Sunday, October 31, 2010

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most trained, experienced and qualified to help people make healthy food choices. To become a registered dietitian, you have to undergo rigorous training in the biological, chemical and physical sciences, math, business management, education, psychology, food, and culture. That's the short list. You will also have to take a series of courses in food composition, food preparation, human nutrition and related subjects.

If you plan to enter the field of nutrition and dietetics, be prepared to tackle the tough courses in order to receive your bachelor's degree. Upon completion of the bachelor's program, you will have to complete a dietetic internship at a hospital. This may include rounds in public health. schools, and the food industry. Some programs allow you to complete your degree program and dietetic internship at the same time (concurrently).

After you've completed your studies and the dietetic internship, you can now be called a dietitian. However, more and more institutions, especially hospitals, are requiring you to go one step further in order to be employed as a dietitian. They are looking for RD's. What's an RD, you might ask.

RD stands for registered dietitian. That's one who has taken a comprehensive, qualifying exam and passed it. In addition to having the credential as a registered dietitian, most states now regulate the practice of dietetics by requiring anyone practicing as a dietitian to be licensed with the appropriate state licensing board. 

The Commission on Dietetic Registration is the agency of the American Dietetic Registration that handles credentialing.

Jobs in Dietetics
Most registered dietitians work in hospitals, but the field of opportunities is wide open. To become a public health nutritionist, a master’s degree in public health or nutrition is generally required. Public health nutritionists work in clinics with patients who have diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other chronic diseases. 

Many public health nutritionists work with WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs across the country.  School lunch is another area where you would find opportunities to work in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

More and more dietitians are choosing to become entrepreneurs, setting up their own practice in whatever area of emphasis they have a passion for. Others are creating and working for nonprofit organizations. These organizations serve children in Head Start, after school programs, parent organizations and other groups. Consulting for major food and pharmaceutical corporations, college teaching are yet other areas where you might work as a registered dietitian.

Next: Compensation and other things you should know about being a registered dietitian

Saturday, October 30, 2010

4 Reasons Why You Should Lose Weight Now

Obesity is a problem of mammoth proportion in the US and fast becoming the trend across the globe. Unfortunately, it can lead to a number of serious health problems. In some cases, these problems could be life threatening. What might seem like just a little extra weight around the waistline could actually signal a firestorm of health problems raging on the inside. As the rate of obesity continues to climb, you can expect the health problems to escalate, as well. But it doesn’t have to happen that way. Losing weight can reverse a great deal of the health problems associated with being overweight or obese. 

Here are 4 good reasons why you should lose weight now: 
1. Cardiovascular disease. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease. Studies show that people who are obese are more likely than others to have plaque buildup in their arteries. The buildup of this waxy substance can result in narrowing of your arteries, causing your heart to work harder, and ultimately cause a heart attack or stroke. Losing weight can prevent or slow the progression of cardiovascular disease.

2. Diabetes. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes. The massive amount of fat in your body interferes with your body’s ability to use insulin effectively. As a result, sugar builds up in your blood instead of being moved into the cells. Too much sugar in the blood can cause inflammation in the blood vessels and lead to damage to a number of important organs, including the eyes and kidneys. Losing weight can improve blood glucose levels and slow or reverse damage caused by high blood sugar.

3. High blood pressure. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure. If you are obese, it means that you are carrying around a greater load than your body can comfortably manage. It means more blood must be pumped to the vital organs. Getting this job done means that the heart and blood vessels must work harder. This extra work leads to increased tension in the walls of the blood vessels, which often results in hypertension or high blood pressure. Losing weight can reduce the strain on the blood vessels and reduce may reduce your blood pressure.

4. Sadness and depression. Obesity can lead to sadness and depression. If you are overweight or obese, you probably know from experience that it could be really hard to do the fun things you want to do. Instead of living a full, active life, you may turn to food for comfort, perpetuating a cycle of sadness and depression. Losing weight can help to ease the sadness and depression associated with obesity, and allow you to get your life back! 

Clearly, obesity is not just about how you look or what size clothes you wear. It could be disastrous to your health in so many ways. It can literally rob you of the joy of living. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can lose weight, improve your health and get back in the game of living. If you need help, talk to a registered dietitian. You can find one in your area by going to the American Dietetic Association website at and clicking on the link to “Find a dietitian.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

10 Rules for Achieving Heart-Healthy Weight Loss

Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the keys to heart-healthy weight loss. But making the right choices is not always easy. That's where rules come in. By following a few basic rules, you can lose the weight and improve your cardiovascular health.

10 Simple Rules for Heart-Healthy Weight Loss
Rule 1. Make the commitment. There comes a moment when you have to decide if you really want to lose the weight or if you are content to remain at the weight you're at. If you're dissatisfied and want change, you have to make the commitment.

Rule 2. Choose foods that are high in dietary fiber. Fortunately for you, the foods that are naturally high in fiber are, for the most part, low in calories. That means you can enjoy the heart-healthy benefits of the fiber and lose weight without going hungry. To comply with this rule, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other foods that are naturally high in fiber.

Rule 3. Have some fish. Fish ranks high on the list of antioxidant-rich foods that help to keep your blood vessels flexible and prevent the buildup of plaque. Fish and other seafood are also great for losing weight because they provide ample protein without excessive amounts calories from fat. Even fatty/oily fish is good for you because the fish oil is rich in omega-3 fats – just what the doctor ordered for your heart health.

Rule 4. Drink plenty of water. It is important to stay properly hydrated when you are on a diet to lose weight. Water helps to keep you from feeling hungry, which can prevent you from overeating. Proper hydration is also important for the health of your heart and blood vessels. It keeps the nutrients in solution, helps to maintain the right amount of alkalinity in your blood, and can protect you from collapsing during exercise.

Rule 5. Consider having a glass of wine with dinner. A number of studies show that polyphenols in red wine may help to control cholesterol levels, prevent hardening of the arteries and promote healthy blood flow to the heart. But on't go overboard with these drinks. A good rule of thumb is one for the women and two for the men.

Rule 6. Go nuts for nuts. Until recently, nuts were generally considered off limits for people trying to lose weight. However, studies show that there is no reason to avoid these delightful foods if you can fit them into your diet as part of a healthy heart plan. So, go ahead and enjoy the anti-oxidant benefits that nuts provide.

Rule 7. Have an avocado. The avocado is an interesting fruit. Unlike other fruits, the avocado is high in fat. But the good news is, the fat in avocado is monounsaturated fat (MUFA), which helps to regulate cholesterol levels and keep your heart and blood vessels in great shape.

Rule 8. Fill up on dried beans, peas and seeds. These foods are high in fiber as well as protein and other key nutrients. The fiber is key because it helps your body get rid of LDL or bad cholesterol; this in turn helps to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaque in your arteries.

Rule 9. Choose Whole Grains. Whole grains are naturally high fiber, healthy fats and vitamin E, all of which play a vital role in protecting your heart and blood vessels. Choosing whole grains instead of foods made with refined white flower can work wonders in keeping your calories down for successful weight loss.

Rule 10. Be Smart About Calories. You will have to make a special effort to ensure that the number of calories you consume is less than the amount that you burn. This will create the calorie deficit that is necessary to lose weight. If you can eliminate the sweets and foods with added sweeteners, you should fare well. Pay attention to all the other rules that are designed to produce weight loss and promote a healthy heart and blood vessels. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Diabetes - Part 3: Diet and Nutrition in the Management of Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that it means your body is not handling sugar properly. With type 2 diabetes, you may be producing insulin, but the cells are just not responsive to the insulin. So, instead of the sugar entering the cells where it can be used for energy, it just kinda hangs around in the blood. This leads to high blood glucose (sugar) levels, which in turn can create all kinds of health problems. These problems are discussed elsewhere. For now, I want to focus on the importance of diet and nutrition in controlling diabetes.

