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”
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”
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?
This warming, spicy soup,from Eat Your Way to Sexy by Elizabeth Somer, features nutritional powerhouse sweet potatoes, which contain vitamins B6, C and D and iron, magnesium, potassium and carotenoids.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
10 cups sweet potato (peeled and cubed, approximately 3 1 /2 to 4 pounds of whole potato)
2 minced garlic clove
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
1/3 cup spicy mango chutney
3 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/3 cup vermouth
6 cups chicken broth
1 8-ounce baker potato, peeled and cubed
½ cup lite coconut milk
½ cup fat-free evaporated milk
1 tablespoon honey
juice and zest from one lime
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes.
- Add sweet potato, turn up heat to medium-high, and sauté, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.
- Add garlic, ginger, chutney, peanut butter, and curry paste, and stir to thoroughly coat sweet potatoes.
- Add vermouth, stir, and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add broth and potato, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until potatoes begin to break apart, approximately 30 minutes.
- Add lime juice and zest
- Transfer soup to food processor or blender and puree.
- Return to saucepan; add coconut milk, evaporated milk, and honey.
- Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour into soup bowls and garnish with peanuts and cilantro.
Makes 6 servings (approximately 2 cups each)
Nutrition Analysis: 464 Calories, 20 % fat (10 g, 2.6 g saturated), 67 % carbs (77. g), 13 % protein (15.1 g), 9 g fiber, 863 mg sodium.
We are more than a month into the new year, so how are you doing with those resolutions?
If you’re struggling to keep up with your 2015 goal, you’re not alone. “So many of us look to the start of a new year to make big changes,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of ‘Eat Your Way To Happiness’. “Our intentions are great – we want to lose weight, be healthier, start a gym routine – but our goals are lofty and we get discouraged when we don’t reach them quickly enough.”
This year, why not drop the resolutions and adopt a year-round feel-good approach? By focusing on the good and making gradual changes in areas where you are unsatisfied you’re more likely to feel that sense of accomplishment. Here are a few ways to feel good in 2015:
- Take stock: Instead of looking at what you need to be happier, appreciate all the good things you already have in your life. Give yourself a pat on the back for all of your accomplishments, big and small, from having a great relationship with your kids to cooking an excellent signature dish. For times when you need a nudge to remember your successes, try writing it down in a journal.
- Eat Breakfast: A simple goal, but a worthy one. The benefits of breakfast are myriad – starting your day with a healthy meal can give your energy, improve your ability to concentrate and even help you maintain a healthy weight. No time to sit down for scrambled eggs? Try something you can take on the go, like a smoothie. Even leftovers from last night’s dinner can work (don’t be afraid of veggies for breakfast!).
- Supplement: While we’re on the topic of nutrition, an important goal is to get enough of the essential vitamins and nutrients that you need. Eating the right foods is important, but studies show that many of us aren’t hitting the nutritional mark with diet alone. Learn more about essential nutrients here: vitaminsinmotion.com and talk to your medical professional to determine what supplements are best for you.
- Try something new: Anything that you haven’t done before counts for this one. Pilates, a language class, a new recipe, organizing a community event. Challenge yourself and you might find something you love doing.
- Reach out: It can be too easy to stay in and hibernate during the long winter, but social connection is a key element for overall health. Make a point to spend time with loved ones, reconnect with long-lost friends or meet new people in your community. Bonus – making plans with other people will actually force you to get out and be active.
Food is a big part of our lives. We celebrate with special meals, we connect with friends over lunch, we plan a week’s worth of dinners for our families. But at it’s root, food is fuel to help our bodies work. We need the energy, nutrients and vitamins food provides. “The foods we eat should make us feel good,” says Elizabeth Somer, nutritionist and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy and other titles. “These days, the typical American diet contains too many foods that have the opposite effect – making us feel tired, stuffed and uncomfortable.”
Below, Somer shares some of the foods that she defines as unsexy foods – foods that make us feel badly. “Put these foods on the ‘rarely’ list,” she says. “Indulge occasionally if you must, but take note of how these foods make you feel.”
- Refined grains: “People who eat refined grains are more likely to be overweight,” says Somer. Try replacing white carbohydrates, like bread, pasta and flour with whole-grain alternatives to get a feel-good dose of fiber.
- Commercial snack foods: Chips, cookies, crackers, candy, granola bars, baked sweets are all included here. “Too much processed foods and sugar will you leave you feeling seriously unsexy,” says Somer.
- Meat and full-fat dairy: You don’t need to cut out meat, but you should be wise about what cuts of red meat you choose. “Focus on lean meats (7% fat or less), smaller portions and try substituting fatty fish once in a while,” says Somer. “If you don’t like fish, be sure to take a supplement to get those essential omega-3s.” As for dairy, stock up on low-fat cheese and milk. Add homemade fruit puree to plain low-fat yogurt to avoid a sugar rush.
Tell us, what foods make you feel great? What foods do you avoid?
Nutrition plays a major role in the health of expectant mothers and their babies prior to and throughout pregnancy.
It is important to focus on real foods to ensure you are getting the proper nutrition to help your baby grow and develop. Colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nonfat milk are staples in an expectant mother’s diet, says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer. It is also important to work in protein-rich foods like extra-lean meat such as chicken, fish or dried beans and peas for iron.
Elizabeth recommends taking a moderate-dose multivitamin (try Enfamil Expecta Prenatal supplement) and at least 400 mcg of folic acid to cover your bases on the days when you don’t eat perfectly.
During pregnancy, DHA omega-3 helps to support your infant’s brain, eye and nervous system development and is particularly important in the third trimester when significant brain growth occurs. Developing infants cannot efficiently produce their own DHA and must obtain this vital nutrient through the placenta throughout pregnancy and from breast milk after birth. Maternal DHA supplementation during pregnancy and nursing significantly enhances the level of DHA available to the infant and may improve certain developmental outcomes such as:
- Eye-hand coordination
- Motor skills
- Attention span
DHA also provides important maternal benefits. It is suggested DHA supplementation during pregnancy can help lengthen gestation and support the mental state of the mother.
Most women do not get enough DHA in their diets. Fortunately, a growing awareness of the dietary sources of DHA, as well as the recent inclusion of DHA in certain prenatal products and fortified foods, are making it easier for women to include this important nutrient in their everyday diets. Check out some of these DHA-rich products for expectant moms: