August 2011


Watermelon: The Miracle Fruit

Is there anything that says summertime more than a watermelon. It’s truly an artifact of our cultural celebration of warm weather and good times. Well, there’s more than meets the eye and it’s all very, very good. Turns out watermelon is one of the most beneficial foods we can eat. As seniors concerned with diet and health, watermelon may literally be a miracle food.

Based upon recent research studies, here are some of the wonderful benefits of watermelon:

 

– It’s loaded with very powerful antioxidants, mostly from beta-carotene, which supplies vitamins C and A.

– It’s natures best source of lycopene (better than tomatoes) and many studies indicate it may help reduce the risk of cancer and many other diseases.

– The polysaccharide carbohydrates contained in watermelon increase the body’s levels of serotonin. Eating watermelon before bedtime makes the brain less sensitive to disruptive stimuli during sleep. This can improve sleep up to 27%.

– Research has shown that the lycopene in watermelon cuts the risk of sun-related skin damage by 40%. It appears the lycopene destroys the UV-induced free radicals that cause sunburn and wrinkling.

– One medical journal recently reported the results of a study finding men who eat watermelon and drink green tea on a regular basis are 82% less likely to have prostate cancer.

– Watermelon can give you as much as a 23% boost in energy. It can do this because it contains B6, B1, magnesium, and potassium. The B6 helps the body feel good by synthesizing dopamine.

– Eating watermelon can also help to heal wounds and other skin problems.  It contains high amounts of the acid citrulline, which the body converts to arginine. Arginine helps speed the delivery of white blood cells to the specific sites where it is needed.

– Because watermelon contains arginine, it boosts nitric oxide levels, which can produce a Viagra-like effect. The nitric oxide can also be helpful for treating angina, high blood pressure and other related cardiovascular problems. 

If these studies are correct, watermelon is truly a miracle fruit. All this from something that is 92% water and only has 48 calories per cup. Bon appetite!

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

John Parker is co-author of The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life

 

 

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In the past, I’ve often commented on scientific studies that provided information about the foods seniors should eat in order to promote health and longevity. While it’s long been thought drinking alcohol in moderation may be good for us, more recent studies suggest I should have been writing a blog on wine. 

In a very recent study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, researchers reviewed 143 studies comprising more than 365,000 participants from 19 countries. Moderate drinkers were found to be 23% less likely to develop signs of memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease. The study could not determine exactly why this is the case, but it’s believed the alcohol plays a role in lessening the inflammation that causes dementia, and is also implicated in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers.

Michael Collins, Ph.D., one of the researchers, has been quoted as saying, “This study is not the final word, but it does provide the most complete picture out there. Low levels of alcohol may have anti-inflammatory effects on the immune system, heart, and brain.” The study also showed that wine drinking was more effective than drinking beer.

Of course, the key to these findings is in the word “moderation.” All alcohol contains calories which can add to weight gain, a considerable health factor, and too much alcohol can lead to many other problems and possible addiction. The study defined moderation as one drink daily for women and two for men. One drink was defined as 1.5 ounces of spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

While I personally only have an occasional beer with pizza or Mexican food, and don’t recommend alcohol consumption, I do find this study worthwhile for seniors. Besides, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

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Due to her age and a recent stroke, my mother now requires a wheel chair when we take her places. While I’m always happy to push her chair for her, given my height (6′ 4″), the angle at which I have to bend is exactly the angle that causes muscle cramping in my back. I went to the chair manufacturer and retailer looking for a solution, but apparently I’m the only person in the world who has to bend down to push a wheelchair. No solution could be found. At this point, I  went to a local metalwork and welding company. They tried to come up with an answer, but no luck. My next stop was the local hardware store where I was on a mission. You know the feeling of inspiration when you need to construct something, but have no idea of how you are going to do it. Well, long story short, my new invention is complete and works like a champ. My mother and wife have heaped praise on me and the word “genius” has been uttered a time or two. The fact is, it was pretty simple. A little time, some PVC pipe, and a can of liquid rubber was all it took.

As we grow older, to be blessed with grandchildren is truly a joy. My wife Trisha and I are fortunate to have several of these wonderful young people in our lives. Ever since our oldest granddaughter Lucy was old enough to travel with us we take her on one trip each year to somewhere exciting. This year was no exception.

We first planned to go to New York, but the upcoming 9/11 anniversary had packed the hotels and those kinds of crowds didn’t seem too inviting. Having recently visited Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a place we have always enjoyed, we decided it would be perfect for this year’s adventure. After the plans were made, we got a couple of last-minute calls from Lucy’s mom. She told us her friends were advising her not to allow her daughter to go to Mexico. The second call came after Lucy’s friends began to scare her about the trip. Long story short, we assured mother and daughter and went through with our plans. It was a great trip and we had a ball.

Better yet, it was an opportunity to share a good life lesson. Are there places in this world especially dangerous to visit? Yes. In fact, there are several not too far from my home. The point is: life itself is a risk. My own aunt and uncle were murdered in their own bedroom. Several years ago I would never have imagined traveling through China meeting people and making friends with whom I would continue to communicate. Are there places in Mexico I would not visit right now? Absolutely. At this point, Cabo was much less a risk than our ride home from the airport. Lucy loved the scenery, boating, para-sailing, swimming, dancing for the guys at Senior Frogs, and shopping.

