Living Lite

Tai Chi's Breathtaking & Bewildering Body & Brain Benefits

April 15, 2018

When a study found tai chi increased bone mass and muscle strength, I had to learn more. Was everything scientifically established so far about improving bone and muscle unnecessary? No protein? No impactful exercise? No Calcium or Vitamin D? No hormone changes or medications? How could this easy, gentle series of martial arts movements - involving none of these factors - improve muscle and bone?

Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, is a centuries-old mind and body practice. Tai chi is a combination of movement, breathing, attention, visualization, and rich psychosocial interactions with teachers and other students, according to Harvard Magazine. It is so easy and gentle, anyone can do it. Yet its benefits are vast; some so impressive - even counterintuitive -  I had to research the science to believe it. After reviewing the studies, I've added tai chi to the multi-faceted arsenal of my health-boosting behavior-change programs.

In one of its publications, Harvard calls Tai Chi, known as "meditation in motion," "medication in motion." Tai Chi provides a host of benefits, including...

  • Increasing bone and muscle health: After 12 weeks of Tai Chi, postmenopausal, osteopenic women experienced improved muscular strenth and increased bone health. Tai chi apparently reduces the natural age-related oxidative damage that causes bone and muscle breakdown. The results were even stronger when the subjects drank green tea (assuming other age-related changes such as gray hair and wrinkles, too),
  • Increasing balance and stability in older people, leading to decreased falling (in one study, a forty percent reduction) and fear of falling, even helping people with mild to moderate Parkinson's Disease,
  • Reducing pain caused by knee osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, and perhaps neck pain,
  • Enhancing ability to reason, plan, remember, and solve problems in older people, even those showng signs of mild cognitive impairment and dementia,
  • Improving quality of life and mood in people with heart failure, and improved ability to exercise in people who experienced a heart attack, thus an effective cardiac rehabilitation exercise,
  • Increasing immune response, improving life for people with chronic health problems,
  • Reducing stress and its inflammatory response.

I start many of my "Nutrition, Health and Wellness" classses with Tai Chi. In the photo above, I'm leading a community class sponsored by AmeriHealth Caritas DC, hosted by Lyndia Grant of Lyndia Grant and Associates, LLC held at Trinity College in NE Washington, DC.

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12 Surprising, Simple & Powerful 'Foods as Medicine' You Should Try

March 25, 2018

A responsibility I take very seriously - and one I avidly enjoy - is discovering the best nutrition therapy, or "Foods as Medicine," for each of my clients' unique life enhancing, healing needs, and even for improving some rare conditions. Over the years, I've come across some very simple, strange, and powerful solutions which have been successful and ones from which you might benefit. 

Tea for increasing bone and muscle strength: Studies are finding that regular tea drinking may reduce age-related inflammation and oxidation causing muscle and bone breakdown resulting in increased bone mass and muscular strength.

Green Tea for speedier weight loss: Certain compounds in tea, and especially green tea, have been found to burn body fat. Caffeine slightly increases fat-burning, but the combination of caffeine and green tea catechins [a type of flavonoid] is even more effective.

Chocolate improves erectile dysfunction: The flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels, reduce blood clotting, oxidative damage, and improve blood flow - to every part of the body.

Chocolate reduces wrinkles: After drinking cocoa for 24 weeks, women experienced reduced wrinkles and increased skin elasticity, reducing the effects of sun damage and aging.

Mushrooms boost the immune system, improving diseases from colds to cancer. Used medicinally since at least 3,000 BCE, mushrooms appear to increase the effects of chemotherapy, and lengthen survival of cancer patients. Mushrooms, considered "pre-biotics," enhance the digestive tract's healthy bacteria, the "microbiome," thus providing your body with extra disease-fighting properties.

Mushrooms reduce fatigue: They act on the muscular system, the body antioxidant system, cardiovascular system, hormone system, and immune system, all of which improve liver function, blood circulation, and blood glucose regulation, among other benefits.

Tart cherries (dried or concentrated) and tart cherry juice reduce pain from gout and neuropathy, improve muscle recovery after intense exercise, and enhance sleep quality: Scientists hypothesize that the presence of hundreds of compounds - especially anthocyanins - in cherries are responsible for the benefits. But there are probably as yet undiscovered properties which contribute to their health strengthening qualities.

Hydrolyzed Collagen reverses the pain of arthritis, the aging of joints, bones, musclesskin, and reduces cellulite. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom important for joints, bones and skin. Taken as a supplement, collagen needs to be "hydrolyzed" into tinier molecules called "collagen peptides" so it can effectively enter your body's cells and your body can utilize it.

Coffee extends exercise performance: Once banned by the International Olympic Committee, caffeine stimulates the neuromuscular system to increase your body's ability to exercise longer, with less fatigue, than it would absent caffeine.

Yogurt reduces body fat: The probiotic cultures in yogurt have been found to prevent insulin resistance, diabetes, and body fat. People who eat yogurt are leaner than those who eschew.

Egg yolks reduce cataracts and macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness: Egg yolks contain compounds called lutein and zeaxanthin, also found in deep leafy greens. But they're more powerful in egg yolks because lutein and zeaxanthin need to be eaten with fat, found in egg yolks (but not in greens), to be effective.

Beans clear acne and improve skin: There is strong evidence that a diet with foods causing the lowest blood sugar responses (a low glycemic diet) may be the best solution for clear skin. Beans are not only nutritious, but are very low on the glycemic index scale.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - but ONLY when newly harvested - reduces metabolic syndrome: The nutrients in olive oil, polyphenols, responsible for its superior health benefits, disappear with time, light, and heat exposure. But when high in polyphenols, for instance, the first six months after harvest, EVOO "turns on" several genes which lower blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure,

Salmon reduces Alzheimer's Disease (AD): Studies show inflammation is a major cause of AD and cognitive decline. Omega-3-Fatty Acids, which salmon contains in abundance, have proven abilities to reduce inflammation.

Nuts for weight loss: Even though nuts are quite caloric, people eating nuts are more likely to have lower body weights. Nuts are satiating; they make us feel full. Adding nuts to meals, especially breakfast, decreases overall calorie intake, making weight loss easier.

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Processed Food? You'd Be Surprised How Delish!

March 11, 2018

While making meals from scratch has been the paragon of nutritional virtue, it is increasingly unrealistic for most people in our crazy busy lives to even contemplate. And while processed, pre-prepared, packaged, frozen, vacuum packed, and even canned options seem like an abomination to many of you, they can be more nutritious - and many times quite yummy - for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal.

I've always enjoyed BBQ, but have never quite gotten the hang of making a really delicious one. The best BBQ I've ever had was in Texas. But that took days to make! BBQ in restaurants I've found too greasy, filling, and expensive. But I recently discovered a pre-packaged one in a local grocery store's refrigerator section that is mouthwatering. For only 200 calories in a 1/2 cup serving - it is perfect for me (and, of course, most men could have twice that much). Try it yourself!

My (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) My "Processed, Pre-Packaged" BBQ Sandwich Ingredients

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