Calcium and Vitamin D

 

You’ve probably heard it time and time again, “Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth!” —and it’s true! But what is calcium and why is it so important?

In addition to macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats and protein, the body needs several minerals. Calcium is an essential mineral that supports bone development and maintenance, blood clotting, and muscle contractions. It’s important to know that while you may be consuming foods high in calcium, this mineral requires a source of vitamin D to help the body absorb it. There is a limit to the amount of calcium we can store in our bones but building proper stores of this mineral can prevent osteoporosis later. We can only store calcium up to a certain age, therefore consuming enough calcium and vitamin D earlier on in life is crucial. Although you store calcium in your bones, peak bone density is reached between ages 18-30 and remains stable until 40-50 years old in women and 60 years old in men. As an essential mineral, it is highly regulated. This means that if you don’t consume enough of this nutrient and your body is in need of calcium, calcium can leach from your bone stores so that the body can use it (remember, calcium is involved with muscle contractions and your heart is one of the major muscles that need calcium to contract and function properly!) However, when calcium leaches from the bones, it weakens them and can lead to osteoporosis.  The goal is to consume adequate calcium and vitamin D to build bone mass so that even if you can no longer build bone mass, you can decrease further bone loss and maintain the stores you’ve built. 

As you can see, calcium is not only vital for bone health but it also helps our heart, and muscles function properly.  Inadequate calcium intake cannot only lead to osteoporosis but also an increased risk of bone fractures later in life.  It is recommended that women and men between the ages of 19-70 get between 1000-1200 mg per day of calcium.  While that may seem like a lot, it is easier than it looks! Weight bearing exercise can also help build bone mass.

While 3-4 servings of milk or yogurt a day will help you reach that goal, for those of us who are either lactose intolerant or follow a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle; that might not be an option, so here are a few great dairy-free alternatives.

  • ½ cup of tofu has 261mg of calcium
  • 6oz of fortified with calcium orange juice has 200-260mg
  • 1 cup of soymilk or rice milk have between 100-500 mg of calcium
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sesame Seeds contain 88mg of Calcium
  • ½ cup of almonds contain 175mg of calcium
  • 1 cup of raw leafy greens such as turnip, collards and kale provide 103mg calcium
  • 1 cup of cooked spinach contains 123mg of calcium
  • Dried herbs also provide an extra calcium boost in your diet, so make sure to add them to your favorite sauces and soups!

In addition to this, a lot of products such as oatmeal, cereals, and juices are now fortified with calcium to help insure you get the appropriate amount as well!

 

  1. “Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age.” Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age. National Institute of Health, Jan. 2012. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.
  2. “Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium.” Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium. N.p., Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

 

Love Your Heart with 8 Heart-Healthy Foods

February isn’t just the month of flowers, chocolates or spending time with the ones you love..but as heart health month, it’s also about loving your heart! Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death for both men and women1. Lifestyle choices play a major role in preventing heart disease as well as controlling it. With this in mind, it’s never too early to start focusing on overall heart health. Show your heart how much you appreciate it by incorporating these heart healthy foods!

Berries – Please your heart with antioxidant rich berries like strawberries, goji berries and blackberries, which are an antioxidant powerhouse! Blueberries for example, house high amounts of phytonutrients like anthocyanidins, which aid in the process of neutralizing free radical damage in our cells. Consuming 1-2 portions of berries daily may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk2.

Brussel Sprouts – Tender, crunchy and just a little bit nutty, brussel sprouts have more to offer than just flavor. This cruciferous veggie contains vitamin C and vitamin A which help fight against heart disease, and vitamin Its high fiber content aids in digestion, helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk for developing heart disease, stroke and hypertension3.

Chia Seeds – Chia seeds contain a high level of soluble fiber, which helps slow down digestion and regulates blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce risk for cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Just three tablespoons of these seeds can provide 37-44% of the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of fiber per day. Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition. To learn more about chia seeds, click here.

