Nutrition for Bone Health

Calcium
When you think bone health, what is the first nutrient you think of? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you said Calcium! Yep, calcium is crucial for bone health. It is the key component of hydroxyapatite, which makes of the mineral matrix that keeps you teeth and bones sturdy and strong. Our bones are also constantly breaking down and building up – and in order to properly build, they need adequate amounts of calcium. This “adequate amount” ranges from 1,000mg- 1,300mg per day depending on age and gender and mainly comes from dairy products, almonds, leafy greens, tofu, beans, lentils, and some fish fish.

Vitamin D
Now, while calcium is the key component in bone, it pretty much is no good without its partner in crime, vitamin D. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, so no matter how much calcium you eat (or drink), your body isn’t absorbing much of it if you lack vitamin D. Vitamin also helps in that bone remodeling (breakdown and building) process I mentioned.

Vitamin D has become a pretty hot nutrition topic recently. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is on the verge of becoming a global public health issue. Why? Well, if you are reading this post right now, you are likely sitting inside staring at a computer or phone screen as opposed to soaking up the sun’s UV rays. Our primary source of vitamin D comes from the sun so the decreased time spend outdoors and the increased use of sunscreen that have been seen around the globe are causing vitamin D deficiency rates shoot through the roof!

There are a few food sources of vitamin D, including fortified dairy products, some fatty fish, and mushrooms, but these can’t really provide enough to meet our need of 600-800 IU per day (and most people need up to 2,000 IU per day if they are deficient).

Exercise
The final key player in bone health isn’t a nutrient; it is exercise!- specifically weight-baring exercise. Simply carrying the weight of your skeleton in activities like walking, running, jumping, and stair climbing all help in that formation of strong bones. Not to mention, exercise improves strength and balance, which can help decrease risk of falls and broken bones.

Other Nutrients
In addition to these top three, researches have also found that low vitamin C and vitamin K levels also put people at risk of poor bone mineralization. On the other hand, people who had diets high in fruits and vegetables were found to have stronger bones… just one of the millions of reasons to eat more fruits and veggies!

Controversy
A few studies have found that high calcium intake, greater than the recommended daily intake doesn’t provide any additional benefit when it comes to bone mineral density. There have also been associations between high calcium intake (especially from supplements) and heart disease risk. Moral of the story- more calcium isn’t always better.

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Turmeric & Golden Milk

If you don’t have a trail of this yellow/orange powder around your kitchen, you might be missing out. Turmeric is a hot topic right now and for good reason – it has tons of health benefits.

Historically, turmeric was used in Ayurvedic, eastern medicine for pain and fatigue. Turns out they were on to something… Recent research has found that curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, has some serious anti-inflammatory effects.

Why is “anti-inflammatory” a good thing?

In a few cases, inflammation is a good thing – like healing cuts or wounds and fighting foreign pathogens in the body. However, when there is a chronic, low level of inflammation in the body it can increase risk for heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer’s, among many others. Stress, environmental toxins, and chemicals and preservatives in our food can all cause some of this chronic inflammation, which turmeric can help counteract.

Does turmeric sound appealing now?

If adding turmeric into your diet sounds more appealing now, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Whether you’re adding turmeric to your stir fry, eggs, golden milk (see my favorite recipe below!), salads, or soups, make sure you add some black pepper – this boosts absorption of the curcumin in turmeric up to 2000%
  2. While it is more of a pain to cook with, raw turmeric root more potent than the powdered spice form of turmeric

Remember…

Just like any other food or supplement, turmeric is not a magic pill. In order to get the real anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric, it is also important to be eating a diet rich in whole, real foods (not the processed stuff), fruits and vegetables, and fiber.

My favorite turmeric recipe – Golden Milk

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My Experience on Whole30

Don’t mind me just sitting over here indulging in a big bowl of ice cream.

The cycle of restricting foods (and dieting) and then binging on “unhealthy” or “forbidden” foods has never been as clear to me as it is right now. That’s because I just completed day 30 (the last day) of the Whole30 diet.

