Should You Take Vitamins And Supplements?

should you take supplementsGo to any health food store, supermarket or pharmacy and you’ll find a huge selection of vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements.  Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, can be quite expensive, and may or may not offer any health benefits at all.  Are dietary supplements safe?  What are the best supplements?  What popular nutritional supplements such as fish oil are worth considering? Should you take vitamins and supplements at all?  There is no easy answer to the question.  That answer depends on many factors including one’s overall health, age, genetics and the environment.

Factors To Consider With Vitamins And Supplements

I would rather get all the nutrition my body needs through the food I eat than to take supplements.  However, I still take certain vitamins and minerals daily.  The main thing anyone can do to improve health is to stop eating the SAD (standard American diet).  The “western” diet in general is high in bad seed and nut oils, sugars and excess salt.  Most of these high levels of health destroying oils and sugars gets into our bodies by eating processed foods.  These “foods” may be convenient in the moment, but regular consumption of these foods can contribute to obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease.  Ideally, one would get all vitamins and minerals through vegetables-I strive to eat a diet where the majority of the food I consume are fruits and vegetables.  Because I eat a  lot of vegetables,  I don’t take a multivitamin.  Someone else my need to take one because their dietary intake is low in vitamins and minerals.  Overall health, based one’s eating habits is the first factor to consider if you want to feel the best you can.  Do you eat like crap?  If you do, you might want to supplement with a multivitamin.  I have high blood pressure that runs in my family.  Because of this, I take additional potassium and CoQ10 because it may help to lower my blood pressure.  One might want to investigate what supplements can help if you are predisposed to a certain disease.  Certain nutrients, can be lacking in most of our diets because the soil our food is grown in is mineral deficient after years of depletion.  As we age, our bodies tend to make less of certain chemicals needed for health.   Here are a few of the supplements I take.  Anyone interested in optimum health, no matter how healthy they eat, might want to consider these as well.

Basic Dietary Supplements For Everyone

Vitamin C

As I stated in my post on vitamin C,  vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, is needed for tissue repair and growth, and assists in wound healing and bone and teeth maintenance.  Large doses of vitamin C (up to 2 grams a day)  can reduce mortality factors such as heart disease and stroke.  It is  water soluble.  If you have too much in your system, your body excretes it.  Because of it’s safety and inexpensiveness, I consider it a good bet towards overall health insurance.

Magnesium

As stated on the National Institutes Of Health fact page on magnesium: “Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.”  Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet because of soil mineral depletion.  Even if you eat foods that contain magnesium, the magnesium levels in those foods are lower than they were in the past.  Because of this fact, my genetic predisposition towards high blood pressure, and it’s major role  so many body processes, I choose to take it daily.

Vitamin D

Most of us are aware of Vitamin D and its relationship with bone health by helping the body absorb calcium.  It has also been linked to treatment and prevention of cancer, autoimmune disease, heart disease and diabetes. Dairy and seafood are the most obvious sources of dietary vitamin D.  Most if not all dairy in the supermarket has been pasteurized for storage.  Unfortunately, that process destroys vitamins and minerals in the milk and they are added back in after the fact.  Some people feel that these added nutrients are poorly absorbed.  A larger issue is the quality of these dairy products.  Factory farmed dairy has far lower levels of these nutrients including vitamin D, than grass-fed pastured animals.  So, much like the case is with magnesium, dietary intake is less than optimum.  I do not supplement with vitamin D as long as I drink raw whole milk from pastured cows and eat butter made from the milk of grass fed cows.

Omega 3/Fish Oil

I’m not sure of where I stand on Omega-3 supplementation honestly.  It is anti-inflammatory, can help with pain management and depression.  However after reading Chris Kresser’s article on fish oil, I am very concerned that most Omega-3 oils on the market may be rancid.  Eating rancid oil is about as healthy as smoking cigarettes to me and currently I am trying to eat more seafood-up to a pound a week of wild salmon, tuna and shellfish to get my omega-3’s.  Limiting omega-6 fats in the diet will help as well since most people are technically not omega-3 deficient, but the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in most diets is skewed.  Most people consume too much omega-6 through processed foods.  The human brain is approximately 8% omega-3 fats  a fact that should motivate everyone to get enough omega-3 fats in their diet.  If I was not eating seafood, I would take moderate amounts of omega 3 supplements just to cover my bases.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is not widely known to many but very necessary to overall health.  It helps the body utilize calcium by directing it towards the bones instead of the arterial walls.  It may play an important role in preventing certain cancers such as prostate cancer.  Large dose therapy is used to help remineralize teeth.  If you are eating grass fed butter, lacto-fermented foods and pastured eggs, you are probably getting enough in your diet.  If you aren’t eating those things you might want to research the benefits of vitamin K2.

