THE SUNSHINE VITAMIN

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Did you know that 40-60% of the US population is deficient in the beneficial (and crucial) vitamin D, otherwise known as “The Sunshine Vitamin”?

This is especially true for those living in a northern region and because it is extremely rare in foods, it's nearly impossible to get all of our needs from food alone.

What is it and why are we deficient?

Simply put, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is produced by the body in response to sunlight exposure on the skin. However, in order for our bodies to convert the cholesterol in our skin to Vitamin D, we need UVB exposure, which is typically what we are trying to avoid when we lather ourselves up with sunscreen.

When we apply an SPF of 8+ or higher, the amount of Vitamin D that can be made by the body decreases by about 95%, which is great for skin cancer prevention, but not for your Vitamin D requirements – or your overall health and well being. If you think you’re getting your daily dose when sitting in a sunny window at work or driving down the highway, think again. Window glass blocks essentially all UVB rays preventing the skin’s absorption.

Do you have darker skin AND live in a northern region (think: north of an imaginary border from Northern California to Boston)? You have higher levels of melanin in your skin which makes your skin better at screening out most of the already limited sunlight you’re exposed to for those 4-6 months out of the year.

And if getting older wasn't enough already, as we age, our body’s ability to produce Vitamin D is reduced by 75%. 

If you're a plant-based eater, have malabsorption issues, or have Crohn’s or Celiac disease, you’re at higher risk for deficiency as well.

Pregnant or trying to conceive? It's highly recommended you take additional supplementation to support both you and your baby during this time. Most prenatal vitamins contain 400 IU and studies have shown taking an additional 4,000 IU daily had the greatest benefit for preventing pre-term labor and infections.

Low levels in the body are associated with:

  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Development of diabetes
  • Decreased immunity
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Neurological disorders
  • Increased symptoms of anxiety and depression

The take-away? We all need Vitamin D supplementation!

Food vs. Sun vs. Supplements

Vitamin D is extremely rare in foods and the likelihood that you’re getting in enough daily from food alone is pretty low. Some good sources include fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, fish liver oils such as cod liver oil, mushrooms, whole raw milk products, and eggs so begin making an effort to eat more Vitamin D-rich foods.

Additionally, attempt to get at least 15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen), 2-3 times per week.

However, the easiest way to ensure adequate amounts in our system is through simple supplementation and it's one of top recommendations for everyone. 

How much do you need?

The official recommendation for supplementation is only 400 IU but this is purely to prevent deficiency, not for optimal health. The recommended intake to maintain OPTIMAL and HEALTHY levels in the body (which is what we strive for, right?) is approximately 4,000 IU (from sun, food, and supplementation). That's a big difference! And if you’ve been deficient recently and are trying to regulate your stores, you might require up to 5,000/day for 6-12 weeks afterwards.

My go to D supplement is Thorne liquid D. It has 1,000 IU in 2 drops so you can adjust for your own personal requirements. 

Example:

  • Pregnant or trying to conceive and taking a prenatal that has 400 IU, add an additional 6 drops (3,000 IU) of Liquid D
  • Northern regions and darker skin: Take 4,000-5000 IU in winter months and 2,000 IU in sunny months
  • Aging population 5,000 IU

*I recommend discussing your personal vitamin D status and supplementation needs with your physician, nutritionist, or dietitian before considering a vitamin D supplement. 

And in regards to sun exposure, I am not recommending you avoid sunscreen, but balance your exposure with/without protection so you absorb your D needs while still preventing your risk of developing skin cancer.

If you're unsure of your personal needs, feel free to reach out!

Happy sunning!

Perfect Your Kettlebell Swing

Can we talk about the simple, yet complicated, Kettlebell Swing? This is one of the most beneficial movements that translates into true, functional and applied strength...when done correctly.

