Magnesium: Would You Benefit from a Supplement?

supplements from a bottleMagnesium is everywhere in our diet: it is fairly abundant in green leafy vegetables, peas, broccoli, nuts, seeds, lentils, whole grains, fish, and bananas and even tap water. With that stated, most references will state that there is only a small percentage of people in the US not meeting their magnesium requirement. Interestingly, when my nutrition college students would assess their diets with nutrition analysis software, they almost never consumed the required 300-400 mg. of magnesium.  So, I guess that begs the question of what “nutritional” camp are you in? Do you implement healthy eating and try to eat a variety of foods on a regular basis, or do you shun whole grains, fruits, vegetables? Perhaps you are trying to eat a healthy diet, but have opted to decrease your carbohydrate intake along the way, which can also impact your consumption of magnesium rich foods since many carbohydrate rich foods are sources of magnesium.

Medical conditions thought to benefit from supplementation include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and GERD treated with certain medication
  • Menstrual pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Hearing loss
  • Hypertension
  • Leg cramps in pregnancy

And lastly, and big on my personal list, is the pain of fibromyalgia. There are times when the pain needs to be attacked from all angles to become manageable. I am all too familiar with this pain and the impact on daily life since I have it. Most of the time I manage fairly well, but sometimes with extreme stress it will rear it’s very ugly head. Recent events in my life seemed to have triggered the pain to a increased level for an extended time period. I will now begin supplementing with magnesium as one type of adjunct therapy for my pain. There are many prongs of intervention and management for fibromyalgia, so keep in mind this is not meant to be a sole treatment recommendation for everyone suffering from fibromyalgia, only one potential aspect of management. Again, there are many aspects of management-far too many to address is this blog.

For those deciding to take a magnesium supplement for any reason, there are some guidelines to keep in mind as not all supplements are created equally. When selecting a supplement, you want to try and ascertain the product actually contains the labeled amount of magnesium, is untainted with contaminants, and it breaks apart for digestion. And lastly, cost per pill may be an issue. While you can figure out the cost per pill with a calculator, the rest of the list is a bit murkier to sift through. The vitamin industry is self-regulating, so go with a name brand as quality control will be high on their list oUSP logof concerns.  You can also look for the term USP or the USP logo on a supplement labels which assures the nutrient will actually be absorbed rather than passing though your body undigested with no benefits.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

  • MAGNESIUM OXIDE-economical, but absorbed less effectively; may cause diarrhea in susceptible individuals
  • MAGNESIUM CITRATE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE may be formulas that are better absorbed and may have fewer side effects if taken at higher dosages.

Lastly, remember these supplements are meant to supplement the magnesium you are consuming through your diet. If you are not clear on the amount of supplement you might benefit from, consult a qualified dietitian for advice.

Have magnesium supplements helped you with any of your medical concerns? Do you have a brand you trust?

 

 

 

Food Games: Do you Play?

Chess pieces on chessboardAre you a master at deception? Are you always having a conversation with yourself that manages to sabotage your newest efforts to finally lose weight?  If so, chances are pretty good that you have a dialogue in your head that needs to change.  If you are having the following self conversations, it’s best to redirect your dialogue to help you win at weight loss.

The Clean-Plate Game.  You know this game:  eat it all up because some people are starving!  If you eat up all the food when not hungry, you are not helping anyone that is starving!  Or, you paid for it so you must eat it.  At home, put less food on your plate.  In a restaurant, ask for the people box prior to digging into the large plate of food, and acknowledge that while you still paid for it, you now have food for another meal so you doubled your value.

Skipping Breakfast Game:  You think you will eat less overall calories by limiting what you consume in the morning. Many studies indicate that when people do this, they manage to consume more total calories in a given day.  Other studies show that when people consume substantial calories in the morning, they use those calories to meet energy requirements more efficiently, and store less of that energy in fat cells.  Consuming the bulk of your calories at the tail end of the day is less productive for your body weight and energy levels.  You will just be hungry and crabby all day, and may over indulge at night.

Dining and Taking Out Food Game.  Do you really know what is happening in the kitchen of your favorite restaurant and take-out place?  I would venture to guess that this food has much more fat, calories, and sodium than you would find in your own kitchen.  Try to limit relying on outside sources for your food unless you are able to confirm with nutrition labels that it is a healthy option.

It’s for Company Mantra Game! There are many variations to this one: there is also “It’s for the kids.”  Do the M & Ms really need to be in a bowl for your grandchildren and shouting to you all the time? I have grandchildren too, but I would not have a candy bowl sitting out all the time, because I certainly like the chocolate at well.  Get the treats for kids, grandchildren, and company, but keep a limited stock that is purchased just prior to their arrival or hidden away with little access.  Better yet, get a treat that does not pose a high temptation threat to you!

