Posts tagged with "Vitamin D"

NB Pure illustration by Heather Skovlund (Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels) for 360 Magazine

Summer Tips for Melanoma Prevention

Protect yourself from melanoma without becoming deficient in vitamin D

By Leah Johnston, RDN

Don’t be so quick to overlook concerns around melanoma just because it’s often viewed as preventable. Melanoma is one of the most common cancers and the deadliest form of skin cancer. However, there is a conflict between how we prevent melanoma and how we ensure we are getting enough vitamin D. Sun exposure is the main source of this essential vitamin, but it’s also the primary culprit in the formation of melanoma. With May being Melanoma Awareness Month, it’s time to take notice and learn how we can protect our skin while still absorbing enough vitamin D.

The Stats

Cases of melanoma have been rising over the last few decades, especially among young adults, as it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer among people aged 25 to 29. According to the Melanoma Research Alliance, one person dies from melanoma every hour of every day. The American Cancer Society reports that the risk for getting melanoma is approximately 2.6% (1 in 38) for whites, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for Blacks, and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Hispanics. While fair skin poses a higher risk, darker complexions are also at risk.

How Melanoma forms

Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin and give skin its brown or tan color. It’s when melanocytes start to grow out of control on the skin’s top layer that cancer can develop and then spread to other parts of the body. Usually appearing as a brown or black spot or mole, melanoma is most commonly found on the chest and back for men and legs for women. It’s best not to ignore any irregular spots you may find on your skin because this cancer can also appear in other colors or patterns. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds can damage DNA in cells and significantly increase the risk of melanoma. Early detection is important for effective treatment.

Tips for melanoma prevention:

  • Use a broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen all year when outdoors. This will help protect against sun damage, which can occur even when the sun might be hiding behind a cloud.
  • Limit sun exposure during the middle of the day when the UV rays are at their peak. Instead, plan outdoor time for the morning or later afternoon to lessen the risk. 
  • Opt for a spray tan over laying out by the pool. If you love to have a tan, spray tans are a safer option and will help protect the longevity of your skin.
  • Schedule annual skin exams with a dermatologist. This is especially important if you have fair skin or immediate family members who have had melanoma, such as a parent or sibling.

The importance of Vitamin D

What doesn’t vitamin D do? Known as the sunshine vitamin, the human body absorbs an inactive form of vitamin D from the sun, food, or supplements and converts it into an active form of vitamin that it can use. In its active form, vitamin D plays many roles in the body.

Bone Health: Vitamin D and calcium work together to maintain bone health and density. Calcium cannot be absorbed into bones without the help of vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can result in bone softening, known as osteomalacia, and muscle weakness. Osteoporosis can also be associated with vitamin D deficiency due to the lack of calcium absorption. Both osteoporosis and melanoma affect older adults making it essential to couple melanoma prevention strategies with vitamin D supplementation.

Immunity: Recently, researchers have been investigating a possible link between vitamin D deficiency and the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. While this research is still in its infancy, scientists have been finding that low vitamin D status may result in the increased severity of symptoms and higher mortality rate. More research is needed in this area.

Inflammation: Research has shown an association between vitamin D status and inflammation-related autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes. Vitamin D also helps to regulate insulin levels for diabetes management.

Depression: People with depression are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. A 2011 study found that women who ate more foods rich in vitamin D had a lower risk of depression than women who got less vitamin D in their diets. Vitamin D has also demonstrated the ability to improve the symptoms of depression.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 15 mcg (600 IU) for most children and adults up to the age of 70, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adults who over 70 need 20 mcg (800 IU) daily.

Tips for getting enough Vitamin D:

  • Get outside but be strategic. As previously discussed, the best time to be in the sun is in the morning or later afternoon. Plan your days to limit your exposure to the midday sun.
  • Add at least one vitamin D rich food into your daily diet. These may include fortified dairy and non-dairy beverages such as milk or orange juice, fortified cereals, salmon (wild caught contains more than farmed), sardines, and egg yolks. Wild mushrooms or those that have been treated with UV light are a good plant source of the vitamin. 
  • Take a daily Vitamin D supplement. This may be particularly important if you live in regions of the world that are further from the equator, such as the Midwest. If you struggle to remember or don’t enjoy taking pills, NB Pure has a Vitamin D3 supplement in the form of a spray for the utmost convenience.
  • Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels at least once a year. Getting an annual physical is important for your long-term health. Ask your doctor to make sure they check your vitamin D levels at that visit.

The sun may be the main reason for the increasing rates of melanoma, but it’s also our number one source of vitamin D. It is possible to protect yourself from developing melanoma and ensure that you are obtaining ample amounts of vitamin D to prevent the consequences of a deficiency.

