Understanding diet’s role in disease is key to good health

How often do you read the labels of the tomato sauce or bag of tortillas you are about to put into your shopping cart? If you drink soda, do you think or care about how much sugar is added to the drink you are about to consume? When eating out, how often have you known how much added sugar or salt is in that taco you just enjoyed? If you are reading this article, you already know about our nation’s health challenge. You might even know this challenge is largely the result of what we eat and drink daily.

Have you ever wondered why you like one brand of spaghetti sauce better than the other? It has less to do with the advertisement. It has more to do with added sugar and salt. Check it out for yourself. The next time you are in the grocery store, spend a few minutes comparing two things on the labels of your favorite sauce or cereal — sugar and sodium(salt). Even brands advertised as healthy and organic can have unhealthy amounts of added sugar and sodium.

Our ancestors’ role in today’s health epidemic

Through a plethora of research and a good look at profit margins, the food and beverage industry determined that adding more sugar and salt to products increased market share simply because our brains are wired to prefer added sugar and sodium. Centuries ago, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, finding extra sugar and sodium could mean a difference of life and death. Today, our brains are still wired to see these empty calories as a survival mechanism. This biological fact, combined with the fact that we are a country of consumers, means what used to be small amounts of extra sugar, salt and fat as life saving, has become a gluttony of life restricting. Our bodies as it turns out, are also unable to process all of this excess.

The result of this is a national epidemic of obesity and the health consequences associated with it. Obesity doesn’t just lead to a larger waistline. It leads to heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and even some cancers. Very similarly to the way we continue to fight the tobacco industry over its cancer-causing products, we find ourselves now fighting the food industry over some of its obesity-causing products. There is a shift happening — so much so that the three largest beverage producers have a new campaign with a stated goal of reducing their beverage calories by 20 percent by 2025. If you think about it, if there’s already eight to ten sugar packs in each can of that full-calorie beverage (balanceus.org), will the industry goal really be enough to make a relevant difference?

There’s a pill for that

We are living in a time and now support a medical community that offers a prescription for almost everything that limits your longevity. The thought mentality oftentimes is taking a prescription drug to cure a chronic health condition is preferred because it is an easier regimen to follow as opposed to changing your lifestyle to fight chronic disease. Your doctor might even support this strategy. This is an age of “ask your doctor” for a pill to make you not have to change your diet or lifestyle. It turns out it is not working for the majority of your neighbors.

Proof of this can be found in your living room, on your television. You might not have noticed that the majority of commercials on television these days focus on health conditions, and the solution is brought to you by the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies and your local pharmacy are all benefiting from the reality that one out of two (50 percent) people you know will be diagnosed with at least one health challenge — diabetes and/or hypertension. Both of these conditions are considered chronic, which, in layman’s terms, means they don’t go away.

Get Healthy Lodi

Lodi is at a tipping point, and a growing number of its citizens want healthier lifestyle choices and strategies. How would you like to live longer and have a better quality of life? There is a movement spearheaded by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce that is a community game changer. The Healthy Lodi Initiative is an Alliance of businesses and healthcare providers who are supporting those who have decided to take local healthy lifestyle options into their own hands. If you visited the Street Faire a few Sundays ago and went to purchase a soda from the Chamber of Commerce drink station, you might have experienced one such healthy choice opportunity.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative is aligning and working with community health and lifestyle resources, grocery stores, healthcare providers and soon your local and chain restaurants. The goal is to create easy ways help you identify options and strategies that will support you and your neighbors who have decided to make the changes that will help achieve personal health and lifestyle goals. Join us!

J. Mark Hamilton is a lifelong healthcare technology sales leader. He has worked around the country leveraging technology initiatives that support community health and lifestyle improvements. He joined the Lodi Chamber of Commerce Vision 2020 Health-VAT leadership team as a volunteer in 2012. Mark is a member of the Lodi Tokay Rotary Club, and served on the City of Lodi Arts and Parks and Recreation Commissions. He is an active member of the Lodi Chamber’s Partners in Education task force.

