31 Days of Health. Day 22: Kick in the Vitamin K

Kick in some vitamin K today!

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning, in order for your body to absorb it, it needs to be in the presence of fat. So grab a quick refresher from Day 15 to tie these two together and maximize your nutrition!

Vitamin K was named after what it is known best for: koagulation (German for….. coagulation 😊 Gott ich liebe die deutsche Sprache!). This nutrient plays a big role in the process of blood clotting, an important mechanism in the occurrence of bleeding – in case your first thought went to clots in blood vessels: one cause for strokes. Vitamin K is still present in that process too, however.

An exciting role research is finding out about vitamin K is that it may play a significant role in supporting bone health. Its involvement is believed to be in preventing osetoclasts from pulling minerals out of bones, and in another process that increases bone strength by means of increasing bone density. Consuming enough vitamin K may decrease the risk of fracture, even for women who have gone through menopause and have begun to experience decreased bone density. This certainly can give hope to all who have placed exclusive focus on calcium!

Vitamin K may also reduce the risk for arthritis, and bestow antioxidant effects upon our cells!

Here are some of the best sources for vitamin K – the percent daily recommended intakes (%DRI) are in reference to 1 cup cooked:

  • Kale (1,400% DRI)
  • Baby Spinach (1,200%; 1 cup raw: 360%)
  • Collard Greens (1,000%)
  • Beet Greens (over 900%)
  • Swiss Chard (760%)
  • Turnip Greens (700%)
  • Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts (300%)
  • Asparagus (120%)

Pretty incredible, right!? And the vitamin is present in just about every other green plant; herbs included. Not in as large quantities though. By comparison, 2½ stalks of celery contain 40% the DRI, 1 cup sliced cucumber ­– with the skins ­– contain 20%, and just 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil (my absolute fave) contain 30%! Vitamin K’s presence is so common in green vegetables because it is required in green plants to carry out photosynthesis! Science is so much fun.

Eat up!

31 Days of Health. Day 19: Pump up the Potassium

I am very excited to talk about potassium today! Potassium is a mineral that many people are not getting nearly as much as they need. And a very interesting fact about potassium is that most folks typically associate bananas with potassium. But guess what!? Bananas have LESS potassium per ounce than MANY other foods!!!

The daily recommended intake (DRI) for potassium is 4,700 milligrams (mg). Most Americans are consuming about half of that. (Getting to the why you need potassium in just a sec! But first, let’s compare!) One medium banana weighs about 4oz and contains 422 milligrams (mg) of potassium. Now check out the quantities of potassium in the following foods, each weighing 4oz:

Beet Greens: 1,072mg
Fresh Spinach: 658mg
Swiss Chard: 647mg
Potato: 631mg
Yellowfin Tuna: 621mg
Sweet Potato: 560mg (remember Day 5?? 😊)
Lima Beans: 473mg

Other foods that contain about the same amount of potassium, if not more, as bananas per ounce include bok choy, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, and papaya. You’ll find there is quite the trend here for fruits and vegetables being great sources for potassium….Another benefit of a plant-focused diet!

Consuming plenty of potassium daily is associated with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to high sodium diets, and interestingly, a diet low in fruits and vegetables while high in heavily processed foods contains excessive sodium. Alternately, diets high in fruits and vegetables, hence high in potassium, are linked with regular blood pressure, and therefore a reduced risk for stroke. And let’s think back to Day 13’s healthy challenge to eat a plant-based diet – remember all the benefits that come with limiting animal products!? Are you starting to see the connection to an improved quality of health??

I hope you value your life more than enough to avoid risking a stroke.

Pack in that potassium! Eat more fruits and veggies!
Alyssa

If you need some help getting your potassium intake straightened out, I LOVE talking heart health. I believe in following your heart, so I believe in taking care of that baby. Get in touch with me if you’re ready to get to work. Thanks for being here!

