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Health Prevention, Nutrition Bits

How’s your vitamin D level? 9 factors to consider.

May 31, 2015
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Within the last decade – researchers have discovered that not only is vitamin D important to your bone health, but as a hormone it regulates of muscle health (including both skeletal and heart muscle), immune response, insulin and blood sugar, and regulation of calcium and phosphorus metabolism. With so much research pointing toward the importance of vitamin D for our overall health, this newsletter article from the Harvard Medical School caught our eye.

According to 2011 National Center for Health Data statistics, almost one in three Americans has vitamin D blood levels below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), the threshold that the Institute of Medicine (IOM) says is needed for good bone health. Some experts say even higher levels are needed. Figuring out all the factors that can affect a person’s vitamin D levels is complicated. You can get the vitamin from food (mainly because it’s been added; few foods are natural sources of vitamin D) and by taking supplements (many doctors recommend taking 800 IU of vitamin D3 a day).

But vitamin D is also produced by the body in a complex process that starts when rays in the invisible ultraviolet B (UVB) part of the light spectrum are absorbed by the skin. The liver, and then the kidneys, are involved in the steps that eventually result in a bioavailable form of the vitamin that the body can use.

A review paper about the many factors influencing a person’s vitamin D levels appeared in 2011 in Acta Dermato-Venerologica, a Swedish medical journal. Here are nine interesting factors identified in the paper:

1. The latitude where you live. At higher latitudes, the amount of vitamin D–producing UVB light reaching the earth’s surface goes down in the winter because of the low angle of the sun. In Boston, for example, little if any of the vitamin is produced in people’s skin tissue from November through February. Short days and clothing that covers legs and arms also limit UVB exposure.

2. The air pollution where you live. Carbon particulates in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, and other materials scatter and absorb UVB rays. Ozone absorbs UVB radiation, so holes in the ozone layer could be a pollution problem that winds up enhancing vitamin D levels.

3. Your use of sunscreen — in theory. Sunscreen prevents sunburn by blocking UVB light, so theoretically, sunscreen use lowers vitamin D levels. But as a practical matter, very few people put on enough sunscreen to block all UVB light, or they use sunscreen irregularly, so sunscreen’s effects on our vitamin D levels might not be that important. An Australian study that’s often cited showed no difference in vitamin D between adults randomly assigned to use sunscreen one summer and those assigned a placebo cream.

4. The color of your skin. Melanin is the substance in skin that makes it dark. It “competes” for UVB with the substance in the skin that kick-starts the body’s vitamin D production. As a result, dark-skinned people tend to require more UVB exposure than light-skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D.

5. The temperature of your skin. Warm skin is a more efficient producer of vitamin D than cool skin. So, on a sunny, hot summer day, you’ll make more vitamin D than on a cool one.

6. Your weight. Fat tissue sops up vitamin D, so it’s been proposed that it might be a vitamin D rainy-day fund: a source of the vitamin when intake is low or production is reduced. But studies have also shown that being obese is correlated with low vitamin D levels and that being overweight may affect the bioavailability of vitamin D.

7. Your age. Compared with younger people, older people have lower levels of the substance in the skin that UVB light converts into the vitamin D precursor, and there’s experimental evidence that older people are less efficient vitamin D producers than younger people. Yet the National Center for Health Statistics data on vitamin D levels fly in the face of the conventional wisdom that vitamin D inadequacy is a big problem among older people. They don’t show a major drop-off in levels between middle-aged people and older folks.

8. The health of your gut. The vitamin D that is consumed in food or as a supplement is absorbed in the part of the small intestine immediately downstream from the stomach. Stomach juices, pancreatic secretions, bile from the liver, the integrity of the wall of the intestine — they all have some influence on how much of the vitamin is absorbed. Therefore, conditions that affect the gut and digestion, like celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, and cystic fibrosis, can reduce vitamin D absorption.

9. The health of your liver and kidneys. Some types of liver disease can reduce absorption of vitamin D because the ailing liver isn’t producing normal amounts of bile. With other types, steps essential to vitamin D metabolism can’t occur — or occur incompletely. Levels of the bioactive form of vitamin D tend to track with the health of the kidneys, so in someone with kidney disease, bioactive vitamin D levels decrease as the disease gets worse, and in end-stage kidney disease, the level is undetectable.

What are the best natural sources of vitamin D? Besides sunshine, salmon, sardine and shrimp… read on

Nourish, Nutrition Bits

The Saltiest Foods in America Will Shock You

November 8, 2012
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You know that moment — when you wake up in the middle of the night feeling like you’ve spent the last four hours in the Sahara only to guzzle down glass after glass of water? Or when your fingers are so bloated you can hardly get your wedding ring on? The culprit could be these sneaky salty foods the American Heart Association has singled out. Plus, salt overload isn’t just bad for your appearance, it can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

“Excess sodium in our diets has less to do with what we’re adding to our food and more to do with what’s already in the food,” Linda Van Horn, a research nutritionist at Northwestern University and an AHA volunteer, said in a press release. “The average individual is getting more than double the amount of sodium that they need.” The average American actually gets 3,400 milligrams of salt per day, about twice the 1,500 milligrams that is recommended.

