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How to Choose the Best Quality Nutritional Supplement

These days, people are becoming more conscious of the importance of health in living a long and happy life. With that knowledge, there is a lot of conflicting information out there on how to eat healthy and using supplements.

Some say "if you eat a healthy diet, supplements are not necessary" but is that true? In reality, it’s nearly impossible to get optimal levels of nutrients through food alone. You can get the basic, minimum required amounts, but not the optimum amounts.

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The Journal Of The American Medical Association (JAMA) has stated, “[…] Suboptimal intake of some vitamins, above levels causing classic vitamin deficiency, is a risk factor for chronic diseases […]  it appears prudent for all adults to take vitamin supplements.” (Read the abstract here.)

Stress, exercise and hectic lifestyles also increases the amount of antioxidants the body needs; the basic RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowance) just aren’t enough. Think of the supplements as insurance against nutritional deficiencies, and a boost to help propel your cells to optimal functional levels. Nothing replaces a healthy, balanced diet filled with fresh, whole foods. And taking supplements doesn't give you a license to eat junk food unrestrained. 

The reason people think supplements don’t work is because, truthfully, many of them don’t. The giant bottle of 1,000 daily once-per-day-tablets that you buy the same place you get your tires most likely won’t harm you, but they are also unlikely to be much benefit. Even worse, numerous supplements on the market today aren’t “clean” (e.g. fish oil can be highly contaminated with mercury if not distilled properly.)

My philosophy with supplements is to purchase only from companies who specialize in making them, and are recognized for being experts in their field, because, in my opinion, health is wealth. It's important that the supplements are backed by scientific research. The health and wellness industry is a lucrative, billion dollar industry, which means it's very attractive to entrepreneurs who may have zero knowledge in creating a legitimate, effective product.

I would rather spend a little extra to have something effective and potent, instead of cheaping out on something that doesn’t work. Saving a few extra dollars might feel like you’re making a smart choice, but you’re really just wasting money on a product that falls short. Stop purchasing the cheapest supplements you can find on the clearance rack, and get them from a reputable company that is known for their research & development, and stringent manufacturing processes.

In the long run, investing in high-quality products will actually save you money. Most companies outsource the production of their supplements, so take a look at the label, and do your research.  "The Comparative Guide To Nutritional Supplements" is an excellent 3rd party study – you can find it on Amazon for around $20), or you can look online at Consumer Lab

USANA’s dietary supplements are also tested by NSF International —an independent, nonprofit organization that certifies products to help protect consumers — and HFL Sport Science — one of the world’s premier independent drug surveillance laboratories, to make sure their products have correctly labeled ingredients and do not contain banned substances.

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More than 1000 world-class athletes, including the Women’s Tennis Association and the U.S. Ski and Snowboarding Association trust USANA’s products because they know what’s listed on the label is actually what’s in the bottle. Not only that, they are the only company to have what they call an "athlete guarantee", which means they offer up to a 1 million dollar guarantee that an athlete will not test positive for any banned substance included in World Anti-Doping Agency regulations as a result of taking USANA nutritional products. To date, no nutritional supplement company has stepped forward to assume their portion of the liability that a banned substance contamination would create.

Each of USANA’s products carries a Potency Guarantee, ensuring that what is defined on the label is actually contained in the product. Each bottle has the signature of the founder on it because he personally guarantees the quality.

Here are my criteria for choosing supplements: potency, bioavailability, clinically tested for purity and safety, manufactured by a legitimate R&D company, and reasonable price for value.

Keep in mind that supplements may not spoil like fresh produce, but they will gradually lose potency over time. While taking those expired vitamins may not be dangerous, it’s definitely less beneficial. So get in the habit of consuming your dietary supplements regularly as directed on the label to get the most value and benefit.

Technically, supplements that are stored properly in unopened bottles should last at least two years before any loss of potency occurs. Once they are opened, they should hold up for at least one year.

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Dietary supplements are regulated and subject to detailed and comprehensive regulations to uphold safety and quality. However, the standard that the FDA holds for manufacturing nutritional supplements and pharmaceuticals are vastly different. Nutritional supplements are regulated with the food standard, which are much less exacting than the standard used for pharmaceuticals, which is because it could mean the difference between life and death for a patient. 

USANA operates an FDA-registered facility, following the FDA’s highest possible standard for manufacturers. They voluntarily follow the stringent GMP for pharmaceuticals, which means their dietary supplements are manufactured under the same standards as over-the-counter medications. Formulas developed in USANA’s laboratories use only the highest quality ingredients and are modeled after Good Manufacturing Practices. USANA manufactures most of its products in its own state-of-the-art facilities. To ensure that the formulas are produced consistently, the same process is followed each time manufacturing begins. USANA tracks every manufacturing detail from start to finish — from the verification of raw materials to final testing of finished products.

I’ve chosen USANA as my exclusive product partner because they fit the bill for the criteria I listed above, including a 5-star rating in the Comparative Guide To Nutritional Supplements, pharmaceutical-quality manufacturing standards, excellent customer service, and great prices.

Interesting fact: you’d have to eat 22,000 calories per day and spend more than $33 per day to get the same amount of nutrients found in a daily dose of the USANA CellSentials Multivitamin alone!

My mom has been a USANA partner for over 10 years so I've been taking their supplements since I was a kid. I wasn't very good with swallowing pills when I was young, so I wasn't consuming them consistently. It  wasn't until I had an adverse reaction to a cat when I went with my sister and mom to visit my sister's college roommate's family, did I realize what a difference they really make. Now, I wouldn't go a day without them because of the difference in my skin, immune system, energy levels, and overall health & wellbeing.

