31 Days of Health. Day 30: Make Vitamin A Part of Your Day

I was interested to find that only about one third of Americans consume enough vitamin A Daily. I’m definitely biased about the vitamin because I adore the foods that it is rich in. Tomatoes, lettuces, hearty greens like kale and collards, and carrots are among my favorite foods. I am lost in the winter-time without deliciously ripe, juicy tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, truffle oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper!!

It’s pretty easy to know which foods are high in vitamin A. Carotenoids, a group of vitamin A nutrients, are orange in pigment, giving the vegetables and fruits they exist in their bright orange and red colors. Lettuces and hearty greens are also excellent sources of carotenoids. Here are several examples:

  • Sweet Potatoes (1 cup – 250% Daily Recommended Intake (DRI))
  • Carrots (1 cup cooked – 147% DRI)
  • Spinach (1 cup cooked – 105% DRO; 2 cups raw – 40% DRI)
  • Kale (1 cup cooked – 98% DRI)
  • Romaine Lettuce (2 cups – 45% DRI)
  • Bok Choy (1 cup – 40% DRI)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup – 30%)
  • Red Bell Peppers (1 cup fresh – 25% DRI)
  • Broccoli (1 cup – 10% DRI)

Vitamin A is also present in some animal foods, such as shrimp, eggs, salmon, tuna, and chicken. These are retinoid, or active forms of the fat-soluble vitamin. Synthetic forms of vitamin A are fortified in cow’s milk, yogurt, and other processed foods. It isn’t necessary to consume animal products for the purpose of obtaining adequate vitamin A, as carotenoids are capable of being converted to the active form in your body.

Be sure to include plenty of the red and orange veggies along with the leafy greens to support your immune system, reduce inflammation, support beautiful skin, strong bones and sharp eyes! Also include some healthy fat and protein with vitamin A rich foods, as these nutrients will support its absorption.

Enjoy!!
Alyssa

31 Days of Health. Day 28: Prep Fruits & Veggies

You know what I love and hate all at the same time? Being prepared.

Being prepared is SO fricken fabulous. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have felt nervous about not having this or that ready for when I need it, then to my surprise, I actually had exactly what I needed! I fascinate myself most often. And here’s why…

Being prepared is one of my biggest weaknesses. Seriously. If I’m on my way to your birthday party, I’m picking up your card and gift on the way. Sorry :-/

Wednesdays tend to be very busy for me. I don’t start my work day until about 1:00. I actually don’t eat breakfast until 8 or 9 AM, even though I’ve been up since 5:00 – going through a more relaxed morning routine. Depending on how early I did eat, I might eat a little snack around 10:30. So my belly is content at 11:00, around the time when I am leaving the house with my daughter. Food is not on my mind. Often, once 1:00 hits, I have no time and limited options to grab food until roughly 6 or 7:00. So, yeah… about nine hours without food. Not good!

You might ask, “Why not just get something ready that morning?” Please, do not ask. I haven’t even begun to try to understand why preparing for Wednesdays is so complicated. (Perhaps it would help if I explain that my schedule on the other four weekdays are way more flexible, and that this business on Wednesdays is new for me. It’s a transition?)

Hopefully by gaining a little insight into my crazy life, you can rest, assured, that perfection is unattainable. The blessing of being human!! 😃🙄

So today’s healthy challenge is totally a team effort!! Let’s take some time today to prepare some fruits and veggies for ourselves. I’ve got five simple suggestions:

  1. Wash fresh, whole fruit so it’s ready to bite or cut into.

  2. Wash fresh vegetables so they’re ready for slicing and dicing.

  3. Cut fresh fruit or vegetables to have ready for snacking, cooking, or slapping on a sandwich. Store in ready-to-go containers or baggies. *Cut only as much as you will consume within two days*

  4. Roast, broil, bake, steam, poach, braise, or sauté veggies. Then store to reheat later or throw cold onto a salad.

  5. If part of the issue is just getting the produce into your house and you can afford any one of these conveniences: try a grocery delivery service, like Instacart; meal kit service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh; or a trusted local store that offers *healthy* prepared foods. Here in Buffalo, Wegmans offers perfect vegetable and fruit options.

