Should you be taking a multivitamin?

multivitamin
My preference, of course, would be for everyone to get all the nutrients their body needs for optimal health from the food they eat. In this day and age, however, that is getting harder and harder to do for many reasons…

Increased Nutrient Needs

Our modern toxic environment puts a heavy stress on our bodies. We have thousands of toxins in our air, water, food, and products we use daily that weren’t around a 100 years ago. Our bodies use nutrients as part of the detox process. Check out the liver photo in this blog to see the nutrients required. When we increase the toxic load on our body, our livers are working overtime, so they need more nutrients to do the job.

Increased stress levels can increase our nutrient needs, so if you have chronic stress, then your nutrient needs are going to be higher than normal. Our nutrient needs also increase if we have any kind of disease or infection, acute or chronic (heart disease, diabetes, gastro intestinal issues, etc). We all know that chronic disease states are on the rise. Many of the medications we might be taking on a regular basis can also increase our nutrient needs, mostly due to increased nutrient depletion. If you are curious about the medications you are taking, check out my blog Are Your Medications Depleting You? for more information.

Decreased Nutrients Consumed

As a population, we are consuming fewer nutrients than we did even just 100 years ago. There are several reasons for this including:

  • The amount of processed food we eat has dramatically increased. American’s are currently consuming roughly 60-70% of their calories from highly processed foods. Typically, the more processed a food is, the fewer nutrients it contains.
  • The plants foods we eat now are not at nutrient dense as they once were due to poor and declining soil quality, the increase in chemical use on crops, and other farming changes (like choosing varieties with the highest yield or quickest growth instead of nutrient density). Studies show that nutrients have decreased by as much as 30-40% (varies by nutrient and by crop) in just the last 100 years.

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You can see that the combination of increased needs and decreased consumption can easily result in inadequate nutrient intake. If you are not paying close attention to getting the most nutrient dense foods available (or even if you are), you may benefit from a high quality multivitamin.

With increased nutrient needs & decreased nutrient intake, do you need a multivitamin? #saslife Click To Tweet

What is a high quality supplement?

Hopefully you understand that not all supplements are equal. Supplements can vary greatly in quality.

Poor quality supplements can contain binders, coatings, disintegrants, flow agents, fillers or lubricants that can not only impair nutrient absorption but can be harmful to us. They typically also contain the cheapest form of the nutrients, not the most absorbable form, and most also contain artificial colors and preservatives.

When you are taking a supplement, the goal is for it to break down easily when digested and for the nutrients to be absorbed. This doesn’t always happen with the poor quality supplements.

Ideally, you are looking for a multivitamin in capsule form with highly absorbable forms of the nutrients it contains. For example, calcium carbonate and magnesium oxide are cheap and poorly absorbable forms of calcium and magnesium found in poor quality supplements compared to calcium citrate, magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate which are better quality and more absorbable. This is especially important if you already have any gastrointestinal issues or if you take medications that can impair digestion such as antacids like Pepcid or Zantac.

Here are a few high quality, general multivitamins:

  • Thorne Research - Basic Nutrients 2/day
  • Pure Encapsulations - PureGenomics Multivitamin (one-a-day)
  • Designs For Health - Twice Daily Multi

There are several reputable websites that you can purchase these online, such as:

I would caution you against buying them off Amazon due to the increased incidence of scam supplements sold on Amazon.

There are many more individual factors that can play a role in deciding which vitamin is best for you. I highly encourage you to speak with an RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) that has experience with supplements.

 

Turmeric Pumpkin Soup with Coconut and Lime
Recipe Adapted From Homespun Capers
Makes 6 Servings

turmeric-pumpkin-soup

A different take on traditional pumpkin soup.

