Nutrient Spotlight on Vitamin D

From the Author Nutrient Spotlight

This post is part of the series Nutrient Spotlight... meant to explore the what, why, where, and how of important dietary players, with some culinary inspiration to get you started.

For the first HGN post of 2018, let’s give vitamin D the Nutrient Spotlight.

What is it? // Why do I need it?

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for proper cell growth, reduction of inflammation, helping nerves carry messages between the brain + every part of your body, and aiding the immune system in fighting off bacteria + viruses. Adequate vitamin D also helps the body absorb + utilize calcium, and it may play a role in decreasing risk or progression of a variety of chronic conditions, including cancer.

According to the 2005 to 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, roughly 41% of American adults are deficient. Low levels are linked to suppressed immune health, decreased mental clarity, depression, hypertension, muscle aches + spasms, bone pain, and severe asthma + rickets in children. Low vitamin D also increases risk of type 1 + type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and several types of autoimmune diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis + Hashimoto’s disease.

In pregnancy, vitamin D helps the body utilize not only calcium but also phosphorus, and it promotes strong teeth, bones and eyesight for the developing fetus. Maternal deficiency is associated with increased risk of gestational diabetes, and may lead to muscle spasms in the newborn.


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Nutrient Spotlight on Iron

From the Author Get Schooled Nutrient Spotlight

This post is part of the series Nutrient Spotlight... meant to explore the what, why, where, and how of important dietary players, with some culinary inspiration to get you started.

This edition of Nutrient Spotlight highlights iron — an essential mineral found in every cell of the human body.

What is it? // Why do I need it?

Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood, increasing blood supply and promoting tissue growth. Iron also provides energy, and plays supporting roles in immune health, promoting strong hair, skin and nails, as well as female fertility. It is crucial a woman increases iron stores prior to pregnancy, as the female body often uses its own iron to supplement the growing baby, putting the woman at risk of postpartum anemia. Low maternal levels may also increase risk of infections, preterm delivery + low infant birth weight.

Additionally, adequate iron levels help protect against lead absorption, and can help mitigate the effects for those exposed to lead. In conjunction with a diet rich in calcium and vitamin C — two nutrients that improve iron absorption — the body is able to not only limit the absorption of lead but also promote its excretion.

Iron deficiency is not uncommon in the United States, affecting as much as 7% of the population. Symptoms of deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, fast heart rate or sensation of an abnormal heartbeat, shortness of breath, brittle nails, pallor, or a craving for ice and, in severe cases, for other “non-foods” like detergent, chalk, dirt – a disorder called pica. (Learn about the many different types of anemia from the Mayo Clinic.)

Excess iron, from diet and/or supplementation, may cause constipation or result in other forms of mild to serious GI distress. Extremely high iron levels are not too common, but may raise disease risk, most dangerously for a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis (if predisposed), coma or worse.

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Nutrient Spotlight on Calcium

From the Author Nutrient Spotlight

This post is part of the series Nutrient Spotlight... meant to explore the what, why, where, and how of important dietary players, with some culinary inspiration to get you started.

What is the most plentiful mineral in the human body? You guessed it – calcium.

What is it? // Why do I need it?

Predominantly found in the skeletal network, calcium is vital to strong bones and healthy teeth, essential in the prevention of osteoporosis, degenerative bone diseases, fractures, and age-related bone loss. It is also part of the framework that makes up our tissues, nerve cells, blood and other fluids wherein it helps promote a strong heart and circulatory system, proper muscle and nerve function, blood clotting, and the release of certain hormones.

During pregnancy, adequate maternal stores of calcium promote healthy development of fetal bones, muscles, teeth and heart. Deficiency may result in decreased maternal bone mass, tooth damage and increased osteoporosis risk later in life as the woman’s body will pull from her stores to strengthen those of the baby. Adequate maternal calcium is still important after delivery to enrich the baby through breastmilk and prevent depletion of maternal bone stores.

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New Blog Series: Nutrient Spotlight on Folate (Folic Acid)

Eat Well From the Author Nutrient Spotlight

This is the start of a new series on the HGN Blog: Nutrient Spotlight.

From major vitamins and minerals, to types of fiber and tiny phytochemicals, each Nutrient Spotlight will explore the what, why, where, and how of a different important dietary player. I also plan to share a few recipes rich in that particular ingredient, to send you off with some culinary inspiration.

For National Birth Defects Prevention Month (January) and Folic Acid Awareness Week (8-14 January 2017), the first Nutrient Spotlight is on folate.

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