Vitamin D, Osteoporosis Vitamin? Or Something Else?

Vitamin D…is it the new Calcium? There’s no question that your body needs Calcium AND vitamin D to make strong bones, but I’ve seen some health care professionals recommend that we ALL take calcium supplements, especially after menopause, to prevent bones from becoming brittle. The issue is, recently studies have shown that the supplemental calcium is doing more harm than good by contributing to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart attacks. 

osteoporosis

So then, in another effort to control hip fractures, physicians started recommending that EVERYONE take vitamin D to keep bones strong, and then a meta-analysis just came out showing that there is not a statistically significant benefit to taking large doses of vitamin D if you aren’t deficient. (If you have been prescribed vitamin D because you are deficient, BY ALL MEANS, please keep taking it!) Given this information, it appears that prescribing vitamin D for the widespread “prevention” of osteoporosis doesn’t work, and it is costing us large amounts of money in supplements and could potentially be doing some harm if people are overdosing on vitamin D. So what SHOULD we do to prevent Osteoporosis?

There is no panacea

First of all, there is nothing that you can take in pill form that is going to cure and prevent everything. Unfortunately, the manufacturers of these vitamins, minerals and other supplements want you to believe that their supplement is the answer to life. If you only take this pill, you will be beautiful, have amazing skin, eat less, weigh less, work out more, get your dream job and live happily ever after. Don’t fall for their marketing tricks! Instead, you can figure out what works for your body and what your body needs. The truth is, some people need vitamin D supplements and some people don’t. It’s not something that every single person should take. If you want to jump through all the science-y stuff and get straight to my recommendations, Click Here.

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Unfortunately, most people who have vitamin D deficiency are asymptomatic, or may have mild symptoms that they attribute to other things. They are also symptoms that are associated with a million other things, like fatigue, tiredness, bone and muscle pain and/or weakness, etc. Source

Get tested for vitamin D deficiency

I recommend to ALL of my patients who are having any type of health problems including weakness or fatigue to get tested for vitamin D deficiency. It’s a very simple blood test that is SO easy to perform and can be very telling. I, personally, have been deficient in vitamin D during several times of my life and was given a supplementation regimen until I came back above the goal. If you are pregnant, have darker skin, live in a northern climate with less sunshine, or stay out of the sun all the time because you stay indoors or cover your skin (with cloth OR sunscreen!), you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. A simple blood test will tell you. But say you have plenty of vitamin D stores, consume enough calcium, and are still worried about your bones? What can you do?

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source: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#h4

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Bone health isn’t about just calcium and vitamin D

So now that we know that popping vitamin D and calcium pills may or may not fix our bones or prevent osteoporosis (at least not without affecting other systems), what can we do? The truth is that bone health deals with SO MUCH MORE than just calcium and vitamin D. If calcium and vitamin D solved all bone problems we would have the best rates of bone disease with our 612 pounds per person per year milk (about 1.5 gallons/week/person! Yikes!) consumption which is rich in calcium and fortified with 115-124 IU vitamin D per serving. However, that is not the case. It is estimated that 1 in 2 Americans will have or be at risk for developing osteoporosis by 2020. That number is too high considering our high milk intake! Consider, though, other countries who are less….well, processed. 

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In this map, the red means risk of fractures is >15%, yellow means it’s between 10-15%, and green means it’s less than 10%. 

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 Map Source

What is it that they’re eating in Colombia, Spain, Australia and the Phillipines that is so great at reducing risk of bone disease?! 

Spanish diet – a mediterranean diet high in fish, nuts, legumes, eggs, fruits, vegetables, cheese, tomatoes and olive oil. Moderate intake of wine and meat. Here’s a list of traditional Spanish recipes.

Colombian diet – includes large amounts of meat (!), seafood (as it is right on the ocean), coffee, fruit, beans, cheese, eggs and coconut.

Australian diet – high in meat, seafood, eggs, fruit and vegemite, a spread that is similar to nutritional yeast.

Filipino diet – high in meat, fat, seafood, vegetables, rice and coconut.

