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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

Body, Health Prevention, Nourish, Nutrition Advice, Nutrition Bits

Iodine: The EZ Way!

June 12, 2012
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Somehow iodine, iodine, iodine has become the topic du jour around the lunch table at work. No big mystery as one of our friends is having a thyroid issue, which then created a sudden interest eating foods rich in iodine – the trace mineral essential in thyroid function. (And of course it’s touted as the first line of defense against the nuclear radiation fall out) Since, we don’t want to accidentally OD by taking tablets, like some people do. We set out to find the best dietary sources.

Duh! turns out iodized salt is a pretty easy thing to do… thanks Joseph A. Case for your detail-rich article.

And as it turns out seafood is naturally rich in iodine, including; cod, sea bass, haddock and perch. Kelp (one serving of kelp offers 4 times more than a daily minimum requirement) is the most common iodine-rich green source, while dairy products and plants grown in iodine-rich soil can provide a bit of this nutrient  … we digress.

Keep it simple by snacking on it! While those Trader Joe’s seaweed snacks are pretty good – if you can find Seasnax dried seaweed (Whole Foods, some health food stores, online) … these seem to score a bit higher w/ the online health brigade because they use olive oil -not canola oil in the process. And according to their website, on average, 15 micrograms of iodine can be found in a full sheet of nori.

Just not into food from the sea? Here is a chart from The World’s Healthiest Foods on what they consider to be great sources of iodine.

Did we miss your favorite iodine-rich snack or meal? Please share in our comments.