Do your research and find out what you need. You know your nutritional needs aren’t the same as your friends’ or coworkers’, so why are you buying into the latest “one-size-fits-all” fad you stumbled across while browsing in the grocery store?

Did you know there are health assessments out there designed specifically to help you discover what nutrients your body may be lacking? They even pinpoint habits that might be creating a negative impact on your health and provide feedback on what you can do to turn those habits into positive lifestyle choices.

Those assessments are great, but there’s really nothing more valuable than the insight you can get from a trusted physician. If you’re really curious about what’s going on with your body, pay a visit to your doctor and get some blood work done.

 

 

Pregnancy Nutrition: Building A Solid Foundation For A Healthy Pregnancy and Child

Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding times in a woman’s life. It's the one time your eating habits can unequivocally influence the health of another person.  Pregnancy nutrition needs are higher to support the swift growth and development of a baby. And the extra nutrition is required to strengthen the nutritional reserves of the mom-to-be.

A mother’s eating and lifestyle habits can have profound, long-lasting effects on the health of her child. A healthy, well-nourished woman is more likely to go through a healthy pregnancy. That includes fewer pregnancy-related complications, which boosts the chances of delivering a healthy bundle of joy. A healthy baby has a superior chance of growing into a healthy child and, someday, a healthy adult. Don’t forget the nutritional and lifestyle status of the father. His role in the healthy creation of a baby is equally crucial.

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Nutrition starts with what you eat. Planning a healthy pregnancy should begin well before a pregnancy happens. Some experts recommend making healthier eating and lifestyle choices at least six months before beginning the process of conception.

That is also the optimal time to start taking a prenatal multivitamin/mineral supplement that provides folic acid or folate. This essential B vitamin, consumed as part of a healthful diet may decrease a woman’s risk of having a child with brain or spinal cord defect. When taken before conception, helps prevent neural tube defects. Current guidelines advise that women of childbearing age consume at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all sources.

Pregnancy needs extra energy, building blocks, and cellular assistants. So, making good pregnancy nutrition choices throughout all three trimesters is essential. Infant birth weight, rate of growth after birth, and ongoing health can be affected by pregnancy nutrition, lifestyle, and the health status of the mom-to-be.

 

PREGNANCY NUTRITION—WEIGHT CHANGES AND CALORIE REQUIREMENTS

People have often heard the saying that a pregnant woman eats for two, which is actually incorrect. Sure, there are extra calorie requirements during pregnancy but calories should gradually increase to meet demands as your baby grows and develops.

No additional calories are demanded during the first trimester. In the second trimester, about 340 additional calories a day are needed. The recommendation increases to 450 extra calories per day in the third trimester to reach the growing requirements of the baby-to-be.

Over the course of a healthy pregnancy, your body also stores fat for energy needs during labor and delivery. This also supports breastfeeding—if you breastfeed your baby. These additional calories are not a license to splurge on junk food. You’re building a baby, so choose wisely.

By the 15th week of gestation, your baby has developed taste buds and can perceive food flavors from your diet. The foods you eat during your pregnancy help prime your future baby’s health, palate and food preferences. They also provide a model for their future eating habits.

These extra calories and fat storage often mean weight gain which is normal. Requirements for appropriate weight gain during pregnancy differ depending on the current weight of the mom-to-be. An average weight women should gain 25–35 pounds. Underweight women may need to gain 28–40 pounds. And an overweight or obese mom-to-be should aim to gain 11–25 pounds, depending on their weight.

 

MACROS AND MICROS

There are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. The difference lies in the amounts you need. Macronutrients, like fats, protein, and carbohydrates, are needed in large quantities in the diet (grams). Micronutrients—as the name suggests—are required in smaller amounts (milligrams or micrograms).

Pregnancy shifts these amounts somewhat. Carbohydrate requirements during pregnancy rises from about 130 to 175 grams/day and protein needs by about 25 additional grams per day. Most women already meet these requirements. During pregnancy, your body needs a bit more fat. About 25 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat to support a healthy pregnancy. Consuming the right types of fats is also crucial. The majority of fats should come from monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats.

Aim to eat nutrient-rich proteins, complex carbs, and essential fats daily. Incorporate a variety of lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy, vegetables and fruit to help fit the changing nutritional demands of pregnancy. The nutritional needs of a growing baby will take priority over the needs of the mom-to-be, so it’s essential to eat well.

While all nutrients are vital to support a healthy pregnancy, certain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) play a particularly crucial role during the development of an infant. Here’s a list of these micronutrients, how they impact pregnancy, and which foods to eat:

Vitamin A is critical for baby’s overall growth and development. It is instrumental in regards with vision, protein synthesis, and cell differentiation. Sources of preformed and provitamin vitamin A include beef liver, orange, red, yellow and green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and eggs. Fruits like cantaloupe and fortified breakfast cereals are also sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin D is important to support healthy development of bones, teeth, skin and eyesight. It is special among vitamins because it works more like a hormone at the DNA level. Vitamin D has been estimated to regulate 200–300 genes. Many cells have vitamin D receptors and need it to function properly. That includes cells in the skin and brain. Vitamin D is naturally produced through skin exposure to sunlight. Skin color, age, and time of year can affect the amount of vitamin D produced through skin exposure.

Very few foods naturally provide vitamin D. Fatty fish and egg yolks are natural food sources. Other sources include fortified foods such as dairy products, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, or dietary supplements.