So what’s the deal? Well, here are some things that are common veins among these diets that are crucial for bone health. Most importantly, though, is to eat a traditional diet with tons of unprocessed, traditionally prepared foods.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A recent study published this past summer via Ohio State University looked at women’s consumption of omega-3 (commonly referred to as n-3) fatty acids as well as omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and rates of osteoporosis. It turns out the women who ate larger amounts of omega-3 fatty acids had lower rates of osteoporosis. Another important factor to look at is omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. The higher amounts of omega-3 in relation to omega-6 means lower risk of bone disease. That means you could eat all the fish and seafood you wanted, but if you were eating large amounts of omega-6 seed-oils like safflower oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, nuts and seeds, you would be increasing your omega-6 fatty acid so much so that the omega-3’s would be overpowered and wouldn’t perform as expected. This is because omega-3 fats and omega-6 fats compete for the same enzymes, which is why the ratio is so important.

So where do you get omega-3 fats? Seafood!! Fish and other sea creatures have the largest amounts of omega-3 fats and the longest chains of omega-3 fats (i.e., DHA and EPA). The longer the chains, the better, because our bodies are not great at converting shorter chains found in walnuts and flaxseeds to the longer chains that are biologically active in our body (DHA and EPA). Notice that all of the countries in the list of the least amount of bone fractures have diets high in seafood.

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Minerals

Boron

Boron is not a mineral you typically think “YES! I need boron for my Bones!”, but it’s true! According to this study, albeit a small study, eating boron rich foods improved bone mineralization in post-menopausal women. It is interesting to read this study, though, because it was a very controlled environment where the women were fed different diets by the scientists and all urine was collected as well. The women who were given 3 mg of Boron daily had markedly lower excretion of magnesium and calcium, suggesting that bone re-mineralization was increasing. Also, there is some evidence that boron can help alleviate arthritic symptoms. Boron is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, so following a high-plant diet is the best way to get plenty of boron. (Peanut butter and raisins are two great sources of boron in the American diet.) Of course I always, always recommend food above supplements, and if you are eating a nutrient-dense diet based on fruits and vegetables, you likely don’t need a Boron supplement. Before beginning a supplement regimen, speak with your physician; however, if you have trouble eating boron-rich foods for one reason or another, here is a supplement you can take: 

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Boron 3 mg 100 tabs from Nature’s Way – $4.14

from: VitaSprings.com
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Magnesium

It has been shown that Magnesium blood levels are lower in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis. Whether this has to do with absorption or intake, that is the question and more research is needed to figure that out. I work with dialysis patients, and a couple of years ago I went to a conference all about dialysis patients, updates, nutrition, etc. One of the physicians there who was also a faculty member at a major university in Colorado had done a significant amount of research on magnesium, and had found that dialysis patients with higher levels of serum magnesium lived longer. A fascinating fact, but still just a correlation with no evidence of cause. Nevertheless, magnesium is an important mineral for your body and contributes to bone health and prevention of cardiovascular disease, but whether that is JUST the magnesium that is affecting health, or whether it is a confounding factor (i.e., a factor that happens at the same time but doesn’t always mean it is the reason for it) of a nutrient dense diet, we don’t know. What we DO know is eating vegetables is good for you ;), so eat up! 

Magnesium rich foods (try to include these in your diet BEFORE taking a supplement): coffee (Colombia, anyone?), fish sauce (common in the Philippines), Spinach, Beet Greens, Tea, Bitter Melon (totally Filipino), kelp

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Nature Made Magnesium Citrate 250 mg, 120 Liquid Softgels – $17.39

from: VitaSprings.com

Vitamin K2

Perhaps the most under-researched and under-emphasized vitamin, vitamin K2, a fat soluble vitamin, is absolutely crucial to bone health. Found in fatty meat, eggs, liver and other animal products, this is also a vitamin that has decreased in our diets because of the low-fat diet recommendations that have overpowered our nutrition system for the past 30 years. In one study looking at the relationship between vitamin K2 and osteoporosis, participants who had osteoporosis received a 45 mg vitamin K2 supplement vs. the control group which received a placebo. While the study group did not increase their bone density, they did have a statistically significant decreased rate of bone fractures, which is important to note. Here’s a scientific article explaining possible mechanisms for my science-geek friends.

