MountainStar Health - June 15, 2022
by Jennifer James

The Ogden Regional Medical Center / Heart Center, “Losing It & Loving It” weight loss class & support group newsletter


I am crossing my fingers for a smoke-free month and temperatures south of the triple digits. Summer enters the stage with its accompanying change of activities, clothing, food and possible focus. It is always a good idea to determine what we want to accomplish each season. What do you want to see by the end of summer this year? A bountiful garden? Travel? A healthier body? I, for one, would like a fully functioning foot. We celebrate Father’s Day, Juneteenth and the summer solstice.

In good health,

Jennifer James

Success story

Sometimes, succeeding or achieving a goal means looking at ourselves objectively and how we are contributing to our failures or successes. If we run into the same problem, or get the same results, the common factor is looking back at us in the mirror. We are the trickster.

Humility is crucial to anyone’s success. If we are blind to self-sabotage and think we know it all, it will hurt us in the long run. Let’s look at our own lives and figure out how we contribute to a negative situation. If we want to control our sweet tooth and lose weight, but always have our favorite goodies in the house, that won’t work. If we want to build up a rainy day fund, but don’t track our spending or set money aside, how will we save any money? We won’t. We are our own worst enemies.

For the month of June, I challenge all of us to come up with one important goal, and humbly figure out the barriers we put in place that would sabotage our efforts. For example: I want to get a good night’s sleep, but at times I will watch television, play word games on my phone, or eat too much dark chocolate in the evening. I absolutely know that these things will keep me awake. I also delude myself into thinking I will sleep anyway. Uh, wrong. If sleep is as important to me as I say it is, then I need to cut off all electronic screens 1-2 hours before bedtime and not overdo the dark chocolate before bed. Duh. You too can discover things about  yourself. All it takes is a dose of humility.

Do you really know…sesame seeds?

Open sesame! Sesame seeds were the first oilseed crop, domesticated ~4000 years ago in Indonesia. Search online for photos of this plant—not what you would expect! The seeds grow in green pods that dry and open, revealing the seeds, which are then hulled. White, black, brown, tan and red varieties are available. Who knew? Popular in Asian, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, sesame seeds are high in healthy unsaturated oils, minerals and fiber. For a fun way to eat sesame seeds, try the recipe below.

Do you mind?

The eating pattern I discuss with our cardiac and pulmonary rehab patients is the Mediterranean Diet. It is a whole foods, plant-based diet with smaller amounts of animal-derived foods. It benefits our bodies in many ways, including lowering inflammation. New research is finding that a diet high in inflammatory foods decreases a person’s brain volume, increases indicators of brain aging, increases small blood vessel diseases in the brain, and possibly increases the risk of dementia. Fun stuff.

The Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) is research-based and has been used to evaluate people’s diets since 2004. Inflammation can be measured by certain substances in the blood, such as CRP, or C-reactive protein, and a variety of TNFs, or tumor necrosis factors. There are many more. If researchers study what people eat and measure inflammation markers in their blood, they get an idea which foods are pro or anti-inflammatory.

The foods/nutrients associated with more inflammation according to the DII: saturated fat, trans fat, total fat, cholesterol, overall calories, refined grains, iron and vitamin B-12. The foods/nutrients associated with less inflammation: dietary fiber, beta-carotene, ginger, garlic, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, folic acid and B6; selenium, unsaturated oils (mono, poly and omega-3’s), vitamins A, C, D, E; green and black tea and black pepper. Other foods, such as alcohol and caffeine, had smaller effects on lowering inflammation.

What stood out for me was that most of the foods associated with inflammation were animal-derived. Cholesterol, for example, is only found in animal products. Anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients were found in plant-derived foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans, whole grains, vegetable oils, herbs and spices. Fatty fish were also deemed anti-inflammatory. Voila! The Mediterranean Diet.

What does this mean? A colorful, whole foods, mostly plant-based diet is not only beneficial for our hearts and lungs, but also our brains. Bonus: this diet also lowers our risk for certain cancers. If our meals aren’t at least ¾ plant-based, we have work to do. Unless we don’t mind losing our minds (potentially) as we age.

Tsigalou, C. et al. (2020, July 8). Mediterranean diet as a tool to combat inflammation and chronic diseases. Biomedicines. Doi: 10.3390/biomedicines8070201.