Goal of Dietary Management of Diabetes
Your primary goal in treating diabetes should be to get your blood sugar to a safe level and maintain it that way. Ideally, you would want it to be between 70 and 99 mg/dL. Your doctor will work with you to determine what is a safe, desirable and sustainable level for you.

It is important to understand that high blood sugar can lead to heart disease and stroke over time. It can lead to blindness, cuts, bruises or infections that are slow to heal, nerve damage and kidney failure. But by controlling your blood sugar, you can reduce the chances of these conditions developing. In effect, proper control of your blood sugar will help to improve your overall health.

Dietary Strategies for Controlling Your Blood Sugar
The most important thing that you can do to control your blood sugar is to eat a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other health-promoting compounds. Of course, consuming a healthy balance of energy nutrients, namely protein, fat and carbohydrates, is also critical. At the same time, you will need to avoid foods that are loaded with added sugar, trans fat or saturated fat and salt/sodium.

If you are overweight or obese, you have a greater risk of having diabetes than people who are at a normal weight. Numerous studies show that losing weight can help to improve blood sugar levels and thus reduce other health risks. Even if you lose just 10 percent of your body weight, you can see tremendous health benefits in terms of improvement in your blood sugar and other conditions, such as cholesterol levels.

Exercise is another important consideration. Getting regular exercise will help to lower your blood sugar levels, lose weight and improve circulation, all of which are important to total health.

Tips for Eating to Control Your Blood Sugar
Here are a few basic strategies that can help to control your blood sugar:
  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. These foods are high in nutrients and offer a wide-range of health-promoting benefits.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and dried beans and peas are excellent choices.
  • Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fat. These fats act as powerful antioxidants to help prevent damage to your vital organs.
  • Get an ample supply of vitamin D. A few minutes of exposure to the UVB rays of the sun daily should provide the vitamin D you need. But for extra insurance, the government recommends that you consume foods that have been fortified with vitamin D. Aim for 400 IUs of vitamin D from food.
Other Strategies to Manage Your Diabetes
  • Eat meals and snacks at regular times each day. This will help to prevent your blood sugar from becoming dangerously high or dangerously low. If you are taking medication to lower your blood sugar, meals must be timed accordingly.
  • Be consistent with the amount that you eat. Pay attention to how much protein, carbohydrate and fat you are eating. Learn what is a portion for each food group and plan meals and snacks accordingly.
  • Get regular exercise. This will help to reduce the amount of sugar in your blood. It will also help you to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. As mentioned earlier, even losing a small amount of weight can have tremendous health benefits. In some cases, people have been able to decrease the amount of medication needed or to come off of medications altogether after losing weight and controlling their blood sugar with diet and exercise.
  • Talk to a registered dietitian. You might be surprised at how clear all the "diet talk" becomes when you talk to a dietitian. Don't skip this important step. You can find a registered dietitian by going to the American Dietetic Association website: and key in 'Find a dietitian,' to find a diet and nutrition professional near you. 
If you are not able to control your blood sugar by eating a healthy diet, exercising and losing weight, your doctor will prescribe a glucose-lowering drug. If medication is prescribed, you still have to pay attention to what and how much you eat. Making smart food choices is the secret to proper diabetes management. So, take medications as prescribed and follow a sensible diet.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to focus on lowering your blood sugar and maintaining it at an acceptable level. You can achieve this by paying attention to what and how much you eat, getting regular exercise and losing weight if you are overweight. Keep in mind that registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most qualified to help you create a diet and nutrition program that is uniquely suited to your needs. So, ask your doctor for a referral if he hasn't given you one.

What I need to know about Eating and Diabetes
Diabetes and Diet - Disease Management and Prevention Information brought to you by the American Dietetic Association

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Diabetes - Part 2: Symptoms: How to Tell If You Might Have Diabetes

You might have diabetes and not know it. In fact, according to the CDC, about one-third of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. But if left untreated, it could lead to other serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney damage and blindness. If you have a family history of diabetes or have other risk factors, you should know the symptoms.  Most of these symptoms may be associated with other health problems, so it is important to see a physician to get the right diagnosis. 

Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes 
  • Increased thirst - due to dehydration
  • Frequent urination – to get rid of excess sugar/glucose from the blood
  • Fatigue/tiredness/weakness – due to lack of sugar for energy in the muscles and other tissues where it is needed
  • Blurred vision - due to damage to the small blood vessels of the eyes
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal – due to poor blood circulation
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet/nerve pain – due to nerve damage and poor blood circulation
If you have diabetes, early diagnosis and proper treatment could make a huge difference in the course of the disease. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, and ask for a referral to see a registered dietitian. Follow your doctor’s advice. Nutrition is a very important in the management of diabetes, so it is important to follow the recommendations of your dietitian along with the advice of your physician.

Next: Blog: Diabetes – Part 3: Diet and Nutrition in Diabetes Management

CDC Diabetes Public Health Resources - Diabetes and Me - Basics about Diabetes

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diabetes – Part 1: Know Your Risks

Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. In you have type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not clear the sugar from your blood. Too much sugar in your blood could lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Knowing your risk can help you to make smart food and lifestyle choices to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Know Your Risk for Diabetes 
How likely are you to develop diabetes? There are certain conditions, called risk factors, that tend to predict the likelihood of your developing diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes are greater than someone who does not have any of those risk factors.

Here are some common risk factors for diabetes:
  • Family history of diabetes/genetics
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Lack of exercise
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Race/ Ethnicity: Being African American, Hispanic American, Hawaiian or Native American

Tests for Type 2 Diabetes
If your doctor suspects that you might have diabetes or that you might be at risk, he will order a blood test. Initial blood glucose testing is fairly simple. A blood sample is taken and tested to determine the amount of glucose in your blood.

Fasting blood glucose. To take a fasting blood glucose test, your doctor will ask you not to eat anything for at least 8 hours before the blood test is scheduled. A blood sample is then taken and checked for glucose. A normal fasting blood glucose level is 70 to 99 mg/dL.

If your test comes back at 100 to 125 mg/dL, you are considered to be pre-diabetic. It means that your body is not handling the sugar efficiently.

Above 125 mg/dL you are likely to be diagnosed as having diabetes.

Oral glucose tolerance test. Another test for diabetes is the oral glucose tolerance test. This test is done after you have fasted for at least 8 hours. After the 8-hour fast you are given a sugar (glucose)-containing drink. Your blood is tested for glucose two hours after you have had the drink.

If your blood glucose level is less than 140 mg/dL, your blood glucose is considered to be normal.

If your test shows that your glucose level of 140 to 199 suggests that you may have pre-diabetes.

If your blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL or greater, you will most likely be considered to be diagnosed with diabetes. A repeat test should be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in many women during pregnancy. This test is a part of the standard care for pregnant women. The blood sugar levels needed to render a diagnosis of gestational diabetes are a little different from those used for non-pregnant women.

If you are at risk for diabetes, it does not mean that you will absolutely develop diabetes. It just means that you have a greater chance than someone who does not have any of those risk factors. Get tested and talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian about steps you can take prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Registered Dietitian: The Food and Nutrition Professional

What is a registered dietitian?

I was recently asked the question, "What is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?"
In simplest terms, I explained that a registered dietitian undergoes rigorous training in the sciences, management, education and human behavior, to mention a few. Additionally, a registered dietitian completes a dietetic internship to become a dietitian. Ultimately, the student/dietitian must take and pass a comprehensive test to become qualified as a registered dietitian or RD.

On the other hand, nutritionist is one who completes training in nutrition, but the field of nutrition is much broader. And with little government standards for who might call themselves a nutritionist, far too many people have established themselves as 'nutrition gurus.

More to come.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Health Benefits of Fiber

Millions of Americans are not getting the fiber they need sustain their health. In fact, you may be suffering, needlessly, from health problems that could easily be prevented by just eating more foods that are high in fiber and less sugar and other highly processed foods.

What is Fiber
Fiber is the insoluble part of carbohydrates that cannot be digested and absorbed. Although fiber is not absorbed from the digestive tract, it can affect your health in a number of ways, including binding with digestive waste and removing toxins from your body.

Types of Fiber
There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is fiber that can be dissolved in water and is found mostly in fruits. Insoluble fiber is more straw-like and is not soluble in water. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important to your health.

Health Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is best known for its role in promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

In the process of moving waste from your gut, mops and traps bile, cholesterol, and other potentially toxic waste and moves through your colon and out of your body.

Another important benefit of fiber is controlling your blood sugar. It does so by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut, so that sugar is absorbed more slowly. This helps to prevent potentially harmful spikes in your blood sugar.

Additionally, fiber also acts as a probiotic, which means it allows healthy bacteria to grow and reduces the amount harmful bacteria in the gut.

Numerous studies show that a diet rich in fiber may help to promote weight loss, reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The National Research Counsel recommends that adult women consume 25 grams of fiber daily and that men get at least 35 grams. Children need smaller amounts.

Food Sources of Fiber
Fiber comes from plant foods. You can get the fiber you need by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and peas, legumes, tree nuts and seeds.

Eat foods that are rich in fiber to keep your digestive tract healthy, prevent rapid spikes in your blood sugar, control your cholesterol and enjoy all of the other health benefits that you get from fiber. These benefits include weight loss and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Foods That Fight Chronic Inflammation

Certain foods can cause chronic inflammation in your body, which over time, will result in oxidative damage to your cardiovascular system, your joints and your brain. But there are some things that you can do to reduce chronic inflammation and protect your tissues and organs.

What is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation is a low-grade inflammation that has been linked to obesity and certain foods like sugar and certain fats. This chronic inflammation can result in oxidative damage within the walls of the blood vessels, as well as to other tissues and lead to chronic and sometimes crippling disease.

Foods That Increase Chronic Inflammation
Foods that contribute to excessive weight gain and obesity, such as sugar and other refined carbohydrates/white flour products, saturated fat and trans fat are also the foods that have been associated with chronic inflammation. High insulin levels in the blood (usually in response to high levels of sugar) have been also been shown to increase inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels.

Omega-6 oils, such as corn oil, can also increase your risk of inflammation. Corn oil is commonly used in commercial baked goods and other processed foods.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
Chronic or continuous inflammation can lead to damage to the your blood vessels, joints and other tissues, including the brain. Arthritis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease have been linked to inflammation. 

But, unfortunately, chronic inflammation can go on for years, slowly causing damage to the internal organs without any real symptoms. By the time the disease caused by the inflammation discovered, it could be quite serious, even life-threatening.

Foods That Fight Chronic Inflammation
Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants can help to fight chronic inflammation. Here are some of those anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory foods that you can use.

Seafood. Salmon, sardines, tuna,  and other oily fish are  high in omega-3 fats.

Fruits. Blueberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and other berries. Also, mangoes, papaya, pineapple red grapes, apples and avocados.

Vegetables. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, kale, red peppers, avocado, onion and garlic.

Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, almonds, flaxseed and pumpkin seed.

Oil. Olive oil.

Herbs and spices. Ginger, garlic, oregano, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Other. Other anti-inflammatory foods include cocoa, red wine and green tea.

Eat more foods that are rich in anti-oxidants and avoid those that are known to increase inflammation to reduce your risk of chronic diseases. And lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Preventing Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major problem for millions of women and men in the US. The basic cause is lack of adequate vitamin D and calcium. If you are at risk, there are some things that you can do to prevent or slow the development of osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis? 
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose calcium and become thin and brittle.

Causes of Osteoporosis 
You can develop osteoporosis if you are not consuming enough calcium. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, so if you do not have enough vitamin D in your body, you could also be at risk for osteoporosis.

Signs of Osteoporosis 
The first sign that someone has osteoporosis might be when they fall and break a bone. It is often said that you fall and break a bone, but as one of my professors used to say, it is more likely that the reverse happens – you break a bone and fall. Sometimes, pain in the hips could be a sign of osteoporosis.

Testing for Osteoporosis 
A bone density test is used to determine the density or thickness of your bones.

Preventing Osteoporosis 
Eating a diet that is rich in calcium is the first step in preventing osteoporosis. But vitamin D must be present in order for you to absorb the calcium and make it available to build strong bones. Taking a calcium supplement along with vitamin D might delay bone loss in some individuals. Regular exercise can also help to prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis.

Treating Osteoporosis 
Unfortunately, by the time osteoporosis is diagnosed, it may be too late to correct the problem with calcium and vitamin D supplements alone. At this stage, your doctor might prescribe a type of drug, called bisphosphonate, that literally harden the calcium in the bones. However, these drugs, which turn your bones into cement-like structures, can have serious side effects.

Food Sources of Calcium 
The most common food sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products. You can also get calcium from other foods that have been fortified with calcium, including orange juice and some breakfast cereals.

Food Sources of Vitamin D 
Natural sources of vitamin D include fish, fish oil, fish liver oil and mushrooms that have been irradiated. Orange juice and some breakfast cereals that have been fortified with vitamin D are also good sources. However, most of the vitamin D that you get comes from the sun. You can get about 400 IUs of vitamin D from food. In comparison, your body can make 10,000 IUs with just a brief exposure to the sun (10 to 20 minutes of sunlight).

Recommended Intake of Calcium 
The recommended intake for calcium is 800 milligram for adults. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, you might need as much as 1000 to 1200 milligrams of calcium plus vitamin D. To meet this goal, a dietary supplement is usually required.

Recommended Intake of Vitamin D 
The recommended intake for vitamin D is 400 IUs from food sources. This is the amount deemed necessary to prevent rickets or osteomalacia, which are signs of calcium deficiency in children and adults, respectively.

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for higher doses of vitamin D, with some studies suggesting that the recommended intake of 400 IUs is not enough and that people need a much higher dose of this vitamin.

Osteoporosis is a condition that results from lack of adequate calcium and vitamin D in the body. You can prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis by eating foods rich in these two nutrients, and getting regular exposure to the sun. Exercise can also help to prevent osteoporosis.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

12 Do's and Don'ts for Dieters

Trying to lose weight could be a very simple process for many people. You know what to do and you do it. For others, it could be the hardest thing you ever tried to do. You try your darnedest but the scale won’t budge. Makes you want to scream, doesn’t it? 

Well, hold your breath. Let’s take a look at some things that you can do to boost weight loss and some of the things that you shouldn't do if you want to succeed. 

12 Do’s

1. Do eat a healthy breakfast everyday.

2. Do drink plenty of water.

3. Do snack on fruits, crunchy vegetables and nuts between meals.

4. Do enjoy healthy meals that include a good source of protein.

5. Do eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

6. Do drink 2 to 3 cups of milk or get your calcium from other sources daily.

7. Do eat fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fats several times a week.

8. Do eat more whole grain breads and cereals and less refined products.

9. Do eat dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds more often.

10. Do control your food portions.

11. Do get a few minutes of sunshine daily and eat vitamin D fortified foods.

12. Do get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

12 Don’ts

1. Don't skip breakfast.

2. Don't start the day off with sodas and other sugary drinks.

3. Don't eat too much cakes, cookies, candies or other high-calorie foods. 

4. Don't eat foods made with trans fat.

5. Don't eat foods that are high in saturated fat.

6. Don't eat or drink foods that are high in sugar.

7. Don't eat or drink foods made with artificial sweeteners.

8. Don't eat fast food too often.

9. Don't eat foods made with refined/white flour.

10. Don't eat foods with a lot of salt/sodium.

11. Don't eat processed meats too often.

12. Don't let the stresses of the day cause you to overeat.

If this seems like a lot of do's and don'ts, here's another one: Don’t worry. Choose one thing to do at a time and before you know it, you will be doing all the “Do’s” and controlling all the “Don’ts.” Take the first step right now.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simple Steps to Preventing Heart Disease

If you have a family history of heart disease, you may be at increased risk for developing the disease yourself. So, it is important for you to pay attention to other risk factors. In many cases, you may be able to prevent or delay the development of heart disease by following a few basic steps.

Know Your Risks
Family history is a known risk factor for heart disease. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, particularly high LDL or bad cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides. A diet that is high in sugar, trans fat or saturated fat and low in dietary fiber can also contribute to heart disease. Studies suggest that low vitamin D levels may also put you at risk.

Tips for Making Your Diet Heart-Healthy
The American Heart Association and other healthcare experts have recommended a number of strategies to lower your risk for heart disease. Here are a few tips:

Weight Control. Lose weight if you are overweight. Small changes in your diet, coupled with exercise will help you to lose the weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Omega-3 fats. Increase your intake of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are powerful anti-oxidants that help to reduce inflammation in your body; inflammation has been linked to plaque buildup and an increased risk of heart disease.

Fiber. Foods that are rich in fiber play a key role in controlling your cholesterol. Fiber helps to control cholesterol by slowing the absorption of fat and by binding with bile in the gut to reduce the production of cholesterol.

Saturated fats and trans fat. Saturated fat and trans fat can increase the level of cholesterol in the blood, lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. So do your best to avoid these fats.

Triglycerides. High triglyceride levels are common in people with diabetes. These fats have also been linked to heart disease. So, make a special effort to avoid these fats.

Sugar. Excess sugar can contribute to the development of heart disease by causing an increase in blood glucose and high insulin levels. Both high blood glucose and insulin have been associated with increased inflammation. This inflammation can lead to damage to the heart and blood vessels, thereby increasing your risk of heart disease.

Salt. Eating too much salt, specifically the sodium portion of the salt molecule, can lead to high blood pressure in certain individuals. High blood pressure results when the walls of the blood vessels get stiff, making it difficult for blood to pass through the arteries to the heart. When this happens, the heart can be damaged, resulting in a heart attack or a stroke.

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight, eating a a diet that is rich in natural fiber,and eating foods rich in omega-3 fats. Avoid consuming sodas and other sugary drinks or foods made with a large amount of sugar. Also, avoid trans fats and  foods containing large amounts of saturated. fat. You should also reduce your salt intake. And finally, stay active.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease

The American Heart Association has established guidelines for managing your cholesterol levels to prevent heart attack and stroke. High cholesterol levels, specifically LDL or bad cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, while HDL or good cholesterol has been associated with a reduced risk. In light of the prevailing evidence, the American Heart Association has established guidelines for managing your cholesterol to prevent heart attack and stroke. Let's take a closer look at cholesterol and the risks associated with this substance.

What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in your blood. Your liver makes most of the cholesterol that is circulating in your body. You also get some cholesterol from the foods you eat.

Functions of Cholesterol
Cholesterol has been given a bad rap because of its link to cardiovascular disease. However, it is not just this waxy substance sitting in your bloodstream waiting to cause trouble. Cholesterol is actually needed for some very important functions. For instance, it is used to make vitamin D from the sun. It is also used to make hormones, like estrogen and testosterone.

The problem with cholesterol and cardiovascular disease comes when there is too much cholesterol in the blood and it causes the buildup of plaque in the arteries.

The Dangers of High Cholesterol
Cholesterol becomes a danger to your health when there is too much in your blood because it then sticks to the walls of your blood vessels and forms plaque. As plaque builds up, the blood vessels begin to get stiff and can no longer pump blood efficiently. That makes the heart have to work harder, which in turn can result in damage to the heart. Extensive damage to the heart can ultimately lead to a heart attack.

Another reason to be concerned is that plaque could break away from the lining of the blood vessels, form a clot and block the flow of blood. If this happens in a key artery to your heart or brain and stops the blood from getting to these vital organs, you could have a stroke.

Know Your Numbers
If your doctor tells you that your cholesterol is high, ask to see the numbers. The current target for total cholesterol is under 200 mg/dL (closer to 150 mg/dL). But the real numbers to watch are your HDL or good cholesterol and LDL or bad cholesterol. The target for HDL is over 40 mg/dL for men and and women and the LDL level is under 100 mg/dL.

You might hear these numbers referred to in terms of a ratio because it seems like the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol has a huge impact on whether or not you are at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke.

Controlling Your Cholesterol Levels
Talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Keep in mind that your goal is to a healthy ratio of HDL or good cholesterol to LDL or bad cholesterol. Specifically, you should learn what steps you can take to improve your diet, lose weight (if you are overweight or obese) and get physically fit (through exercise) to improve your cholesterol levels.

Learn what you can do to lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke. Improving your diet, losing weight (if you are overweight) and getting regular exercise are important steps that you can take starting right now.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Food for Healthy Skin


Every year, women spend billions of dollars on skin care products and cosmetic procedures to improve the appearance of their skin. In relying on these products and cosmetic procedures, you could be overlooking the one thing that could do more for your skin than any superficial treatment: Your diet.

Let's take a look.

Healthy Skin From the Inside Out 
How you are on the inside affects how you look on the outside. That means eating foods that are rich in protein to build collagen, antioxidants to fight inflammation, minerals that promote healing and fluids for hydration. It also means eating fiber to help speed waste through your gut and out of your body as waste.    

Foods for Skin Health
Meat, fish, poultry and other protein-rich foods. Meat is a major source of protein, which is used to make collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein that helps to give skin the smooth appearance that you desire. It is the key to preventing premature wrinkling. Good sources of protein include low-fat meats, seafood, eggs, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds.

Citrus fruits. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which is necessary for collagen formation. It is also a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent inflammation that could damage skin cells. Good sources of vitamin C include mangoes, papaya, guava, kiwi, strawberries, red bell peppers and sweet potato. And of course, orange juice and other citrus fruits are important sources of vitamin C in the American diet. 

Sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, not to mention vitamin C and other key nutrients. Vitamin A has been long associated with helping to create smooth healthy skin. In addition to sweet potatoes, you can get vitamin A from a variety of yellow-orange fruits and yellow-orange or dark leafy green vegetables. Mangoes, papaya, carrots, pumpkin, spinach and collard greens are all great sources.

Water. Water is really important for keeping your skin well-hydrated. You can easily do this by drinking 4 to 8 glasses of water daily. You may need to drink more water if you are in a hot environment, engaging in intensive sports/exercise or otherwise sweating a lot. Stay away from fluids that are high in sugar or salt, however, as these can cause inflammation, be dehydrating and damage rather than heal your skin.

Whole grains. Whole grains are rich in zinc, a mineral that is well-known in medical circles for its healing properties. Besides whole grains, you can get zinc from nuts, seeds, legumes, dried beans and peas, and all kinds of animal products and seafood.

Fiber. You would hardly associate fiber with skin health. Yet, it can play a key role. Keep in mind that one of the major roles of fiber is to keep your digestive tract healthy by binding and mopping up toxic waste along the gut and getting rid of this waste by way of the colon. This helps to cleanse your whole body, including your blood. Healthy blood flow to the skin will help to produce and maintain healthy cells, promote collagen formation and keep your skin aglow.

