Vitamin C, Vitamin D & your Immune system

Your New Best Friends for Immune Health–Vitamin C and Vitamin D

In these times of COVID-19, we are becoming more aware and knowledgeable about how illnesses spread. We know that it is important to wash our hands, refrain from sharing drinks, and be cautious of our distance between our friends and family–But how do you set your body up for success when you DO come into contact with germs? Vitamin C and Vitamin D have your back.

Vitamin C Immunity Benefits

Vitamin C is an antioxidant and plays a major role in the growth and repair of our bodies. It prepares your body to fight and then speeds up your recovery if you do end up getting sick. In other words, paying more attention to getting Vitamin C into your diet can decrease the length of time you are sick for, allowing you to recover faster and get back on track.

How can I get Vitamin C?

Vitamin C must be consumed through food because it cannot be produced by your body. Great sources of Vitamin C include fruits and vegetables such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kiwi. Many of these foods can be enjoyed cooked as well as raw. If you do decide to cook your fruit/veggie, be cautious around how long the food is being cooked for and how high the heat is. Too much heat for long periods of time can decrease nutrients in the food.  Microwaving or steaming are good options to minimize nutrient loss while still achieving the desired texture of a cooked food.

Vitamin D Immunity Benefits

A lack of Vitamin D has been proven to correlate with an increased risk for infection. In fact, Vitamin D used to be used to fight tuberculosis before antibiotics were created! This is because Vitamin D is expressed on your immune cells. Vitamin D decreases inflammatory processes, increases antiinflammatory processes, and helps the body better absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. 

How can I get Vitamin D?

Your main source of Vitamin D is the sunshine! Try getting out of the house when taking a break from work for just 15-20 minutes to soak up the sun on your bare skin.  Spending well over this amount of time without sunscreen or protective clothing on is Vitamin D overkill and can increase risk for burns.  It may sound simple to get your daily Vitamin D dose, but over half of the world is deficient because most daily routines in this day and age require us to be inside. Vitamin D can also be absorbed through food, but these food sources are not common or accessible to many.  Vitamin D rich foods are cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna fish, orange juice fortified with Vitamin D, milks fortified with Vitamin D, sardines, and beef liver.

Should I supplement Vitamin C and/or D to make sure I am getting enough?

It is recommended to focus on getting nutrients from food sources (food and sun in the case of Vitamin D) before supplementing. Look back at the food sources for Vitamin C and Vitamin D and choose a few that you would enjoy eating.  If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to be consistent. Supplementation should fill in the gaps. However, research has shown that half of the world is not able to get enough Vitamin D from food and sunshine. Therefore, many could benefit greatly from taking a supplement. It is important to talk to your dietitian or doctor to make sure you are getting the correct amounts for you. 

  • Written by Tara Greenwood, Penn State University Nutrition & Dietetics Student

Why you should drop that diet!

What do the Keto Diet, Paleo Diet, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Noom, Atkins, and even Intermittent Fasting have in common? They’re ALL some type of fad diet. It’s another one of those “tried it, had success, and then gained my weight back” diet plan that will always stick around no matter how hard we try to stay away from them. Fad diets date back to the Victorian era in the 1900s!! They’ve been a part of our culture for as long as we’ve all been alive and that’s one reason why they’ll always stick around. They are an entire culture built on money, marketing, the scale, and before and after photos. Thankfully, what we know now versus what we knew even 20 years ago is changing and leaning more towards an acceptance of the body, and overall health; not just being as skinny as possible and shaming ourselves when we fail to meet our own high expectations. 

As defined by the medical dictionary, fad diets are defined as “ Any of a number of weight-reduction diets that either eliminate one or more of the essential food groups, or recommend consumption of one type of food in excess at the expense of other foods. Fad diets rarely follow sound nutritional principles for weight loss, which focus on ingesting fewer calories and/or consuming more energy through exercise; fad diets are generally not endorsed by the medical profession.” 

I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. Any diet that restricts or eliminates food groups, creates a feeling of deprivation, and only focuses on weight loss is created to give you short-term, fast results. Nothing in a fad diet will provide healthy principles that will give a long-term result that you can live with forever. So why do we keep chasing these diets and thinking that we “just haven’t found the right one for us yet?” Among the millions of reasons, a few of the most obvious include:

  • Because they “work”
  • People get results and they get them fast (30-90 days on average)
  • Before and after testimonials showing an unrealistic improvement 
  • They give off the illusion of being “easy”
  • Organized and planned for you 
  • BIG money makers 

Let’s elaborate a bit on these points. By saying these diets work, I’m saying that you will get results and you will lose weight, but to what detriment? What happens when you stop this diet and go about your normal life again? Chances are, you’ll gain your weight right back. Diets aren’t structured to be followed for the rest of your life, they are created to give you drastic results that won’t last.

