Posts filed under Nutrition

The Benefits Of Adding Quinoa To Your Diet

Red quinoaQuinoa (keen-wah) is an ancient grain that was first discovered over 5,000 years ago. Lately, it has become quite popular because of its numerous health benefits. But what exactly is Quinoa, and how can you incorporate it into your own diet?

The nutrition profile of quinoa is that of a whole grain, meaning the entire seed is intact without any of its parts removed. This is quite different than refined or milled grains, which are used for white bread, rice and pasta. The refinement process creates a fine, light texture, but it also removes valuable nutrients and fiber during the process.

Essential minerals, fiber and vitamins in whole grains help regulate our digestive systems and make us feel more full and satisfied after eating. Refined pasta, bread and rice deliver simple carbohydrates that get digested quickly and provide virtually no nutritional value.

While there are hundreds of different types of quinoa, most stores carry the white, black and red varieties. Some other attributes of quinoa include:

  • Naturally gluten-free
  • Contains B-vitamins, iron, calcium, vitamin E, fiber and potassium
  • Considered a complete protein with essential amino acids
  • Relatively high ratio of protein to carbohydrates
  • Considered “ideal” by NASA for long duration space flights

Roughly 25% of quinoa’s fatty acids come from monounsaturated fat, which is considered heart-healthy. There are 160 calories, 0 grams of cholesterol, 0 grams of sodium, 0 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein in ¼ cup of dry quinoa. The bitter-tasting natural coating on quinoa – called saponin – repels insects without the use of pesticides. Saponin is removed from most packaged quinoa, but you can rinse any quinoa with water to remove the saponin yourself.

An easy way to incorporate quinoa into your diet is to simply use it in place of rice in recipes. The grains are quite small and cook in as little as 15 minutes. It’s a versatile ingredient that delivers a subtle, nutty flavor. Consider quinoa for baking, breakfast recipes, cold salads, burgers, or as a hot side dish.

Posted on March 28, 2014 and filed under Nutrition.

Eating Dark Chocolate In Moderation Can Be Good For Your Health

chocolateResearchers at the Division of Human Nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have discovered that eating dark chocolate can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a hardening and thickening of the arteries. It turns out that dark chocolate – in moderation – can restore the flexibility of arteries and stop white blood cells from adhering to the blood vessel walls.

The study was conducted over 4 weeks on 44 overweight men between 45 an 70 years old. The men had to eat 70 grams of normal dark chocolate or 70 grams of dark chocolate fortified with high levels of flavanol – an antioxidant found in cocoa plants.

The researchers wanted to determine if the flavanol stimulated the mens’ senses, motivating them to eat more chocolate. While the addition of flavanol did increase the consumption of chocolate by the men in the study, both types of dark chocolate produced similar heart benefits.

This result is significant because it contradicts previous research that suggested flavanol, which is also found in wine and berries, is the primary reason that dark chocolate is good for your heart. It appears that dark chocolate can be good for you in moderation, and the fact that flavanol makes you want to eat more of it is a nice side benefit.

Posted on February 26, 2014 and filed under Nutrition.

Plant-Based Sources Of Protein For Vegetarians

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or simply want to limit meat in your diet, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with protein sources. The most common problem is relying too heavily on vegetarian classics like beans, lentils and tofu. If you’re looking to mix things up a bit, here are some new and different ways to get plant-based proteins into your diet:

  • Guava – Guava is a nutrition-packed tropical fruit that offers about 4 grams of protein per cup and contains three times as much vitamin C as a large orange. It’s rich in fiber, lycopene, B-complex vitamins, manganese, potassium and vitamin A.
  • Broccoli – While everyone knows that broccoli is packed full of vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytonutrients, you may be surprised to learn that it’s a rich source of protein too. One cup of chopped broccoli containing about 4 grams of lean protein.
  • Chia Seeds – Just about any food can become a rich source of protein if you garnish it with a tablespoon or two of Chia seeds. Two tablespoons of these seeds are packed with 3 grams of protein, as well as an array of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Their delicate, nutty flavor makes them a great addition to baked goods, soups, salads, yogurt and cereal.
  • Potatoes – Potatoes, generally thought of as a starch, are also a rich source of protein, with a large potato providing about 6 grams. Top a baked potato with veggies, like broccoli or asparagus, and sprinkle them with chia seeds for even more protein, and be sure to eat the skin for its minerals and fiber.
  • Quinoa – If you’re looking for a tasty, protein-rich side dish then consider replacing rice with quinoa. It’s also a great hot breakfast alternative to oatmeal. Half a cup of cooked quinoa contains about 4 grams of protein and all essential amino acids.
  • Buckwheat – Another alternative to traditional grains, 1 cup of cooked buckwheat contains nearly 6 grams of protein. It’s a great source of fiber and minerals that includes potassium, magnesium and iron. Use buckwheat in kernel form – known as groats – for a side dish, or use buckwheat flour in pancakes and baked goods.
  • Wheat Germ – Packed with about 3 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons, what germ can be used in baked goods or sprinkled on cereals or yogurt to boost not only protein, but B-vitamins, vitamin E, potassium and fiber in your diet.
  • Sun Dried Tomatoes – Offering nearly 4 grams of protein in a ½ cup serving, sun dried tomatoes are a versatile food that can be used in soups, sauces, pasta dishes and an array of other recipes. It also delivers a range of other nutrients including potassium, lycopene, fiber and vitamin K.
  • Pistahcios – Reaching for pistachios when you’re craving a crunchy snack will give 6 grams of protein per ounce – more than most nuts. They’re also great chopped and sprinkled on salads, yogurt or ice cream.

