Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin so we must consume it on a regular basis because excess is excreted in the urine. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Like vitamin E, it donates electrons to free radicals to prevent damage of cells and tissues.

The RDA for vitamin C is 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women. The RDA for smokers is 35 mg more per day than nonsmokers. Other situations that may increase the need for vitamin C include healing from a traumatic injury, surgery, or burns and the use of oral contraceptives among women.

Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of vitamin C. Because heat and oxygen destroy vitamin C, fresh sources have the highest content. Cooking foods also leaches their vitamin C which is then lost when straining them. Citrus fruits, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, green and red peppers and cauliflower are excellent sources of vitamin C. Fortified beverages and cereals are also good sources. Dairy foods, meats, and nonfortified cereals and grains provide little or no vitamin C. By eating the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits a day, the body will meet the required amount of vitamin C.

Because vitamin C is water soluble, we usually excrete any excess. Consuming excess food sources doesn’t lead to a toxicity, only supplements can. Taking megadoses of vitamin C is not fatally harmful but side effects exceeding 2,000 mg a day can include nausea, diarrhea, nosebleeds, and abdominal cramps.

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

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Vitamin K

Vitamin K is a fat soluble vitamin important for both bone and blood health.

Our needs for vitamin K are very small but the intakes in the US are highly variable because vitamin K is found in little foods. The AI for vitamin K for adults ages 19 years or older is 120 micrograms a day and 90 micrograms a day for men and women. Green leafy vegetables are major sources in our diets. Good sources are collard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage. Soybean and canola oil are also good sources.

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

Can We Live Longer Eating A Low Calorie Diet?

Current research shows that consuming low-energy diets, caloric restriction, can significantly extend the life span of small species until recently most research has shown this with rats, mice, fish and flies. Only in the past few years studies have been done on humans with calorie restriction.

It’s speculated that the reduction in metabolic rate that occurs with restricting energy intake results in much lower production of free radicals which significantly reduces oxidative damage and can prolong life. Caloric restriction also causes marked improvements in insulin sensitivity and results in hormonal changes contributing to lower incidence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Calorie restriction can also alter gene expression which can reduce the effects of aging and prevent diseases like cancer.

Some metabolic effects of calorie restriction in several human studies are:

  1. Decreased fat mass and lean body mass
  2. Decreased insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity
  3. Decreased core body temperature and blood pressure
  4. Decreased LDL and total cholesterol and increased HDL cholesterol
  5. Decreased energy expenditure beyond that expected for weight loss
  6. Decreased oxidative stress, reduced levels of DNA damage
  7. Lower levels of chronic inflammation
  8. Protective changes in various hormone levels

Keep in mind that species that live longer with caloric restriction are fed highly nutritious foods. Unhealthful restriction like starvation, wasting and eating disorders don’t result in prolonged life.

The debate over whether calorie restriction in humans is effective or not will continue with more research. While these debates are going on, some people are challenging themselves to these low energy diets in hope they will live much longer and healthier lives!

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

How much weight should a pregnant woman gain?

The average recommended weight gain for women of normal pregnancy weight is 25 to 35 pounds; underweight women should gain a little more than this and overweight and obese women should gain somewhat less. Women who are pregnant with twins are advised to gain 37 to 54 pounds.

Women who gain too little weight during pregnancy increase their risk of having a preterm or low-birth-weight baby and depleting their own nutrient reserves. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the risk of trauma during delivery. Also children born to overweight or obese mothers have higher rates of childhood obesity and metabolic syndrome.

The pattern of weight gain is what is also important. During the first trimester, a woman of normal weight should gain no more than 3 to 5 pounds. During the second and third trimester, an average of about 1 pound a week is considered healthful for normal weight women. For overweight women, a gain of 0.6 pounds per week is appropriate. If weight gain is excessive in a single week, month or trimester, the woman shouldn’t attempt to diet or lose weight because it can be harmful to the health of the mother and fetus by depriving them of important nutrients. The newborns of women who lose weight during the first trimester due to severe nausea or vomiting are likely to be lower birth weight than women with appropriate weight gain. Weight gain through pregnancy should be slow and steady.

 

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I felt this was a necessary topic to talk about today since I’m sitting here in pain right now with a terrible stomach ache. I have been dealing with Irritable bowel syndrome since i was 16 years old and I am now 21. I forget what it’s like to have a normal stomach and not go every single day worrying about what will trigger an attack. It has been getting worse and I am in pain everyday, especially every morning and night. Some days are worse than others, but the pain never goes away. I have tried 3 different medications and cutting out certain foods to try to make my symptoms calm down, but nothing seems to work. It interrupts my social life and school work and makes me so worn out to the point where I always want to sleep. I am tired of living in pain and want to find a treatment for everyone suffering out there with IBS. I would also like to be tested to make sure I don’t have something else wrong with me. For those of you out there with IBS I feel your pain, and for those of you who don’t know what IBS is or want to know more about it, read on…

Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that interferes with normal functions of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloating, and either constipation or diarrhea. It is one of the most common medical diagnoses, where 20% of the US population is diagnosed with it. Three times more women than men are diagnosed with IBS. It usually appears during early adulthood.

