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Transcript: Foods of COVID

Cosmic Soup – Foods of COVID

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Mike Peacock: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Cosmic Soup. Glad you joined us today because, you know what? It’s our last podcast of the year. I know, I know, you’re sad because you’ve carved out a permanent place in your heart for our little show and you’re afraid that nothing else will fill the void. Understandable, but don’t worry. We won’t be gone long. We’re going to leave you with piles of amazing information that you can use to get you through the holidays and start out the new year with a bang. Now that we’ve got you all pumped up, let’s deliver on that promise.

We thought we’d close out the year by talking about the uber exciting world of the microbiome—yes, I said it, the microbiome—as well as the mind-gut connection and those amazing superfoods to help combat those nasty viruses like COVID-19 and influence, and help you boost your immune system to new heights. To do that, we’ve got three epic guests for you all today.

Joining us in the Soup is Professor of Audiology and Neuroscience Dr. Kelly Tremblay; Registered Dietitian Randi Saeter; and, of course, the one and only organic gardener and foodie extraordinaire Cynthia Thurlow-Cruver. Hello, ladies! Glad to have you all here today. Thanks for joining me.

Cynthia Thurlow-Cruver: Good morning.

Randi Saeter: Hello. Hi.

Dr. Kelly Tremblay: Hi, Mike. Thanks for having us.

Mike: Yeah, for sure. Glad to have you all here. I’m excited to talk about this, and I know that people are like, “Oh, wow. Microbiomes, mind-gut connections, and all that stuff.” You guys are piles of excitement, but I’m telling you this is important stuff and it’s the perfect time of year, I think, to really leave people with some things to think about as they get ready for how they’re going to maybe change things up in the new year.

Of course, as we all know, COVID has kind of affected everything in the way that we go about our daily routines, what we eat, how we shop, and what we do, so I think it’s relevant. I think it’s good information.

All of you are experts in your own right to do with food and things like that, so I think we have assembled the perfect power squad of awesomeness with the three of you here. I am excited.

Here we are (the middle of the flu season) with a crazy pandemic. The restaurants are operating on a limited capacity. Grocery stores are not as well-stocked as normal. People are struggling financially. I’m sure that, for many people, the choices that they’re making in regard to their meals is probably not the healthiest or well thought out.

Dr. Kelly, let’s just start with you. Could you kind of give us a rundown then on what is this crazy microbiome that I’ve talked about? What is the mind-gut connection? Maybe you can share some recent stats on COVID and the long-term care industry. Before you do that, maybe you could even tell us how it’s affected you, what you’ve prepared for meals, what kind of stuff you’re eating, and how it’s affected your habits.

00:02:59
Kelly: Okay. This really is a Cosmic Soup. Right, Mike? We’re covering everything in one answer here, so help me out in case I forget any of those important questions.

What is the mind-gut connection? What is microbiota, microbiome? Let’s just think back to what we were raised to think, “We are what we eat.” We are what we eat, so be mindful of what we put in our mouths because it’s feeding our organisms. It’s feeding our system. It’s akin to the oil and the gas that runs the car, right?

Even though I’m a neuroscientist, much of my specialty involves how our body takes in sensory information from the world, whether it’s light or sound. I never really took so seriously that I really am what I eat either, so I (in the last year) have really become interested in understanding this microbiome contribution. I’m going to give you my cliff notes. Even though I’m a neuroscientist, I’m not a specialty in this area, but that’s okay. I think it’s really important that we even understand the cliff notes version.

When we think about gut, what we’re referring to here is microbiome that exists. It refers to the microbes in our intestines. Each of us has a unique network of microbiota in our intestines that is partly determined by our DNA, partly determined by exposure during birth when we pass through the birth canal, through our mother’s breastmilk. All of these things contribute to these organisms that live in our intestines.

These microbiotas stimulate our immune system and they play a really important role in breaking down food compounds and processing vitamins, amino acids, and things like that. When we think about when we ingest food and we metabolize food, our human metabolism encompasses a combination of microbial and human enzymes that break down our food.

