Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Walking cuts cancer risk and prolongs life

No, you do not need to be training to climb a mountain, run a marathon, wear special clothes, or pay money to join a gym or fitness club. Two recently published studies have shown (and confirmed) that simple walking can truly optimize your chances of living a longer life.

Data reported from the large Nurses Healthy Study showed that just an hour of low-intensity walking per week reduced the risk of developing colon cancer 31% compared to those who did not walk at all. Increasing the duration to walking 4 hours/week reduced the risk 44% compared to those not walking at all, adding to the accumulated evidence that regular exercise convincingly reduces the risk of developing colon cancer. (Reported in the International Journal of Cancer, 2007 Dec 15;121(12):2776-81.)

The second study appeared yesterday, January 22, 2008, in an early online edition of the journal Circulation. The largest study of its kind showed that easily achievable levels of exercise (moderately paced walking 30 minutes per day for 4-6 days/week) led to a fitness level associated with 50% reduced risk of premature death from all causes for both black and white older men. I don't know if there is a drug on the market for anything that will offer that level of risk reduction. Certainly there is NO drug available for so low a cost, so many potential benefits, and with so little risk of harmful side effects.

STOP waiting for more studies to be done. In fact, if I could wave a magic wand, I would stop our government from spending any more money on this type of research. I hope your doctor is asking you about your exercise plan. In fact, if he is not asking about exercise, ask why he is not asking you about your exercise plan.

Yes, it is a PLAN. For the vast majority of us, exercise needs to be intentional, just like brushing and flossing your teeth. No one does it for you and most people do not still have their mother reminding them, watching them, cajoling them, rewarding them, etc, etc, etc. :-)

Do you get the idea that I am passionate about this? :-) In fact I am so passionate that I am not waiting for my doctor(s) to start asking me about my exercise plan, I am going to start asking them about their plan. Ha, ha, I'm kidding, right? - no, I am serious!!!

I used to have some excuses myself. I used to say I never went outside when it was below zero degrees. I used to say that I never went outside when there was ice on the sidewalk. Well, now I wear long underwear, and one of my son's gave me some ice-gripper things to put on my boots. So now I truly am outside every single day, even in snowy, cold, cold Michigan during the winter. My motivations are two-fold: keeping my cancer away (several studies have shown reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence with increased amounts of walking - I prefer social visits with my doctors over treatments!) and being strong and fit enough to enjoy all of life's opportunities for a long, long time.

Find your stumbling block, find your motivation, find your solution(s), and get outside (or walk in your mall) 30 minutes every day. Even better, find a friend, walk together, and wave if you see me! When I get another photo of me outside in the snow persevering through the Michigan cold, I'll add it. :-)

I haven't said a single word about food in this posting, such as the importance of eating healthy foods for the energy needed to exercise in order to enjoy life. However, I'll end with a grace that reminds us that the gift of food is vital to life.

For each of us food is the source of sustenance, the basis of life;
and when we offer this gift to one another,
we are not only nourishing each other's bodies,
we are feeding one another's spirits.
So receive - and give - the food of your life as the powerful gift it is.
~~ Daphne Rose Kingma

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Beans to You!

I finally cooked the first of the beans I grew last summer. Actually I am glad I waited since I was able to take this photo to show you how pretty they are. I was told that these are a heritage variety from Central America called Tigre. I don't know any more than that, or if this is even accurate! However, they are beautiful and cooked up easily and without falling apart. They tasted similar to a pinto bean only being both smaller and more delicate in taste.

After cooking, I combined them with some warm cooked brown rice, a few chopped veggies like celery and green onions, topped the salad with some home-grown lentil sprouts, made a simple vinagrette dressing, and served this as a main dish salad over a large plate of fresh mixed greens from our local winter greens farmer with some home-made fresh bread and a dish of our home-made organic applesauce for dessert. Here is what the salad looked like all ready to eat (oops, minus the silverware I now see!). The little dish on the upper left side is olive oil for dipping our bread into, and the glass on the right is filled with iced green tea. A GREAAAAAT tasting easy meal that is also great for you - a quote not by Tony the Tiger, but Diana Dyer who was born in the Chinese Year of the Tiger - I'll let you try to figure out which year!

Starting my meal and ending this post with another of my favorite graces:
This food comes from the Earth and the Sky,
It is a gift of the entire universe
And the fruit of much hard work;
Let us vow to live a life
Which is worthy to receive it.
Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Shrinking my foodshed

I cannot believe this actually worked! This photo is the first one I have been able to upload to my blog since I apparently "accidentally" uploaded one in my very first posting back in June.