Unfortunately vitamin K2 has not been well studied and so its sources are not well defined, other than saying that it is present in fatty animal foods like egg yolks, butter, liver, chicken and beef. Also, vitamin K2 is produced by bacteria who convert vitamin K1 (found in leafy greens) to K2, so some hard and soft cheeses are rich in vitamin K2 as well as natto, a traditional Japanese fermented soybean dish, and possibly sauerkraut due to the fermentation of the cabbage.
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Vitamin K2 ( Vitamin K-2 ) 60 tabs, from Source Naturals – $14.03

from: VitaSprings.com
 

Overall Recommendations 

Do not follow a low-fat diet

As can clearly be seen by our need for vitamin K2, plus other fat soluble vitamins, a low-fat diet is clearly not a good idea. Furthermore, traditionally eschewed foods like butter, organ meats and cheeses are actually really important for bone health.

Eat your leafy greens

Leafy greens are great for mineral intake like magnesium, iron and calcium. You actually can get plenty of calcium from just leafy greens and broccoli, despite the recommendation for 3 servings of dairy a day. I am not hating on dairy; I love to have a serving of yogurt for the great probiotics every day, but I do not think dairy is the solution to all bone problems; you have to get your leaves in, too.

Fermented foods rock

Natto is a great example of this, but other fermented foods like sauerkraut, cheese, yogurt, etc., could be instrumental in helping you keep your bone density because of the bacterial conversion of vitamin K1 to K2. Also, fermented foods tend to be better tolerated by people than their non-fermented counterparts, to keep that in mind.

Eat a varied diet full of nutrient-dense foods

Lastly, the more varied your diet is, the better. Make sure you are trying new things often or at least switching up the same ol’, same ol’. If you’re craving something different, go out on a limb and try it. You may really be benefiting your health by getting some nutrient or phytochemical that you didn’t even know (and science didn’t even know) you needed.

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Best Probiotics for Kids & Children

This is part of my FAQ Series. Disclosure: I use affiliate links in this post, and if you click through this site and buy any of these products, I will receive a commission, and you will be supporting this website and all the hard work and research I do. Thank you!

Question: “What is the best probiotic supplement I can give to my kids? Can they take an adult probiotic supplement, or do they need one specifically formulated for children? Please advise.”

bestprobiotics

Answer: Probiotics have been proven to help a number of health conditions including, but not limited to : IBS/IBD (Irritable Bowel Syndrome/Irritable Bowel Disease), Recurrent Yeast Infections, UTI’s, Allergies, Autoimmune Diseases, etc. People often ask me whether they can give their kids probiotics supplements. They ask me if there are any powdered supplements they can mix up for their kids or anything chewable. Also, for kids that are old enough, I get asked if they can take an adult probiotic supplement without adverse side effects, or if the dose should be lower. I answer all these questions, and more, below.

Food Above Supplements

The number one best way to get probiotics into your child is to give them probiotic-containing foods. Kefir and Yogurt, for example, according to the National Yogurt Association, contain more than 100 million living bacterial cultures per gram. If you consider a 4 ounce container, which is over 100 grams, that is 10 billion cultures in a very delicious format. In addition to that, most cultured products contain 5 or more strains of bacteria, and kefir usually contains up to 12. That is a lot of good bacteria for your gut! Compare that to popular supplements that contain only one strain. Furthermore, home fermented probiotic foods may have any number of strains of bacteria. It’s hard to even know for sure because they are usually “wild caught”. Also, price is a factor. If you are buying yogurt as a snack, you are already going to spend the money on snacks, so you might as well get a 2-for-1. 

As far as supplements go, it may be difficult for the bacteria in capsules to make it to the small bowel intact.  They may die in transit, or get killed by stomach acid. This is one reason it’s important to buy a quality probiotic supplement; however, if you can – get your kids their probiotics from some plain yogurt with fresh fruit or a kefir beverage. You could also try them on sauerkraut or other fermented foods, but I would understand if you couldn’t get your children to eat it – the sour taste can be unappealing to a child.