We got this!!!

alyssa

31 Days of Health. Day 27: Be B-Vitamin Smart

Today’s healthy action is about understanding the B-vitamins. B-vitamins are a class of water-soluble vitamins, meaning they must be in the presence of water for your body to absorb them. Altogether, there are eight different B-vitamins. You may recognize the term, “B-complex” which collectively refers to these eight micronutrients:

  1. Thiamin (B1)
  2. Riboflavin (B2)
  3. Niacin (B3)
  4. Pantothenic Acid (B5)
  5. Pyridoxine (B6)
  6. Biotin (B7)
  7. Folate (B9)
  8. Cobalamin; or more commonly known as “vitamin B12”

Without any one of these vitamins in your diet, essential functions and processes within your body would not take place. The B-vitamins are involved greatly in the metabolism of the macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat. Each vitamin certainly has a role of its own. Some additional functions this class of vitamins provide aside from metabolism include antioxidant protection, cardiovascular support, production of red blood cells, prevention of birth defects, blood sugar control, skin health, nervous system support, DNA production, and liver detoxification.

What is unique about water-soluble vitamins, is that whatever the body does not need, it will excrete out through the urine or feces (with the exception of B12 which can be stored in your liver). Have you ever noticed that when taking a B-complex supplement your urine is bright yellow?? There’s all your riboflavin! This does, however, demonstrate the importance of getting enough each day…

I think the simplest message to take away in regards to getting enough B-vitamins is to eat a varietal diet. These vitamins are widely distributed in most foods. Some are found predominantly in plants, whereas others are found more in animal foods. For example, folate is found in great quantities in green leafy vegetables, whereas vitamin B12 is not present in most plant foods (only fungi and fermented vegetables as the exceptions), but is high in animal foods including fish, poultry, beef, yogurt and cow’s milk.

So, while the headline reads “Be B-vitamin Smart,” what I truly suggest is to include an assortment of foods in your daily eating patterns. Refer back to Day 17 – Get Adventurous! If you are used to eating the same things every day, be courageous and try something new. I even recommend re-visiting Day 12 – Meditate. I feel that I run into many people who are concerned they are not getting enough nutrition, and so they supplement with pills. Supplementation has its place, but I definitely recommend that if you are concerned you’re not getting enough, first give yourself a few deep breaths and reconnect with your body. Sometimes that little reminder that you are alive and well is all you need. Then, talk it over with a dietitian-nutritionist, or other healthcare professional you trust (I’m trying not to be biased).

Send me a message if you’ve got any questions. It’s my mission to help you feel less-confused and confidently healthy!

Have the most fabulous Sunday ever!!!

alyssa

31 Days of Health. Day 25: Indulge in Salmon

You need salmon in your life. If you’re not eating it regularly now, today is the day to start. Including other types of fish is smart too!

Salmon is a fatty, cold-water fish containing a significant amount of omega-3 fatty acids. It’s a rather unique food in this regard, where not many other foods can quite compare. Omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts and flaxseeds, however, these fatty acids come from alpha-linoleic acid (ALA, for short). The omega-3’s found in salmon come from eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The general difference between the three is that they all offer different health benefits. What is fabulous about all of them, collectively, is that they are anti-inflammatory compounds…less inflammation means reduced risk for chronic disease, meaning higher quality of life!!! Particularly from salmon: the heart, brain, eyes and joints reap those anti-inflammatory benefits thanks to EPA and DHA.

With regular salmon consumption comes healthier cholesterol levels, along with reduced risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Additionally, salmon can lead to improved thinking and concentration, decreased depression, and may even reduce the risk for cognitive decline in older age!

In addition to the omega-3’s in salmon, just 4oz will supply you with approximately 125% your daily recommended intake for vitamin D! And because salmon is a fatty fish, it is certain your body will do a good job absorbing the fat-soluble vitamin, which promotes strong bones, a strengthened immune system and even controlled blood sugars.

