By Julia Belluz,
Americans love a quick health fix in pill form: something to protect against illness, with minimal effort. For years, one of the go-to supplements has been vitamin D, thought to do everything from preventing cancer to strengthening bones.
Some bad news: Yet another big meta-study adds to the pile of evidence that it’s useless for most people.
The new research, published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, looked at 81 randomized trials on whether vitamin D prevents fractures and falls, and improves bone mineral density in adults.
The findings of the review were unequivocal. “There is little justification for the use of vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health,” the authors wrote, except in rare cases when patients are at high risk of or being treated for rickets and osteomalacia.
“Something like 40 percent of older adults in the US take vitamin D supplements because they think it’s going to prevent against fractures and falls or cancer,” said Alison Avenell, the clinical chair of health services research at the University of Aberdeen and an author on the Lancet study, “and we’re saying the supplements for fractures and falls aren’t going to do that.”
This new research builds on previous meta-studies and the large-scale randomized trials that have shown the fat-soluble hormone doesn’t prevent fractures and may not have a role in preventing cancer, but can increase the risk of kidney stones when taken along with calcium.
Of course, there are some cases when supplementation can be helpful: During pregnancy, for example, or for people who have been diagnosed with health conditions that may lead to vitamin deficiencies, like liver disease or multiple sclerosis. People who don’t get into the sun at all, like the homebound or institutionalized, may also be prescribed a supplement.
But for a health boost in people with no symptoms of deficiency, the tablet shows so little utility that doctors are even questioning why we bother measuring vitamin D levels in people who aren’t at risk of deficiency. Most of us actually get enough vitamin D without even trying.
So why all the hype about vitamin D?
The hype about the vitamin during the past two decades started with early vitamin D science. Before researchers run randomized controlled trials, they often look for links between health outcomes and exposures in large-scale population research called observational studies. And early observational research on the benefits of vitamin D uncovered associations between higher levels of vitamin D intake and a range of health benefits.
But the studies could only tell about correlations between vitamin D exposure and disease outcomes, not whether one caused the other. Still, they were enough to fuel media hype. Dr. Oz called the supplement “the number one thing you need more of.” And the vitamin D industry helped create a craze by paying prominent doctors to expound on the benefits of testing and supplementation for everyone.
But more recent randomized trials — that introduce vitamin D to one group and compare that group with a control group — have shown little or unclear benefit for both vitamin D testing and supplementation in the general population. And reviews that take these trials together to come to more fully supported conclusions, like the new Lancet paper, are similarly lackluster.
In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) brought together an expert committee to review the evidence on the vitamin and figure out whether there was a widespread deficiency problem in North America. According to the 14-member panel, 97.5 percent of the population got an adequate amount of vitamin D from diet and the sun. (Vitamin D occurs naturally in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It’s also found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereal.)
“You are at risk of D deficiency only if you have no sun exposure, live above 55 degrees latitude, and do not eat vitamin D-fortified foods or fluids [like milk],” said Chris Gallagher, a professor of Medicine at Creighton University, who wrote a comment about the new Lancetpaper. “About 80 to 90 percent of vitamin D comes from sunlight, and even 15 minutes in the midday will boost vitamin D levels to a good level.”
Still, testing and supplementation have exploded in the US. Between 2000 and 2010, the amount Medicare spent on vitamin D testing rose 83-fold, making the test Medicare’s fifth most popular after cholesterol. All that screening also led to an explosion in vitamin D supplement use, and millions of Americans now pop daily vitamin D pills.
When I asked Avenell what she thinks about the fact that so many people are diagnosed with deficiencies, she said, “It can’t be the case that just about the entire population is deficient in Vitamin D. It’s such an important nutrient, the body must have ways of making sure it doesn’t get short.”
This simple, high-temperature cooking method condenses both the sweet and savory qualities of sweet potatoes.
3 pounds sweet potatoes roughly equally sized
3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced or chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon arrowroot
Preheat the oven to 500°F.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch thick rounds. Arrange on a half sheet pan, not touching.
In a large bowl toss the potatoes with the butter/coconut oil mix and the salt and pepper.
