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

Fibromyalgia

Tough pain times mean its best to tackle it toughly.  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.

Guidelines

Keep some guidelines in mind when taking a magnesium supplement for any reason.  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.  Take note if the USP logo on a supplement label is present. This logo assures the nutrient will actually be absorbed, rather than passing though your body undigested.

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?

 

 

 

Tips To Decrease Your Triglycerides: 6 Easy Steps

six tips to decrease your triglycerides

Decreasing blood triglyceride

Do you need to decrease your triglycerides? Triglyceride levels are the blood fat not readily discussed during your doctor’s appointment. The focus may be more on your blood cholesterol level. But, blood triglyceride levels are still very important to your heath. If your blood triglyceride value is elevated, your blood is thick like motor oil. This can contribute to heart disease. Here are six simple tips to decrease your triglycerides.

Limit alcohol as the first of 6 tips to decrease your triglycerides

For some people, cutting out alcohol drastically lowers triglyceride levels. While you may like it if your doctor tells you red wine is healthy, your dietitian knows it can increase your triglyceride levels. So, I tell patients to eat grapes instead! I know it’s not as fun, but it works.

Choose fats wisely

Replace butter with olive oil. Don’t forget to swap these fats for each other! Simply adding olive oil to your diet on top of your usual butter intake will not decrease your triglyceride level. That also goes for topping your salad with a whole avocado. While an avocado has heart healthy fat, the impact on your triglycerides will be the same as too much olive oil. Scale it back to a small wedge or 2 Tbsp.

Decrease simple carbs

Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: complex and simple. Bread, pasta, rice, fruit, and vegetables are examples of complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Individuals should avoid simple carbohydrates in order to decrease triglyceride levels. Some people are so biologically sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels drastically increase when they eat too much sugar.

In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% range of overall calories. But even excessive amounts of healthy complex carbohydrates can elevate triglycerides. Triglycerides often decrease when complex carbohydrates are less than 60% of the overall diet.

Eat more omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and herring give us omega-3 fatty acids. 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 decrease triglyceride levels at the same time. Triglyceride reduction occurs with both short bouts of exercise and longer term repetitive exercise. Most studies find that the best bet is to do 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor approve an exercise program if you have been inactive.

Maintain or get to a healthy weight as a final tip to decrease your triglycerides

A healthy body weight has been shown to correlate with lower blood fats-including both triglycerides and cholesterol.

In Summary

Start lowering your triglycerides by cutting down your alcohol and total fat. Add some more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. And, lastly, ramp up your physical activity and get to a healthy weight. These steps usually get the job done when trying to decrease triglyceride levels.

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

Want to get a bit more insight, click here.

A Strong Diet: Food That Pumps You Up

Man Lifting Weights

In 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.

Bulking up

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.

How much do you need?

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 calorie intake.

Role of carbohydrates

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. This provides your body with 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 spares protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle!

Breakfast

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.

Staying hydrated

As you move through your daily grind and workout, don’t just grab a Gatorade or so-called power drink! Stick with water, and stay hydrated all day long. Properly hydrated muscles will recover more quickly. 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 //synergywellnessny.com in Manhattan.

Can Dietitians Write Prescriptions? Sort Of!

do dietitians write prescriptionsWhen 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, my first college nutrition class made me quickly realize that there was a huge potential to “treat” people with food. No, dietitians do not write prescriptions, but we do a lot to help people take care of themselves. It was at that point I decided to give up the idea of being a doctor. Instead, I chose the path of dietitian.

What we do instead of writing prescriptions

Bottom line, in the traditional sense, dietitians don’t write medication prescriptions. But, we do effectively treat people with diet and lifestyle modifications that we “prescribe”. Most dietitians individualize those prescribed diet and lifestyle “prescriptions”. While we can’t heal everyone with our strategies, they are usually 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. Now, he no longer needs that 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 effective and well tolerated. Why take 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 cut your sodium intake by making simple suggestions for alternative food options. Did you know your potassium intake can drastically affect your blood pressure? A dietitian can help you to increase 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. Numerous clients have saved 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 the Registered Dietitian Finder from the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Mother’s Day Reflections from a Dietitian Mom and Grandma

As 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.

Remember to appreciate YOU

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.  It’s necessary to replenish yourself to continue giving all that you give to others. 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 pick up the dishes without being asked. 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

My 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

It 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.

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 high fat content in their meals because fat carries flavor and texture. 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’s probably safe to say that if you are eating at home you are not eating those extra calories.

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. My husband made a lower sodium chili on Sunday, and pointed out that the entire pot of chili cost less than a few dollars. Purchasing a bowl of chili at a restaurant would have cost about $6.00. He used half a packet of low sodium chili powder and added additional beans plus veggies, creating a healthier chili.