LUSD is Cooking up Something Special for Lunch this Summer

By Susan Henderson, Food Services, Lodi Unified School District

Everyone has at least one profound memory associated with growing up and eating lunch at school.  Favorite items or recipes, a memorable lunch staff member or going thru the lunch line are all memories that come to mind when you ask someone to reflect on their school lunch experience.

So, what happens when school is out during the summer months?  The simple answer is that we keep serving lunch!

Summer meals have been provided to students in our district for many years under the Federal Summer Meals program.  This program follows federal and state guidelines for nutritional content and the meals are provided, free of charge, to all children 18 years old and younger.  Last summer, Nutrition Services launched our grant-funded School Meals on Wheels Food Truck to meet the increasing need of providing food access to the children in our surrounding community.  This helped to increase our summer meals outreach last year and we served more than 40,000 meals under the Seamless Summer (SSO) program in 2018.

This summer, there will be 16 open lunch sites within our school district for children 2-18 years of age to receive free meals.  We are planning and looking for community partners to offer nutrition education and simple enrichment activities at these sites so children are able to learn and have fun during lunch.

The district will be kicking off the Summer Meals Program with a fun, family-friendly event on Mon, June 3, from 10am to 1pm at Heritage Elementary School. Held in partnership with the Healthy San Joaquin Collaborative, the “Activate Your Summer: Move More, Sit Less” community event will bring education and activities to help our students and the community learn fun ways to exercise and stay healthy over the summer. Fun events provided by San Joaquin Public Health, UC-CalFresh, UC Cooperative Extension; health screenings with Community Medical Services; gardening activities; a nutrition relay with Dairy Council of California; bike safety with Bike Lodi; and much more are scheduled. The community is invited to attend.

The Seamless Summer Meals Program is operated by LUSD Nutrition Services and is a US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) program. This program ensures that children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Information on dates, times and locations of meals can be found on our website at http://foodservice.lodiusd.net . You can also text the word “FOOD” to 877-777 to find the closest meal location to you.

7 Ways To Take Control of Your Health

By Teri Spring, Registered Dietician

You have more control over your health than you may know. Taking charge of your health will result in a better you, both physically and emotionally. Here are a few tips you can use to take control of your health:

Fluids. Are you getting enough?

A general rule of thumb is to drink 50 percent of your body weight in ounces. If you think you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Flavor it with fruit and/or vegetable pieces in a pitcher if you don’t like plain water. Fruits and vegetables are full of water, so you get fluid credit from these foods. About 3-5 cups of produce daily provides about a quart of water (32 oz).

Sugar. Are you getting too much?

Sugar is very inflammatory to the body, leading to chronic diseases, and increases your daily calorie load, leading to weight gain. We should all make every effort to minimize or avoid sugar in our daily diets. Most of the added sugars are from sugar sweetened beverages, sweets and desserts, but reading the nutrition label is the only way to know where it is and how much you’re getting. The labels will soon all have a select line for “Added Sugar” because it has become such a wide spread threat to our health.

Watch out for sodium.

Sodium remains a contributor to heart disease. The American Heart Association advises 1500-2000 mg for everyone over 50, all African Americans regardless of age, and anyone with high blood pressure. The problem is not so much with using a salt shaker as it is from processed and cured foods. Avoiding processed, salted or cured, pre-made, restaurant foods and trying to eat “clean” makes a big difference. Read food labels to see how quickly this number adds up.

Eat more fiber.

Our fiber goal is 25-35 gms daily. Fiber foods fill us up and keep waste moving out of the body. Think plant foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and legumes, pulses (such as lentils), nuts and seeds. Getting fiber from food is much better than fiber supplements, because you not only get important nutrients, but you also get a variety of types of fiber. A supplement will only have one kind of fiber, but foods have them all. If you’re not a fan of these foods, unprocessed psyllium husks (products such as Metamucil or generic versions) are your best bet to help keep your colon balanced.

Increase your potassium intake

Potassium is an important part of healthy blood pressure, heart function and fluid balance. Current guidelines call for about 4000-4500 mg daily (unless you have kidney disease. Check with your doctor if you are unsure.). The average American eats only 2000 mg of potassium daily. Good sources are fruits and vegetables.

