruit, vegetables, skim milk, and meat. Dieters are also advised to drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol.

Here’s a sample Cabbage Soup Diet plan:

Day 1: Cabbage soup and all the fruit you want except bananas. Drink unsweetened tea, black coffee, cranberry juice, or water.

Day 2: Cabbage soup, all the low-calorie vegetables you want (except beans, peas, or corn), and a baked potato with butter.

Day 3: Cabbage soup and a mixture of the above fruit and vegetables.

Day 4: Cabbage soup, up to eight bananas, and two glasses of skim milk.

Day 5: Cabbage soup, up to 20 ounces of beef, chicken or fish, up to six fresh tomatoes, and at least 6-8 glasses of water.

Day 6: Cabbage soup, up to 3 beef steaks, and unlimited vegetables.

Day 7: Cabbage soup, up to 2 cups of brown rice, unsweetened fruit juices, and unlimited vegetables.

The recipe for the cabbage soup varies slightly among different versions of the diet. But it basically includes cabbage and assorted low-calorie vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, and is flavored with onion soup mix, bouillon, and tomato juice.

Here’s a typical recipe:

1 package dry onion soup mix

2 bouillon cubes, either chicken or beef

1 celery stick (not the whole stalk), diced

1/2 head green cabbage, diced

3 carrots, sliced

2 bell peppers, sliced

6 large green onions, or 1 large yellow, white or purple onion, diced

2 cans of tomatoes, diced or whole

Cooking spray

Salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, soy sauce to taste (or any other seasoning you like)

Spray a large pot with cooking spray and saute all vegetables except cabbage and tomatoes until tender. Add cabbage and about 12 cups of water. Toss in bouillon cubes, soup mix, and seasonings. Cook until soup reaches desired tenderness; add tomatoes.

Dieters beware; you may encounter some gastrointestinal discomfort from the highly sulfurous cabbage and other gassy vegetables.

How It Works

The Cabbage Soup Diet is essentially a modified fast, containing so few calories that dieters will lose weight rapidly during the weeklong regimen. There is nothing magical about cabbage or cabbage soup that fosters weight loss. It’s the low-calorie nature of the diet plan that does the trick.

The diet makes no scientific claims on how it works. While several versions exist, common to all is the premise that if you eat lots of cabbage soup when you’re hungry, it will keep you satisfied enough to sustain this very low-calorie diet for a week.

Dieters may very well lose the promised 10-15 pounds, but the problem is that most of the weight lost will be primarily from fluids, not fat, and will return once the dieter resumes eating normally.

Factor in the monotony of eating virtually the same foods every day for a week, and dieters may tend to eat even fewer than the already dangerously low (approximately 800-1,050) calories per day.

Experts agree that any diet under 1,200 calories per day is unsafe unless you’re under a doctor’s care. It’s almost impossible to get all the nutrients you need and satisfy hunger in so few calories. A bottomless bowl of cabbage soup, along with a restricted list of allowed foods, provides a mere skeleton of the nourishment your body needs each day.

What the Experts Say

There is little debate as to whether this is a sound diet plan. Indeed, it has all the components of a diet disaster.

“It is a monotonous, short-term fix, severely lacking in nutrients, which will result in a weight loss that is primarily water and not the essential fat loss that is so important to improving health,” says Connie Diekman, MEd, RD, president-elect of the American Dietetic Association.

Diekman worries that diets like the Cabbage Soup Diet perpetuate feelings of failure for most dieters.

“People who go on and off diets get so discouraged when they lose weight only to gain it back, and these feelings make so many people think that diets don’t work,” she says.

As a registered dietitian, she urges dieters to find another plan that is balanced, varied, and includes regular physical activity. The only positive aspect of the Cabbage Soup Diet plan is that it may get people to eat more vegetables, Diekman says.

Food for Thought

If you want to give this modified fast a try, check with your doctor first. Some people have reported feeling lightheaded while on the plan.

If you get the go-ahead, head to the grocery store, buy all the ingredients for the soup, stock up on fruit, vegetables, skim milk, fish, chicken, or meat (depending on which plan you follow) — and plan on staying home. Consuming mass quantities of cabbage soup may cause you to be too gassy to go out in public.

You will lose weight on the Cabbage Soup Diet, but you can plan on seeing those pounds return. This diet plan that is nothing more than a quick fix that does nothing to help change the behaviors that lead to weight gain.

The bottom line? Keep looking for a program that contains all the components of a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity, and is suitable for long-term weight loss.