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The kettlebell swing is a dynamic movement that trains your ability to maintain control with varying speeds and creates a strong foundation for generating power. And that power translates into...everything....from carrying heavy groceries, executing a golf swing, playing with your kids, surfing, thrusting your heavy suitcase into the overhead compartment, you name it.

MUSCLES WORKED:

  • The entire posterior chain, but primarily,
  • Glutes
  • Hamstrings
  • Core 

BENEFITS:

  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Improves athletic performance in ALL activities
  • Increases cardiovascular capacity
  • Creates a strong foundation for force production

EXECUTION: 

*Before attempting to Swing (hinging with power), you must first MASTER basic hip hinging (example: deadlift) 

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder distance apart
  2. Begin with KB on the floor about a foot in front of you, making a triangle with feet and KB
  3. Hinge down and back with hips and reach forward for KB handles (aka horns). Holding onto KB, pack shoulders down and back and engage/brace core.
  4. Quickly pull KB up and towards your hips/inner thighs so that forearms connect with upper inner thighs as if the bell were to tap your bottom (yes that high), while maintaining a neutral spine and engaged core
  5. Immediately, thrust hips forward explosively to create momentum of the KB, keeping shoulders packed and core engaged. KB "float" height is determined by how much power you exert from your hips (*note: if the KB goes above shoulder height, you have lost the engagement in your core and shoulder complex and are using your shoulders to lift)
  6. Using control, decelerate the KB back down between legs, hinging from the hips again, and immediately repeat, without pause.

CUES/REMINDERS:

  • Think "hinge, pop and float" rather than "squat and lift"
  • Hinge at the hips and get hips waaaay BACK
  • Use hip thrust to propel weight forward and up
  • Maintain neutral spine and braced core throughout movement
  • Keep shins vertical 
  • Keep chest open and shoulders back and packed
  • Forearms should touch inner thighs at bottom of swing
  • Drive hips forcefully, making KB "float" to shoulder height
  • Form an upright plank with your body at the top of the swing
  • This is an explosive lower body movement

AVOID/DON'T: (just drilling this in here...)

  • Don't Squat
  • Don't let KB go below knees at the bottom of movement, do not let weight pull you down
  • Don't round or arch back at any point
  • Don't raise KB above shoulder height by using shoulders (*it will feel heavy if you use arms and will feel light if you drive and exert power from your legs)

Note: It is extremely beneficial to learn this move IN PERSON, but if you don't have access to a professional, consider the above tips for perfecting your form.

*Start with a weight light enough/heavy enough that allows you to perform movement with proper form. What does that mean? Light enough that you are able to maintain proper form throughout execution, yet heavy enough that allows you to exert enough power and produce force. 

Smoked Trout, Arugula and Treviso Salad

 Image courtesy of www.ful-filled.com

If you haven't used treviso, raddichio or endive before, say hello to this family of bitter chicory greens. Distinctively complex with a slightly bitter and earthy flavor, they can be served raw or cooked, and have sturdy leaves that hold up to heat. Which reminds me of an incredible lunch we had in a small village on the border of Lazio and Tuscany on our Italy trip this past fall. Seared Steak with a delicately grilled balsamic raddichio and pecorino. Simple, yet so perfect.

This recipe is not that one, but was first inspired by this gorgeous photo and second by a dish we had last week at our favorite weeknight date spot in our neighborhood. Simple, yet perfect. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

SMOKED TROUT, ARUGULA AND TREVISO SALAD

SERVES: 4-6

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 c wild arugula
  • 1 small head treviso, thinly sliced
  • 1 blood orange, *sectioned and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 fillets of smoked trout, roughly torn
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 4 teaspoons unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • pecorino, freshly shaved

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
  2. Place arugula, treviso, blood orange, trout and pistachios in a large bowl. Drizzle small amount of dressing (or your own desired amount) around edges of bowl to avoid pouring directly on the greens and gently toss. Season lightly with a pinch of maldon salt, fresh cracked pepper and shaved pecorino. 