Calcium is necessary for proper development of bones and teeth (in combination with vitamin D) and baby’s calcium status. Consuming sufficient calcium supports healthy development of bones and teeth buds for baby. It also protects mom’s bones from pregnancy-related calcium loss. If a prospective mother doesn’t get enough dietary calcium, her body will take calcium out of her bones to compensate.

Abundant sources of calcium include dairy products - milk, cheese and yogurt. Other good sources include fortified foods and drinks, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice, and soy beverages. Canned sardines and salmon packed in oil with bones, Chinese cabbage, kale and turnip greens also contain calcium.

B vitamins are primarily used as cofactors in energy metabolism. They are water-soluble, which means your body doesn’t store them and unused amounts exit in the urine. While all B vitamins are necessary during pregnancy, folate (folic acid) and B12, provide additional important roles in the development of the central nervous system. And this essential system is completely developed during the first few weeks of life.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for producing red blood cells, genetic materials, healthy neurological function and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies during pregnancy may cause neurological damage in the baby. A deficiency of B12 at the beginning of and during pregnancy, could increase risk of certain birth defects, neurological impairment, and contribute to preterm birth.

The best food sources include animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals. Plant foods are not a favorable source of vitamin B12.

Folic acid or folate, plays an crucial role in synthesizing DNA in cells and for manufacturing neurotransmitters. It is very important during early pregnancy because of its essential role in the healthy development of baby’s neural tube. The tube becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is formed early during the first month of pregnancy, often before any apparent signs of pregnancy. Taking in  enough folic acid before and early in a pregnancy as part of a healthful diet may lower a woman’s risk of having a child with spina bifida (spine) and anencephaly (brain).

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The top food sources of folate include vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), legumes, nuts, and seeds. Folic acid is also found in multivitamin supplements.

Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B 12 should be avoided by all women of childbearing age by supplementing with these important B vitamins, especially before becoming pregnant.

Choline supports the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord during fetal growth. Many pregnant women do not receive adequate amounts of choline through the diet.

Good food sources of choline are meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Also cruciferous vegetables, soy beans, kidney beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Choline is typically included in conjunction with B-complex vitamins in most multivitamin supplements.

Niacin is another type of B vitamin—B3, to be exact. Just like the other B vitamins, niacin is water-soluble. So it’s not stored in your body, and unused amounts are excreted through your urine. Niacin is crucial for converting food to energy. But also supports the digestive system, skin, and nerve function. A study has linked higher blood levels of niacin (B3) during pregnancy to healthier skin outcomes in babies at 12 months of age.

Iron is required in higher amounts during pregnancy because an expecting mother's blood volume expands due to dramatic demands of the developing baby and placenta. Building a baby demands sufficient iron for normal healthy development. Iron also plays a key part in cellular metabolism. It's a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. This ensures that your baby gets the oxygen needed for healthy development.

Not only is iron critical for the appropriate neurodevelopment during fetalhood, it is also vital after birth during early childhood development.  iron intake during pregnancy may help support a healthy birth as well as a safe and normal delivery and post-delivery health of both mother and child.

Optimal food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, meat, seafood, white beans, lentils, and spinach.

Zinc is another critical mineral during pregnancy. This is especially true during the first trimester, when baby’s organs are developing. It is also thought to facilitate in the development of the immune system. Zinc is also important after baby’s birth to aid in the first significant stages of infant growth and formation.

Prime food sources comprise of oysters and other seafood, red meat, and poultry. Fortified breakfast cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy also contain zinc.

Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes in the body. Adequate magnesium intake is connected with healthy fetal growth and full-term delivery.

This mineral can be found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocado, nus, seeds, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones that regulate many important biochemical reactions. Thyroid hormones impact protein synthesis, enzymatic, and metabolic activity. Iodine is critical during pregnancy to support the healthy growth and the development of a baby’s brain health, skeletal system, and metabolism. Iodine deficiency has multiple adverse effects on growth and development, including the mental health of the baby. A considerable percentage of pregnant women are iodine insufficient.

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Prime food sources include seafood, seaweed, dairy products,  eggs, grains, poultry and baked potato with the skin.

Essential fatty acids are vital for developing babies. And many women don’t get enough from diet alone. During pregnancy, fats provide energy and help build fetal organs and the placenta. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, support brain, eye, and nerve development—specifically during the last trimester. DHA and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid are the predominant fats found in the nerve cells of fetal and infant brains. Unfortunately, the modern diet is often lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in vegetable oils, fatty fish, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Both macros and micros are crucial to grow a healthy baby and support the health of the mom-to-be. The foods consumed during pregnancy are important, so select wisely. And don’t forget the importance of a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement to cover any dietary vitamin or mineral shortfall.

YOU ARE WHAT YOUR MOTHER ATE: PREGNANCY DIET PLANNING STARTS EARLY

You are what you eat. And so is your baby. Planning a healthy pregnancy should begin well before a pregnancy happens. Some experts recommend making healthier eating and lifestyle choices at least six months before trying to conceive.

It’s also the best time to start taking a prenatal multivitamin/mineral supplement that provides folic acid or folate. This important B vitamin, consumed as part of a healthful diet may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with brain or spinal cord defect. When consumed before conception, helps prevent neural tube defects. Current guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age consume at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all sources.

Pregnancy requires extra energy, building blocks, and cellular assistants. So, making good pregnancy nutrition choices throughout all three trimesters is essential. Infant birth weight, rate of growth after birth, and ongoing health can be influenced by pregnancy nutrition, lifestyle, and the health status of the mom-to-be.

 

PREGNANCY NUTRITION—WEIGHT CHANGES AND CALORIE REQUIREMENTS

A pregnant woman is not eating for two. Sure, there are extra calorie requirements during pregnancy. But that saying isn’t quite accurate. Calories should gradually increase to meet demands as your baby grows and develops.

