Tag Archives: Nutrition



I am overwhelmed.  Who hasn’t said that?  But what does it really mean?  The definition is “to load, heap, treat, or address with an overpowering or excessive amount of anything.”  That is certainly true when it comes to all of the health and wellness advice that we hear.

I truly believe that everyone wants to feel good and to be healthy.  There are so many reasons that we have trouble striving for, and reaching, improved health.  These reasons can be emotional, physical, political, and many others.  Add in the vastness of information at our disposal, much of which is confusing and contradictory.  How are we supposed to navigate all of this, and who has the time to do it anyway?


Sometimes we have to make the time if we are faced with serious illness in our lives.  We need to be able to find reliable and valid information.  Please, please, please remember that what we read is not always true just because it comes from an excellent public speaker and/or a doctor.  Solid starting points are:  WebMDHealthfinder.gov, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Take advantage of their search functions.  Also, Wikipedia is always a great place to start a search, but keep in mind that the information can be posted by anyone at any time and always needs to be verified.


So what is the most important aspects of health and wellness to concerns ourselves about?  Exercise?  Diet?  Stress control?  Should we worry about butter vs. margarine?  Alkaline vs. acidic?  Carbs vs. fat?  Organic vs. conventional?  The concerns seem endless.  And for each concern there are multiple and conflicting opinions as to what we should be doing.  Then, just when we think we have it figured out, the experts discover something new and everything we know as true is turned upside down.  Frustrating?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But it is also the nature of the proverbial beast.  As our technology and understanding evolve and increase, so do our core beliefs on what is healthy.

Certainly when our lives are effected by a specific illness we tend to concentrate on that one as the most important.  If we are predisposed to a disease, that should be of greater importance to us to learn about.  Knowledge is power… as long as we are willing to implement that knowledge.  Just how much time and energy do we need to spend researching all aspects of health and wellness in order to improve our health and quality of life?


The good news is that for most of us, simply being mindful goes a long way toward improving our health and wellness.  Start with the basics, my personal mantra:  balance, moderation, and variety.  They all are all different, yet each ties in with the others:

download     Balance:
Work and play, good food and junk food, spending and saving, exercising and relaxing… It doesn’t matter what it is.  Too much of one and not enough of the other infringes on our health and happiness.  When we balance all aspects of our existence we can enjoy a healthier, happier life.

images (2)     Moderation:
Anything taken to the extreme can be harmful.  As I’ve mentioned before, that includes drinking too much water.  Not only do we want to balance relaxation with exercise, we also want to exercise in a safe manner and not push harder than our bodies can safely handle.  If we are not active, we need to work up to strenuous activities.  “Weekend athletes” suffer injuries due to their lack of conditioning.  If we “work hard and play hard” we are balanced, but if we are pushing ourselves too hard in each of them, we will suffer from the lack of moderation in both.

Variety of fresh vegetables at market. Siem Reap     Variety:
We all know how important it is to have variety in our diet.  Different colored fruits and vegetables each provide distinct health properties.  We need a variety of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in order to survive and thrive.  Most of us eat wheat (white or processed whole wheat) at every meal and for snacks in between.  Many of our bodies are rejecting the wheat we are consuming at every meal (and it’s not the same wheat our grandparents ate.)  We are complex organisms.  When we consume a large variety of healthy foods we don’t have to concerns ourselves with the specifics of eating the right combination of nutrients.  When we vary our exercise routines we are working different muscle groups and different systems.  By varying our mental activities, we work different parts of our brains.

When we are mindful and aware of what we are doing to and with our bodies, we can do so with balance, moderation, and variety which will increase our health and wellness.  Will you start with being mindful and perhaps throw a little more balance, moderation, and variety in?  I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the outcome!

“Date” Yet one more four-letter word.

Tzolkin Calendar - hsc08a

No, not that kind of date!  It can’t be healthy to eat food past the “expire” date, can it?  What about the “sell by” or “use by” dates?  These labels are confusing, and really don’t mean very much.  We might as well use an Aztec Calendar Wheel for the same amount of clarity!