The Game of Willpower.  I don’t feel that most people successful at weight loss can use the power of willpower.  Over the long haul, they should instead think “smart” on eating strategies:  keep a clean kitchen free of high temptation foods, keep small amounts or portion controlled foods that you conceptualize as treats, or if food is just too tempting to avoid once in your kitchen, just don’t put it into your grocery cart in the first place.  Willpower, in my book, is a short-term bandage fix that doesn’t really last long enough to help you achieve weight loss.

Taking a step back to evaluate the games you play in life will help you be successful at weight management.

Do you play any other games? Care to share your strategies for helping to “win”?

The Fat in Your Blood Your Doctor Doesn’t Talk About, but Your Dietitian Will!

Blood SampleAccording to a recent airing of the Dr. Oz show, triglyceride levels are the orphan fat that is not readily discussed during your doctor’s appointment. If your triglyceride value is elevated, your blood is thick like motor oil, which can contribute to deadly plaque formation and heart disease.  If you are in need of taming your triglycerides, here are some simple and effective steps:

  • Limit Alcohol— For some people, cutting out alcohol can elicit a marked decrease in their triglyceride levels.  While you may like it if your doctor tells you red wine is good for you, your dietitian knows alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels and I tell patients to eat grapes instead.
  • Choose Fats Wisely— Replace butter with equivalent amounts of olive oil, but don’t forget to swap the fats for each other. Simply adding olive oil to your diet on top of your usual butter intake will not assist you in improving your cholesterol or triglyceride numbers!
  • Cut Down on Simple Carbs—Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Complex carbohydrates are found in bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables.  It is generally recommended that people with high triglycerides avoid simple carbohydrates. Some people are so sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels increase drastically when they eat too much sugar. In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% of overall calorie intake, but even too much high-fiber, nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates can aggravate triglyceride levels when eaten in amounts exceeding 60% of total calorie intake.
  • Eat More omega-3 fatty acids— Omega-3 fatty acids are found in most fish, but are more abundant in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring.  Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Increase Physical Activity—Aerobic exercise can help with weight loss and can decrease triglyceride levels at the same time. In fact, both short bouts of aerobic exercise as well as long-term repetitive exercise have been shown to decrease triglyceride levels. Most studies find that the best bet is to do 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. First, get your doctor’s approval if you’re not accustomed to exercise.
  • Maintain or Get to a Healthy Weight—Studies have shown losing weight and maintaining an ideal weight to be associated with decreased levels of blood fats-including both triglycerides and cholesterol.

Do you have a success story about how you lowered your triglyceride numbers?

A Strong Diet: Food That Pumps You Up

Man Lifting WeightsIn the wake of America’s growing waistline, fitness trends have spread like wildfire throughout the nation. While more people are hitting the gym and attending their local Zumba class, it’s just as important to pump up your diet as it is to pump up your gym time.  Learning about what foods keep you lean and strong is imperative as more processed foods flood mainstream marketplaces.

When you’re ready to bulk up, foods high in protein are your friend.  There are complete and incomplete proteins in the food we eat. Animal products are high in complete proteins.  Lean beef, chicken, egg whites, low-fat cheese, and skim milk are all categorized as complete proteins in that they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle mass.  Because proteins we ingest are not stored, and amino acids are recycled, even proteins that are not complete-like those consumed from plant based foods- can contribute significant amounts of protein to your diet.

Proteins should be consumed in grams per day depending on your weight. For example, if you weigh 135 pounds, you should be eating about 50 grams as a non-athlete, but as an athlete, your requirements could increase to as much as 105 grams (most Americans already eat this amount of protein and may not need to bump their intake up).  Competitive weight lifters need to be mindful of not only their protein intake, but also their carbohydrate and overall calorie intake.

Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates can be your friend when you’re looking to be beach body ready.  Carbs are essentially sugars that give you the energy to start and finish your workouts.  The complex carbohydrates in oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta release their energy more slowly, giving your body a constant source of energy to pull those final shoulder presses from.  Stay away from simple carbs that are commonly found in candy, soda pop, pre-sweetened cereals, and some high sugar energy bars. If you think about foods your dentist would like you to skip, you can more easily identify foods higher in these simple carbs.  Getting enough of the complex carbs in your daily diet also allows the protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle!

