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Healthy Eating Tips - Nutrition Guide

November 12th, 2012 Healthy Living

Berry, Berry Good

Berries are among the tastiest sources of antioxidants around. Why are antioxidants important? Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the damage to cells that occurs with age and in response to environmental factors such as pollution or smoking. The best way to promote healthy cells is to get your antioxidants from healthy foods, such as berries.

Best of all, berries aren’t just for summer anymore. Of course nothing beats a handful of freshly picked berries, but the frozen ones have the same health benefits as fresh berries. Buy a bag of frozen berries, keep them in the freezer, and pull out just the amount that you need for a smoothie, cereal topper, or just a sweet and healthy treat. But be careful about eating berries straight from the freezer. They will be hard, and if you have tooth problems or sensitive teeth, it’s best to let them thaw at room temperature for 10 minutes or so, or thaw them in the microwave.

Any berries—strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries—have antioxidants.

Take these simple steps to add more berries to your diet:

  • Stir fresh or frozen berries into applesauce, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Add berries to the mix when you make cornbread or muffins.
  • Use dried cranberries or blueberries in recipes instead of raisins.
If you enjoy going out to pick your own berries in season, try to go in the morning or early evening. It won’t be as hot, and the berries will be less likely to bruise. Refrigerate fresh berries right away to keep them from spoiling, but don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them or use them in a recipe; washing causes them to spoil more quickly.

Eat The Right Snacks To Pump Up Your Workout

If you work out regularly at moderate to high intensity, snacks are a important part of your fitness plan. Whether you are training for a marathon or just enjoy staying in shape, you will get more out of your workout if you are not so hungry that you’re ready to start chewing on your shoes! For a pre-workout snack, choose easily digestible foods that have a mix of nutrients for quick energy and staying power.

Energy bars are great pre-workout snacks but they can be expensive if you buy them often. Also, some brands are difficult to chew and can stick to your teeth if you have dentures or other dental work. You can get similar energy benefits you can also opt for a banana, a few pieces of toast spread with honey, or jam. Or try crackers or rice cakes topped with a slice of cheese or with peanut butter. The goal is to provide energy without making you too full. Ideally, have a snack an hour before a workout so your body has time to digest the food and it will have time to do you some good. For the average person going to lift weights, do yoga, or go for a 5-mile run, any of the previously mentioned healthy snacks will do the job and help you have a great workout.

If you’re doing an endurance workout, such as a long marathon training run of more than 13 miles, be sure to bring some snacks along on the workout. Use plastic Ziploc baggies and put the snacks in your pockets or in a sports belt that can also hold a water bottle. Avoid bars or other snacks with a chocolate coating—they will melt!

Food Pyramid Primer: Focus on Veggies

If you haven’t checked out the revised food guide pyramid developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now is the time. Visit mypyramid.gov, and you’ll find a wealth of resources about food groups and the recommended daily and weekly amounts of foods that you need from each group to stay healthy. These amounts vary based on your age, gender, and how active you are. If you exercise vigorously by swimming, running, or biking, you will need more calories and nutrients than if you are less active.

In particular, the pyramid emphasizes the importance eating vegetables. For example, the pyramid guidelines state that women older than 50 years should eat at least of 2 cups of vegetables daily, and men over 50 should eat 2 and a half cups. But these amounts apply to adults over 50 who get less than 30 minutes of exercise daily in addition to daily life activities. If you are active, eat more veggies!

Try these ideas to fit more vegetables into your diet:

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season, ideally from a farmer’s market.
  • Keep frozen vegetables on hand; you can microwave them in minutes to add to casseroles, soups, or stews.
  • Buy easily prepared veggies such as bags of baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Add shredded carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, or sauces.
  • Use a low-fat salad dressing as a dip for pieces of broccoli or slices or green pepper.

Give Yourself a Vegetarian Makeover

If you have decided to follow a vegetarian diet, you need not give up your favorite recipes. Many foods can be revised by substituting vegetables, tofu, soy products, or nuts in place of meat.

