General Health

Vitamin D And Our Health

Vitamins are needed to keep the body running properly.  Some are needed in small, others in larger quantities. Some are fat soluble and some water soluble. Let’s talk about a fat soluble vitamin—D. Vitamin D is stored in fatty body tissues.

Q:  Why do we need it:

A:  Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption, building and maintain strong bones, maintaining our immune system and decreasing inflammation in the body.  There have been promising study results using vitamin D against colon cancer.

Q: What foods contain Vitamin D?

A: Best food sources are: * Mushrooms, exposed to UV light * Salmon = 3 ounces* Cod liver oil= 1 teaspoon*Tuna Fish canned in oil= 3 ounces *Halibut= 3 ounces*Milk fortified with Vitamin D= 1 cup* Soymilk fortified with Vitamin D= 1 cup*Yogurt nonfat, fortified with Vitamin D = 1 cup * Ready to eat Cereals, fortified with Vitamin D= 1 ounces.

Q: How Much Do We Need?

A:   Recommended Dietary Allowances

Ages 1- 70 years of age= 600 IU    Over 70 years of age= 800 IU

NOTE:  600 IU may also be expressed as 15 mcg and  40 IU=1 mcg

Q: Can we get too much?

A: We know it is possible to consume toxic amounts of vitamin D through supplements but highly unlikely through normal food intakes or even when exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight which, when it hits the skin, causes a production of vitamin D.

I Hereby Resolve To...

Are you resolving to be healthier this year but are paralyzed by fear because resolutions have not worked for you in the past?  Chances are you may have set unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as “I resolve to omit sweets entirely from my diet” then find, after a few weeks, it was just too difficult to avoid them entirely.

Take time to consider what you really want to change and what it will take to get there.  As an example, if you want to be more active but have not exercised since you can’t remember when, think what baby steps you can take to be more active.  This might mean starting to walk, not setting a time goal at the beginning but just getting up and doing it a few times a week. Or, if you want to lose some weight, will that involve reducing soda intake or making snacks healthier or controlling portion sizes or getting others in your household to bring in healthier foods or to store unhealthy snacks out of sight?  Having a support system is always helpful in promoting change, whether it is a walking partner who helps you keep faithful to your plan or someone who encourages you to make healthier food choices or a friend you check in with periodically to compare progress.

Also having a means of monitoring your progress such as a simple calendar on which you mark the days you have walked can help show you that you are making positive changes or keeping a daily food diary to be more aware of your food intake.  It may take up to 18 months to establish a new habit so be patient with yourself and give yourself credit for making small, positive changes. You will be surprised, over the course of the year, how much you will have accomplished and how good that will make you feel.

For ideas and professional encouragement to develop positive eating and exercise habits, please give me, Diane Machcinski, M.Ed.,RD, a call at 858-279-5124.  I listen to your priorities, find out your eating patterns and help you develop a realistic plan.

Armed with a few simple, but concrete changes, lasting change can occur, over time, as progress and motivation build.

Should I Take Supplements?

Based on hundreds of scientific studies, the recommendation is to use a dietary supplement only if a nutrient is lacking in your diet.1

Numerous studies have demonstrated more harm than benefit from taking excessive supplements.  Here are a few examples:

In two major vitamin E lung cancer studies, the studies were stopped as individuals with lung cancer or lung disease got worse with the use of vitamin E supplements.

High doses of calcium worsened existing prostate cancer in another study.

Aspirin, vitamin E, and fish oils all keep the blood from clotting readily, so taken at high doses or taking all together, can be dangerous, especially if someone is already on a medication to thin the blood.

Further, there can be interactions with drugs a person may already be taking.  It is important to consult with your doctor, pharmacist, and registered dietitian  before investing in a supplement that may pose harm.

Consuming a well balanced diet full of colorful and flavorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources and dairy, is still at the heart of a healthy diet, without posing the risk of a toxic overdose.


1 The American Cancer Society, American Institute for Cancer Research, as well as the US Dietary Guidelines Committee 2015-2020.

Send the Kids Off With A Safe Lunch

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 6 Americans suffer a foodborne illness each year.   Much of this is preventable. To insure packed lunches can be safely consumed, attention to proper food preparation and storage are essential.   When packing lunches, it is important to not only wash hands before handling food but also to keep knives and cutting surfaces washed thoroughly with soap and hot water between uses and not just “dusted off” of crumbs and meat.  I have 2 cutting boards, one for meat, and one for vegetables and fruits. Keeping each separate can prevent raw meat juices transferring to fresh vegetables and fruits which can cause illness.

Bacteria rapidly multiply between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is important to keep cold foods as cold as possible and hot foods hot.  If food is not refrigerated or kept to a proper temperature, consume within 2-3 hours to prevent food borne illness and its symptoms (abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, the most common).  Also, if protein-containing foods have been in the refrigerator for more than a few days or have reached their expiration date, it is best to discard them, rather than to send them in a lunch when bacteria may already have reached unsafe levels.

When packing cold foods such as sandwiches, lunchmeats, or cheese, it is advisable to pack them in a hard-sided plastic container and then “sandwich” that container between blue ice, wrap securely in a small plastic produce bag and rubber band it before putting into a small insulated lunch bag to insure the cold foods stay cold.  Wrapping food tightly in a lunch bag may help keep the blue ice in place, especially if it needs to be in a backpack with books.

When packing soups or stews for lunch, keep them cold until ready to reheat.  This will avoid bacteria from flourishing, and then reheat thoroughly before eating.  If hot foods or soup is packed into a thermos, be sure to preheat the thermos by pouring boiling water into it and draining it out, before adding the hot food, so as to keep the food hotter and at a safer temperature.