While eating out is recreational for many, it should be a treat for special occasions rather than your regular diet. Doing so 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?

 

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.

Why to eat less meat

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?

 

Is Your Dietary Supplement Downright Dangerous? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself!

Many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein powders, thinking they are helping with overall health. The reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous! In fact, according to recent newspaper headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws. These flaws are extensive enough have the potential to harm our health. From quality control to formulation issues, the product you are taking may not be what you are thinking it is. There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient. Even lead, arsenic, and rodent feces have been known to contaminate our supplements.

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry. That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. Companies are largely left in charge of their own standards. Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement. The FDA relies on manufacturers themselves, as well as consumers, to report any adverse effects.

Proactive steps to take when purchasing supplements

Buy name brand supplements

Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake. Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.

Look for the USP label

This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label. It also means the product will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body. The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement.

Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement

Note the percent daily value of the nutrients. If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful. We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients, and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety.

Consider using the Internet to investigate your supplement before taking it

Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee. The analyses and data are extensive and informative.

 Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.

A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients. Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  After all, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?

20 Reasons to Eat Your Carbs and Forgo the Beef!

If you have a beef with carbs, you might want to rethink avoiding them. There are technically many reasons to actually eat the right amount of carbs. For whatever reason, the topic of carbohydrates fuels a firestorm of controversy. Look anywhere on the Internet, and you will find a preponderance of carbohydrate criticism and vilification. It’s true that not all carbs are the same. The carbs which should be emphasized for health are the complex carbohydrates. These carbs are high in nutrient density. Complex carbs include lentils, grains, fruits, and vegetables. 20 of the many reasons to eat your carbs are listed, so check out the list!

20 reasons to eat your carbs instead of beef

Penne with Chickpeas, tomato, and feta

  20 guilt-free reasons to eat nutrient dense carbs

  1. They provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins not found in other food categories.

  2. In the form of fruits and vegetables, they are an excellent source of vitamin C

  3. Complex carbs provide significant sources of potassium.

  4. They are naturally low in fat.

  5.  Provide health protecting phytonutrients found almost exclusively in complex carbs.

  6. Complex carbs are high in fiber to aid digestion and prevent constipation.

  7. Fiber-rich complex carbs aid in blood glucose control.

  8. Complex carbs fill you up and help you stick with a weight loss diet.

  9. Sufficient carbohydrates prevent ketosis.

  10. Carbohydrates spare the protein to function in growth, healing, and repair.

  11. When decreasing carbs, you then need to increase your calories from another nutrient such as animal protein, which in excessive amounts may weaken bones.

  12. Cut your carbs, then you need to increase your calories from other nutrients such as fat. This may lead to plaque build up on your arteries.

  13. A low carbohydrate intake might increase cortisol levels. This may increase risk of some cancers.

  14. A low carbohydrate intake might lead to an increased animal protein intake, which can increase painful gout.

  15. You need carbohydrates in your diet to make glycogen.This is your storage fuel for endurance athletic events and can be a fuel source if food is not available.

  16. Dairy products are nutrient dense carbohydrates which have important nutrients for strong bones and normal blood pressure.

  17. Most Americans do not consume enough magnesium. Many good sources of magnesium are complex carbs like spinach, bran cereal, beans, lentils, and dairy products.

  18. Strong bones need more than just calcium. And, many of the nutrients necessary for strong bones-vitamin K, various B vitamins, and magnesium are readily available from complex carbs.

  19. As food, they create less of a carbon footprint than growing animals to eat.

  20. They are satisfying and taste good! Don’t you miss them?

For these reasons, emphasizing unprocessed nutrient dense carbs such as lentils, beans, fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy, and whole grain foods is not controversial, it is intelligent eating for the 21st century.

 

 

Don’t Buy Shrimp From Thailand: Save The Fishing Cat!

 

Exotic fishing cat

Exotic fishing cat pushed to extinction by shrimp farmers

Not very long ago, I was in a major Chicago suburban grocery store planning to buy 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. 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. I will not ever purchase shrimp from Thailand after finding out that this beautiful exotic fishing cat is becoming extinct due to shrimp raised in that country.

Extinction of an exotic fishing cat

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. Now, the fishing cat population has declined to 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. They may resort to farmers’ livestock, which then allows them to meet their death with a shotgun.

Shop locally

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 stops extinction of a species, that means a lot to me. If it means our planet degrades less quickly, it should mean the world to you.

For the complete Nightline footage on this story, //abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/shrimp-farms-endanger-fishing-cats-16207450