I love grating some lemon and lime zest, sprinkling a little salt and freshly ground pepper, along with a squeeze of fresh lemon and lime juice over a raw fillet of salmon and broiling it for about 10-15 minutes. I typically purchase wild-caught fish. I prefer, and appreciate eating food that has lived life uncontrolled – the fish ate what it naturally eats, it swam where it naturally swims, and contributed to other life sources in the ocean, river or lake in which it lived. I find I enjoy the flavor – and color – of wild-caught fish more than farm-raised.

However, after some research, it is apparent there isn’t a whole lot of black-and-white when it comes to which is better: wild-caught or farm-raised. Therefore, rather than promoting one over the other, I leave that decision to you for now. You will find that farm-raised is much more affordable, likely due to the ease of mass-producing a population of fish. Currently, it seems to be more of a personal decision, and clearly a topic we must discuss in greater detail another day! In the meantime, include whatever type of salmon that makes you happy – or other fish that pleases your palette! – in your diet at least a couple times a week.

alyssa

31 Days of Health. Day 23: Eat Some Kale

I am extending a bit from yesterday’s healthy action. Yesterday I talked about ensuring you are including vitamin K in your diet; and vitamin K is found in all sorts of green vegetables, especially the leafy types. Kale is one of those green, leafy vegetables with the most amount of vitamin K per volume… that’s an average of 1,400% of your daily requirement in 1 cup cooked!

Not only do I want you to add some delicious kale to your life today because it is high in vitamin K, but it is a generous source for so many other nutrients including vitamin A (100% DV), and vitamin C (about 70%); and together with vitamin K, these vitamins deliver antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, along with a healthy immune system and beautiful skin! You can also get a good dose of manganese, copper, iron, and vitamin B6 from kale. Collectively, these are supportive in bone health, energy production, prevention of free radical damage, blood sugar control, lowering cholesterol, metabolizing carbohydrates, detoxifying the liver, and promoting a positive mood!

The nutrient richness doesn’t stop there either! Kale also contains fiber, B-vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid; vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, and even omega-3 fatty acids!! Additionally, kale has over 45 flavonoids that fight against cancer, and a high concentration of lutein – a type of carotenoid that protects the eyes from damage caused by light and oxygen. Other carotenoids present in kale protect your body from oxidative stress and problems related to it such as cataracts, glaucoma, atherosclerosis, COPD and cancer.

Would it have been more convenient for me to say what kale does not have and what it can’t do?? All the hype kale had gotten in the past few years was definitely warranted. This is one of those foods I have to say, you’re crazy if you don’t even try to like it!!!

One of my favorite ways to cook kale is to roughly chop it after a thorough wash, keep the leaves wet and toss them into a pan over medium heat gently tossing and steaming them for a few minutes. I then toss in some garlic – crushed or minced – with olive oil, and sauté until the leaves are tender. Sprinkle with some sea or kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Sometimes I’ll squeeze a touch of fresh lemon juice in there too. I also love adding cubed baked sweet potato tossed with a little butter (yup), cinnamon, and sea salt. Now THAT. Is feel-good food!

Bon Appetit!
Alyssa

BTW – you can follow along the shorter versions of these posts on Instagram @fabulous_nutrition. AND if you’re looking for some one-on-one work with me to propel your life forward in health and success, head over to the Fabulous Nutrition page or Contact Me directly. Thanks for being here!

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 16: Freeze Leftovers

I’ve got a quick and easy one for ya today: Freeze Your Leftovers!

This may not seem so exciting now, but you will feel that excitement come when you are battling a busy week, are too exhausted to make dinner, are tight on money with very little food in the fridge, or are low on food and you left your wallet with every bit of your money 20 miles from home at your parent’s house… just like I did the other night!!

Life gets stressful, and there is bound to be one night during your week when you need a miracle. Make your own miracles! Get into the habit of covering your weak side’s ass.

Aside from saving you from stress, freezing your leftovers* will also encourage less food waste, which the health of our planet can depend on. Not only do I care for you to focus on your own health, I want you to start (or continue) caring about the state of health of others and for all types of environments. Reducing food waste is one step in the right direction.

Enjoy today!
Alyssa

*Side note: overripe, but-not-quite-garbage-yet fruit can classify as leftovers too, that you can freeze to save for smoothies or other cooking applications.