The idea here is that the nutrients in those foods then become ingested and become part of our chemistry that helps signal how to regulate various organs in our body. It helps regulate the neurochemistry underlying human behavior. It’s no surprise then that gut microbiota has been known from science to influence brain function and the way that our central nervous system operates, and our central nervous system operates everything – everything from depression, our mood, and our susceptibility to disease. That’s why the mind-gut is really important and we really are what we eat.

Just to set us off so I don’t forget, it’s really become a hot topic. You can think about when you go even to a grocery store or something. You can see your option to buy probiotics nowadays or things like that. It’s really sometimes hard to separate out the fact versus the fiction and what’s just being marketed and sold.

If anyone is really interested in becoming informed and making informed decisions, then go to the National Institutes of Health website. They launched this amazing human microbiome project. It’s HMP: Human Microbiome Project. Then you can dig a little deeper (than what we’re talking about today) to get more of those facts so that you can know.

Mike: How have your habits changed (in regard to with that knowledge) what you’re eating and have you had to adapt your daily routines because of COVID or even just the season that we’re in?

Kelly: Yeah, it’s been a huge change for me, personally. It was almost like a perfect storm of opportunity that grew out of a perfect storm of less than opportune experiences, as we’re all discovering.

Normally, my life would be being on a plane, traveling to give keynote speeches around the world. With that, I get sloppy in the sense that I eat out a lot. As much as I try to make informed and healthy choices, the jetlag and whatever is convenient doesn’t always align with that.

COVID, in some way, has been really a mixed blessing because I am loving being at home. Being at home allows me the opportunity to have more control over what I eat. Because we haven’t wanted to go out a whole lot, we are doing grocery delivery at home. Again, that gives me a chance to order foods that are whole foods and experiment with cooking.

My kids just keep commenting of, like, “Wow, mom’s food is great. Dad used to cook [laughter] just Costco or whatever frozen food came home from Costco,” and so I’m really enjoying playing with this. We’re eating mushrooms, like I’m ordering four different sets of mushrooms that I’ve never incorporated into our diet and now the kids are eating them. That’s partly thanks to Cynthia and some of the research that she sent my way about the neuroscience of mushrooms.

In doing that, we’re eating healthier and I’ve also taken some courses that helped shift my mind from thinking of nutrition and diet as a health approach in the sense it’s medicinal; it feels like I’m depriving myself. Because I’m in healthcare, as soon as you start to regiment things, it becomes a rule and I become a little overzealous or overanxious about it because I want to observe best practices and be perfect at it because that’s who I am. Instead, some of the courses and some of the books and reading, I think, really simplified it in a way that allowed me to be more conscientious about what I eat.

I think this is maybe a good take-home message for our listeners as well. I just thought about the microbiome and the microbiota as being like there are good guys and bad guys. When I bring food into my system, I can either feed the good guys or I could feed the bad guys. Something as so elementary as that has really helped me attach a mindfulness when I’m reaching for something with sugar, for example, or simple carbohydrates. I’m thinking, “Ugh. I really have to balance this out with a legume, a vegetable, the amount of greens, and things like that that it needs to really help feed the good guys so that the bad guys don’t take over and interrupt my digestive system in a way that feeds my body appropriately.”

There is so much information out there and I think that’s great. I think, as always, executing it and implementing it into our lives is where we break down. For me, COVID has given me the opportunity to really slow down and be aware of what I’m eating.

I’m not perfect, but I do notice I have lost a little bit of weight and my sleep is a lot better. For those reasons alone, I’m loving this and will incorporate more. We’re just eating so many lentils, mushrooms, and greens. The family is eating berry smoothies every day. All of this is good.

Mike: That’s great. I think what we’ll do is we’ll save some of the official stats towards the end of the show. I’m going to come back to you on that. That’s a great segue because you started talking about some of the foods, and so I want to get to Randi here. Randi, you’re a dietitian and your work directly involves food, nutrition, and its effects on the body, especially for people with specific dietary needs. What kind of foods can we incorporate into our diets that have higher levels of, say, immune-boosting properties, or what kinds of foods should we avoid? Can you give us a little bit of a breakdown about what your experiences tell us about these foods?

