cooking


Free Radicals

No, this isn’t a call to release a group of protesters, it’s about good health. In previous posts I’ve talked about various foods and beverages that are beneficial in maintaining our health during retired life. I thought it might be useful to explain why foods high in antioxidants are so vital.

While you may have heard or seen the term “antioxidants” before, do you know why it’s so important we get large quantities in our diet? It all has to do with the oxidation process. Have you ever cut open an apple and noticed how it starts to discolor in the open air. This is the oxidation process in which the cells become damaged and die. Cells within our bodies are constantly dying and being replaced. Sometimes due to things like toxins from cigarette smoke, air pollution, poor diet, etc., cells become damaged. At this point they have become free radicals and  begin to attack other cells in an attempt to repair themselves. Once this chain of free radicals has begun it becomes the seed for disease.   

It’s much the same as the oxidation process that takes place in our automobiles.  Oxidation can damage the fuel system and gum up the works. At that point there are additives we can put  into the fuel that will repair the system. Foods and beverages high in antioxidants are the additives for our body. They can actually repair the free radicals making them healthy cells again.

If anyone should doubt the power of antioxidants, let me share this brief story. On a recent trip a friend of mine accidentally hit his head and suffered a severe gash above his eye. An ambulance was called as the blood flowed. He insisted he would be fine and didn’t even get any stitches. He said his abundant antioxidant diet would heal his wound in short order. He was right. It was like something out of a science fiction movie. His severe gash quickly became a small cut and in just a few days had virtually disappeared. Antioxidants, along with exercise are the keys to good health at any stage of life. 

Here is a list of the top twenty antioxidant foods:

 You may have also heard that chocolate, tea, and red wine have antioxidants. They do, but be careful. Only dark chocolate with very little sugar is good for you. Tea is great but you need to be careful with wine. Recent studies have shown that large amounts of alcohol can trigger free radical production. Probably not a good trade-off.

Media Update

Yesterday, February 26, my wife Trisha and I were guest speakers for the Oakmont Sunday Symposium. It was lots of fun and we certainly enjoyed meeting all the good folks who live in that beautiful wine country paradise. Our presentation was streamed live on the internet and I’ve provided this link for anyone who might be interested in viewing it:      Trisha and John Parker

Photo Credit: Dick Green

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

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Health Benefits of Tomatoes

In tracing the history of the tomato, it was first found in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Later, in France it became known as pomme d’ amour or the “love apple” because it was believed to recover impotence and increase sperm count. In 1834, Dr. John Cook Bennett from Willoughby University, Ohio, was the first to study the tomato and found it beneficial in treating diarrhea, gall attack, indigestion and restoring liver function.

While it has long been suspected, a recent study conducted in Australia has found that tomatoes possess powerful health benefits. The study examined data from 14 other studies conducted over the last 55 years. While those studies theorized tomatoes had health benefits, it could not be proven. The Australian study simply increased the dose or amount of tomatoes given to subjects and the conclusion became clear. The reason behind these results is due to the fact that tomatoes have the highest concentration of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in other foods such as watermelon, red wine, papaya, and guava. Tomatoes also contain high concentrations of vitamin C and vitamin A, both beneficial in boosting the immune system. Even the pigment in red tomatoes contains high levels of lycopene.

Interestingly, different from other foods, cooked or processed tomatoes are best. It’s not recommended to buy sauces and pastes in the grocery store because they have too much preservative and other additives. One pint of tomato juice or sauce, or about 50 grams a day will provide protection against heart disease, says Dr. Karin Ried from The University of Adelaide and author of the study. Among the most amazing findings from the study was a drop in subject’s LDL cholesterol levels by an average of 10 percent. Systolic (the top reading) blood pressure dropped an average of 5.6. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, the study also indicates tomatoes may be effective in lowering the risks of many forms of cancer, slow the decline of eye function due to age, and promote healthy liver and kidney function. Some believe that adding a high level of cooked tomatoes to one’s diet could be as effective as taking statin drugs without the risks.

