Your Best Life – Healthy Body, Mind, Spirit!
Jan 01, 2023 by Sherra Aguirre
Our focus on mental health is growing as economic worries, contentious politics, war, violence, and climate threats come into our homes with the nightly news. Many of us are still struggling to find a new normal after the isolation we felt at the height of COVID restrictions -- and because no one knows when, or even if, the threat will end. Self-care for our physical and emotional well-being is always important and particularly so during stressful times when our immune systems are taxed. There are steps we can take to build physical and mental resilience even under the most stressful conditions.
Holistic Heart Disease Prevention and Reversal – The Ornish Program
Oct 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
This month on the anniversary of my very first newsletter, I want to refocus on how we can prevent or reverse heart disease, our number one killer, which is now on the rise for people under the age of 40. Many of you know that I reversed my own symptoms of heart disease with a whole food plant-based diet. I was particularly motivated by my family history of high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks after we began to lose younger family members as a result.
The Dean Ornish lifestyle program is very similar to the plan developed by his contemporary and fellow pioneer of diet and lifestyle cardiac intervention, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, whose plan I followed. Both can prevent or reverse the symptoms of cardiovascular disease. With over nearly four decades of data and published studies, the Ornish Program is currently the only intensive cardiology lifestyle program covered by insurance companies and even Medicare. The results for people in this program for just one year are just as good or better than those on standard heart medications, with none of the side effects.
What is Mindfulness and Why Does it Matter?
Sep 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
How do we cultivate and protect our peace and resilience in the midst of so much that seems stressful and threatening? We live in a period of high anxiety from rising prices and economic uncertainty, increased weather threats, divisive politics, mass shootings, and lingering waves of viral infections--including COVID-19 and its many variants. Growing awareness of the connection between our mental and physical health has given rise to new certifications for physicians in lifestyle or integrative medicine--a holistic approach to healthcare that encompasses the whole person. One of the pillars of lifestyle medicine is stress management, which includes meditation or mindfulness to help us release and renew.
Mindfulness is a state of present moment awareness, in which we do not judge whatever we experience or feel. It is the ability to fully focus our attention on what we are doing and where we are, without thinking about the future or worrying about the past. This self-care practice offers a way to a more calm, relaxed state of mind and a path to finding peace and joy even in difficult times. It is a way to manage stress, which can improve our health and wellness, along with our daily decision-making. Mindfulness is often associated with meditation, which is a popular way many people develop it.
Blue Zones and the West African Heritage Diet
Aug 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
To move forward, it helps to learn from the past. Many people looking for a way out of the food and lifestyle norms we live with in the US are taking a new look at traditional ways of eating from their own cultural histories. All of us have much to gain by exploring what and how our ancestors ate and sharing that knowledge with each other to help us restore and protect our health today. They can also show us where we need to make changes in our modern food system so that it first and foremost serves human and environmental health–the two things we must have to thrive.
Many of you have likely heard of Blue Zones, places where it is common for people to live to 100 years of age, have very few–if any–chronic illnesses, have strong social connections, and remain active throughout their lifetimes. There are five Blue Zones documented: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California. Some of the habits of people living in these areas include, among others:
a mostly plant-based diet, and eating their smallest meal in the early evening
regular natural movements, like walking or gardening
routines to shed stress like naps, mindfulness, prayer
and belonging to close family, friends, social, or religious groups.
One study concluded that the average person could increase their life span by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zone lifestyle.
Is Our “Second Brain” the Key to Preventing and Reversing Chronic Disease?
Jul 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
Like putting together pieces of a puzzle, research over the last several decades led to our understanding that most chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune disease, Alzheimer’s, and more have a common underlying condition – systemic inflammation. And the process behind chronic inflammation is connected to what happens in our gut, now often called our “second brain.”
We think of the brain – which, along with the spinal cord, makes up our central nervous system – as our most complex organ and the origin of our thoughts, emotions, and signals that direct how our entire body functions. At the other end of the spinal cord is the gut, also part of our nervous system, now known to communicate with the brain and even dictate certain brain behavior. It influences emotions and the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The gut also regulates our immune system and inflammatory response. When we eat foods that bacteria and other microbes in our gut need to do their job, our risk for most chronic illnesses declines.