Randi: Yeah, absolutely. First of all, I have to say, Kelly, I love what you said, “You are what you eat.” You are the poster child, I think, of what people should be doing [laughter] with COVID. We’re in the midst of flu season, too. I think, with COVID, a lot of people are forgetting that you can still get influenza. It’s not just COVID out there, so focusing on a healthy diet to build your immune system is still key, and we have to pay attention to that.

I think that since we got hit with COVID, a lot of people have gone in the opposite direction. They’ve reverted back to eating very unhealthy. I’m hearing a lot of people have actually gained a lot of weight. They call it, what, “the COVID 15,” I’m hearing. [Laughter] Yeah, and it’s challenging because our world, as we knew it, was turned upside down.

What can we do then to get back on track? I think that not thinking that you have to make such a significant change to your lifestyle. I think thinking like that is going to be also a focus because, if you set yourself up to make so many changes, you’re just not going to be successful.

What are the small things you can do to stay healthy and to go back on track? I think that is, first of all, looking at things that you can easily eliminate out of your diet or at least decrease the amount of intake of such as caffeine, such as refined sugars. [Laughter] Yeah, in the morning, a cup or so a day, that’s not going to hurt you, but having caffeine right before bed, you’re not going to sleep well and you’re going to probably think about what you want to eat next, right? Focusing on consistently having meals, going back to eating regularly so you’re not starving, and then, like I said, limiting the amount of caffeine, the amount of sugars, but incorporating a lot of variety, trying to still eat your fruits and vegetables (like your mom told you), and then going back to what Kelly was saying, too, eating a lot of whole grains and unprocessed food.

We want to continue to focus on our immune system. With that, incorporating antioxidants. What are antioxidants? Those are the substances that may protect your cells in your body against free radicals, which may play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. The free radicals can actually damage a lot of things and then make you not feel so good. Again, causing cancer is one big, big, huge factor. Incorporating berries, blueberries, mushrooms, vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus, bananas, and just eating something that’s really fresh and colorful, I think, is going to also improve your mood.

Different things and then also making sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day. I think a lot of people, and especially with me working in long-term care too, a lot of elderly don’t drink enough water because they don’t have thirst sensation. It decreases with age. But water intake, having adequate fluids helps flush those toxins out of your system as well. Then you automatically feel better. You don’t feel as hungry, so you’re not reaching for the cookie.

There are a variety of things that you can do. I think it’s just thinking about going back to the basics and not, like I said, changing the world but paying attention to your soft intake, making sure that when you’re cooking with proteins, that you choose the leaner types of meat.

You don’t have to have all that visible fat on your steak. You can still have the steak. Then the same thing with, like, even pork chops – “The other white meat,” as they say. [Laughter]

Then incorporating, instead of all that salt, using a lot of fresh and even dried herbs and spices for added flavor instead. I think that can get you a long way.

For me, to me, what I do is I make sure I have breakfast, lunch, and dinner no matter what. I think about what I’m going to eat throughout the week. I have foods readily available to me, so I am not starving and then I go for something that is not so healthy. Yeah, that’s my take on that. [Laughter]

Mike: Yeah, and also it’s just worth mentioning that obviously you can’t be like, “Oh, I ate a salad today. Look at me. I’m going to lose ten pounds.” It’s not a one-time deal. It’s something that you have to start thinking about and committing to, but if you do it in small steps, right? It doesn’t have to be all at one time.

Like you had said, Randi, you can start gradually maybe either phasing things out or reducing the amount. It’s not like today I’m going to eat four cheeseburgers from my favorite fast-food joint and then, tomorrow, I’m going to have a salad and, all of a sudden, everything is fine and dandy and my system is purged of all of its nasty toxicity. It’s something that you have to start building towards.

It doesn’t have to be a complicated process. It can be as simple as trading one thing for another. You mentioned eating throughout the day. Having small, healthy snacks that are available rather than eating one time at the end of the night and then you go to sleep and all that stuff just sits in your gut.

Randi: Yeah, exactly. Then getting up and moving around, too. I know it’s hard with everyone working from home and sitting in front of the computer, but just making that conscious effort to get up every hour and walking around. Even if you get up and stretch, that helps a lot, too, and it makes you feel better, overall.

Mike: Yeah.

