Today we continue our look at minerals. As a quick refresher minerals are important to us for several reasons. First, they assist the body in energy production – minerals contain no calories or energy. They work with vitamins and enzymes to fuel all your metabolic processes. We do not make minerals so they must come from the earth and what we eat. Unfortunately, due to soil conditions in much of the country, many of the minerals have been depleted, so they are not as readily available in the food we eat. Today’s minerals focus on keeping us healthy while supporting our immune system.
We’re all familiar with how important iron is for the health of our blood. Iron aids in hemoglobin production, which is critical in the transportation of oxygen around the body. Oxygen fuels the body and hemoglobin helps get it around! Iron also supports enzyme formation and function – enzymes too make things happen in the body. The iron containing enzymes are required for energy production and to carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron is also part of the enzyme system that produces DNA – the blueprint of the body – so it is critical in growth, reproduction, healing, and immune function.
Iron is tricky as too little can cause anemia—but too much can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular problems. Unlike other minerals, excess iron is not excreted from the body. Instead, it’s stored in the tissues, accelerating iron overload indefinitely.
Selenium acts as an antioxidant with Vitamin E and aids in DNA and protein synthesis. It is these antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging tissues and cells. It supports a healthy immune system response (keeps you healthy), prostaglandin production (these are hormone precursors), and healthy reproductive, pancreatic, and thyroid functions. If you remember some of my previous comments about synthetic versus natural vitamins, you’ll find that real Vitamin E complex contains selenium. Guess what doesn’t? Yes, synthetic Vitamin E. Perhaps that is why when “they” do the studies that conclude Vitamin E does not support heart health, if we look closer we learn they are using synthetic and not real Vitamin E. It seems to make a difference!
Selenium is also important in the blood, cardiovascular, endocrine, enzymatic, immune, integumentary, nervous, and renal systems. Essentially it is used throughout the body.
Where to get it? One of the best sources is Brazil nuts. I have 4-5 every morning in my protein shake. Other sources include barley, broccoli, brown rice, lamb, lean meats, milk, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, organ meats, seafood (cod, crab, halibut, salmon, shrimp, snapper, tuna), tomatoes, turnips, walnuts, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Zinc we are often told is good for the immune system. True, but apparently viruses like it too! What does that mean? Taking that zinc lozenge may not always be the best idea if it is a virus you are fighting.
Yet, zinc is a very important mineral, especially for men. Zinc is one of the key ingredients for the prostate gland. Men will want to make sure they are getting sufficient zinc. One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Zinc supports the formation of many enzymes and insulin. The same insulin we need for blood sugar control. It also assists with wound healing, reproductive organ growth and development, and metabolism of phosphorus, carbohydrates, and proteins. Putting it simply – zinc helps many body processes work.
Zinc also has a special relationship with copper – one of antagonism. That means if your zinc levels rise, your copper levels will decrease, or if your copper levels rise, your zinc levels will decrease. This is very significant for women as too much copper can make them “copper crazy”. Too much copper throws hormones out of balance and results in many of the “female symptoms”. What gets copper levels high? The big three are birth control pills, copper IUDs, and soy (another reason not to like soy).
Zinc is found in many foods including almonds, beets, carrots, cashews, Cheddar cheese, green peas, lamb, lean beef and pork, liver, milk, mushrooms, peanuts, poultry, pumpkin seeds, seafood (crabs, oysters, shrimp), sesame seeds, spinach, wheat germ, whole grains, and yogurt. Lots of healthy food choices to get your zinc!
Every month it faithfully arrives – my latest issue of Diabetes Forecast, the official publication of the American Diabetes Association. And every month I read it and get mad! I posted a year or so ago about the hypocrisy in the publication. Basically, following their advice is a sure way to live your life (however long that may be) with the disease. There is never any word on the people who reverse their situation. It is all disease management, no disease prevention. Please note that all my following comments are related to Type II Diabetes – which virtually all agree is a lifestyle issue and preventable by living a healthy lifestyle.
Each month they provide some feature articles and recipes. This particular month had a feature on 30 ways to control yourself. I loved #25 – be smart about mindless munching. “When you’re eating things like chips, instead of eating your way through the bag or bowl, take a napkin and count out one portion. So count out 10 chips. Then, when you’re done with them, you tear off the edge of the napkin as a reminder.” Come on! Perhaps they should tell people not to eat chips, but to eat real food. And that chips are all carbohydrates that will raise their insulin. Or would that make too much sense?