Ok, so just what AM I am sitting next to????

These are the first oyster mushrooms that I harvested from a mushroom kit that Santa brought me several weeks ago. The mushrooms took so long to actually "do something" that I figured the kit got too cold on the sleigh and thus was permanently in a holding pattern.

However, one day last week, one of these little nubs on the side of the bag started to grow just a bit. Then each day it seemed to double in size. I don't know if we could have let it grow even bigger, but last night was harvest night.

What did we do with them? Hmmm, I wonder if I can actually insert another photo here?
Oo, oo - I don't think I am smarter than I was 6 months ago. I'll just bet something in this blogging programming has changed to make inserting photos easier to do. Ok, so you can see than I am stir-frying these mushrooms with some sliced onions and garlic in a little olive oil.

I didn't cook them long, just a few minutes to soften everything and make the house smell wonderful. My husband had already made some baked potatoes, still hot and ready to eat. We just split them open and spooned the mushroom mixture over top. Then we served this all-Michigan entreƩ with a little parsley cut up on top.

The mushrooms were grown on the floor in our dining room and the garlic is from our garden. Our home-grown onions are gone so we had to purchase those, but along with the potatoes, we found some that were Michigan-grown. Oops, I forgot that olive oil is not yet grown in Michigan (hopefully global warming will never reach that point!), but the parsley came from a plant I dug up from our kitchen garden to put in our windowsill for the winter.

One last photo to see the final masterpiece: the stir-fried whole mushrooms, sliced onions,and smashed garlic, all served over the split baked potato and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley. Oh, yum, yum, yum. A feast for the eyes and the tummy. This was so filling that we didn't need anything else to eat other than a small glass of wine. We actually only ate about 2/3 of the mushrooms and plan to cut the mixture up into smaller pieces to add to some risotto later in the week.

And all from a very small food shed indeed, except for the olive oil and wine. :-) I am not a "strident" locavore, but I am making an effort to shrink both my foodprint and my foodshed by thinking about what I eat, where my food is coming from, and how my choices (i.e., voting with my fork) are helping my local community remain economically viable.

What local foods have you found that you enjoy eating?

I'll end with a Unitarian grace that I like:

The food which we are about to eat
Is Earth, Water, and Sun, compounded
Through the alchemy of many plants.
Therefore Earth, Water, and Sun will become part of us.
This food is also the fruit of the labor of many beings and creatures.
We are grateful for it.
May it give us strength, health, and joy.
And may it increase our love.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Dreams do come true!

My friend, colleague, and mentor Zonya Foco, RD, has had a dream come true. Zonya, author of the very popular cookbook Likkety-Split Meals, will be touring with Bob Greene, Oprah's personal trainer, as he launches the 2008 Best Life Diet Challenge. Zonya's accomplishment and dream came from what I call "Active Hope" as she has worked and worked and worked (step, step, step) for years at helping people realize that adopting one good habit can lead to a healthier life.

Here is a copy of the touring schedule where Zonya will be present. Bob Greene has other stops on the tour, but Zonya already had previous speaking engagements and could not join him everywhere. If the tour comes near your location, it will be well worth your time to get there!!

Zonya’s Appearance Dates

January 14, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Jewel
6140 Northwest Highway
Crystal Lake, IL

January 16, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Meijer
29505 Mound Rd
Warren, MI

January 16, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
4pm to 6pm - Kroger
3301 Navarre Ave
Oregon, OH

January 17, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Giant Eagle
3440 Center Road
Brunswick, OH

January 21 & 22, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - A&P
195 N Bedford Road
Mt. Kisco, NY

January 23, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Genaurdi’s
1632 N. Kings Highway
Cherry Hill, NJ

January 24, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Harris Teeter
Spectrum at Town Center #81
11806 Spectrum Court
Reston, VA

January 25, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Ukrop’s
Chesterfield Town Center
11361 Midlothian Turnpike
Richmond, VA

January 28, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm – Wal-Mart
1955 E. Montgomery - Crossroads
Savannah, GA

January 29, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Winn Dixie
Jacksonville, FL

January 30, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Wal-Mart
19910 Bruce B. Downs Road
Tampa, FL

February 11, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Albertson
21001 N. Tatum Blvd St
Phoenix, AZ

February 13, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Safeway Vons
2535 Truxtun Road, Bldg 29
San Diego, CA

February 14 & 15, 2008
Oprah & Bob’s BestLife Challenge
11am to 1pm - Safeway Vons
1110 W. Alameda Ave.
Burbank, CA

