Linkedin Twitter Facebook Email Our Blog
Join our mailing list

Posts Tagged ‘ exercise ’

Fighting breast cancer one colorful vegetable at a time: a tribute to my grandmother

Below is my blog post “Fighting breast cancer one colorful vegetable at a time: a tribute to my grandmother.”

You  can also read it on Huffington Post HERE.

I first got interested in nutrition many years ago. While hardly as popular a field back then as it is today, my love of nutrition, the field which ultimately became my profession, was due, to a large extent, on my close bond with my beloved grandmother.

Grandma Ceil, as she was known to our family, was a fighter and a powerhouse. She was diagnosed with breast cancer (which no one ever talked about) around 1970, while in her 50s. An avid cook and baker, grandma loved to eat. And her love of food (not always the right ones!) showed on her waistline.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, while undergoing treatment, my grandmother became fascinated with nutrition and its relationship to health. So much so that she began practicing and preaching healthy eating to us.

Grandma Ceil lived with cancer for over 20 years and throughout her lifetime with us (she lived a full life till the age of 80), she was vibrant, upbeat, and never missed a family outing. She also made a point at talking to anyone who would listen (that meant me) about the latest nutrition information she had just received from the numerous health organizations she was contacting to find out more about diet and health.

Over the years, my grandmother’s preaching had a profound influence on me. So much so that I’ve spent a good part of my career educating and counseling individuals and families on healthy eating and disease prevention. Below I share some simple guidelines we can follow to help protect us from breast cancer.

First, I must preface by saying that preventing breast cancer, or any other cancer for that matter, is not an exact science. One can follow a super healthy eating and lifestyle program and still get breast cancer. (In fact one out of eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime. And not all have poor health habits.) We now know, however, that the following lifestyle factors can help prevent breast cancer throughout one’s life—and also improve health outcomes for breast cancer survivors. (There are currently more than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors in the US!) So it’s not too late to start adopting them now.

1. Load up on colorful fruits and vegetables.

Lots of evidence exists that eating colorful vegetables—think red peppers, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, cauliflower, blueberries, tomatoes—is very helpful in reducing the risk for breast cancer. Colorful vegetables are rich in antioxidants including vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene, and flavonoids and contain protective properties to fight cancer. These vegetables are also high in fiber and low in calories which can help keep your waistline in check, also important. The different colors often contain different nutrients so it’s best to eat the rainbow, so to speak. And don’t be afraid to vary it up and try a new fruit or veggie. You just may like it.

2. Watch your weight—and your waist.

Maintaining a healthy weight is super important in protecting against breast cancer. Where you keep your excess weight also matters. Excess fat around the mid-line (think apple-shaped) is associated with increased estrogen levels—which could set the stage for breast cells to mutate and ultimately become cancerous. So be sure to keep your weight—and your waist— in check with a healthy diet and exercise program.

3. Adopt the Mediterranean way.

Recent research published in JAMA Internal Medicine and The International Journal of Cancer found that adopting a Mediterranean diet—rich in whole grains, olive oil, nuts and legumes, fruits and vegetables—-may prevent breast cancer. It’s no surprise as the Mediterranean diet is a healthy lifestyle diet not only rich in colorful produce and healthy grains but is also low in meat, fried foods, and processed foods. Because managing weight is also an important factor to help fight breast cancer, before pouring the olive oil onto your salad and adding nuts as a snack, be sure to nix the cheese, croutons, butter, and fried foods. And, do watch your olive oil portion as the calories add up quickly (1 tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories).

4. Get moving today.

All types of exercise reduces a woman’s risk for breast cancer so choose one you enjoy and are likely to stick with. Aim for about 30 minutes a day at least four to five days a week. No excuses. Moderately intense activity including brisk walking (not window shopping!) and yoga counts as does more vigorous exercise including running and cycling. What matters most is that you keep moving.

For healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.

5. Don’t over pour…

…I am referring to alcohol, not water. While you may have heard that a glass of wine is protective against heart disease (although I don’t know anyone who got heart disease from a deficiency of alcohol!)) , that same drink (any kind of alcohol) may increase your breast cancer risk. And research shows that moderate drinking —just one drink a day for women—increases the risk.

So if you enjoy a drink, choose it wisely, on occasion, and don’t over pour. And even though wine goblets have increased in size, your drink should still be 5 oz.

6. Cook more.

Research shows that people who cook at home eat healthier and also manage their weight better than those who eat out (or order in) most meals. Home cooked meals are associated with diets lower in calories, sugar and fat, These are great for fighting breast cancer.

Finally, when going food shopping, try keeping the canned foods (canned soups, canned mushrooms) and foods and drinks which come in plastic containers (water bottles, juice containers) on the shelf. Stanford research confirmed a link between canned food and exposure to the hormone-disrupting chemical known as Bisphenol A, or BPA. While it may be difficult to avoid all canned foods and plastic products, try to use as little as possible. And, if you do buy such products, choose brands that are BPA free.

While we can’t change our age, gender, and genetics, it is estimated that healthy lifestyle practices such as I discuss above can help to reduce a woman’s breast cancer risk by about one-third. That would translate to 100,000 US women every year.

Share |

7 Nutrition Secrets to Live a Longer and Healthier Life

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “7 secrets to live a longer–and healthier–life.

You can also read it here.

ADA stock photos-veggies low res

Let’s face it. We all want to live a longer — and healthier — life. Aging is inevitable but there are healthy habits we can create and foods we can enjoy to help prologue our lives. A nutrient dense diet along with a stress-free lifestyle goes hand in hand to promote longevity.

As a nutritionist, I regularly get asked how to help slow the aging process. Below are some simple tricks to help stop the clock.


