Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why Eat B Vitamins?

Who knew that vitamins and the foods we eat could have such an impact on our health?  Some people think paying attention to dietary causes of diseases and virulent mental health states is all a bunch of hocus-pocus.  I would suggest that we all think again.  

 This is why we should eat a Balanced amount of foods containing the B Vitamins:

What B Vitamins Do
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Biotin
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Folate (Folic Acid)
  • Vitamin B-12
B Vitamins are apart of the energy metabolism team.  They assist with BREAKING DOWN carbs, proteins, and fats to convert them into energy that can be used by the cells of our body.  Some of them assist with CONSTRUCTING glucose (sugar/carbs), lipids (fats), and amino acids (protein).  Some of the MVPs they help construct include hemoglobin (made of protein) and DNA (made of sugars).


Thiamin, Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are especially important players in maintaining balance in the Nervous System.   Thiamin and Vitamin B-6 team up with vitamin C  to construct neurotransmitters for the Nervous System.  B-6 and B-12 help speed up the communication between the cells in the body through their role in myelin sheath formation.  Myelin sheath speeds up neuromuscular communication which improves our coordination and response processes.

All B Vitamins are Coenzymes.  Enzymes are needed in all chemical reactions (METABOLISM) in the body.  Many of those enzymes cannot adequately play their position on the team unless their specific B Vitamin Coenzyme is attached.

B Vitamin Deficiencies, Toxicities, and Food Sources
There are different symptoms and diseases with each of the B Vitamins.  Most of Vitamin B Deficiencies are caused by drinking too much alcohol.  Alcohol consumption decreases our ability to absorb and use these vitamins.  For most of the B Vitamins, no symptoms of Toxicity have been reported. The ones that have are caused by overdosing on supplements.

Deficiency:  Beriberi
Symptoms of Beriberi include weakness, apathy, irritability, nerve tingling, poor coordination, and numbness.  Chronic cases include paralysis and changes in the cardiovascular system. 

Thiamin Deficiency:  Beri Beri

Thiamin Deficiency caused by toxic alcohol consumption:  Wernicke-Korsakoffe Syndrome

Food Sources
Nuts, Seeds, Legumes (beans) 

Whole and Enriched Grains

The Numbers
1.1-1.2 mg/day 

This deficiency is noticed most around the mouth.  If deficient, we'll experience inflammation of the mouth and tongue.  The corners of our mouth will crack.

Food Sources

Dairy products

Whole and Enriched Grains

Dark green veggies

The Numbers
1.1-1.3 mg/day

Deficiency:  Pellagra

Symptoms are diarrhea, dermatitis on areas exposed to the sun, and dementia.  Chronic Niacin Deficiency can result in death.

Processes other than drinking too much alcohol that result in poor Niacin intake are consuming a diet based in corn (which prevents adequate Niacin absorption), leaving out fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meats and poultry. 

Getting too much Niacin causes flushing, nausea, skin rash, and tingling in the extremities. 

Food Sources
peanuts, Legumes (beans) 

Whole and Enriched Grains

The Numbers
14-16 mg/day 

Upper Limit:  35 mg from fortified foods and supplements

Symptoms of this deficiency are similar to Niacin Deficiency but also include depression and hallucinations.

Those who down raw eggs or who drink excessive amounts of alcohol reduce their body's ability to absorb Biotin. 

Food Sources
Egg yolks

The Numbers
30 micrograms/day  (microgram = 1/1000 milligram)

Pantothenic Acid 
When we are low in Pantothenic Acid, we may experience fatigue and skin rash.

Food Sources
Widespread in foods

Legumes (beans) 

Whole grains

The Numbers
5 mg/day 

Vitamin B-6 
When we're low on Vitamin B-6, we may experience headaches, nausea, or other neurological symptoms.  If we are continuously low, our results may be  convolutions, poor growth, skin lesions, decreased immune function, and anemia.  This is true because Vitamin B-6 plays a crucial role in protein and energy metabolism.