Taking just a few minutes to handle and pack food properly can make a huge difference in temperature and food safety and may prevent food borne illness from occurring.

For more information visit,

Low Calorie Sweeteners - Are They Safe?

Many people suspect that the low calorie sweeteners are less healthy for the body than sugar or other natural sweeteners but extensive scientific research of more than 100 human and animal studies, has not shown a clear relationship between the low calorie sweeteners and a detrimental effect on health nor increased body weight, preference for sweet taste nor sweetness sensitivity.  In fact, when low calorie sweeteners were used in place of sugar, it helped to reduce calorie intake and body weight.

On the other hand, excess sugars or natural sweeteners, have been associated not only with obesity, but also heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke in a number of studies.

So perhaps it would be wise to find ways to reduce our overall use of sugars, whether using water or tea or coffee in place of sugar-sweetened beverages, using tasty fresh fruit more often in place of sweetened desserts, and not fear using FDA-approved low calorie sweeteners (acesulfame K—Sunett, Sweet One; advantame—most recently approved; aspartame—Equal, Nutrasweet; neotame—Newtame; saccharin– Sweet and Low, Sugar Twin;  Siraitia grosvenoril swingle (SGFE) or Luo Han Guo—Nectresse, Pure Lo, Monkfruit in the Raw; sucralose—Splenda; and stevia or Truvia, Sweet Leaf, PureVia, Enliten) in moderation.

Is There an Association Between Body Fat and Cancer Risk?

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), excess body fat is a cause of approximately 132,800 U.S. cancer cases every year.  There is significant research evidence that excess body fat increases the risk for 11 cancers, most notably, cancers of the esophagus, kidney, colon, rectum, breast, pancreas, and endometrium.  There is also sufficient evidence of increased risk for cancers of the liver, stomach, gall bladder, and ovaries associated with excess weight, according to the AICR.

The mechanism of this increased risk is attributed to the excess body fat triggering increased estrogen production which increases cell production.  Increased cell production, as experienced by those especially with an “apple” shape or a waist circumference that exceeds that of the hips, means a greater likelihood that cancers can develop and grow.

Excess body fat can also trigger an inflammatory response in the body.

So, to reduce body fat and cancers associated with it, the AICR recommends:

  • Avoid sugar drinks and limit intake of calorie-dense foods.

  • Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes such as beans

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes/day which, even in normal weight individuals, can help to reduce the likelihood of developing certain cancers

2015 Dietary Guidelines for Sugar

The latest guidelines for Americans, recommends limiting added sugars to 10% of calories.  For an average adult who needs 1800-2200 calories, this is 11-14 teaspoons of added sugar per day.  Keep in mind, that “added sugar” does not apply to foods high in natural sugar such as milk, yogurt, bread, unsweetened cereal, rice, beans, all  vegetables and unsweetened fruit. Added sugars. or “empty calories” which have no nutritional value contributes to extra calories and extra weight which can  put us at risk for diabetes and heart disease. A 12 ounce can of soda has 9-12 teaspoons of sugar.

We consume about half of  our calories from added sugars from sodas, juice drinks, flavored coffees and teas and pastries and candies. Here are some practical recommendations to begin reducing your sugar intake:  Drink water in place of sugary drinks. Don’t like plain water? Add some flavor, by putting a few cucumber slices, lemon slices or a few strawberries in your water. Buy a “fun size” or regular candy bar instead of the large bar or the entire package of candy.  At the office or at home, keep fresh fruit or natural fruit cups, baby carrots, prepackaged natural peanuts, and single serving raisins in your desk drawer or on the counter at home. Craving ice cream? Go out to purchase one cone or better yet, buy your ice cream in a cup.

A healthy diet consists of a variety of protein, fats and carbohydrates for essential nutrients to fuel our bodies. This will help keep your calories in a reasonable range to manage your weight.  The Dietary guidelines were developed by the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA health and nutrition experts after reviewing scientific information.

Coconut Oil–Good or Bad?

Coconut oil is made from coconut milk or dried coconut meat. It is used in a variety of settings, including cooking, skin care, and even as an alternative fuel source, just to list a few. It has been a staple in tropical regions of the world for thousands of years. Dietitians have known and used coconut oil for some time now since it has been used medically in individuals with compromised fat digestion or sensitive gastrointestinal tracts. It usually comes in a jar and it is commonly hardened, or as a solid. It quickly changes into liquid form (oil) when heat is applied. Coconut oil, as with coconut milk, contains saturated fat, so a moderate intake of coconut oil is recommended. As consumers, look for virgin coconut oil which contains a type of saturated fat that raises both good and bad cholesterol levels. So overall we recommend moderation when consuming this oil while looking for ‘virgin’ on the label.

Coconut Milk–Is It Something You Want to Give Your Children?

Coconut milk and coconut milk-made products like yogurt or ice creams are also very popular among vegetarians and  individuals with a cow’s milk allergy or dairy intolerance. Coconut milk is made by grating the meat of the coconut and  collecting the liquid. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat and is an ingredient in many Southeast Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Philippines) recipes and many cuisines. Let’s remember that saturated fat is a type of fat that raises the level of total cholesterol in the blood, also containing higher calories, so moderation is key.

When dealing with children, parents who prefer coconut milk rather than cow’s milk for their children should realize that cow’s milk contains various vitamins and minerals that are essential for a child’s growth and development. Coconut milk’s is not a substitute for cow’s milk, it is lower in protein, calcium and other nutrients found in dairy milk, that could lead to nutrient deficiencies. As well, the effects of a too much coconut milk in a child is unknown. If children do consume coconut milk, they should also add other foods and beverages to their diet to complement the lack of specific nutrients.