During the first trimester, no additional calories are required. Daily requirements change in the second trimester. At that time, about 340 additional calories a day are needed. The recommendation increases to 450 extra calories per day in the third trimester to continue meeting the growing demands of the baby-to-be.

Over the course of a healthy pregnancy, your body also stores fat for energy needs during labor and delivery. This also supports breastfeeding—if you breastfeed your baby. These additional calories are not an invitation to splurge on doughnuts, chips, cookies and ice cream. You’re building a baby, so choose wisely.

Did you know that by the 15th week of fetalhood, your baby has developed taste buds and can perceive food flavors from your diet? The foods you eat during your pregnancy help prime your future baby’s health, palate and food preferences. They also provide a model for their future eating habits.

These extra calories and fat storage often mean weight gain. That’s normal. Requirements for appropriate weight gain during pregnancy differ depending on the current weight of the mom-to-be. An average weight women should gain 25–35 pounds. Underweight women may need to gain 28–40 pounds. And an overweight or obese mom-to-be should aim to gain 11–25 pounds, depending on their weight.

 

MACROS AND MICROS, OH MY!

There are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. And the difference is the amounts you need. Macronutrients, like fats, protein, and carbohydrates, are required in large quantities in the diet (grams). Micronutrients—as the name suggests—are needed in smaller amounts (milligrams or micrograms).

Pregnancy affects these amounts somewhat. Carbohydrate requirements during pregnancy increase from about 130 to 175 grams/day and protein needs by about 25 additional grams per day. Most women already meet these requirements. During pregnancy your body needs a little more fat. About 25 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat to support a healthy pregnancy. Consuming the right types of fats is also important. The majority of fats should come from monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats.

Strive to eat nutrient-rich proteins, complex carbs, and essential fats every day. Include a variety of lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy, vegetables and fruit to help meet the changing nutritional demands of pregnancy. The nutritional needs of a developing baby will take priority over the needs of the mom-to-be, so it’s important to eat well.

While all nutrients are important to support a healthy pregnancy, certain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) play a particularly important role during the development of an infant. Here’s a list of these micronutrients, how they impact pregnancy, and foods to eat:

  • Vitamin A is important for baby’s overall growth and development. It also plays a role in vision, protein synthesis, and cell differentiation. Sources of preformed and provitamin vitamin A include beef liver, orange, red, yellow and green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and eggs. You’ll also find vitamin A in fruits like cantaloupe and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin D is important to support healthy development of bones, teeth, skin and eyesight. It is unique among vitamins because it works more like a hormone at the DNA level. Vitamin D has been estimated to regulate 200–300 genes. Many cells have vitamin D receptors and need it to function properly. That includes cells in the skin and brain. Vitamin D is naturally produced through skin exposure to sunlight. Skin color, age, and time of year can impact the amount of vitamin D produced through skin exposure.

Very few foods naturally provide vitamin D. Fatty fish and egg yolks are natural food sources. Other sources include fortified foods such as dairy products, ready-to -eat breakfast cereals, or dietary supplements.

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  • Calcium is necessary for proper development of bones and teeth (in combination with vitamin D) and baby’s calcium status. Consuming adequate calcium supports healthy development of bones and teeth buds for baby. It also protects mom’s bones from pregnancy-related calcium loss. If a mom-to-be doesn’t get enough dietary calcium, her body will pull calcium out of her bones to compensate.

Rich sources of calcium include dairy products- milk, cheese and yogurt. Other good sources include fortified foods and drinks, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice, and soy beverages. Canned sardines and salmon packed in oil with bones, Chinese cabbage, kale, and turnip greens are also sources of calcium.

  • B vitamins are primarily used as cofactors in energy metabolism. They are water-soluble. That means your body doesn’t store them and unused amounts exit in the urine. While all B vitamins are important during pregnancy, folate (folic acid) and B12, provide additional crucial roles in the development of the central nervous system. And this essential system is completely formed during the first few weeks of life.

Vitamin B12 is vital for producing red blood cells, genetic materials, healthy neurological function and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies during pregnancy may cause neurological damage in the baby. A deficiency of B12 at the beginning of, and during pregnancy, could increase risk of certain birth defects, neurological impairment, and contribute to preterm birth.

Animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals contain vitamin B12. Plant foods are not a good source of vitamin B12.

Folic acid or folate, plays an essential role in synthesizing DNA in cells and for manufacturing neurotransmitters. It is very important during early pregnancy because of its essential role in the healthy development of baby’s neural tube. The tube becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is formed early during the first month of pregnancy, often before any noticeable signs of pregnancy. Consuming adequate folic acid before and early in a pregnancy as part of a healthful diet may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with spina bifida (spine) and anencephaly (brain).

The best natural food sources of folate include vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), legumes, nuts, and seeds. Folic acid is also found in multivitamin supplements.

Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B 12 should be avoided by all women of childbearing age by supplementing with these important B vitamins, especially before becoming pregnant.

  • Choline supports the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord during fetal development. Many pregnant women do not obtain adequate amounts of choline through the diet.

Choline can be found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Also cruciferous vegetables, soy beans, kidney beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Choline is typically included in combination with B-complex vitamins in most multivitamin supplements.

