Saturday, December 26, 2009

What Kind of Omega-3 Oils Should I Take?

My doctor told me to take fish oil pills for a touch of high cholesterol. I was just wondering what is better: Fish oil pills or omega three or salmon pills.  Also, what is the best oil to cook with.... I think it is olive oil but not sure.  Thank You. Anne H.

Dear Anne,

You are absolutely right about olive oil being good for cooking. As one of the monounsaturated oils (along with canola and peanut oil) this type helps lower your total cholesterol without affecting the "good" (HDL) level, as polyunsaturated oils, such as sunflower and safflower have been found to do.

Regarding the Omega-3 fatty acids: They are found in fish oils, including salmon, so you are on track with your information. Most capsules provide 1000 mg and your doctor likely suggested one per day. Higher doses should not be taken without your physician's advice as there can be harmful side effects for some people at this level. My own physician suggested capsules of flaxseed oil, which is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, instead of fish oil merely because there is no danger of a fishy aftertaste later in the day. I think that is good advice!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Are My Vitamins Good Ones?

I was wondering if you might know anything about spring valley vitamins and how effective they are? I buy them at walmart, so I'm wondering about the quality of them. I've been taking a vitamin B complex and seem to have much more energy, even with less sleep. but i still want to make sure I'm buying good vitamins that will really benefit my body. thank you, Amanda H.

Dear Amanda,

While the number of supplements available are too numerous to keep up with brand specifics, I do know that the FDA regulates supplements to be sure they contain what they say they do and that there are no false claims made about what they can do. So I would feel comfortable saying that vitamins sold at Walmart are as good as those sold in health food stores which may be more expensive.

What B vitamin pills do is supplement your diet. Few people have B vitamin deficiencies since they are plentiful in carbohydrates (breads, cereals, rice, etc) and many are fortified. Some reasons that a person may have a deficiency would be from excessive alcohol intake or eating mostly non-enriched sources of refined starches (for example, large amounts of sugary soft drinks and candy).

The feeling that you have more energy is more likely coming from your mind than your body. While B vitamins help your body use the energy (calories) you get from eating carbohydrate foods, they don't actually give you the feeling of having more energy as in being energetic or more awake.

The best supplements provide about 100% of the daily value and not a lot more. If your supplements provide 500 or 600% of the RDA for these vitamins watch for bright yellow urine--this is just your body's way of flushing out all the extra that is not being used!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Should I Take an Iron Supplement?

I've heard that Iron is good for improving memory and mental sharpness. Is that true? Is iron available as a suppliment, and if so are there any dangers involved with taking it? I would assume it would be much safer without the red meat tied in with it?  --Nick T.

Dear Nick,

I have not heard that iron has any effect on memory or mental function.

Iron is available as a supplement. Men need about 10 mg per day, and it is rare to see iron deficiencies in men. Be sure to check the label of a supplement you choose to be sure it isn't more than 100% of the RDA. The tolerable upper limit for males is 45 mg.

Taking more than you need does have potential side effects. Iron can build up in the body and deposit in the organs, causing organ failure. There are no symptoms to warn of this condition until damage has occurred. Therefore, I would recommend speaking with your physician before taking an iron supplement.

If you would rather avoid the cholesterol and saturated fats in red meat, other good sources of iron are turkey, dried beans, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Help the Hungry This Holiday

If you have young children and you could use some nutrition tips, here's a great resource. Click here to buy "Expert Nutriton Tips for Your Toddler". It's 52 pages of questions answered by pediatricians and dietitians. For only $9.95 you not only get the book, but ALL of your money goes to fighting hunger in America. Donations go to "Share Our Strength" to help end hunger in America.
Get your copy today and feel good about contributing to those less fortunate.

Have a healthy and happy holiday season.

How Can I Increase My Metabolism?

I would like to increase my metabolism as much as possible. I am 29 years old and can remember having a very good metabolism as recently as age 24 where I didn't really need to exercise and wouldn't really gain anything. I am 5' 11" and 205lbs, and at least Wii Fit is telling me I'm in the middle of the overweight category. Are there charts that tell people by how much their metabolism tends to slow down by age, as well as when a person moves away from an ideal BMI? I'd really like a guide to have a clear idea of the norms. Particularly how much metabolism I have to gain by getting myself back down to say 160lbs. -- Mike J.

Dear Mike,

My favorite site for computing your BMI is by the NHLBI

Just enter your height and weight. They also explain the body mass index.
As for your goal weight, that is very reasonable for your height.

Changing your metabolism has so many variables there are not really instructions on how to do it... everyone is different. What were you doing differently in your daily life when you were 24? Even without feeling like you were exercising it's likely you were more active. Maybe you walked more in your job or played on a sports team. Maybe as you've gotten older you've been able to afford to eat out more and that generally comes with more calories.

If metabolism slows with age it's probably due to a decrease in muscle mass and there's evidence that does not have to occur if you always work on keeping your muscles in shape. Usually that starts after age 35 for women, and older for men so that's probably not what's at work with you.

My best advice is to start keeping a food and exercise diary. There are many sites that help you do this online if you have regular access to a computer, such as or . You may realize after keeping track that you are eating more than you thought or moving much less.

Remember to take your time losing those 45 pounds. More than 2 pounds each week means you may be cutting calories too much. You're much more likely to keep the weight off by changing your habits to include about 500 fewer calories per day and upping your activity by another 250 calories. All these reputable diet sites listed above can translate that into daily foods and activities!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Can Fat People Starve?

I am just wondering, can fat people starve themselves? I would think if both fat and calories are both energy that can be burned, that a fat person can't starve until they become thin? --James. T.

Dear James,
You are correct in assuming that a person with ample fat stores would not starve to death from lack of energy stores. However, if an overweight person ceased to eat (or ate extremely poorly) they could still die from malnutrition. Having inadequate vitamin and mineral intakes could lead to deficiency diseases after several months and most of these are ultimately fatal. Protein is also vital and there are no body stores.  After a time without protein the body becomes more susceptible to infections and poor recovery. The heart and kidneys, among other organs, would be reduced in size and strength to the point they could not sustain their function adequately to support life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Is Orange Juice Fattening?

I was wondering if 100% fresh squeezed orange juice is going to slow my weight loss on my diet?  Chris. R.

Dear Chris,

There is no one food that's going to blow a diet. It totally depends on the sum of the foods you eat, and the portions are also quite important.
Orange juice has about 11 calories per ounce, so a 6-ounce glass in the morning will be a valuable contribution for your daily intake of vitamin C, folic acid, and other nutrients. I would definitely put orange juice just about last on my list for giving up on a diet. However, do keep in mind that drinking four 12-ounce glasses a day is another story!

Foods that will really hamper your weight loss efforts are those high in sugar and fat: donuts, pies, ice cream, soda, fried foods--these I would give up for a diet because you aren't missing out on anything that's very good for you by avoiding these, but you are giving up a tremendous number of calories.

Good luck!  And for more information on a healthy and well-balanced diet during weight loss I always like the food guide pyramid site for their wealth of information.