Other protein-rich foods that can offer variety in a plant-based diet include kale, green peas, Wakame seaweed, hemp seeds and asparagus. Try mixing and matching these foods with traditional vegetarian fare to meet your protein requirements without risking bean burnout.

Posted on December 30, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

How to Help Your Body Absorb Protein

proteinIn order for your body to build muscle, produce hormones, and fight off viruses and bacteria, you need to get enough protein in your diet. Proteins are large, complex molecules comprised of long amino acid chains. These make up the structure of your body’s tissues and organs. Without protein, your body could not function properly.

Unfortunately, the body’s ability to break down and absorb protein decreases with age. Countering this is not as easy as simply drinking more milk or having an extra egg with breakfast. Adjustments are required to compensate for poor protein absorption. Here are some great ways to improve the process.

Eat Acidic Foods

Your body can’t absorb proteins in their natural state. Certain proteases in your stomach and pancreas break the bonds that hold the amino acids in protein together so your body can absorb the composite amino acids individually.

To help with this process, try eating and drinking more acidic foods like orange juice, vinegar and most types of fruit. These contain proteases that can make your stomach a more acidic environment for breaking down protein.

Take Vitamin B-6

Pyridoxine is another name for vitamin B-6. Its primary purposes are to help enzymes break down protein and carry the dismantled amino acids to the blood stream. Vitamin B-6 is essential to get the most from your protein intake.

Fortunately, if you’re already trying to eat more protein, that means you’re probably getting more vitamin B-6. That’s because both types of nutrients are found in meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains.

Complex Carbohydrates

Even after the body has broken down proteins into its simplest amino acid form, the work isn’t done yet. How well your body utilizes these amino acids dictates how you benefit from the protein-rich foods you eat.

By consuming carbohydrates with your protein, your body releases insulin. Elevated insulin levels help your muscles absorb amino acids, especially during muscle-building exercises. That means eating carbohydrates right before a high-intensity workout yields the best protein-absorbing results. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include starchy food, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dairy products.

Protein Before and After Workouts

In addition to eating complex carbohydrates right before a workout, it’s also beneficial to eat protein immediately before and after exercise to give your body an ample supply of amino acids to absorb during and after exertion.

These tips can help you maximize the protein you put into your body, resulting in a more muscular physique and overall better health. As always, be sure to contact your healthcare provider with any questions.

Posted on September 25, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Be Careful Dining Out: Restaurant Meals Are Loaded With Salt, Fat And Calories

Be Careful Dining Out- Restaurant Meals Are Loaded With Salt, Fat And CaloriesDid you know that the average restaurant meal provides most of the calories, fat and salt you need for an entire day? Two recent studies published in May 2013 in JAMA Internal Medicine explore the correlation between these excesses and the obesity epidemic in North America.

The first study, led by Susan Roberts, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., involved analyzing 157 meals from 33 restaurants in Boston. The team found that 73 percent of restaurant meals contained more than 1,000 calories, half of the 2,000 daily recommended amount for adults. This refers to just the meal; no appetizers, no drinks and no desserts. Twelve meals contained more than an entire day’s worth of recommended calories.

Large Portions Lead To Excessive Calories

The key to such surplus calories was portion size, the study found. Considering prior research that shows people tend to eat the amount placed in front of them, it’s not a stretch to conclude that restaurants that provide excessive portions are directly contributing to the obesity epidemic.

Roberts was able to categorize which types of restaurants serve up the highest number of calories. The average number of calories per meal was highest in Italian (1,755 calories), American (1,494 calories) and Chinese (1,474 calories) restaurants. Meals from Japanese (1,027 calories) and Vietnamese (922 calories) restaurants ranked lowest on the list.

The study also made it clear that local diners and family-run restaurants were just as likely to serve up calorie-laden meals. In fact, if anything, the study found that small-chain restaurants actually serve meals with slightly higher calorie counts (an average of 1,437 calories per meal compared to 1,359 calories from national chains).

Meals Average 151% of Salt Needed Per Day

The second study, led by graduate student Mary Scourboutakos of the University of Toronto, involved analyzing 685 meals and 156 desserts from sit-down restaurant chains. The researchers uncovered that the average meal – whether dining out for breakfast, lunch or dinner – contained 1,128 calories, just over half the daily recommended amount for adults.

In addition to tracking calories, Scourboutakos and her team also analyzed salt and fat content. The meals in the study averaged 151 percent of the salt needed in one day, 89 percent of the daily recommendation for fat, 83 percent of recommended saturated and trans fat amounts, and 60 percent of the daily recommended cholesterol intake.