In addition to the feature articles and recipes they provide us with lots of interesting facts about how prevalent diabetes is. Perhaps so its readers don’t feel lonely? Here’s the latest – 26 million people in the US have diabetes and 7 million of them are undiagnosed per the CDC. This means 8.3% of the population has diabetes. The estimates of people with prediabetes is 79 million and these numbers have increased substantially. In 2010 there were 1.9 million new people diagnosed with diabetes. What is worse is that Type II diabetes is now appearing in our youths and at younger and younger ages. It leads one to think, how much longer until 25% or more of the population is diabetic. Already 27% of US residents over age 65 have diabetes! I’m sure you can only guess what burden this places on our health care system.
And remember – Type II diabetes is preventable and don’t tell the American Diabetes Association, but it is also reversible. Not that I’m a big fan of the Nanny State, telling us what to eat and what not to eat, but that is the issue. What we are putting in our mouths and our children’s mouths is making us obese and leading to Type II diabetes. Right now 72.5 million Americans are obese, a leading contributor to deaths from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Annual medical costs associated with obesity are estimated to be as high as $147 billion. Obese people have average annual medical costs that are over $1400 more than people of normal weight people. The latest CDC report finds the number of obese adults increasing, now 26.7% of the population.
I’m concerned. When will we truly begin to care about our health as a society?
Vitamin F are the essential fatty acids – better known as the “omega” family, featuring the 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s. These are polyunsaturated fats and whenever we hear the word “essential” in nutrition it means that we must eat these nutrients, as our body does not manufacture them. We need all the essential fatty acids. The issue (like much of nutrition) is balance. For example, Omega 6’s are considered “pro-inflammatory” while Omega 3’s are “anti-inflammatory.” Our body needs inflammation to survive. It is part of its normal processes. However, too much inflammation is not good. While our body was designed to consume the Omega 3’s and 6’s in relatively equal amounts (you’ll see anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 Omega 6’s to 3’s in the nutrition literature), the simple fact is that most Americans are in the 20:1 to 50:1 ratio. Why? Omega 6’s are found heavily in grains which we eat and feed to our animals. Omega 3’s are found in cold water wild fish, something not too prevalent in many diets.
An interesting side note here is about beef. Did you know a cow is supposed to eat grass? When a cow eats grass it manufactures Omega 3’s in its fat. When that cow eats what we are feeding it – wheat and corn and other grains – it makes Omega 6’s. Perhaps it is the Omega 6’s in the meat causing inflammation leading to heart disease? Just a wild thought!
The essential fatty acids are the precursors to prostaglandins – a form of hormones that support many functions including normal growth and the inflammatory response. They also assist in blood coagulation and circulatory functions.
Good sources of the essential fatty acids include: black current seed oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed, lecithin, linseed oil, seafood (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, and tuna), sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, and winter squash.
One more note here about flax seeds. Beware of the marketing hype! If the flax seed is whole your body can not break it down. We can only work with flax seed in the form of meal or oil. If you buy flax seeds grind them up in a coffee grinder and store them in the refrigerator. As a polyunsaturated fat they go rancid very quickly, so only grind up a small amount. The ground flax you get in the store likely has preservatives added to keep it “fresh”, but the oils are likely already rancid.
Vitamin E is one of the major antioxidants that our body requires. Did you know that Vitamin E is actually several different compounds? It is made up of alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocopherol; and alpha-, beta-, delta-, and gamma-tocotrienol. Here again we run into the synthetic versus natural vitamin issue. Since you likely have a supplement containing Vitamin E (as it is one of the most popular supplements) read what it actually contains. Most likely it is one of the above synthetic compounds, not the complete Vitamin E as found in nature. Why is this important? Well, when you read about the studies that say Vitamin E does not support the heart function read the detail of what they used for Vitamin E. Hint – it wasn’t complete Vitamin E. So, of course it isn’t going to work! And remember our discussion about Selenium? (If not, click here) Selenium is also part of the whole Vitamin E complex.
Vitamin E supports a healthy immune system and proper nerve and muscle function. As mentioned above it is also important to the heart and supports circulation through healthy blood clotting. It keeps the skin and hair shiny and healthy. And as an antioxidant, Vitamin E supports tissue regeneration. It benefits the blood, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, integumentary, nervous, and respiratory systems – looks like almost the whole body!
We can obtain Vitamin E from almonds, leafy greens (collard greens, mustard greens, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip greens), olives, papaya, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, and wheat germ oil.
Vitamin D – the “vitamin du jour” as I like to say. It certainly is in the news almost every day and it even has its very own “council” (The Vitamin D Council). I don’t think any other vitamin has achieved that status! Let me cut through the clutter for you – Vitamin D is very important and most of us don’t get enough of it! It is that simple.