Collard Greens – This cruciferous veggie is high in vitamins A,C, K and folate. It contains antioxidants and provides us with anti-inflammatory benefits.

Greek Yogurt – Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, Greek yogurt makes for a heart-healthy snack. It’s high in protein and calcium, which can help you stay fuller longer, while strengthening your bones.

Olives – Monounsaturated fats in moderation are heart-healthy fats that help lower blood cholesterol levels4. A rich source of monounsaturated fats is olives, which have been shown to lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) and increase or maintain HDL (“good cholesterol”).

Salmon – High in omega-3 fatty acid, DHA and protein, salmon helps lower blood pressure and reduces inflammation5.

Wheat germ – Packed with B vitamins, the nutrients found in the grain play a vital role in maintaining heart-healthy bodily functions. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, B vitamins like folate are especially for women of childbearing age as well as any woman eating too little veggies or fruits. As an excellent source of fiber, wheat germ helps control cholesterol.

Michelle Obama says Let's Move!

Laura’s Take on the Let’s Move! Campaign. Listen to Laura talk with Rita Cosby on wor710.com on 2/1/2012 or via podcast.

As a leader Michelle Obama is in a unique and powerful position to empower Americans to live healthier lives. She can influence food companies to provide less processed, higher quality foods to schools and to our supermarket shelves. She can raise the energy and spirit of health by advocating for health awareness and encouraging physical activity. Her celebrity status can help bring the USDA’s “MyPlate” to more families’ tables.  She can help spread the message to fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy. Thankfully, Michelle Obama also stresses moderation and admits to eating her burgers and fries.

Let’s Move! is taking information that is already out there and bringing a greater awareness on how to access such health education. Many of the materials and guidelines are those developed by the USDA.

Michelle Obama has companies like Goya and California Fresh Work Funds trying to help initiative change.

Is this the right campaign?

At the end of the day, bringing awareness to health promotion and disease prevention needs to be the ultimate goal of someone like Michelle Obama. However, rather than fight obesity, the campaign may want to rephrase their negative spin and create a new positive tone to Let’s Move!

How about let’s move more, let’s move towards eating real wholesome foods and let’s move towards eating less processed food. Let’s move to building self esteem!!!

Can one person create change?

Yes, Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution and The Biggest Loser are just two examples of how change happens. Even, the presidential chef is making change. In the Washington Post today, the presidential chef Cristeta Comerford reports losing 15 pounds and eating healthier with her own home garden. She was influenced by her boss, Michelle Obama!! That’s right, the White House has their own garden and serves seasonal garden veggies to their guests. Comerford now has her own garden too.

 

What can you do to make a difference? Can you change your language about health or perhaps just add a half cup of veggies to your dinner plate?

 

 

Are Super Foods So Super?

 

Are super foods so super?

By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

www.eatingandlivingmoderately.com

Tropical berries such as gogi berries, acai berries, and more have been bombarding the food industry and the media. These products claim almost magical health benefits including a more youthful feeling, lowered cholesterol, and weight loss. But are these products really all their manufacturers claim?

For centuries, the Asian population has included Gogi Berries as part of their diets in hopes of longer lives and to reduce aliments. This is due in large part to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants may slow the aging process by minimizing damage from free radicals that injure cells and damage. By doing so, antioxidants help reduce the risk of disease and possibly aging. A research article from The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, found that subjects who drank gogi juice daily for a 15 day period reported significantly higher energy levels, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health, contentment, and happiness compared to the control group.

More popular than the gogi berry are the acai berries. These berries are also packed with antioxidants and are also good sources of fiber and monounsaturated fats (the good fats!). A pilot study published in a 2011 edition of The Nutrition Journal, found that in patients suffering for metabolic syndrome, supplementation of acai berry led to improved cholesterol as well as better fasting glucose and insulin levels. Other students have found that use of acai berries can reduce inflammation.

So, are you all set to run out and buy a bottle of juice or a box of supplements?

Not so fast.

While it is true that added these foods into your diet may have some health benefits, there is little research to indicate that these benefits are above and beyond those one would find from “non-exotic” products.