They give us the the date by which the manufacturer has deemed the food to be closest to the taste that the manufacturer decided was best.  “But companies want people to taste their products as best they can at the optimum, because that’s how they maintain their business and their market shares.”  (Institute of Food Technologists)  “There should be a standard date and wording that is used. This is about quality, not safety. You can make your own decision about whether a food still has an edible quality that’s acceptable to you.” (Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic)  All sources say the same thing.  Smell it.  Taste it.  You can tell if a food has gone bad.

This is much different than contamination.  “Bacteria, viruses, or parasites mainly cause foodborne illness. Many foodborne illnesses are a result of bacteria or viruses, which are microorganisms or “germs” that occur either naturally in foods or are spread as a result of poor practices, such as cross contaminating foods or improper handling during food preparation. Bacteria can rapidly multiply under the right conditions.”  (MDH)

Bacteria growth in food 2

Bottom line:  Let your senses (including common sense) guide you, and take basic precautions including hand-washing and sanitary kitchen practices.  (Information on food safety here.)

Butter or Margarine? (And a whole lot of other questions…)


I have to agree with Postconsumers.com on this one (and I also agree to trust the cow to know what it needs to eat to be heatlhy (hint: it’s not corn)… but that’s another post for another day!)

So we want to make some better choices.  Maybe eat a little bit more of this, or a little bit less of that.  But what should we be eating?  And just as importantly, what shouldn’t we?  It seems like it’s changing all the time.  

I don’t know about you, but when I was young(er!) the goal of schooling was to teach us a lot of facts.  When it came to food and nutrition, if I was taught basic facts, that was a lot.  The good, the bad, and the fad.  (The “healthy” low-fat / high-carb diets of the 1980’s damaged me tremendously.)  Since nutrition is a newer science, advances can develop quickly.  Sometimes it makes our heads spin to try to keep up.  A very brief synopsis of the timeline of nutritional science (USDA):

  • 1894 – First dietary guidance by USDA (specific vitamins & minerals not yet identified)
  • 1916 – 1930s – First dietary guidelines
  • 1941 – First RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) 
  • 1956 – Basic Four food groups introduced
  • 1977 – Evidence of over-consumption related to concerns and diseases
  • 1979 – First food guide to target moderation of fats, sweets, and alcohol
  • 1979 – First published reports of relationship between diet and health outcomes
  • 1980 – First guidelines suggesting variety for essential nutrients (but no quantities) 

The first talk of specific nutrients was in the 1980s!  As science has been advancing and more and more information is discovered, we are continuously bombarded with conflicting, and often changing, “facts.”  Combine that with the emotional appeals, and it’s a wonder any of us know what is best for us.  Then we have all the miracle pills…  If spinach is good, all we have to do is figure out what nutrient in the spinach is good, remove it, concentrate it, consume it, and then it will be great!  We will be even healthier, right?  Not so fast!  

Back on track…  There are  more facts instantly available to us than we ever imagined possible.  Now, instead of needing to learn the facts, we need to learn discernment, or how to figure out which of that mountain of information is valid and reliable.  What information relates to us, and affects us.  Definition of fact:  “A true piece of information.”  So where do these facts come from, and how do we know which to believe?  

Richard Dawkins said:  “Science replaces private prejudice with public, verifiable, evidence.”  While I believe this to be true, I also know that studies can be manipulated and results can ensured that certain studies prove their point or hypothesis (or back up their marketing strategy to sell their products.)  That is why it is so important to know the source of the information.  Where does this information come from?  Is it a credible source?  Have peers, or other professionals, reviewed these “facts” that we so readily believe?  Have they been taken out of context?

Is it possible for us to do this for most things that we consume?  Absolutely not!  That’s why we must rely on trusted organizations to do much of this work for us.  