Some ideas:

  • Make your favorite stir-fry dish with firm cubes of tofu rather than chunks of chicken.
  • Make tacos with black beans rather than ground beef.
  • Buy pasta primavera sauce with lots of veggies, rather than a meat sausage with beef and sausage.
Many vegetarian products, such as soy burgers or soy sausage links, look and taste like the real thing. Even if you are not strictly a vegetarian, making these substitutions occasionally can help you cut down on the cholesterol and salt in your diet and help you eat more vegetables. If you are eliminating meat from your diet, be sure to eat plenty of low-fat protein-rich foods such as beans and lentils. Cheese is a good source of protein, but don’t load up on high-fat cheese as replacement for meat. The same goes for nuts. A small handful provides plenty of protein, but you don’t need a whole jar to replace a serving of meat. And you don’t need to combine different protein sources in the same meal as long as you do include protein-rich foods in your daily diet.

Remember, if you have any health problems or conditions that require a special diet, be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop eating meat or any other food so he or she can help you develop food choices that provide you with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Healthy Snacks Keep You Going

If you feel hungry between meals, don’t ignore it. Complete and healthy sit-down meals often lose out to busy schedules and healthy snacks can make up for a missed meal and keep you from missing out the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. And a healthy snack will help you cope with the demands of your day. Snacks with staying power include the following:

  • Whole grains. Whole-grain crackers or chips provide quick energy from carbohydrates and fiber. They are easy to digest and they can fill you up and tide you over until mealtime.
  • Fruits and veggies: Munch on fruits and veggies if you are seeking low-calorie, fat-free snacks that fill you up while providing many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. If you crave something sweet, choose apples, peaches, or berries.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds) provide energy from protein, which keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time than carbohydrates. And nuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats. But beware of the calories; a small handful of almonds has about 160 calories, so have a handful for a snack, not a whole jar.
  • Dairy products: Dairy products such as cheese and yogurt contain calcium and protein. Buy single-serving cups of yogurt or individually wrapped portions of cheese (such as string cheese) to keep on hand for quick and easy snacks. These packages can help you keep track of calories, too.

Nutrition Labels 101: Inside Those Little Boxes

Most prepared foods found in grocery stores have labels that include a “nutrition facts” box. When you look at this box, look at the serving size, amount of servings per package, and the amounts and percentage daily values of various nutrients, including total fat, saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol per serving.

Remember that the information in the box applies to a single serving rather than to a whole package. For example, if a can of soup includes two 1-cup servings and you eat the whole can at one meal, you need to double all the information listed in the nutrition facts box.

When you read the nutrition facts on packaged or prepared foods, use the total amounts information from the label to compare products. The total amount is shown in grams (abbreviated g) or milligrams (abbreviated mg). For reference, a nickel weighs about 5 grams, and a milligram is one-thousandth of a gram.

Use the gram and milligram amounts to compare similar foods, or to compare the amounts of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrate, and fat in regular vs. reduced fat or fat-free products.

Some more tips to keep in mind when reading nutrition labels:

  • Nutrition information on prepared foods lists the ingredients in descending order by weight. If the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup, you might want to keep shopping for a healthier choice.
  • Meals prepared in a grocery store (such as ready-to-eat salads and entrees from an in-store salad bar or deli counter) are not required to have nutrition labels on their packaging (although some stores do provide this information), so you may not know the exact amounts or proportions of fats and other nutrients in these foods.

Organic Foods: Pros and Cons

Organic foods have been treated with fewer or no pesticides, but that doesn’t mean that other fruits and vegetables are unhealthy. The most important thing is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and to wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating it. Even organic food may have traveled across the country to your store, and the food has been handled by many people along the way. The best way to wash fruits and vegetables: scrub them gently with a vegetable brush under running water.

Organic food can be expensive, but keep these tips in mind to cut the cost:

  • Cook your own meals. Pre-prepared organic foods can be expensive, but if you buy organic pasta or rice, veggies, and sauce on sale and cook them yourself, you’ll spend less money.
  • Stock up on sale days. Buy your favorite organic foods when they go on sale and buy extras of things that keep well (such as sauce or peanut butter).
  • Shop around. Many major grocery store chains offer their own store brands of organic products so you need not shop at an expensive organic store. The 365 brand at Whole Foods or the O brand at Safeway are close to the cost of non-organic items at these stores.
  • Consider a co-op. Many co-ops will sell organic foods such as beans, rice, flour, and nuts, in bulk. Get together with a friend to place orders so you don’t end up with more food than you can store.
If you can’t find or afford organic foods, don’t despair. Remember that one key to a healthy diet is to eat fewer processed foods. Avoid products packed in syrup or salt, and you are on your way to improving your health.