When we really dive deeper we learn it is a bit more complicated. There are two points I want to make clear to you. If you want more details I urge you to go to the Vitamin D Council web site. First, there are different “forms” of Vitamin D – and the form we need, particularly if supplementing or added to food is D3. The second, Vitamin D is “fat soluble.” That means you need fat for it to be properly utilized by the body. I pose a simple question – has the low fat diet contributed to our Vitamin D shortages? If you take your Vitamin D pill (even if it is D3) with your cereal and skim milk for breakfast are you really getting anything from it?
Here are some of the key actions of Vitamin D. It helps develop bones and teeth, promotes health bone density, supports healthy muscle tissue and thyroid function. It also supports the heart and kidneys, and the nervous, integumentary, and immune systems. Pretty much the whole body.
Where do we get Vitamin D? The number one source is the Sun. It is also found in eggs, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout), liver, and milk products.
Wow, it is already March already! Hard to believe, but great to see! The days are getting longer and Spring will soon be here. It is an exciting month for me as I continue my CCWFN Certification program and later in the month will attend a workshop to learn Nutrition Response Testing (better known as muscle testing). I’m a big believer in continuing education, particularly in the field of nutrition. There is so much to learn and communicate with both clients and the public at large. Everyday a new study comes out based on the latest “evidence” and usually they are just more hype and in reality based on very suspect evidence.
The basis of my CCWFN Certification is whole foods nutrition – that’s the “WFN.” It speaks to the importance of healthy eating and the use of supplements from whole foods, not synthetic. Over the past couple of months on my Rosen Wellness Facebook page and other social media I use, I’ve been featuring what I call “The Nutrient of the Day.” Each day (well, almost each day) I post information about an important vitamin or mineral discussing its function, how it works in the body, and what foods are good sources. See feature articles below on the B vitamins and minerals that are important for bone health. If you’d like to get this type of information on a regular basis you can “Like” Rosen Wellness on Facebook, follow me on Twitter or Plaxo, or connect on LinkedIn.
Sugar Depletes B Vitamins
One of the required books for my CCWFN program is Lick the Sugar Habit by Nancy Appleton. The author is a recovered sugar-holic and her story is inspiring and the book highly informative. The bottom line – our bodies are not designed for the amount of sugar we are putting in them. By sugar, I not only mean white sugar, but also all the refined grains, and yes even too many whole grains. When you add it all up our bodies are on carbohydrate overload. Sugar consumption is connected to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer; pretty much you name it. It puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster throughout the day, depresses the immune system for five hours, and depletes your B vitamins. You can read about the B vitamins by following this link and get more details into what body systems are being affected.
It is also a good time to review my previous blogs about sugar:
Why sugar is unhealthy: http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2009/01/sugar-not-so-sweet.html
Why artificial sweeteners are no better: http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2009/02/alternative-to-sugar-artificial.html
Sugar alternatives: http://www.blogger.com/goog_1056867517
Agave nectar falsehoods: http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2009/04/agave-nectar-update.html
Minerals for Bone Health
It seems that most of what you read about nutrition focuses on the big five nutrients – protein, fat, carbohydrate, water, and vitamins. There are all the debates about what are “good” and what are “bad”, make sure you drink your eight glasses of water, oh no my doctor just told me I’m Vitamin D deficient! Outside of calcium for our bones we do not hear a lot about the sixth classification of macronutrients – minerals. There are four minerals most important for bone health – calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. To read about them, what they do in the body, and food sources click here. http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2011/02/key-minerals-for-healthy-bones.html
Also, don’t forget Vitamin K – http://brwellness.blogspot.com/2011/02/k-is-for-clotting-but-also-for-bone.html
Vitamin B1 – Thiamine
Did you know that the true Vitamin B complex actually has about 20 different parts to it? We know these as the B Vitamin Family. There is no B1 or B2 tree in nature, so to speak. One of the main foods that have the B family is whole grains. Let’s use wheat as the example. There are three parts – the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. The germ and bran have the B vitamins as well as some healthy fats. The endosperm is the carbohydrate. When they make refined flour, the main ingredient in white bread and cookies, all that gets used is the carbohydrate. But the food manufacturers are nice to us and they “enrich” the flour with up to 8-12 synthetic B vitamins. Doesn’t really sound like enriching to me – take away 20 and give back 8! Sounds a bit more like stealing!
B1 is a required cofactor for some very important enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. This supports mental alertness and cognitive ability. It also maintains appetite and normal digestion. It aids the cardiovascular, digestive, integumentary (skin), and nervous systems along with the eyes.
You can find B1 in black beans, brown rice (not white), green and split peas, lentils, lima beans, mushrooms, navy beans, nutritional yeast, organ meats, pinto beans, sunflower seeds, tuna, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin
Vitamin B2, better known as Riboflavin, is an integral part of enzymes involved in oxidation reduction reactions that drive cell respiration. What does that mean? It is critical in our cell making energy for our body. It also supports the function of antioxidant enzymes and interacts with the other B vitamins. It promotes a healthy immune system and regulates the activity of 50 of our enzymes. Wow! Remember enzymes are what make things happen in our body. They drive everything we do. This is why Riboflavin is often one of the B Vitamins added back into our “enriched” wheat flour, but as you remember from the B1 discussion, this is synthetic and our bodies need the real stuff.
We get the “real stuff” in lean beef, milk, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, organ meats, spinach, wheat germ, and yogurt.
Vitamin B2 supports the cardiovascular, blood, digestive, endocrine, integumentary, and nervous systems as well as our soft tissue.
Vitamin B3 – Niacin
Vitamin B3, also called Niacin, is one of the most important of the B vitamins. We often hear it recommended for cardiovascular health, but it is also important for digestive health as it promotes hydrochloric acid production. Did you know that most people who suffer from acid reflux actually do not produce enough hydrochloric acid? The “acid” of acid reflux is usually organic acids produced by foods rotting and fermenting in the stomach due to poor digestion.
Here’s the technical detail: Niacin is converted to the cofactor NAD which is an important part of how our body processes carbohydrates, fats, and protein (amino acids). It promotes a healthy heart, skin, digestion, cellular respiration, and enhances metabolism and circulation.
You can get too much Niacin, particularly from synthetic sources. How do you know? You get what is called the “niacin flush” – your face and ears become red and hot. I recently experienced this myself and was able to trace it back to this very source.
Niacin supports the cardiovascular, digestive, hepatic (liver), integumentary, and nervous systems. It also supports the soft tissue and the tongue.
The best food sources of Niacin are: fish (salmon, tuna, and halibut), lean beef, liver, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, organ meats, poultry, and wheat germ.
Like all the other B family vitamins B6 plays an important role in our metabolic reactions, specifically amino acid metabolism (making proteins for your body to use in building itself) and glycogen utilization (blood sugar control). It is also involved in supporting the production of hormones and neurotransmitters – the chemicals that are directing all your body’s activities.
B6 supports the blood, central nervous, digestive, immune, integumentary, and musculoskeletal systems.
It is found in bananas, fish (cod, halibut, snapper, salmon, and tuna), lean beef, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, organ meats, poultry, and wheat germ.
Vitamin B12 may be one of the most important of all the B vitamins, particularly because only true humanly usable B12 comes from animal sources. Yes, to all my vegetarian and particularly vegan friends, watch your B12 levels. There is no such thing as “vegan” or “vegetarian” B12 as far as your body goes. It needs along with it what is known as “intrinsic factor” which comes from animals. Fortunately B12 (as other B vitamins) will store in the body, but over time you can become deficient. In fact, a good friend of mine, after years of being a vegetarian has reintroduced more animal product into her diet after seeing a live blood analysis showing a lack of B12 and a move towards anemia.
So what does B12 do? It is a cofactor for two, yet very important enzymes. One is used for methionine metabolism. Methionine is an essential amino acid. The other enzyme aids in producing energy from proteins and fats. Overall B12 supports the nervous system, promotes the maturation of red blood cells (hence the tie to anemia when deficient in B12) and other cells, and supports bone and joint health.
B12 is available from animal products such as fish (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, and snapper are best sources), lamb, beef, organ meats, and yogurt. It is important for the blood, digestive, hepatic, and nervous systems.
Folic Acid (Folate)
Folic Acid, is also known as Folate. But, once again (as we’ve seen with other vitamins), while portrayed to the public as identical, they are not. Humans are not able to make their own folate, so it is something we need to eat. Natural sources of folate include leafy greens (collard greens, spinach), citrus fruits, legumes (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans), liver, eggs, dairy products, asparagus, and nutritional yeast.
Folate is critical to the metabolism of nucleic acids and amino acids. Because of this, it supports overall growth and development and blood cell formation and supports normal growth of the fetus. Folic acid was added to many foods to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, in fact there was a mandate to add folic acid to all cereal grain to products in the US.
So, what was discovered? Well, you guessed it. From the good intentions of the food police we now have several studies suggesting that over consumption of folic acid to colon, lung, and prostate cancers. If you are taking folic acid as a supplement you may want to revisit that and look for companies that use natural folate in their products.
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Thiensville. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at email@example.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.