Ingredients

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1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
thumb size piece of root ginger, thinly sliced or grated (around 1 Tbsp grated)
1 tsp chili flakes
16 oz pumpkin puree (NOT pie filling!)
1 cup red lentils
4 cups low sodium stock
1 cup full fat coconut milk (the type in the can, not the carton)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tsp sea salt
Cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large sauce pan over high heat, sauté the onion in the coconut oil until softened. Add the garlic, turmeric, ginger, and chili flakes, and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the pumpkin, lentils and stock, mix well and bring to boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer to cook for 20-30 min, or until the lentils are very soft and disintegrating.
  2. Once cooked, use a stick or immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot, or transfer half the pot at a time to a blender or food processor to puree. Add the coconut milk and heat through, but do not boil.
  3. Just before serving, add the lime juice and salt. Depending on the saltiness of the stock you used, you may need more or less salt.
  4. Serve topped with cilantro, if desired.

turmeric-pumpkin-soup

Note: This soup will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.  Add extra stock when reheating if soup thickens too much.  If freezing, add coconut milk upon defrosting.

Nutrition facts per Serving: 240 calories, 9g fat, 450mg sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 6g sugar, 12g protein

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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Selfies and Parenting

 

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"After" Selfie

“Omg, Mom, people are going to think you actually look like that!”  My 16 y/o recently got a Facebook account (apparently passé for teens in US but not in Europe and as her circle expands…).  So, now she has a front row seat to my (apparently embarrassing) selfies.  It’s true, in general adults just don’t do it well.  Teens, on the other hand, have it down to an art.

selfiebefore

"Before" Selfie

I asked her to give me lessons.  I asked her to give my friends lessons.  In fact, we scheduled a “Selfie and Sangria” party where she could give a selfie workshop to really uncool (even using “uncool” makes me more “uncool”) 50 year olds to raise money for a friend whose husband has cancer.  Before selfies it was Snapchat.  We aren’t done with selfies (we aren’t even done with Snapchat) but soon I will master them and golf is next on the agenda (this is her 3rd year on the golf team at school).

Asking your child to teach you builds connection while encouraging independence and communication… Click To Tweet Handing over the role of teacher to your child doesn’t have to wait until they are a teenager.  Even a very young child can teach you how to make turkeys out of hand prints like they did in preschool.  They can page through their favorite book and tell you all about the story and why you should like it too.

When we ask kids questions, we too often ask them things we already know the answer to. What color is this?  How old are you?  Did you leave the gas tank on empty?  Let’s challenge ourselves to dig a little deeper.  Most of us are going to have some time off work over the holidays.  What a great opportunity to ask your favorite kid or teen to teach you about something new!

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Gratitude adds life to years

Longevity research represents facts and figures related to one's accumulation of years on this planet.  Hawaiians top the charts in the US with a life expectancy of 80 years while, believe it or not, DC represents the lowest at 72 years.  NC, although known for delicacies like sweet tea and barbeque, ranks 40th with an average expectancy of 75.8.  Even within the triangle, life expectancy varies by zip code, so there has to be more to longevity than geographic location (VCU Center for Society and Health).  Globally, we recognize that women have a higher expectancy than men, so gender plays a role, but it seems that a few pockets of culture, known as Blue Zones have the highest rates of centurians...even 10x more than the US.

What is the recipe for adding years to life, but even more importantly adding life to years?  Dan Buettner (2004) recognized commonalities in behavior;  obvious ones...Blue Zone residents move naturally and regularly, eat a plant based diet accented by meat and wine, foster a sense of community, belonging, and purpose.  Another researcher followed a group of nuns over several decades and made the link between gratefulness, life expectancy, and incidence of Alzheimer's disease in later life (Snowden, 2001).  And thus, the intersection between living long and living well is punctuated by purpose.  A sense of purpose is such a big deal that common to other research on longevity, purpose feeds gratitude and gratitude feeds purpose.  A circuit of purposed gratitude is linked to  a better immune system, feeling less lonely and isolated, better sleep, lower inflammatory markers, and higher levels of positive emotions.