If we consume too much Vitamin B-6 we may experience numbness and eventually damage our nerves.  Again, we don't usually get too much of any vitamin through food sources.  The potential to overdose is when we consume supplements.

Food Sources
Nuts, Seeds, Legumes (beans) 

Whole Grains

The Numbers
1.3-1.7 mg/day 

Upper Limit:  100 mg/day

Folate (Folic Acid) 
Similar to Riboflavin Deficiency, if we are low in Folate we may also experience inflammation of the tongue.  We may also experience diarrhea, which seems to be common among many vitamin imbalances because this is one efficient means by which the body rids itself of toxins.  Long-term Folate Deficiency can result in poor growth.  In pregnant mothers, it can result in babies with neural tube defects like Spina Bifida.  Deficiency can also result in a type of anemia called, Macrocytic Anemi.  Anemia literally means without blood.  Macrolytic anemia affects the blood's ability to carry oxygen to the body's tissues.  Without oxygen, one the ATP (body's energy source) cannot be produced.

If we get too much Folate, it may mask Vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms, which are nerve damage.  If we are not aware of these symptoms, we could end up with Pernicious Anemia, a type of Macrolytic Anemia that was like a death sentence if you had it back in the 1920s. 

Food Sources
Seeds, Legumes (beans) 

Enriched Grains

Leafy greens

Orange juice 

The Numbers
400 micrograms DFE/day 

Upper Limit:  1000 micrograms/day from fortified food and supplements
Vitamin B-12 
The main symptom associated with this deficiency is nerve damage.  
The results identified with Vitamin B-12 Deficiency are similar to Folate Deficiency--Pernicious Anemia (Macrocytic Anemia).  More details about Pernicious Anemia:  It is a blood disease where the red blood cells don't divide normally.  They just grow bigger, hence the word Macro (large) -cytic (pertaining to cells).

Food Sources
Animal products

The Numbers
2.4 mg/day

This is a lot of specific facts on each vitamin.  To try to make sure we get them all in we don't have to target each one individually.  We just need to eat a diet balanced in whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, dairy, and protein.  See The Bottom Line blog post to determine the right amounts of each food group. 

Sometimes we could be running around in circles looking for cures, magic pills, secret remedies for whatever malady we're facing.  The FUNDAMENTAL PRIORITY PROCESS we need to engage in is making sure our diet includes all the macronutrients and micrnutrients that it needs to function at peak capacity.  The following song is a metaphor for just focusing on the priorities. A healthy balanced diet is like a healthy relationship.  Basically, eating healthy (and exercising regularly) IS WHERE IT IS!!!  "The biggest things [or changes we can make] IN THE SMALLEST PLACES."

"That's Where It Is" by Carrie Underwood

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Bottom Line

A little deviation from the catch phrase-title of this blog (“Why Eat....?”) for today’s topic:  THE BOTTOM LINE.

I just wanted to spell it out in simple, easy to understand terms for those who either have already heard enough of why we should eat right and just want to know how.  Maybe you don’t have enough time to go look up all the specifics about vitamins, minerals, fiber, calories, what to avoid, what to make sure you get in, etc.  I recommend this line of study to maintain motivation but if you already have enough motivation to get started, here it is:

So for women and girl-teens, memorize this:

6 oz. grains
2.5 c. veggies
2 c. fruits
3 c. dairy
5.5 oz. protein
6 tsp. oil
11 cups of water

For most men and boy-teens, you need to up your serving sizes to:

7 oz grains
3 c. veggies
3 cups fruit
3 cups dairy (stays the same)
7 oz protein
7 tsp. oils
16 cups of water

1 oz grain = 1 regular size piece of bread (preferably whole grain) or about 1/3 c. oats or 1/2 c. cooked rice
1 c. fruit = 1 baseball sized apple, orange, etc.
4 oz protein = the size of your palm

Exercise for at least 150-300 minutes a week.

Calculate your Estimated Energy Requirement:

1.  Determine your activity level:

Source:  Visualizing Nutrition1

2.  Put the numbers together:

Source:  Visualizing Nutrition1

If you want to lose weight, decrease total energy by 500 calories a day.  You can do this by decreasing what you eat or by exercising more.  I recommend both.

