kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Dan Buettner first made a name for himself as a cyclist and storyteller. In the early 2000s, he noticed that there were areas he visited across the globe where the people lived easily beyond 100 and often avoided dementia. He dubbed the areas “Blue Zones”. He teamed up with National Geographic to study the people who lived in these areas and discover what they are doing that the average American isn’t. The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest came out in 2010. 

“The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.”

In other words, they move throughout the day. A study was done recently that suggests our beliefs about how much we exercise may substantially influence our health and longevity, even if those beliefs are objectively inaccurate. The study was published by Health Psychology and grew out of research done by a lab at Stanford University. The lead author studied 84 female hotel-room attendants. The workers told the researchers that they felt they completed little or no daily exercise, even though their work consisted mostly of physical labor.

The authors of the study told these women that they were, in fact, completing at least 30 minutes of daily exercise and that this exceeded the national recommendation. When they checked in with the women a month later, the women believed that they were getting more exercise than before. The interesting thing was that they had also lost weight and body fat and developed lower blood pressure. But, in fact, their daily exertions were exactly the same.

The article went on to support the study with other well-funded research. The outcome was the same – that “our mind-sets color our experience of the world”.

Researchers Octavia Zahrt and Alia Crum dove deeper asking people if they were physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people their age.

No matter how physically active the participants were, the researchers discovered that their answers might be linked to the risk of premature death decades from now.  A paper appearing July 20, 2019 in Health Psychology, reported that people who think they are less active than others in a similar age bracket die younger than those who believe they are more active – even if their actual activity levels are similar.

“Our findings fall in line with a growing body of research suggesting that our mindsets – in this case, beliefs about how much exercise we are getting relative to others – can play a crucial role in our health,” Crum said.

Regular physical activity is crucial to our overall health. If you have a sedentary job that doesn’t require you to saw, mow, knead, scrub, walk, bike, carry groceries or kids, dance, or run, you need to make time to take the stairs when you can, work in your garden after work, (or shovel snow in the winter), and get your heart rate elevated.

Do something that engages the cardiovascular system by increasing and sustaining an elevated heart rate. This will cause you to breath harder and increase your oxygen intake. Regular cardio activities can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and help to maintain a healthy body weight.

Weight bearing exercises (if you are not carrying kids and groceries) are essential for bone health and maintaining muscle mass. You do not have to use weights. Push-ups and squats can be modified to ability. Ask a professional to teach you proper form and devise a program that is safe and personalized. Increased lean muscle mass doesn’t have to mean “big” muscles. Well-used muscles raise metabolism and increase calories burned.  Working major muscle groups can help with stability for everyone, not just older adults.

Stretching is an excellent complement to support cardio and strength training. Yoga is a great way to elevate your heart rate and build strength. Yoga also helps with flexibility and balance.

In 2009, Buettner reverse engineered a Blue Zone in rural Minnesota and together the community lost 4 TONS of fat. The homegrown, plant-based diets of the Blue Zones residents are only about half of the longevity equation, according to Buettner.

“If you want to live longer and be healthier, don’t try to change your behaviors, because that never lasts for the long run,” he said. “Think about changing your environment.”

For Albert Lea, that meant the town of roughly 18,000 people was pushed to do more daily movement. The city added 10 miles of sidewalks and bike lanes for its residents, and local businesses made it easier to choose healthy food. People started walking more and creating their own strolling groups that hit the streets together, collectively shedding 4 tons of weight (an average of 2.6 pounds per person). Smoking went down by 4% during the first five years of the program.

“When I started four years ago, I had high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” Albert Lea City Council Member Al Brooks told MinnPost in 2015, saying he started walking 2.5 miles a day since the city turned into a Blue Zone. “My cholesterol is lower, my blood pressure is 116/70, and I lost 15 pounds.”

So, rather than buying a membership to the local health club that might not get used, consider what you can do in 2020 to improve your health.  Most communities have paved walking and biking paths that are kept clean and ice-free throughout the winter months. Near downtown Minneapolis, the Chain of Lakes – Bde Maka Ska, Harriet, Cedar, Brownie and Lake of the Isles – are connected by more than 11 miles of paths that are part of the larger Grand Rounds trail system that encompasses 51 miles of trails.

Google “paved walking paths “in your area, climb the stairs instead of taking an elevator, park a block away from your office, meet a friend for a walk during your lunch hour, join a class, etc..

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all exercise routine. The right one for you is the one that you will stick to and enjoy.

Ginger

Ginger is one spice that I recommend keeping on hand in your kitchen at all times. It is a lifesaver for me. If you are prone, like I am to an unsettled stomach, you will be amazed at the relief a small amount of ginger offers. It is a wonderful addition to your cooking and has endless health benefits.

The medicinal uses of ginger have been known for at least 2,000 years in cultures all around the world. Although it originated in Asia, ginger is valued in India, the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean, among other regions.

The most commonly used medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome, the root-like stem that grows underground. It’s a rich source of antioxidants including gingerols, shogaols, zingerones, and more. Ginger actually has broad-spectrum antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-parasitic properties, to name several of its more than 40 pharmacological actions.

Ginger is anti-inflammatory, which makes it great for pain relief. In 2001, research showed that ginger oil helped reduce knee pain in people with osteoarthritis. In 2013, a study also found that women athletes taking three grams of ginger or cinnamon daily (that’s less than one teaspoon) had a significant decrease in muscle soreness. Ginger has been found to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain from menstrual cramps in women.

Along with help for muscle and joint pain, ginger has been found to reduce the severity of migraine headaches as well as the migraine medication Sumatriptan with fewer side effects.

Another recent study, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, found that adding ginger compounds to isoproterenol, a type of asthma medication called a beta-agonist, enhanced its bronchodilating effects. Because ginger enhances bronchodilation, it may provide a much safer alternative, or at least complement, to current asthma medications on the market.

Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has demonstrated the in vitro and in vivo anticancer activity of ginger, suggesting it may be effective in the management of prostate cancer.

Other research shows it has anti-tumor activity that may help defeat difficult-to-treat types of cancer, including lung, ovarian, colon, breast, skin, and pancreatic. Furthermore, because ginger helps prevent the toxic effects of many substances (including cancer drugs), it may be useful to take in addition to conventional cancer treatments.

Ginger appears to be useful both preventively and therapeutically via effects on insulin release and action, and improved carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

After consuming three grams of dry ginger powder for 30 days, a research report indicated that diabetic participants had a significant reduction in blood glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. It’s thought that ginger has a positive effect on diabetes because it:

  • Inhibits enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism
  • Increases insulin release and sensitivity
  • Improves lipid profiles

Ginger also has also been established to have a protective effect against diabetes complications, including offering protection to the diabetic’s liver, kidneys, central nervous system, and eyes.

If you struggle with motion sickness or nausea (from pregnancy or chemotherapy, for example), ginger should be a staple in your diet. Research shows:

  • Taking one gram of ginger daily may help reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, and ginger has been shown to work better than a placebo in relieving morning sickness
  • Daily ginger supplementation reduces the severity of chemotherapy-induced nausea
  • Ginger may help reduce vomiting and other symptoms of motion sickness

Ginger is also a must-have if you struggle with indigestion, and it does more than simply relieve pain. Ginger helps to stimulate the emptying of your stomach without any negative effects, and it’s an antispasmodic agent, which may explain its beneficial effects on your intestinal tract. Additionally, ginger inhibits H. pylori, which may help prevent ulcers, while also protecting gastric mucosa.

Ginger is a metabolism boosting substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, where your body burns stored up fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on overall metabolism and fat storage. Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients like ginger may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.

Ginger may help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often happens during weight loss.

Additional research shows that ginger might be useful for:

  • Improving cognitive function in middle-aged women
  • Enhancing fat digestion and absorption
  • Relieving arthritis pain as well as Indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat it
  • Reducing damage and memory loss associated with small strokes
  • Protecting against respiratory viruses
  • Protecting against environmental toxins like parabens
  • Preventing and treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Reducing vertigo
  • Protecting against the DNA-damaging effects of radiation exposure
  • Helping prevent heart attacks
  • Fighting bacterial diarrhea
  • Protecting against drug-resistant bacterial and fungal infections

How to Buy

Look for organic ginger with shiny, taut skin. The ginger skin should be thin and never thick and fibrous. You should be able to easily nick the skin with your nail.

Ginger should be pungent and spicy smelling.

Avoid ginger that has any soft spots. If it is soft, it has been on display too long.

Ginger is sold in big hands but you do not have to buy the whole thing. Snap off what you need. It should break easily and if it doesn’t, it probably isn’t fresh.

 

How to Store

If you use ginger pretty frequently (two to three times a week), store it in the crisper drawer of your fridge. If ginger doesn’t show up as often in your cooking, store it in the freezer and grate it whenever you need it.

To freeze ginger, mince or grate it. I don’t always remove the skin, which easily comes off with the edge of a teaspoon or a paring knife, before freezing. Spread or scoop the ginger onto a parchment-lined tray. I like making teaspoon-sized portions. Freeze until solid and transfer to an airtight container. It should keep for about six months.

For most stovetop cooking and smoothies, you can just throw the frozen ginger directly into your dish. For baked goods or raw dressings, let the ginger thaw first; it only takes a few minutes if the chunks are small enough.

 

How to Cook

Ginger tea is one of the simplest ways to use it. Chop off a couple of inches of ginger root and let it steep in hot water for fresh ginger tea. You can also peel the root using a paring knife or the edge of a teaspoon and then slice it thinly (or grate it or mince it) to add to tea or cooked dishes.

Add fresh ginger and other warming spices, like cinnamon, to a cup of tea in the morning, evening, or after a meal. Try mixing a teaspoon of organic powdered ginger into a gallon of iced tea.

Add ginger to stir fries or your favorite soups.

Ginger Veggie Stir Fry

Platings and Pairings - Inspired by Ree Drummond

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot
  • 1-2 tablespoons sriracha depending on how spicy you like it
  • 1-2 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 onion cut into large chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into large chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper cut into large chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 zucchini cut into large wedges
  • 1 Chinese eggplant cut into 1/2″ slices
  • 1 5 oz. can water chestnuts drained
  • 1 head broccoli cut into florets
  • Rice for serving – Another option is to serve on a bed of crispy green
  • Sesame seeds for garnis

You can swap out any of the vegetables in this veggie stir fry recipe for the ones that you like best. In total, I used about 8 cups worth of vegetables for this recipe.

    • Sweet Peppers
    • Zucchini
    • Carrots
    • Broccoli
    • Onions (yellow, white or red)
    • Pea pods
    • Cabbage
    • Asparagus
    • Mushrooms
    • Spinach
    • Kale

Instructions

  1. Add tamari, brandy (if you are using), brown sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot, sriracha, and ginger to a small mason jar. Seal and shake well to combine. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet over high heat. Add the onion and peppers, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the zucchini and Chinese eggplant, and cook for 2-3 minutes longer. Add the water chestnuts and broccoli and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes longer. The veggies should still be fairly firm.
  3. Add in the sauce, stir, and allow to heat through for 1-2 minutes, until the veggies are coated and the sauce thickened. If the sauce gets too thick, add in an additional splash of water.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice.

Resources

https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/
https://www.businessinsider.com/blue-zones-dan-buettner-long-life-diet-exercise-2019-12
https://news.stanford.edu/2017/07/20/self-perceptions-linked-shorter-lifespans/
http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/hea-hea0000531.pdf
https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/albert-lea-minnesota-named-certified-blue-zones-community-boosting-health-economy-with-environmental-changes-300336242.html
https://www.newsweek.com/how-public-policy-can-prevent-heart-disease-75073
http://www.startribune.com/blue-zones-project-helped-albert-lea-minn-find-the-benefits-of-walking/304823171/?refresh=true
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09064710.2019.1606930
https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/Abstract/2010/07000/Ginger__An_Overview_of_Health_Benefits.8.aspx
https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2005.8.125
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213434416300676
https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-ginger
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-proven-benefits-of-ginger
https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/06/30/ginger-health-benefits.aspx
http://preventdisease.com/news/14/061614_10-health-benefits-of-ginger-tea.shtml
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11710709
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https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/ginger-oil.aspx
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https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/04/ginger-benefits.aspx
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21849094
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17066513
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3519348/
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21818642
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginger
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22235230
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3537898
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21918995
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17695143
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6440548
http://www.indianjrheumatol.com/article/S0973-3698%2810%2960514-6/abstract
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3020385/?tool=pubmed
http://www.academicjournals.org/article/article1380017545_Sebiomo%20et%20al.pdf
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http://www.greenmedinfo.com/node/83545
https://www.thekitchn.com/3-tips-for-buying-and-storing-fresh-ginger-228479

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