Category Archives: Nutrition

Why Dr Oz is a Genius. And Why He’s a Dummy.

In last week’s Time magazine, Dr Oz wrote a piece entitled “Give Frozen Peas a Chance”.  The purpose of the article was to highlight the nutritional benefits of “ordinary” food.  No need to pay high prices for fancy organic items, he says, when a box of frozen spinach packs a punch.

In the article, Dr Oz was at once brilliant and slightly stoopid.

Why Dr Oz is a Genius

Dr Oz reminds readers: Eating vegetables, even the frozen or canned variety, is a good idea.  It’s a brilliantly simple notion. Buy and prepare veggies the way you prefer.  The bigger role they command in your diet, the better.

Why Dr Oz is a Dummy

The good doctor goes to great lengths to highlight the fact organic food is not more nutritious than conventionally produced.  This idea has never been claimed by any legitimate organic advocate.  A carrot is a carrot.  Organic or not.

The difference between organic and conventional is the use of chemicals.  Chemicals that hurt the environment and hurt our bodies.  Avoiding these chemicals is the sole reason organic is a better option for our health and the health of our planet.  Whether that’s worth the price is another debate.

Dr Oz knows this, or should, yet it’s not mentioned in this article.  A dumb omission from a smart guy.

Hints & Help for Joining a CSA

I’m not a farmer.  Don’t want to be.  Those guys and girls have rough, physically demanding jobs.  But I am envious of the access they have to delicious, organic, fresh-from-the-earth veggies.  The cornerstones of healthy eating.

I suppose I could grow a garden for my own harvest.  And someday I hope to, but my urban patio doesn’t have room for a proper garden.  Attempts at growing veggies out of planters has been met with mixed results.  Luckily for me there’s another option.  Join a CSA.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It’s a way to get locally grown, fresh veggies into your kitchen without getting your hands dirty.  A typical CSA works like this:

  1. You join and pay a recurring charge (typically monthly or weekly).  Some CSAs may also have an initiation fee.
  2. Every week you get a box of locally grown veggies.  What you get varies by season and availability in your area.

Simple as that.  Considering joining a CSA?  Let’s cover why or why not?

I’m totally doing it!

Did I mention the farm fresh local produce?  It’s really good.  My wife was amazed when our lettuce came with dirt-covered roots still attached.  And, naturally, getting a box of fresh veggies delivered weekly doesn’t make my health worse.

Maybe Not…

There is one significant drawback, however.  In many CSAs you get what they give.  Don’t know what an eggplant zucchini is or how in the world to prepare one?  You’d better figure it out cause you have a whole box of them.

Picking a CSA

Since CSAs are businesses you’ll find variety in between different entities.  For instance,  we chose our CSA, Moore Farms and Friends, because they give us the option to “shop” for what goes in our basket in lieu of the standard shipped choice.  It also allows us to skip a week and not pay a fee if we’re vacationing or utterly frightened of eggplant zucchini.

More CSAs are offering this ability to pay as you go and customize your order.  There’s likely one in your area.

To learn more than you’d really care to know about CSAs check out the website from Local Harvest.  It’ll also help you find CSAs in your area and pick one that works best for you.

Guest Post: Nutrition and Cancer

This past weekend my parents visited and we took part in the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Walk at Atlantic Station in Atlanta.  This was my wife and I’s fourth time participating, but having my mother with us made this year special.  She is a breast cancer survivor.

So it seems perfect that Jillian McKee recently reached out to inquire about a guest post sharing what she has learned about good nutrition and cancer.  Here’s Jillian’s lessons:

Healthy Nutrition for Cancer Patients

Healthy eating can help prevent chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and heart disease; it can also prevent certain forms of cancer. However, if you have already been diagnosed with cancer, it isn’t too late to reap the benefits of following a nutritious diet. In fact, the American Cancer Society recommends following a healthy diet during and after cancer treatment to improve your health, strength and well-being.

Improving the Immune System

Cancers such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and colon cancer take a toll on the way your immune system fights against germs and diseases. A weakened immune system can cause you to catch more colds than usual and leaves you susceptible to some pretty nasty bugs and infections. Eating immune boosting foods can help boost your white blood cell count, which helps to prevent infections. Foods that contain high amounts of the antioxidant and water-soluble vitamin, Vitamin C, increases your white blood cell count, produces more antibodies and prevents viruses from invading your body. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women, although this amount can be safely increased to 2,000mg per day according to the Harvard Medical School.  Foods that are high in vitamin C are citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers and strawberries.

