Blog post written by Kaitlyn Smith, IUPUI dietetic intern
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for our bodies, but many people do not get enough! Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. In fact, approximately 35% of American adults have vitamin D deficiency. In this blog, we will uncover sources of vitamin D, why it’s necessary and what complications vitamin D deficiency has on the body.
Image from onbetterliving.com
Why do we need vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps to maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in our blood to build healthy bones and tissues. It also supports a healthy immune system, promotes normal cell growth, and helps fight inflammation.
Sources of vitamin D
The recommended amount of vitamin D per day is:
We can get vitamin D from several different sources, including:
Image from www.yalemedicine.org
Vitamin D deficiency
Anyone can be affected by vitamin D deficiency. However, some people are at a higher risk of not getting enough vitamin D, including:
These individuals may benefit from additional time in the sun, eating more vitamin D-rich foods, and/or a vitamin D supplement.
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include:
Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed with a blood test. If you are experiencing these symptoms or have other concerns, please contact your doctor to assess the best plan for your individual health.
Increasing vitamin D intake
Besides spending more time outdoors, we can make sure we are getting enough vitamin D through the foods we eat. Try these simple ways to meet your daily needs:
Vitamin D impacts our body in many ways, so it is important to get enough on a daily basis. For more resources about vitamin D, please refer to the sources below.
Blog post written by Madison Stutsman, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Trillions of bacteria and viruses exist inside our bodies. Most of them are found in a pocket of the large intestine. This is what we refer to as the “gut microbiome”. The gut microbiome has many good bacteria, but it can also be home to bad bacteria.
In fact, there are more bacteria in your body than human cells. There are up to 1,000 different types of bacterial species in the human gut microbiome. Most of these bacteria are extremely important for your health, while others can cause disease.
Image from digestivecarephysicians.com
Having a balance of both good and bad bacteria helps with digestion and keeps the body and its functions healthy. Too much bad bacteria in the body can lead to digestive issues, low energy and disease. Living a healthy lifestyle can help the good bacteria grow and keep the bad bacteria in check!
How Does the Gut Microbiome Help My Body?
The gut microbiome helps the body in many ways, including:
Image from gut microbiotaforhealth.com
How Do I Keep My Gut Microbiome Healthy?
The foods you eat play a large role in controlling what types of bacteria live in the gut. One of the easiest ways to improve gut health is by introducing prebiotics and probiotics to the body!
Image from soundprobiotics.com
A healthy gut plays an important role in your overall health, so eat to support it! Try these recipes to add more prebiotics and probiotics into your day:
Blog post written by Hallie Little, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Image from www.vanwell.net/pollination
National Pear Month...Why Care?
Did you know that December is National Pear Month? If you are anything like me, you probably don’t eat pears very often. But fear not, you will be a pear expert after reading this post!
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American only consumes about 0.9 cups of fruit a day. This falls short of the 1.5-2.5 cup recommendation set by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If you have never tried pears, they may be a fun, new way to increase your fruit intake!
All About Pears
Pears grow on trees. About 88% of pears in the US are grown in Washington and Oregon. They grow best in this region due to its volcanic soil, clean mountain water, warm spring days, and cool nights. They are in season from August-October, making them a great choice for a budget-friendly fall fruit. Below are some different varieties you may want to try. The Bartletts are the most popular and common in the United States.
Image from www.sujajuice.com
One medium pear has about 100 Calories. It also provides:
Image from galafruit.net
Gut Health: Pears can help improve your gut health. They contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. Fiber can help improve bowel regularity as well as soften and bulk up stool. Soluble fiber in pears also serves as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
Rich in Antioxidants: Antioxidants can help to decrease inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation increases your risk for chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. Eating fruits (like pears 😊) and veggies regularly can help decrease your risk for chronic disease.
If you are buying fresh pears, you should be aware that they may be hard, green, and unripe. However, pears ripen best off the tree. Just like bananas ripen off the tree over time, pears will ripen (and soften) when left on the countertop. The pear should be slightly soft, but not squishy. Once the pear is ripe, it should be stored in the refrigerator.