Additional Supplements

N-acetyl Cysteine

N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC) is derived from the amino acid cysteine.  It is the precursor to glutathione-the body’s master antioxidant.  Glutathione supports the liver and detoxification and protects DNA.  NAC can support the body in cases of influenzaAcetaminophen poisoning, and COPD.  As a former smoker, I take it daily as insurance and up my intake when I am coming down with a cold or flu.

Coenzyme Q10

Another antioxidant produced by the body, CoQ10 is responsible for providing energy to cells in the body and production declines with age.  If you know anyone taking a statin to lower cholesterol they need to supplement with CoQ10 as statins deplete the body’s levels.

Betaine HCL

As the body ages, stomach acid production declines.  Betaine is used to help existing stomach acid digest food properly to extract all those vitamins and minerals from those organic veggies you’ve been eating.  Taking it before a meal not cause you problems with excess night time stomach acid.

NAD

This is a precursor to nicotinamide mononucleotide which was discovered in 2013 to help reverse mitochondria degradation.  Supplementation may help the aging of all cells in the body…..pretty huge if it’s true…check it out here.  My next supplement experiment.

Optimum health is built on the building blocks of optimum nutrition.  Consider trying some of these supplements if there are holes in your diet that might benefit from supplementation.

Bacon Flavored Seaweed Snacks

I’d like to talk about seaweed and give you a bacon flavored seaweed snacks recipe that I love.  I’m very fond of those roasted seaweed snacks you find all over nowadays.  Annie Chun’s and Trader Joe’s are a few of the companies that come to mind who make these addictive treats. Nori, the seaweed that is wrapped around your sushi roll, is basically flavored and lightly oiled and then roasted.  Salty and crunchy, these are a great satisfying snack that has no carbohydrates, and has a pretty good nutrient profile.  Seaweed nutrition is impressive.  All types of seaweed whether it’s kelp or nori or kombu are high in fiber, low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin b12 and iodine.  Unfortunately, the added ingredients and the types of oils used when manufacturing them make most seaweed snacks less than ideal.  Google image searching “seaweed snack ingredients” will reveal some of these undesirable ingredients: maltodextrin and brown sugar are a few things I’d like to avoid.  I am trying to avoid added sugar wherever I can.  The choice of oils concerns me as well: sunflower, safflower and olive oils are omega 6 heavy and are not real stable oils.  The western diet already has too much inflammation causing omega 6 oils-one reason I try to limit added vegetable oils wherever I can. Vegetable oils tend to go rancid when heated as well.   “These roasted seaweed snacks have so much going for them besides these “junky” additives” I thought to myself.  “If only I could get them made with lard”.  “Yeah right” I told myself.  “Just go all the way and make them with bacon somehow.”

 

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What an interesting idea!  Well, I had some bacon fat in the fridge, and found a few recipes online and tried it out…

Most recipes are pretty straight forward-oil sheets of nori, season and either pan roast or roast in a low oven.  I followed the procedure detailed at maangchi.com.  For seasoning, I used a small amount of sesame oil.  I found this acceptable considering the majority of oil used in the recipe would be bacon fat. Man, I love the taste of sesame oil.

For 20 nori sheets I used a mixture of 2 tbs of bacon fat and just shy of a teaspoon of sesame oil mixed together.  Working on top of paper towels, I used a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of oil on the shiny side of the nori which was facing up:

 

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I sprinkled a small amount of sea salt and placed another sheet, smooth side up on top of the first sheet.  I continued this process until all the sheets were used up.

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At this point, I rolled all the sheets of seaweed into a roll and wrapped it in paper towel.  I let this set and rest to allow the nori to soak up the oil mixture as I heated up a cast iron skillet over medium heat.   I placed a sheet rough side down into the hot skillet and pressed it down with a spatula.

20160102_142144  The nori will shrink and curl as it gets hot, hence the spatula to flatten it out.  After about 20-25 seconds, I placed another sheet, rough side up on top of the sheet in the pan.  I then flipped the two sheets so the new piece was rough side down on the pan and roasted it for another 20 or so seconds while I repeated this process with the remaining sheets-each time making sure the rough side would be the side that touches the pan.

At this point your’re done.  Let them cool and cut into squares.  I went a little heavy on the oil when I prepped the sheets.  Because of this, they were a little greasy and I ended up blotting the sheets on paper towels-much like as you would bacon.  Place in an airtight container and store in the freezer for maximum crispness.

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These taste pretty amazing.  They have a strong blast of seaweed and bacon with a nice peppery finish.  You know they must be pretty good because I’m describing the taste as if I were talking about a fine wine.  And I don’t have to think about excess sugars or rancid oils as I pig out on them!