Steck, S. (ND). The dietary inflammatory index: A new tool for assessing inflammatory potential of diet  and associations with cancer.

George, J. (2022, May 13). Brain aging markers tied to inflammatory foods—smaller brain volume seen with diet-driven inflammation. Med Page Today.

Color blind

When I counsel patients, one topic I usually discuss is the importance of eating colorful meals. Granted, we could drink orange soda and eat jelly beans for lunch and call it colorful. We all know that is not what I mean. A high percentage of my patients do a great job of eating refined starchy foods, animal-derived high protein foods, and sugar (of course). Burgers, pizza and sandwiches all fall into the grains/starches and high-protein groups. My patients typically don’t routinely include fresh vegetables and fruit with meals.

When we make produce a substantial part of our meals, we do the following:

  • Lower the overall calorie content of the meal. Usually, starches, grains and high-protein foods are higher in calories than non-starchy vegetables and fruit. Did you know that 4-5 servings of vegetables or 2 servings of fruit equal the calories in one ounce of cheese or 6 snack crackers?
  • Decrease our consumption of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars, refined grains and many food additives often found in processed grains and animal-derived foods. Think hot dogs and chips.
  • Increase our consumption of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins A, C, folic acid and potassium.
  • Improve our digestion. The dietary fiber in these foods help prevent constipation and provide healthy food (prebiotics) for the healthy bacteria in our colon.
  • Improve our energy level and mood.

My job is to change knowledge. I’ve done my part, now it’s your turn.

Motivating the unmotivated

A common complaint I hear from members of the support groups is not feeling motivated and “tired of everything”. It’s no wonder, with Covid sticking around, groceries and gasoline costing more, the war in Ukraine grinding on, and more tragic mass shootings. Often people turn to food when stressed or anxious, which does not help matters. Yes, there are things to be unhappy about, and losing weight is not easy, but there are always good things happening around us. I reminded the support group that their lives are pretty much the same as they were a week ago. What changed to make them so morose? Attitude.

When we feel like this, two solutions come to mind. Think about why we want to be healthy in the first place, and remember our core values. Core values sum up what is most important to us, such as family, health and independence. Gratitude is the second solution. When I quizzed the group what they were grateful for, the energy in the room eventually shifted and there was a renewed sense of “things aren’t so bad”, and “I can do this”.

If we are in the doldrums, reminding ourselves of why we even bother and what IS working in our lives might turn our “woe is me” into a self-administered, productive kick in the pants. Or more politely, remembering how blessed we really are.

Sesame breakfast “biscuits”

I found a different version of this recipe in the newspaper and made it my own, simply because I didn’t want to make a trip to the store to buy all the ingredients. It is a healthy, filling, high-fiber portable breakfast or snack food. Even with my tweaks they were pretty darn good.

Even though the list of ingredients is long, it comes together very quickly. You can alter the seeds and dried fruit based on what you have on hand.

  • 1-1/4 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2/3 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • ½ cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 1-1/2 cups of any combination of seeds, minced dried fruit
  • ¼ cup crystallized ginger, finely minced chocolate or other chips
  • ¼ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1-1/3 cups applesauce or mashed, ripe banana
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup olive or canola oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or use a baking stone.

Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Stir together the liquid ingredients in a small bowl until well blended. Mix into the dry ingredients, stirring until uniform and “pasty”.

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop up and level the mixture, turn upside down and smartly hit the baking sheet to empty the cup uniformly.

Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool. Store in the refrigerator or freezer. Warm in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating. Yum!

Recipe makes 15 biscuits.

One biscuit ~210 calories, 4 gm dietary fiber, 5.2 gm unsaturated fat, 3.2 gm saturated fat, 37 mg sodium,

5 gm protein, 21 gm carbohydrate

Adapted from a recipe by Nielsen, D. (2022). Good for Your Gut, chocolate-banana breakfast cookies. Penguin Canada Publishers.

June support groups

Mondays, 2:00 - 3:00pm, ORMC Heart Center Conference Room

Tuesdays, 4:30 - 5:30 pm, via Webex or in person, Heart Center Conference Room

The support groups are free to graduates of LILI classes.

For Webex access, email Jennifer James or call (801) 479-2133.

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m possible”!

Audrey Hepburn