Living Lite

Healing Nutrition

May 6, 2012

I'm running a tight ship here in Westlake Village, California, with my mother, to quicken her recovery from knee-replacement surgery. My "Healing Diet" worked beautifully after her hip replacement surgery five years ago; she healed quickly, and without the weight gain she dreaded. So I'm here to give her my special Healing Diet treatment program again. What you eat profoundly affects your ability to recover from surgery or heal from any injury. Everyone's nutritional needs are different, but there are general rules of thumb for maximizing your body's ability to heal through foods.


Protein is one of the most important nutrients in the human body, second only to water. Protein is critical for healing, and immune function is impaired without enough. The antibodies essential to protecting your body against pathogens are made of protein. Protein is necessary to repair and build  tissue and muscle, broken down after surgery or injury. So without enough protein, your body has no chance to heal.

Certain vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those who already have compromised immune systems, should be particularly careful to eat enough protein – in fact, even more than the recommended dietary allowance – for maximized protection. Your protein needs should be individualized and, to maximize your body's ability to absorb and use protein, it should be eaten in small amounts through the day.

Fats and Oils

The type of fat you eat can improve the effectiveness of your body’s immune response because fat ends up in all of your body’s cell walls. It acts as a cell lubricant, improves flexibility and communication between cells. If the fat you eat is saturated – solid at room temperature – as in butter or animal fat – this decreases cellular flexibility and functioning. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Studies show all nutrients are involved in your immune response but taking high doses of certain nutrients in supplements can cause imbalances, backfire, and actually suppress your immune response. So it’s ideal to get your vitamins and minerals from nutrient-rich foods and a balanced diet. Your immune system especially needs foods high in Vitamins C, D, E, B12, Zinc, Beta Carotene, and Magnesium.


The good bacteria in the gut, which aids aborption of important nutrients, is reduced as we age. There is some evidence that eating more of the good bacteria, such as lactobacillus in yogurt, may help your immune response and healing.


Learn more about immune nutrition and my mother's special healing diet program...

Katherine staying in shape while visiting Mom in Westlake Village, CA ...

Westlake Village at Sunrise May 5, 2012 (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) Westlake Village at Sunrise May 5, 2012

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Berry Bonanza

April 29, 2012

Spring is wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is the return of fresh ripe berries. I'm thrilled that starting this Wednesday, I'll be able to make a quick dash to the Rose Park Farmers Market each week to see what is waiting for me. Right now it's strawberries. Locally grown and picked at their peak, they are tender, sweet, juicy, and red-throughout. But they have a very short season, so get them while you can!

There are very few foods that match the beautiful color and intense flavor of berries. And, fortunately, these fruits are nutrition superstars.

For many years, most berries were regarded as nutritionally inferior because of their lack of traditional essential nutrients such as vitamins A and C. But that was before nutrition scientists recently discovered the presence of large amounts of beneficial phytochemicals ("phyto" is Greek for plant).

Apparently, each berry contains at least 100 nutrients and phytochemicals, the plant compounds with potent powers of healing. Some of the most important phytochemicals in berries are antioxidants, powerful substances believed to reduce inflammation, improve immune function and help prevent heart disease and cancers.

Antioxidants are compounds that absorb oxygen free radicals -- molecules that cause oxidation in the body's cells. Scientists believe that these molecules cause most of the diseases of aging, such as immune system decline, arthritis, heart disease, cancer and neurological impairments affecting cognition and balance.

Think of oxidation as being similar to rusting. Or imagine an apple slice turning brown. By simply adding lemon juice, an antioxidant, the apple's flesh stays fresh and prevents the browning or oxidation. A similar thing happens in your body. Oxidation is constantly occurring in your cells because of environmental pollutants, smoking, exposure to the sun, heat generated through basic metabolic functioning, unhealthy diets and other factors. It takes a large supply of antioxidants to counter this. Berries have been found to have one of the highest antioxidant scores of all fruits and vegetables.

But there are other good reasons to eat berries. The berry family contains 300 to 400 beneficial, disease-fighting chemicals. The phytochemicals in berries, depending on the type, also stimulate the immune system, reduce inflammation, enhance cancer-fighting enzymes, positively influence hormone metabolism, have antibacterial and antiviral effects and may even reverse some aspects of brain aging.

The most potent berries are the more deeply colored varieties...

Learn more about berries, berry recipes, and ways of enjoying berries each day...

Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (Photo by: California Strawberry Commission) Strawberry and Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

And don't forget about Asparagus, a favorite vegetable with a very short season, and another special item expected at Rose Park this Wednesday. Learn about asparagus and get six great asparagus recipes.

Salad of Asparagus and New Potato Topped with Poached Salmon (Photo by: Ali Eaves) Salad of Asparagus and New Potato Topped with Poached Salmon

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Earth Day: Because It Is Right

April 22, 2012

At times I feel overwhelmed thinking about the obesity epidemic; the issues seem insurmountable. In that way, I have a lot in common with people trying to "fix" the environment. Which is why I felt empowered when I was told: "Do it just because it is right, even without a goal in mind," by Wendell Berry, renowned conservationist, author, poet, and farmer, visiting the Washington National Cathedral yesterday for an Earth Day lecture. Berry was referring to the importance of "being critical of our society's industrial and financial values... You must oppose these things whether or not you expect to be successful; because it is the right thing to do." But he said he was heartened that today "at least there is a public conversation," compared to the 1960's, when he started his advocacy work.

He gave me hope for continuing my obesity-epidemic-fighting efforts, even though financial interests seem to wield more influence than protecting the health and welfare of the world, and at times success seems beyond reach in my lifetime.

This year, Berry was awarded the 44th Jefferson Lecture by the National Endowment of the Humanities. "Wendell Berry is an American treasure whose prose and poetry have - with subtlety, intelligence, and conviction - helped open our eyes to the importance of respecting and living with nature," said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. "Tilling the land of his Kentucky forebears, he is a 21st Century Henry David Thoreau."

Earth Day marked the Washington National Cathedral's kick-off for a year of talks by nationally acclaimed speakers, authors, and theologians on the environment. In that spirit, the Cathedral's Environmental Advocacy Group has compiled small steps we can each take which, collectively, can have a positive impact on our environment.

Pick just one change - and learn more about how your food choices profoundly affect the environment...

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