Dog and child illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Backyarding Trends

The TurfMutt Foundation Predicts “Backyarding” To Become Permanent Trend

“Backyarding,” the new trend to move many indoor activities–from working in an office or classroom to dining and recreation–to the great outdoors, is growing. Under pandemic conditions, yards and other managed landscapes became a safe haven for social gatherings, celebrating milestones/holidays, working, studying, playing, exercising, relaxing.  
 
“Your own backyard is nearly limitless with possibilities, and homeowners got really creative as they expanded and enjoyed their yards over the last year,” said Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) and the TurfMutt Foundation. “We predict, long after the COVID-19 pandemic passes, our yards will become an even greater part of our lives. The notion of ‘backyarding’ is here to stay.” 
 
In 2020, home improvements – many of them in the backyard – skyrocketed. So did the demand for outdoor power equipment as homeowners invested in making their outdoor spaces fabulous, functional and flourishing. Overall, shipments of outdoor power equipment increased 16 percent in 2020.
 
“Expect people to continue to invest in their outdoor life this coming spring,” said Kiser. “Many homeowners who put time and effort into their landscapes last year will be rewarded when that yard comes back to life this spring. But, even if you did little last year, it’s never too late to start – just start.”  
 
Here are some ways to bring more “backyarding” into your life:  
 
1.    Invest in your yard. Design a dream lawn and garden. Consider its purpose. Don’t design just for aesthetics. Do you have kids and pets who need a place to play? Will you be hosting safe gatherings? Do you need a place for rest and relaxation and/or games and recreation?
 
2.    Get the whole family involved. Create a game or a friendly competition with your family to help identify all the ways you can move your indoor life to the great outdoors – and right out your backdoor. Can you take office calls and video meetings to the patio or porch? Can your kids do their online learning outdoors? How often can you take dining outside? Keeping safety in mind, can you gather outdoors for family celebrations, birthdays, graduations and reunions? 
 
3.    Plant something—as early as you can. (Or plant more). Adding trees, bushes, grass and flowering plants is a good yard investment, but they often take time to grow. Plant as early as recommended so you can enjoy the benefits faster.  Just remember “right plant, right place.”  Location, maintenance, sunlight and watering needs should all be considered, as well as your climate zone.
 
4.    Stretch winter-weary muscles. Take workouts, yoga classes and meditation sessions outdoors. You also can let off some steam by mowing the grass, trimming the hedges, or edging the lawn. Working in the yard not only helps our living landscapes look better and stay healthy, it also gives us a sense of accomplishment and control in trying times. 
 
5.    Plan a staycation. A makeshift “resort” or vacation spot could be just out your back door. Pitch a tent, build a campfire, hang a sheet between trees to make a movie screen, set up games – these are just a few ideas to make the backyard a vacation spot. 
 
6. “Level up” nature care. Add flowering plants, trees and shrubs to give wildlife and pollinators food and shelter. Your yard is part of the larger ecosystem, so check your climate zone for landscaping options that support your birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. Don’t forget to take time to just sit and drink it in, observing the wildlife and nature around you.
 
Research shows simply spending time in nature – which starts in your backyard – is good for reducing stress, boosting heart health, boosting Vitamin D levels, and enhancing memory.  Thanks to the family yard, the health and well-being benefits of being outside are just a few steps away.
 
To learn more, go to TurfMutt

Health image by Nicole Salazar for use by 360 Magazine

A Guide to Fresh Foods and Diet Balancing Without Feeling Guilty

When it comes to dieting, you may dread it because you think it involves omitting your favorite foods. The good news is a balanced diet can include many of your favorite foods. Here is a guide to fresh foods and balancing your diet without feeling guilty.

What Is a Balanced Diet?

A healthy and balanced diet includes foods from all food groups, such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Starchy foods.
  • Dairy.
  • Protein.
  • Fat.

Fruits and Vegetables

Your diet should include a daily serving of fruits and vegetables. You need to consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. These foods are essential diet components because they provide your body with important minerals and vitamins. Fruits and vegetables help prevent disease, helps with digestion, and lowers cholesterol. The foods in the fruits and vegetables food group are low in fat and help with satiety, feeling full.

What Counts as One Portion of Vegetables and Fruits?

  • Half an avocado or grapefruit
  • One slice of a large fruit (pineapple, melon)
  • Two plums (or similar sized fruit)
  • A dessert bowl filled with salad
  • One pear, apple, or banana

Keep in mind canned, dried, and frozen fruits and vegetables also count towards your daily serving for this food group.

Starchy Foods

Starchy foods include bread, potatoes, pasta, and rice. This food group should account for one-third of the food groups you eat. Starchy foods are an essential source of fiber and energy. These starchy foods also provide ample amounts of vitamins, calcium, and iron. Avoid adding extra fat sources to these foods by not using spreads, butter, jam, oil, or cheese.
A good diet technique to practice is to base most of your meals around high-starch foods. Consider starting your day with a whole grain breakfast cereal and having a sandwich made on whole grain bread for lunch. Your dinner can include rice or potatoes with your meal.