Fresh Food Budget Stretchers
Jun 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
With food prices high and still rising, the last thing we need is to buy fresh produce and have it go bad before we can use it all. We know it’s best to buy local and in season for our health, the best taste, and the lowest cost. And because it’s even cheaper to buy in quantity, we definitely want to do that when possible. But how do we keep it fresh until we’re ready to eat it? Here are some tips to stretch your budget while enjoying the most nutritious and tasty produce.
Is Fruit Healthy for Diabetics?
May 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
There is so much confusion about sugar that we end up eating foods we think are good for us but aren’t, or avoiding foods that are good for us in their natural whole form.
Preventing diabetes and controlling blood sugar levels for those who have it traditionally focused on restricting the amount of sugar that we consume. However, in recent years with more dietary studies and data on how diet impacts most chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and common cancers, that is changing. It turns out that it is not sugar, in general, that is the cause of diabetes. The data now show that it is too much saturated fat, processed sugar, and too little fiber in our diet that increases inflammation in our body. It is the inflammation that sets us up for diabetes or other chronic diseases.
Add Life to Your Years - And Years to Your Life!
Apr 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
Are you 20 years old and want to add 10 to 13 years to your life? Or 60 years old and want to add up to 8.8 years? Or 80+ years old and want to add an extra 3.4 enjoyable years? I don’t know about you, but this got my attention. These results are based on new data showing how much we can gain by changing from a Standard American Diet to an “optimal diet” in which fresh produce, heart-healthy grains, and nuts outweigh the intake of processed foods and red meat. Americans, on average, get only 10% of their calories from whole plant foods, with 58% coming from ultra-processed foods and 32% from meat. This study on the impact of food choices on life expectancy, published in February 2022, did not require giving up meat altogether.
Nitric Oxide: Nature's Youth Serum?
Mar 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
Nitric oxide is a chemical in our blood that relaxes the blood vessels and at the same time reduces the blood’s viscosity or stickiness, which lowers blood pressure, boosts athletic performance, and improves sexual performance. It is essential for the health of our heart and arteries; however, our ability to produce this chemical declines with age. This helps explain the increased risk for high blood pressure and other symptoms of heart disease as we get older. By the time we reach age 40, our body’s nitric oxide production drops by about 50%. And by the time we reach 60, it has dropped by about 85% percent! The discovery of nitric oxide’s function in the body is so significant that the three scientists who discovered its role received a Nobel prize in 1998.
Soy: Benefit or Risk?
Feb 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
The verdict on soy is changing. Although “soy-free” is still advertised on many food labels, research on its risks and benefits has always been mixed and often contradictory. Most of us, as a result, were understandably skeptical.
6 Tips to Achieve Your Health Goals in the New Year!
Jan 01, 2022 by Sherra Aguirre
Many of us are making resolutions for the new year, and surveys find that the majority of us have a health goal we would like to achieve. Research also shows that eighty percent of those who set goals at the beginning of the year give up by February, and about twenty-five percent give up in seven days! Although we laugh at making resolutions that we usually don’t keep, here are some tips to boost your chances of achieving your goals.
Have a Merry and Compassionate Christmas!
Dec 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
The original spirit of Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ as a symbol of love and hope for a world in which all are treated with love and compassion. It is worth remembering that in the story of the nativity, after being turned away at the inn, Joseph and Mary found shelter for their newborn son among the animals in a stable. What better setting is there for vegans to share delicious, healing, cruelty-free, plant-based foods with family and friends as a gift from the heart? Once we experience the infinite number of ways to make delicious plant-based dishes and the health benefits they bring, it’s natural to want those you care about to experience the same!