Reach for healthy fats

Healthy fats from plants such as avocado, nuts, seeds, olives and oils from these foods should be part of every meal. A little goes a long way, so aim for one serving per meal (1-3 tsp of healthy oil; ¼-1/3 avocado; 8-10 olives; 10-20 nuts; or 1 tbs nut butter).

Maintain a healthy weight

Work diligently (yes, it is hard work but has big pay offs) for a healthy body weight. Reduce portion size, choose low sugar foods, lots of plant foods, and exercise daily! Move your body, work your muscles and get your heart pumping. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Start slow if you’re de-conditioned and build up. It doesn’t have to be at one time, so three, ten-minute sessions count. It can happen if you make it happen. Try not to sit for more than 30 minutes at one time. Even getting up for a few minutes helps.

In general, to help you accomplish this goal of improved health eat a variety of plant-based foods as the cornerstone of each meal and snack. Aim for 3-5 cups of produce every day. Use the USDA’s “Plate Method” of meal planning and make half your plate vegetables, ¼ whole grains and ¼ lean protein. Have a meatless meal at least once a week (the DASH and Mediterranean diet plans are still thought to be healthy plans to follow if you need a guide). Drink up before your body says, “I’m thirsty” because by then you are slightly dehydrated. Get enough sleep and avoid eating close to bed time — it may disrupt your sleep as your body processes the food.

Because I have spent my 35+ year career working mainly with folks who have diseases, I will tell you again and again that food is the most powerful medicine. Taking prescription medication is not the answer to “fixing” our health — it treats the symptoms of disease and may help us live with disease, but who wants that? Save money, improve quality of life and save your future by giving your body what it truly wants — basic foods from “nature’s wrapper,” daily exercise, and adequate sleep. Let’s raise our next generation with these principles to spare them the epidemic of lifestyle diseases that plagues this country. If you want to feel as good as you possibly can, this is a proven way to help you do that.

Making change is always a challenge, but taking one day at a time and making any movement toward healthier lifestyle habits is a step in the right direction. Just start somewhere and build on that — a little more each day, week and month. You’ll feel better in a relatively short period of time, and will be taking more control over your own health.

Looking to the Blue Zones to increase health and longevity

blue zones

By Jill Borth, R.N. Adventist Health, Lodi Memorial

Throughout my 32-year nursing career, I’ve heard many comments from people in various stages of health and illness and noticed a common theme: People who are well, often state when it’s their “time to go” they’ll be ready. Yet most seriously-ill people are willing to do just about anything to buy more time. In the end, most of us wish to live long, healthy, happy lives. How is Lodi doing in fulfilling this wish? One litmus test is the lifestyle and wellness evidence found in the book, The Blue Zones.

“The majority of the US is approaching the idea of a long, healthy life the wrong way,” according to National Geographic writer and explorer, Dan Buettner’s latest book, The Blue Zones. The book focuses on five locations around the world – Greece, Loma Linda, Sardinia, Costa Rica and Okinawa, Japan — with either the highest percentage of people living to 100 years or longer, or the locations with the lowest rate of mortality. In the book, researchers debunked the health myth that a person’s genes largely contribute to health, weight and longevity.

“Only 25 percent of how long you live is dictated by your genes,” Buettner said. “The other 75 percent is lifestyle and environment.”  

The Blue Zone team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists found nine lifestyle similarities in the zones that noticeably differ from our local lifestyle tendencies. These “Power 9” lifestyle factors are:

  1. Daily natural physical movement (gardening, house work, yard work, walking);
  2. Having a purpose or reason to wake up in the morning (adding up to 7 years of life);
  3. Stress-shedding routines (Okinawans remember their ancestors daily, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour);
  4. The 80 Percent Rule – stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full. People in Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat any more the rest of the day;
  5. Plant-focused diets. Beans, including soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times per month and serving sizes are about the size of a deck of cards;
  6. Wine at 5. Blue Zone populations (except Adventists) drink moderately (one to two glasses per day) with friends and/or with food;
  7. A sense of belonging or community. All but 5 of 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Research shows attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years to your life;
  8. Loved ones come first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby (lowering disease and mortality rates of children in the home, too); committing to a life partner (adding up to 3 years of life); and investing in their children with time and love all contribute to longevity;
  9. Surrounding yourself with the right tribe. The world’s longest-lived people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious. The social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

What can you do to add years to your life and start moving Lodi closer to a “Blue Zone?”