This very important state, trait, virtue, practice, attitude, etc., is associated with a slew of positive outcomes.  I certainly want the benefits of gratitude...so where to begin?  Each journey to the view with rose colored glasses is different, but there are some suggestions that resonate with many individuals including me.  After attending Energy Management, one of SAS's staff training experiences, I had the opportunity to create a new ritual in my life.  This daily ritual included writing down three specific things for which I was grateful in those moments, on that specific day.  Each day is different, and reflecting on the list later helps me to see how my perspective alters with life experiences.   Yet, this simple practice affords me the opportunity to see people, places, and experiences as part of a bigger purpose.   Another practice capable of causing a shift in gratitude is letter writing.  Think of a person that has a significant impact on you.  Take advantage of the opportunity to express gratitude for the influence.  Write them a letter.  Now, dare to share!  Finally, count your blessings.  No, really, it actually works.  For example, some things I'm super grateful for right now...a view with clear skies & sunshine, a husband I love that makes me laugh and makes my lunch, and a co-worker (also a friend) who challenges me and makes me a better me!  As you reflect this season on the years of your life and all that makes you grateful, I challenge you pursue purposed gratitude and continue to find opportunities to add life to your years even as the seasons change.

This blog is adapted from a presentation, Longevity and Gratitude, created by Maria D'Amico, RFC Intern, and Rebecca E Allen, Sr Associate Fitness Coordinator. 

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Photo credit: Hand model, Lisa Hinkle

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Why I Love My Job

Love WL

Meetings, emails, budgets, phone calls, more emails, a meeting that could be an email, an email that should be a meeting – sound familiar?  This is a typical work week for most of us. It is easy to get caught up in the next thing on the calendar and lose sight of the big picture – why we love what we do. Why we chose our career paths and how we ended up where we are now. I love my job. But sometimes I don’t take the time to think about why. This week, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of something that reminded me – the STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities. If you aren’t familiar with this event, it is hosted by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh and is sponsored by several companies, including SAS. Most of the team that plan the event are from SAS. I have been a part of this team for four years, since the first showcase in 2013. It is the combined effort of people throughout the company, led by Ed Summers, Distinguished Technical Leader in the Accessibility and Applied Assistive Technology Department within R&D. It is one example of how SAS is more than the innovative products we are famous for; we are also a culture that cares about our community and the future of kids with disabilities who want to pursue careers in STEM or the arts or anything else they want to do! If you follow the hashtag #dataforgood you know about numerous other examples around the globe. In this season of gratitude, I am glad that I was able to pause and remember one of the many reasons why I love my job and am proud to be a part of this wonderful company. Now I have a meeting to get to…

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Legs Up the Wall: November Yoga Pose of the Month

Brings relief to feet, legs and spine. Relaxes the nervous system and cultivates sleep.

Legs Up the Wall (Sanskrit: Viparita Karani)

legs-up-porch-columnlegs-up-tree

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All About Plantains

plantain-blog-title-photo

Just by looking at a plantain it’s easy to see that it’s a member of the banana family.  Plantains are a very common food in tropical climates all over the world such as South America, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.  While not quite as common in the U.S., they usually are available in most large grocery stores.  Plantains are grown year round in these tropical climates, so they are available year round.

The flavor and texture of plantains change as they ripen.  Green plantains are very starchy and potato-like. They are fairly hard and you may need a knife to peel them. Yellow plantains are slightly sweeter, softer and easier to peel, while black plantains are the sweetest and are typically baked and eaten as a dessert.  Plantains are almost always cooked before eaten.

Just like bananas, leave plantains at room temperature to ripen.  If you’re following a recipe, make sure you are using the correct ripeness- it makes a huge difference!

Plantains are rich in potassium, beta carotene, vitamin B6 & C and fiber. A great nutrient dense carb choice Click To Tweet

Since plantains are a close relative of the banana, their nutrition benefits are very similar. Plantains are very rich in potassium, beta carotene, vitamin B6 and vitamin C and they are also a good source of fiber.  A medium plantain has around 220 calories, 4 grams of fiber and 57 grams of carbohydrates.

plantain-vs-banana

Most plantain recipes you will find are traditional recipes from the areas I mentioned above, like tostones, or mangú.  However, plantains are gaining in popularity in the U.S. thanks to the Paleo and gluten free communities.  Plantains can be a great whole food, nutrient dense carbohydrate for meals. Just watch your portions, and know your body, because they are very carb dense.