Best Kid-Friendly Probiotic Supplements

The above being said, it is possible that your child doesn’t like yogurt or kefir and won’t eat it or other probiotic foods. If that is the case, I would (usually) recommend a supplement. There is no proof that a kid formulated supplement is any different from an adult formulated supplement, that I can find. Seems like a marketing trick to me. Instead of looking for kid formulas, when looking at a supplement, it’s important to look for two things: number of live, active cultures AND number of bacterial strains. The number of cultures is important because you want to put as many bugs in as possible to give them the best chance at survival. Some of them are going to get killed on the way to your small bowel, and that’s ok; but the more you take, the more will make it. The number of strains is important because there are millions of different types of bacteria and they all have different functions within our gut. One study showed that your gut has more than 5,600 strains of bacteria in it. For this reason, the more types of strains you take, the better you are going to control any symptoms you may be having because you have a better chance of them surviving and crowding out the bad bacteria, and that’s one of the points of taking probiotics. The bad bacteria can cause bloating, pain and suffering, and have been linked with IBS. The overgrowth of the bad bacteria results in a condition called SIBO.

Powders

Udo’s Choice Infant’s Blend Probiotic Powder, 2.64 oz, Flora Health – $16.30

from: VitaSprings.com is a good choice because it contains 1 billion live, active cultures in just 1/4 teaspoon. There are 6 different strains.

Think about that for a second. You can just mix this small amount of powder into your infant or child’s food, and get a decent amount of probiotics, albeit a tenth of the amount they would get from a 4 ounce cup of yogurt. This is great for infants who are still drinking formula or breastmilk – yes you can mix it into that! You could also mix it into juice (although I do not recommend much juice), mashed sweet potatoes (not too hot, or else you’ll kill those good bugs!), applesauce, or any number of other foods. Feel free to get creative. You won’t have to worry about getting your kids to swallow a pill. This is appropriate for children ages 0-5, although it could be used for adults or seniors, even.

 

 

This is another excellent product,  iFlora Multi-Probiotic Powder, 1.48 oz, Sedona Labs – $25.95
from: VitaSprings.com.

This one is a little more expensive; however, it contains 16 strains versus only 6 in the one above. The serving size is the same, 1/4 teaspoon. This one contains 16 billion bacteria per serving. If the above product is the cadillac of probiotics, this iFlora product is the Rolls Royce. It packs more probiotic punch per serving, hence the steeper price. I would highly recommend this product if you can afford it. Also, don’t be afraid to stick it in the fridge to keep the cultures as fresh as possible.

Note. I realize that iFlora has a product “specially formulated “for kids. I have not read any evidence that children’s probiotics need to be any different from adult probiotics, and it has fewer strains, which is why I recommend using the adult version for kids, unless your child is having difficulty tolerating supplements.

 

Chewables

I personally would choose a powder over a chewable; however, if this is what you want, go for it! I could understand if you had a child who had diarrhea and wasn’t really in the mood to eat food but would be willing to chew a pill. 

Chewable Probiotics, 120 Tablets, Roex – $29.95
from: VitaSprings.com

This would be an example of a chewable product. It’s raspberry flavored. It only contains 3 strains and 10 billion cultures. There are a couple of caveats, however, in addition to the few strains. First of all, it contains xylitol, a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols have been linked with intestinal symptoms due to … bacterial overgrowth!!! So I’m not sure it’s the best choice to be feeding the potentially bad bacteria with the good bacteria. Also, this contains milk, so if you are feeding probiotics because your kid can’t have yogurt due to dairy intolerance, avoid this one. If you can figure out a way to work in the powder, I would do that.

 

 

Here’s another option that contains no xylitol, and is instead sweetened with stevia: 

Probiotics Plus Colostrum Chewable, 90 Tablets, ChildLife Essentials – $18.32
from: VitaSprings.com

Again, though, there are only 3 strains in this chewable tablet. I tried to do some research, and couldn’t find the number of live active cultures. Also, this tablet has milk proteins in it, although it does say on the label that it is “milk free”, which is somewhat misleading. I would avoid it if your child has any tolerance issues with milk.

 

 

So, in the end, I would recommend the iFlora product, but you may decide on something else because of price and individual tolerance. If you do go the store and buy a product, just remember to look for the number of strains and the number of live active cultures. Also look at the other ingredients, and make sure there’s nothing funky in there. It doesn’t hurt to google the inactive ingredients in anything you choose.

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FAQ: How to Find Research on Nutrition

This is part of my new FAQ series. As questions come in from readers, I will do my best to answer them here, under the FAQ tag. 