  • Niacin is another type of B vitamin—B3, to be exact. Just like the other B vitamins, niacin is water-soluble. So it’s not stored in your body, and unused amounts are excreted through your urine. Niacin is important for converting food to energy. But is also supports the digestive system, skin, and nerve function. A study has linked higher blood levels of niacin (B3) during pregnancy to healthier skin outcomes in babies at 12 months of age.
  • Iron is required in higher amounts during pregnancy. That’s because an expecting mother’s blood volume expands due to dramatic demands of the developing baby and placenta. Building a baby requires adequate iron for normal healthy development. Iron also plays a key role in cellular metabolism. It’s a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the bod. This ensure that your baby gets the oxygen needed for healthy development.

Not only is iron critical for the appropriate neurodevelopment during fetalhood, it is also important after birth during early childhood development. Adequate iron intake during pregnancy may help support a healthy birth as well as a safe and normal delivery and post-delivery health of both mother and child.

The best food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, meat, seafood, white beans, lentils, and spinach.

  • Zinc is another important mineral during pregnancy. This is especially true during the first trimester, when baby’s organs are forming. It is also thought to assist in the development of the immune system. Zinc is also important after baby’s birth to assist in the first important stages of infant growth and development.

Oysters and other seafood, red meat, and poultry are some foods that provide zinc. Other good food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy.

  • Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes in the body. Adequate magnesium intake is associated with healthy fetal growth and full-term delivery.

Good food sources include: green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

  • Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones that regulate many important biochemical reactions. Thyroid hormones impact protein synthesis, enzymatic, and metabolic activity. Iodine is essential during pregnancy to support the healthy growth and the development of a baby’s brain health, skeletal system, and metabolism. Iodine deficiency has multiple adverse effects on growth and development, including the mental health of the baby. A substantial portion of pregnant women are iodine insufficient.

Iodine can be found in seafood, seaweed, dairy products, eggs, grains, poultry, and baked potato with the skin.

  • Essential fatty acids are important for developing babies. And many women don’t get enough from diet alone. During pregnancy, fats provide energy and help build fetal organs and the placenta. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, support brain, eye, and nerve development—especially during the last trimester. DHA and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid are the predominant fats found in the nerve cells of fetal and infant brains. Unfortunately the modern diet is often low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Good food sources include: vegetable oils, fatty fish, olives, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Both macros and micros are very important to build a healthy baby and support the health of the mom-to-be. The foods eaten during pregnancy are important, so choose wisely. And don’t forget the importance of a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement to cover any dietary vitamin or mineral shortfall.

 

GIVE THE GIFT OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Following a healthy lifestyle is also necessary for supporting a healthy pregnancy and baby.

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Regular exercise during a healthy pregnancy helps curtail excessive weight-related pregnancy complications. And exercise is critical to aid overall health and wellbeing. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most, if not all days of the week. There are exceptions for those with a medical concern/condition or a pregnancy complication. Always check with your healthcare professional for questions about exercise patterns.

Emotional stress during pregnancy can affect the development of the fetus—especially the brain—during any stage of pregnancy. Everyday stress is considered somewhat irritating and a routine part of modern life. But chronic high stress can elevate the risk of a preterm birth and the delivery of a low-birthweight baby. So, make self-care a priority during this significant time in life. Learning to manage, reduce, or eliminate stress will support a healthier pregnancy and baby.

If you smoke, cease before trying to conceive. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of developing lung problems, learning disabilities, and physical growth even after birth. It is strongly recommended that pregnant women quit smoking for the duration of the pregnancy. Your baby’s life could depend on it.

It’s fine to consume alcohol in moderation before becoming pregnant. However, it’s very important to stop drinking alcohol completely when you become pregnant. Alcohol can pass freely through the placenta. So, when you drink alcohol, your developing baby does, too. Even limited amounts of alcohol may affect your baby’s brain development.

Reduce caffeine intake. While not well-understood, consuming high amounts of this stimulant has been linked to impaired growth and increased miscarriage risk. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests limiting caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day (the amount in about two cups of coffee).

Talk to your doctor about medications (prescription and over-the-counter) you are taking, including the use of dietary or herbal supplements. If you have a medical condition, make sure it is well-controlled.

Food safety is also important. Take extra precautions to avoid exposure to food-borne pathogens. Infection from food-borne illness can cause harm the mom and her developing baby. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, seafood, or egg items. Unpasteurized milk, cheeses made from unpasteurized milk—like brie and feta—and unpasteurized juice should also be avoided. To protect you and your developing baby wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Avoid anything that cannot be properly washed, or foods that are known to be a high-risk for food-borne illness

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PREGNANCY NUTRITION HELPS YOU BUILD A HEALTHY BABY

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Pregnancy is an important time in human development. And nutrition is an essential component of a healthy pregnancy and outcome. A baby cannot develop into a healthy, thriving human without the proper building materials to support healthy development. Diet and lifestyle habits impact all stages, starting with your future fertility. They help determine your child’s nutritional health and birth weight. And your diet and lifestyle provide a model for children’s future eating habits from fetalhood, childhood and into adulthood.

Proper prenatal care has many aspects. It starts with adopting a healthy well-balanced eating plan, which includes a quality vitamin/mineral supplement before and during pregnancy. And that’s combined with a healthy overall lifestyle. Taking these steps is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your future children.

Prebiotics and Probiotics: What Are the Differences?

Both prebiotics and probiotics are vital for human health. However, there are some key differences. Probiotics are live bacteria in certain foods or supplements and are beneficial for immune and gut health. Prebiotics are found in different types of carbs (mostly fiber) that humans are unable to digest. The beneficial bacteria in your gut eat this fiber. 