Randi: Yeah, putting that as part of your routine, your day, and then, before you know it, it’s on autopilot.

Mike: Have your habits changed over the course of the last year? I know that being in the industry that you’re in and this information is always at the forefront of your mind, but have you had to make small adjustments to your own eating schedules or own kinds of food, or have you stayed pretty consistent throughout this whole thing?

Randi: I have tried to stay pretty consistent, but having my family, my kids, I had to make food changes for them, especially since we moved from Seattle to San Antonio. What I did was, I actually had my kids help me plan meals and help plan snacks that would be available. With them helping me out and with them putting stuff in the fridge that was ready to go and ready to eat, that really helped a lot, too, because they were the same way. They were just tired of being home, doing online school, and they were reaching, too, for the potato chips and various things like that.

Once we sat down, planned together, and just having raspberries washed. You get home from the grocery store and you wash your produce right away, I think, just is really important. You put it there. It’s so colorful and that’s what you want to reach for then. Having those, not just the fruits and vegetables, but just a little bit of cheese and crackers here and there, that too was very helpful, and having yogurt.

I was kind of interviewing them about, what are your food preferences? Can we take a step back? I guess I haven’t done that, so once we did that, that actually helped tremendously, so they’re making better choices as well as a result.

Mike: Wow. That’s awesome.

Randi: Yeah.

Mike: Cynthia, let’s get your take on this because I’ve known you for a long time and you’ve always been at the forefront of things like organic gardening, locally sourced, and seasonal things. Let’s get your thoughts on all this then.

Cynthia: Yeah. Well, number one, I want Randi Saeter’s genes because she’s so thin. I don’t know what you eat, but I think you could make the Randi Saeter diet and I would follow it.

I think of my immune system. I think of them as my friends, these cells that go out and attack invaders. If I were going to send them out, pack their little backpacks with the equipment they need to do their jobs, I think of it that way.

Then I think of, I want them to have the omega-3s, so I eat wild fish—only wild—salmon, black cod, kind of the oily fish—I just love those—and walnuts. I eat a lot of nuts, actually, like pumpkin seeds.

Then I think of food like it really is that bird song: “To everything, there is a season.” [Laughter] So, I think seasonally eat the foods. I believe that there’s a reason that the foods come into season at each time of the year and it makes sense.

In the winter, we’re eating cruciferous vegetables and those are very good for your immune system. They actually have a lot of vitamin C, which makes a ton of sense.

Then I think of my plate as sort of a rainbow. I focus a lot on what are the colors on my plate: the reds for beets, purples like the purple cabbage, yellows, and greens.

Then I also think in ratios of, if I’m looking at my plate, three-quarters of it should be vegetable content. Then maybe a quarter or a third is protein and carbs. Granted, okay, I don’t always eat that way. I fall off the wagon. Sadly, it does not make me thinner. I still have the COVID-19 – minus the COVID-19.

Yeah, I mean that’s how I think of it. I want to equip my immune system with what it needs. Translating that to the senior living industry and, certainly, Culinary Coach, that is our focus is to help senior living organizations deliver the best possible foods to their residents, which gives them a much better shot at not succumbing to a really bad flu or a COVID infection that becomes lethal, which would be awfully sad.

Regarding the senior living industry, we all work in the senior living industry. Randi, you’re a registered dietitian. Kelly, you have a focus on aging and health. Mike, you and I are working at the Culinary Coach and have a keen interest in helping the industry to evolve their dining habits.

Sometimes, when we are going into communities and evaluating them, we’re finding foods on the shelves that are highly processed like frozen lasagna or soup-based mix that actually has more than half your sodium allotment for the day, or synthetic oils that are being used in lieu of butter. I think there are some really basic shifts that I would love the senior living industry to adopt that would just make everybody’s life better and it would make them more successful.

Mike: Yeah, that’s 100% true, and some things that you and I have talked about many times, things like I hit my head in awe about the fact that to take something like and serve a frozen carrot and carrots are so cheap. Why would you spend more money for a frozen carrot than you would for a fresh carrot? It’s just kind of the idea behind it, but that’s a huge misconception.