Roast the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes, or until the undersides of the slices have caramelized to a deep brown. Carefully flip the sweet potato slices and return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Flip the sweet potato slices once again and scatter the chopped or garlic , or garlic granules, over the sweet potato slices and then pour the broth over the potatoes. Return the pan to the oven for another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely tender and the broth has reduced to a thicker consistency. Use a spatula to transfer the Melting Sweet Potatoes to a serving plate and drizzle the sauce from the pan over them.
When my children were little, they noticed that many overweight shoppers in the grocery store had a lot of processed or junk food in their carts. As I have always shopped for groceries at Publix 3 to 5 times a week for my business, my children are well educated about the correlation between health and nutrition. They used to make fun of the milk commercials on TV. They also had heard all of my info on nutrition over the years, even when they didn’t want to hear it!
We have all heard someone speak of having a metabolic disorder, low metabolism, or hormone issues that have caused their obesity. The truth of the matter that a very tiny percentage of people may have a health issue that causes a weight issue. And certainly those issues may cause a tendency to gain weight. But if you know that fact it is not that hard to keep from becoming truly obese!
Some common misconceptions;
- You gain weight from eating too much food.
- NOT true- the average American takes in about 1400 calories a day. That puts you in starvation mode, you cannot meet your nutrient needs…therefore the body holds on to everything you intake.
- Exercise will help you lose weight.
- NOT true- You must burn 3500 calories in one day to burn off 1 pound of body weight. That’s impossible. Look what it takes to burn calories-
Weight lifting – general- 234
Sex – 288
Ashtanga yoga- 351
Pilates Intermediate- 351
Aerobics – low impact- 414
Aerobics – high impact 477
Bicycling / cycling 12-14 mph 594
Canoeing 4 mph- 630
Rope jumping- 684
Running 6 mph= 684
- Limiting calories helps us lose weight
- NOT true, as most people don’t take in enough calories. They are already malnourished.
The bottom line is in order to lose weight you NEED TO MEET YOUR NUTRIENT NEEDS DAILY! It is physically impossible to do that on less that 1700 to 1800 calories a day. Factor in the junk or processed food you take in each day, the empty calories…and you further limit nutrition.
So eat 3 full hot meals a day. Think of eating how your great grandmother ate. Real food, cooked at home, with mostly organic fruits and vegetables. Eat plenty of salad. Eat a moderate amount of health y fat, a small amounts (about 4 ounces) of protein at each meal. Avoid grains and dairy.
You will feel WAY better, lose about 5 pounds a week and heal from inflammation. You are better off sitting on the couch eating a perfect diet, than eating a standard American Diet and trying to excessive to get healthier.
By Brielle Gregory Sep 24, 2018
In a long line of powders and supplements dotting our Instagram feeds (remember matcha, moringa, and turmeric?), maca root powder is the latest superfood trend picking up momentum. One quick search of #macapowder on Instagram and you’ll find more than 48,000 posts, most of which include colorful smoothies, frothy coffees, oatmeal bowls, and healthy baked goods. Even mainstream brands, like Califia Farms Almond Milk, are adding maca root to their products.
So why is everyone hopping on the maca train? For one, the plant-based powder has been touted for its health benefits, especially its ability to improve your energy and boost your libido—and who doesn’t want a quick fix for either of those?
But as with any new plant powder, we can’t help but wonder: do these claims actually live up to the hype? Or is maca root just another trendy smoothie add-in that will fade away in a year or two? Here’s what you should know before you try it.
What is maca root powder?
Maca root powder comes from the roots of a Peruvian plant called (you guessed it!) maca. The plant is in the same family as radishes and resembles a turnip, but it’s usually grown at higher elevations, says Gina Keatley, CDN, a New York-based nutritionist. “The roots are ground up and dried to create the powder,” she says.
Maca root comes in various colors, but purple varieties are rich in antioxidants.
Maca also typically comes in one of three colors: black (which can appear to have a deep purplish hue), red, or yellow, says Lorraine Kearney, CDN, NDTR, adjunct professor at the City University of New York.
But regardless of color, the powder really does (or should) come solely from the plant itself. “It’s not really a supplement; it’s just a dehydrated vegetable,” says Kearney.
Although it’s most commonly described as having an earthy or nutty taste, Kearney says she gets some sweetness from it. “You would think it would be like a beet or something, but to me personally, it tastes like a butterscotch,” she says.
What are the health benefits of maca root powder?
