Should You Pause Before Applying Sunscreen?

Sunscreen has always been an essential part of summer, especially over the past 10 years as we have learned more about its benefits. It protects us from UV rays, painful sunburns, and helps prevent skin cancer. But debates have risen over whether or not sunscreen is actually detrimental to our health. While we have been taught that the sun emits powerful and dangerous UV rays, some physicians and scientists are arguing that UV rays provide vitamin D, which can assist in preventing certain cancers and bone diseases. So does this mean we should stop wearing sunscreen? You may want to hold off on throwing away your summer supply. According to vitamin D advocates, vitamin D is the new miracle worker, helping with everything from cancer to weight control to high blood pressure. One of the best ways to obtain this essential nutrient is to go outside and bask in the sun to catch some UV rays, all while leaving the skin protection behind. Some claim that Americans have been scared away from sun exposure, resulting in a greater number of people suffering from vitamin D deficiency. Other health issues that can contribute to low vitamin D include darker skin, obesity or gastrointestinal issues which can all reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in itself can be extremely painful, as it causes weak muscles, fatigue, skeletal deformities and soft bones. Although there is evidence that vitamin D is essential for bone health, it’s ability to prevent certain cancers and high blood pressure has yet to be proven. Still, some physicians are recommending that people decrease...

Spring: The Perfect Season for a Nutritional Fresh Start!

Relax! Winter is almost over! For most Americans, winter is a dreaded, gloomy time of the year when food becomes a great comfort. Due to the colder temperatures and snow/ice/wintry mixed- covered roads we stay inside and inactive. Fortunately, spring is only a few weeks away and as we step into March and rising temperatures, it’s the perfect time to reassess what we put in our bodies on a daily basis. For some, controlling snacking throughout the day is a huge struggle. With vending machines and fast food joints too accessible and convenient during the workweek, it’s definitely worth looking at healthy snacking alternatives to keep your metabolism rolling at high fat-burning levels! In recent years, our nation has seen a spike in obesity rates. Snacking is a dietary habit that has greatly contributed to the rising obesity rates due to the “empty-calorie” nature of most prepared snack foods. Empty calories provide very little nutritional value, and instead are packed with added sugar and solid fat. According to the USDA, men consume two to three times their limit of sugar and fats and women two to four times their limit! So what are some snacks that steer clear of empty calories? High-protein snacks are the way to go! Protein allows our bodies to feel full over a longer period of time. If you are filling up with protein during snacking periods, chances are you’re more likely to skip seconds and wait until lunch or dinner to eat again. Here are some protein-filled snacks that are also easy to carry around throughout the day: Nuts! Especially almonds and pistachios, as they...

Vitamin Supplements: Who Needs Them?

Do you take a vitamin supplement every day?  Will this do you any good if you already eat a healthy diet?  Or is it just a waste of money?  A recent opinion piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine states that there are no proven benefits to taking vitamin supplements.  Specifically, no benefits for those of us who live in the US and get a pretty good diet and that they don’t prevent chronic disease or death and, in fact, should be avoided.  These are pretty strong statements and are already causing an uproar, especially among those who believe that vitamins are valuable and keep us healthier.   Dr. Weil, a proponent of daily multivitamin supplements, disagrees with the article.  His view is that vitamin supplements are intended to improve the levels of specific nutrients that we are missing in our diets. An alternative, if you worry that you don’t need ALL of the supplements in a multivitamin, is a Micronutrient Test that can identify specific deficiencies to let you know which vitamins or supplements you aren’t getting enough of.  Then, the choice is up to you: Do you eat more of the foods that provide those particular nutrients or, if for instance, you dislike the foods, have food intolerances, or are a vegetarian or vegan, take only the supplements that provide those nutrients  The medical community may take decades to sort this out.  In the meantime, you need to be your own health advocate and a smart consumer of healthcare.  Use your Health Savings Account to get tested and determine what actions you need to take to be your...

I Need Vitamin D, But What About Sun Damage?

How many people do you know have recently been told by their doctor: You’re low on vitamin D?  I know 5 without thinking about it too hard.  Low vitamin D levels were in the news a while back and then poo-pooed as an overreaction.   The truth is that we are hiding from the sun, between avoiding time out in the sun because we’re working too hard or playing video games.  OK, the kids, not me.  And we slather on the sunscreen, now available in SPF 110, when we go outside.  The extremes of getting a sunburn and getting absolutely no sun at all have made it very difficult to get the right amount of vitamin D. We all need vitamin D and we have to find the right balance of ways to get it.  Vitamin D is critical for immune function, for helping your body use calcium properly to avoid osteoporosis as we get older and it may also provide protection from some cancers, autoimmune diseases, and high blood pressure.  A 2009 study published by the British Journal of Nutrition even showed evidence that the vitamin D that assists with calcium absorption can help women lose weight.  So, how do you manage the juggling act: Get your vitamin D levels tested so you know where you stand. Spend some time in the sun daily.  Even 10 minutes is enough. Wear sunscreeen every day and a hat when you go outside.  Sunscreen with high SPFs will reduce your absorption of vitamin D by 90% but will also protect you from damaging UVA and UVB rays. Ensure that you diet...

Christmas Season Wearing You Down?

This is a busy time of year for many of us.  Shopping, decorating, baking, hosting family or traveling to Grandma’s house can really be exhausting!  Yes, it’s fun and yes, it’s expected of us to do our part and enjoy the season.  I don’t know about you but I’m worn out and I’m just now coming into the home stretch with last minute activities.  What are you doing to keep your spirits and your energy up?  It’s easy to say “Take some time and give yourself a break,” but it’s easier said than done. It may be the season for exhaustion, as well as cheer, but sometimes our bodies are trying to send a message.  One supplement that could help, offered in many forms, has been called the newest energy booster.  Used to lose weight, improve the health of your skin, reduce stress and give you an energy boost, the vitamin B12 could be the answer to your short term overload.  Our body’s ability to get enough B12 through diet is limited.  It is added to many cereals but is also found naturally in shellfish and meat such as liver and beef, and in dairy products including cheese and eggs.  Injections have been found to be the most effective method for providing B12 in a usable form, although it is also available in pill and liquid.  Vitamin B12 deficiency can be dangerous if extreme and warning signs are fatigue and muscle weakness.  Your waning energy may not be caused by a deficiency but you could find some relief and much needed energy with B12 supplements. Feeling run down makes the holidays more difficult,...