Taking time to eat breakfast in the morning will help to kick-start your metabolism. Making an omelet with leafy greens or vegetables, and adding a small bowl of oatmeal is perfect for regulating your sugar levels.  Even adding a glass of reduced/low fat milk or cottage cheese with fruit is a much better option than a trip to Starbucks.  You’re preparing your body to face the day ahead of you and starting your digestion early in the day.  This will help you transition from larger meals at the end of the day to a larger breakfast, followed by a smaller lunch and humble dinner.

As you move through your daily grind and workout and get thirsty, don’t just grab a Gatorade or so-called power drink!  Stick with water, and stay hydrated all day long.  Your muscles will recover more quickly if you are properly hydrated. The recommended daily intake for water is between 2.5 and 3 liters.  If you’re not used to drinking water consistently throughout the day, start with breakfast and bump up your fluid intake. Have a glass of water along with your glass of orange juice. Bringing a travel cup to work or school is also helpful. When you drink water throughout the day, you help your digestive system process food more efficiently.

Gaining muscle mass doesn’t stop at the gym.  Being disciplined and committed to the improvement of your overall health will only allow you to achieve your goal quicker.  A regimented weight training schedule and proper nutrition will help you feel and look better in no time!

This post was written for Chew on this blog by Dr. David Kulla. Dr. Kulla is a licensed New York Chiropractor and a nutritionist as well as owner of http://synergywellnessny.com in Manhattan.

Can Dietitians Write Prescriptions?

claim formWhen I started out in college, I began as a premed student.  Then, I took my first nutrition class.  While I had been very interested in nutrition even in high school, as I matriculated through my first college level nutrition class, I quickly realized that the potential to “treat” people with food was significant.  It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor, and then chose the path of dietitian instead.  Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications. That’s not to say we can heal everyone with our strategies, but usually our strategies are effective enough to impact the course of traditional physician management.  Here are just a few examples from my own practice:

  • “Ray” is referred for weight loss in order to be ready for a heart transplant. He loses 100 pounds, and in the course of the weight loss process, his cardiac enzymes return to normal and he is no longer in need of a transplant.
  • Countless diabetics and prediabetics have been able to stave off treatment with medication by tweaking both diet and lifestyle. There are so many “dietary” bullets and lifestyle strategies that these patients can use which are both effective and tolerated by the client.  Why go the route of medication if you can tweak your diet and physical activity to lower your blood sugar level?
  • Want to lower your blood pressure?  Did you know that most of your sodium intake is from the restaurant and carry out food you consume?  A dietitian can help you curb your sodium intake by making suggestions on how to limit sodium while dining out or suggest alternative eating strategies to eating out which are easy to implement and healthier for you. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure?  A dietitian can help you with your potassium intake as well!
  • And your cholesterol?  If you are concerned about heart disease, there are so many dietary manipulations that can be suggested to lessen your odds of death from heart disease.  Dare I say, I have had numerous clients basically save themselves with the proper diet and lifestyle recommendations that began in my office.

It’s a good feeling helping people with dietary and lifestyle “prescriptions”.  While in some cases it is tougher to follow through on a dietitian’s suggestions than taking a traditional drug prescription, for those that can work with a dietitian, the benefits are boundless.  You might even look and feel better, as well as be healthier!

To find a dietitian to work with in your area, check out http://www.eatright.org/programs/rdfinder/

Mother’s Day Reflections from a Dietitian Mom and Grandma

Mother Kissing Her Daughter for a Present and Red RoseAs I contemplate the upcoming weekend and Mother’s Day, I realize that I know and respect an awful lot of amazing mothers. These mothers are my clients that I have come to know very well over the years, my friends, my relatives, and finally, my children.  These mothers always put mothering at the top of the priority list even as they pull off multi-faceted roles as wedding planners, secretaries, doctors, teachers, nurses, dentists, lawyers, administrators, and so on.  The similar theme with these strong women who are amazing moms is their tenacity in nurturing and their instincts for being the driving force and support for their children.  It does not matter how old those children are, the “force” is still there. That “force” exhibits itself in various forms for various situations, but it is ever so present.