Caution: I’m not a medical doctor, and suggest you consult your provider before launching into any change in diet or medications. Additionally, some people do have allergic reactions to tomatoes, so be aware. 

For great tomato recipes, and lots of other great recipes, go to our website and click on Trisha’s Dishes.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

 

 

 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.

www.TheBestofOurLives.com

Announcement

On our website, www.TheBestofOurLives.com, there is a page called Trisha’s Dishes. This is a page where my wife Trisha offered her favorite recipies. The problem has been that Trisha had to go through our publisher every time she wanted to include a new recipe. Well, good news. Trisha now has her own site where she will be providing her favorite recipies and a forum for others to share their favorites on a weekly basis.

Do yourself and your taste buds a favor and visit her new site.

Simply go to our homepage www.TheBestofOurLives.com and click on Trisha’s Dishes or click on the link below.

               

My Family’s Favorite Dessert « Trisha’s Dishes

Seniors and a Stree-free Environment 

After coming off a long travel adventure, it has taken a while to get unpacked, organized, and acclimated to our own home. As we were going through this process, I came across an online article that provided suggestions for creating a healthy and happy home. It reminded me of something my wife Trisha and I have been working on since we retired. In our book, The Best of Our Lives: Sharing the Secrets of a Healthy and Happy Retired Life, we referred to it as creating a stress-free environment. Reducing stress is key to maintaining both mental and physical health, especially as we get older.

Have you ever visited someone who has been retired for many years and noticed their living environment had not changed in years? That in itself may not be a bad thing, but the fact is as we get older we need to pay attention to our environment and make sure we create one that is stree-free, promotes good health, and meets our need for safety.

Here are a few suggestions for creating a stress-free and healthy environment:

1. Reduce clutter – This is my personal favorite because I’m claustrophobic and clutter makes me very stressed. Clutter also increases your chances of tripping and falling (see my last blog). Now University of Chicago researchers have found that living with clutter actually makes you more tired and that fatigue creates a hormone called cortisol within your body that can cause you to eat from 200 to 1,000 more calories per day. I was just going to use the “big bones” excuse.

2. Keep it light – Scientests have shown that keeping your home environment filled with natural light is good for both your mental and physical fitness. There are some studies that now contend an abundance of natural light in our environment can even help prevent disease. I’m always intriqued when I walk into a person’s home that has closed blinds or heavy window covers that prevent light. I’m sure it has something to do with privacy, but keeping our living environment filled with natural light is very important.

3. Keep it simple and spacious – This doesn’t mean you have to have a large home, it simply means don’t over fill your living space with furniture, plants, etc. When my wife and I bought our first home (sometime back in the last century), I could not wait to get one of those big sectional couches. Well, I got my wish. Of course, even the kids had a hard time walking around in our living room. As my old baseball coach used to say, “You have to learn from losing.” Allow yourself plenty of space and wide walking paths.

4. Keep it personal and upbeat – Have you ever watched one of those television shows where exerts come into someone’s home and help them redecorate (o.k. guys, now you know I do watch some of those shows)? They will often look at the paint color or some art object and ask why it’s there. The person typically responds, “It’s been there since we moved in.” Yikes! How much does two gallons of paint cost. Why are you hanging on to grandma’s old quilt hanging on the wall? If you are retired, it’s definitely time to make your living environment your own. Look through some magazines, watch some of the decorating shows, and create the kind of living space would make you happy.

5. Enjoy your space – Once you have created the perfect space for your retired life, make sure you enjoy it. My wife Trisha and I have added a mid-afternoon break to our schedules. When we are home, around 4:00 or so, we stop what we’re doing and sit down for some hot or iced tea, sometimes a snack, and just relax. Sounds very English doesn’t it. It just seemed that around that time we are usually still going strong on various projects and a nice peaceful break would be beneficial for us. Our stress-free environment is the perfect location.

See you next time and don’t forget to share this site with your friends and family.