Keep dreaming and keep "stepping". Remember the quotation by Lao Tzu "A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step". That has been Zonya's path toward her dream, and it could be yours, too, no matter how big or small your own dream is, no matter if you are a cancer survivor or not. In my book, working to achieve dreams and a sense of meaning from your life should be part of the "The Best Life Challenge 2008". I hope it is. :-)

I'll end with a grace about dreams:
We dedicate this meal to our hopes and dreams for the future.
We dream of a world not threatened by destruction,
We dream of a world in which all people are free to be themselves.
We dream of a world at peace.
~~ Adapted from An Haggadah of Liberation

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Sunday, January 6, 2008

New "words" for a new year!

Pastured chickens, food shed, and food print. All new terms to me, all in one week. What a great way to start the year!

Pastured Chickens

My husband and I made the trek down to the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning to buy some winter greens from our one local farmer who has committed to being there every Saturday during the winter with a variety of greens grown in one of his fabulous hoop houses ( Much to my surprise (and delight, really), he was sold out by the time we showed up at 10:30. So, since I am very slowly starting to add back a little bit of locally-raised meat and poultry into my diet, we made good use of the gasoline we used to get down to the Farmers Market to stop in at a nearby meat market to purchase a locally-raised chicken to cook for supper. While looking at what was available at the poultry section, all I saw was a little sign that said "pasture-raised" in front of the chickens. I asked what that term meant. Is the same or different from free-range? and few other things. Maybe too many questions tumbled out of my mouth; in any case the young man working behind the counter simply smiled and said he did not know the answers to my questions. :-) As we were waiting in line to pay, my husband commented on the price (~$10 for the whole chicken). The woman in front of us turned around to smile and tell us it was worth every penny and was the very best tasting chicken available.

We came home to google the term pastured chickens (what would we do without this instant source of info??) Lo and behold, now we know (and knew all along) what pastured chickens are. My husband has been reading about various ways of raising chickens and had run across a method developed by Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm ( Virginia. Basically, chickens have fresh pasture to forage in almost daily as they are moved around the farm in small portable chicken houses. This method optimizes the best of all possible worlds, resulting in a roasted chicken that was yes, worth every penny as taste just exploded in our mouth that evening.

Food Shed

I began reading yet another book about the advantages of eating locally grown food entitled Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil. As I started it, I wondered if there could possibly be any new ideas in it that I had not already been exposed to in other books I have read over the last year. Well, ask and ye shall receive (or be hit on the head). Right on page 12 was the term "foodshed", which I do not remember seeing in all these other books. I LOVE it! Foodshed, like watershed, is perfectly understandable to me - that sphere of land, people, and businesses that provides a community or region with its food. Just as we take care of our watershed, we need to understand and take care of our local foodshed in order to keep it viable and healthy. I'm re-reading Eat Here; maybe there are other new concepts I'll catch on the next time through as I continue to look for ways to both shrink and take care of my own personal foodshed!


Think "footprint" and then take that image and now visualize "foodprint", a new term developed by some Cornell University researchers. "Foodprint" is a way of thinking about how much land is required to produce the food you consume in your diet on an annual basis. With the world's population continually increasing, understanding how to produce the food required for this ever increasing population for optimal nutrition from the most efficient use of both limited space and natural resources is critical when thinking about sustainability for our planet's future. Interestingly, this study found that the smallest foodprint was used to produce optimal nutrition with a plant-based diet that included small amounts of animal protein (2 ounces) daily compared to a completely vegetarian diet. That amount of animal protein is a fraction of what most people eat on a daily basis in a Westernize diet. Examples of typical foods and amounts that could be eaten to meet this optimal type of diet would be 2 ounces of cheese, OR ~2 cups of milk, OR 2 eggs, OR roughly 1/2 of a typical quarter-pound beef patty, OR 1/2 of one chicken breast. I know many people would not even think twice about eating all of the above food items on any one day, and even more would be very common! A plant-based diet with small amounts of animal protein is easy to do and is also very delicious without any feeling or sense of deprivation. As I begin adding back very small amounts of meat or poultry to my diet, this is essentially the type of diet that I am following at the current time.

Here's a cheer for the New Year, for health and happiness but also for learning new words, increasing the consumption of and enjoying new local foods, and meeting new friends and farmers!

"May the food we are eating make us aware of the interconnections between the universe and us, the earth and us, and all other living species and us. Because each bite contains in itself the life of the sun and the earth, may we see the meaning and value of life from these precious morsels of food."
-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Diana Dyer, MS, RD