1. Bread: One piece can contain about 15 percent of the daily recommended amount. Eat a sandwich and you’re up to 30 percent.

2. Cold cuts and cured meats: Deli or pre-packaged turkey can contain as much as 1,050 milligrams of sodium.

3. Pizza: One slice can contain up to 760 milligrams of sodium, so two can send you over the top.

4. Poultry: Chicken nuggets are the worst — only 3 ounces of nuggets contain nearly 600 milligrams of sodium.

5. Soup: One cup of canned chicken noodle soup can have up to 940 milligrams of sodium.

 

Photo via Flickr: by SoraZG

EZ-DiY, Nourish, Nutrition Bits, Recipes, Recipes

Best Roasted Tomato Recipe Ever!

August 17, 2012
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Do you have an abundance of gorgeous, sweet, fresh-from-the-garden or Farmers Market tomatoes … and calendar full of BBQs. We loved this EZ recipe from the Hawaii Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

Maria Tucker from Aloha Gourmet suggests topping with fine bread crumbs or Parmesan cheese during the last five minutes of roasting. We served them as is -and they were a crowd pleaser!

Recipe:
8-10 Tomatoes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, basil, chevril or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (of course Hawaiian sea salt is best)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Slice tomatoes in half, place in a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. We didn’t have chevril or marjoram, just lots of fresh basil, Arrange a single layer with the cut sides up and bake about 30 minutes.  Serves 6.

Best part is they are sooo good for you – check out this breakdown from SELFnutritionaldata.com

Cocktails, Food, MISS University, Recipes

NASA Inspired Cocktails From A Real Rocket Scientist

August 10, 2012
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With Morgan Hendry ‘s permission we are sharing the post he wrote as he and his colleagues waited to hear if the landing of the robot Curiosity survived to fulfill her mission a few years back. Hendry works for NASA and is also a musician in LA. (see his bio below). He and his colleagues created the official Mars Science Landing Cocktails, which can also be enjoyed as a celebration for the success of the event. Also, for those who want to follow the mission tweet-by-tweet follow the robot named Curiosity as ‘she’ roves the red planet. 

Onto Hendry’s blog…

Highbrow musical compositions aside, when the rubber hits the road, I’m a man who enjoys his drink.  My love of Tiki concoctions sometimes walks that thin cliff’s edge between a light hangover and insanity.  Then there is, of course, The Head (which is still lurking in my garage).

It’s probably no secret that my day job is at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  If it was, well, these were the clues…  With a week to go until the MSL landing and in the spirit of merging art and science, I wanted to share a little project that my friends and I undertook.

I now present to you the official unofficial Mars Science Laboratory cocktails!

Here’s Hoping (that we actually land…)

1 lime
1 3/4 ounce New Make Rye
1 ounce Campari
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 Luxardo maraschino cherry with small scoup of liquid

A little aperitif created by Kerri Anderson (honorary JPL engineer).  Shake over ice. Add cherry and liquid to martini glass before pouring in cocktail.

MSL Flaming Aeroshell

If you’re a fan of black licorice or absinth, you should enjoy this one.  Pour Pernod over ice to cloud before combining with rum. Pour in shot glass over sugar cube.

  • 2 parts Silver Tequila
  • 1 part Cherry Heering Liquor
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Squeeze of blood orange juice
  • Splash of grenadine
  • Dash of salt, cayenne pepper and ice

Scott Nowak created this fantastic Tiki inspired punch.  Pour ingredients into a punch bowl filled with ice.  Cut lime in half and clean out pulp after it has been squeezed. Fill with 151 rum. Float lime shell on cocktail. Light 151 on fire for flaming aeroshell effect.

Massive Angle of Attack

  • 4 parts spiced cranberry cider
  • 3 parts rum
  • 2 parts amaretto
  • 1 sugar cube soaked in high proof rum on a spoon per drink/glass

What can we say, we were all pyromaniacs growing up…  Mike Burger and Maggie Scholtz created this one.  Basically you have to get the burning sugar cube into the glass without lighting the top of the drink on fire (or else you “burn up”).

Little Green Men

6 parts vodka
4 parts Midori melon liqueur
2 parts triple sec
1 part lime juice
Pop Rocks

Ethan Post created this shot totally independent of mine.  Shake ingredients together and serve in shot glasses rimmed with pop rocks.

I’ve got to say, I was totally blown away by both how original and tasty these all were.  Granted, like any project, we had a few misfires…

Who is Morgan? Here is what he says….

“I have been a musician and rocket scientist since 4th grade.  I play drums/keyboards for the LA based instrumental rock band Beware of Safety, write electronic music as The Laterite Road, and just landed something on Mars.  More info can be found at my website.”