You can also find pears in the canned fruit section. If possible, it’s better to buy pears canned in juice. Pears canned in syrup will have more added sugars.
Image from kroger.com
5 Ways to Enjoy Pears
Image from www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com
All in all, pears are a delicious way to incorporate more fruit into your diet. They are a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Let us know in the comments section how you plan to celebrate National Pear Month!
Blog post written by Samantha Bradshaw, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Photo from www.healthydirections.com/articles/digestive-health/gut-health-benefits-of-fiber
Fiber: What is it and why is it important?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that humans cannot digest. Fiber passes through the body and works to manage how the body uses sugar. This process keeps hunger and blood sugar at a normal level. There are two types of fiber that can be consumed: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
How is fiber beneficial to overall health?
A diet high in fiber can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, inflammation of the intestines (also known as diverticular disease), and constipation. People who eat high fiber diets also have a lower risk for metabolic syndrome (multiple conditions that develop together and increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke). Fiber, specifically soluble fiber, is good for maintaining the bacteria in your gut as well as controlling blood sugar, helping with weight management, immunity, and brain function.
Which foods are high in fiber?
Fiber can be found in almost any type of whole food that comes from plants. Generally, whole grains, legumes, beans, fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Some examples of high fiber foods include oats, barley, lentils, pears, brown rice, whole wheat bread, apples, and chickpeas.
Fiber can also be added into foods in the form of chicory root or inulin. Look for these words in the ingredients list on food packages to know if fiber has been added.
Photo from www.theplanettoday.com/foods-that-contain-fiber/
How much fiber should I eat each day?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended amount of dietary fiber intake is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories a day, you should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.
The Institute of Medicine recommends different levels of fiber by age and gender:
Image from employees.henrico.us/county-connection/fill-up-with-fiber/
To put this in perspective, a 40-year-old woman could meet her daily fiber requirements by eating:
Tips to increase fiber intake:
There are many ways you can boost the amount of fiber in your diet. It is important to increase your fiber intake slowly and gradually to prevent side effects like gas, bloating, and cramping. It is also important to drink plenty of water so fiber can work properly in your body.
While most people can meet their dietary fiber needs through food, others may benefit from a fiber supplement. Be sure to talk to your doctor and/or dietitian before starting any supplements!
Original photo by Samantha Bradshaw
High-Fiber Oatmeal Recipe
This simple breakfast recipe provides a filling 7 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein to keep you fueled all morning!
Recipe makes one serving. Nutrition information: 435 calories, 64 g carbohydrates, 15 g total fat, 15 g protein, 7 g fiber. Allergen information: contains peanuts and gluten (unless gluten-free oats are used).
Blog post written by Julie Summers, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
June is National Dairy Month!
National Dairy Month started as a way to distribute extra milk during the summer months. The celebration was established in 1937 as “National Milk Month.” By 1939, June became the official “Dairy Month.” Dairy foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and more. In general, one cup of milk or 1 ½ ounces of cheese can be considered as one serving from the dairy group. Three daily servings of dairy is recommended by MyPlate.
Dairy products contain essential nutrients that can promote health, help manage weight, and reduce risk for high blood pressure, osteoporosis and certain cancers. Dairy farm families focus on producing wholesome dairy foods. Having worked on a dairy farm myself, I know how much eating dairy foods can benefit both the nutrition of our nation and the farmers who work hard every day to take care of their cows.
Image from independent.co.uk
Essential Nutrients Found in Dairy Products
Image from loseitblog.com
Key Takeaway: Dairy provides essential nutrients that are important for health. Celebrate National Dairy Month all year long by choosing three servings of dairy foods every day!
Looking for some inspiration to eat more dairy? Check out these recipes on NutritionHub or visit winnersdrinkmilk.com!
Blog post written by Kelsey Black, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
March is National Nutrition Month®!
To celebrate this time of focusing on good nutrition, let’s take a closer look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines provide advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutrient needs, promote health, and help prevent chronic disease. The newest addition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (released in 2020) is the first to provide information on healthy dietary patterns by life stage. This includes birth through older adulthood, as well as women who are pregnant or lactating. If you would like more information, visit DietaryGuidelines.gov or MyPlate.gov.
