Making sure you have a healthy pregnancy if you are overweight
Singer Jessica Simpson acknowledges that she gained 50 pounds when she was pregnant with her daughter Maxwell in 2012. Years later, while going through old photos of her pregnant self, she recalls asking her husband, “Babe, why didn’t you tell me to put the brownie down?”
So what should you do if you’re pregnant and overweight or obese? We know being overweight increases your risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, sleep apnea, miscarriage and birth defects, but a 2015 metastudy published in PLOS One concluded that if overweight or obese women lose weight while pregnant, it increases the risk of complications and may harm the fetus. Instead, the focus should be on getting top-notch nutrition by eating a plant-based diet that eliminates highly processed foods, red meats and added sugars, and on enjoying daily physical activity. Remember: Consult your doc about nutrition and doing physical activity before making changes to your lifestyle.
Your goal is to gain about 2 to 4 pounds during your first three months of pregnancy and 1 pound a week for the remainder of the pregnancy — perhaps less if you’re overweight.
The best plan, however, is to lose weight before you become pregnant. Work with your doctor to determine how much weight you need to lose for maximum health and then how long — losing 1 pound a week — you need to achieve that goal. Once you hit that mark and maintain it for a couple of months, then you’re ready to move on to the next great event in your lives!
The science behind cruciferous veggies’ life-saving powers
The English language is full of eccentric words that start with the letter C: cahoots (conspiring together secretly) and callipygian (a well-shaped backside) are two examples. But in our book, “cruciferous” tops the list. This word, used to group together several nutrition-packed vegetables, comes from a Latin term that describes their cross-shaped flowers and provides no clue about which veggies fall into the category.
Now, a study in the British Journal of Nutrition adds to the evidence that what’s in this hard-to-pronounce and harder-to-spell category can save your life. So, first the list (we bet there are some surprises), then the benefits.
All cruciferous vegetables: arugula, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, broccoli Romanesco, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese broccoli, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon, garden cress, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, komatsuna, land cress, mizuna, mustard seeds and leaves, radish, rutabaga, tatsoi, turnips roots and greens, wasabi and watercress.
What they can do for you: The researchers found that older women (median age 74) who’ve been eating the equivalent of 10.5 ounces of cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage or broccoli weekly
(2 1/2 ounces more than one serving) have a 46 percent reduction in their risk of abdominal aortic calcification compared with women eating only 3 1/2 ounces of those veggies weekly. AAC is an indicator of blood flow to your lower extremities and a predictor of serious coronary events — aka heart attack and peripheral artery disease. But now you know which veggies pack this powerful benefit, you can make sure you get your weekly servings.
Multivitamins and minerals shorten the duration of illness
In Hong Kong, when you have a cold, it’s common to eat a soup made with dried lizard, dates and yams. We can’t vouch for the science behind reptile soup, but we do know that proper nutrition can help fight off illness or shorten its duration. If you’re looking to bounce back quickly, a new study in the journal Nutrients suggests that (in lieu of lizard) taking some standard supplements may do the trick.
The 12-week study measured markers of immune function and blood levels of immune-boosting nutrients in folks ages 55 to 75. One group took a daily multivitamin that included 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 10 mg of zinc; the other took a placebo. The researchers also assessed who became ill over that time period and how they fared.
Turns out, the same number of people got sick in the supplement and placebo groups, but those taking the supplements had higher blood levels of vitamin C and zinc, known immune-boosters, and supplement-takers who got ill reported much milder symptoms and their symptoms vanished twice as fast.
Because so many folks shortchange themselves on the nutrients needed for a younger RealAge, we recommend taking a daily multivitamin (half in the morning, half at night) that contains nutrient levels near their recommended dietary allowance. And if you do get a cold? It’s good to know that multiple studies with solid data have found zinc lozenges and vitamin C (max 2,000 mg daily), along with chicken (not lizard) soup, can shorten the duration and the severity of your misery.
How nature nurtures your child
In the animated film “Tarzan II,” young Tarzan (voiced by Harrison Chad) has to come to terms with his place in the family of apes that has adopted him and with his life in the jungle. After travels and tribulations, he does just that, thriving because of his happy relationship with the nature around him.
There’s a lot of research on the cognitive and emotional benefits to kids of regularly spending time in nature. They include better school performance, more creativity, improved fitness, less depression and hyperactivity, stronger bones, improved eyesight (less nearsightedness) and better sleep. But too many of today’s youngsters have what’s been called nature-deficit disorder. It’s a nonmedical term that describes behavioral and developmental/learning problems, from attention deficits to depression, that can arise when kids live indoors, staring at a digital screen five or more hours a day.
How do you change your video-gaming 12-year-old into a Tarzan too? A new study out of North Carolina State University says solitary activities in which your child is one-on-one with nature, such as fishing or hiking, are keys to building a strong love of nature, as are outdoor social activities, such as playing sports or camping. So head to a local, state or national park, take a drive in the country, and let your child explore and discover new and mysterious plants and animals. Remember, Mom and Dad, it’s a sedentary lifestyle that imperils your child’s health and happiness. (Psst! That’s as true for you as it is for your kids).
Using yoga to ease anxiety
Singer Britney Spears has been public about her struggles with bipolar disorder and anxiety, and how her mental health is often made worse by the magnifying glass of stardom. Her treatments of choice include medications, talk therapy and … yoga.
She’s definitely onto something. A recent study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, followed 226 adults diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder for three months and found that Kundalini yoga, which involves breathing routines, postures and meditation, can relieve persistent and excessive worry. For the study, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: one received cognitive behavioral therapy, the second group did yoga and the third was given stress-management education that included lectures on how to reduce symptoms of anxiety.
More than 50 percent of participants who did yoga reported improvements in symptoms compared to 33 percent in the stress-education group. True, CBT was most effective — 71 percent of participants trying that therapy said their symptom improved measurably.
But as an alternative (if you cannot avail yourself of therapy right now) or in combination with CBT, yoga is clearly a smart move — or set of moves. At home, all you need is a mat plus an instructive video, interactive Zoom class or access to an online class.
So if you are one of the estimated 40 percent of Americans who are anxious about serious illness or death as a result of COVID-19 and more than 6 million contending with generalized anxiety disorder, give yoga a try. For a multitude of remote yoga classes, check out the listings on www.doyogawithme.com.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.