So, what do you do with them?

Plantains can be steamed, baked, boiled, grilled, roasted, mashed or fried. They can also be used in soups and stews. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started if you’ve never cooked with plantains before:

If you feel a little more adventurous, there are a growing number of grain free waffle, tortilla, pancake and other “bread like” recipes using plantains (instead of flour):

Have you cooked with plantains before?

Baked Plantain Chips 
Makes about 2 servings

baked-plantain-chips

Ingredients

platain-chip-ingredients

1 medium green plantain
1 ½ Tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Peel the plantain (with a sharp knife if needed). Then slice the plantain as thinly as possible with a mandolin or knife. plantain-sliced
  3. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Place a single layer of plantains on the parchment paper. Rub oil on both sides of sliced plantains, sprinkle with salt.
  4. Bake for 16-20 minutes turning chips halfway through. They are done when they just start to brown around the edges. baking-plantain-chips
  5. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

Variations: Try different seasonings!

  • ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder and ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chili powder, ¼ tsp cumin, and a pinch of cayenne
  • ⅛ tsp garlic powder and ⅛ tsp onion powder

plantain-chips

Nutrition Information per Serving: 200 calories, 11g fat, 580 mg sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe.

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The Day after Halloween...what's a parent to do?

pexels-photo-65547-largeEveryone all sugared up? I remember the annual scene of Halloween night as my sister and I shed our costumes, poured our loot onto the living room floor and began the negotiations. Fortunately, I was partial to the chewy fruity candies and and she was partial to chocolate. The only chocolate bar I was even vaguely interested in was Baby Ruth, but I didn't let on so that I could drive a harder bargain.

Is there a way to redeem this holiday...from a parenting point of view? I have a few suggestions: Read More »

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Cancer Prevention in Your Kitchen

cancer-prevention-in-kitchen-tips

Cancer is a pretty scary word and is something that affects most of us, either directly or indirectly. It is a complex condition with possible causes including: poor diet, environmental toxins, genetics, infections, viruses, stress, tobacco use, lack of exercise and more. While no one knows the exact cause of cancer, studies suggests that 30-40% of all kinds of cancer can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and dietary considerations. 30-40% of all kinds of #cancer can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle and dietary considerations. #saslife Click To Tweet

The foods you eat can protect against cancer or increase your risk of certain cancers. While there are plenty of “cancer fighting foods,” there isn’t one single super food that can protect us from cancer.  Instead, the overall synergy of compounds in our diet offers the strongest protection against cancer. 

The nutrition recommendations for cancer prevention are very similar to those for preventing other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease and for maintaining overall health.  Check out the 7 Cancer Prevention Tips below and start eating to lower your cancer risk today! Read More »

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Mind, Body, Yoga (Part 2) - Breast Cancer Awareness

candle-pink-ribbons-and-more Eighteen years ago, on a cold and rainy day, I was frustrated. It had been three weeks since I made the discovery. Yes, the ultrasound declared it a solid mass and not a cyst. No, the mammogram didn’t know exactly what it was. I agreed to wait eight weeks to see if my body would absorb this foreign object. My medical provider declared this would be the most likely scenario. Five more weeks...

Sitting in stillness to simply find the breath was challenging. Each time was the same. I would begin with good intentions to find calm. Then, my monkey mind would jump from vine to vine with commentary of worry and not knowing. I needed something more and remembered this ancient practice that I had studied during mindfulness training. I had practiced the very basics but hadn’t committed myself. My instinct told me that this is exactly what I needed.

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Cow Face: October Yoga Pose of the Month

Stretches the hips, ankles and shoulders while opening chest and lengthening spine.

Cow Face Pose (Sanskrit: Gomukhasana)

cow-face-pose-celeste-in-maine

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