In the mean time, if we continue on a path toward a greater variety of real food instead of food products, including more vegetables, and we listen to our bodies, we are off to a good start.  When we eat the whole food, we get not only the nutrients we need, but the combination of nutrients to work best in our bodies.

We should all remember each time we read something to pause and ask:  “Says who?!”  If a reliable source is not mentioned, we must be sure to do more research before believing it.  And a personal favorite:  If the message creates a great deal of emotion (especially negative or ‘flaming’), it behooves us all to think before reacting.  Oftentimes the author relies on our emotional response to produce an immediate reaction.  Let’s be proactive, not reactive.  Our lives depend on it.  

Last thought:  

Beware:  If it seems too good to be true, it probably is  There is no magic pill.  When on fire, we ‘stop, drop, and roll.’  When under constant bombardment of conflicting information (which can be equally dangerous in the long run), perhaps we need to ‘stop, think, and research.’  


In-depth information on deciding if a source can be trusted:  Evaluating Health Information and the CDC.  Although the CDC’s information linked here is listed under a specific health concern, the suggestions apply to the discernment of all health information.  The CDC has a tremendous amount of health information as well.

Healthfinder.gov:  “a government Web site where you will find information and tools to help you and those you care about stay healthy.”

Food and Nutrition Information Center:  “a leader in food and human nutrition information dissemination since 1971 – provides credible, accurate, and practical resources for nutrition and health professionals, educators, government personnel and consumers.”

Medline Plus:  “MedlinePlus is the National Institutes of Health’s Web site for patients and their families and friends. Produced by the National Library of Medicine, it brings you information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues in language you can understand. MedlinePlus offers reliable, up-to-date health information, anytime, anywhere, for free.”

National Institutes of Health:  “NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.”

Environmental Working Group:  “The Environmental Working Group is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization.  Our mission is to serve as a watchdog to see that Americans get straight facts, unfiltered and unspun, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment.”

How to Put Your Best Foot (and the Rest of You) Forward


Although this post is geared towards those of us who may be out of work or underemployed, it is appropriate for all of us who want to get more out of the lives we are currently living.  

Would you like to excel on your next interview?  Are you having trouble lining up that interview?  We all know the obvious:  network, research, prepare, etc.  But what happens when we put all of our time and effort into the job search at the expense of our health and wellness?  We will not be at our best, for sure.  Whether on that interview or networking with peers (or at the local market… you never know where that next big break will appear!)  Let’s get back to basics.  We need to put ourselves first so that we have the resources to excel.  Note:  No-one can do it all, all the time, or all at once.  As with anything, it is often best if we pick the most important and most changeable items and start there.  Baby steps!

According to The Under Cover Recruiter, the top seven qualities an employer is looking for are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  In order for us to possess and display these attributes, we must have balance in our lives and take care of our health and wellness.  “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (The WHO.)

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves.  All we need for normal repairs and growth is the proper resources (sleep, nutrition, and exercise.)

SLEEP:  According to WebMD, short-term lack of enough sleep can cause decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress, poor quality of life, occupational injury, and automobile injury.  Long-term lack of enough sleep is “associated with numerous, serious medical illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke, obesity, psychiatric problems including depression and other mood disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), mental impairment, and many others. (WebMD)

None of these conditions will benefit our job search, to say the least!  It should be pretty obvious that to perform on a professional level and to display our strengths properly, we need to be well rested.  Not just on the day of the interview, but every day.  There are many resources available to help us sleep better.  The first steps are to stick to a regular sleep schedule, pay attention to our food and drink consumption, create a bedtime ritual, set the conditions for sleep comfortably, limit naps, get regular exercise, and manage stress.  (For detailed information:  MayoClinic.)

NUTRITION: Living on coffee and nutrient-deficient snacks or meals is not going to give our bodies what they need to survive, let alone thrive.  As an employer, would you be more likely to hire someone who is vibrant, clear and sharp with a healthy glow, or someone who is haggard and listless?  Nutrition is surprisingly simple (to understand, anyway):  We need to take in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole carbohydrates, and lean proteins in reasonable portions and on a regular schedule.  Eat foods that our grandparents would recognize as food!  That’s it.