Salt, fat and cholesterol hide in the most unusual places. Even if you choose a chicken salad from a chain restaurant, like one New York University Medical Center patient did, believing it to be a healthy choice, it could easily have 2,000 mg of sodium and over 40 g of fat.

What To Do?

The best way to handle eating out is to choose restaurants that list calorie and other nutrition information on the menu. Some restaurants have this information available upon request. You can also make it a habit to eat precisely half of your meal and take the other half home to enjoy later. Spread out your calories and get a bigger bang for your buck by developing this habit.

Posted on August 26, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Hungry Shoppers Purchase Higher-Calorie Groceries

Hungry Shoppers Purchase Higher-Calorie Groceries1A recent study conducted by Aner Tal and Brian Wansink from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University suggests that people don’t just buy more when they grocery shop on an empty stomach; people go for high-calorie foods not present on their shopping list. For the purpose of the study, which was published in the digital version of JAMA Internal Medicine, higher-calorie foods consist of candy, red meat and salty snacks while lower-calorie choices include chicken breast, fruits and vegetables.

What’s the reason for this phenomenon?

What makes everything look good enough to eat right then and there when you grocery shop on an empty stomach? Tal and Wansink’s research team suggested that psychological and physiological responses are to blame.

Your bodily functions don’t understand the difference between skipping a meal and a famine. When you diet by fasting and starving yourself, your body enters survival mode because it doesn’t know if food will be scarce from now on. That means, when you start selecting foods on an empty stomach, your body directs you toward higher-calorie foods to replace the calories you haven’t been eating and to stock up in case of another famine.

To prove the point that psychological and physiological responses cause higher-calorie food to be more tempting on an empty stomach, researchers conducted two experiments. The first took place in the lab while the other involved following actual shoppers around.

Lab Experiment

In their first experiment, researchers sought to discover if having a snack before shopping for food could tip the scale toward picking healthier, lower-calorie choices off the shelves.

Researchers told 68 participants to refrain from eating for five hours leading up to the study. Before testing began, the researchers gave some participants crackers to ease their hunger. Then, the participants “shopped” in an online grocery store.

Those who received a snack tended to choose lower-calorie options, such as low-fat ice cream over regular ice cream.

Field Study

In the second experiment, researchers followed 82 participants as they shopped. Just like the lab experiment, the results showed that people tended to purchase higher-calorie foods when they were hungry compared to those who had eaten recently.

While these studies are very small-scale, they show that skipping meals as a weight loss effort, then shopping on an empty stomach, can backfire. To prevent inadvertently filling your pantry and fridge with unhealthy food, be sure to eat healthy meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. This signals your body that food is readily available and there’s no need to go into survival mode. By choosing healthy foods, monitoring your portions and getting daily exercise, you set yourself up for a happier, healthier body and mind.

The post Hungry Shoppers Purchase Higher-Calorie Groceries appeared first on RemedyPress.

Posted on July 29, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Six Tasty Weight Loss Foods

Weight Loss Foods

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Losing weight isn’t just about eating less or cutting down on fast food and desserts. It’s also about maintaining a healthier diet by eating healthier foods. By replacing all of those sugars and trans fats with weight loss foods that contain actual nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, you’ll not only lose weight, you’ll become a healthier individual as well. The following are a number of foods that you should introduce into your diet to help aid your weight loss and to put you back on track to a healthier lifestyle:

  • Beans and Lentils – Beans and lentils are absolutely packed with nutrients. Just a few of these nutrients include potassium, zinc, magnesium, complex carbs, protein and fiber. In addition to being low in fat, beans and lentils have been proven to help lower bad cholesterol while raising what’s known as “good” cholesterol. The large amount of protein also helps to keep you full, preventing you from feeling the desire to eat more. If that weren’t enough, not only are they easy to integrate into any meal, they’re easy on the wallet too.
  • Greek Yogurt – Greek yogurt, especially plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, is a fantastic source of vitamins B6 and B12, protein, potassium, zinc and calcium. Greek yogurt contains less sugar calories than normal yogurts and almost twice the amount of protein, which is why it’s such a staple for people who are atempting to lose weight. Not to mention that you can have a Greek yogurt at practically any time of the day. Try mixing it with a little bit of honey, or with a variety of your favorite fruits.
  • Red Cabbage – Red cabbage is stuffed full of antioxidants, vitamins A, D and K, and fiber. The high amount of fiber in red cabbage is especially helpful for weight loss. In addition to helping to transport cholesterol out of your system, fiber also helps to slow down your rate of digestion, thereby making you feel fuller. There’s very little calories present in red cabbage as well, not to mention that the vegetable is quite versatile; you can eat it raw or cook it as well as by itself or in a number of dishes.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables that you could include into your diet, and one of the most naturally delicious ones as well. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and fiber and low in calorie content. In fact, try having a sweet potato instead of a normal potato with dinner. While normal potatoes contain around 400 to 500 calories a serving, sweet potatoes only contain around 100 calories per serving.
  • Watermelon – This sweet and succulent fruit is perfect for a summer afternoon snack or even an after dinner dessert. In addition to being just plain delicious, watermelon contains very few calories and boasts a large amount of vitamins A and C, lycopene and potassium. Watermelon also contains a lot of water, which you should be drinking plenty of.
  • Canned Tomatoes – Tomatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables available. You can slice them up in salads, put them on sandwiches, use them for soups, make a sauce or salsa with them and more. They should also be part of any weight loss diet; one can of chopped tomatoes contains around two grams of fiber while only containing 32 calories and absolutely no grams of fat.