Protein

The protein food group contains many foods, including fresh seafood.

Pulses

Pulses include beans, lentils, and peas. These foods are naturally low in fat and a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Pulses are great additions to soups, sauces, and casseroles because they provide additional flavor and texture to your meals. Other sources of vegetable protein include Quorn, tofu, mycoprotein and bean curd.

Fish

Fish is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. You should try consuming at least two portions of fish weekly. One portion of fish should be oil rich, and the other portion should be tinned, frozen or fresh fish. Oil-rich fish includes mackerel and salmon that contain Omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids promote heart health and are a great source of vitamins A and D.
You also have the option of white fish and shellfish. Skate, haddock, hake, plaice, cod, and coley are white fish that are low in fat and contain different vitamins and minerals. These fish are healthy meat alternatives. When you’re buying fish tinned in brine or smoked fish, check the high salt content label.
Marlin, shark, and swordfish are other protein options. You should not consume more than one portion of this type of fish per week because it contains mercury, a toxin that can cause liver and kidney damage, among other adverse health effects. You can prepare fish by baking, steaming, grilling, and frying it, but fried fish is the option that contains more fat.

Eggs

Eggs are a part of a balanced diet because they are a great source of vitamins, protein, and minerals. Although there are no limitations on the number of eggs you can consume, avoid adding unhealthy fats, such as oil and butter. Eggs are the healthiest when they are boiled, scrambled or poached. If you prefer frying your eggs, use vegetable, olive or rapeseed oil.

Meat

Meat is an excellent source of B12, a vitamin that is solely found in food from animals. Meats are also a good source of vitamins, proteins and minerals. You have the option of red or processed meats. Red meat includes venison, beef, pork and lamb. Processed meats include salami, sausages, burgers, ham, bacon, and other cured meats. Consuming an excessive amount of red or processed meats increases your risk of developing bowel cancer.
You should limit your meat consumption, red or processed, to 70 grams per day (about two slices of roast meat or equal to two sausages). Consuming ample amounts of meat that is high in saturated fats increases your risk of developing heart disease, having a stroke, and increases your blood cholesterol levels.

Fat

The fat food group includes oils and spreads. Many fats in diets are essential, such as those found in olive oil, vegetable oil, and rapeseed oil. These oils contain unsaturated fats, which help reduce your risk of developing heart disease and lower cholesterol.
Some foods contain unhealthy fats, such as cakes, full-sugar soft drinks, biscuits and snacks, such as chips and snack cakes.

Hydration

Hydrating yourself with water is excellent for your overall health and well-being. Drinking water flushes toxins from your system and improves every aspect of your body’s functions.
When you’re dieting, consider each of the five food groups to ensure you’re maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Following the food pyramid will help you understand your food needs, and you will not feel guilty about many of the foods you consume daily.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, Sun

Vitamin D

Magnesium is a mineral that is important to our health because it plays several roles in keeping us healthy, including helping with bone heath, heart rhythm and regulating blood pressure. The RDA for magnesium is 400-420 mg/day. Lots of foods contain magnesium, but in smaller amounts. To get a full day’s worth of the recommended amount of magnesium, you could eat 2 ounces of dry roasted almonds, one cup of boiled spinach, 1 cup of soymilk,2 ounces of dry roasted cashews AND 1 cup of black beans.

In comparison, Vitamin D is important to our health in a variety of ways. It helps calcium and phosphorus to be absorbed from the gut. This is important for bone health. Vitamin D is harder to get from food because not as many foods contain it naturally. However, many food products are fortified with Vitamin D. The RDA is 15-20 micrograms/day. You can get that from 4 oz of rainbow trout, OR 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil OR 1 cup of white mushrooms.

You need vitamin D in order for proper immune system functioning. Having a deficiency leaves you immune compromised. Studies show that adults, especially in Northern climates, are at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. This is in part because there is less sunlight in those regions. It is also important to note that Magnesium is needed to help our bodies make vitamin D from sunlight; it also helps to transport vitamin D in supplement from into the body to be used in cells. 

It might be necessary to take a vitamin D supplement if you aren’t getting enough in your diet (which can be tricky since fewer foods contain it). When choosing a supplement, it is best to opt for one that contains Vitamin D 3. There are lots of options for supplements, and if you aren’t a fan of swallowing pills, you could use a gummy, like vitafusion gummies, or a sublingual, like frunutta, which contains no fillers or additives, and dissolves right under your tongue.

Nicole Avena, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University. She is the author of several books, including Why Diets Fail, and What to Eat When You’re Pregnant.