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Strengthening your immunity as you grow older



“As we get older, our physical self is not as strong and robust as we were when we were 22, and the same holds true for our immune system,” says William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

Your body is likely to produce fewer infection-fighting T-cells than it once did, and you may also have higher levels of chronic inflammation. Both factors can make you more vulnerable to illness. But you can take several steps to help bolster your immunity. Experts recommend these five.

If you’ve had — or been vaccinated against — diseases such as measles or mumps, that protection remains throughout adulthood, Schaffner says.

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But some illnesses are trickier. After you’ve had chickenpox, for example, the virus lies inactive near your brain and spinal cord. It can reactivate years later to cause shingles, a painful blistering body rash. Other diseases such as influenza require annual shots each year.

Here’s what you need to maximize your immune response:

An annual flu vaccine. People 65 and older are at higher risk for complications from this virus than younger adults, so the vaccine is crucial. Two versions of the flu shot are designed for older adults. One, Fluzone High-Dose, contains four times the antigen (which helps your body build up protection against flu viruses) as a regular flu shot. The second, Fluad Quadrivalent, contains an ingredient that helps your body create a stronger immune response after you’ve been vaccinated. There’s no data comparing these head-to-head, and both seem to work well, says Schaffner, so he recommends that you get whichever your local pharmacy or doctor’s office has. If neither is available, get the regular flu shot.

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Pneumococcal vaccine. This helps prevent pneumonia, a potential complication of flu and the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all adults 65 and older get the vaccine known as PPSV23 (Pneumovax 23). Depending on your health, your doctor may also recommend another vaccine, PCV13 (Prevnar 13).

A coronavirus booster. The CDC advises a booster of any of the three coronavirus vaccines (five months after the second Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech, or two months after the Johnson & Johnson). If you got the Johnson & Johnson shot, the CDC says your booster preferably should be Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech. For those who received the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines the first time, it doesn’t matter which one you get for your booster, a strategy known as “mix and match.” Keep in mind, Moderna’s booster shot is half the dose from the first two shots. So if you’re getting a Moderna booster, you’ll want to make it clear to the provider that you don’t want one of the initial shots. Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s dose amounts are unchanged for booster shots.

Shingle’s vaccine. Shingrix, a newer vaccine, is about 97 percent effective in people in their 50s and 60s, and 91 percent effective for those who are 70 and older, according to the CDC. It’s given in two doses, two to six months apart.

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Tdap vaccine. If you are unsure whether you got this shot as a teenager, you’ll probably need it, for protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. (The CDC advises that Boostrix be used for people 65 and older when feasible.) After that, you’ll need a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years.

An eating style that includes a wide range of nutrients, such as the Mediterranean diet, may help make a difference in your immune system’s response. A study published in March in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that regions where people were more likely to follow this dietary pattern had fewer infections and deaths from covid-19.

“It may also help ramp down chronic inflammation, which can contribute to worse outcomes from the disease,” says Katherine L. Tucker, director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. To eat for immunity, choose a largely plant-based diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, along with small amounts of healthy fats such as olive oil, she says.

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Consider putting the following on your plate regularly:

Fatty fish. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which research shows improve the functioning of immune system cells. Tucker recommends two servings per week of fish such as salmon or sardines.

Sunflower seeds and almonds. Nuts and seeds are generally healthy. But sunflower seeds and almonds have immunity benefits, Tucker says.

Low fat yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics, “good” bacteria that help build your gut microbiome. And a healthy microbiome is key for immunity, says Lauri Wright, chair of the department of nutrition and dietetics at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

So don’t smoke. Keep alcohol consumption way down (one drink a day for women, and two for men, maximum) and work to maintain a healthy weight.

A brisk daily 30- to 45-minute walk may go a long way in boosting immunity. “Exercise improves the function of T-cells and natural killer cells, the immune cells that are on your body’s front line when it comes to fighting viruses,” says David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis . Nieman’s research found that the more fit women are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, the less likely they are to develop upper respiratory infections. “We found their T-cells were operating at a level similar to a 40- or a 50-year-old woman,” he says. Consider adding tai chi: A 2020 study published in the journal Medicines found that this gentle mind-body exercise had a small but significant effect on immune function.

Even one night of lousy sleep has been shown to destroy some natural killer cells, which you need for good immunity. One 2021 study published in the journal Sleep Health found that people who got less than five hours of sleep a night were 44 percent more likely to report a head or chest cold than those who slept for seven to eight hours. For better sleep, try to maintain the same sleep schedule every day so that you wake up and go to bed at the same time, says Guibin Li, a geriatrician at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. This keeps your circadian rhythms running smoothly, which may improve immunity, she says. Most older adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

Though mask-wearing and other precautions we’ve been taking throughout the pandemic don’t actually improve immunity, they can help protect you from exposure to viruses. “The flu essentially disappeared last year, which shows how effective these types of interventions are,” says Fred Ko, a geriatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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And together, they can make a real difference. “While the flu vaccines are great, they still have some holes,” says John Swartzberg, an infectious-disease specialist at the University of California at Berkeley. “If you add masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds, it really helps fill in those holes.”