The food you eat plays a vital role in the balance of good and bad gut bacteria. For example, a high-sugar and high-fat diet impacts the gut bacteria negatively, allowing harmful species to spread (456). Once you regularly feed the wrong bacteria, they can grow faster and colonize more easily, without as many helpful bacteria to hinder them from doing so (78). The destructive bacteria may also cause you to absorb more calories than people with a healthy balance of gut bacteria, who tend to be leaner (9). Additionally, foods treated with pesticides like Roundup may have negative effects on the gut bacteria. However, more human research is needed on this (101112).

Studies have also shown that antibiotics can cause permanent changes in certain types of bacteria, especially when taken during childhood and adolescence. Antibiotic use, or more specifically, overuse is so pervasive, that researchers are now studying how this may cause health problems in people later in life (1314).

Everything you ingest must go through your digestive system, which, in turn, provides all the micro- and macronutrients your body’s cells need to function properly. Because the digestive system is responsible for breaking down and taking in the vitamins and minerals from food and nutritional supplements, maintaining digestive health is an important factor in optimizing nutrient absorption and defending against deficiency-related illness.

In 2012, a study revealed that almost 4 million adults used probiotics for health. More research is needed to decisively identify the benefits of supplementing gut bacteria. However, research indicates that probiotics offer significant health benefits.

Some research suggests that prebiotics and probiotics can be effective in treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, allergic disorders, and even the common cold. Prebiotics and probiotics have been proposed as treatments for obesity. They are being explored as a way to prevent the spread of cancer. Promising research has shown probiotics to be an effective treatment for inflammatory arthritis.

Not only does a healthy digestive system vastly reduce the likelihood of physical discomfort from gas, constipation, bloating, or occasional diarrhea, it also promotes consistent waste elimination from the body through the regular passing of stool and normalization of stool consistency.*

To keep everything operating smoothly, it is important that you drink plenty of water; exercise; and consume a proper diet with plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition to eating a healthful diet, using probiotics can help create an ideal environment for healthy digestion.*

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Your gut is host to both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria. These bacteria, also known as micro flora, may aid healthy digestion. Age, stress, illness, antibiotics and/or certain medicines, poor diet and hydration, lack of rest, and damaging environmental conditions may endanger the fine balance that is needed to support the normal intestinal flora. This imbalance can result in the decrease of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can lead to digestive concerns that may not only be physically uncomfortable but also possibly harmful to your health.

More immune cells are concentrated in the gut than in any other region of the body. These probiotics may help prevent harmful bacteria from settling in the intestinal tract and boost the growth of healthy bacterial growth to help support proper nutrient absorption.

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Prebiotics don’t actually contain bacteria. They are fuel to help bacteria grow. All prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber. The fiber inulin, which is found in chicory rootbananas, and asparagus, is a prebiotic that can be used as food for gut bacteria. Onions, garlic, berries, leeks, oats, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, asparagus, and legumes are also prebiotic sources.

When a food source contains both prebiotics and probiotics, the combination is called a synbiotic. Foods that are synbiotics include cheese, kefir, and certain types of yogurt. Prebiotics can also be purchased as a commercial food additive or capsule supplement. They come in both liquid and powdered forms.

Probiotics aren’t regulated according to “drug” standards by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that some of the live bacteria being used in probiotics hasn’t been evaluated according to strict safety measures. That’s something crucial to keep in mind when considering prebiotics and probiotics.

When you start a synbiotic regimen, there are some common side effects. Gas, constipation, loose stool, and loss of appetite sometimes happen, especially at the beginning of the regimen. Bloating and acid reflux have also been reported.

There is one side effect of probiotics that is known to be dangerous: having an allergic reaction to the bacteria that are being added to your body. If you break out in hives or experience extreme stomach pain after ingesting a prebiotic or probiotic, stop taking the supplement. Contact a doctor to determine if you’re having a reaction.

Probiotics are occasionally recommended for children that are taking antibiotics. But you should talk to your child’s doctor before you give probiotics to a child under the age of 12. Probiotics and prebiotics are also believed to be generally safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Get the go ahead from your doctor before starting any new supplement during pregnancy and postpartum.

When choosing a probiotic supplement, consider the stability of the product, and whether the bacteria strains used in the supplement are high-quality, meaning they are able to survive stomach enzymes and enter the intestinal tract alive, and in a sufficient quantity that is beneficial. 

Stability is a major issue with most strains of bacteria. Shelf-life for most strains is very brief and many strains require refrigeration. Even refrigerated products can have poor viability and very short shelf-lives. In addition, many strains that have good data in culture or in vitro show no viability when exposed to the actual human digestive process. If a strain does not make it through digestion all the way to the intestine to colonize, its benefit is questionable.

Bifidobacterium BB-12®† and Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG®† are two strains of probiotic bacteria that have been clinically proven to promote a natural balance of beneficial micro flora in the gut. USANA's Probiotic contains 12 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU) of viable bacteria—a level shown to be effective in clinical studies. It also contains prebiotic, in the form of inulin.

How to Handle Seasonal Allergies

As much as I love when spring comes around because it means the introduction of warmer weather and longer days, what I don't love is the fits of sneezing and itching that tell me it's a new season.

I've had hay fever since I was young and it runs in my family. When I was a kid, it was so bad that I had to carry multiple packets of tissue around with me, making summer daycamp much less enjoyable. I would wake up sneezing, coughing, with itchy eyes, and a runny nose.

An estimated 35 million Americans experience hay fever caused by wind-borne pollen or mold spores. Wearing sunglasses outside can lower the amount of pollen or spores that get into your eyes. Allergy-irritated eyes are also more sensitive to sunlight, so stylish shades may help your eyes feel better, too. 