Question: “I really admire all the reading and self-sorting you do through literature. I would love to do even a fourth of all the home-research you do! But I am sort of stumped as to where to go/look for new articles. Do you just go to pubmed and type in whatever topic you’re interested in reading about? Or do you have a newsfeed/email subscription? I am totally willing to pay, I just want to make sure its worth the money & my time! I completely trust your judgment, so please share your secret with me!”

Answer: I always encourage my readers to do their own research, which is why I try to link to studies whenever possible. It’s not good enough to just take my word for it, or any expert’s word for it, or the government sponsored organizations’ word for it, as I mistakenly did for a number of years. Once you start reading research, you open your eyes to a plethora of new ideas out there that aren’t even mentioned in mainstream nutrition thoughts. Also, sometimes just going through the news articles, you’ll find that what is reported in the news and what the research says are TOTALLY DIFFERENT! This drives me absolutely crazy.

Also, I just genuinely enjoy reading nutrition research, it’s a sick pleasure of mine ;). A lot of times, I do take cues from other bloggers. If I see they linked to a research study, I click the source link, and then try to dig up the article. Google Scholar is great for this, you can type the name of the article into Google scholar, and if it’s available for free somewhere, you can usually click on the right hand side of the page and it will pull it up. On PubMed, the PDF can be accessed if free via the upper right-hand corner. If you read the research study itself, you can see its weaknesses and its strengths. Furthermore, if you see a meta-analysis, it doesn’t hurt to click through to each individual study and read those; although be careful with this. The point of a meta-analysis is that you get to analyze collective data which says more than just that study alone. A good example of this is the recent saturated fat meta-analysis. All the studies alone said saturated fat was either harmful or neutral, but when you put them all together and adjust for some of the lifestyle factors or lab results that weren’t adjusted for, the data says something completely different. There is some criticism that these results were “over-adjusted”, but that’s entirely off-topic.

Since this is a How-To article, I’m going to take you through some step-by-step methods for finding research articles. Pull up Google Scholar (type in scholar.google.com into your address bar)google scholar_1 

In that search bar, I want you to type in “gastroesophageal reflux disease” because I want to look at a real study on some ways to improve a common disease, GERD. This is what you will see (oops. I accidentally typed “gastrointestinal” but it brought up the right results):

 google scholar_2

My sad face denotes the articles that don’t have a PDF available on the right hand column. This is the great thing about Google Scholar. If Scholar has found a PDF available for free, they will display the link on the right-hand side so you don’t have to dig for it. You’ll notice that some of these are studies and some are just review articles written by physicians. If you are looking for a specific article, you need to type the article title into Google scholar AND into regular Google and see if you can find a PDF. Sometimes GS even brings up Books. So, I’m going to narrow it down by adding “clinical trial diet” into my search. Now I see this: 

google scholar_3

 

As you can see, I’m particularly interested in the second article, because it contradicts what the experts tell us all the time – that we need to decrease our fat intake to get rid of GERD (although, this is referring to hospitalization and not necessarily SYMPTOMS of GERD, which is why we read the research and not the headline). But how do you read it if there isn’t a PDF available for you? And if you click on the link, it takes you to a page that requires you to pay $31.50 for ONE article?! (HOW unfair is THAT?!) So here’s what you do.

Go to PubMed and find the listing by typing in its title (which you can actually use to search in the first place, if you want. They have a link to click on the upper right hand corner if there is a PDF available). You can copy and paste it (CTRL+C then CTRL+V). Most people are familiar with PubMed, so that’s why I want this link.

Then I am going to ask other people for help (which I do often!). There are a few places that I can go to ask for help. I am listing them in order of ease.

1) Reddit Scholar (thanks to my friend Lauren for this one!)

Please note, information that is copyrighted may not be able to be posted on Reddit Scholar. But, you can always try to post a request on Reddit Scholar and ask if anyone else knows where to find it. Most of the people who frequent Reddit Scholar are academics who do have library access, so this would be similar to an interlibrary loan, except faster.

reddit scholar

 

There is a screenshot of my request. You have to have a reddit account, so sign up for that first. Also, don’t be greedy. If you are constantly posting requests, nobody will like you and they will be less inclined to help you.

This is actually the method that came through for me this time. I posted this, and within 24 hours, the PDF was posted for me. YAY!