So to all those amazing mom’s out there, mom’s of little babies and adults already on their own and out of the nest, please take care of yourselves.  Remember YOU are worth your weight (no pun intended) in gold, and you deserve to replenish yourself to continue giving all that you give to others, including your babies of all ages.  Over the decades of counseling clients (as well as being a mother myself), I have realized that we can get “spent” very quickly as we go about our daily tasks of keeping our lives in line with ideals, and juggling all we do in a 24-hour period.  To keep up your pace, remember some guidance of self-care for YOU:

  • Mange your diet as you would manage your business, your children, and careers!  Eating is meant to keep you well, strong, and the best you can be.  It needs to be planned out as the rest of your life is planned.  The outcome of this planning makes the effort worth it!
  • Feed yourself the same quality of diet you want your babies and older children to eat. Kids of all ages have a keen eye on what you are doing, and will learn to imitate your food behaviors and patterns of eating eventually, be it good or bad.
  • Take the time to eat; it is the only fuel and nutrients you will take in.  Just thinking you should eat, or taking supplements, will not give you the energy to carry on, only good quality food will do so.
  • Make sure you take the time to actually enjoy your food.  Sit down at the table and teach your toddler that mom needs to enjoy her meal.
  • When sharing your meals with your children, enjoy the experience.  One day they will cook for you and they will pick up the dishes without being asked, because remember, you are a role model and what goes around comes around!

If you are reading this, you are probably a mother or know a wonderful mother.  I salute you all and wish you a wonderful day and upcoming week.  Happy mother’s day to all those truly remarkable women called “mom”.

Restaurant Dining: A Hit to Your Health and Wallet

Couple DiningMy spouse and I are health conscious because I am a dietitian and not a hypocrite, and his life depends upon it.  We regularly visit an area of southwest Michigan, and recently had breakfast at a local diner with great TripAdvisor reviews.  Unfortunately, we did not agree with the great reviews on TripAdvisor.  The menu was limited, but I will be the first to state that this is not necessarily a bad thing because the focus may end up being on quality, rather than an abundance of mediocre dishes.  The good news here was the staff was more than happy to substitute egg whites for whole eggs, but that is probably where the positive aspects of the meal ended.

Now the bad news:  the nice multi-grain bread was already buttered on the bottom of the toast (so did not realize it until it was eaten), the portions were huge (I know many people want large portions for the money being doled out), and I saw no fruit options on the menu.  Other bad news: the bill was $30.00 for what we could have made at home for probably a dollar at most, and made it a lot healthier in a short amount of time.  This is, in fact, the key issue with dining out on a regular basis.

When my clients dine out on a regular basis, this is what I tell them to expect:

More Fat.  If you make the same food at home, you can control the fat in the dish with very simple recipe tweaking.  Restaurants don’t typically care about the fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture in food and of course, they want you to return for another meal! You can bank on eating more calories than you anticipated due to the higher fat content, and you can also assume that it will be more difficult to meet your weight loss goals.

More Calories.  And, let’s not forget the simple concept that larger portions, when eaten, yield more calories.  Unless you can exercise a lot of self-discipline while dining out, you will most likely eat your whole meal.  If you can consistently ask for healthy substitutions such as fruit for fries, you are on the right track.  Also, you need to get in the habit of bringing at least half of your meal home. And who doesn’t want that yummy appetizer, dessert, or cocktail while dining out?  It is probably safe to say that if you are eating at home vs. dining out, you probably are not having an appetizer, cocktail, and dessert with your main meal!

More Sodium.  If you are fortunate to find a nice restaurant meal low in fat and overall calories, the sodium is probably lurking.  I have yet to see a healthy restaurant meal that is low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calories, and sodium.  If you think the sodium content does not matter because your blood pressure is fine, you need to think again.   High sodium intakes cause other health problems such as bone loss and are correlated with increased cancer risk.  And, if you hop on the scale the next day, you can credit that weight gain of several pounds to fluid retention from all that salt you ate.

More Money.  As my husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, he proudly pointed out to me that the entire pot of chili probably cost less than a few dollars.  Had a bowl of chili been purchased at a full service restaurant, it would have been at least $6.00 dollars.  He also used only half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans, and veggies creating a lower sodium, but healthier higher fiber dish.

So, while eating out is social and recreational for many, having the mentality that it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet, can keep you healthier, slim you down, and fatten your wallet.  In fact, it is a win-win way to eat.

Checking out online menus and nutrition information is key to healthier dining options.

Do you have any strategies for managing your calories, fat, and sodium while dining out?

 

Guest Blog: How to Vacation Without Putting on the Pounds

suitcasesVacations are a time to relax and forget about everyday stresses. For those who are working on losing weight and living healthy, vacations are riddled with challenges. Temptations are common on vacations, and sticking to your daily caloric intake can be difficult. However, there are some simple steps vacationers can take to ease these common travel challenges. Here are a few tips:

Avoid Air Travel Temptations.  Before leaving for the airport, many travelers forget to eat.  As a result, travelers often pick up snacks at the airport or eat food on the airplane. By setting aside time to eat a meal before heading to the airport, it is possible to avoid these temptations. In addition, healthy high fiber snacks can often help alleviate hunger on long flights. It should be noted, however, that most airports now have healthy options for travelers. The key issue is to be mindful of those healthier options and then keep your health goals in mind as you select your airport food.