Eat foods that are rich in protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and fiber to help repair skin damage and promote a smooth, healthy appearance. Be sure to drink plenty of water to keep your cells properly hydrated, as well.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

12 Basic Rules for Dieters

Rules are often established to maintain order and assure that goals are met. Basically, they serve as a blueprint for how to get where you're going. Put another way, rules can help you to achieve your desired goal effectively and efficiently. But for that to happen, obviously you have to follow the rules. This is where dieters fall short.

If you are like most dieters, you want to get results fast, but when it comes to following the rules that would help you to do so, well, you probably stray from the rules a little too often.

To get the results you want, you need to be persistent. Don't let temptation get in the way and prevent you from losing the weight you want to lose. If you are ready to give dieting another try, here are 12 Simple Rules to help you succeed. Just remember, don't give in to temptation and don't give up.

Rule 1. Plan ahead. Having a plan will help you stay focused and in control.

Rule 2. Be flexible. Being on a diet doesn't mean you have to be on a rigid, highly restricted regimen. You just have to know how to compensate when you go off course.

Rule 3. Include foods you like. Make sure that your diet includes foods you like, just a healthier version.

Rule 4. Eat lots of high-fiber foods. High-fiber fruits and vegetables should be at the core of every dieter's meal plan. These foods are loaded with so much health-promoting nutrients, it is hard to imagine succeeding without them.

Rule 5. Drink plenty of water. Water is important because it is the one beverage you can drink to your heart's content without worrying about calories. Additionally, it can help to curb your appetite by leaving you feeling full so that you eat less high-calorie foods.

Rule 6. Limit your intake of junk food. Junk food is the spoiler for most dieters. Keep these out of your diet and you will find that losing weight is not so difficult after all.

Rule 7. Avoid foods that are loaded with fat. Fat is a calorie-dense foods. Therefore, anything with added fat means added calories. Avoid things like fried foods, commercial chips, large amounts of butter, mayonnaise, salad dressing and other foods, like pastries, cakes and cookies and you could easily eliminate hundreds of calories from your diet.

Rule 8. Read food labels. Unless you are cooking everything you eat from scratch, you had better read the label on the foods you buy. And, of course, use the information to buy the foods that are compatible with your diet plan.

Rule 9. Prepare your own food at home and eat out less. Preparing your own food will give you control over what goes into the food, how much you eat and how many calories you consume. When you eat out you pretty much put those choices in the hands of someone else.

Rule 10. Keep portion sizes to a minimum. The more you eat, the more calories you will be taking in. Conversely, the less you eat, particularly of high-calorie foods, the fewer calories you will consume. So keep an eye on those portions.

Rule 11. Get the exercise you need to burn fat. Exercise is essential if you want to lose weight effectively and efficiently. It is the one way to burn off excess calories and make losing weight a breeze.

Rule 12. Be true to yourself. Only you can decide if you are willing to make the commitment and stick to it when it comes to losing weight. Either you will do it or you won't. Either you succeed or you don't. It all depends on you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Controlling Hunger to Lose Weight

Maybe you are struggling to lose weight but find it hard to do because you are always hungry. And it's hard to control how much you eat when you're hungry. But what if there was a way that you could curb your appetite and eat less at lunch or dinner. This might actually help you to lose the weight. Here are a few ideas that have worked for others and could work for you. It's worth a try.

Drink More Fluids
Water. Drinking a glass or two of water about 30 minutes before you eat will help you feel full, reduce your hunger and cause you to eat less. This could make a big difference in how many calories you consume and make it easier for you to lose weight.

Coffee or tea. In addition to water, you can drink plain coffee or tea. These beverages can be quite soothing, help you to relax, and ease any tension or stress you might be feeling. So, you would be less tempted to fill up on high-calorie comfort food.

Broth. Having a cup or two of broth or chicken before your meal is yet another way to fill up on no-calorie or low-calorie foods, which in turn can help to eat less and control the amount of calories that you consume for the day.

Other soups. Heavier soups, like lentil, bean, vegetable, chicken or fish soup may contain more calories than the water, tea, coffee or broth mentioned earlier. But that is no reason to rule them out. Actually, it makes good sense to include these soups as part of your weight-loss strategy because they are more filling and can therefore help you to eat less of other high-calorie, less nutritious options. These soups are also high in fiber, which means they can keep you feeling full longer. So whether you use them as an appetizer, or as part of the main course, they can prove to be valuable in helping you to fight hunger and keep the calories down.

There will be times when you are feeling hungry an hour or two before your next meal and want something to eat other than the food and drink mentioned above. Instead of reaching for high-calorie, sugary and/or high fat snacks, reach for something that will not trigger a rapid rise and fall in your blood sugar.

Unbuttered popcorn, nuts and seeds.  Foods like popcorn, nuts and seeds make great snacks when you are trying to stave off hunger. They are high in fiber and will contribute a few grams of healthy fat. Don't be alarmed by the fat in nuts. The amount you get from one or two ounces will be more than compensated for by the amount of food you are able to cut back at your next meal. Besides, it's nothing you cannot burn off with a few minutes of brisk walking or stair climbing.

What about fruits and whole grains? There is a place in a healthy diet for fruits and grains, just as there is for dairy and meat, fish and eggs. But keep in mind that sugars and starches can cause an increase in blood sugar, followed by a rapid fall. When your blood sugar falls, you could cause you to overeat. This is just what you are trying to avoid if you find yourself frequently hungry at mealtime. On the other hand, if these foods keep you satisfied and are not hunger triggers, you could include them as part of your effort to curb hunger pangs.

Give yourself the winning edge by drinking water or consuming other filling foods that provide lots of fluid and fiber, without the unwanted calories. Then when you sit down to a meal, you can enjoy the food without stuffing yourself with unwanted calories and increase your chance of losing weight.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Iron deficiency anemia (anemia) is fairly common in children, women of childbearing age and pregnant women. It can result from poor food intake or from the loss of large amounts of blood. Pregnant women often become anemic due to the rapidly increasing blood volume of both mother and baby.

What Causes Anemia
Diet. You could develop anemia simply because you are not getting enough iron in your diet. Anything that interferes with the absorption of nutrients (malabsorption) could also lead to anemia. Children who are growing rapidly may become anemic if they drink a lot of milk but eat little meat or other iron-rich foods.

Pregnancy. Pregnancy can also lead to iron deficiency anemia. During pregnancy, both the mother and baby are increasing their blood volume. This requires iron to make the hemoglobin. If there is not enough iron to meet this need, anemia can result.

Blood loss. Losing a lot of blood is another way that you can develop anemia, including injury to a blood vessel, heavy menstrual periods, malabsorption, or any condition that results in bleeding from the gut.

Symptoms of Anemia
If you are anemic, you might experience the following symptoms:

  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lowered immunity/frequent infections
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pica: Eating ice, dirt or chalk
  • Tingling of the hands and feet

Preventing Iron Deficiency Anemia
The most important thing that you can do to prevent iron deficiency anemia is to eat a diet that is rich in iron. Liver and red meat are good sources. You can also get iron from other animal products as well as plant sources. Eat more whole foods and less processed foods for optimum results.

Additionally, eat foods that are high in vitamin C will help to increase the amount of iron you absorb. On the other hand, drinking milk at the same meal with iron-rich foods will reduce the amount of iron absorbed, so try to drink milk or consume other calcium-rich foods at a different time.

If you are diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, you will need to take steps to correct the problem as quickly as possible. There are two primary approaches to treating iron deficiency anemia - diet and iron supplementation. The treatment will depend on the cause of the anemia and the severity.

Diet. If you are not getting enough iron from your diet, you will need to will need to eat more iron-rich foods. A registered dietitian can help you to identify ways to increase your intake.

Supplement. In some cases, a basic multivitamin with mineral supplement might help to improve your hemoglobin level. Your doctor may prescribe a higher dose iron supplement where diet and a basic MVI with iron is not enough. Conditions such as pregnancy, malabsorption and conditions that result in chronic blood loss typically require a high dose supplement.

Food Sources of Iron
Animal products such as liver, red meat, poultry, fish, clams and egg yolk are high in iron. But you can also get the iron you need from a diet that is rich in plant foods. Spinach and other green leafy greens, legumes, dried fruit, dried beans and peas, pumpkin seeds and molasses are all good sources. In  addition, breads and cereals that have been enriched with iron can also help to boost your iron intake.

Recommended Intake
The recommended intake of iron for women ages 19-50 is 18 milligrams. In comparison, the RDA for men of the same age is a mere 8 milligrams. The difference is due to the large loss of iron that women experience during their monthly period. Requirements at different stages in life vary.

What Next?
Eat foods that are high in iron daily to boost iron levels, increase hemoglobin level and reduce your risk of anemia.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Vitamin B6 and Your Health

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is a water-soluble vitamin that is required for a wide range of metabolic processes in your body. It is important for healthy blood formation, nerve function and normal brain activity.

Vitamin B6 plays an important role in a number of metabolic activities related to the release of energy from protein, fat and carbohydrates. It is also necessary for the production of hemoglobin - the red pigment in red blood cells. Vitamin B6 also works with folic acid and vitamin B 12 in regulating homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine may be a risk factor for heart disease. Another important role of vitamin B6 is in the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan to niacin and serotonin. Serotonin is a mood hormone – that makes us feel good.

Vitamin B6: Deficiency: Causes 
Vitamin B6 deficiency may result from inadequate dietary intake. This is most likely to occur in people who may have poor appetite or swallowing problems and are unable to eat enough to get the nutrition they need. People who live extensively on refined, processed foods may also be at increased risk for a vitamin B6 deficiency.

People who suffer from malabsorption, and those on certain prescription drugs, like Isoniazid, and women who use hormonal contraceptives (oral contraceptives) are also at risk for vitamin B6 deficiency.

Vitamin B6 Deficiency: Symptoms 
Symptoms of vitamin B6 deficiency may include cracked or chopped lips, sore tongue, weakness, fatigue and depression. Anemia, and neurological problems, such as numbness and tingling of the hands and feet are also signs of vitamin B6 deficiency.

Prevention and Treatment of Vitamin B6 Deficiency 
Eating a diet rich in vitamin B6 will help to reduce the risk of deficiency in people who do not have other underlying conditions. In cases where the problem stems from other medical conditions, a supplement may be necessary. 

Food Sources of Vitamin B6 
Vitamin B6 is available from a wide range of foods, including potatoes, avocados, bananas, meat, fish, poultry and nuts. It is also found in vitamin B6 fortified cereals and other foods.

Recommended Intake for Vitamin B6 
The RDA for vitamin B6, which has been established by the National Academy of Sciences is between 1.3 and 1.7 milligrams per day for American adults. Pregnant and lactating women need slightly more.

Select a variety of whole foods daily and avoid highly processed foods in order to get the vitamin B6 you need for hundreds of metabolic processes that take place in your body every moment. Lack of this vitamin could have serious adverse effects on your mood, mental functions and your physical health.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Folic Acid

Folic acid (folate) is a water-soluble vitamin that is abundant in leafy green vegetables and other plant food. It is not present to any measureable degree in animal products.  Lack of folic acid could lead to major health problems. So, you should try to eat lots of leafy greens and other foods that are high in folic acid everyday. Folate is the natural form of the vitamin found in food. Folic acid is the synthetic form that is added to food and used in supplements.

Functions of Folic Acid
Folic acid is essential for DNA synthesis, which takes place as cells multiply. It plays a powerful role in the development of the spine and other tissues during the early part of pregnancy. This is the point at which the cells are dividing rapidly; the need for folic acid is greatest at this time. Folic acid is also for the production of healthy red blood cells.

Folic Acid Deficiency: Causes 
Folic acid deficiency can occur as a result of several conditions, including:
  1. Poor dietary intake. People who eat a lot of highly processed foods and relatively few leafy vegetables or other foods that are high in folic acid are most prone to folic acid deficiency.
  2. Pregnancy. The demand for folic acid is increased greatly during pregnancy. If the diet of the mother is low in folic acid, growth of the spinal column could be disrupted, resulting in serious birth defects. The mother's health could also be seriously affected.
  3. Weight loss surgery or any other type of surgery that results in the removal of parts of the stomach or intestine could interfere with folic acid absorption, leading to a folic acid deficiency.
  4. Other malabsorption problems like celiac disease and other conditions that lead to poor absorption.
Folic Acid Deficiency: Symptoms 
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include anemia, nerve damage, tingling sensation or numbness in the arms and legs, fatigue, weakness, poor motor function and lack of balance. Other symptoms include memory loss, dementia, megaloblastic anemia, loss of appetite, and constipation. Medications can also interfere with the way folic acid is used in the body. A deficiency during pregnancy can lead to a condition called neural tube defect. Malabsorption due to disease or surgery of the stomach and parts of the intestine could result in a folic acid deficiency.

Prevention and Treatment of Folic Acid Deficiency
Folic acid supplements are usually prescribed for pregnant women beginning early in the pregnancy in order to avoid the problems associated with folic acid deficiency.

Food Sources of Folic Acid
You can get folic acid mostly from plant foods. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, peas, legumes, orange juice and tomato juice are natural sources of folate. Other foods are fortified with the synthetic form of the vitamin. Folic acid occurs naturally in few animal products. Those animal sources include beef liver and eggs. Folic acid is available as a supplement for people who do not get enough from their diet. It is usually prescribed for pregnant women beginning early in the pregnancy.

Folic Acid Requirements
The RDA for folic acid is 400 micrograms for children ages 14 to 18 and for adults 19 years of age and over. The RDAs for children range from 150 to 300. There is a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to set standards for infants under the age of one, according to the National Research Council the group that sets the standards.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vitamin B12 and Your Health

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is found exclusively in animal products. Consequently, vegans, who do not eat any animal products, may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. A number of other health problems that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption can also lead to serious health problems.

Functions of Vitamin B12 
Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in the formation of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying portion of the red blood cells. It is necessary for proper nerve function. Another key role of vitamin B12 is in the synthesis of DNA. Additionally, vitamin B12 helps to limit the buildup of homocysteine, a compound that is associated with heart disease.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes 
Vitamin B12 deficiency may occur as a result of several conditions, including:
  1. Lack of an enzyme (intrinsic factor) that is necessary for the vitamin to be absorbed from the gut.
  2. Low dietary intake. Vegans, who do not eat any animal products may be at high risk for a B12 deficiency.
  3. Removal of certain parts of the small intestine or stomach, for example, in people who have undergone weight loss surgery or who required this type of surgery for other health conditions. Removal of parts of the stomach or small intestine could interfere with the ability to absorb the vitamin, thus resulting in a deficiency. 
  4. Other malabsorption problems.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms 
Symptoms of vitamin D12 include a type of anemia called pernicious anemia, tingling sensation or numbness in the arms and legs, fatigue, weakness, poor motor function and lack of balance. Other symptoms include memory loss, dementia, megaloblastic anemia, loss of appetite, and constipation.

Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If low dietary intake is the main cause of a vitamin B12 deficiency (as is possible with vegans and raw food loyalists), this may be corrected by eating foods that have been fortified with the vitamin. However, if the problem is related to gut problems that interfere with your ability to absorb the vitamin, B12 shots are usually required.

