Your Monthly Check-Up: Vital Nutrients

Do you feel like something’s missing? Something important that you can’t quite put your finger on? Maybe a little vitamin D, iron or omega-3 fatty acids? What’s that? You don’t know if you’re missing any of these vital nutrients? Then keep reading.

One of the problems with nutrition in America is that people are getting plenty to eat; they’re just not eating enough of the right things. “Heavily processed foods full of refined flours and processed sugars provide plenty of calories but not a lot of nutrients,” says nutrition expert Alan Gaby, MD, quoted in the article “When Nutrients Go Missing” by Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD in October’s issue of “EXPERIENCE L!FE” magazine. “In essence, we are overfed but undernourished.”

In his article, Kadey points to five essential nutrients that are going missing from the American diet. Not only do these nutrients provide life-sustaining benefits and prevent health problems, but serious symptoms can potentially arise if the body becomes deficient. These nutrients, in alphabetical order, are iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and vitamin E.


The function of iron is to help red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs throughout the body – kind of important, right? An iron deficiency causes anemia, brittle nails, swelling or soreness of the tongue, frequent infections and affects memory and attention. Heavy menstruation, too much processed food, not enough red meat and sometimes endurance sports can all cause iron deficiency.


Eating a lot of processed grub? Then you’re probably short on this nutrient, which comes from plant-based whole foods. Each and every one of your cells needs magnesium for energy production and performing many other chemical reactions. A deficiency in magnesium may “exacerbate inflammation, which can set the stage for cancer, stroke and even type 2 diabetes,” according to Kadey’s article.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Many Americans are conditioned to steer clear of the word “fat,” but this is one you actually want to have in your body. Omega-3 helps with inflammation, which can “lower your chances for depression and dementia, reduce cancer and diabetes risk and improve joint health,” as stated in the article. Omega-3s come from fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines and mackerel, as well as grass-fed meats.

Vitamin D

According to Michael Wald, PhD, ND, an expert source Kadey quotes in his article, vitamin D is “necessary for every single cell of every single tissue in the body to work optimally.” Vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin and helps the body absorb calcium. The biggest source of D is from the sun, which is probably why three-quarters of Americans are deficient, so get out there!

Vitamin E

Found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, whole grains and dark leafy greens, vitamin E is an antioxidant and an enemy of bacteria and viruses that helps maintain your immune system and assists in the development of red blood cells. Though deficiency is rare, steering clear of processed foods wouldn’t hurt. Also, try to get enough sleep and avoid excess sugar and environment pollution.

While your best bet is to acquire these nutrients through their whole food source, sometimes this just isn’t possible, in which case supplements for all of these nutrients are generally widely available. Get all the facts by reading the “EXPERIENCE L!FE” article in its entirety here.

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Your Monthly Check-Up: Defending Your Eating Habits

It’s no secret that obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are huge problems in this country, among many other ailments. The good news is that most of these illnesses can be managed through diet and exercise. It seems a new diet comes out every day, but the best defense is a good offense. Eating well and getting enough exercise and rest are surefire combatants to many of the health problems Americans are suffering from.

“Eating clean,” “organic” and “grass-fed” are just a few of the current buzzwords in the world of healthy eating, and many people are starting to get on this “down with junk food” bandwagon. But it’s not easy, especially when it comes to eating with family, friends and in the workplace, when the lure of pastries, fast food lunch breaks and happy hour appetizers loom large.

An article in the September issue of “Experience L!fe” magazine, titled “Food Fight” by contributing writer Jon Spayde, tackles this very subject. In his article, Spayde consults with food blogger Darya Pino Rose, PhD, about the barriers to overcome when deciding to switch to a healthier eating lifestyle as well as some of the strategies for success.

Spayde and Rose outline six main barriers people may face when embarking on a new eating routine:

  • Your own rigidity: going fast and hard instead of easing into it or being more reasonable
  • The urge to convert: offering unsolicited advice and thus turning people off
  • Feelings of ambivalence: worrying if you can even stick with your new goals
  • Fear of not fitting in: maintaining your resolve at dinner parties and out with friends
  • Difference of opinion about what’s really healthy: others may be concerned that you’re not getting the proper nutrition
  • Reluctance to get support: feeling unsure about revealing your decision to others

These six barriers present challenges, especially when making the decision alone and not as part of a family or workplace eating overhaul. “It’s natural, especially in the early stages of a new eating pattern, to try to obey every food rule to the letter and do everything perfectly – which can lead to a sour, anxious attitude on your part and trigger defensiveness in others,” the article states. Also, in your newfound excitement about eating healthy, you may inadvertently (or perhaps on purpose) offer advice to your family, friends and colleagues that is unsolicited, which can be off-putting, alienating and make you come across as holier-than-thou, the article states.

You also may suffer feelings of insecurity when out to dinner with others and not being able to indulge in the less-healthy options you used to. Your friends and colleagues may question your recent choices, for example, “You say you’re a vegetarian? Where are you going to get your protein?” or “You’ve given up dairy? Won’t you miss the probiotics in yogurt?” the article states. These situations may become overwhelming and tempt you to return to your old habits to avoid such confrontations.

But Spayde and Rose have put together an arsenal of strategies to help you meander this new eating world and equip you with the tools you need to answer questions, make healthy decisions and stick with your eating plan. First of all, realize it’s not about you. “People who approach you antagonistically about food are probably insecure about their own eating habits,” says Rose in the article. Also, framing your responses to these types of questions will help curb some of that insecurity. Rose says, “If you frame the explanation of your eating habits in terms of ‘I don’t eat that awful stuff,’ you’ll antagonize. But if you frame it as ‘I’m eating differently as a kind of experiment to see how I feel,’ you take the value judgment out of it.”

Another way to avoid insecurity or awkwardness regarding your new eating routine, according to the article, is to tell people ahead of time, for example, the hosts of upcoming dinner parties or other such events. People appreciate this and will be more understanding than if you show up with your own food unexpectedly. Spayde and Rose also state that emphasizing real pleasure is a great way to offset some of these questioning looks and comments, too. According to Rose, “You can say, ‘Hey, pizza is great, but so is this salad, believe it or not. I love how it makes me feel. I’m not trying to restrict myself or show off my willpower – I am really into this.’ Emphasizing happiness can really disarm a critic.”

Also, Spayde and Rose suggest choosing your battles. “If it’s my grandmother’s birthday and someone whips up her favorite apple pie and everyone is having a piece (and it’s not a proven allergen or won’t trigger a negative physical reaction), that might be a time for me to have a piece,” says Rose in the article. “There’s definitely something to be said for being somewhat flexible at those times when nutrition isn’t the main value - when it’s a matter of love or tradition.”

The bottom line is, the benefits of switching to or sticking with a healthier way of eating far outweigh any negative opinions or awkward situations that doing so might initially cause. As eating healthier becomes the norm – and hopefully it will – there will be less need to employ strategies for success, so you can spend more time planning your meals and shopping for healthy food and less time planning your counterattack when the questions start flying. Be firm with your decisions. Who knows? You may just change a few friends’ or colleagues’ minds in the process!

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