Increasing Strength

Chemotherapy and other forms of cancer treatments can leave you needing a quick pick-me-up. Nutrition not only increases your health, but it can also improve your strength. You may be tempted to pick up a chocolate bar or a donut for a boost, but research has shown that sugary foods cause your blood sugar levels to spike, giving you a quick boost and a long crash afterward. Instead, reach for energy promoting foods such as almonds, kale, boiled eggs and shrimp. In addition to adding energy-boosting foods, eat smaller meals more frequently to keep your blood sugar leveled, resulting in a steady flow of energy.

Tissue Healing
Cancer treatment can cause damage to delicate tissues in your body. In order to help these tissues recover from aggressive treatment, you’ll have to increase your protein consumption. Protein is the building block of every tissue and cell in your body, and since these proteins are constantly being broken down, replacing them is vital. Lean chicken and red meat or fish can provide you with a plentiful serving of tissue-repairing protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can obtain protein from eating lentils, nuts, berries and soy products.

Jillian McKee

Jillian McKee

Complementary Medicine Advocate

Bringing a wealth of personal and professional experience to the organization, Jillian McKee has worked as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance since June of 2009. Jillian spends most her time on outreach efforts and spreading information about the integration of complementary and alternative medicine when used in conjunction with traditional cancer treatment.

Stay Connected with Jillian McKee

5 Precautions to Choose a Safe Supplement

On Monday I made the assertion supplements aren’t as unsafe as perceived.  However, there are definitely precautions to take when picking a supplement.  Here’s my top 5.

#1 Beware outlandish claims. Watch for things like: “Lose weight without changing your diet!”  “Get shredded!”  “Improve your IQ!”  “Grow a bigger….”  You get the idea.  If the claim seems too good to be true, well, you know the rest.

#2 Multivitamins are safe.  I always see the recommendation to avoid mega-doses (over 500% of RDA) but few drugstore brands contain this much. (Link for maximum vitamin & mineral doses).

In addition, for certain vitamins (notably vitamin D) the current literature recommends doses higher than the RDA.  But, when buying a multivitamin you do need to check one ingredient….

#3 Beware Iron.  Most overdoses associated with supplements are due to iron.  Be sure to keep an iron supplement away from children.  The amber pill could be mistaken for candy.

If your multivitamin contains iron take it 2 hours apart from prescription medicines.  If they intermingle in the stomach iron can bind drugs and not let them into the bloodstream.

#4 NSF Verified? NSF is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to consumer safety.  Check out they’re website to for verification that what you buy is what you get.  Want to take it a step further?  Join for quality reviews on over 900 products or order the Nutrisearch Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements.

#5 Herbs Interact.   Besides the iron issue, multivitamins have minimal effects on prescription drugs.  The opposite is true for herbals.  Although not all herbals can affect other drugs, some can wreak havoc.  Check with your pharmacist to be sure no potential interactions exist. (A quick interactions reference guide).

Here’s the FDA guide to safe supplement use.

Did I miss one?  What rules of thumb do you follow?

Should We Tax Junk Food?

New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman recently wrote an article outlining an interesting solution to our obesity problem.  Tax junk food, making it more expensive.  Give the tax revenue to “healthy food” producers, making it less expensive.

I like the idea.  But, I have one question….

First of all, generally speaking, junk food is cheaper.  Primarily because the ingredients they use (corn, wheat, soy) are cheaper.  They’re cheap because the government subsidizes their production. I’m not trying to get political here, just the facts.

And I’m not a big fan of huge food conglomerates putting out literally tons cheap junk food.  But it’s a free country and they’re entitled to their profits.  And hey, we’re buying it.  It is capitalism at work.

But ultimately, here’s my question with the “tax junk food” idea.   Is the reason we don’t buy  healthy food because it’s more expensive?   If a can of carrots cost the same as a can of Pringle’s would we pop the top of fresh veggies instead?  I’m not so sure.  What do you think?



Eat by Stars: Five Examples

On Tuesday I broke down my simply system for rating what foods are healthy.  Starting next week you’ll see one food ranked per day at the end of each post.  Here are five examples of what you’ll see.