Raise a Glass (or Teacup) to Wine And Tea

When you drink wine or tea, you are safeguarding your health with these antioxidant-rich beverages. Research has shown that the seeds and skin of grapes contain are antioxidant compounds that can protect cells from damage. But if you don’t drink alcohol, grape juice may serve you just as well. Studies suggest that the antioxidant properties in red wine stem from the grapes, not the alcohol. White wine has antioxidant properties, too, but part of red wine’s antioxidant power comes from the grape skins, which are removed prior to fermentation in making white wine.

Some evidence suggests that moderate wine consumption may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. In one study, men who consumed a moderate amount of red wine (several glasses per week) were less likely to develop prostate cancer compared with men who did not drink any red wine.

If you don’t drink wine (or even if you do) enjoy a cup of tea for good health. Although studies in humans have been inconsistent, researchers at the National Cancer Institute are investigating the antioxidant properties of tea in general and green tea in particular.

Some research suggests that the antioxidant elements in tea (called catechins) may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Findings from some studies have suggested that green tea has more antioxidants than black tea because it is less processed, but there hasn’t been enough research to support this theory. Black tea has antioxidants, too, and both green and black teas can be part of a healthy diet.

And there is even some evidence to suggest that regular tea consumption may help you lose weight by preventing the accumulation of fat around your middle (but its not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise)!

The Fat And Skinny On Popcorn

Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet plan because they give you energy and nutrients and help you eat less overall during the day. But it’s important to know how some of your favorite snacks stack up in terms of nutrition.

Popcorn is a whole grain, which makes it a great snack option, but beware of the added calories and fat. Popcorn is at its most nutritious when you make it yourself in an air-popper or in a pot on the stove using heart-healthy olive oil. One cup of air-popped popcorn has just 20 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of carbs, and 1 cup of air-popped popcorn has 55 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of carbs. If you’re good at planning ahead, make your popcorn at home and once it has cooled, divide a pot’s worth into small zippered bags in 2-cup serving sizes for to-go snacks.

But some of us aren’t that organized. If you’re on the go and faced with microwave popcorn from a vending machine, choose a low-fat brand if possible because it has less butter and salt. But the differences aren’t as great as you might think. Specifically, 4 cups of Pop-Secret’s Movie Theater Butter popcorn has 165 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 12 grams of carbohydrates. By comparison, 6 cups of Pop-Secret 94% fat free popcorn has 125 calories and only 2 grams of fat, but 23 grams of carbohydrate. So, your choice may depend on whether you are counting carbs or counting calories.


Berry, Berry Good

Berries are among the tastiest sources of antioxidants around. Why are antioxidants important? Antioxidants are compounds that counteract the damage to cells that occurs with age and in response to environmental factors such as pollution or smoking. The best way to promote healthy cells is to get your antioxidants from healthy foods, such as berries.

Best of all, berries aren’t just for summer anymore. Of course nothing beats a handful of freshly picked berries, but the frozen ones have the same health benefits as fresh berries. Buy a bag of frozen berries, keep them in the freezer, and pull out just the amount that you need for a smoothie, cereal topper, or just a sweet and healthy treat. But be careful about eating berries straight from the freezer. They will be hard, and if you have tooth problems or sensitive teeth, it’s best to let them thaw at room temperature for 10 minutes or so, or thaw them in the microwave.

Any berries—strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blackberries—have antioxidants.

Take these simple steps to add more berries to your diet:

  • Stir fresh or frozen berries into applesauce, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Add berries to the mix when you make cornbread or muffins.
  • Use dried cranberries or blueberries in recipes instead of raisins.
If you enjoy going out to pick your own berries in season, try to go in the morning or early evening. It won’t be as hot, and the berries will be less likely to bruise. Refrigerate fresh berries right away to keep them from spoiling, but don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them or use them in a recipe; washing causes them to spoil more quickly.

Eat The Right Snacks To Pump Up Your Workout

If you work out regularly at moderate to high intensity, snacks are a important part of your fitness plan. Whether you are training for a marathon or just enjoy staying in shape, you will get more out of your workout if you are not so hungry that you’re ready to start chewing on your shoes! For a pre-workout snack, choose easily digestible foods that have a mix of nutrients for quick energy and staying power.

Energy bars are great pre-workout snacks but they can be expensive if you buy them often. Also, some brands are difficult to chew and can stick to your teeth if you have dentures or other dental work. You can get similar energy benefits you can also opt for a banana, a few pieces of toast spread with honey, or jam. Or try crackers or rice cakes topped with a slice of cheese or with peanut butter. The goal is to provide energy without making you too full. Ideally, have a snack an hour before a workout so your body has time to digest the food and it will have time to do you some good. For the average person going to lift weights, do yoga, or go for a 5-mile run, any of the previously mentioned healthy snacks will do the job and help you have a great workout.