If doing the above doesn't work because of SPIRITUAL REASONS or you have become overly dependent upon eating too much and so are entrapped in habits you can't get out of, take some time to read a post from Special Ops Moms daily.  I also encourage you to use:  The Servant Program regularly.  And both of these things talk about the scriptures and encourage you to read them.  Read these things daily like you would take Vitamins and Minerals.  Reading, listening, watching, thinking anything that increases your Spiritual Energy each day will be like eating a nutritious Spiritual meal.  No one knows what sources of literature, music, movies, and stories uplift you the most better than yourself.  Identify what these are and take 1-2 a day.

1Visualizing Nutrition, Everyday Choices, 2nd edition by Mary B. Grosvenor and Lori A. Smolin

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why Eat Energy?

This is why we should eat a Balanced amount of Energy:

What Energy Does

Basal Metabolism

Basal Metabolism is "The energy expended to maintain an awake, resting body that is not digesting food."1

This includes:
The Cardiovascular System needs energy to keep the blood flowing throughout our body.

The Respiratory System needs energy to keep the oxygen flowing in and the carbon dioxide flowing out.

The Integumentary System (skin) needs it to keep our body temperature in a Balanced zone.

The Nervous system needs it for its communication network.  Without Energy we couldn't receive stimuli or respond to them.

The cells of all the body systems need it to build and rebuild body tissue.  They also need it to pay for the body's "garbage man" in the removal of waste products inherent to the continuous building, breaking down, and rebuilding processes.

That all takes up about 60-70% of the total amount of Energy we expend.

Each of us has a different Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  Some of us have faster BMRs and others have slower.  

If we weigh more overall, our rate will be faster.  If we have a higher percentage of lean body mass, which includes everything but our fat storage, our rate will be faster.  This is bone, muscle, and internal organs.

BMR decreases the older we get, partly because our lean body mass decreases.  We can prevent much of this decrease from happening if we EXERCISE! : )

BMR also decreases when we decrease how much we are eating.  (no fair.)

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the Energy our body uses to digest our food.  It is everything that is involved in making it available for Basal Metabolism or Physical Activity or for storage.
We actually burn about 10% of our total Energy intake when we eat.





Physical Activity

The remaining 20-30% of the Energy we consume is used in Physical Activity.  Physical Activity is anything from fidgeting to working out.  The more strenuous the activity, the more calories burned.  The longer we engage in an activity, the more calories we burn.  This means we don't necessary have to segment out a time in our day to exercise.  We can make the whole day about moving faster and spending more time in activities that burn more calories.

Energy Toxicity

Maybe not all of us want or need to burn more calories, but the majority of us do.  Here are the obesity stats for the last 50 years in the US of A.  The last two rows give some additional worldwide stats.

Percent of adults Obese in US
13.4 %
23 %
34 %
Worldwide 2012
1.5 billion total overweight
500 million of these are obese
Projection 2015
2.3 billion total overweight
700 million obese
Today 68% of adults in the US are overweight or obese.  The increase in weight has been attributed to the modernization of our world. Most of us don't have to do as much Physical Activity just to stay alive.  Others do it for us and we pay for it with our desk jobs.  Scientists are calling it an epidemic and have come up with the name Globesity

Special Note for Coloradans:  In 2009, Colorado had the lowest rate of obesity in the US at 10-14%.  The rest of the US was between 20 to over 30%.  But it looks like by 2013, we're climbing higher like the rest of the country (see the CDC Map above).

The issue with being overweight is that it is a major cause of disease states such as:
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)2

75% of adults don't exercise.  That was a staggering statistic for me to hear.  Most of us need to make more of a conscious effort to get up and move.  That doesn't mean we have to run and jump and do all manner of high impact, high intensity sports.  If we walk at 1.7/mph wherever we go, we will burn 100 to 150 more calories per hour.  If we spend less time sitting and more time moving around, we will burn more calories.  It's the accumulation of total Energy spent in a day that creates an Energy deficit.

