Tag Archive for healthy

Planning ahead for a healthy baby

In 2013, I had a thiamin deficiency. Not my proudest moment as a functional nutritionist, but hey, I relearned something I didn’t think would affect me. At the height of my green juicing habit, I was consuming lots of blueberries and LOTS of kale. I love kale; in my smoothie at breakfast, a kale salad at lunch, and oh heck I’ll through some in my soup/stir fry/dinner tonight, too. Well, kale and blueberries contain an anti-nutrient called anti-thiaminase. As you can surmise, anti-nutrient means it interferes with the utilization or absorption of a particular nutrient and that’s how I ended up with a thiamin deficiency. So I sadly said adieu to kale for a while, saved some blueberries for the rest of the planet and stocked my fridge with other fruit and veggies.

Now with the recent addition of our precious new niece Anna, and counseling several new mommies and mommies to be, I can’t stop reading about how nutrition affects the growing fetus. This video by Dr. Michael Gregor at NutritionFacts.org, illustrates the point that what we eat tells the body how to behave.  Nutrients not only become the structure of our bodies, they are also messengers that deliver instructions on how to put together the structures in our bodies. While I am, admittedly, a whole food zealot, I have concerns about optimizing intake while not flooding the body with ‘messages’ that might in fact be harmful. The possibility that Mother Nature’s closing of a specialized opening in the heart might be adversely affected by high doses of antioxidants gets my attention. As does the research on depression, cardiovascular health, and immunity, all affected by the signaling molecules called nutrients that speak to developing DNA in utero. This ‘programmed DNA’ then dictates the health of the new human into adulthood. I always advocate a plant based diet, including plenty of vegetables and fruit during pregnancy. However, guzzling  concentrated sources of polyphenols and other antioxidants via dehydrated powders and concentrated juices on a daily basis may not be the best advice we can give. In hopes of creating the best developmental environment possible for a developing fetus, 2-3 servings of fruit and veggies at each meal, in their whole unprocessed states seem more appropriate. And yes, paternal nutrition affects the health of the fetus, too. If you are pregnant or soon to be, I hope you watch the video and check out the links above. As the wise Michael Pollan reminds us: eat real food (not powdered, processed ‘health’ food), not too much (optimize, don’t flood the system), mostly plants (yep, plants heal).



Can you eat sunscreen?



We are all familiar with the sting of sunburn, but did you know that UV radiation, affects the immune system? Ultraviolet radiation, especially UVB, creates inflammation which leads to reactive oxygen species, which most of us know as free radicals. These free radicals play a central role in accelerating aging, causing loss of firmness and elasticity of our cells. These scavengers leave skin appearing rough, leathery, wrinkled, with uneven pigmentation and at worst skin cancer.

Enter antioxidants. Plentiful in whole, unprocessed foods, antioxidants are believed to protect the skin in multiple ways. Eating tomato paste, which is high in lutein increases tolerance to UV radiation thus reducing sunburn. When Vitamin E is combined with Vitamin C, these nutrients provide protection by increasing sunburn threshold. Polyphenols are found in cocoa, tea, and citrus fruits. They act as enzyme inhibitors, reducing inflammation that may enhance skin cancers. Over a decade ago, Wang et al reported that rats fed green tea polyphenols, experienced fewer UVB related skin tumors (Carcinogenesis 1991, 12:1527-30.)

Having a diet high in the wrong kind of fat may also encourage skin cancers. Diets high in omega 6 fatty acids have been associated with higher rates of squamous cell carcinoma. In a study by Rhodes, et al, receiving high doses of the essential omega 3 fatty acid, EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid) doubled the time before skin became burned (Carcinogenesis, 2003; 24:919-25). Unfortunately, our diets are largely out of balance when it comes to healthy fats. Our modern diets provide a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 of 10:1. To achieve a healthy 4:1 ratio, reduce the amount of snack and prepared foods that contain canola, soy, sunflower, corn, and safflower oils which are high in omega 6 fats. Replace them with foods high in omega 3 such as nuts, fish, olive oil and avocado and use only use grape seed and olive oils in the kitchen.

Unfortunately you can’t get this phyto-protection overnight. Your diet must be rich in these nutrients for at least eight to ten weeks to receive the benefits, and of course, diet alone is not your best defense. A topical sunscreen is imperative to adequate sun protection, and some contain green tea or beta carotene which benefits the skin topically as well as inside the body. But for the time when sunscreen fails, or you just push the sun time a bit longer than you should, it’s nice knowing you have the backup of an antioxidant rich diet providing powerful damage control.