It’s highly nutritious
Maca has one major health claim in its corner: it touts tons of different nutrients. “It is a root, which is where plants store most of their nutrients,” says Keatley. Maca root contains vitamin C (to boost immunity), copper (vital for red blood cell production), potassium (for your heart health), and iron (to carry oxygen around the body), says Kearney. It even packs some brain power in the form of B6, a not-so-talked about vitamin that helps protect the neurons in your brain and is key in the creation of serotonin and norepinephrine, two chemicals that help balance your mood, says Keatley. You’ll also get a dose of bone-building calcium, at roughly 39 milligrams per tablespoon.
MACA ROOT POWDER NUTRITION: 60 calories, 3 g protein, 12 g carbs (3 g fiber), 0 g fat, 6 g sugar in 1 tablespoon
Maca contains antioxidant plant compounds called anthocyanins, which give the root its deep purplish/blackish hue. “The more purple or black the root is, the more anthocyanins can be found,” Keatley adds. Research shows anthocyanins may ward off inflammation and help protect against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
But aren’t there other maca powder benefits?
Maca root powder packs a nutritional punch, but there aren’t many reliable studies proving many of the benefits that have been associated with it—at least, not yet. “Overall, I think there is some evidence, but the studies are generally of poor quality and small,” says Michael Heinrich, PhD, a professor at the University College London who has studied maca, specifically for its reproductive benefits.
Overall, maca is still too new to tell for sure whether its claims are reliable, and much more research needs to be done to understand its full impact on the body. Here’s where the science stands on its most popular health claims.
“Much like other foods that claim to ‘get your motor started,’ if you have a deficiency in something like B6, maca root will fill that need and allow for the full production of sex hormones,” says Keatley. But keep that hype low: “In the very limited human trials using the root, some of the sex drive claims may be true, but all of the studies are small and have glaring flaws in them,” adds Keatley.
Plus, so many different things can squash your libido—everything from certain medications to alcohol to relationship troubles can impact your sex drive. “It wouldn’t be out of the question that maca root might have a placebo effect when it comes to female libido,” says Alyssa Dweck, MD, a New York-based gynecologist and author of The Complete A to Z For Your V. “It’s also really important to give credit to the complexity of women’s libido because there are so many things that go into it.”
Before turning to a magic pill—or, in this case, powder—to boost your libido, Dr. Dweck recommends paying a visit to your gynecologist first. Often, a low libido can be addressed by your healthcare provider in a way that’ll be way more effective than trying something like maca powder.
On hormone balance
Kearney still recommends maca root to her clients, specifically to women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome or acne, since it might have a positive impact on your body’s hormone balance and stress response, she says.
Maca root powder is known as an adaptogen, which theoretically means it adapts to the needs of the body. “Adaptogens work by supporting adrenal function and by decreasing the stress response,” says Kearney. In theory, this works to calm the endocrine system so it produces fewer stress hormones that can throw your system off, such as cortisol and adrenaline, says Kearney.
On energy levels
The powder doesn’t have any caffeine in it, so don’t ditch the cold brew just yet. However, Kearney has anecdotally had plenty of clients experience energy boosts from it. “But then I do have one or two who say they haven’t felt a difference at all, so it really does vary,” she says.
Maca side effects: Something to worry about, or no?
If you’re up for trying the powder, make sure you talk to your doctor first if you’re on any regular medications or have any health conditions, especially if those conditions are thyroid-related, says Kearney. Maca does contain goitrogens, substances that are known to interfere with thyroid function.
Women who are breastfeeding should also be cautious, as should those with hormone-related conditions, including ovarian cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
How to try maca powder
If you get the go-ahead from your doc, the first thing you should always make sure of is that you’re getting your maca root powder from a reliable source, since many powders on the market aren’t regulated or controlled for quality. If you really want to be safe, Keatley recommends buying the whole root and just powderizing it yourself. “Shave it into your dishes like you would a truffle,” she says.
It adds a subtle sweetness to morning dishes like overnight oats or chia seed pudding, says Kearney, but it can also taste delicious on cooked dishes for dinner, like cauliflower or sweet potatoes. “With the sweet potatoes, I take them out of the oven, and then I put the maca root on it,” says Kearney.
She recommends having 1 to 2 teaspoons per day for a minimum of 21 days to see the best results, since the powder can take a while to adapt to your body.