After my experiment as a vegetarian for a month, I thought I would try out another diet. The lucky winner- Whole30. Whole30 is a diet designed to “end unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system”. Sounds great until you hear what is involved. On Whole30 you aren’t allowed ANY grains, legumes, sugar, sweetener (including things like honey), dairy, soy, or alcohol. What does that leave you ask? I have pretty much spent the last month eating only meat, fish, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. It got real boring, real fast to say the least.

If you catch my drift, it was not an enjoyable experience. If you have read many of my previous posts or know me well, you know that I am not one to cut any foods out of my diet – you name it, I’ll probably eat it (yes, even as a nutrition student and future dietitian I eat (and love) chocolate, ice cream, buttered popcorn, and even a loose with chili cheese fries from Detroit’s Lafayette Coney Island), so having to cut so many things out of my diet was a challenge.

In theory, sticking to a diet made up of whole foods is great, but not allowing any wiggle room leads to overeating all of the “forbidden foods” later on (aka the big bowl of ice cream I am having). Cutting out foods can create an unhealthy relationship with food, it is restrictive, not sustainable, and most of all, it isn’t fun.

So, how was Whole30?

Like I said before, it is really boring because there wasn’t a lot of variety. It was also very difficult to go to restaurants or gatherings with food since there were so many things that were off limits.

Do I feel better?

Honestly, I don’t feel any different – aside from the fact that all I want to do is eat dessert, bread, and a big chipotle burrito bowl. But also remember, my diet was pretty rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins before. It wasn’t like I was starting out eating McDonald’s on the daily.

Would I recommend Whole30?

That would be a big fat NO! I see no reason why you have to cut out things like whole grain bread that is packed with fiber, beans that are a good source of plant based protein, and dairy products that are full of calcium and protein. I actually think you end up in an even worse situation after Whole30. Think about the restricting and binging cycle I mentioned — after 30 days of restricting, all you want to do is overeat/binge on the foods you avoided for a month. (It has even been difficult for me, someone who is very aware of these restrict and binge patterns, to resist eating an entire pint of ice cream and a loaf of bread right now.)

On the other hand, I do think the emphasis of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein is great! Everyone could benefit from eating a few more of these and a few less sugary and starchy foods (since they make up the majority of a standard American diet). Note that I said “a few less”, not “eliminate” the sugary and starchy foods. There is no reason why pizza and chocolate can’t make there way into a healthy, balanced diet.

I think this pretty much sums up my thoughts on Whole30. Have you done Whole30? If so, what are your thoughts?

Healthy and Fast Meals with (almost) No Cooking Required

I’m not going to lie, I have slacked off a little (or a lot!) when it comes to cooking this year. Between school, work, trying new workout classes ;), and trying to get a decent amount of sleep, cooking just hasn’t been a priority. But don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I’m having frozen meals or fast food – it just means my meals are a little more simple and don’t take much time to make.

Whether you are a student like me, a working professional, home taking care of kiddos, or have other responsibilities, time is always the number 1 excuse for not eating healthy, so today I thought I would share my tips and tricks for fast and easy, healthy meals.

1. Cook ahead of time – I typically only turn on my oven and stove one or two times a week. I’ll make some chicken, roast some veggies, brown some ground turkey, and cook some rice or quinoa. From start to finish, it usually takes me no more than an hour. I keep everything in separate containers in the fridge so it’s ready when I get home from a long day at work.

2. Build a meal – Now that you have all the food is cooked and ready to be eaten, all you have to do is put it together. Think of it like an assembly line…add some rice, chicken, broccoli, and sauce to a bowl, pop it in the microwave and voila, dinner is served.

3. Oh, wait – there is no step three 😉 It is so easy there are only two steps! See, no excuses!!

Here is a little cheat sheet for building a healthy meal:

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  • Tricks if you are really short on time:
    Choose canned tuna, buy a pre-baked chicken, or try canned beans which don’t require cooking for your protein sources
  • Use frozen veggies that you can steam in the microwave – no baking or chopping required.