One reassuring FACT for those of us who consistently eat a balanced amount of energy and exercise regularly but still don't lose weight is that GENES PLAY A SIGNIFICANT ROLE--75% IN DETERMINING BODY WEIGHT.  All we can do is EAT RIGHT and exercise IN BALANCE.  That creates Energy Balance within our body.  And that's all we need to worry about.


Energy Deficiency 

Even though 34% of adults are overweight, that leaves 66% that are not.  And a very small percentage is actually underweight.  Watch this incredibly interesting video on what happens to our body and our psychology when we don't get enough Energy in us.

The interesting thing I would like to point out is that we could experience starvation-like effects even if we are overweight.  We may have plenty of Energy stored in our body but if we don't have the vitamins and minerals it needs, we will feel physiologically hungry.  Since our cells are very good at communication, if they are in need of something that is in short supply, they will send signals that will stimulate our desire to eat.  Have you ever eaten a full meal and still felt hungry afterwards?  Making sure we get the recommended daily intake of all the vitamins and minerals is a foundational step to reducing the desire to overeat.  Selecting foods that are empty of nutrients will leave us feeling both full and empty at the same time.

The USDA has a couple of great sites to calculate your recommended vitamins, minerals, and calories.

My Plate

Energy Sources 

We get our Energy mostly from Carbohydrates and Fats.  Our body can convert Protein into Energy if eaten in excess or if we don't have enough from Carbohydrates and Fats.  In fact, if we don't get enough Carbs in, we can't even burn fat.  Carbs are broken down into glucose (simple sugars) which is then used to create ATP.  ATP is the Energy the cells use to function.  In order to burn fat, glucose is needed to start the whole fat-burning system.


The Numbers

BMI is a measurement to see if you are underweight, within a normal range, overweight, or obese.  Calculate your BMI:

Weight (lbs)/height (in)2 X 703

The little 2 (if you don't know) means squared.  Multiply your height times itself.

  • <19 Underweight
  • 19-25 Healthy
  •  25-30 Overweight 
  • >30 Obese
To learn more about BMI go to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Children and teens need to calculate their BMI differently.  Here is a website for them:  Children and Teens BMI. 

  • <5% Underweight 
  • 5% -85% Healthy 
  • 85-95% Overweight 
  • >95% Obese
You can also measure your waist circumference and see where you stand against these standards.  We increase the risk of disease when our waist circumference and BMI are:

>35 inches + BMI 25-34.9 kg/m2  

>40 inches + BMI 25-34.9 kg/m2

This is not about looks.  It is about where we store our fat.  If we have an apple shaped body (as opposed to a pear shaped body) we tend to store our excess fat around our abdominal organs.  This location of fat storage has been shown to be a greater cause for disease states such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and high cholesterol.

To know how much Energy you should be getting, calculate your Estimated Energy Requirements.


All information for this post was obtained from:   

1Visualizing Nutrition, Everyday Choices, 2nd edition by Mary B. Grosvenor and Lori A. Smolin

2The Center for Disease Control

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why Eat Vitamin C?

This is why we should eat a Balanced amount of foods containing Vitamin C:

What Vitamin C Does

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is needed to produce collagen.  Collagen is the glue that holds our body together.  It is the framework of bones, teeth, connective tissue and the walls of our blood vessels.

When cement contractors lay down the foundation of a house, they use metal rods to add a flexible stability to the cement mixture.  Collagen in our bones is like the metal rods in cement.

Vitamin C is used in the construction of neurotransmitters for the function of our Nervous System. Neurotransmitters are an essential part of the communication network in our body which enables our muscles to move.  They enable us to sense stimuli and respond to them.

Vitamin C is also used to construct hormones for the Endocrine System.

It acts as an antioxidant.  There are some "reactive" oxygen molecules hanging out in our body that mess the fine-tuned order up.  Gremlins.  They have been named Free Radicals.  Vitamin C acts as part of the immune system as it neutralizes these Free Radicals before they cause damage.