1. Go meatless.

Swapping meat for fish, beans, and legumes is a great way to fight inflammation and prevent aging. Indeed, consuming fish regularly has been shown to promote brain health. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines also help boost our intake of omega 3 fatty acids, healthy fats also shown to promote heart health. Incorporating elements of the Mediterranean diet by eating less meat and more legumes along with more fruits and vegetables has also been shown to fight inflammation.

2. Eat brain candy.

To keep our brains sharp and to prevent cognitive decline, what we eat can make a difference. Foods high in certain vitamins, antioxidants and phytochemicals may help to boost brain health. Deep red foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain the antioxidant lycopene which fights free radicals that come with aging. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are rich in vitamins E and K which may prevent memory loss and help reduce our “brain age.” Berries contain anthocyanins which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

3. Maintain your weight.

As we age, our metabolism tends to slow down so it is important to watch calories and exercise more to avoid weight gain. It turns out that maintaining a steady weight and avoiding yoyo dieting is equally important. The centenarians fromOkinawa, known to live long and healthy lives, were known to keep their calories down and their weight steady. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) has been associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers. Eating nutrient dense foods along with practicing portion control allows you to eat almost all of your favorite foods while helping to keep your calories in check.

4. Eat a colorful plate.

Besides helping us feel fuller on fewer calories, eating a colorful diet high in fruits and vegetables (both fresh and frozen) can give your diet a boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber which cut your risk of chronic disease and help counter free radicals, thereby helping to fight cellular damage and aging. Choosing a colorful assortment of produce is best, as different health benefits exist from the different color spectrum. Try to start each meal with a mixed salad and as diet planning guides suggest, fill half of your plate fruits and veggies.

5. Skimp on added sugar.

For the first time, the Dietary Guidelines set a specific recommendation for limiting added sugar. This was done for good reason. A diet high in added sugar has been linked to obesity, chronic diseases, and inflammation. The 2015-2020 guidelines advise that added sugars comprise no more than 10 percent of calories, which amounts to around 12 teaspoons of sugar, for a 2,000-calorie diet. Americans currently consume 22 to 30 teaspoons of added sugar daily, half of which comes from sugary beverages. While we should skip soda, we also must watch out for other foods such as many store bought salad dressings, ketchup, and prepared foods which contain considerable amounts of added sugar. Read food labels and take note: high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, and honey are all other names for “sugar.”

6. Spice it up.

Seasoning your favorite foods with spices will not only enhance the flavor, but will boost your nutrient intake, and help fight the aging process. Turmeric, for example, contains the active ingredient curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties and help relieve joint pain. And, for an added boost, seasoning your foods with spices helps to reduce your need to use added sugar and salt.

7. Keep moving.

As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate for exercise and recommend that my clients incorporate an exercise program into their (almost) daily routine. Cardiovascular exercise including walking, biking, and swimming help keep our heart strong while strength training helps preserve lean muscle and is therefore equally important as we age.

We would love to hear your favorite anti-aging tricks.

Share |

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle While Traveling

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post. “How to maintain a healthy lifestyle while traveling.”

You can also read it HERE.

This is the season for traveling and summer vacations. While we often do lots of research to find a great travel destination, we often do not have a plan to stay healthy while we are away.

As a nutritionist, I spend a lot of time this season teaching clients how to stay healthy, lose weight, and keep it off while enjoying summer vacations. I also enjoy traveling for fun and travel for work as well, so I am always fine tuning simple strategies to maintain a healthy lifestyle while being out of town.

Here are five simple and painless strategies to implement while taking on your next trip.

1. Drink a lot of water.

Staying hydrated is very important while traveling. Often, especially when flying, you may feel sluggish and fatigued due to dehydration. People also mistake feeling hungry when they are really just dehydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy while traveling. If you are going to an exotic location, find out in advance about the safety of drinking the tap water and then plan accordingly. If you are taking a road trip or a bike trip, always keep some water on hand.

2. Watch your diet.

Be mindful of what and how much you eat. As I tell clients, vacations are not a time to begin a diet. It is also not a time to go completely overboard. I suggest enjoying the local cuisine but do not overdo it. Planning in advance helps a lot. Identify the local cuisine that you want to try and plan your eating around that. If you want to enjoy local pasta in Italy, for example, skip the bread. An occasional alcoholic drink is also okay, but best to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner as opposed to on an empty stomach. When it comes to food and drink, think moderation.

3. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

One of the easiest ways to keep your eating plan in check and to avoid going overboard is to be conscious of including fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. I suggest incorporating a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Try to include a fresh fruit serving in the morning with breakfast or as a mid morning snack, and include some kind of vegetable dish with lunch or dinner. It can be a fresh salad, a cooked vegetable, or a healthy soup option.

4. Eat structured meals.

Eating structured meals is one of the best ways to keep your diet in check. Try for a healthy breakfast including some protein to keep your blood sugar in check. A Greek yogurt with fruit, eggs with whole wheat toast, or whole grain toast and peanut butter are some good choices. Try to skip the pastries, especially in the morning. Do not skip lunch. If you are on the run, be mindful to sit down and enjoy a healthy lunch even if it is a quickie. A salad with grilled fish or tofu, a turkey sandwich, or a veggie burger is a good choice. If you want to indulge in the local cuisine, that is ok on occasion, but think portion control. And skip the fried foods. Finally, don’t go totally overboard at dinner.

5. Get active.

One of the best ways to explore a new location is to walk, walk, and walk. Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes so that you can get plenty of exercise. Other types of exercise, such as swimming and biking, are also great, especially in summer months. Find out if there is a pool where you are staying, or better yet, if possible, book a hotel with a pool. Regardless of what exercise you choose to do, the most important point is to incorporate it into your day and do it.

Share |
Visit our Blog lisa.young@nyu.edu © 2017 Dr. Lisa Young