With the before and after testimonial pictures we constantly see, we think “well I want that, I want to feel and look that great”. The problem with these pictures is that you are NOT that person. Every body is completely different, and will respond differently to any diet. 

They make transformations look easy because all you see is the before and after; not the struggles that person dealt with in between those photos.

Another reason we keep buying into them is they’re all planned out and organized for us. We don’t have to think about what to eat or how to exercise, it’s already made for us. But the problem with this is that no one body is the same! We absolutely cannot put ourselves into categories of diets and expect to have the same results of someone else that we know did it. Of course, they are HUGE money makers. Every one of these includes paying more money and giving you a sense of having “skin in the game” so you’re more dedicated to following a diet. Whether it’s buying their food, using their products, or going out and buying all new food for a meal plan, you’re going to be spending more money for something that’s not necessarily guaranteed. 

I hope by now, you’re in a place where you’re ready to get rid of a diet and get on a long-term, life plan. How do we get off of the fad diet hamster wheel and into a consistent, real-life routine? We need to take time, dedication, be patient, and stay organized. Of course, meeting with a dietitian is the best way to find a healthy, balanced plan that will work for you and only you. Losing weight and feeling healthy isn’t always about the number on the scale or the number of workouts you do in a week. Feeling and looking your best is about appreciating your body and what it can do for you, as well as eating foods you genuinely enjoy and STOP restricting the foods you love.

When you stop setting rules and regulations for yourself, you’ll find a better balance between the “everything in moderation” motto we all hear so much about. 

We also have to remember that feeling and looking healthy takes time; months, years or even decades. I often say to my clients that patience is the hardest part of weight loss. We are a society of instant gratification, but when it comes to your body, this is absolutely not the case. The harder you are on yourself for what you’re not doing, the more negative self talk you’re allowing. We need to be positive, focus on the wins we have, and throw the scale away. Who cares how much you weigh when you’re feeling your absolute best and have the most energy you’ve had in years? Everyone’s healthy body looks completely different; we need to stop comparing ourselves. 

Fad diets are a part of our diet culture, and they will unfortunately never go away. So long as we keep buying into them, they will always stick around. So next time you think about starting a diet, think about your long-term goals. Working with a licensed professional will help you get around the physical and mental blocks to finding your healthiest self. Do yourself a favor and help us help you! Give us a call today!

EAT OUT, DON’T SKIMP OUT!

It’s a very common question in my office from my patients: what should I do when I’m going out to eat? We work SO hard during the week to stay consistent and eat clean, but when the weekends roll around, we forget how hard we’ve worked. We want to let loose and just enjoy ourselves without feeling like all the work we did during the week is just cancelled out. The food and drinks we indulge in don’t always have to make you feel worse before another week hits us. So here are my top tips for what to do, plan, and expect for when eating out…

HAVE A PLAN

Read the menu to make a plan ahead of time. When you have a plan, there’s no decision to be made when you’re actually in the restaurant. When you go out to eat, you want to enjoy the company around you, not worry about what you’re going to order and how many calories it’s going to be! Just remember that chain restaurants are legally required to provide calories, where mom and pop type places do not have to. We’ll talk more about strategies with calorie-less restaurants…

HYDRATE 

Make sure you’re drinking water before and throughout the meal. It’s no secret that when you drink enough water, it helps lower appetite. Making sure you’re hydrated before you start eating helps keep those hunger pangs away and ultimately helps you make a more mindful decision when you’re looking at a menu. 

SHARE

Don’t be afraid to share: an app and an entree with a friend or beau. Collaborating with the person you’re dining with can not only help with portion control, but it can offer up more dishes to try, and your wallet will thank you. Getting both an appetizer and an entree will give you more dishes to try than if you were to just get one entree and forego the app. Go outside of your comfort zone and try something different. 

SIMPLIFY

Keep it simple; stay away from creams, gravies and sauces. Ordering a protein and two side dishes can often be a lot less calories than a salad. The less there is within each meal, the less calories it’s going to pack in. Watch for things that may seem healthy, but have sauce, cream or gravy along with them. Grilled chicken can be great, but not if it comes topped with cheese, heavy cream, or gravy. Forego the sodium-ladened additions and keep it simple. 