Moderate increases of Vitamin C have been found to reduce the duration of cold symptoms.

Vitamin C Deficiency 

When sailors went out to sea in the olden days for an extended period of time, they didn't bring enough fresh fruits and veggies that contained Vitamin C so they became deficient and developed a condition called Scurvy.  In Scurvy, our gums become inflamed, swollen, and start to bleed.  Our teeth loosen in their sockets and will eventually fall out if we do not correct the deficiency in time.  We experience internal bleeding in our subcutaneous tissue as well as in our joints.  We bruise easily and our cuts and scrapes do not heal very quickly.  We may feel tired, lethargic, depressed.  In this state we have a hard time remaining balanced in the face of conflict.  We may lose it pretty easily.  So even though most of us are not out at sea, if we don't get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables--the kind that are rich in Vitamin C--then we may be experiencing at least mild symptoms of its deficiency.  Are you feeling lost at sea?

Vitamin C Toxicity
It's hard to get too much of any vitamin or mineral from our food. If we're taking supplements it can be quite easy to overdose.  Overdoses of vitamin C can cause nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and sometimes even headaches.  Long term overdosing can lead to kidney stone formation.






Vitamin C Sources

The main source of Vitamin C is citrus fruits.   These other foods are also high in Vitamin C.

The Numbers

Adults:  75-90 mg/day

More Specifically
0-6 mo:  about 40 mg/day
6-12 mo:  50 mg/day

1-3:  15 mg/day
4-8:  25 mg/day

Tweens 9-13:  45 mg/day 
Teens 14-18:  75 mg/day
Adults 19 and up:  90 mg/day

Example Servings
1 large orange = 75 mg Vitamin C
1/2 c. broccoli = 35 mg Vitamin C
1 kiwi (2" diameter) = 64 mg Vitamin C
1 red pepper (medium) = 152 mg Vitamin C!

You can look up the nutrient content of any food on the USDA's Nutrient Data Base of its National Agricultural Library.

All information for this post was obtained from:  Visualizing Nutrition, Everyday Choices, 2nd edition by Mary B. Grosvenor and Lori A. Smolin

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why Eat Calcium?

This is why we should eat a Balanced amount of foods containing Calcium:

What Calcium Does

Calcium is used by the Skeletal System to form our bones and teeth.  99% of the Calcium in our bodies is found in and therefore needed by the bones and teeth.

It's used to regulate blood pressure and and blood clotting in our Cardiovascular System.

It is used by our Muscular System in muscular contraction.

Our Nervous System uses it in cellular nerve impulse communication.

The Endocrine System uses it in hormone secretion.

It also helps regulate water balance, metabolism, growth and development which probably can be summarized into the Digestive System.





Calcium Deficiency 

When we don't get enough Calcium in our diet, our Endocrine System stimulates the OSTEOCLASTS (Bone breaking down crew) to break down our bone in order to harvest the Calcium for our general body's needs.  

If this happens continuously over time, our bones become less dense.  They become brittle and more susceptible to fractures.  Chronic Calcium Deficiency leads to osteoporosis.  There are not many warning signs over the years that have been identified so if we don't crunch the adequate intake of Calcium numbers for our gender and age, we may not be getting enough Calcium and end up with osteoporosis



Calcium Toxicity

When there is too much Calcium in the blood metabolic processes and nerve communication become imbalanced.  Over time we can develop kidney stones and other Chronic Imbalanced States.





Calcium Sources

The main source of Calcium is dairy products.  

 These other foods are also high in Calcium.

The Numbers

Adults ages 19-50  1000 mg/day
Adult women ages 51-70  1200 mg/day*
Adult men ages 51-70 stays at 1000 mg/day
Adult men over 70  1200 mg/day

*Women need more because we generally have less bone mass than men AND we lose it at a faster rate in the 5-10 years surrounding menopause.

All information for this post was obtained from:  Visualizing Nutrition, Everyday Choices, 2nd edition by Mary B. Grosvenor and Lori A. Smolin