One of the biggest causes of indoor allergies is the dust mite. These microscopic insects love to live on your bedding and stuffed animals. Wash all of your bedding in hot water and drying it in a hot dryer to kill dust mites. Keep stuffed animals off the bed, and wash sheets and blankets at least once a week in water that's 130° F or higher to limit the effects of this indoor-allergy culprit.

Mold flourishes in moisture. To help control indoor mold, use a dehumidifier or your air conditioner to keep your home humidity close to 50 percent. Take the guesswork out of measuring indoor humidity with a device called a hygrometer. It's also critical to clean up water spills promptly, repair any leaks, and change the filters in your air conditioner and heating ducts regularly.

If you take a road trip when the pollen count is high, be sure to keep your car windows closed. Before beginning your trip, start the car and turn on the air conditioner, then get out and let the air inside the car cool. If possible, travel early in the morning or in the evening. Also avoid vacationing in a high-allergy destination. For example, you might want to stay away from damp, cold climates because of mold, and damp tropical climates because of mites, molds, and pollens.

Windows, curtains, and blinds are the preferred hiding places for dust and mold. These indoor allergy culprits are also often found in poorly ventilated laundry rooms, basements, refrigerator drain pans, and old books. Wipe down bathroom and kitchen areas with diluted bleach, and vacuum your floors often. If you're allergic to cleaning products in addition to the mold and dust, wear a mask when cleaning and get out of the house for a few hours afterward to let the air clear.

Take some simple precautions to keep outdoor pollens out of your home. Wear a mask if you work outside, and remove your work clothes before entering the house. It's also good to shower right after coming in from yard work.

If you have hay fever or a mold allergy, limit your number of houseplants and definitely keep them out of your bedroom. The biggest culprits are indoor shrubs, trees, and grasses that may produce pollens.

Use a dryer instead of hanging your clothes outside when doing laundry. Leave all windows in the house closed during allergy season, and rely on your air conditioner or dehumidifier to help protect you from indoor allergies.

If you have outdoor or indoor allergies, any substance that irritates your airways can make your symptoms worse. Don't smoke in your home, kindly ask house guests to smoke outside, and avoid wood fires and wood-burning stoves. Strong odors such as perfumes, paint fumes, hair sprays, disinfectants, and air fresheners can also trigger an allergy attack.

Studies have shown that cockroaches are a surprisingly common cause of indoor allergy symptoms and asthma, especially in children. Remove water and food sources that may attract cockroaches, and if you see a cockroach, get professional help. That goes for rodents, too.

Diet-wise, one of the best strategies to alleviate those miserable symptoms is to abstain from alcohol and other histamine containing foods. As far as alcohol goes, wine (both red and white) seem to be the worst inflamers. Sulfites are part of the issue with these drinks, but histamines that result during the fermentation process also aggravate the problem. If you have allergy issues, consider steering  clear of other foods subject to aging and fermentation like aged cheese, pickles, and sauerkraut. And as for yeast, it’s one more reason to skip the bread. Grapes and ciders can be offenders as well.

Also, if you know the cause of your particular allergy, you can further determine foods that tend to provoke what’s called “oral allergy syndrome,” a reaction to allergen-related foods that affects primarily the lips and mouth. Check out the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia information on cross-reactive foods for those with seasonal allergies.

As for what to eat, think anti-inflammatory. Research supports the particular benefits of fresh produce, fish and nuts for limiting both the symptoms of existing allergies as well as the development of allergies later in life. Research on the pregnancy and childhood diets of Spanish children found that a higher intake of certain vegetables (like tomatoes and eggplant) and fish offered protective benefit from allergies and asthma. Another study with Greek children linked high intake of nuts, fruits and vegetables with a decreased risk for respiratory allergy. The EPA and DHA in fish and fish oils has been shown to be among the best preventative options for allergic disorders.

Tea, specifically green or white, supplies a big flavonoid boost that decreases inflammation and supports general immune function. For raw dairy enthusiasts out there, farm milk consumption was shown to provide similar protective advantage against allergy and asthma whether or not the children consuming it lived on the farm or not.

Although antioxidants and flavonoids in general yield therapeutic benefit, certain nutrients like vitamin C and quercetin are potent natural antihistamines. An additional dose of magnesium can help ease wheezing symptoms. Some report success with spirulina as well. As for herbal remedies, butterbur shows good promise, but isn’t recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing.

Vitamin D promotes a healthy, balanced immune system through regulation and differentiation of immune system cells. Many cells in your body have vitamin D receptors and need vitamin D to function properly, including those in your skin and brain.

Deficiencies of vitamin D are common. It is currently estimated that more than 1 billion people worldwide and 30-to-40% of the population between 15 and 49 years of age in the United States suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Because relatively small amounts of vitamin D are obtained through the diet and so many lifestyle factors reduce endogenous vitamin D synthesis, supplementation becomes an important avenue for achieving and maintaining optimal vitamin D status.

As far as how much you need, that depends on who you’re asking. Every person has different needs, but many researchers believe that further research will eventually prove that the U.S. government recommendations aren’t high enough. Your safest bet is to talk to your doctor and have your vitamin D levels tested every three months.

Check out the fancy chart I snagged from the Vitamin D Council below to see the different vitamin D recommendations, and be sure to share this important information with your friends and family.

Oh, and don’t forget that supplementation is a super reliable way to get your vitamin D. Just one of USANA’s Vitamin D tablets provides 2,000 IU of vitamin D3, which is the same type of vitamin D your body produces when exposed to sunlight. And guess what else? For most people, vitamin D is easily absorbable and always important to maintain. So you could probably reap some of the benefits of taking a vitamin D supplement on a daily basis.