*HOW TO SECTION AN ORANGE:

  1. Cut off the top and bottom so that the orange flesh is visible. 
  2. Now cut from top to bottom curving the knife to the shape of the orange. Repeat all the way around until all you have left is a bright orange, fleshy ball.
  3. Next, cut in between the white sections, placing your knife as close to the white membrane as possible, and slicing delicately to the core. If you follow the membrane, you’ll see that you’re cutting out wedges. Voila!

Photography by www.ful-filled.com  |  Recipe Development by Running With Forks

All About Omega's

Unless you're eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week, or bowls and bowls of kale, nuts, seeds and seaweed, you might want to consider supplementing your diet with this essential fat.

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Why? These fatty acids are extremely important in the day-to-day functioning of every tissue in our body and because we can't make enough on our own, and most likely don't eat bowls and bowls of the above, we must obtain them through our diets. Not to mention the modern diet creates an imbalance of Omega's in our body from over consumption of processed plant oils and processed foods...even more reason to supplement Omega-3 (too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3).

Deficiency and imbalance in these fatty acids can lead to a host of problems, symptoms and disorders ranging from organ and immune function, skin issues and mental health. No, thank you. But if you take care to ensure you’re getting adequate and balanced amounts in your daily diet, there are an incredible amount of benefits. Yes, please.

BENEFITS OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS:

  • Improves brain function and enhances memory
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Reduces overall inflammation in the body
  • Fetal/Infant growth and brain development
  • Improves mental health and mood
  • Decreases the risk of depression
  • Helps with attention disorders
  • Moderately decreases blood pressure in those with hypertension
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes
  • Improves eye health
  • Increases metabolism and improves body composition
  • Aids in healthy sleep patterns
  • Involved in the repair and regeneration of cells

WHere to get 'em:

There are 3 compounds that make up omega-3 fatty acids:

EPA and DHA - Available in fish and algae and have been shown to be the most beneficial. Primarily derived from algae... fish then snack on the algae...and we snack on fish, or supplement with fish oil.

ALA - Found in plant-based foods like walnuts, flax, and chia seeds. ALA needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. Not all that you consume is able to be converted, which is why it takes a lot of plant based intake to get your requirements. If you are purely plant-based, you most likely need additional supplementation.

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FOOD RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • Eat wild-caught, cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and albacore tuna 2-3 times a week.
    • If, like most people, your diet doesn’t include that amount, then you’ll need to supplement.
    • Note: Not all fish are created equal! A farm-raised fish may contain less omega-3 fats, more omega-6 fats, and more contaminants. Research where your fish comes from, rotate the type, and choose WILD over FARMED
  • Include plant foods like flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, green leafy vegetables, spirulina and seaweed

What to look for in a Supplement:

*Choose brand names that have proven reliability and you know they source well

*Make sure they are purified and have the USP verified mark (US Pharmacopoeia)

*Algae is the base of the food chain for fish and where they get all their EPA/DHA. Consider going directly to the source and choose a high-quality algae supplement

*If choosing fish oil, choose a high-quality oil that states it is highly-concentrated, molecularly distilled and purified with no heavy metal contamination

*Look for a company that doesn’t contribute directly to the depletion of fish and that uses smaller fish such as herring and mackerel that are less likely to carry toxins. 

*Avoid cod liver oil (cod are long-living fish that over time accumulate environmental toxins)

Supplement dosage recommendation:

ALGAE OIL – 200-300 mg/day if you have a balanced fat intake, 500-1000mg 2x/day for optimal benefits. Try this one

FISH OIL – 3-9g/day of total fish oil (1-3 g EPA + DHA) Try this krill oil

Let me know if you have any questions or need any more recommendations! 
 

Health Note: Check with your doctor first if you are on blood thinners such Warfarin, Coumadin, Heparin or if you regularly take baby aspirin.

The Healthier Takeout

The easy, quick and healthier option for takeout at home