MAXIMIZE 

Try to get dishes that are 500 calories or less. This may seem like a lot of calories, but when you look at the calories on most menus, this is more difficult to find than you’d think. Most meals can easily provide 800-1200 calories, and that’s just the entree, let alone the fries and the drink you have with it. So sticking with under 500 calories per meal can help limit that overstuffed and bloated feeling after eating out. 

SNACK…ALWAYS SNACK

Snack ahead of time; never go hangry. Imagine sitting in a restaurant, your stomach is yelling at you out of hunger, and you want to make a healthy choice, but all you see is juicy burgers and chicken fingers on the menu. You’re going to say “F’ it” and order the cheeseburger because you’re literally STARVING. Making decisions when you’re hangry can be very dangerous, so never let yourself get hangry or save your calories for the day before you go out to eat. Otherwise, you’ll regret it later, stuff yourself full, and won’t be hungry for the rest of the day. 

WATCH YOUR MIXERS 

Avoid drinking your calories; try seltzer water or tea. Take the surge in craft beers for example. Many craft beers (which are the tastier ones) are typically between 200-300 calories for one, and the likelihood you’re just having one is usually slim. So it’s better to stick with a hard liquor, use water, plain iced tea, or seltzer (calorie-free) as your mixer, and you typically don’t need as many. This will keep calories low and again prevent any serious stuffed feeling after your meal. 

GET PICKY 

Try soup and salad for a little bit of everything. I often get in the mood for something hot, but I want some crunch and veggies too. I’ll get a soup and salad or chili and salad which is very filling, the portions are automatically smaller than a full entree, and you’re getting the satisfaction from different textures when you eat. Sometimes it’s better to pick on different things, than order a healthier meal you’re not really craving. The more you try to avoid that craving, the more it will pick back at you. 

NON-NEGOTIABLES

Identify your non-negotiables. What I mean by this is what to you means you’re truly enjoying your meal. If you order something because you know it’s better for you, but all you can think about is that cheesesteak that you really want, you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied and still wanting more. You often will snack on other people’s food that you’re with just to get some satisfaction. Think about what you want and order a salad with that cheese steak instead of fries. Or put cheese steak on top of your salad and skip the bun altogether. Figure out clever ways to eat the foods you love, without going overboard with other unhealthy foods. You’ll feel better AND satisfied. 

TAKE YOUR FOOD HOME 

A cardinal rule that’s been around forever, but still rings true. It’s helpful to try and eat half of your meal and take the other half home rather than just stuff the rest in your belly, because “it doesn’t seem like that much.” Going back to the calorie amounts in foods, most meals are over 1,000 calories. So by splitting up your portions in two, you’re not only cutting calories but you’re also sticking to a smaller portion that will leave you feeling lighter after a meal. Another bonus; you get to eat and enjoy your meal twice over! I don’t know about you, but to me that’s winning. 

So next time you’re ordering or eating out, think about a few of these tips and try to implement them when necessary. Eating out doesn’t mean you have to leave feeling stuffed, tired and fluffy. It’s up to us what we put in our mouths, so do yourself a favor and leave the restaurant feeling empowered, in control, and satisfied! 

Put a Little “Everything” In Your Life

Everything bagel seasoning has emerged as the latest thing to literally put on everything. So why not provide you with some knowledge on why it can be great for you and how you can use it more often! It all started with a grocery store called Trader Joe’s. They came out with a little bottle of magic called “Everything but the bagel” seasoning, and it sounds exactly like it is…everything but the bagel.

It’s simply the seasoning that you find on an everything bagel, but guess what….it’s good on everything!! 

It’s comprised of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried onion flakes, dried garlic flakes, and sea salt. All these flavors formed into one make a super seasoning! So why should we use it on foods? The poppy and sesame seeds are going to offer up more healthy fats (omega-3s), offer more satiety in meals, and of course load it up with flavor. Calories are moderately low, so this seasoning is a great choice to add a burst of flavor. A serving size is considered ¼ tsp which offers up a whopping 5 calories, so while it still provides calories, it’s not going to load calories onto a meal like a sauce or marinade would. You do still have to be aware of the sodium, since sea salt is one of the ingredients, but as a whole, this can be a great choice on lots of different foods. 

If you haven’t tried “everything” seasoning yet, here are a couple of foods you could try it with to see if you truly like it. I’ve personally thrown it onto my eggs (which is amazing), coated chicken and steak with it, added it to roasted veggies, and you could also add it to a soup, salad or avocado toast as well! There are SO many ways you can use this seasoning that it’s almost silly not to try it. 