How does Lodi compare to the Blue Zones?

Buettner worked for a decade with National Geographic to locate places that not only had high concentrations of individuals over 100 years old, but clusters of people who had grown old without health problems such as heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The locations identified in his book are:

  1. The Barbagia region of Sardinia, which has the world’s highest concentration of male centenarians;
  2. Ikaria, Greece, with the world’s lowest rates of middle age mortality and the lowest rates of dementia;
  3. Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, home to the world’s lowest rates of middle-age mortality, and second highest concentration of male centenarians;
  4. The Seventh Day Adventists, most highly concentrated in the Loma Linda, CA, area, live 10 years longer than their North American counterparts; and
  5. Okinawa, Japan, whose female population over 70 are the longest-lived population in the world.

By contrast, here are the sobering facts about the state of health in Lodi:

  • San Joaquin County is the third highest county in the state for diabetes. People with diabetes have a two- to four-times greater risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • Depending on which census tract you live in Lodi, your life expectancy ranges from 57.93 years to 80.68 years.
  • The leading causes of death in the county in 2016 were: 1) heart disease; 2) cancer; 3) stroke; 4) Alzheimer’s; 5) lung disease; 6) accidents; 7) diabetes; and 8) liver disease.

Many chronic diseases could be prevented, delayed or alleviated through simple lifestyle changes. The CDC estimates that eliminating just three risk factors — poor diet, inactivity and smoking — would prevent 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: http://www.healthylodi.com or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.

Take the Steps to a Healthy Workplace Program

By Mona Shulman, Pacific Coast Producers

Health statistics rank San Joaquin County as the third worst in the state for potential chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. The Healthy Lodi Initiative is specifically asking Lodi’s employers to consider implementing employee healthy-lifestyle programs to help turn this statistic around.

Much has been written about the effectiveness of workplace wellness plans, and some of it conflicting. The Rand Corp in 2014 concluded that targeting only employees at high-risk of chronic disease reduced health care claims. On the other hand, General Motors in 2004 found that moderately active and very active employees had lower annual paid health care costs than inactive employees.

With all the conflicting information, an employer must decide what tools work best for their own workforce and budget.  Employers wanting to implement a successful workplace health initiative should follow these steps:

Wellness programs should be promoted by the company’s leadership

No matter what the result of the study, it seems clear that the decision to implement a wellness program must begin with the leadership, and that commitment must be real in order for any program to be effective. That means the company’s leaders must actively promote and encourage a culture of health at their workplace, including taking advantage of community resources and partnerships to support healthy lifestyles.

Know your employees

To be most effective, an employer must understand their employee population as a whole.  An agricultural employee will have different challenges and risks than an office employee, and the same program will not work for both.   We must understand the jobs our employees perform and how their tasks do or do not contribute to healthy habits. A program should be designed that fits the specific needs of our own workforce.

Assess your workforce

A health assessment survey is a good tool to get started in evaluating your employees’ specific needs. Employers can conduct an assessment of their company to determine where opportunities and barriers exist.  There are several assessment tools, including:

  • The Workplace Health Professionals Alliance – its Health Improvement Care assessment gives individuals an idea of how healthy their habits are.
  • The Center for Disease Control – its Workplace Health Promotion website (https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/initiatives/index.html) offers a variety of tools to assess your workplace. The CDC also has a Worksite Health Scorecard for employers to assess how they are doing on health promotion. Not only does this assessment seek to determine what employers are doing, it also offers insight into many options for employers to consider.
  • The California Department of Public Health also offers a Fit Business Kit with an assessment, and framework for putting together a program – https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CCDPHP/DEODC/OHB/Pages/OHB.aspx.

There are barriers outside of surveys as well. Does your employee demographic include cultures that are not inclined to regularly visit their physician, if they even have one? Is language an issue? Are there providers that speak the language of the employee? Are there healthy options for cooking the type of ethnic food that the employee eats at home?  All of these are relevant factors to consider in designing your plan to make it most effective.

Decide on a workplace program format

Once an assessment is completed, and you have a better idea of your needs and tools, there are many types of programs to choose from. Here are some ideas:

  • Self-Initiated Educational Programs – The simplest for employees are educational programs that deliver health-related information. These programs rely on employee initiative to seek out or read information and maintain their own interest in the program. This works well for those who are already attuned to healthy behaviors or wanting to become healthier.
  • Community and Social Participation – A program that is designed to foster community participation, and therefore healthier feelings of belonging and connection to community, include sports-related teams, clubs, interest groups and other community activities that can be encouraged by the employer.  This not only improves social connections, but also encourages physical activities.
  • Employer-Supported Programs – Employers can also motivate healthy lifestyle improvements. In this type of program, the employer provides changes in the workplace. Some examples are providing healthy food (and removing unhealthy food); subsidizing gym memberships; creating walking trails; holding walking meetings; or offering yoga classes. More targeted programs can include preventive care, such as screenings and biometric assessments.  These programs have the advantage of detecting risk early, and helping employees manage their conditions, usually with the assistance of the employee’s health care provider. Some employers have become even more active and promote disease management programs.  Where employees have significant health problems, healthcare professionals and counselors actively monitor and manage the employees’ treatment. Often, these programs can be implemented with the employer’s health insurance company.
  • Employee Incentives – The question remains, what is it that will motivate the employee to improve their health and lifestyle?  Financial incentives can lead to improvement based on a specific target. For example, an employee could earn $100 for losing 40 pounds or walking 30 miles in 30 days. Employee incentive offers, however, may not work for a long-term change of lifestyle.  In short, the employee must decide that the change in behavior is beneficial to them.

Above all, in order to be successful, an employer should choose a program that addresses negative behaviors and lifestyle choices they’ve identified through assessments. There should be active encouragement, and no negative consequences to the employee’s participation.  Organizational leadership should express support for employees engaged in wellness activities and recognize participant’s progress toward personal goals.

The Healthy Lodi Initiative Team will be compiling local resources, and helping to connect employers with tools to work toward improvement.  We hope that you join us for the health of us all! For more information about the Healthy Lodi Initiative, please visit the website: http://www.healthylodi.com or call the Chamber at 209-367-7840.

Kale – A Nutritional Powerhouse

One of the trendiest foods on health-conscious minds these days is a leafy-green powerhouse vegetable. We’re talking kale. Now, before you start rolling your eyes and calling it rabbit food, let us defend this leafy green friend.

Just one cup of chopped, fresh kale is 33 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates (2 of those is fiber), 3 grams of protein and 0.6 grams of fat in the form of omega-3 fatty acid. Translation: You can fill up on kale, feel full with all the fiber and protein, and also protect your heart and reduce inflammation with the omega-3’s. All at a cost of just 33 calories.

But wait, there’s more to kale than that! Kale contains 206 percent of the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin A; 684 percent of the RDA for vitamin K; and 134 percent of the RDA for vitamin C – more than your average orange has! Kale is also chock full of the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients have been shown to fight the body’s oxidative damage and inflammation, which is a leading driver to aging and diseases, including cancer. These nutrients also have been shown to be heart protectors by lowering blood pressure and fighting cholesterol. Lutein and zeaxanthin in particular have been shown to decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration.

All of that to say this: give kale a try if you’re not a fan (yet)! Kale is great fresh in salads, roasted, sauteed in soups and sauces, and pulverized into oblivion in smoothies. Give it a try, and know you’ll be improving your heart health, lowering inflammation, improving your eyesight and even improving your waistline by filling up for very little calories.

Here are some great recipes to get you started: