By: Elizabeth Somer, M.A.,R.D.
Unless you’re supplementing daily with vitamin D, it’s likely you are deficient and don’t even know it. Up to three in every four people tested are low in this vitamin. What’s the risk?
Until recently, vitamin D’s sole job was to support calcium absorption and deposition into bone, thus lowering osteoporosis risk. This role is now considered the tip of the nutritional iceberg.
Every cell in your body has receptors for vitamin D, which means every cell, tissue, organ, and system, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes, needs the vitamin. It’s no wonder research shows that vitamin D might aid the body in muscle weakness, gum disease, diabetes, insulin resistance, hearing and vision loss, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, hypertension and depression, among other health conditions. It also supports pregnancy outcome and reduces the incidence of falls by up to 60 percent in seniors, while a deficiency can mimic symptoms of fibromyalgia. Preliminary studies also show a possible link between low vitamin D intake and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease and more.
Continue reading “The One Vitamin You Are Low In”
Are the foods on your plate helping you stay healthy through the years? We know what foods are ‘good’ for us, but did you know that what’s on your plate today could affect the way you age?
A recent study, by DSM and Groningen University, looked at why some populations age healthier than others. The researchers found evidence that a lack of nutrients can have long-term health effects. The results of the study support what we already know about the importance of a balanced diet throughout our lives.
It’s not always easy to ensure we’re getting proper nutrition, particularly as we age and need fewer calories and our bodies may absorb less nutrients. To help you stay healthy, try following these five rules: Continue reading “5 tips to help you age healthier”
In our last article, we talked about the difficulties of meeting recommended guidelines for essential nutrients. “Even if you follow a healthy diet, a busy lifestyle can make it difficult to obtain the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals from food alone,” says Elizabeth Somer, a leading registered dietitian and author of several books, including “The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals.”
So, how else can we get the nutrition we need? One easy way to maintain good nutrition is to enhance your diet with supplements. The problem for many is that the frequency of new studies combined with the staggering number of supplements available makes it increasingly confusing to know what is right.
To help you put nutrition news in context, Somer is debunking a few of the common misconceptions about dietary supplements:
Continue reading “Common Misconceptions about Supplements”
As we enter 2016, many of us are thinking about our health and nutrition. After the indulgences of the holiday season, it’s time to take a closer look at what’s on our plate. When it comes to getting essential nutrients through food, it’s not enough to add the right foods to your menu, you also need to look at how often and how much of those foods you are eating.
Do you regularly eat a whole cup of sautéed spinach or get three weekly servings of salmon or other fatty fish? Research shows that Americans aren’t making the nutritional grade and, therefore, can lack important vitamins and minerals like folic acid, vitamin E, vitamin K and even vitamin C.
Data on dietary intake from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which used the USDA’s Healthy Eating Index to compare what people say they eat to recommended dietary guidelines, found that children and adults scored 56 points out of a possible 100 (equivalent to an “F” grade), while seniors fared only slightly better at 65 points (equivalent to a “D” grade). The American Heart Association agreed with those findings in its 2013 report on heart disease and stroke, concluding that poor diet and lack of exercise are two of the main factors contributing to the high prevalence of heart disease in the U.S.
While many of us are falling short on meeting recommended dietary guidelines, it’s clear from the sheer amount of healthy lifestyle articles, diets, methods and tips out there that we are striving to be healthier.
Here are a few easy to ways to add extra nutrition to your meals:
- Add a cup of spinach or other leafy greens to your next smoothie. You won’t taste the spinach at all and your drink will be a pretty shade of green.
- Add finely chopped veggies to your pasta sauce, soups and casseroles.
- Swap out white pasta and bread and cereals for whole grain (aim for low-sugar and high-fiber options too).
Do you aim to meet the recommended dietary guidelines? How do you get your get your essential nutrients?
A recent study published in the New York Times found that exercise might increase the brain’s flexibility. Yet another reason in a long list supporting the health benefits of physical activity as we age. Not convinced? Here are our top 5 reasons why you need to prioritize exercise.
- Get out of your comfort zone: Trying something new, like a community Zumba class, or developing a new skillset, like boxing or rock-climbing, helps keep your brain stimulated. As you exercise your body, you’ll also be exercising your mind.
- Manage your weight: Another added benefit of exercise? Dropping excess pounds. Staying within a healthy weight range can help stave off a myriad of health conditions – like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Maintain your healthy brain: Grow your brain along with your muscles – regular exercise can encourage the growth of new brain cells and connections. Overall physical health is closely linked to brain health, so a healthy body is key to a healthy brain.
- Keep your social life buzzing: Physical activity often goes hand in hand with group activities – aerobics class at the gym, dance lessons, weekly tai chi sessions in the part. Even walking dates with friends are a great way to stay active and stay connected.
- Show what you can do: When you started, you could barely jog to the mailbox. Now you can make it around the block without taking a break. Exercise shows us what we’re capable of – often beyond our own expectations. Setting, and reaching, new goals is a great way to stay motivated.
What’s your favorite benefit of exercising?
What’s the most important thing we can do to maintain brain health as we age? According to a new study, it’s not one thing but a combination of several things that may help slow cognitive decline in older adults.
A recent study was done over three years with nearly 1,700 older adults who had mildmemory complaints, slow walking speed, and other daily living limitations. The study participants were randomized into four groups, each with a different regimen to follow. The group who were assigned nutritional counselling, exercise, social and cognitive stimulation along with DHA supplements showed positive results. Even the participants in this group who had a low baseline DHA showed significant results.
The study results reinforce what we already know. The Four Dimensions of Brain Health – a healthy diet, mental engagement, physical activity and social engagement are essential to maintaining our brain health. “The MAPT study shows us that we have some influence in helping to maintain brain health,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author. “Lifestyle changes, like making sure you’re eating the right foods and being active for thirty minutes daily, can have a big impact on brain health.”
DHA is an essential nutrient for brain health but most of us don’t get nearly enough through diet, says Somer. “97% of the omega-3s in the brain are DHA, so it’s no wonder the study found that DHA supplementation can support a healthy brain,” she says. “Aim for a supplement that has at least 200mg DHA.”
How do you take care of your brain health?
As the temperatures cool down (goodbye summer, see you next year!), the sun may be shining a little less brightly, but that doesn’t mean you should pack your shades away. Maintaining healthy eyes and vision is a year-round job.
5 ways to keep your eyes healthy throughout the year:
- Wear sunglasses: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to vision issues, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Look for sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and that screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light. If you do winter sports or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, consider polarized lenses which offer additional protection from the sun’s glare.
- Hydrate: Keep dry eyes at bay by drinking lots of water. If you’re going to be losing water (i.e. sweating), add in additional water to replenish your body. Keep a refillable bottle of water nearby throughout the day to remind you to drink up.
- Wear protective eyewear: Don’t underestimate the potential for eye injury in everyday activities. Sharp tools, flying dust, harsh chemicals – all can be hazardous to your eye health. If you’re doing basic home repairs or intensive cleaning, don a pair of safety goggles. You can pick them up at many eyewear and sporting goods stores.
- Eat well: We shared Vitamins in Motion’s infographic on nutrition for eye health in our last post. In a nutshell, look for nutrient-packed fruits and veggies and healthy fats to keep your eyes bright, shiny, and healthy. Lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamins A, C and E and omega-3 fatty acids are eye-health superstars.
- Limit screen time: Today, screens are everywhere, not just on our desktop computer. Tapping out an email on your smartphone, watching a movie on your tablet – too much time in front of a screen can cause eyestrain. To prevent this, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take your eyes off your computer and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. If you can, take a quick walk during this time.
How do you keep your eyes healthy?