Food Sources of Vitamin B12 
You can get vitamin B12 from meat, eggs, poultry, shellfish and milk. Vitamin Vitamin B12 is not found in plants. Therefore, if you are a vegetarian, you will need to get your vitamin B12 from foods that are enriched with the vitamin or take a B12 supplement. 

Vitamin B12 Requirement 
The RDA for vitamin B12 has been set at 0.9 to 1.8 micrograms for children 1 to 13 years of age, depending on age. For adolescents and adults the recommended intake is 2.4 micrograms. Lower amounts are required for infants while the requirements for pregnant and breastfeeding women are 2.6 and 2.8 micrograms, respectively.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reduce Your Blood Pressure with A Low-Salt Diet

Eating too much salt, or more specifically sodium, can lead to high blood pressure and other serious health problems. For this reason, health experts recommend that adults in the US limit the amount of sodium they consume to about 2300 milligrams. But that's easier said than done, since much of the foods that Americans eat are highly processed and contain large amounts of salt.

3 Good Reasons to Limit Your Salt Intake

  1. Prevent high blood pressure
  2. Reduce your risk of having a stroke or other cardiovascular event
  3. Avoid costly prescription drugs and the potential side effects that these drugs may have

How to Reduce Your Salt Intake
Prepare meals from scratch. When you prepare your own meals, you get to control just how much salt goes in and therefore, how much salt you consume.

Read food labels. Many commercially processed foods have large amounts of added in order to preserve the food. You can learn more about what's in the foods you buy by reading the label. Avoid foods that contain large amounts of sodium. A good cut-off point would be 7 percent of daily value for sodium per serving.

Eat out less frequently. When you eat out, you have little or no control over how much salt goes into the foods you eat. So, your best bet is to cut back on how often you eat out and be selective when you do.

Try the DASH diet. A number of studies show that the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is a safe and effective way to reduce blood pressure, without prescription drugs. This diet focuses on reducing the intake of foods that are high in sodium and encourages consumption of a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts and seeds.

Try the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is also a healthy alternative to the standard, high-sodium American diet.

If you have high blood pressure, you might want to consider cutting back on the amount of salt you consume daily. The DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are smart alternatives to the high salt.high sodium diet that most Americans consume.

Note: Always consult your doctor and a registered dietitian when making major changes to your diet in the face of any chronic disease that might require prescription drugs.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

7 Keys to Losing Weight and Keeping It Off

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know that it is a huge challenge. But it's a challenge that is well worth the effort. Just think of the rewards: feeling good, looking your best, enjoying better health, fun times with family and friends, radiance, increased lifespan, less sick days and lower medical bills. Who won't want all those things.

Here are a few tips to help you meet the challenge:

1. Look in the mirror. Have a frank talk with the person looking back at you. Then make the commitment; but only if you are ready to make the leap. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for another round of disappointments.

2. Assess your needs. Try to understand what caused you to gain the weight in the first place, why you have not been able to lose the weight, or if you did, why you couldn't keep it off. This will help you to figure out what you need to do this time to achieve real, lasting success.

3. Write down your goals. Set goals that are fairly easy to achieve. Then, as you accomplish one goal you can aim for another, perhaps aiming for greater results as you go along. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by aiming for results that you know are unattainable.

4. Pay attention to what you eat. You shopping list should reflect your new weight and health goals. Your cupboard should do the same. So should the food on your plate and the snacks you consume.

5. Take a walk. You don't have to start your weight loss program by overdoing it when it comes to exercising. If you have been pretty inactive, taking a brisk walk around your home or apartment complex might be a good place to start. You can increase the amount of time and intensity of the exercise as you get more physically fit.

6. Drink up. You can trick yourself into eating less by drinking water a few minutes before a meal. This will make you feel full and thus, reduce the amount of food that you actually consume. You should also drink water between meals, especially if you begin to feel hungry, since the sensation of hunger might really be a sign of thirst.

7. Get some sleep. Lack of sleep can disrupt the hormones in your body that regulate your appetite and signal that you are full so that you do not overeat. Your stress hormones are also affected by lack of sleep. So, be good to yourself and get your zzz’s.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Aspartame: Diet Sodas and Weight Gain

Aspartame, which is sold as Nutrasweet, is a chemical that is 200 times as sweet as sugar, and could therefore be used in very small amounts to avoid the calories that you would get if you used sugar. A great deal of controversy exists regarding the effectiveness of aspartame and other 'artificial' sweeteners in preventing unwanted weight gain. That is what I would like to talk about today.

Popular Uses of Aspartame
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is used by millions of Americans as a substitute for sugar. It provides the sweetness of sugar without the calories. If you drink diet soda, chances are you are consuming aspartame. It is also used in a wide range of processed foods. In addition to sodas, artificial sweeteners can be found in a number of processed foods, including flavored juice drinks, baby food, frozen foods, baked goods, candies, ice cream, and all types of desserts. These sweeteners can be found  in other foods as well.

Aspartame and Weight Gain
Weight loss. If you drink diet soda, chances are you are doing so either because you want to lose weight - or at least to avoid gaining. But do artificial sweeteners really help?

There are a number of conflicting reports about whether or not artificial sweeteners can actually help you to lose weight.  in some cases, researchers found that people who drank sodas containing aspartame actually gained more weight than people who did not use the artificial sweetener. This is the opposite of what you might have expected.

However, it should not be too surprising. After all, the massive increase in obesity over the past few decades have occurred during the same period of time that the use of artificial sweeteners also exploded.

There are several theories about why and how artificial sweeteners can cause you to gain weight. One theory is that these chemicals alter the brain in such a way that it increases your appetite, makes you feel hungry, and creates a desire for more food. As a result, you can actually end up eating more food than you would if you did not use the artificial sweetener. Even when compared to table sugar, artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, seem to create a greater desire for food.

Appetite. A number of studies show that eating or drinking sweet-tasting food increases appetite. And in one study, aspartame seemed to increase hunger more than did sugar or water.

Your brain on aspartame. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame appear to promote sugar cravings and a dependency, similar to other habit-forming and addictive behaviors.

Consuming 'diet' sodas regularly can stimulate your appetite, increase hunger and cause you to overeat. This can contribute to unwanted weight gain and cause you to become overweight or obese. To avoid this, try to cut on the use of these drinks.

Gain weight by "going diet?" Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is Your Child Drinking Too Much Soda?

Sodas (soft drinks/carbonated beverages) are a major source of added sugars in the American diet. Numerous studies link the high intake of sodas to childhood obesity and a number of related health problems, including type 2 diabetes, inflammation, and tooth decay.

If your child drinks too much soda, his bones can also be weakened and easily fractured. Additionally, when if your child drinks sodas in place of more nutrient-dense beverages like milk or 100 percent fruit juice, he could come up short on a number of key vitamins and minerals, as well as protein.

Health Problems Linked to Sodas
  • Obesity 
  • Inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Tooth decay (erosion of tooth enamel), gum disease and bone loss
  • Weak bones/easy fractures
  • Inadequate intake of milk and 100 percent fruit juice, leading to low levels of vitamins A, D, calcium, and protein.
  • Caffeine dependency
How to Protect Your Child From Health Risks Associated With Drinking Too Much Soda
  • Do not keep sodas, whether sweetened or unsweetened, in your house.
  • Explain the potential dangers of drinking too much soda to your child.
  • Encourage your child to drink water when he is thirsty rather than reaching for a soda.
  • Offer your child milk or other dairy products (or milk substitute) to meet his calcium needs.
  • Provide your child with small amounts of 100 percent fruit juice instead of sodas. Whole fruit is an even better alternative.
  • Set a good example. Children are great imitators, so don't drink sodas if you don't want your child to drink them.
Sodas are a major source of excess calories that contribute to the growing childhood obesity epidemic in the US. Drinking too much of these beverages could lead to other health problems, as well. To protect your child from the potential dangers, restrict access to sodas and offer healthy alternatives like water, milk and 100 percent fruit juice.