The bottom line: Although the health benefits of maca root powder aren’t yet proven by science, it could be worth trying if you’re looking for a sweet, nutritious addition to your morning smoothie—just don’t expect it to work miracles when it comes to your health.
This wonderful chopped salad is from Che Fico in San Francisco. I have adjusted it to be healthier and dairy free.
1 small acorn squash (2–3 lb.)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 tsp. honey
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 oz. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1½ tsp. dried oregano
¼ cup plus ⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2½ oz. fennel salami, sliced ⅛” thick, slices cut into quarters (about ½ cup)
1) Place a rack in the middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Cut squash into quarters and scoop
out seeds. Place skin side down on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Whisk lemon juice,
honey, and 2 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl and rub all over cut sides of squash; season with salt
and pepper. Roast until very tender, about 11/4 hours. Watch very carefully, due to the honey it can burn very quickly. Let cool.
2) Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Arrange brussels sprouts cut
side down in skillet and cook, undisturbed, until well browned, about 4 minutes. Toss and
continue to cook, tossing occasionally and reducing heat as needed, until browned all over,
about 5 minutes longer. Reduce heat to medium; add butter, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Tip
skillet toward you so butter pools on one side and cook, spooning butter over brussels
sprouts, until butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes; season with salt. Add vinegar and toss to
coat. Cook just until vinegar and butter form a glaze over sprouts. Let cool; discard herbs.
Combine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and a big pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Finely
grate in garlic and whisk to combine. Let sit 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat red pepper flakes, oregano, and ¼ cup oil in a small saucepan over medium
until oil is warm but not yet sizzling. Add remaining ⅔ cup oil to cool down infused oil.
Pour infused oil into vinegar mixture; whisk until smooth. Season vinaigrette with salt.
Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Toss scallions, salami, olives, and dill. Scoop out bite-size pieces of roasted squash until you have 2 cups; save remaining squash for another use. Add to mixture along with Brussels sprouts and glaze. Add radicchio and lettuce and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette to taste; season with salt.
Serve salad topped with pomegranate seeds.
These gluten-free, paleo-friendly mint double chocolate cookies are rich, decadent and highly addictive. They’re firm on the outside and lusciously soft on the inside.
Yield: 12 cookies
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, liquid at room temperature or melted butter
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp peppermint extract
- 3/4 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup cacao powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degreest.
- Add the coconut sugar, coconut oil, almond butter, egg and peppermint flavoring to a bowl. Use a hand mixer to cream the ingredients together.
- Add the almond flour, cacao powder, baking soda and salt to the creamed ingredients and blend together again with the hand mixer. The dough will be VERY thick and hard to mix. That’s okay, you just need it combined.
- Then add the chocolate chips and use your hands to mix everything together. It’s easiest with your hands as the dough is so thick.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and use a cookie scoop to drop mounds of the dough onto the baking tray. Then flatten the cookies with your hands into flat, cookie-like shapes. These cookies will not flatten much with cooking, so mold them into the shape you’d like. At this stage, the dough will also seem overly oily, but that will disappear with cooking.
- Bake the cookies for 13-15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking tray before moving.
These are on the menu for delivery this week. They would be just as good with chicken meatballs as with beef.
2 lbs ground grass-fed beef
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 egg, whisked
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 t teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste
For the dipping sauce;
1 mango, peeled and cut away from seed inside
2-3 tablespoons dry d mustard
1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon raw honey
dash of chili powder
salt, to taste
For the balls:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Put a large skillet over medium heat and add your diced bacon to it.
- Once bacon has rendered some fat in the pan, add your onions. Mix together and poke at it randomly to make sure the bacon and onions don’t burn. Once bacon is cook through, add the bacon and onions to a plate with a paper towel on it to cool and soak up some excess fat.
- Now add your ground beef to a large bowl, then add your cooled bacon and onions, along with egg, almond flour, and seasonings.
- Use your hands to mix all that goodness up thoroughly.
- Now roll into golf ball size balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
- Bake for around 12 minutes, using tongs, turn meatballs over. Bake another 10 minutes.
For the dipping sauce:
- While your meatballs are baking, time to make your sauce.
- Add your peeled and sliced mango to a food processor and puree until your have a sauce.
- Now add your ground mustard, yellow mustard, and honey to it and puree it all together.
- Taste to see if you want it sweeter or more tangy and add extra honey or mustard as needed.
- Add spices and salt and puree one more time.