Tag Archives: health

Magnesium: Are you getting enough?

The fourth most abundant mineral in the body and second most prevalent electrolyte, magnesium has a significant responsibility in boosting health.  Magnesium is involved in more than 300 metabolic reactions in the body.  Approximately 60% of adults in the Unites States do not consume the RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for magnesium!

Having the proper amount of magnesium is so important.  Here are some of the key roles:

  • helps maintain normal nerve and muscle function
  • helps maintain heart rhythm
  • helps maintain blood pressure
  • helps maintain your immune system
  • helps maintain bone integrity
  • helps maintain blood glucose levels
  • promotes calcium absorption

There aren’t any reports stating that magnesium deficiency increases disease, but a low dietary  intake has been linked to chronic inflammatory stress conditions. This in turn, can contribute to hypertension, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, and cancer.

Magnesium intake is not only crucial for overall health, but it also plays a role in athletic performance.  Magnesium is involved in energy storage and production, maintaining blood glucose levels, and normal muscle function.  These functions are important to athletes as low intake can jeopardize aerobic endurance.

Research suggests that most athletes do not get proper amounts of magnesium in their diets.  Only a small amount of magnesium is found in blood (about 1%), therefore it’s hard to diagnose a deficiency.  Low levels are most likely because of not eating enough magnesium containing foods or from a situation that blocks food absorption from the intestines.

Eating foods that are high in magnesium is essential for maintaining health.  It’s always a better option to get your nutrients from food instead of supplements.  Keep in mind that taking in more than necessary could cause gastrointestinal distress.  Good food sources are:

  • dry roasted almonds
  • spinach
  • chard
  • pumpkin seeds
  • black beans
  • cashews
  • avocado
  • soy milk
  • sunflower seeds
  • figs
  • dark chocolate
  • banana
  • edamame

It’s important to note that a high intake of calcium increases magnesium requirements.  These two nutrients compete for absorption into the blood stream, so it’s necessary to be aware of the calcium to magnesium ratio.  If you get more calcium compared to magnesium, this will promote a magnesium deficiency.

MAGNESIUM: Are you getting enough? Click To Tweet

As you can see, getting adequate amounts of magnesium has protective health benefits.  It’s important for energy metabolism, therefore important for exercise performance.  Anything that impacts exercise performance, I want to know about!

Although there is some evidence that magnesium supplementation may enhance athletic performance, more research is needed to determine if it can be used as a true ergogenic aid. (Current Sports Medicine Reports)

How do you get your magnesium?

Do you ever take magnesium supplements?



Do I Have to Eat Organic?

According to the Organic Trade Association, the average adult who does not eat organic is exposed to between 6 & 12 pesticides each day from food and beverages.

Organic foods have become very popular.  Sure there is a noticeable difference in price, but are organic foods healthier?  Are pesticides harmful?  How do I identify an organic food?

These are great questions.  Some that I wanted to find out.  There are certain items that I always buy organic, like strawberries, bell peppers, celery, apples, zucchini, and eggs.  But what about other items?  Is it worth getting the organic version?

Organic food is regulated by strict government standards.  These foods are grown without synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic hormones or genetic engineering (GMO).  Apparently, organic is the “most heavily regulated and closely monitored production system in the United States”. 

For a food to be labeled organic, the ingredients must be at least 95% organic.  Food with ingredients that are at least 70% organic can use the “made with organic ingredients” label.  Foods that have less than 70% organic ingredients cannot use the organic seal or the word “organic” on the label.  One hundred percent organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy are free of artificial growth hormones and antibiotics.  Fish isn’t controlled by the USDA, so look for “wild” caught rather than “farmed” to be safe.

So are organic foods healthier?  A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that organic crops had higher concentrations of antioxidants and other potentially beneficial compounds.  But organic produce did not consistently contain higher levels of vitamins.

Another study also found that organic meat and dairy have a higher percentage (about 50% more) of omega-3 fatty acids than conventional.  Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial and have many health improving benefits.

One of the main reasons I choose organic produce is to avoid pesticides, but organic farmers still use pesticides.  The only difference is that they are natural vs. synthetic.  Natural pesticides are believed to be less toxic.  Due to lots of years of exposure, most people have a build-up of pesticide chemicals in their body known as “body burden” that can lead to health issues.  Children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure.  Lowering my family’s exposure to harmful pesticides is worth it in my opinion.

Organic or Non-organic. Which should I buy? Click To Tweet

Can I wash and peel away pesticides?  Rinsing lessens the residue but doesn’t remove it all.  Peeling is helpful, but a lot of beneficial nutrients are in the peel, so you’d be losing those important nutrients.

Have you heard of the “dirty dozen” and the “clean fifteen”?  There are foods, that when conventionally grown, have much higher levels of pesticides and should be avoided.  Then there are also foods that are relatively low in pesticides and are fine to buy non-organic.