If you’re doing an endurance workout, such as a long marathon training run of more than 13 miles, be sure to bring some snacks along on the workout. Use plastic Ziploc baggies and put the snacks in your pockets or in a sports belt that can also hold a water bottle. Avoid bars or other snacks with a chocolate coating—they will melt!

Food Pyramid Primer: Focus on Veggies

If you haven’t checked out the revised food guide pyramid developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, now is the time. Visit mypyramid.gov, and you’ll find a wealth of resources about food groups and the recommended daily and weekly amounts of foods that you need from each group to stay healthy. These amounts vary based on your age, gender, and how active you are. If you exercise vigorously by swimming, running, or biking, you will need more calories and nutrients than if you are less active.

In particular, the pyramid emphasizes the importance eating vegetables. For example, the pyramid guidelines state that women older than 50 years should eat at least of 2 cups of vegetables daily, and men over 50 should eat 2 and a half cups. But these amounts apply to adults over 50 who get less than 30 minutes of exercise daily in addition to daily life activities. If you are active, eat more veggies!

Try these ideas to fit more vegetables into your diet:

  • Buy fresh vegetables in season, ideally from a farmer’s market.
  • Keep frozen vegetables on hand; you can microwave them in minutes to add to casseroles, soups, or stews.
  • Buy easily prepared veggies such as bags of baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
  • Add shredded carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, breads, muffins, casseroles, or sauces.
  • Use a low-fat salad dressing as a dip for pieces of broccoli or slices or green pepper.

Give Yourself a Vegetarian Makeover

If you have decided to follow a vegetarian diet, you need not give up your favorite recipes. Many foods can be revised by substituting vegetables, tofu, soy products, or nuts in place of meat.

Some ideas:

  • Make your favorite stir-fry dish with firm cubes of tofu rather than chunks of chicken.
  • Make tacos with black beans rather than ground beef.
  • Buy pasta primavera sauce with lots of veggies, rather than a meat sausage with beef and sausage.
Many vegetarian products, such as soy burgers or soy sausage links, look and taste like the real thing. Even if you are not strictly a vegetarian, making these substitutions occasionally can help you cut down on the cholesterol and salt in your diet and help you eat more vegetables. If you are eliminating meat from your diet, be sure to eat plenty of low-fat protein-rich foods such as beans and lentils. Cheese is a good source of protein, but don’t load up on high-fat cheese as replacement for meat. The same goes for nuts. A small handful provides plenty of protein, but you don’t need a whole jar to replace a serving of meat. And you don’t need to combine different protein sources in the same meal as long as you do include protein-rich foods in your daily diet.

Remember, if you have any health problems or conditions that require a special diet, be sure to talk to your doctor before you stop eating meat or any other food so he or she can help you develop food choices that provide you with all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Healthy Snacks Keep You Going

If you feel hungry between meals, don’t ignore it. Complete and healthy sit-down meals often lose out to busy schedules and healthy snacks can make up for a missed meal and keep you from missing out the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. And a healthy snack will help you cope with the demands of your day. Snacks with staying power include the following:

  • Whole grains. Whole-grain crackers or chips provide quick energy from carbohydrates and fiber. They are easy to digest and they can fill you up and tide you over until mealtime.
  • Fruits and veggies: Munch on fruits and veggies if you are seeking low-calorie, fat-free snacks that fill you up while providing many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. If you crave something sweet, choose apples, peaches, or berries.
  • Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds) provide energy from protein, which keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time than carbohydrates. And nuts contain healthy monounsaturated fats. But beware of the calories; a small handful of almonds has about 160 calories, so have a handful for a snack, not a whole jar.
  • Dairy products: Dairy products such as cheese and yogurt contain calcium and protein. Buy single-serving cups of yogurt or individually wrapped portions of cheese (such as string cheese) to keep on hand for quick and easy snacks. These packages can help you keep track of calories, too.

Nutrition Labels 101: Inside Those Little Boxes

Most prepared foods found in grocery stores have labels that include a “nutrition facts” box. When you look at this box, look at the serving size, amount of servings per package, and the amounts and percentage daily values of various nutrients, including total fat, saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol per serving.