Now that you have the “recipe” to build your own healthy meal, I thought I would share some of my favorites. Some might sound strange, but I promise they are tasty! Also, lots are vegetarian since I was experimenting with being a vegetarian for a month.

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No excuses now! What are your favorite meals to build?

Trying New Foods

I love exploring and trying new things, especially when it comes to food. In some of my other posts I have talked about how I love going to the grocery store—it is so exciting for to see what new products I can find and new foods I can try. Going to restaurants is always a struggle because I always want to try everything on the menu.

When it comes to nutrition, trying new things is a good habit to have. Why? Here are some reasons:

  1. Adding variety increases the types of nutrients you get. Eating the same 5 fruits and vegetables isn’t bad, but it also means that you are missing out on the nutrients you can get from other kinds of fruits and veggies. Try eating a variety of different colors- different color fruits and veggies provide different types of vitamins and minerals. This goes for whole grains and low-fat dairy products as well.
  2. You might eventually learn to like something. We have all heard that you have to try a food 8-12 times before you know if you really dislike it. That’s because our natural instinct is to dislike unfamiliar foods. Our first impression is often wrong so try something at least a few times before you give it an official ruling.
  3. You might find something you didn’t know you liked. What do you have to lose? If you never try you will never know if you like it!
  4. For the world travelers like me, it makes traveling is easier. The more foods you like and the more you are willing to try, the easier it is to find things to eat in foreign countries. Plus you get to experience the local food culture instead of relying on a suitcase full of protein bars. (When I studied abroad, one of my friends was very picky so finding a place to eat was a big challenge and often took several hours of research.)
  5. It sets a good example for kids. If you spend any time around kids, you know that they want to follow your every move. If they see you eating all different kinds of foods, they are more likely to do the same.

If trying new foods is not your thing, start small. Instead of trying completely new foods, try preparing some of your favorites with new seasonings or toppings. Buying one new vegetable per week and adding it to your dinner is also a small, realistic step to expanding your palate.

While I am really good at spending hours in the grocery store finding new types of nut butter, fancy snack bars, and unique fruits and vegetables I have gotten pretty lazy about trying new recipes. So, my goal for the rest of the semester is to print off two new recipes to try each week. Hopefully I’ll make some yummy, new things to share with you!

What is your goal for trying new foods?

Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

One of the most common things people ask when I tell them that I am a nutrition major is… “Oh, so you want to be a Nutritionist?”. Well, not exactly; I want to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). There is a difference and it is important to understand this difference to know where to get reliable nutrition information.

Anyone can call themselves a Nutritionist. There is no education, class, test, or experience you need to be a Nutritionist, so theoretically we are all Nutritionists.

In order to become a Registered Dietitian, it gets a little more complicated. Registered Dietitians are food and nutrition experts that are certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be an RD, one must complete a bachelor’s degree, Dietetic Internship, and pass a national exam.

A Dietetic Internship is 1200 hour supervised practice program that is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To be eligible to apply for this program, one must complete the DPD (Didactic Program in Dietetics) classes. These include Nutrition classes along with Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Statistics, English, plus many others. The DPD program is usually completed at the same time as a bachelor’s degree, which is the point in the process that I am at now.

Once accepted to a Dietetic Internship, one completes different rotations in three areas: Clinical Nutrition, Food Service, and Public Health/Community Nutrition. Depending on the internship, different amounts of time are spent in each of these three areas. Once one completes the Internship, he/she is eligible to sit for the national exam to become a Registered Dietitian.

Besides boring you to death with my education plans for the next few years, the point of this is so you understand where nutrition information is coming from and how accurate it is. Books and articles that have authors who put “Nutritionist” in front of their name may not contain the most reliable information. Those who have RD (Registered Dietitian) or RDN* (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) after their name have gone through extensive coursework and are probably sharing more accurate and trustworthy information. For now, I am just a Nutritionist but give me a few years and hopefully I will be Dana Goldberg, RDN!

*RDN is a new title that is being given out in place of RD. They are exactly the same thing just different words.