IBS shows no sign of disease that can be observed or measured. It appears that the colon is more sensitive to physiologic or emotional stress in people with IBS than in healthy people. Some researchers believe that the problem comes from conflicting messages between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system. The immune system may also trigger symptoms of IBS. Simply, with IBS normal movement of the colon appears to be disrupted. In some people with IBS, food moves too quickly through the colon and fluid can’t be absorbed fast enough causing diarrhea. However in other people with IBS, the movement of the colon is too slow and too much fluid is absorbed causing constipation.

Some foods that may be linked to physiologic stress and IBS are caffeinated drinks– like tea coffee and soda, foods such as chocolate, alcohol, dairy products, and wheat, and also consuming large meals.

Also, some women with IBS find that their symptoms worsen during menstrual periods which indicates a possible link between reproductive hormones and IBS. Medications may also increase the risk.

Stress—feeling mentally or emotionally tense, troubled, angry, or overwhelmed—can stimulate colon spasms in people with IBS. The colon has many nerves that connect it to the brain. Like the heart and the lungs, the colon is partly controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which responds to stress. In people with IBS, the colon can be overly responsive to even slight conflict or stress. Stress makes the mind more aware of the sensations that arise in the colon, making the person perceive these sensations as unpleasant.

IBS is sometimes thought to be overdiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Some physicians agree that IBS doesn’t qualify as a disease, pointing out the stresses of everyday life have always led to digestive problems. Other researchers argue that US physicians often apply the diagnoses of IBS before screening for more serious disorders.

If you think you have IBS, it’s important to have a complete physical examination to rule out any other health problems including celiac disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS but treatment options for symptoms include certain medications to treat diarrhea or constipation, stress management, regular physical activity, eating smaller meals, avoiding foods that make symptoms worse and eating a high fiber diet along with six to eight glasses of water a day are important. Severe IBS can be disabling and prevent people from leading normal lives which is why diagnosis and treatment are critical.

Iron deficiency

Iron is a mineral needed by our bodies. Iron is a part of all cells and does many things in our bodies. Iron also helps our muscles store and use oxygen. Iron deficiency can delay normal infant motor function. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy can increase risk for small or early babies and Iron deficiency can cause fatigue that impairs the ability to do physical work in adults.

Iron deficiency is the most common and widespread disorder around the world. It affects a large number of children and women in developing countries and is the only nutrient deficiency that’s prevalent in industrialized countries. Iron deficiency anemia is when there is a decrease in red blood cells by not having enough iron. Two billion people, or 30% of the population are anemic where many are due to an iron deficiency. Also in poor resourced areas, malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infections are all factors to the high number of anemia in some areas. Iron deficiency and anemia reduce work capacity of individuals and populations. About 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men do not have enough iron in their body. Iron is a key part of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in the blood. Your body normally gets iron through diet and by recycling iron from old red blood cells. Without iron, the blood cannot carry oxygen effectively. Oxygen is needed for every cell in the body to function normally. Anemia develops slowly after the normal iron stores in the body and bone marrow have run out. In general, women have smaller stores of iron than men because they lose more through menstruation. They are at higher risk for anemia than men.

It is important to increase your iron intake by eating iron rich foods, have iron fortified foods and supplementation if needed.  Immunization and controlling infection is important. In developing countries, every second woman that is pregnant and about 40% of preschool children are estimated to be anemic. Symptoms include: brittle nails, decreased appetite in children, fatigue, headache, irritability, pale skin, shortness of breath, unusual cravings (Pica), and weakness.

Milk and antacids may interfere with the absorption of iron and should not be taken at the same time as iron supplements. Vitamin C can increase absorption and is essential in the production of hemoglobin. Pregnant and breastfeeding women will need to take extra iron because their normal diet usually will not provide the required amount.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Eggs (yolk)
  • Fish
  • Legumes (peas and beans)
  • Meats (liver is the highest source)
  • Poultry
  • Raisins
  • Whole-grain bread

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

Yoga

Yoga is easy to learn, requires little or no equipment, and helps you become relaxed while you are toning your body. Training your mind, body and breath and connecting with your spirituality are main goals of yoga. There are specific yoga poses while controlling your breathing. The benefits of yoga are that it can improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina. In addition, many people who practice yoga say that it reduces anxiety and stress, improves mental clarity, and even helps them sleep better. Many gyms and community centers offer yoga classes. There are also yoga DVDs, websites, and books that contain yoga poses and instructions. Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, and currently, close to 11 million Americans are enjoying its health benefits. Some yoga classes are designed purely for relaxation. But there are styles of yoga that teach you how to move your body in new ways. The yoga poses work by stretching your muscles safely releasing lactic acid build up which usually causes stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue. Yoga stretches not only your muscles but all of the soft tissues of your body. No matter what your level of yoga is, you most likely will see benefits in a very short period of time.

Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are more vigorous than others. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone. Many of the poses, such as Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Plank pose, build upper-body strength. Poses that strengthen the lower back include Upward Dog and Chair pose. When practiced correctly, nearly all poses build core strength in the deep abdominal muscles. With increased flexibility and strength comes better posture. Most standing and sitting poses develop core strength. Because of the deep, mindful breathing that yoga involves, lung capacity often improves. Even beginners tend to feel less stressed and more relaxed after their first class. Concentration and the ability to focus mentally are common benefits you’ll hear yoga participants talk about. The same is true with mood. Nearly every yoga student will tell you they feel happier and more contented after class.Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with hypertension, heart disease, and stroke.

With all the benefits of practicing yoga, why not give it a try? When feeling stressed try these poses and deep breathing techniques to calm and relax your mind.

Tai Chi

Consider doing tai chi if you are looking to reduce stress. It is sometimes referred to meditation in motion because it offers gentle movements and connects the mind and body. Tai chi was originally developed in China for self-defense and then evolved into a gracious form of exercise that is now used as a way to reduce stress.

It is a self paced system of gentle exercise and stretching. Each posture flows into the other without stopping to allow the body to constantly be moving. There are many different styles that are taught. Some may focus on health and maintenance while others may focus on the martial arts aspects. There are more than 100 possible movements and positions with Tai Chi that all include rhythmic patterns of movement that’s coordinated with breathing to help you find inner calmness. Tai chi is inexpensive and requires no special equipment and can be done either alone or in a group.

Evidence has shown that there other benefits of doing tai chi other than reducing stress. For example, it reduces anxiety and depression, improves balance and flexibility, reduces falls in older adults, improves sleep quality, lowers blood pressure, and increases your energy and overall well being. So give it a try if you’re feeling stressed out! This simple workout can be a cure to your stress!

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that are naturally occurring to protect plants from injurious agents such as insects, microbes, oxygen and UV light. Any one food can contain hundreds of phytochemicals. They are not considered nutrients so they aren’t necessary for life. However, many experiments have shown that phytochemicals have antioxidant properties.

Functions of phytochemicals:

  • Reduce inflammation which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease
  • Enhance the activity of certain enzymes throughout the body that function to detoxify carcinogens
  • Protect against cancer by slowing tumor cell growth and instructing cancer cells to die
  • Protect against infections indirectly by enhancing our immune function and directly by acting as antibacterial and antiviral agents
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood lipids, blood pressure and blood clotting

Different phytochemical health claims:

Carotenoids: Diets rich in these phytochemicals may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and age-related eye diseases

Food sources: Red, orange, and deep-green vegetables and fruits such as carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, apricots, kale, spinach, pumpkin and tomatoes

Flavonoids: Diets rich in these are associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, possibly because of reduced inflammation, blood clotting and blood pressure and increased detoxification of carcinogens or reduction in replication of cancerous cells.

Food sources: berries, black and green tea, chocolate, purple grapes and juice, citrus fruits, olives, soybeans and soy products, flaxeed, whole wheat

Phenolic Acids: Have similar benefits of flavonoids

Food Sources: coffee beans, fruits (apples, pears, berries, grapes, oranges, prunes, strawberries), potatoes, mustard, oats, soy

Phytoestrogens: May provide benefits to bones and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers of reproductive tissues

Food Sources: Soybeans and soy products, flaxeed, whole grains

Organosulfur Compounds: May protect against a wide variety of cancers

Food Sources: Garlic, leeks, onions, chives, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

Fan Of Chocolate?

Certain fruits, vegetables, tea and red wine have been associated with lowering your risks for cardiovascular disease. These foods are high in antioxidant phytochemicals called flavonoids. Cocoa has been found to have higher amounts of flavonoids per serving than tea and red wine as well as some fruits and vegetables. The darker the chocolate is, the more flavonoids it contains per serving.

Many studies have shown that consuming daily doses of dark cocoa have positive effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors. Studies have even shown consuming as little as 30 calories a day of dark chocolate is beneficial. However, chocolate can be fattening and also has added sugar to it. So consuming small doses of extra dark chocolate will not hurt you and has been shown to be beneficial! Keep in mind that maintaining a healthful diet is important when realizing if consuming delicious dark chocolate is the right decision to be making for that day.