Aside from needed vaccines, wearing masks in crowded indoor areas may be the most important step in preventing covid-19 and flu, Swartzberg says. For example, older research found that wearing surgical masks led to roughly three times less aerosol shedding of the flu virus. In addition, avoid obviously sick people and wash your hands well and often.

Copyright 2022, Consumer Reports Inc.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Read more at

Whole Grains Health

Protein Variety and Heart Health Are Linked, Study Finds



We’ve all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (…and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you’re cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? “Among ‘just the right amount’ consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure,” explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up developing hypertension between the rounds of the survey .

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.” — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: “The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

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If you’re not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. “The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry,” he says. “The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say ‘hydrogenated’ on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats. “

Of course, there’s always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history .

A delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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Whole Grains Health

The 10 Best Diet Books in 2022



Staff, Courtesy of Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

The word “diet” has earned itself an undeniably negative reputation, often leading people to think of unsustainable restriction and unhealthy fads. However, if you’re looking to adjust your way of eating, whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or hit a new personal record, there are tons of great diet books out there that can help educate you on ways to improve your nutrition and get you feeling better than ever.

While the diets of the past have focused on restriction, newer ways of eating encouragement consuming more good-for-you foods to crowd out less healthy choices, leaving you feeling satisfied, not deprived. These diet books are also super educational, teaching you why you should eat certain foods, what they can do for your health, and the best ways to make them delicious. To help you on your nutrition journey, we’ve gathered the best diet books and healthy cookbooks available today.

Best Diet Books

    How to Choose a Diet Book

    If you’re looking to switch up your diet, the first thing you should ask yourself is why. What exactly do you want out of a diet?

    Second, consider your lifestyle. Do you need meals that are quick and easy? Do you like to take an hour or two to cook for yourself every night? How often can you grocery shop for fresh ingredients?

    Finally, consider whether you’re looking specifically for a cookbook or one that will provide you education on a particular way of eating without necessarily giving you recipes. While many cookbooks will have some content that discusses the origins of food and their nutritional benefits, these books are unlikely to go as in-depth regarding nutrition as less recipe-focused ones.

    How We Selected

    To find the best diet books among the many options on the market, we researched the most popular books available and considered their content, credibility, design, digestibility, and organization. We then looked at both expert reviews and more than 105,000 customer ratings, written by people who’ve bought these books on Amazon, to settle on the diet books you’ll find below.

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    Best vegetarian

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    This is a great all-around cookbook, but it’s an especially great buy if you’re trying to lay off meat. This book contains everything from specific meal recipes to instructions for steaming veggies, truly teaching you how to cook from start to finish. There are recipes for every meal, as well as snacks and desserts, and it includes instructions for so many different dishes you could easily cook from only this book for an entire year and not get bored.


    Best for Longevity

    The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

    This cookbook highlights recipes from specific areas across the globe—called blue zones—where people live the longest. While some of their longevity surely comes from other lifestyle factors, there’s no discounting the role diet plays in their long-lasting health and wellbeing. These recipes not only focus on ingredients, but the ways in which foods are prepared and how that relates to their overall nutritional value.

    The goal of the book is to increase longevity and quality of life while creating delicious recipes that you’ll want to eat time and time again.


    Best Mediterranean

    The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

    The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables, providing a well-rounded, nutritious way of eating.

    This cookbook not only has 500 great Mediterranean recipes, but it also helps you learn which ingredients you should make staples in your grocery list. It also uses only ingredients that you can easily find at standard grocery stores, which makes the Mediterranean diet more accessible.


    Best for Runners

    run fast eat slow

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”—and to some degree, the same holds true for personal records. While nutritious food won’t necessarily knock 30 seconds off your mile time, it can help you fuel your workouts so you get the most out of your training.

    This book was designed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and is packed with recipes designed to help runners fuel their toughest workouts and recover after. As a bonus, the recipes included in this book just so happen to be delicious, too.


    Best Vegan

    The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

    When first going vegan, it can be difficult to figure out how to make food that is both delicious and nutritious. This book has 500 recipes ranging from meals to snacks to desserts that use entirely plant-based ingredients. These recipes also offer alternate ingredient options, like eggs and dairy, which is great if you want to add more plant-based recipes into your diet, but aren’t ready to dive headfirst into veganism.