Be Careful in Hotels.  Hotels often make it easy to sabotage your diet. Vacationers are encouraged to avoid minibars at all costs; minibars are filled with unhealthy options, and travelers can avoid both excess calories and expense by avoiding them. One option to consider is planning a trip to a local grocery store to purchase some basic foods to assemble meals.  Simple meals can be assembled in a small crock pot or other appliance. Even a healthy frozen dinner can be zapped in a microwave if available, and this option will be lower in both sodium and calories  than most restaurant foods.  A sandwich made with whole grain bread filled with some lean meat and accompanied by fresh fruit is also a calorie conscious meal option while on vacation.

Prepare for Restaurants. Dining out is an essential and pleasant aspect of vacations, and travelers want to ensure that they take advantage of local cuisine. Before leaving for a restaurant, however, it may be wise to find the menu online and determine what you want to order beforehand. In addition, reading reviews of local restaurants from other travelers in the area can help you to find a healthy restaurant even if you are staying in a geographical area with plenty of buffets.  Being aware of menu “watch” words is also very important.  Avoiding foods labeled as battered, bottomless, or buttered can help your waistline. Fortunately, many restaurants now list how many calories are contained in particular meals, and online information can help as well. Choosing meals with fewer calories does not mean that you are missing out on local flavor, and those who do some research can enjoy dining out without having to worry about eating too many calories.

Vacations are essential for both mental and physical health, but those looking to eat well to stay healthy will need to prepare. Fortunately, vacationers now have a number of tools to help them along the way, and travel does not have to mean that extra weight will follow you home.

How do you eat smart while traveling?

Cole Millen is an avid traveler and self-described “foodie” who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.”

 

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder: 5 Tips to Tackle It and Your Weight!

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image17002953While we can’t do a darn thing about the winter weather, we can possibly help ourselves alleviate the “blues” that seem to surface with the long winter months.  Of late, it seems both clients and friends are experiencing seasonal affective disorder-commonly known as SAD.  I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so blue this winter.  So, barring a vacation in the Bahamas, here are a few steps that can be taken to lift your spirits and hopefully help stop inappropriate eating that can go hand in hand with SAD:

  • Catch the rays when possible.  Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny,  so be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so.  Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine and you will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect the balance of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins.
  • Check your vitamin D levels.   Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting SAD.  Bleak days and lots of clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin, which can be produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin.  If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D.  During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure.
  • Consider light therapy.  Certain light spectrum, such as blue light, seems to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue lights are available for easy purchase online.
  • Control your eating environment.  While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD.  Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods.
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy, low sodium soups and entrees.  They can nourish and “comfort” you appropriately through the rest of the winter. Up your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber.  Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter.   When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to SAD.

Here’s to wrapping up winter quickly.

 

 

 

 

The Meatless “Revolution”: A Health Savvy Trend

I just heard the term “meatless revolution” coined on an evening news program.  Being a dietitian who is both professionally and personally a big fan of good nutrient dense carbohydrates-white potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, fruits, and vegetables- I am ecstatic to hear this is becoming a mainstream trend.  Apparently, US meat consumption has declined 30%, so my hope is this trend continues as it is good for our health and good for the planet.  Dietitians have been promoting this concept for decades.  The USDA plate reinforces this eating “revolution” as well.  So why should we cut down on meat consumption?  For dietitians, the answers are obvious:  this decreases total fat, saturated fat, and allows for calories to come from other food sources such has complex carbs which provide specific nutrients to the diet that would be lacking in a heavy meat diet.  Eating less meat is also a good way to decrease inflammation and cancer risk in some people.  Eating and growing more plant-based foods also consumes less energy and pollutes the environment less.  For every pound of bread made, one pound of grain is needed.  But for every pound of beef weight, eight pounds of grain are needed.  And, let’s not forget that cows pollute with poop.  It has to go somewhere, and often ends up contaminating our water and soil.

To embrace this so-called meatless revolution, start with:

  • Having a meatless meal a few times per week.  Try a lentil soup with whole grain bread or a vegetable topping pizza every Friday.
  • Making a conscious decision to decrease your animal protein servings to the size of a deck of cards; this is the portion size you should be eating, but many are eating 2-3 times that amount.
  • Substituting plant-based protein for meat options.  Try peanut butter in place of cold cuts on whole wheat bread for a hearty sandwich or lentils and beans in soups and stews to replace some of the meat the recipe calls for.

How do you downsize your meat?