31 Days of Health. Day 15: Fuel up on Healthy Fats

When I was working toward my BS/MS in dietetics, I was taught that a healthy diet included low-fat or fat free products. While it was understood that some fat is necessary, it was always an accomplishment when a meal or snack (on paper) did not contain much fat. However, in my own life, it didn’t exactly look like that. I added fat whenever it felt necessary for cooking or for flavor. Then I would instruct overweight clients to eliminate fat here and reduce it there. And you know what, that advice never came with much success.

Through practice beyond these misunderstandings and failures, I found that when I threw the numbers away and focused on how our taste buds and body respond to the foods we eat, we achieve health more efficiently.

Fat is one nutrient you do not want to restrict! Dietary fat has a “high satiety value” meaning it keeps you feeling full as a result of slowing down the rate at which the contents of the stomach are emptied. This is a very interesting point to recognize in the case of weight management: if fat intake is significantly reduced there is greater potential for feeling hungry. No wonder why weight loss tends to be associated with hunger!

Here are a few additional benefits fat provides:

  • Plays a role in transporting other fat molecules throughout the body
  • Helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Lowers lipids in the blood – therefore improving cardiovascular health
  • Is a component of some cell membranes and nervous tissue
  • Is involved in the creation of hormones
  • In cooking – provides flavor!

Obtain your healthiest fats from

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil, including extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish – i.e. salmon

There has been plenty of controversy over coconut oil. Some research I have recently studied surprisingly spoke against the claimed health benefits coconut oil provides. The point made was that the saturated fats in coconut oil are still in the same shape as the saturated fats in any other food, and the body will manage all saturated fats in the same manner. This may or may not be true. The additional “argument” attached to this was one that sits better with me, and it is that isolation of any food is a lesser-quality option. What is, in fact healthiest, is to eat a whole food. Therefore, eating coconut is the healthier choice over coconut oil.

So rather than counting how many teaspoons and tablespoons of fat you are adding to the pan, or to your salad, let your taste buds and body be your guide. You can taste if there is too much oil, and you can feel good or bad after a meal. Working on your daily meditative practice from Day 12 will supplement your focus on these tells. Now, there is such a thing as excess as well, so I don’t want you to think you should have as much as you want. But don’t stress it – all of these skills will come with practice.

I hope you’re doing great with the first half-ish of this healthy challenge! Let’s go another 15 days, plus one extra for good measure 😉

Alyssa

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31 Days of Health. Day 5: Eat Some Sweet Potatoes

Welcome to Day 5 of 31 Days of Health!! Woohoo! I hope you’re feeling strong and in control.

What good is a dietitian-nutritionist if she doesn’t share any fun food facts to fuel your motivation on your health journey!? Achieving health requires a balance between behavior change and knowledge about food. Today, I encourage you to eat some sweet potatoes.

Here is a fun story I like to share about sweet potatoes: I once worked with a man who moved here from Africa. (Unfortunately I can’t recall exactly what country he is from.) He frequently expressed concern for his skin having lost its glow. Considering his diet most likely changed drastically, I asked him what he used to eat back home. The most significant and obvious factor was: sweet potatoes. He had sweet potatoes every day!

I’m not saying it’s time to obsess over sweet potatoes, seek out a sweet potato extract supplement, or anything else extreme. But these babies are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that do amazing things for your body, and eating one every now and then is the right thing to do!

1 cup of sweet potatoes provides more than 20% of your daily need of the following:

  • Fiber
  • Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene and other carotenoids
  • B-vitamins – including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, biotin, and pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Copper
  • Manganese

Sweet potatoes also contain trace sources of other nutrients, such as choline, which plays supporting roles in strengthening cells, helps brain cells to communicate, insulates nerve fibers and aids in memory development.

Studies have shown that sweet potatoes can raise our blood levels of vitamin A, which will then promote anti-inflammatory action, keeping cells alive and safe from disease. Eating some sweet potatoes will help to fill you up during a meal, prevent constipation, boost your immune system, reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure, and just like my friend from Africa, will give your skin a lovely glow!

Enjoy!
Alyssa