Finding this seasoning used to be much harder, but with the popularity of it growing, it’s easier to find. Some big stores you can find it in include Walmart, Costco,Giant, Redner’s and of course the OG Trader Joe’s. If you don’t feel like buying it, chances are you have all the ingredients to make it at home too! Here are the ratios:

¼ cup sesame seeds

¼ cups poppy seeds

3 tbsp dried onion flakes

3 tbsp dried garlic flakes 

2 tbsp course sea salt 

Mix all this together and you’ll get 1 cup of deliciousness! Try it for yourself and comment below to let me know what you thought! Time to take your meals up a notch!

Top 5 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions SUCK!

In 2017, 2018, 2019, AND 2020, the top 3 New Year’s resolutions were to eat healthy, get more exercise, and save more money with the fourth runner up being not having a resolution at all (⅓ of population). Why do you think this is? Why do we always put so much pressure on ourselves to be a healthier person just because a new year is starting? 

I thought 2020 would mean flying cars, ready-made meals with the snap of our fingers, and teleporting to anywhere in the world. Although we’ve had  A LOT of ingenuity and progress in the world, we’re not quite that far yet. So thinking about what 2020 means to you is how you should reflect on this year and see where you want to go in the next decade. What will you bring to 2020? How do you want to change your life for this “new year”? There are a lot of things to put into practice to make sure you reach your goals, but new year’s resolutions are NOT one of them. Here are 5 quick reasons why…

  1. We think more on a short-term basis

It all comes down to goal setting. When we set goals it’s important to make goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-related). We often think either too big or too small. If you say you’d like to lose 50 pounds, are you thinking within the next couple of months or, more realistically, in the next year? In order to make a concrete plan to meet that big goal, start setting small ones first. Set a goal to drink more water, get outside and walk for 30 minutes, anything that you know you can handle on a daily basis that will ultimately allow for consistent and steady weight  loss. 


2. We never make them realistic and often go too big 

Making a resolution of “exercising more” when you haven’t been to a gym in the last year or even last few years, is only going to make you feel like it’s that much more of an arduous task. When you try to incorporate something that you’ve never really had as a part of your routine and all of a sudden, it’s a new goal, you need to figure out how this is actually going to work. How are you going to work it into your day? Are you even going to be able to? What will you do if your day goes to shit and you have absolutely NO time during the week to get there? Be realistic, because those small goals you’re reaching will ultimately lead you to that big goal you have in mind. 

3. We never figure out our WHY

If a “new year” is the only time you think about wanting to eat healthier and move more, you’re probably not doing it for the right reasons. A healthy lifestyle isn’t something that you can just start all of a sudden, it takes months, years, even decades of nourishment to truly live a consistent, healthy life. Setting one or two goals at the beginning of the year isn’t going to change your life as a whole. It’s a commitment to yourself in LIFE, not just in January. Figure out the exact reason why you want to change. How badly do you want it? How much are you willing to commit? Nothing worth having ever comes easy, so you still need to be able to put work and effort into it. 

4. They inevitably give us a sense of failure 

The moment we stop and realize we’re not living up to our expectations, we give up and throw the rest of the year away. “Well, I guess I’ll just next week, or next year” and those years never actually come. Making a resolution just because you know it’s what you should do, doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. So making a goal that isn’t relevant to what you actually want to achieve, is only going to give you the sensation of failing yourself and that you’re not good or strong enough to stick with something. The last thing we need is feeling like we failed, we’re hard enough on ourselves as it is! 

5. Why wait? 

There’s never a “good” time to start taking an initiative towards your health, but the time is always now. Waiting for a new year gives you a false sense of hope that just because we’re writing a new date on things, means you’re going to change everything else in your life. If I were you, I’d start thinking more along the lines of the ⅓ of the population that doesn’t make a resolution at all. Stop giving yourself restrictions, rules and regulations. Live your life to the fullest and you won’t have the need to make resolutions. Start today! Not because it’s January, but because you WANT to change.

Apple Cider Vinegar: the 4-1-1

The new superfood? The new weight loss fix? What is apple cider vinegar and why is everyone all about it?! I get a lot of questions from patients asking “If I drink apple cider vinegar, will it help me lose weight?” I always answer this question on the side of caution, only because it’s been shown to help people lose weight in studies, but isn’t really studied enough to say one or the other that it will do the trick. So if you want to know more about apple cider vinegar (what it is, why it’s useful and how to consume it), read on! I’ll be explaining all that and more to put the rumors to rest!