Other recipes call for roasting in the oven.  In the future I will try this method as well.  I believe the real trick however you make these is to keep the oil on the light side.  Next time I’ll be wiping the oil mix on with a paper towel and see how that goes.   The tip to store in the freezer from maangchi.com is spot on-these were still crispy a week later.

DIY roasted seaweed was pretty easy overall with pretty awesome results.  I was looking for an easy to make, great tasting snack that is pretty much guilt free.  I’ll be experimenting with the choice of oil and seasonings as well.  Coconut oil, clarified butter, onion powder, garlic powder, powdered mushrooms….who knows what else?  If you want to make a suggestion of your own, why not contact us on our Facebook page and let us know!

Egg Nutrition And The Health Benefits Of Eggs

food-316412_1280Eggs are an extremely dense source of nutrition you should consider.  They are quick,convenient, and can be prepared many ways.  With the recent suggestion of the  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee,  the myth that eggs are bad for you can start to fade into the past.

Egg Nutrition And The Health Benefits Of Eggs

Let’s start out with eggs nutrition and then we’ll get to the calories in an egg.  The protein in eggs is outstanding at 6.3 grams for one large egg.  This egg protein is also quickly absorbed by the body (1.5 to 3 hours) and contains over 17 amino acids.  Eggs score pretty high in vitamins D, A, Riboflavin and B12 .  They are high in minerals as well with one egg providing 28% of the DRI of selenium and 18% of your daily iodine needs.  There are approximately 78 calories in one egg.

Eggs are very high in choline.  One large egg contains up to 35% of the Daily Recommended Intake suggestions.  Choline is considered an essential nutrient.  It was once thought the body manufactured all the choline it needed, but current research is proving we need additional choline supplementation to our standard western diet.  Choline is a methyl donor, meaning it helps support methylation-one of the most basic processes of life. Building DNA, nerve signaling, and liver detoxification are just some of the body’s activities that use methylation.  Choline helps keep cell membranes fluid.  Choline is also the precursor of acetylcholine which is responsible for basically powering your nervous system.  It keeps your heart beating, and is necessary for telling the muscles in my fingers to contract so I can type this post.  A study posted in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition basically stated that  higher choline intake is “related to better cognitive performance”.  Choline intake has the ability boost your memory and learning as you age.

Eggs are fairly high in cholesterol, a fact that led many to believe that limiting your egg intake would help lower cholesterol levels in the body.  Eggs were fairly stigmatized until recently when in early 2015 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a government panel that meets every five years, dropped the recommendation that Americans limit intake of dietary cholesterol such as eggs or shrimp.  They changed the recommendation based on research that states that dietary cholesterol has little or no effect on blood cholesterol for most.  In an article on the New York Time’s blog: 

““For many years, the cholesterol recommendation has been carried forward, but the data just doesn’t support it,” said Alice H. Lichtenstein, the vice chairwoman of the advisory panel and a professor of nutrition science and policy at Tufts University.

Dr. Krauss said that some people experience a rise in blood cholesterol after eating yolks and other cholesterol-rich foods. But these “hyper-responders” are such a minority — roughly a few percent of the population — that they do not justify broad restrictions on cholesterol intake.”

Add to this the fact that the human brain is 60% fat with around 25% being cholesterol.  Cholesterol is also used to insulate nerves much like the insulation on copper wires prevents wires from shorting out.

In addition to the committee’s recommendations are other studies that are reporting that there is insufficient evidence for dietary fat guidelines put in place in the UK and the United States.  Eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids, inflammation busting fat that is low in the western diet.

Fresh Eggs vs Store Bought

Check in most grocery stores and you’ll find some high omega-3 eggs for sale.  Basically the hens that lay these eggs are fed feed high in flaxseed which is high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Factory farming of egg laying chickens is not necessarily the ideal environment to produce a quality egg.  In fact, because of the poor conditions of egg “factories”, most workers have to wear masks to avoid breathing dust contaminated with bacteria and feces.  Store bought eggs tend to have more bacteria on the eggshell than a fresh one.  Its not a stretch of the imagination to question the freshness of flaxseed (which is apt to go rancid because of its high oil content).  This isn’t going to produce the highest quality egg.  It’s unnecessary as well.  All eggs have omega-3 fatty acids.  In fact, [Tweet “…eggs from home raised or pastured chickens contain two to ten times more omega-3 than store bought”]  They also contain 2/3 more vitamin A, twice as much vitamin E and three to six times the vitamin D of store bought.  Pastured eggs are the way to go if you are looking for optimal nutrition.  Local farms, farmer’s markets and even health food stores are great places to purchase pastured eggs.  You might even consider raising your own.  Raising chickens for eggs in an urban setting has been rising steadily for years.  They are fairly easy to keep and the thrill of a morning fresh egg is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Cooking Eggs

There are so many ways to cook eggs from simple frying and scrambling to fancy frittatas.  One of my first ways to perfect eggs was how to hard boil eggs:

Place eggs in a pan with cold water an inch above the eggs.  Heat on high until the water boils.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit ten minutes.  Transfer the eggs to cold water or pour cold water in the pan to stop the cooking process.

Another favorite way to prepare eggs is baked eggs.  Here’s my take on the popular baked egg in an avocado.  You get all the health benefits of eggs plus fiber and additional omega-3s from the avocado.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Halve an avocado, remove the pit.  Remove a small amount of flesh to accommodate an egg.  I like to mush the bottom of the avocado slightly so it has a flat spot to rest on in the pan.

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Crack an egg into a small bowl and pour into the hole in your avocado.  I like to place some onion and pepper I sliced thin with a mandoline in the hole before the egg.

I usually top with a little cheese since everything goes great with cheese.

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Place in an oven safe pan, dish, whatever and bake for 10 to 15 minutes-basically when the white sets to your liking, its ready.

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Eggs are pretty incredible when you consider the health benefits they pack into their high nutrients and the many delicious ways to prepare them.  From helping to reduce inflammation to boosting your memory, eggs are food for health.

Homemade Lard

homemade lardIn my quest to eat cleaner and healthier, I was looking to get rid of those liquid vegetable oils you might use for high heat frying.  Soybean oil, corn oil, mixed vegetable oil etc.  All byproducts of farming with pesticides.  Hell, cottonseed oil comes from a crop that isn’t even grown for human consumption. And manufacturing these oils involves heating them and exposing them to solvent extraction.  Vegetable oils that contain polyunsaturated fats…these fats are chemically unstable,  meaning its very easy for them to break down, or go rancid.  Air, light and heat cause oils to go bad.  Rancid oils contain free radicals that can damage your body on a cellular level. Vegetable oils are exposed to air, light and heat when they are manufactured.  Remember, these are byproducts of crops usually produced for feed.  They are not manufactured with human health in mind, these oils are manufactured to monetize the leftovers of grain production.  They are manufactured the cheapest way possible.

Olive oil is good for your health, but its low smoke point can damage the oil at frying temperatures destroying those great health benefits of the monounsaturated fat it contains.

I just wanted to roast some potatoes without freaking out about the health hazards of cooking in toxic oil….

Enter lard.  Yup, lard.  Lard is solid at room temperature…that’s because the chemical bonds in the saturated fat are very stable.  Less breaking down, harder to go rancid.  Consider the french confit:  meat (usually waterfowl) is basically salted and braised in its own fat as a means of food preservation.  The confit entry on Wikipedia states:” After salting and cooking in the fat, sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, confit can last for several months or years. Confit is one of the oldest ways to preserve food, and is a specialty of southwestern France”. Can last for even years.  Lard has a high smoke point, making it ideal for high heat.  It is low in omega-6 fatty acids which the American diet is pardon the pun, saturated with.  It’s great.  But don’t buy it from the store.  The junk in the store is….you guessed it…the byproduct of animal manufacturing that is manufactured in the cheapest way possible.  They add a lot of preservatives and hydrogenate the oil to  make it last longer on the shelf.  Bad stuff man.  Luckily, making your own lard isn’t that hard.  It will keep for a long time in your fridge.  It will also make your food taste great.

Making Homemade Lard

I followed the process outlined on the healthyfoodie.com.  It’s very complete and in depth. Basically you start with some high quality pork fat, as natural as you can get.  My butcher sells only natural meats including some of the nicest pork available in the country.  I asked if he had any pork fat.  The most common types of used are the back fat and the fat from around the kidneys also known as leaf lard.  James didn’t have any leaf lard, but he did have back fat.  Next, I cut the fat down, eventually into small diced pieces:

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Everything goes into a stock pot on medium heat, and you wait.  And stir.  And wait.  And eventually, the fat will melt and become liquid.  Continue to heat and stir.  Maybe pour some of the melted fat off as you’re waiting for the rest of the fat to melt.  Because it’s off the back, back fat has a small amount of skin attached to it. Theses small pieces of meat/skin get cooked in the fat and were the last thing in the pot as I strained off the fat.  I transferred these “lardons” as they are called to a cast iron skillet and finished them off:

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These things are seriously better than bacon..soooo  good.  Pour the oil into jars, let cool and keep in the fridge:lard

Reach for the lard any time you are needing to cook with high heat. Especially potatoes.   Potatoes roasted with lard instead of oil come out flaky and crispy on the outside.

The whole process of making lard was inexpensive, didn’t take a whole lot of time, and was fun (lardons!).  And I’m not so concerned that I’m poisoning myself next time I roast some vegetables.