2. Check out your Local Library

For this you need to first have a library card, and then you need to know the name of the Journal. You can find this on the PubMed listing. So, I am going to go to my local county library’s search page, and find the journal, or another scientific search engine. Library resources vary by county, so I’m not sure what is available to you, but this is what I see:

wake county library

 

I ended up clicking through “Academic Search Complete” and searching for the article. Unfortunately, the journal was unavailable at my library, so I would have to continue to dig to find it, if not for Reddit Scholar.

3. Interlibrary Loan

My county library offers interlibrary loans, as most do. All you have to do is fill out a request form online. After you complete this request form, the librarian will email you back and let you know if they can find it. Unfortunately, this usually takes a while so you might be left waiting.

4. Email someone you know in graduate or undergraduate school

If you have a friend who is immersed in the world of academia, you can email them and see if they have access to it and can send you the PDF. This is actually what I do most often, as my husband is currently in school at the University of Alabama online. He can access most PDF articles and send them to me if they are available through UA’s library. Keep in mind that Copyright laws do not prohibit this. You are allowed to save PDF files in order to use in personal email communications, just not to post on listservs or mass email lists. 

5. Lastly, if you can’t find a resource you NEED for research, install and click the Open Access Button. This doesn’t really help immediately, but it does to show the academics who is trying to do research and is running into barriers due to inability to pay large payments to view articles. Hopefully we can someday bring around a world where PDFs are available for free for research studies that have contributed so much to advancing the human knowledge base. Unfortunately, it’s all about money in the end. Journals get paid by Universities and other professionals needing access to the research in order to pay their editors and for the costs of printing and having journals available online. 

And that’s it! I hope this has been helpful. Do some research and open your eyes!

 

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Just Because It’s Paleo….

cake picture

I wanted to share a story with you all. So, you know (if you follow this blog) that I am a fan of the Paleo diet, for the most part. My favorite Paleo blogger is actually Chris Kresser, because of his philosophy on following “diets”. In the end, it’s not about what some expert recommends, it’s about doing what YOUR body responds to best – find YOUR personal diet and lifestyle (Check out his book, Your Personal Paleo Code, which I highly recommend). Yes, we experts can help you to make decisions, change your diet and set health and fitness goals and STICK to them.

The problem is, many people decide to follow a diet in more of a religious way, accepting any dogma that is thrown their way as to whether x is better than y or z. I feel this way about the Paleo diet. It’s a love-hate relationship. I love all the research and thinking and writing that has been done on the Paleo diet, but I hate the faddiness and dogmatic level it is taken to at times.

See, there are so many Paleo-approved recipes that are just plain not good for you or will make you downright sick. Paleo baked goods are my main problem. I will give you an example. I don’t want to call any bloggers out specifically, so I will try to be broad about it. I recently decided to try out a popular blogger’s recipe for a common dessert, Paleo-ified. The problem was, the recipe replaced the usual sugar with honey, a Paleo-approved sweetener. This made this baked treat way more dense (because the leavening was simply whipped eggs, and honey is heavy), and it was easy to overeat. I don’t often eat much honey, other than just a small spoon in my herbal tea, so I had not experienced this effect before…but I was basically writhing in pain, unable to take care of my kids, running to the bathroom all day. (You may or may not know that I have IBS and have tried a million diets to help it. Don’t get me wrong, a liberalized, personalized Paleo approach works for me – but clearly not everything Paleo.)

While the Paleo diet, at least the main components of it, have pretty much cured me of my IBS, not every Paleo-approved recipe is going to be OK for my body. Just because honey was technically available in the Paleo era does NOT mean that my body likes it. Likewise, fermented dairy (i.e., yogurt) is available currently and WASN’T available in the Paleo era, and my body does much better when I eat it often, and I have less episodes of pain and suffering.

My point is not that you need to scrap the Paleo diet — not at all. The Paleo diet is very useful and has a lot of great research behind it, great minds and think tanks, and wonderful recipes in general. My point is that YOU need to figure out what works for YOU and stick to THAT and not some kind of dogma. If I had eaten a bowl of yogurt (not traditionally Paleo approved) instead of the Paleo baked treat (Paleo-approved), I might have avoided hours of suffering.