So first thing’s first; what the heck is apple cider vinegar? Vinegar is made by converting sugars to alcohol with yeast, and then converting the alcohol to acetic acid using bacteria. By bacteria, I mean the good, gut-health inducing bacteria. In addition to the good bacteria, the vinegar that’s made has high phenolic and flavonoid content which helps fight free radicals (lowers cancer risk). Just to show it’s age, apple cider vinegar was used as far back as 400BC as an antibiotic, a healing solution to treat scurvy and pneumonia, upset stomach, and wound healing. It’s got A LOT of health benefits, as long as you use it right!

Speaking of health benefits, why are people all of a sudden consuming apple cider vinegar? Well of course there’s health benefits, but what are they really? The first benefit is that it’s an antioxidant. Antioxidants help with many things, one of them being cancer. Apple cider vinegar contains phytochemicals, polyphenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids which are all antioxidants. They can have positive affects on diseases such as cancer because they prevent free radical formation (the cancer-causing cells). Not only does apple cider vinegar provide you with great antioxidants, it can help with blood sugar as well.

In previous studies, consuming apple cider vinegar has been shown to lower blood sugar levels after eating because it blocks some of the starch digestion after a meal. Having less starch absorbed into the bloodstream will keep blood sugar levels lower and also improve insulin sensitivity in those with Diabetes. Not only does it help with blood sugar, but it’s also been shown to help with lowering total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and your triglyceride levels. So not only can it help with blood sugar stability, but also with heart health as well.

While health is obviously important, a lot of people have been correlating apple cider vinegar to weight loss. I wasn’t sure why, so I did the research to see what the hype was all about. The reason apple cider vinegar has been linked with weight loss is because many people who would drink it daily would start to lose weight. The most common speculation as to why is because consuming it before a meal will promote satiety with meals and increase the acetic acid level in your body (causing you to get fuller quicker).

I have to say this with emphasis: There is NOT enough evidence out there to say that apple cider vinegar will make you lose weight!!

There has only been ONE study done in Japan to test this theory. Participants in this study were split up into two groups; one that would drink apple cider vinegar before each meal and the other group drank water before each meal. The group that was drinking the vinegar did indeed lose 1-3 pounds over the course of the study, but as soon as they stopped the study they gained their weight back. It did seem to help with fat utilization in the body which is why people were losing weight. However, even with this study in place, apple cider vinegar still isn’t the answer to weight loss. Is it beneficial? Absolutely. But it’s not an answer for weight loss without also increasing exercise and eating right in general.

Still interested in trying it out? I encourage you to! As I said, it’s not a weight loss method, but still has many health benefits. Something to consider is you want to make sure you’re getting the right type of apple cider vinegar. There are many forms out there and you want to make sure you’re using the right one. If you haven’t heard already, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar is the most natural and best for you. It contains “the mother” which is a murky, cloudy blob that sits in the bottle. The “mother” is beneficial because it’s made up of strands of proteins, enzymes, probiotics and good bacteria for your gut health. It can also help with immune support and constipation. So when in doubt, always get an apple cider vinegar with “the mother” in it. Otherwise, you won’t be getting all the benefits from it!

So you found the right stuff, but how do you consume it how often? You need to be careful with apple cider vinegar because it’s extremely acidic. If you take a straight shot of it, you can really do damage to your esophagus and intestines. It can also break down the enamel on your teeth and lower potassium levels ultimately affecting bone mineral density. It’s also important to note that if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not recommended to take it only because there is not enough evidence to be deemed safe.

In order to ingest apple cider vinegar without compromising your insides, you always want to dilute it into water. You might have heard that people drink it with water, lemon, and cayenne or make their own cocktail every morning. You can make up whatever fancy cocktail you want, but for every ounce of apple cider vinegar, be sure to dilute it with 8oz water. Try this out 1-2x a day and see how you feel! Again, this may not be something you necessarily “feel” but it’s promoting heart health, blood sugar stability, lowering cancer risk, and satiety with meals which are all bonuses in my book!

As always, consult a doctor if you have any pre-existing medical condition and you’re not sure if this is something you may benefit from. While it may not be the new “superfood”, apple cider vinegar is definitely something that can help us with gut health, heart health, and overall health in general. Is it something I would suggest everyone do immediately? Not necessarily, but I also wouldn’t rule it out. Everyone benefits from things differently. My goal with this blog entry was to provide more information on this topic and hopefully get people more educated about it! I hope you enjoyed and now know more about apple cider vinegar than you did yesterday!