Remember that the information in the box applies to a single serving rather than to a whole package. For example, if a can of soup includes two 1-cup servings and you eat the whole can at one meal, you need to double all the information listed in the nutrition facts box.

When you read the nutrition facts on packaged or prepared foods, use the total amounts information from the label to compare products. The total amount is shown in grams (abbreviated g) or milligrams (abbreviated mg). For reference, a nickel weighs about 5 grams, and a milligram is one-thousandth of a gram.

Use the gram and milligram amounts to compare similar foods, or to compare the amounts of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrate, and fat in regular vs. reduced fat or fat-free products.

Some more tips to keep in mind when reading nutrition labels:

  • Nutrition information on prepared foods lists the ingredients in descending order by weight. If the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup, you might want to keep shopping for a healthier choice.
  • Meals prepared in a grocery store (such as ready-to-eat salads and entrees from an in-store salad bar or deli counter) are not required to have nutrition labels on their packaging (although some stores do provide this information), so you may not know the exact amounts or proportions of fats and other nutrients in these foods.

Organic Foods: Pros and Cons

Organic foods have been treated with fewer or no pesticides, but that doesn’t mean that other fruits and vegetables are unhealthy. The most important thing is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and to wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating it. Even organic food may have traveled across the country to your store, and the food has been handled by many people along the way. The best way to wash fruits and vegetables: scrub them gently with a vegetable brush under running water.

Organic food can be expensive, but keep these tips in mind to cut the cost:

  • Cook your own meals. Pre-prepared organic foods can be expensive, but if you buy organic pasta or rice, veggies, and sauce on sale and cook them yourself, you’ll spend less money.
  • Stock up on sale days. Buy your favorite organic foods when they go on sale and buy extras of things that keep well (such as sauce or peanut butter).
  • Shop around. Many major grocery store chains offer their own store brands of organic products so you need not shop at an expensive organic store. The 365 brand at Whole Foods or the O brand at Safeway are close to the cost of non-organic items at these stores.
  • Consider a co-op. Many co-ops will sell organic foods such as beans, rice, flour, and nuts, in bulk. Get together with a friend to place orders so you don’t end up with more food than you can store.
If you can’t find or afford organic foods, don’t despair. Remember that one key to a healthy diet is to eat fewer processed foods. Avoid products packed in syrup or salt, and you are on your way to improving your health.

Raise a Glass (or Teacup) to Wine And Tea

When you drink wine or tea, you are safeguarding your health with these antioxidant-rich beverages. Research has shown that the seeds and skin of grapes contain are antioxidant compounds that can protect cells from damage. But if you don’t drink alcohol, grape juice may serve you just as well. Studies suggest that the antioxidant properties in red wine stem from the grapes, not the alcohol. White wine has antioxidant properties, too, but part of red wine’s antioxidant power comes from the grape skins, which are removed prior to fermentation in making white wine.

Some evidence suggests that moderate wine consumption may reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. In one study, men who consumed a moderate amount of red wine (several glasses per week) were less likely to develop prostate cancer compared with men who did not drink any red wine.

If you don’t drink wine (or even if you do) enjoy a cup of tea for good health. Although studies in humans have been inconsistent, researchers at the National Cancer Institute are investigating the antioxidant properties of tea in general and green tea in particular.

Some research suggests that the antioxidant elements in tea (called catechins) may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Findings from some studies have suggested that green tea has more antioxidants than black tea because it is less processed, but there hasn’t been enough research to support this theory. Black tea has antioxidants, too, and both green and black teas can be part of a healthy diet.

And there is even some evidence to suggest that regular tea consumption may help you lose weight by preventing the accumulation of fat around your middle (but its not a substitute for a healthy diet and exercise)!

The Fat And Skinny On Popcorn

Snacks are an important part of a healthy diet plan because they give you energy and nutrients and help you eat less overall during the day. But it’s important to know how some of your favorite snacks stack up in terms of nutrition.

Popcorn is a whole grain, which makes it a great snack option, but beware of the added calories and fat. Popcorn is at its most nutritious when you make it yourself in an air-popper or in a pot on the stove using heart-healthy olive oil. One cup of air-popped popcorn has just 20 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of carbs, and 1 cup of air-popped popcorn has 55 calories, no fat, and 4 grams of carbs. If you’re good at planning ahead, make your popcorn at home and once it has cooled, divide a pot’s worth into small zippered bags in 2-cup serving sizes for to-go snacks.