If you are determined to lose weight, then make sure that you include some of these weight loss foods into your diet today. Also ask your healthcare what foods are right for you.

The post Six Tasty Weight Loss Foods appeared first on RemedyPress.

Posted on May 24, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Stay Strong with Calcium

calciumCalcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, and for good reason: All cells need calcium to work. In fact, calcium performs so many diverse functions that virtually no major organ system can function properly without it. Your body is constantly breaking down old bone cells and growing new ones, the same way it sheds and replaces skin cells. To help keep them strong, the body stores more than 99 percent of its calcium in the bones and teeth. The rest is released in the body as needed to help muscles and blood vessels contract and expand, to secrete hormones and enzymes, and to send messages through the nervous system.

The body’s calcium concentration and bone strength peaks around age 30. As we age, those concentrations decline, particularly in women with reduced estrogen levels, because it is eliminated from the body through urine, feces and sweat.

But you can reduce these losses by consuming the recommended amounts of calcium throughout adulthood and by living a healthy, active lifestyle.

Disease Prevention

Calcium helps prevent and treat bone conditions caused by low calcium, such as rickets, a condition in children involving softening of the bones; osteomalacia, a softening of bones involving pain; and osteoporosis, a gradual weakening and hollowing out of bone tissue that affects more than 10 million adults in the U.S. over age 50.

Among women, calcium helps alleviate premenstrual syndrome, prevent strokes, reduce leg cramps during pregnancy and prevent preeclampsia, high blood pressure during pregnancy. Calcium also helps to reduce fluoride levels among children, reduce high blood pressure and reduce the risk of colon and rectal cancers. Calcium carbonate is used as an antacid for heartburn.

As an added benefit, adults and children with high calcium intakes are less likely to gain weight or become overweight or obese than those who consume little calcium. Research shows that calcium consumption from such dairy products as yogurt increases weight loss, body fat loss and lean body mass. (Studies can be found here, here and here.)

Am I Getting Enough?

The body doesn’t absorb all of the calcium that it consumes. In fact, it absorbs only about 30 percent of the calcium it receives from foods, depending on the type of food consumed.

For example, caffeine, sodium and alcohol increase the amount of calcium that is eliminated through the urine. And alcohol prevents enzymes in the liver from processing vitamin D, a major helper in the absorption of calcium. Phytic acid (found in whole-grain products and wheat bran) and oxalic acid (found in spinach, collard greens and sweet potatoes) also can inhibit calcium absorption.

The exact amount of calcium you need, however, depends on a number of factors, including age and gender.

Growing children and teenagers need more calcium than young adults. Postmenopausal women and people older than 70 years, who experience greater bone loss and do not absorb calcium as well, need extra amounts to prevent osteoporosis. That’s because while young children absorb as much as 60 percent of their calcium intake, absorption decreases to 15 to 20 percent in adulthood and continues to decrease with age.

The National Institutes of Health recommends the following age-based daily calcium intake:

  • Birth to 6 months: 200 mg
  • Infants 7 to 12 months: 260 mg
  • Children 1 to 3 years: 700 mg
  • Children 4 to 8 years: 1,000 mg
  • Children 9 to 13 years: 1,300 mg
  • Teens 14 to 18 years: 1,300 mg
  • Adults 19-50 years: 1,000 mg
  • Adult men 51 to 70 years: 1,000 mg
  • Adult women 51 to 70 years: 1,200 mg
  • Adults 71 years and older: 1,200 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding teens: 1,300 mg
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding adults: 1,000 mg

If you’re not getting enough calcium, you probably won’t notice any short-term symptoms because the body maintains calcium levels in the blood by taking it from your bones. In the long term, however, low calcium intake can have serious consequences, resulting in such conditions as osteopenia (low bone mass), osteoporosis and bone fractures.

Symptoms of serious calcium deficiency include numbness and tingling in the fingers, convulsions and abnormal heart rhythms.

Sources of Calcium

To fuel bone growth, keep bone density strong and prevent osteoporosis, you need a good supply of calcium from dairy products and other foods. Calcium-rich foods include:

  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese;
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, collard greens and Chinese cabbage;
  • Black-eyed peas, green peas, white beans and soy beans;
  • Some fish, such as canned sardines and salmon;
  • Calcium-enriched breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages, and tofu.

People who do not eat enough calcium-rich foods — including those who are lactose intolerant, who cannot digest the natural sugar found in such dairy products; vegans, who eat no animal products; and ovo-vegetarians, who eat eggs but no dairy products — should take a calcium supplement.