Variety is important because each different type of food has different raw materials our bodies need.  Each different color of vegetable contains different phytonutrients our bodies require, for example.  As always, excess is unhealthy.  Period.  Even drinking too much water (too quickly) can kill you.  Seriously, it can (water Intoxication.)  Many of us unemployed think we can’t afford to eat healthy.  The truth is, we can’t afford not to.  Tips to eat healthy on a budget:  MyPlate.  There are many others sources a few keystrokes away.

I am sure we all know how important it is to start the day (after an eight to twelve hour fast) with a good meal.  Personally, I love leftover dinners for breakfast.  Talk about quick and easy!  Going too long between meals causes blood sugar drops and feeling tired or sluggish (certainly not an optimal way to be job hunting), can slow metabolism, and cause us to gain weight.  (Fit Day)  Our brains need the nutrition and the energy to function!

EXERCISE:  The benefits of regular exercise cover every aspect of MindBodySpirit wellness.  “Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey.”  (USA News)  The evidence abounds.  Move it or lose it!  Again, no need to go crazy.  Move a little bit more than you did yesterday, then make it a habit.  Exercise helps with sleep, too (although too close to bedtime may not work for you.  It keeps me up for many hours!)

Remember those seven things employers are looking for?  They are:  intelligence, leadership ability, integrity, likability, competence, courage, and inner strength.  When you are healthy and taking care of yourself, you are much more likely to not only grow these attributes, but to also present them well.  As job-seekers, we are in the business of selling.  We are the salespeople, and we are the products.  We each need to know our product in order to sell it.  As any salesperson will tell you:  the easiest products to sell are the ones of that sell themselves.  You can showcase your attributes clearly and vibrantly because you are taking care of yourself.  Be a positive and effective product and you will find it much easier to sell yourself for the perfect position!

Wishing you success in your life, and career.  Remember, put your health first and everything else will follow!

Photo credit:  Dr. Ancheta.

Eat more fat!

Or more specifically, eat more omega-3 fats.  Or eat less omega-6 fats…  


Our bodies need fat to function.  Unlike saturated fats, we need to consume both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids because our bodies do not produce these essential fats.  (I don’t know about you, but that’s good news to me.  Fat tastes awfully good!)  So how much of each should we eat ?  Although the jury is still out on the amount that is needed, as well as the exact proportion that is healthiest, one thing is known for sure:  the ratio we are currently taking in is far too heavy on the omega-6s.  According to the above graphic, we should be aiming for an omega-6:omega-3 ratio of 4:1, and Americans eat closer to 30:1 (30 times the amount of omega-6s than omega-3s.)  Others suggest it should be closer to 1:1, while it is currently 15:1.  In either case, or any in between, this could explain, in part, the large amount of heart disease and many other inflammatory diseases we are experiencing en masse.  

The nice thing about ratios is that we can increase one or decrease the other.  For even better results, we can increase one while consuming less of the other.  And as in everything, it’s best to start with small changes if you are able.  We can slowly incorporate a few foods containing omega-3s, while cutting back on some of the omega-6s.  We can make these small changes in our daily choices and they will become lifestyle habits.    

Omega-3 fatty acids may have far-reaching health benefits. Studies suggest they help lower the risk of heart disease, the nation’s top killer. They may also protect against depression, dementia, cancer, and arthritis. Omega-3s are found in salmon, walnuts, spinach, and more – but the health benefits can differ greatly from one source to another. (WebMD)

One of omega-3s effects is to reduce inflammation (a cause of many illnesses and diseases like heart disease), and can slow plaque buildup and reduce dangerous triglycerides in large enough quantities.  (Please seek professional counsel before taking large doses of any supplement, no matter how ‘natural.’)  It is important for brain development and brain health.  There is also evidence that it helps with mood stabilization and depression, and possibly even protects against Alzheimer’s.  It may also protect against several cancers.   