    Best for a full reset

    The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    If you’ve been diet-hopping in hopes of finding a meal plan that can help you commit to a healthier lifestyle and enjoy some weight loss, Whole 30 is a great choice. It has you cut out sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and some other specific foods for 30 days. The idea behind the diet is that it helps jumpstart weight loss while simultaneously getting you to reassess how you think about what you are eating to reach a place of freedom with your food.


    Best for weight loss

    The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

    If weight loss is your goal, and you have struggled to find lasting success, this book could be a game-changer. It dives into the science of weight loss, helping you understand hormones, insulin resistance, and other reasons for weight gain. The book recommends intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet, and guides you on how to do them correctly, efficiently, and in the long term.


    Best for Learning about Food

    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

    A lot of eating plans focus on what you should eliminate from your diet, but this book places more importance on what you should be adding to your diet and why.

    It discusses foods that are scientifically proven to help you live a longer, healthier life, and the many ways in which food can help prevent disease. It focuses on whole body health—including both mental and physical health—and teaches you to focus on more than just weight and physical appearance when it comes to your food.


    Best for Anti-Dieters

    Not a Diet Book: Take Control. Gain Confidence. ChangeYourLife.

    The rise of anti-diet culture gave inspiration to this book, which helps you improve your relationship with food, tackle weight loss, and debunk fad diets to find a simple and easy way to lose weight and create habits that will keep the pounds from coming back. This book will help you build skills that enable you to live a happier, healthier life without focusing too closely on calories or numbers on a scale.


    Best for fasting

    Complete Guide to Fasting

    Fasting has gained popularity over the last decade and can be a great way to boost your metabolism, clear your mind, and promote weight loss. There are, however, rules you should follow while fasting so that you improve your health rather than endangering it. This book will guide you through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting to ensure you choose the style that will work best for you and do it correctly.

    Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

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Whole Grains Health

Eating different kinds of protein protects against hypertension: New study



Despite all this talk that more Australians are toying with vegetarianism, and despite the endless drum-beating about red meat giving you cancer and a dodgy heart, we continue to have one of the world’s highest levels of meat consumption.

Analysis published in December found Australians eat about 95 kilograms of meat per capita every year. The global average is 35 kilograms.

The article, ‘The Evolution of Urban Australian Meat-Eating Practices’, argues our meat-eating habits are driven by a blocky culture, an association with social status, a perception that plant-based diets are inadequate and lame, and ignorance about cooking legumes and tofu.

On the other hand, the authors point to a survey that found almost 20 per cent of those sampled “identified as meat-reducers”.

Furthermore, the authors say, 87 percent “of the meat reducer segment reported consuming a meat-free dish as their main meal at least once a week”.

They point to another survey that found almost 20 per cent described themselves as “flexitarian”, which is cool.

But it may not translate to more lentils, nuts, whole grains, fish and dairy hitting the dinner table as new favorite sources of protein.

A new study found why we need variety

Chinese researchers found that “eating protein from a greater variety of sources is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure”.

Good to know because blood pressure is literally out of control in Australia.

One in three adults – more than six million Australians – has high blood pressure.

Of those afflicted, only 32 per cent have their hypertension under control. That leaves about four million Australians as ticking time bombs.

In December, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UNSW Sydney, called for a national taskforce to tackle the issue.

By improving the control of hypertension, the risks of coronary heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular disease will be substantially reduced.

The Chinese study suggests changing your diet will go some way to solving the problem.

the study

“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” said study author Dr Xianhui Qin, of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

The study authors analyzed health information for nearly 12,200 adults (average age 41), who had taken part in multiple rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.

Over three days in the same week, participants shared what they had eaten.

They were given a protein “variety score” based on the different sources of protein they’d eaten: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes.

One point was given for each source of protein, with a maximum variety score of 8. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.

New-onset hypertension was defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, the use of blood pressure-lowering medicine, or self-reporting that a physician had diagnosed high blood pressure.

The average follow-up time was six years.

The results

More than 35 per cent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during the follow-up.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake (1), those with the highest variety score (4 or higher) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The amount of protein eaten was also a factor. Consumption was divided into five categories, from least to most intake.

The researchers found that “people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension”.

The researchers didn’t ask why a variety of proteins was more healthy. But nutritionists, doctors and health writers have banged on about it for years.

Lean red meat is high in quality protein but provides no fiber or healthy fats. Processed meats are high in saturated fats and salt and are the worst.

Fish is high in long-chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain. Lentils and whole grains are high in fibre.

Hand on heart, a bit of each during the week might stop you from carking it in the street. Which is just undignified and unmanly.

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