Butter, for instance. Butter sometimes gets a bad rap for having properties that may or may not be healthy. But I’m like, if you get some nice organic, grass-fed butter and you eat it in moderation, it’s going to be better for you than super processed oils or things like that. It comes from a source that you can track easily: cows, milk, things like that. Yeah, it’s just kind of changing the way that you think about things.

As far as why would you choose a processed food over, say, a fresh food? Sometimes the logic just gets lost in translation. “This is easy. It’s ready to go. I can have it.”

It even goes back to how you do your personal stuff. Sometimes maybe we get a little lazy or we psych ourselves out and think that it’s going to take all this time to do this, and it really doesn’t. It just means that you have to plan your day a little better.

When you go to a restaurant and they have a menu, when they’re ordering the food for the restaurants or for the communities, they’re ordering on a schedule. They know exactly what they’re buying, what they’re getting in, when it’s going to arrive, all of those factors to maintain freshness and things. You can do the same thing for yourself.

For me, if I go shopping, I’m trying to do things like shop more times a week and not buy one massive shopping list full of stuff and then bury all the good stuff in the back of the fridge because there’s nowhere else to get to it. Then, a week later, it’s all bad.

Buy less and just buy it more often. That way it’s fresher. Like you were saying, Randi, just have it accessible and have it available.

I think, for communities, that’s a huge miss, I think, sometimes that chefs or culinary directors, they want to have to deal with less deliveries a week. What they’ll do is they’ll just order massive amounts of stuff and then they either can’t get to it all or it just gets lost because it’s piled in a walk-in, a dry storage, or a freezer somewhere. It doesn’t get utilized in the sense that it should.

Buying less stuff more often is going to help your bottom line more. It’s going to make sure that you have fresher things available that you don’t end up having to special out or toss out because now you’re running up against a timeline of things that you just have to get rid of. That, to me, is the number one mistake I think a lot of people think is, “I’m going to eliminate the amount of shipments and vendors that I use because it’s just going to make my life easier.” Actually, you’re just making more work for yourself because now you have to think about the consequences and the bottom line that you’ve affected by making those choices – and your health.

If you think that you’re going to just store everything in a freezer, pull it out, and serve frozen stuff—and your idea behind it is it’s just going to be easier for you and save time—it’s not healthy, it’s not delicious, it’s not creative, and people will notice that stuff, especially in the age of, like, everybody can watch the Food Network.

People in communities have higher expectations now than they did, say, 20 years ago. Times are changing. People want good food and they deserve good food.

That being said, Kelly, let’s get back to you then. What are some current stats about COVID and, let’s just say, health-related things for the long-term care industry right now?

Kelly: Yeah, so as you might imagine, the stats change by the second. [Laughter] There is so much we don’t know and there’s so much we’re learning in real-time. What we can say for certain, just thinking of the Wall Street Journal last month had this major headline that said: “COVID-19 Deaths Top 100,000: People in the U.S. in long-term care facilities alone.” Then there’s a study from Johns Hopkins University a little earlier than that that said about 40% of overall COVID-19 deaths are tied to long-term care.

I don’t think that the ups and downs and the slight tweaks in percentages are going to change the fact that certainly the impact of COVID-19 was felt by our most vulnerable population. That is our seniors who have—by the nature of aging—decreased intrinsic capacity to fight off various viruses and diseases. Their bodies are working hard (daily) to be able to continue their activities of daily living and to be able to function in the world.

The best thing we can do is try to set them up for success so their bodies don’t have to work so hard. Some of the things that we’ve learned is the renewed or heightened awareness now about the various ways that we can promote health and wellness in these communities and how we can do that.

We’re talking about food today, so food, obviously, is one of the most important ways that we can not only provide ways to deliver nutrients and keep our bodies healthy and keep their bodies healthy, but also food is something that brings joy. It brings variety to their life. If the case is that they’re in social isolation, they may not be able to break bread together, so to speak, in the dining room anymore. Paying a greater emphasis on that which we have control over, and that is improving the food and trying to keep people healthy and safe, is the number one priority.

I think the other interesting statistic that is circulating right now comes out of a recent paper from a Harvard researcher, Dr. Kozlowski, who—along with other researchers at Brown University and University of Chicago—published a paper that was interesting because there’s so much blame going on right now in the senior living industry. The idea that “shame on you.” The reason why so many people died in these long-term care communities is because they probably didn’t follow health and safety inspections or they were unsanitary or all of these types of things.

