Spinach and sweet potato
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: March/April 2021

Add these five foods into your diet for better health, and use these simple strategies for moving more this season.

Eat Better Now
Fit more of these five foods into your diet and gain a multitude of health benefits.

You know superfoods fight disease, but they are sometimes tough to find in grocery aisles. The good news is it’s easy to fill your diet with nutrient-dense foods that will reduce inflammation, combat free radicals, help build a healthy gut, boost immunity and provide energy. Dr. Bela Bhatt-Koshal, a primary care physician at OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital in Athens, offers five easy-to-find foods that help boost health.

Sweet Potatoes: “Potatoes get a bad rap,” Bhatt-Koshal says. “[They] are loaded with complex carbohydrates that are necessary for fuel. They are also the building blocks for certain hormones and serotonin.” One cup has four grams of protein, more than six grams of fiber and contains vitamins A, C, B6 and potassium. 

Broccoli: All cruciferous vegetables are loaded with vitamins A, K and C, along with folate. Broccoli is rich in fiber, and its high content of bioactive compounds has shown to decrease the risk of breast, prostate, stomach, colorectal, bladder and kidney cancers, based on small studies.

Legumes: Go with chickpeas, kidney beans or black beans for a protein punch. A half cup of chickpeas has 19 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber. “You can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cancer, especially colorectal because of the fiber content,” Bhatt-Koshal says. 

Berries: Eating whole berries versus juices is best. “The skin contains fiber and that blunts the glucose response,” Bhatt-Koshal says. Berries fight free radicals from stress and the environment. “We need antioxidants to heal and repair.”  

Spinach: Darker is better when it comes to the nutrient content of greens. Spinach contains Vitamins A and K, but what surprises some people is the calcium. “Lightly steam or saute it in olive oil and garlic to keep the nutrients in and maximize the taste,” Bhatt-Koshal says.


Illustration of family working out

Get Moving
Rev up your metabolism and wake up muscles with these simple strategies for moving more. 

Many of us have been glued to our seats at home during the past year, from working remotely to staying indoors more than usual. Then, as we age, our metabolism slows and we gradually lose muscle mass. It’s a perfect storm, unless we move more. You can start by taking small, scheduled steps toward a more active lifestyle. “Consistency is the word,” says Laura Vikmanis, a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian at Kettering Health Network in the Dayton region. “Those who are most successful get on a routine and remain as consistent as possible.” Here are few of her strategies to get you moving.

Do not rely on motivation. This sounds counterintuitive, but you’re not going to feel like working out every day. “You are never 100% motivated all the time, so what you need to rely on is routine,” Vikmanis says. With a routine, you’ll eventually stop thinking about whether you want or need to exercise, and you’ll just do it. 

Forget the scale. Numbers matter and knowing your body mass index and weight will help you gauge whether you are tipping the scale in the wrong direction. But Vikmanis says those who are most successful with a fitness regimen “focus on changes that have nothing to do with the scale.” Some goals include maintaining muscle mass, losing body fat, boosting energy or simply feeling better every day. If you want to measure your progress, use a cloth measuring tape. Adding muscle and reducing fat can trim down your waistline. 

Start small. Plan for short exercise breaks so you can get into the habit of being active. For example, walk for 15 minutes or spend 10 minutes doing some strength training. “The goal is to exercise most days of the week, but start slow with a small period of time to get the routine going,” Vikmanis says. “Once you get the routine in place, you can extend the days and time.” 

Do what you like. You’re more likely to stick to a fitness plan that includes activities you enjoy. What if you don’t like exercise? Vikmanis advises strength training. If you do nothing else, focus on building muscle mass so you can burn more calories and fat. Try using bands or household items like water bottles, milk jugs or canned foods for resistance. YouTube offers many exercise and workout videos. “It can be simple and inexpensive to retain muscle mass,” she says. “Do something where you are contracting the muscles and keeping them active.”

Get fit with friends. The buddy system works for those who could use the extra accountability and company while exercising. “Having a friend you can rely on really helps,” Vikmanis says, “whether it’s texting one another for motivational support or exercising together.”