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish, though some varieties deliver a higher dose than others. Top choices are salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, anchovies, and tuna. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings a week of fish, which is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or ¾ cup of flaked fish.  (WebMD)

Foods that contain omega-3s are:

  • fish (cold water, fattier fish like sardines and salmon have more)*
  • nuts:  walnuts (see a list of nuts and seeds with omega-3s)
  • seeds:  chia, hemp, & flax (flax must be ground – we cannot digest the hull)
  • broccoli
  • edamame
  • spinach
  • canola oil
  • supplements (almost last on the list for good reason – eat real food when you can!)
  • products fortified with omega-3s (many have minimal amounts, others ALA not DHA or EPA – choose wisely)

We also need omega-6 fatty acids.  Like omega-3, there are different types.  Overall, we already get plenty (too much, and some are inflammatory while others are anti-inflammatory.)  We need a balance of the two types to balance out the inflammatory effects.  When we can, we should be choosing the natural fats.    

Along with omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they help stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and maintain the reproductive system.  (UMMC)

Omega-6s (and omega-9s) can be found in:

  • linoleic acid from plant oils (corn, soybean, sunflower…)
  • nuts 
  • seeds
  • meat
  • eggs
  • dairy products

Omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids are not saturated, and are a better choice over saturated fats.  (There is not much talk about omega-9s.  You can find a bit here.)  Some saturated fats we should reduce or avoid include: 

  • high-fat cheeses
  • high-fat cuts of meat
  • whole-fat milk and cream
  • butter
  • ice cream
  • palm and coconut oils (often found in prepared foods)

Reminder:  Grain-fed beef products are much higher in saturated fat than grass-fed.  Switching to grass-fed beef (and products) it is a much healthier option when possible.  I previously blogged on the difference between grain and grass-fed beef here.  

*Please let me know if you would like me to post about mercury and fish safety.  

For some very interesting reading on essential fatty acids and the brain, check out The Human Brain.  



What *is* all this health and wellness talk, anyway?

wellness-wheel - AZ Health Dept

Seriously.  Why do we need to keep hearing about it?

Now we have to carry water around with us?  When did that happen?!*  (A comedian did a skit on this, but I can’t find it.  A gold star if you can find it and post it for me!)  I’m pretty sure that my homo erectus ancestors didn’t worry about getting exercise or eating right.  No, not them.  They worried about outrunning saber-toothed cats and hunting their next meal.

A little closer to home, our great-grandparents (and theirs) had a rougher lifestyle than we do in a lot of ways .  Much simpler, too.  Besides plagues and communicable diseases, I don’t think they thought much about health, and probably didn’t have to.  They had to work hard (exercise), and had only basic foods available to eat (clean, balanced diet.)  “Treats” were just that.  Occasionally consumed.  They lived in close-knit groups for support and survival.  They could count on each other.  Of course there are exceptions to all of this, but I believe that was the norm.

Not us!  Fast forward to today.  We have technology that plants us firmly on our butts (like right now!)  We have so much to do and so many things to see.  We are overwhelmed and stressed.  We have all kinds of food and food-like products available to us at all hours of the day… and night.  (Perhaps that is why we actually have to carry said bottles of water with us now – to re-hydrate so our bodies can function properly after consuming all the processed foods and diuretic drinks we do.)  Often it is a downward spiral as one area becomes more unhealthy, other areas of our lives or health deteriorate too.  

Moderation.  Great concept.  One of my favorites.  Yet so hard to practice for many of us.  I love the above image for so many reasons.  It encompasses all of the aspects of health and well-being, that they are all interconnected, and that we need to balance them,  And it does so in a beautiful never-ending rainbow.  (Thank you AZDHS.)