But some of us aren’t that organized. If you’re on the go and faced with microwave popcorn from a vending machine, choose a low-fat brand if possible because it has less butter and salt. But the differences aren’t as great as you might think. Specifically, 4 cups of Pop-Secret’s Movie Theater Butter popcorn has 165 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 12 grams of carbohydrates. By comparison, 6 cups of Pop-Secret 94% fat free popcorn has 125 calories and only 2 grams of fat, but 23 grams of carbohydrate. So, your choice may depend on whether you are counting carbs or counting calories.

The Whole Story on Whole Grains

Why are whole grain foods healthier? Because foods made with whole grain include the entire grain, which contains three parts:

  • Bran: The bran part of a grain provides fiber and B vitamins, and it gives whole grain products their texture.
  • Germ: The germ part of a grain provides minerals, protein, vitamins B and E, and healthy oils. The oils contribute most of the flavor to whole grain foods.
  • Endosperm: The endosperm is the outer layer of the grain. This layer provides some protein but consists mostly of starch. Foods such as white bread and pasta are made from this layer only, so you miss out on much of the fiber and nutrients in the grain.
Labels on whole grain foods can be tricky. Your grocery store shelves are full of foods that include words such as multigrain, wheat, stone ground, 100% wheat, and bran on their labels. But none of these terms actually guarantees a whole grain food. Look for the word “whole” before the word “grain” or “wheat.” Choose foods with labels that read “whole wheat,” or “whole bran,” rather than those that read “100% wheat” or “stone ground wheat” or “multi-grain.” And remember that oats or oatmeal and brown rice are naturally whole grain foods so the label doesn’t need to say “whole oat.”

Finally, don’t be fooled by color. Bread that’s brown isn’t necessarily made from whole grain. Some types of wheat breads made from processed grain include molasses to make them look “wheatier.” So read those labels before you buy.

Watch Out For Vitamin Deficiency

Changes in your skin, hair, or nails can indicate a vitamin deficiency. And many common symptoms, such as weakness or an upset stomach, can also be symptoms of vitamin deficiency. Don’t ignore these symptoms if you have them. See your doctor if you feel sick, and even during a regular checkup be sure to tell your doctor about any recent changes in your diet (if you have stopped eating meat, for example, or if you are trying to cut down on salt). Some specific medical problems are associated with not getting enough of specific vitamins. If your diet doesn’t include enough vitamin A, you may be more vulnerable to infections and to vision problems. Not getting enough vitamin C? You are more vulnerable to infections. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you may be increasing your risk for osteoporosis, especially if you are a woman.

In general, adults age 50 years and older need more vitamin D than younger people to maintain adequate calcium as their bones become more brittle.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you want to take a multivitamin or other vitamin supplements. Supplements can help ensure that you get the recommended daily supply of vitamins and minerals, but if you don’t want one more pill to take, just be sure to include plenty of vitamin-rich foods in your diet.

For example, foods high in vitamin A and vitamin D include whole milk (or skim milk that has vitamin A added), meat, (especially liver), cheese, eggs, and fish oils. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries and juices. If you prefer juice, choose 100% juices with no added sugar.

What’s Really Shaking? The Skinny On Low-Fat And Low-Salt Foods

When you visit the grocery store you see foods that are labeled low-fat, reduced-fat, or sodium-free. But what do these terms really mean? And did you know there are rules for the use of these terms. Foods that claim to be “reduced fat” or “fat-free” must meet U.S. government definitions to put these statements on their labels.

The skinny on fat claims is as follows:

  • Fat-free: The food contains less than 0.5 grams of fat or saturated fat per serving.
  • Saturated fat free: The food contains less than 0.5 grams of saturated fat and less than 0.5 grams of trans fatty acids.
  • Low fat: The product contains 3 grams or less of total fat.
  • Low in saturated fat: The product contains 1 gram or less of saturated fat.
  • Reduced fat or Less fat: The product contains at least 25% less fat than the regular version of the same product.
Similarly, the U.S. government has standard definitions for the sodium claims on packaged foods, as follows:
  • Sodium free or salt free: The product contains less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Very low sodium: The product contains 35 mg or less of sodium per serving.
  • Low sodium: The product contains 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
  • Reduced sodium or less sodium: The product contains at least 25% less sodium than the regular version.
Some examples: Reduced sodium crackers must have at least 25 percent less sodium than the regular version of the same crackers, and low-sodium soup must contain 140 mg or less of sodium in each serving of soup (remember that there may be more than one serving per can).