Healthy Beverages Toolkit

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Truth About Sodas: High Fructose Corn Syrup and Other Sweeteners

If you drink sodas (soft drinks), either you are either getting a lot of calories from sugar or you are consuming an artificial sweetener of one kind or another, or you are getting your sweetener. So, what harm is there in enjoying a little sweet beverage, you might ask. Let's take a look.

High Fructose Corn Syrup 
The bulk of sweeteners used in sodas is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Many people believe that HFCS, which is made from genetically engineered corn is a responsible for the rapid increase in obesity in the United States. 

One of the most worrisome problem facing us is the fact that sodas containing HFCS has rapidly displaced more nutritious beverages, including milk and 100% fruit juice. As a result, Americans are getting more sugar and less of the important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and vitamin C that are needed for healthy growth, development and disease prevention.

Additionally, sodas contain a large amount of calories from HFCS. Each 12-ounce can of soda that you drink provides about 140 calories. That is the equivalent of about 8 teaspoons of sugar. In essence, essence, every time you drink a soda you are consuming empty calories. These empty calories can easily add up, resulting in obesity and chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

It is important to note that the increase obesity in this country has occurred over the same period that we have experienced a huge increase in the consumption of sodas containing high fructose corn syrup. 

While most of the sodas on the market today are sweetened with HFCS, you might find some that actually contain table sugar. Calorie-wise, there is no difference between the number of calories that you get from sugar and HFCS. However, there is ongoing debate about whether your body handles these two sugars, table sugar and HFCS, differently.  

While the scientists continue to debate the issue, you need to focus on avoiding sodas and other foods with any form of added sugars, in order to prevent unwanted weight gain and related health problems.

You can gain unwanted weight from drinking sodas with table sugar just as well as you can from drinking sodas with HFCS. You are also likely to experience other health problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and high levels of triglycerides if you drink too much sugar sweetened soda. 

Other problems associated with a high intake of table sugar, as well as HFCS, include high levels of insulin in the blood, elevated blood glucose and inflammation. Inflammation is believed to be the cause of a number of chronic diseases.

Artificial Sweeteners
In a previous blog where I discussed “The Truth About Sodas,” I mentioned two artificial sweeteners, aspartame and acesulfame potassium. These sweeteners (chemical compounds) are made by combining two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine in the presence of an acid.

While these and other artificial sweeteners were developed to provide sweetness to food and drink without the calories, there has been ongoing controversy about the safety of these chemicals. 

One issue surrounding aspartame and acesulfame potassium is the health harm that could result to individuals with an inborn error of metabolism called phenylketonuria. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of other health problems, as well. These will be discussed in a future blog. 

Although artificial sweeteners (aka sugar substitute and non-nutritive sweeteners) have been marketed as weight loss aids and as a substitute for sugar in diabetics. there is no evidence that these chemicals help in either case. To the contrary, the incidence of obesity, as well as diabetes, has climbed significantly since these products have been put on the market.

Sodas offer no real nutritional benefit to consumers and may, in fact, contribute to obesity and the risk of chronic disease. Therefore, to reduce those risks, you should avoid do your best to consumption of sodas, whether sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, sugar or artificial sweeteners. This is especially important if you are trying to lose weight or want to avoid becoming obese in the first place.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Truth About Sodas

When was the last time you had a soda/soft drink?

Every day, millions of Americans guzzle down sodas by the can or the liter. You may be one of the millions who drink a soda when you're thirsty, when you're having a meal, or just to be sociable. Or you could be one of the millions who are literally addicted and have to have a liter or two everyday.

Unfortunately, few people bother to pay attention to what's in those sodas they drink, or the ill effects that they can have on your health. That's why I decided to blog about this subject. 

For starters, I thought it might be a good idea to let you in on the chemical soup that you might be getting every time you take a sip of a popular brand of soda. The ingredients listed below came directly off of the bottle. See if you can recognize what soda it is. If not, I have a challenge for you at the end of this blog.

Well, let's get started. Here are the chemicals you are putting in your body every time you have a  sip. So, what's that you're drinking?

Carbonated water. This is water that has been treated to produce carbon dioxide under pressure. When the water is exposed to air, it creates a fizz.

Caramel color. Caramel color is sugar/syrup that is cooked until it is slightly burnt to give the sugar a brown color.

Aspartame. Aspartame is a chemical that is made by combining two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine in the presence of an acid. The product of this chemical reaction is a substance that has a very sweet taste.

Potassium benzoate. Potassium benzoate is a chemical compound that is made by combining potassium and benzoic acid. This compound is used to preserve food for months or years.

Caffeine. Caffeine is a bitter compound that is present in coffee, tea, cocoa and kola nuts.

Natural flavor. Any flavoring obtained from plants or animals may be labeled as natural.

Acesulfame potassium. This is similar to aspartame – a compound made from two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine.

Citric acid. Citric acid is a weak acid found in fruits. It has a slightly acidic or sour taste.

Calcium disodium EDTA – This is a chemical that is used to prevent food from becoming rancid and to prevent certain cooked and canned beans from changing color.

Panax Ginseng Extract – This is added to beverages as a stimulant.

I challenge you to read the labels on soda bottles the next time you go grocery shopping and find out what drink contains all of the above ingredients.

More tomorrow on my next blog post.

If you have a question or comment, please send me a DM. And remember, October is "World Junk-Food Free Month."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Health Benefits of Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that you get from the sun, thus the name, the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D is mostly known for its role in helping to build strong bones. But studies show that vitamin D does much more than promote bone health.

Sources of Vitamin D
Most of the vitamin D you get comes from the sun. A mere 10 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun at least 3 times a week can provide all the vitamin D you need, under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, if you live in areas that get little sun exposure during certain times of the year, or if you are housebound with little chance to get some sunshine, you may not be getting enough vitamin D.

Food sources of vitamin D include oily fish, fortified milk and products made from fortified milk, and fortified orange juice. Certain mushrooms that have been irradiated also contain vitamin D.

Vitamin D Synthesis
Vitamin D is made in your body when the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays of the sun hit your skin and interacts with cholesterol to form cholecalciferol. Both your liver and kidneys are involved in the conversion of cholecalciferol to the active form of vitamin D. This is the major source of vitamin D for most people.

Vitamin D supplements are normally sold in capsules containing 500 or 1000 IUs of the vitamin. These supplements come in two forms - Vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is made by irradiating yeast and is said to be more potent than vitamin D2. Vitamin D2, a synthetic form of the vitamin is the less potent form.

Recommended Intake
The National Academy of Sciences set 400 IUs as the recommended intake of vitamin D for adults and 200 IUs for children. On the other hand, 10 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun, under ideal circumstances would produce about 10,000 IUs of vitamin D, which is adequate to meet the needs of most people.

Health Benefits
A number of studies show that vitamin D is important for a number of health-promoting functions that go beyond its role in bone health. Here are several health benefits that you may get from vitami D: 
  • Calcium absorption
  • Calcium transport to and from bone
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of stroke
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Enhance the immune system
  • Fight infections
  • Reduce the risk of cancer

Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to serious bone problems, including rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Although vitamin D deficiency low vitamin D levels have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and other chronic health problems.

Get a few minutes of sun exposure daily or most days and eat dairy or other vitamin D fortified foods for added insurance. If you have low circulating levels of vitamin D, talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian to find the best course of action, which might include a vitamin D supplement.