Health is not how we look, it is not just diet and exercise.  Our overall health and wellness depend on keeping all aspects of us healthy and in balance.  Everything in our lives might be great, but if we are not emotionally healthy, I guarantee the rest will begin to erode, too.  We are greatly affected by the environment that we live in, and it is our responsibility to keep it as healthy as we can for our own sake too.  Perhaps we have everything we could have ever hoped for, but we become physically ill.  The rest doesn’t matter so much anymore because we can no longer enjoy it, and often can’t hold onto it.  If we are not financially healthy (very different from wealthy), that too, will interfere with the other aspects of our lives.  I could go on (and on, and on!), but I’m sure you get the idea.

Due to the nature of our current living conditions, we not only need to think about our health and wellness, but we need to proactively work toward a healthy balance in all of these areas in our lives.  The beauty of it is that we don’t have to do it all at once.  Pick one area to work on and start there.  It’s the opposite of a downward spiral.  The better we feel, the more we want to feel better, and the easier it becomes.  So I ask you.  What will your first step be?

I’m Seeing Red (meat, that is.)

Cow Face Tongue

Low fat.  No, low carb.  Butter.  No, margarine.  No, butter.  (We use pasture butter in our house.)  Who do we believe?  How do we keep up?  Nutrition is one of the least studied sciences (although I believe that is changing now.)  The facts, as we know them, change frequently as we learn more and more.  For those of us who try to keep up, it is often frustrating and difficult.  For those of us who don’t really pay attention, it is even more frustrating and more difficult!  And when we are unwell, we visit doctors, who have had very little nutrition instruction (and it is likely not up-to-date, either.)  No disrespect to doctors here.  Our system is set up for doctors to be ill-care, not well-care practitioners.  Hopefully this is changing too.

The further we move away from living life as nature intended, the more our “lifestyle diseases” such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and many others are reducing our quality of life.  Even our lives, themselves.  Not moving as much as our bodies need, eating more food-like products and less real food, and introducing innumerable toxins into our bodies and environment does not bode well for any of us.

We can find so much information that tells us “this is healthy,” and just as much information saying “this is not healthy,” whatever “this” happens to be,  So what about red meat?  It is a food, not a food product (I’m not attempting to visit processed meats now), so that must count for something, right?!  Red meat, as we currently know it and consume it, is definitely not good for us or for the environment.  There is no question about that.  But why?  First let me ask you a question:  Have you ever seen a cow, out in nature, grazing on a corn stalk?  (Me neither.)  Cows were designed to graze and roam.  That is how they stay healthy.  Eat right and move more?  What a concept…  <smile>

Conventional beef:

  • Omega 6 fat (too much causes cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases)
  • Hormones and Antibiotics (many possible health problems)
  • E. coli (bacteria that lives in the gut of cattle and other ruminants)
  • Feedlots (potential damage to humans, the environment, and the cows…)

So why eat it?  Red meat, if raised and consumed responsibly can be very healthy.  some of the benefits include:

  • Omega 3 fat (twice as much of this heart-healthy fat than conventional)
  • Vitamin B3, selenium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B12, choline…
  • Complete protein (much leaner when pasture-raised)
  • Less environmental impact than feedlots
  • MUCH less E. coli (fascinating information – see Eat Wild below)
  • More humane

We all have the same nutritional needs, yet each of us has slight differences in our chemical makeup requiring specific attention.  Can most of us be healthy without red meat?  Absolutely.  Can most of us be healthy with it?  I believe so.

Again, moderation is key.  An adequate portion size of red meat for most adults is 4 ounces. If eating a varied diet, red meat would be only one of many protein options.  The average red meat consumption per person in the U.S. in 2010 was 59.6 pounds per person.  This means that many of us ate more than that since many of us also ate less or none.  Eating a healthy portion as part of a varied diet would decrease the need for such tremendous production processes, minimizing any negative effects to our bodies and to our environment.  When consuming organic, and/or pasture-raised, and any negative effects are even more greatly reduced.  Enjoy responsibly.