Here are the Dirty Dozen:

*strawberries * spinach * nectarines * apples * peaches * pears * cherries* grapes* celery* tomatoes * sweet bell peppers* potatoes*

Here are the Clean Fifteen:

*sweet corn *avocados * pineapple * cabbage * onions * sweet peas frozen * papayas *asparagus * mangos * eggplant * honeydew melon * kiwi * cantaloupe * cauliflower * grapefruit*   (to avoid GMO’s buy organic sweet corn and papayas)

These lists, which are updated annually, can be found on the Environmental Working Group website.

When looking to purchase organic foods, look for the USDA Organic label.  Produce at the grocery store has a label with a number on it.  If it begins with the #9, it is organic.  There are still plenty of “junk” foods labeled organic, such as baked good, snacks, and desserts.  Just because a product is organic, doesn’t mean it’s a health food!  Read those labels carefully.

So, do I have to eat organic?  When it comes to overall health, what we eat is more important than if it’s organic or conventional.  Most Americans don’t eat the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits.  Any is better than none!

If you are wanting to reduce your pesticide exposure, buying the organic items on the dirty dozen list is a good place to start.  Farmer’s markets are a good option too.  Also, local farmers may be organic but do not have the money to make it “official”.  Just ask the farmer.  Buying in season helps with keeping cost down.  Shop around to get the best prices.  There are always budget friendly ways to buy organic.

Ultimately, it’s important to stay up to date and educated on organic foods to get the most value and nutrition for your money!

Are you concerned about pesticides?

Do you buy organic foods?



Portion Distortion: Be Aware!

Just how big should a brownie, bagel, or sandwich be?  Over the past 25 years, portions sizes have gotten bigger and so have we!  Restaurant meals are so large and are usually enough for two people (supersize me?).  Even items off the kids menu are sometimes more than an adult could/should eat.

According to the American Journal of Public Health, “Market place food portions now exceed federal standards.  Portion size increases began in the 1970’s, increased significantly again in the 1980’s and have continued to coincide with increasing body weights.”

A large serving of food pushes you to eat more and allows you to underestimate how much you’re eating.  This adds up.  One hundred extra calories per day equals ten extra pounds a year!  This can easily happen due to the increase in portion sizes offered by restaurants and prepared foods from the grocery store.

Some examples of increases in portion sizes/calories in common foods 25 years ago vs. today:

Bagel:  3-in diameter 140 calories vs. 6-in diameter 350 calories

Cheeseburger:  330 calories vs. 530 calories

Spaghetti & meatballs:  1 cup 500 calories vs. 2 cups 1,025 calories

Soda:  6.5 oz. 85 calories vs. 20 oz. 300 calories

French fries:  2.4 oz. 210 calories vs. 6.9 oz. 610 calories

As you can see, it is too easy to overeat and not even realize it due to today’s portion sizes.  I thought this quote was hilarious……..

Here are some examples of serving sizes offered by popular restaurant chains and what a typical serving size should be:

Panera Bread Sierra Turkey Sandwich is 11 oz and a serving should be 5 oz.

Olive Garden Lasagna Classico is 2 cups and a serving should be 1 cup.

McDonald’s Small Chocolate Shake is 12 fl. oz and a serving should be 8 fl. oz.

IHOP Harvest Grain ‘N Nut Pancakes is 9 oz and a serving should be 4 oz.

California Pizza Kitchen Margherita Crispy Thin Crust Pizza is 13 oz and a serving should be 5 oz.

As you can see, you can be eating larger portions only because the restaurant sells a serving in super sizes!  My husband always reminds me that most people don’t know or understand what a serving size should be or how to read a nutrition label to determine the serving size.

In the past, I thought it was crazy to blame fast food restaurants or food companies for the rise in obesity.  Now I can understand, especially for individuals who eat out all the time.  Also, the increases in portion sizes has followed the increase in obesity rates.

However, I do believe we need to take responsibility for our actions and not blame the food industry.  We need to be aware of what we’re eating and what a proper portion size is.  An easy way to figure out proper portion sizes is to visually compare food portions with common household items.  Eyeballing these amounts is much easier than breaking out the food scale or measuring cups!

1 cup = a baseball or clenched fist

1/2 cup = half a baseball or 2 golf balls

1 teaspoon = tip of thumb to first joint

1 tablespoon = 3 thumb tips

1.5 oz. of cheese =  4 stacked dice

3 oz. of cooked meat or poultry = deck of cards or roughly the palm of your hand

3 oz. of grilled/baked fish = checkbook

Portion Distortion: BE AWARE! Click To Tweet

Awareness is key.  Next time you eat out, be aware of your portion sizes.  Don’t convince yourself that it’s an appropriate, healthy serving.  Downsize your portions to help put an end to portion distortion!  It will bring valuable benefits for your life and health!!

Have you noticed the growing portion sizes?

Do you think restaurants play a role in the rising obesity rates?