Growing older does not automatically give you more wisdom. It should, however, give you perspective. I personally drive more slowly and cautiously than before. On the other hand, I also try things I never would have done when I was younger. I admit to enjoying the adrenaline. Trisha is the same way and we both have our “list” of exciting things to try. Up till now, I haven’t added skydiving to my list, but I know it’s on hers. Maybe we’re just getting a bit crazy in our old age, but this is our life, not a dress rehearsal. Bottom line: you want to do something in this life, you better get to it. 

  

 

 Do you eat fast food? I was never crazy about it, but admit to having some every once-in-a-while. I should stipulate I do not consider the occasional In-N-Out-Burger, which is made with all fresh ingredients, to be fast food. As I look back, my wife Trisha, with very few exceptions such as late night travel stops, has never eaten fast food. No wonder, now in her sixties, she looks so much better than I do.

To the point, as I’ve grown older, my eating habits have improved. Not because I’ve gotten so much wiser or I’ve made a commitment to the Spartan life, but because in most cases I really like the taste of foods that are better for me. I have no problem passing by a fast food place and much prefer something fresh and more nutritious.  The health and longevity benefits of a proper diet cannot be denied. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting myself up as a role model. Start slicing a tasty cake and I’ll be  first in line. But overall, as I age I try to be more selective about my food choices. Having researched the topic for many years, here are some food suggestions that are very good for us as we age. The best part is they also taste great.

Veggies – We all know we should get lots of vegetables because they have benefits which help prevent heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and more. Go for the dark, leafy, and more colorful vegetables.

Walnuts – A great source of omega-3 fatty acid. Don’t have to worry about mercury contamination contained in fish.

Berries – Great way to get plenty of essential antioxidants and other chemicals needed to counter the effects of aging.

Avocados – One of the best anti-aging foods because it contains healthy fat that help lower cholesterol. I admit to not liking themwhen I was young, but absolutely love them now. At lunch I often cut one in half and fill it with berries, a great two-for-one.

Beans – If you are looking for non-animal protein and lots of antioxidants, bean are the way to go. Trisha and I try to have one or two bean-based meals each week.

Melons – While most of us know we are supposed to get several servings of fruit every day, we don’t always think of melons. They are filled with vitamins and taste great. Recently, I needed to drop a few pounds very quickly. I  made melons my main source of food and dropped the weight rapidly.

Green Tea – This tea has anti-aging chemicals known for thousands of years in Asia. Trisha and I try to find time in the afternoon to relax and have a cup.

Chocolate – Be sure you eat the dark chocolate. It contains lots of healthy chemicals, but does have a lot of calories. Don’t overdo it.

Red Wine – I’m sure you’ve heard about the anti-aging qualities contained in red wine. It’s true because red wine contains a substance called “resveratrol” that helps fight off age-related illnesses. Don’t drink too much because the alcohol is not that great for you.

Water – While you don’t need to be one of these folks who carry huge bottles of water with them everywhere, water is vital for our health and very existence. Unfortunately, as we age we tend to lose our sense of thirst so getting enough water is very important.

“there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh . . .”

This is my favorite painting. If you don’t share my faith, no problem. One’s faith is a personal decision and I respect everyone’s beliefs (unless you go around blowing people up). The point is, it makes me smile and that in turn makes me feel good. I’m aware some people contend we should only spend our lives doing solemn works and in quiet reflection. Good for you. I personally take that “a time to laugh” verse just as seriously.

Several things put me in a reflective mood about humor and laughter this week. One of the things was when my shy and soft-spoken mother walked in and sat down in a room filled with many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She seemed to be musing about something so I asked her what she was thinking. She said, “You know, so many of my friends and family are already in heaven, I’ll bet they think I didn’t make it.” It was a very serious and sweet comment. And very, very funny.

I also have a wonderful cadre of friends who send me humorous email forwards. Truth is I’m not big on sending forwards to folks, but my friends are very selective and the stuff they send is most often hilarious. Much of it this last week was laugh out loud funny. I really enjoyed their selections.

Additionally, this week my wife Trisha and I were invited to speak at a luncheon about retired-life issues. I spent much of my time discussing the wellness benefits of humor. Preparing for our presentation forced me to brush up on my humor research. Once again, I found the information very valuable. Here are some of the wellness benefits of humor I shared with our audience.

Humor:

– relaxes muscles

– reduces harmful stress hormones

– lowers blood pressure

– lowers serum cortisol levels

– speeds oxygen to the blood

– increases blood circulation

– triggers release of endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers)

– helps in weight reduction

– boosts the immune system

– provides a feeling of overall well-being 

I guess the axiom “laughter is the best medicine” really is  true. The fact is, we live in a very complex, demanding, and potentially stressful world. As we grow older, maintaining a positive attitude and managing our stress becomes very important for maintaining our mental and physical health. Looking for the humor in our lives at a time when we face very real and serious wellness issues will help to maintain an important balance.

Don’t worry, be happy.

Stay healthy, keep on laughing.

Best, John         www.TheBestofOurLives.com