Not very long ago, I was in a major Chicago suburban grocery store contemplating purchasing some frozen shrimp. With the globalization of our food supply, I am in the habit of checking where a food item originates from in order to be “respectful” to the planet. I would prefer to avoid purchasing seafood from the other side of the world, and this shopping day I was actually unable to find any frozen shrimp other than shrimp from Thailand. I put the shrimp back, as I just had an unsettled feeling about making such a purchase.
This week, tuning into the late hour US ABC Nightline news show, there was a story about a beautiful exotic cat from Southeast Asia which is becoming extinct. This wild cat, called the fishing cat, is a native to the wetland areas of Southeast Asia. These same wetland areas of Southeast Asia are also being utilized for the farming of shrimp, and much of that shrimp ends up in the United States. According to the ABC Nightline story, as the shrimp farmers take over the wetlands and encroach on the native home of the fishing cat, the fishing cat population has declined to the point of near extinction. As this exotic web-footed cat actually swims in the water for food, this encroachment by shrimp farmers has affected the natural habitat as well as the ability to access fish for food. With diminished capacity to find fish to eat, fishing cats are often forced to hunt for alternative food sources such as farmers’ livestock, which then allows them to meet their death with a shotgun.
Regardless of how you connect to this story, it points out there are multiple good reasons to purchase food locally. If purchasing shrimp raised closer to home can stop a species from becoming extinct, that means a great deal to me as a human being. If it means our planet degrades less quickly, it should mean the world to you.
For the complete Nightline footage on this story, http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/shrimp-farms-endanger-fishing-cats-16207450
While daily use of multi-nutrient supplements has fallen out of favor by some health professionals due to some recent studies, there are five supplements many of us 40+ may
need. While food is always the best source of nutrients, certain circumstances with aging may warrant adding these supplements to your diet! Here are the 5 supplements baby boomers may
need to consider taking:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids– We have too little of these essential fatty acids in our diet. While fish can be a good contributor of omega-3-fatty acids, eating fish a few times a week is not necessarily going to be insurance your requirements are met. We have some other food sources such as walnuts and flaxseed, but consistency is key and that is where a fish oil supplement at least a few times per week may be helpful.
- CoQ10– We make this nutrient, but we make less of it as we age. If you are taking a statin drug to lower your cholesterol level, the statin drug will limit your body’s ability to make this nutrient. So, if you are aging (and we all are), and taking cholesterol lowering medication, there is no logical reason to avoid this supplement and every reason to take it.
- Magnesium– While distributed in a wide variety of foods, I have noted that my clients are often consuming too little of this nutrient through foods. Magnesium may be easily washed and peeled away from foods during processing, and a limited calorie consumption means less is being consumed through food.
- Vitamin D– It is best to get your baseline blood vitamin D levels checked, but chances are you will benefit from at least some additional supplemental vitamin D. While we can make this vitamin, we make less as we age. Increased use of sunscreen will further decrease production of vitamin D. With mounting evidence that vitamin D plays roles in promoting strong bones, healthy blood pressure, fighting infection, and decreasing inflammation and cancer risk, supplementation is warranted if blood levels are low.
- Calcium- If you skip out on the dairy group, there is a pretty good chance you may not be meeting your calcium requirements. Calcium is important for more than our bones-it also protects against colon cancer and high blood pressure. If you opt out of drinking regular milk and eating dairy products, simply choose soy, rice, or almond milk and make sure the brand you choose is fortified with calcium. If you avoid these products altogether, consider a supplement. Up to the age of 50, it is recommended you consume 1000 mg; for 50+ the requirements increase to 1200 mg.
While my preference is always going to be to get nutrients through food, eating less as we age, medication, and lifestyle may impact our ability to obtain the noted nutrients.
Any one have other supplements they think we should be taking as we get older?
We are a pill popping society, and we know it. It is what Americans seem to love to do. Recently, there has been a lot of press about the fact that perhaps we should not be taking multi-nutrient supplements-and that they may actually be harmful to our health. I have even had patients come to my office telling me that their physicians have flat-out told them to stop taking supplements altogether. The wise approach, however, is most likely somewhere between constantly popping supplements and never taking a supplement. People who would benefit from supplements include those who have validated nutrient deficiencies (blood work can evaluate this), women of childbearing years, habitual dieters, the elderly who are on certain medications or have limited food intake for medical reasons, and those that skip over entire food groups. While it is always best to have your nutritional requirements met through a healthy food selection, appropriate dosages of supplements can “supplement” your diet by filling in the gaps.
The bad news about supplements is that overdoing dosages can be harmful to your health. Many people have the “if some is good, more is better” mentality. The truth is that scientists have documented upper limits of safety, and beyond those limits you are putting your health at risk. Mega doses of supplements are actually categorized as drugs, and excessive amounts of supplements can cause symptoms ranging from nerve damage to liver failure. Another little known fact is that just because you can purchase a supplement at a store, doesn’t mean it is safe. Supplements sold in this country have virtually no regulation in terms of safety. Under current law, the FDA is responsible for taking action on unsafe supplements already on the market, but does not need to screen or pre-approve a supplement before it is gets to the store shelves. This means you need to be a savvy supplement shopper if you decide to take supplements.
Here are 5 tips to help keep your supplement selection safe:
- Look at the Supplement Fact label (example in above photo); choose a multi-nutrient supplement that does not have very high percentages of nutrients (around 100% Daily Value (DV) would be safe, if around 200% or higher, move on to a different supplement).
- Look for the USP symbol or text on a label.
The USP symbol or text means that the supplement will dissolve in your digestive system, and the ingredients are guaranteed.
- Supplements with added ingredients such as parsley, alfalfa, and herbs offer no added health benefit to the consumer. There would be too little added to the supplement-best to just eat the parsley!
- Don’t let terms such as “stress relief”, “time release”, or “natural” drive your brand selection-as these terms are only marketing terms!
- Because there is no regulation on supplements prior to arriving on the store shelves, consider purchasing supplements that are name brands. These companies are more likely to have their own internal high quality control standards, as they have a reputation to be protected, which can also ultimately protect the consumer.
If in doubt about whether to supplement or not, a registered/licensed dietitian can assist you!
What are your thoughts about supplement use and safety?
Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker
If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, and are vowing to get back to a healthy diet this week, consider using some tech tools to help with weight loss. With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity. Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your energy consumption, and keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis. If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow take in less energy than your body needs, or use more energy than you consume through food. To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week, doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise! While crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence, being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.
Here are some of my favorite techie strategies for weight loss:
- Use the Internet for Nutrition Information– If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating through food consumed away from home. While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are. This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s. With some foresight and planning, you can access each restaurant website prior to eating there, and arm yourself with an effective eating strategy.
- Online Food Documentation– Nutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met. Goals may revolve around not only calories, but also other specific nutrients such as carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose, and it’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.
- Using Smartphones for Food Related Decisions– At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market and more become available daily. Some can be used to track food on the spot, some to track your physical activity like a pedometer, and some can help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.
- A Pedometer-While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity. Some of the slightly more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer through a USB port and cable. This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer or shared with your dietitian.
- BodyMedia Armband– This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management. Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period. It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day. This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at using energy and therefore facilitating weight loss. Another perk, it assesses your sleep quality which has been noted as being important in the weight loss process.
With the help of these technology driven self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be both consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals efficiently and effortlessly!
Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?