It’s interesting that there’s converging evidence to suggest that there appears to be no relationship between the ratings of a facility and the COVID outbreak. There isn’t necessarily a way to predict that if there were violations that involved food inspection or other aspects of inspections that that would maybe predict that there’d be a COVID outbreak. Instead, what seems to be the problem is that because COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, you’ve got people bringing it in from the community. As it enters the community, then it spreads, as you know, and it’s contained because people are contained to that community. I think trying to understand what you can control and that which you can’t, what I’m hearing is that there’s just such a great emphasis on maintaining the high quality of health and safety standards and sanitation within the facilities as best as can and try to support the aging systems of people by trying to create engagement for social wellness as well as health and thinking of food being one of them.

It’ll be interesting to see, Mike, how this plays out because there was another study that was specific to California skilled nursing facilities. In their case, they did find a relationship saying that nursing homes with five-star ratings were less likely to have COVID-19 cases and deaths after adjusting for the size of the patients, different demographics of the patients. We can’t make sweeping generalizations and assume that, okay, this location and this facility can get by with inexpensive or ignoring interventions that help promote healthy aging. I think the blanket statement can be made that healthy bodies and healthy aging can be promoted by healthy actions. There are many things, and one of them is food. I think we’ll see more of that as the vaccines roll out and the senior living industry tries to understand what happened and what they can do to prevent that from happening again.

Mike: Yeah. Thank you. Randi, did you want to elaborate or add anything to that? That was a lot of great information, Kelly.

Randi: Yeah. No, definitely. Having worked in skilled nursing and in assisted living, extensively here, I totally agree with you, Kelly.

You know you’re only as good as your staff. A five-star rated skilled nursing facility, yeah, it can be great and it can have no infections or they can have it. It just depends. It could be one person bringing it in and spreading it to everyone.

But I think, now, since we’ve had COVID since March, we’ve learned so much. Now, we better know what to do in order to prevent the virus from entering our communities.

Just to give you an example, now, what we have gone to is, of course, we do all the screenings, but we’ve gone to the extent of having all visitors way face shields, eye protection, and including, of course, the surgical masks, so full PPE including a gown, because you’re right. There are so many positive, asymptomatic positive individuals then that have brought the virus into the communities and that’s how it’s spread like wildfire.

I’m glad that the counties, the states are all supporting that effort. Yeah, everyone seems to be on board with it. Giving communities more control, too, to limit those that enter the communities in order then to prevent the spread because, yes, nursing homes especially have been in the media now and that’s where we have the most cases. I’m glad to hear all of that. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to curve this and to prevent it from spreading even further.

Then having the vaccine come to nursing homes and senior living communities as soon as, well, actually this week. I heard. I did see on the news that some nursing homes—I think on the East Coast—already have their vaccines. In San Antonio, we are getting vaccines next week. I’m looking forward to that.

My personal opinion is if you have no allergies, significant allergies, then it’s highly recommended that everyone gets vaccinated. It’s going to be very interesting to see what that does for our communities and the states and the nation, of course, too. Yeah, that remains to be seen.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely, it’s an exciting time that we finally have some things on the horizon. Lastly, Cynthia, to bring this back to what your specialty is and the history that you and I have with the farming and the farm to table kind of stuff, what we’re seeing now in a lot of communities, which I’m extremely about and I know you are too, is kind of the advent of these urban farms or these onsite farms where they’re providing fresh herbs, fresh vegetables as an alternative to having them brought in from the outside. What do you think about that?

Cynthia: I’m so excited about it, and I’m seeing it more and more. In fact, I was just speaking with somebody from Maplewood Senior Living. They have a complete working farm. I think it’s in Danbury, Connecticut. It’s growing food and then delivering into (I think they have) five communities on the East Coast. They’re delivering these fresh, organically-raised foods into their culinary programs. It’s very successful.

Then we also have a client in North Carolina that has a seven-acre working farm. They’re working on a program there, which is super exciting.

Yeah, I think that’s the future, really, is part of combining the lifestyle aspect of growing food, being outdoors, being on a farm, and then delivering that food into the community for the dining program. I think that’s a really big potential for community concepts that would be very popular.

Mike: Yeah. That’s awesome. I think that the idea that the communities can have access to onsite produce is amazing. You’re right. I think it is the future. While it may not be super prevalent right now, I see the trend going that way.

I don’t even think I see it as a trend. I see it as a movement, as just a common sense thing to have available so that there’s no reason why you can’t. Once you get to kind of know the seasons and what’s good at what time, it’s actually more cost-effective in a lot of ways to have those resources available on-site rather than just constantly bringing stuff in.

Plus, it’s just a great horticultural therapy to get people outside, working with the soil, and working with the plants; touching it, smelling it, and seeing the colors; and seeing the results. People really like to get involved on a community level, which I think is really cool.

Cynthia, I know you’re a gardener. My wife, Marsha, is a gardener, and so we try to have as much fresh stuff as possible.

I think, really, the key for everything is, like you said, Kelly, “You are what you eat.” But be aware just of what you’re putting into your body, whether or not it’s on a personal level or whether or not you work in a community. You should be aware of the properties of the food that you’re consuming or the food that you’re providing.

Randi, on your level, the knowledge that a lot of people have to have about these nutrients, especially in skilled nursing where there are so many more diets and so many more textures and things that have to be made for people with special conditions, I just think that knowledge is the key. Know where your food comes from.

On a personal level, if you go shopping at the store, get to know when their delivery dates are. Get to know when they restock their foods. Adjust your schedules (if you can) to make sure that you’re getting stuff as soon as it hits the shelves and that you’re not going on Sunday night after a busy weekend and just left with what’s leftover. Just all of that knowledge about the food, where it comes from, and when it’s available I definitely think is key.

Does anybody else, any of you all, have any final thoughts that we want to leave some listeners with?

Cynthia: I do. There are some stats that 90% of Type-2 diabetes can be prevented with diet and activity or moderate activity – 70% of strokes, 70% of colon cancer. Really, food is medicine and I think it’s so easy just to eat right, start out right the first time, and then have a better shot at not having an illness.

Randi: Yeah, I totally agree. The more we talk about it and have the discussion, the more motivated we all get, too, to make the right choices. That’s how this can spread into so many senior living communities and, otherwise, also in our own homes. Yeah, I think that’s a wonderful way to then help change the mindset in people.

Kelly: Maybe I’ll add to that by saying the average age on this podcast, we’re all middle-aged. There’s nothing that prevents us from growing older. We are all going to find ourselves (at some point in our lives) in these communities or growing old. And so, if food is medicine, then this is an opportunity to also practice preventative medicine. While we’re in our middle age if we can change our habits now, it can change the trajectory in our health as we age. We can increase our chances of aging successfully or healthfully and, hopefully, minimize the potential for some of these diseases and improve our quality of life as we grow older.

Mike: Yeah. Yeah, well, other than the fact that I don’t consider myself middle-aged, I’m pretty freaking young, actually.

[Laughter]

Mike: Yeah, I’m like Dick Clark. Maybe that’s not the best reference because, finally, things caught up with him. Anyway, Randi, Kelly, Cynthia, thank you for hanging out today. I think this has been a really great conversation.

I think there’s a lot of great information out there. I think that all these tools that people can use to implement into their daily lives, they’re not difficult. This is not super complex stuff. It’s just, make a little bit smarter decisions and put forth the effort.

Come up with a plan. Stick to it. Dedicate a little bit of time to it, and then modify as you go based off the results that you’re having. These are really, really easy, workable steps.

[music]

Mike: Thank you all so much for joining us today in the Soup.

Kelly: Thank you.

Randi: Thank you.

Mike: Yeah.

Cynthia: Thank you, Mike.

Mike: Well, there you have it, folks. Some fantastic information. Some great ideas to help you be better prepared as you roll into the new year.

We’d like to thank you, on Cosmic Soup, for hanging out over this last year. It’s been truly an honor and a privilege to share this show with you. That being said, have yourselves a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season. We’ll talk to you next year on Cosmic Soup.