But you also need an ample supply of vitamin D, a vital nutrient the body obtains from some foods and produces when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is key in absorbing calcium from the food you eat — calcium that would otherwise get sent out of the body as waste. Good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel, sardines and herring;
  • Cod liver oil;
  • Eggs;
  • Fortified milk, soy milk, yogurt, butter, margarine, cheese, orange juice, cereal;
  • Sunlight, but be sure to protect your skin from sun damage with a broadband sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.

Ask your health care provider how calcium can help you.

The post Stay Strong with Calcium appeared first on RemedyPress.

Posted on March 24, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Energize with IV Vitamin Therapy

IV-vitamin-therapyFeeling sick or run down? Need a boost for an upcoming sporting event? Try IV vitamin therapy, an infusion of vitamins that helps treat and prevent a wide variety of conditions and helps improve overall health and wellbeing. This month, buy three and get the fourth free!

How do you know if it's right for you? Here are three reasons to try IV vitamin therapy:

1. You caught a bug.

When your defenses are down, it pays to nourish your troops with the best available resources. While oral vitamin C supplements have limited absorption and gastrointestinal side effects at higher doses, an immune infusion provides a high dose of vitamin C that your body can actually absorb and utilize. Along with vitamin C, you will receive a mixture of B vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and hydrating fluids to reduce cold and flu symptoms while fighting the bug. At early signs of a cold, this treatment can prevent progression and get you back on track.

2. You are chronically tired

If you are dragging through your days, a weekly Myers' Cocktail should be a part of your plan to bounce back. Chronic fatigue can be caused by stress. That's because in moments of high stress, our bodies require more fuel to keep going. If you have experienced prolonged stress, your nutrient reserves could be zapped. The Myers' Cocktail provides a combination of energizing nutrients, including vitamin B12 and selenium.

3. You are training for a race or sporting event

Although exercise certainly makes us feel better, long and hard training can be stressful on the body. With exercise, our stress hormone, cortisol, becomes elevated and the body taps into its reserves. Amino acid drips can supply the body with the building blocks needed to maintain muscle, hydrate and cope with the stress of training. Treatment frequency varies depending on the intensity and duration of the training program, but most clients find that these infusions make workouts more productive and recovery faster.

To find out more about IV therapy, check out Dr. Thalia's tips for super immunity featured on Fit Life TV or contact her at Discover Health.

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Posted on February 26, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Boost Your Body’s Defenses with Antioxidants

Our bodies are constantly under attack. The assailants, nasty molecules called free radicals, attack the body’s cells, causing cellular damage that can flourish into chronic diseases and conditions. By knowing how to get the most out of antioxidants — our primary defense against environmental stressors — we can improve our health and maybe even add a few more years to our lives.

Free radicals, unstable molecules that damage the structure of healthy cells, contribute to the aging process and the development of such health conditions as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Although the body creates some free radicals during normal metabolic processes, most are caused by such environmental factors as pollution, radiation, sun exposure, cigarette smoke and herbicide.

Here’s how it works: When a molecule splits in such as way that leaves it with one unpaired electron, it becomes unstable and tries to recapture the electron by stealing it from another molecule. That attacked molecule then becomes an unstable free radical itself, setting off a chain reaction.

Antioxidants — essential nutrients that include vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene and selenium — protect the body from cellular damage by giving electrons to free radicals without becoming free radicals themselves. But if antioxidants are unavailable to stop these attacks or if too many free radicals are produced, cell damage can occur, leading to a multitude of chronic diseases.

Although laboratory evidence suggests that antioxidants may slow or even prevent the development of cancer, large-scale clinical trials have reached inconsistent conclusions.

Here’s a guide to the best-known antioxidants, where to find them and how, in addition to neutralizing free radicals, they can benefit you.

Vitamin A and Beta-Carotene

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, bones and soft tissue. Also known as retinol because it produces the pigment in the retina of the eye, Vitamin A promotes good vision, especially in low light. It also plays a role in reproduction, breastfeeding and immune function.

There are two types of vitamin A: preformed vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids.

Preformed vitamin A (retinol, retinoic acid) can be found in foods from animal sources, such as eggs, whole milk, cheese, meat, liver, fish, cod liver oil, and some fortified foods.

Provitamin A carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, are highly pigmented fat-soluble compounds found in plant food that the body converts into vitamin A. According to the National Institutes of Health, beta-carotene and other carotenoids provide approximately 50 percent of the vitamin A needed in the average American diet.

Beta-carotene can be found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, peaches, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, broccoli, spinach, kale and most leafy, dark green vegetables. The more intense the color, the higher the beta-carotene content.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful nutrient necessary for the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. It stimulates the production of collagen — an important protein used to make skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels — and it helps heal wounds, form scar tissue, and repair and maintain teeth and bones.