Other immune boosting nutrients include zinc, baker's yeast and reishi and shiitake mushrooms, which are included in USANA's Proglucamune.

Another suggestion? Try some wild – and local – honey. Because bees pick up the pollen of their environment, the resulting honey can deliver something of a therapeutic dose for gradual desensitization – much like an allergy shot. It’s important to start small (1/4 teaspoon daily – max) and work your way up to gradually build tolerance.

Another recommendation is cutting out grains (and cut the chronic cardio). It may have been linked to the autoimmune connection between anti-nutrients/leaky-gut and hypersensitivity to proteins in grass seeds and pollen (grains are grass seeds). 

The gut is a barometer of overall emotional and physical health. The human gastrointestinal tract houses the bulk of the human immune system, about 70% of it. It is the cornerstone of overall health. If you have taken antibiotics, it changes the microbial environment, possibly causing reactions to allergies, water bloat, and food sensitivities.

If you prefer to stick to foods, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, and soft cheese like Gouda are all good sources of various strains oflactobacillus bacteria. Fermented soy foods like miso and tempeh also include over 160 different bacteria strains (5).

Evidence supports including fermented foods or probiotic supplements into your routine for maintaining a healthy digestive balance. If you decide to try a supplement, choose one that contains a variety of strains and at least 1 billion or more active cells. Make sure it has a sufficient quantity of high-quality bacteria strains that can survive stomach enzymes and enter the intestinal tract alive to be effective.

How much should your probiotic supplement provide? It should contain 12 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU) of viable bacteria—a level shown to be effective in clinical studies. 

A happy, healthy gut means a more effective and better functioning immune system resulting in a decreased allergic response.

Clean Beauty

Women are now reading the labels on their beauty products as carefully as food labels. They’re checking the ingredients lists and seeing skin care as an extension of their health. As a result, chic, cleaner beauty products are getting way more accessible and much more mainstream.

Natural and organic brands are sprouting up almost daily, and becoming a very viable industry that’s estimated to reach $16 billion by 2020.

Like food, though, beware of the "natural" label used in marketing. There is no standard that brands are held to when using the term. Natural does NOT mean free of artificial additives, chemical preservatives or nontoxic.

Speaking of labels, Huffington Post has a list of ingredients that should be avoided in your personal care products.

Sweat Cosmetics is an all-natural, mineral-based makeup brand created by pro soccer players, Lindsay Tarpley and Leslie Osborne. The products include vitamin E (which is an antioxidant, increases the efficiency of active sunscreen, and retains moisture), milk thistle (which helps skin resist stress and remain strong when faced with pollution and UV rays), and rhodiola rosea (an anti-inflammatory that aids in DNA repair after the skin has been exposed to the sun)—all of which you can find in Sweat’s SPF-laced foundation, illuminator, bronzer, and powder

 photo courtesy of tara west photography

photo courtesy of tara west photography

Husk and the Detox Market are Toronto-based one stop shops for all your natural skin care and green makeup needs. Make no mistake, gone are the days of organic beauty lines being considered second-rate to the traditional designer or luxury brands. These carefully curated lines are just as effective and beautiful.

In Vancouver, Beauty Mark, which was voted #2 for Best Beauty Shop by the Westender, carries brands such as RMS Beauty, Tata Harper, ILIA, Farmhouse Fresh and John Masters Organics.  Sephora offers Bite Beauty, RMS Beauty, Tata Harper, ILIA, Josie Maran, Bareminerals, Tarte, Drunk Elephant, Farmacy, and Sunday Riley among others.

These stores are online also, so if you're not lucky enough to be able to visit these stores in person, you can cop your natural beauty products via their websites. Other great online stores include CAP Beauty, LeVert Beauty, the Truth Beauty Company, Ayla, BeautyKind, Follain, and ONDA.

If you're attached to a particular shade, Credo has this excellent section on clean beauty swaps that provides natural dupes for your favourite shades.

3 Healthy Substitutes for Coffee

Instead of your usual morning cup of coffee for your caffeine fix, you might find yourself reaching for a cup of dandelion coffee, cold brew, or a matcha. 

Caffeine can cause dehydration, which leads to you feeling sluggish and can also be the source of headaches, anxiety, restlessness, and fitful sleep.

Dandelion coffee is a caffeine-free herbal drink that is an instant-coffee-like blend of dandelion root, roasted barley, rye, chicory root, and sugar beet.

It's great for cleansing your liver and balancing pH levels in your body. Historically, dandelion, consumed in combination with other herbs, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to clear heat from the body, to release toxins from the liver, decrease inflammation, and in some cases, treat urinary tract infections.

It might not feel like spring in Vancouver just yet but there are still the rare few who enjoy their iced coffees even when it's cold outside. Cold brew is the latest coffee craze that reportedly also has more health benefits than your regular morning cup.

Instead of brewing coffee with hot water, chilling it, and diluting it with ice, you let the grounds sit, undisturbed, for upwards of 12 hours, then you filter the grounds from the liquid. What you end up with is highly-concentrated coffee that you can add water to. 

There’s some suggestion it’s better for the body (and gentler on stomachs), because it’s less acidic—up to 67 percent less. Try Jamaica Blue, which is roasted, brewed and bottled locally in Vancouver. They are available at select Whole Foods, Urban Fare markets, and other locations.

Matcha is particularly high in antioxidants called catechin polyphenols—linked to numerous health benefits from decreased cancer risk to reducing cholesterol and blood pressure—and since you actually drink the ground leaves, you ingest more of the nutrients than with brewed leaf teas. There's even cold brew style matcha!