Living Our Gratitude
Nov 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
In my book Joyful, Delicious, Vegan: Life Without Heart Disease, I tell the story of the loss of my mother, experiencing burnout at work, and beginning to show my own signs of hypertension nearly fourteen years ago. I went to a little health spa in the desert to create space for reflection and healing. The spa’s owner, Susana, who I describe in the book as the most energetic sixty-something year old I had ever seen, shared a health metaphor in one of the classes I attended. She described how our trillions of cells work tirelessly throughout our lifetime to keep us well. She talked about good health being given to us as a birthright, and then further described this as a gift of unconditional love. Because we can’t see this constant internal activity, which many scientists now describe as cellular intelligence, we don’t know how important it is, and we don’t appreciate it. Often, we undermine this gift of good health by the choices we make – the food we eat, poor self-care, and unhealthy lifestyle choices. With very basic knowledge about food and nutrition, we can literally feed our health or our illness.
Vegan Fast Food: Healthy or Not?
Oct 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
As a vegan diet and lifestyle gain popularity in America and around the globe, plant-based eaters find themselves with more vegan products at the supermarket, restaurants, and even fast-food chains with versions that taste and look like any other fast food. The number of people choosing to eat less meat, eggs, and dairy is growing so fast that even giants like Burger King and Jack in the Box are cashing in. Although choosing a vegan diet is a step toward better health and less animal cruelty, is all vegan food healthy?
10 Heart-Healing Superfoods and Spices
Sep 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
What if the most effective thing you could do to avoid heart disease or even reverse it is not an expensive drug or procedure and comes with no side effects? Would you be interested? And what if, over your lifetime, the very same thing would also protect you from diabetes, common cancers and lower your risk for other chronic illnesses? I’m pretty sure you know where I’m going with this. Simply eating a plant-based diet while restricting or eliminating meat and dairy does all of the above and more. And if you’re asking yourself, “Then what will I eat?” the answer is all the vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, spices, and seeds you already enjoy in new and exciting recipes that will leave you wanting more! And you can keep many of your favorite dishes made healthier by substituting plant-based ingredients for meat and dairy.
Break Up with Abusive Food Relationships!
Aug 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
What do we do when we’re in a one-way relationship? When do we know something or someone is not good for us? When the love we feel is not mutual and moments of enjoyment are almost always followed by pain?
Soul Food Liberation!
Jul 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
The popular Netflix series High on the Hog explores African influences on American food and how slavery shaped our “soul food.” Fresh fruit and vegetables were a significant part of the agriculture and diet of the Africans who were brought here as slaves. With their labor, they built an economy based on cotton that would propel the US into one of the world’s leading economies. Their farming and culinary skills were also at the service of their owners, and they were given for their own use whatever the plantation owner did not want or could not sell for a profit. Despite living off the parts of farm animals that owners did not want to eat and plantation crops likely not fit for sale, African slaves and their descendants created dishes that are still celebrated today. Foods like cornbread, collard greens, and even mac and cheese had their beginnings in black American food culture.
Heart Disease: Start a New Chapter in Your Family History
Jun 01, 2021 by Sherra Aguirre
How many times have we heard someone say, “Heart disease runs in my family?” It sounds like it’s inevitable and that the odds are against us. I know the feeling because that’s just what I used to say. And if we believe that it’s just a matter of time, there is not much motivation to make healthy changes. And we usually don’t until we hit a wall and we no longer have a choice. At some point, our doctor may give us a diagnosis that will force a change depending on the seriousness. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide.
Pandemic and Beyond: Fresh Food Access
Nov 17, 2020 by Sherra Aguirre
Many of our communities exist in food deserts, where fresh wholesome produce of any kind may be hard to come by. With the uncertainty of the current pandemic, an economy that was headed for trouble even before COVID-19, the effects of climate change, and the political environment that could further change aspects of life as we once knew it, it is important to take heed.
Health Care is Self-Care: Thriving Beyond Covid-19
Mar 30, 2020 by Sherra Aguirre
The message that "health care is self-care" has never been more timely or fundamental than now, as we battle Coronovirus-19 around the globe. Each of us is our own first line of defense for ourselves, families and communities. Here are some tips to help us thrive during and beyond the pandemic, by envisioning what this experience can teach us.