As an antioxidant, Vitamin C not only neutralizes free radicals, but also heals wounds and regenerates other antioxidants, such as vitamin E. In fact, a 2006 study found that Vitamin C concentrations regenerated some of the depleted Vitamin E levels in cigarette smokers. And 2009 research from England’s University of Leicester shows that ascorbic acid 2-phosphate, a derivative of vitamin C, can reverse DNA damage.

The human body is unable to make vitamin C on its own, and because it is water-soluble, the body can’t store it. That means you need a continuous supply of vitamin C in your diet. The best sources are raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables.

Fruits high in vitamin C include acerola cherries; black currants; cantaloupe; citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits; guavas; kiwis; mangos; papayas; pineapples; strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries; tomatoes; and watermelon. Vegetables high in vitamin C include ­bell peppers, yellow, red or green; broccoli; Brussels sprouts; cabbage; cauliflower; leafy greens, including kale, mustard greens, turnip greens, chard, spinach and watercress; potatoes, sweet and white; and winter squash.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women, smokers, burn victims and people recovering from surgery may need extra vitamin C in their diets.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps to strengthen the immune system against viruses and bacteria. It aids the formation of red blood cells and helps the body use vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps blood clot properly. Its antioxidant properties also help protect the skin from the sun’s damaging rays.

The body cannot produce vitamin E, so it’s important to get it through dietary sources. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, including almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts; seeds, notably sunflower seeds; whole grains; avocados; green leafy vegetables, including spinach and broccoli; vegetable oils, such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soy bean and wheat germ oils; and fortified breakfast cereals, juices, margarines and spreads.

Lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid that’s red in color and most notably found in tomatoes. Unlike beta-carotene, a carotenoid that the body converts into vitamin A, lycopene does not have a vitamin A function. But it is considered a more powerful antioxidant than both beta-carotene and vitamin E.

In fact, a 1989 study showed that lycopene was the most efficient biological scavenger of free radicals. And a 2005 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that regular lycopene consumption, particularly from tomato products, helped improve cellular antioxidant protection.

Numerous studies have linked high lycopene intake with reduced incidence of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.

The best sources of lycopene include tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guavas and papayas.

Selenium

Selenium is a mineral found in the soil that naturally occurs in water and some foods. Selenium is incorporated into proteins to make selenoproteins, important antioxidant enzymes that help prevent cellular damage from free radicals, help regulate thyroid function and play a role in immune function. People only need to consume a small amount of this mineral.

Selenium content varies, depending on the content in the soil where the source plants are grown or animals raised. For instance, in the United States, selenium levels are highest in the soils in the high plains of Nebraska and the Dakotas and lowest in the Eastern Coastal Plain and Pacific Northwest.

Good selenium sources include nuts, notably Brazil nuts (which according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture has extremely high selenium levels, so don’t eat too many) and walnuts; fish, such as tuna, cod, halibut, salmon, red snapper and herring; beef; poultry; and grains, such as barley.

Ask your health care provider how antioxidants can help you.

Posted on February 5, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough?

By now, it is commonly understood that too much sun exposure poses such health risks as premature aging, skin cancer and other skin damage. But more sun protection can mean less production of vitamin D, a vital nutrient the skin makes when it absorbs ultraviolet-B rays from sunlight.

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for regulating blood levels of calcium and phosphorous, two minerals necessary for bone production. It helps the body absorb calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones and teeth, and is used, often in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures.

It is so essential to the human body that virtually every tissue — including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system — has vitamin D receptors.

Disease Prevention

Studies have shown that vitamin D could play a role in preventing a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and even obesity.

It may also help prevent many types of cancer. A 2012 study in Oxford’s cancer research journal Carcinogenesis found that, among breast cancer patients, women with higher vitamin D levels had smaller tumors and higher survival rates. Another recent study linked higher vitamin D levels to lower likelihoods of lethal prostate cancer.

Skin Protection

Because it plays a role in skin cell metabolism and growth, vitamin D can help prevent premature aging and other skin damage, and treat such skin conditions as psoriasis, eczema, acne, scleroderma and rosacea, which typically worsen in winter months, when most people receive little or no sun exposure.

For example, a 2010 study of psoriasis sufferers in Dublin, Ireland, not only found vitamin D deficiencies in 75 percent of patients during wintertime, but also showed that UVB treatments, which stimulate vitamin D production in the skin, both doubled patients’ vitamin D levels and cleared their psoriasis.

Prescription skin creams containing active vitamin D are often used to treat itching and flaking, common psoriasis symptoms, with few side effects. But such creams can irritate or worsen eczema symptoms.

Those patients may want to consider oral vitamin D supplements, which several studies have shown to effectively treat eczema in both adults and children.

In fact, in 2008, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that vitamin D supplements boost production of protective compounds in the skin and help prevent skin infections that result from atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema characterized by severe itchiness, redness and scaling. Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand are currently conducting trials to determine whether such supplements are an effective treatment for psoriasis.

Deficiency Epidemic

Just as vitamin D can help prevent many health problems, the inverse also applies: A vitamin D deficiency can increase the risks for all of the above conditions and others, including osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, and rickets, which causes skeletal deformities in children.

And most of us don’t get enough.