Also, I would recommend looking into FODMAPs if you have IBS or IBD. A Low-FODMAPs diet can actually really help with IBS symptoms, and I am convinced that the reason I was so sick is honey is high in FODMAPs, whereas maple syrup, my usual sweetener of choice, is low FODMAPs. The great thing is, my body had already figured this one out before my mind did. I hope that you will listen to your body unlike I did on this particular day, and do what’s right for YOU, not what’s “insert-diet-approved”.

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Drink the Pot Liquor! Drink it!

So I’ve eluded to it, but it’s the truth. Edible Piedmont agrees, so it must be right, right? Collards are the new kale. Collards are a traditionally southern vegetable, but actually they have a long history, dating back to the prehistoric era. During the days of slavery, greens became popular among the black slaves because they would often get the vegetable scraps from the main kitchen to cook for their family (like turnip greens). Thankfully for the slaves, the “owners” who thought they were giving away trash were actually giving away some of the most nutrient dense food out there. One of the ways that the slaves made the most out of those nutrients was to drink what is called the “pot likker” or “pot liquor”, i.e., the water that’s leftover in the pot after the collards are cooked, a slight greenish hue. See below.

IMG_7922

 

That, my friends, is nutrient-dense. It is pretty much most of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals in those collards, PLUS some from the pork fat it was cooked with. You better believe that shouldn’t be wasted, as it often is these days.

See, collards aren’t hard to make, the traditional way. You take some pork sides (smoked), you put them in some chopped collards, and you simmer it for a couple of hours, turning it that darkened green color that looks so horrid on broccoli, but so wonderful on collards. This makes for a tender, fatty, delicious meal, flavored of porkiness but also screams out VEGETABLE. The great thing about adding pork fat to your veggies: you absorb more of the fat-soluble vitamins in there.

Here’s a tidbit: if you buy the “pork-ends” at the farmer’s market, i.e., the leftover pieces that are cut off after they cut the bacon, you can save about $8 per pound. Those pork ends will run you $3-$5/pound, WAY cheaper than side bacon. Just ask your farmer, he’ll know what you’re talking about.

ANYWAY, This is what it looks like when it’s done:

IMG_7913

But if you’re not drinking the pot liquor, you’re missing out. What are you missing out on? Well, you’re missing some of the Vitamin C, which is water soluble, some of the carotenoids (a precursor to Vitamin A), which is also water soluble, and some of the minerals, which are also water soluble. Also, when you put that beautiful pork side in with the collards, some of the fat renders out into the water, which contains vitamin K2, a nutrient which you might be missing out on, especially if you’ve followed any type of “low-fat” diet. Since you all KNOW I love charts, here is a chart comparing, from the USDA nutrient food database (which is pretty darn accurate), the difference between cooked and raw collards. Most of that stuff isn’t destroyed (although some vitamin C can be destroyed by heat), it’s in that H2O.

Minerals    BOILED COLLARDS  RAW COLLARDS
Calcium, Ca mg 141 232
Iron, Fe mg 1.13 0.47
Magnesium, Mg mg 21 27
Phosphorus, P mg 32 25
Potassium, K mg 117 213
Sodium, Na mg 252 17
Zinc, Zn mg 0.23 0.21
Vitamins      
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 18.2 35.3
Thiamin mg 0.04 0.054
Riboflavin mg 0.106 0.13
Niacin mg 0.575 0.742
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.128 0.165
Folate, DFE µg 16 129
Vitamin B-12 µg 0 0
Vitamin A, RAE µg 380 251
Vitamin A, IU IU 7600 5019
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) mg 0.88 2.26
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) µg 0 0
Vitamin D IU 0 0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) µg 406.6 437.1

AND, if you think that’s because boiled collards weigh more, think again. (I thought about that). The water content of boiled collards? 89.62 grams vs. 90.18 grams for the raw. Almost the same.

If you don’t fancy drinking the stuff, maybe you should just use it in another recipe? Add it to some mashed potatoes (or rutabagas?). They won’t turn green, I promise. Maybe add it to your next stock or soup? You probably will only taste the delicious pork-ness. While doing some research, I even came across a story about one chef who uses the pot liquor in his restaurant to make a kind of gravy

Just please, please – I beg of you – don’t throw it away. If you really can’t use it, at least freeze it into ice cubes and throw it in your smoothies. Although you might not want to do that if you cook your collards with pork fat. Probably tastes better with butter. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it. Let me know if you do, though.

 

 

 

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