Organic Spinach

Per 3 cups raw: calories 10, fat 0g, carbs 7g (0g sugar), protein 2g             

I’ve already waxed poetic about my love of spinach.  Chock full of vitamins, easy to prep, and tasty. I may consider it the perfect food.  Non-organic status knocks this powerhouse down to a  3 star.

Organic Peaches

Per 1 large: calories 68, fat 0.4g, carbs 16g (14g sugar), protein 1.6 g

Because of high sugar content I generally rank fruits 4 stars.  Please do not take this as a negative.  Four star foods can and should be eaten with daily regularity. And peaches are vastly superior to candy for your sweet tooth.  Like spinach, organic for peaches is a must.      


Per 2 slices: calories 80, fat 6g, carbs 0g, protein 5g, (290mg salt-12%DV)

Yup, bacon is a solid food choice.  Especially if you nuke it on a paper towel to absorb the fat.  Bacon adds tons of flavor and is relatively low in calories.  Plus, it’s minimally processed.  The salt content is a definite drawback.  Organic status doesn’t change this delightful food’s rank. 

Soft Tacos (flour shell)

Per 1 taco with beef, cheese, and lettuce: calories 257, fat 11.6g, carbs 23.6g (sugars 16g), protein 13.5g

I’m talking here about run of the mill, Ortega night, ground beef, make-at-home tacos.  There are obviously steps you can take to make this food healthier, which I’ll discuss later.  But, the refined flour tortilla sinks this meat boat.  Eat as a cheat meal.

Doritos (any flavor)

Per 1 Big Grab (2 ¼ oz): calories 310, fat 17g, carbs 37g (sugars 34g), protein 4g

It’s a shame, really.  I love Doritos.  But it’s mass produced junk food, pure and simple.  Little nutrition value means these guys are for the rare treat, not regular snacking.

For more in depth info click “Nutritional Info” link on right

A Vegan’s Most Important Vitamin

 A vegan diet prohibits consumption of any animal product.  This includes not only meat, but also eggs and dairy products.  A vegan diet is a personal choice and is to be respected as such.  However, vegans must be aware of a potential deficiency in one of our most important vitamins, which is only available from animal products.

Unlike all other vitamins, plants cannot synthesize Vitamin B12.  Vitamin B12 comes from bacteria that live in the guts of plant-eating animals (ruminants), most commonly cattle.  Therefore, the only dietary sources of Vitamin B12 are animal products.

Vitamin B12 is critical to several body functions and a deficiency has been linked to cognitive dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, infertility, and anemia.  Read on for five important roles it plays in your body. 

Cell growth and division

Vitamin B12 works in concert with another B vitamin, folic acid, to help cells in our body divide and grow properly.  This is especially important for our blood cells which are manufactured in bone marrow.  All of our various types of blood cells start out the same (called stem cells) and as they grow they’re shaped into what is needed.  This process can go haywire without adequate Vitamin B12.

Insulating nerve cells

Vitamin B12 is vital for the production of a substance called myelin.  Myelin sheaths and protects nerve cells.  Without myelin, nerve function is impaired.  This can effect everything from sensation and reflexes to cognitive function.

Synthesis of DNA & RNA

 As you’re likely already familiar, DNA and RNA are the blueprints of our cells, and therefore, our bodies.  Vitamin B12 is essential in their formation during cell division.  A misstep here can lead to abnormal cell division and cancer.

Turning fat into energy

Our body needs Vitamin B12 to aid in breaking down fat into forms that can be easily used for fuel.  This doesn’t mean taking a high dose of Vitamin B12 while allow you to burn fat faster and lose weight.  Vitamin B12 is simply one of several important factors for this normal body function.

Elimination of Homocysteine

Homocysteine is a byproduct of normal body function.  However, homocysteine can accumulate in the body and cause damage similar to free radicals.  High homocysteine levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Along with other B vitamins, Vitamin B12 plays an important role in converting homocysteine to a safe substance.

Vitamin B12 plays other roles in our body, such as being used as a building block for amino acids.  Clearly, not getting enough Vitamin B12 has the potential to be disastrous.  On Friday I’ll discuss Vitamin B12 deficiency, what foods are high in the vitamin, and recommended and optimal amounts to consume.

As a final note, if you are a vegan, make sure you’re taking a B12 supplement.  (Of course, I advocate for everyone to take a multivitamin anyway).  And vegans can rest assured that supplemental Vitamin B12 is not made from animal products.