A 2010 study in the Nutrition Research Journal found that 42 percent of American adults were vitamin D deficient, with the highest rates among African Americans at 82 percent and Hispanics at 69 percent. Vitamin D deficiency was “significantly more common” among obese individuals, those without a college education, those with poor health and those who did not consume milk daily.

But that doesn’t mean you should bake in the sun.

Too much sun exposure can increase one’s risk of two types of non-melanoma skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can also cause premature aging and other skin problems.

Sources of Vitamin D

Although sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most people, there are other ways of obtaining this essential nutrient.

Sunscreen, even with as little protection as SPF 8, can reduce the skin’s ability to make vitamin D by 95 percent, according to a report in The Journal of Nutrition. Therefore, most experts agree that 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure three times a week should be enough to satisfy vitamin D requirements without increasing other risk factors. However, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher should be applied after that time.

But, depending upon where you live, the time of year and your skin color, that’s not always possible. Sunlight during the winter months is so weak throughout most of the country that the skin cannot get enough UVB rays to make vitamin D. Even during the summer months, a darker-skinned person takes twice as long to make vitamin D as a lighter-skinned person.

That’s why it’s important to obtain as much as possible from food. Although vitamin D is naturally present in only a few foods, it is added to many others. Good sources include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Cod liver oil
  • Eggs
  • Fortified milk, soy milk, yogurt, butter, margarine, cheese, orange juice, cereal

If you’re still not getting enough, supplements may be necessary. Dr. Ulrich recommends 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily from a purified, pharmaceutical-grade source. These can be found in capsule or liquid form at most health food stores, and may be taken alongside other essential vitamins and minerals.

Ask your health care provider how vitamin D can help you.

[hr]Photo by leasqueaky/Creative Commons

Posted on February 4, 2013 and filed under Nutrition.

Heal Your Wounds with Manuka Honey

The next time you dip your spoon into the sugar bowl, consider using honey instead.

At 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is a source of simple carbohydrates and such essential vitamins and minerals as iron, protein, riboflavin, manganese and copper. But honey is more than a nutritional tool that never spoils. It’s a natural healer, too.

An ancient remedy for healing wounds, rashes and burns because of its natural antibacterial properties, honey was widely used to treat wounds until World War II. Although the mass production of penicillin and other antibiotics in the 1940s hindered its use for the next few decades, growing concerns about antibiotic resistance and the desire for natural remedies prompted a renewed interest in honey’s antimicrobial properties.

Thanks to the high sugar and low moisture content, gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide naturally found in the sticky sweetener, honey is not only effective in killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but it also reduces inflammation and edema (swelling caused by fluid retention in the body’s tissues) and stimulates the production of cells that can repair tissue damage. For these reasons, honey has been used to treat everything from sore throats and sinus infections to gastrointestinal problems to ophthalmic and dermatologic conditions. It also helps prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease.

But not all honey is created equal.

Manuka honey, derived from the nectar of New Zealand’s manuka flower, contains higher concentrations of methylglyoxal, the compound that gives honey its antibacterial power. Research studies at the Waikato Honey Research Unit at Waikato University in New Zealand and at Sydney University in Australia show that this type of honey can be as or more effective in healing wounds and curing infections than antibiotics — and without side effects. Honey producers even developed a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) scale to rate its potency. To be considered therapeutic, manuka honey should have a minimum rating of 10 UMF or higher, often labeled as “UMF” or “active” manuka honey.

Manuka honey has proven so beneficial that Britain’s National Health Service began licensing its use in wound dressings and sterilized medical-grade creams in 2004. And in 2010, the National Cancer Institute’s scientific steering committee approved a proposal to use manuka honey to reduce inflammation of the esophagus caused by chemotherapy.

Ask your health care provider how manuka honey can benefit you.

Posted on February 4, 2013 and filed under Nutrition, Uncategorized.

Vitamin D: Are You Getting Enough?

Photo by leasqueaky

By now, it is commonly understood that too much sun exposure poses such health risks as premature aging, skin cancer and other skin damage. But more sun protection can mean less production of vitamin D, a vital nutrient the skin makes when it absorbs ultraviolet-B rays from sunlight.

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is a fat-soluble vitamin responsible for regulating blood levels of calcium and phosphorous, two minerals necessary for bone production. It helps the body absorb calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones and teeth, and is used, often in combination with calcium, to increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures.

It is so essential to the human body that virtually every tissue — including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system — has vitamin D receptors.

Disease Prevention

Studies have shown that vitamin D could play a role in preventing a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and even obesity.

It may also help prevent many types of cancer. A 2012 study in Oxford’s cancer research journal Carcinogenesis found that, among breast cancer patients, women with higher vitamin D levels had smaller tumors and higher survival rates. Another recent study linked higher vitamin D levels to lower likelihoods of lethal prostate cancer.

Skin Protection

Because it plays a role in skin cell metabolism and growth, vitamin D can help prevent premature aging and other skin damage, and treat such skin conditions as psoriasis, eczema, acne, scleroderma and rosacea, which typically worsen in winter months, when most people receive little or no sun exposure.