All berries are wonderful sources of antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. There is little evidence to show that gogi and other berries are better sources—only that they are significantly more expensive. There is no reason to spend $40 when you could simply add local blueberries or raspberries to your diet. Also, eating whole foods rather than swallowing supplements is the recommended way to get your macro and micronutrients.

So, these “super berries”  are just as super as your raspberries and blueberries. To have a lifestyle of health and longevity, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables daily. They don’t have to be from an exotic location, rather it is preferred if they were from your backyard or a local farm!!

 

 

Photo provided by Ambro: <p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499″>Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18447631

http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2010.0150

http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/45

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-23/health/acai.berries.scam_1_advanced-wellness-research-acai-weight-loss-claims?_s=PM:HEALTH

 

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

Is Vitamin Water the New Soda?

By Katherine Kaczor, Nutrition Assistant

We all know that sodas and other sugar beverages are not ideal for our health and should be consumed in moderation. As an alternative to these drinks, many Americans are now turning to vitamin-fortified waters as their beverage of choice.

These beverages, at first glance, appear to be wonder drinks. Water is key for survival and we need vitamins to help our bodies run efficiently; coming the two seems to be an ingenious way to get both needs at once.

But are these beverages really as good as they appear?

Most vitamin-fortified beverages such as Vitamin Water, Propel, and LifeWater as well as the new vitamin gums and lip balm are largely fortified with water-soluble vitamins. These include the B-complex vitamins and Vitamin C. While these vitamins are vital for several metabolic processes needed for growth, development, and immunity, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins. Water soluble vitamins taken in excess are typically excreted through the urine. The human body is not capable of storing any excess amounts of these vitamins so supplementing the diet with one of these fortified beverages is not beneficial for most healthy individuals.

Fat soluble vitamins, Vitamins A, D, E, and K, on the other hand, can be stored for longer periods of time in the body. However, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins either. Recent research has shown that only Vitamin E has been of concern in the average American. Very few vitamin-fortified waters supplement with Vitamin E, however. Additionally, fat soluble vitamins, as their name suggests, need a fat source to be absorbed and utilized in the body. This means that merely drinking them in a fat-free beverage such as a vitamin-fortified water, will be of little use in the body because the fat needed to use the vitamins is missing. One could potentially drink their vitamin-fortified beverage with a meal and the fat soluble vitamins could then be absorbed, but it would be likely that the meal would have a better supply of the nutrients than the vitamin beverage.

Additionally, the vitamin content of vitamin-fortified beverages, gums, and lip balm is typically not high enough to be a replacement for a standard vitamin supplement such as Centrum or One a Day. For the majority of these products, the vitamin content is around 10% of the RDA. If you have been placed on a vitamin-regimen by your physician, switching to vitamin-fortified water will not be an adequate replacement.

You also need to look at the other ingredients and nutritional content of these products. Many supply over 150 calories per bottle and are packed with sugar. You could easily just have a well-balanced snack for similar calories and have a better absorbance of nutrients and feel more satisfied. Lower-calorie or calorie-free products are now available as well they are filled with artificial ingredients and the vitamins in the product are not used well without an energy source.

That being said, most people would not benefit from using these products. Most Americans do not experience significant vitamin deficiencies if they are consuming a well-rounded diet. If some deficiencies exist many of the vitamins from these fortified products are not well-absorbed nor are they a good substitute for a traditional vitamin supplement. If you really enjoy the taste of vitamin-fortified beverages, there is little harm in having them on occasion (except for their outrageous price!) and they are a better alternative to sodas and will help hydrate you, but don’t expect to reap any health benefits from starting a vitamin-water regimen.

So, get your vitamins from food. Consume a balanced intake of whole grains, lean meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables and drink your water plain. If you dislike the taste of water, try adding a lemon or lime to bring out a new flavor.

References:

http://scienceline.org/2007/12/ask-intagliata-vitaminwater/

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=126087&page=1