Making Every Bite Count
Adults who regularly exercise and eat a balanced diet tend to feel better, have better bone health, and reduce their risk of many diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, and certain types of cancer).
So, what does a balanced plate look like? Use MyPlate as a guide! This tool can help you "make every bite count" by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy or soy alternatives at each meal. Eating a well-rounded mix of foods from each food group is important for promoting health at each life stage.
Key Messages for Every Life Stage
Content contributed by Ricah Lucero and Samantha Presslor, IUPUI Dietetic Interns
November was National Diabetes Month, but you can take steps to prevent or manage diabetes all year long. This is especially important as we enter the holiday season, which can be filled with tempting treats, stressful schedules, and cold winter weather!
Good nutrition is one key step in diabetes prevention and management. Choosing nutritious foods in the right amounts can help you reach your health goals, whether that is controlling your blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, or reaching a healthy blood pressure. However, it can be overwhelming to try to track the exact amounts of each food that you eat. A simple first step is to be mindful of portion sizes.
Serving Size vs. Portion Size
A serving size is the recommended amount of food that is listed on a package or used in nutrition guidelines, such as MyPlate. For example, the serving size of ice cream listed on this Nutrition Facts label is 2/3 cup.
Photos from walmart.com and lmld.org
A portion size is the amount of food that you actually serve yourself and eat. This can be more or less than the recommended serving size. For example, you may fill your bowl with ice cream, which actually holds 1-2 cups. Portion sizes at restaurants have increased over the years, and one entrée can sometimes have 2 or more servings!
Reading labels and monitoring portion sizes can help you limit added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat in the foods you eat. In turn, this can promote blood sugar control, weight management, and an overall healthy lifestyle.
A "Handy" Guide for Estimating Portion Sizes
A good way to portion out food is to use measuring cups. However, since you may not always have measuring cups with you, there are other simple ways to estimate portion sizes. One way is to use something that is always with you: your hands!
Different parts of your hands are about the same size as common serving sizes:
Image from fitstylebyshana.com
Estimating Portion Sizes with MyPlate
MyPlate is a another tool that can help you estimate portion sizes and plan balanced meals. The goal is to fill your plate with foods from different groups so you get all the nutrients your body needs. Here are the basic guidelines:
Some people with diabetes may be able to manage their blood sugars by following these simple guidelines at meals. Others may need to look more closely at specific serving sizes.
The image below shows common serving sizes for each MyPlate food group. You will notice that fruits, vegetables, and dairy are measured in "cup equiv", which is short for "cup equivalents". Grains and proteins are measured in "oz-equiv", which is short for "ounce equivalents" These are simply ways of measuring different foods in a way that provides a similar nutrition value. For example, 1 slice of bread has about the same carbohydrate content as 1/2 cup of oatmeal. One egg has about the same protein content as 1/4 cup of beans.
The chart below shows how many servings of each food group the average adult needs each day. Let's say a 40-year-old woman wants to plan out how many servings of grains she should eat each day. The chart lists "5 ounce equivalents", which means she can have 5 servings of foods that each equal 1 ounce equivalent. This could be 1/2 cup of oatmeal at breakfast (1 ounce equivalent), a sandwich with 2 slices of whole wheat bread at lunch (2 ounce equivalents), and 1 cup of brown rice at dinner (2 ounce equivalents).
Your exact needs may be different based on your age, gender, weight, activity level, insulin sensitivity, etc. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov and talk to a doctor or dietitian to make a plan that meets your specific needs.
This blog post was written by Kursten Nisonger, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
Have you ever heard of “Eating the Rainbow” when it comes to adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet? This means filling your plate with every color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. There are benefits to including all of these colors into your diet that can improve your health in the long run! This month is National Fruits and Veggies Month (#NFVM) and we want to get the message out about increasing fruit and veggie consumption!
Each color corresponds to a specific health benefit of eating the fruit or vegetable:
Photo from trilliumhealthresources.org
As you can see, eating every color of the rainbow is good for your health! Fruits and vegetables also include important vitamins and minerals that your body needs, such as:
Photo from fruitsandveggies.org
It is important to eat many different fruits and veggies to help keep our bodies healthy and working properly. Try to eat 1-2 cups of fruits and 1-3 cups of vegetables every day, depending on your age and calorie level. You can also use MyPlate as a guide by filling half of your plate with a rainbow of fruits and veggies.
Mental health has been a growing topic of discussion in recent years. New research is revealing more about the factors that affect psychological and emotional health. We are also learning more about the important role that mental well-being plays in many different factors of our society: academic achievement, economic success, family stability, medication management, and much more.
What does this have to do with nutrition? Recent research has shown a connection between a healthy, balanced diet and improved mental health.
Photo from nutrition.org
There are many possible reasons for this connection:
1. Nutritious foods - such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins - are full of nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. This includes supporting proper brain growth and development in kids, reducing inflammation, regulating mood, boosting energy levels, and fighting off disease.
2. Eating a balanced diet can support healthy weight management. Being at a weight that is healthy for YOU (this is different for each individual and each stage of life) can keep your body feeling its best and promote a positive body image.
3. When you feel better, you tend to eat better...and when you eat better, you tend to feel better! Mental health problems, such as depression, can sometimes lead to poor nutrition choices as a coping mechanism. On the other hand, good mental health can empower individuals to make nutritious choices throughout their day.
4. Food affects the chemicals in your brain. In fact, healthy foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes can boost levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, and higher levels of this chemical in your brain make you feel happy and energized. Empty calorie foods, like sweets or fried foods, can make you feel slow or sleepy.
Photo from www.premierintegrativehealthkc.com
Note: Food alone is not meant to be a treatment for mental illness. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional about what is best for managing your personal health!
Interested in learning more? Visit these great resources, which were used to develop the content of this blog:
Content contributed by Tess Regan, IUPUI Dietetic Intern
What is zinc and why do we need it?
Zinc is an essential mineral, meaning it is necessary for good health. Vitamins and minerals are types of nutrients used to help the body work. Some minerals we need in major amounts and some we need trace amounts. We need large amounts of major minerals but small amounts of trace minerals.
Zinc is a trace mineral, so we only need a small amount each day. Zinc cannot be made or stored in the body, meaning we must have a steady supply through the food we eat. It is found in food sources and nutrition supplements. Zinc is used to help us fight off colds and heal wounds. The body also uses zinc to make our DNA and help us grow and develop during childhood.
How much zinc do I need in a day?
Children should consume 3-5 milligrams of zinc daily. Teenage boys and adult men should consume 11 milligrams of zinc daily. Teenage girls and adult women should consume 8-9 milligrams of zinc daily. (For reference, one milligram is about the size of one grain of sugar or sand.) Refer to the chart below for specific suggestions:
Chart from nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer.pdf
Which foods contain zinc?
Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. The best source of zinc is in oysters, which can be hard to come by. Red meat, chicken, and seafood are other great animal sources of zinc. Beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are great plant alternatives sources of zinc. Zinc can also be found in fortified cereals, dairy products, and even cough drops and multivitamins!
Photo from thefitglobal.com
How do I know if I am getting enough zinc in my diet?
The amount of zinc in your body can be measured through a sample of blood. However, there are some physical warning signs that may hint at low levels of zinc. These can include weight loss, wounds that don't heal, decreased sense of smell and taste, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. Zinc deficiency is not common in the United States. Most people get enough zinc through the foods they eat. However, some groups of people may be at a higher risk for zinc deficiency. These include:
Do I need to take a zinc supplement?
A supplement, such as a multivitamin or shake, is not necessary for most people. Individuals who eat meat, beans, nuts, and/or whole grains are likely meeting the daily requirements of zinc. However, over-the-counter supplements are available for individuals who may not get enough zinc in their diets. Be sure to talk to your doctor or a dietitian before taking any supplements. The best way to maintain healthy levels of zinc is to include a variety of foods in your diet!
Staff Registered Dietitians at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, along with guest blog posts by dietetic interns