For example, a 2010 study of psoriasis sufferers in Dublin, Ireland, not only found vitamin D deficiencies in 75 percent of patients during wintertime, but also showed that UVB treatments, which stimulate vitamin D production in the skin, both doubled patients’ vitamin D levels and cleared their psoriasis.

Prescription skin creams containing active vitamin D are often used to treat itching and flaking, common psoriasis symptoms, with few side effects. But such creams can irritate or worsen eczema symptoms.

Those patients may want to consider oral vitamin D supplements, which several studies have shown to effectively treat eczema in both adults and children.

In fact, in 2008, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found that vitamin D supplements boost production of protective compounds in the skin and help prevent skin infections that result from atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema characterized by severe itchiness, redness and scaling. Researchers at Massey University in New Zealand are currently conducting trials to determine whether such supplements are an effective treatment for psoriasis.

Deficiency Epidemic

Just as vitamin D can help prevent many health problems, the inverse also applies: A vitamin D deficiency can increase the risks for all of the above conditions and others, including osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, and rickets, which causes skeletal deformities in children.

And most of us don’t get enough.

A 2010 study in the Nutrition Research Journal found that 42 percent of American adults were vitamin D deficient, with the highest rates among African Americans at 82 percent and Hispanics at 69 percent. Vitamin D deficiency was “significantly more common” among obese individuals, those without a college education, those with poor health and those who did not consume milk daily.

But that doesn’t mean you should bake in the sun.

Too much sun exposure can increase one’s risk of two types of non-melanoma skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It can also cause premature aging and other skin problems.

Sources of Vitamin D

Although sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most people, there are other ways of obtaining this essential nutrient.

Sunscreen, even with as little protection as SPF 8, can reduce the skin’s ability to make vitamin D by 95 percent, according to a report in The Journal of Nutrition. Therefore, most experts agree that 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure three times a week should be enough to satisfy vitamin D requirements without increasing other risk factors. However, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher should be applied after that time.

But, depending upon where you live, the time of year and your skin color, that’s not always possible. Sunlight during the winter months is so weak throughout most of the country that the skin cannot get enough UVB rays to make vitamin D. Even during the summer months, a darker-skinned person takes twice as long to make vitamin D as a lighter-skinned person.

That’s why it’s important to obtain as much as possible from food. Although vitamin D is naturally present in only a few foods, it is added to many others. Good sources include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Cod liver oil
  • Eggs
  • Fortified milk, soy milk, yogurt, butter, margarine, cheese, orange juice, cereal

If you’re still not getting enough, supplements may be necessary. But be careful: They are not regulated by the FDA, and expert recommendations range from as little as 400 IU to as much as 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Too much supplementation can make the intestines absorb too much calcium, potentially causing calcium deposits to build up in soft tissues, kidney stones, kidney damage and a variety of other problems.

Ask your health care provider how vitamin D can help you.

 

Posted on February 4, 2013 and filed under Nutrition, Uncategorized.

Heal Your Wounds with Honey

The next time you dip your spoon into the sugar bowl, consider using honey instead. At 64 calories per tablespoon, honey is a source of simple carbohydrates and such essential vitamins and minerals as iron, protein, riboflavin, manganese and copper. But honey is more than a nutritional tool that never spoils. It’s a natural healer, too.

An ancient remedy for healing wounds, rashes and burns because of its natural antibacterial properties, honey was widely used to treat wounds until World War II. Although the mass production of penicillin and other antibiotics in the 1940s hindered its use for the next few decades, growing concerns about antibiotic resistance and the desire for natural remedies prompted a renewed interest in honey’s antimicrobial properties.

Thanks to the high sugar and low moisture content, gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide naturally found in the sticky sweetener, honey is not only effective in killing antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but it also reduces inflammation and edema (swelling caused by fluid retention in the body’s tissues) and stimulates the production of cells that can repair tissue damage. For these reasons, honey has been used to treat everything from sore throats and sinus infections to gastrointestinal problems to ophthalmic and dermatologic conditions. It also helps prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease.

But not all honey is created equal.

Manuka honey, derived from the nectar of New Zealand’s manuka flower, contains higher concentrations of methylglyoxal, the compound that gives honey its antibacterial power. Research studies at the Waikato Honey Research Unit at Waikato University in New Zealand and at Sydney University in Australia show that this type of honey can be as or more effective in healing wounds and curing infections than antibiotics — and without side effects. Honey producers even developed a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) scale to rate its potency. To be considered therapeutic, manuka honey should have a minimum rating of 10 UMF or higher, often labeled as “UMF” or “active” manuka honey.

Manuka honey has proven so beneficial that Britain’s National Health Service began licensing its use in wound dressings and sterilized medical-grade creams in 2004. And in 2010, the National Cancer Institute’s scientific steering committee approved a proposal to use manuka honey to reduce inflammation of the esophagus caused by chemotherapy.

Ask your health care provider how manuka honey can improve your health.

Posted on May 30, 2012 and filed under Nutrition.