5 Foods You Aren't Eating Enough

Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N

Most Americans are in a constant balancing act managing our daily lives. We try to juggle work & play, family & friends and somewhere in between we need to find time to maintain a balanced diet.

It all depends on your lifestyle, of course, but chances are many of you may not be getting enough of these five types of foods. Focus on increasing your intake of them, and you'll be well on your way toward nutritional improvements.

Potassium-Rich Foods

If you are one of the 70 million Americans adults that have high blood pressure, or even among the 1 in 3 adults that have conventionally defined prehypertension, then you’ve probably been told to change your diet by cutting back on sodium.1

A low sodium diet may not be the solution for everyone, but that is another topic entirely. But did anyone tell you what you should eat MORE of? Potassium helps to balance out sodium and the goal should be to correct your sodium to potassium ratio.2

Ironically, diuretic hypertension medications deplete potassium and magnesium. The first food that may come to mind are bananas. Here are some other rich sources of potassium: plums, oranges, tomato, lima beans and spinach. When it comes to potassium, we suggest getting it primarily from your diet. Around 35 mg – 99 mg is a good adjunct when it comes to a supplemental potassium. Note: Individuals with advanced stages of kidney disease must limit high potassium foods.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

Magnesium is a crucial mineral for healthy bones but is also very important for heart health due to its role as an electrolyte.3

Unfortunately, it is one that is commonly depleted by prescription medications including acid blockers, antibiotics and corticosteroids. People who are deficient may be fatigued and suffer from insomnia. Although serum levels are routinely tested on a CBC, they really are not a good reflection of total magnesium storage in the body.3

Check your levels is through an RBC (Red Blood Cell) Mg blood test. Some food sources of magnesium include brown rice, almonds and swiss chard.

Calcium-Rich Foods

The USDA have been long time advocating the inclusion of dairy at each meal as depicted by MyPlate (which replaced the food pyramid) suggesting Americans have a glass of milk* with each meal.4 Does anyone really do that? We live in a modern day world with an increased prevalence of lactose intolerance and milk allergies. Many people choose alternative milks that are fortified to include calcium but this doesn’t mean Americans are getting enough. (*Or equivalent serving of cheese, yogurt or soy milk.)

According to Harvard Medical School, osteopenia (decreased bone mineral density) affects about half of Americans over age 50.5 We should not only make sure that we are reaching our peak bone mass but also ensure we are getting enough calcium as we age to avoid full blown osteoporosis. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states: “Most people will reach their peak bone mass between the ages of 25 and 30.6

By the time we reach age 40, however, we slowly begin to lose bone mass.” In reference to menopausal women, “As the levels of estrogen drop dramatically, women undergo rapid bone loss.” To put this in perspective: In women over 45 years of age, osteoporosis accounts for more days spent in hospital than many other diseases, including diabetes, myocardial infarction, and breast cancer, says the International Osteoporosis Foundation.7

No dairy? No problem! There are non-dairy, plant based sources of calcium including bok choy, kale, broccoli, pinto beans and white beans. We suggest men and women have around 1,200 mg of calcium daily, which can be a combination of intake from both diet and supplements. Note: we highly suggest taking vitamin K2 when supplementing with calcium.

Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Vitamin D can be ingested from food and can also be produced in the skin. Skin has the ability to manufacture vitamin D using sunlight but with limitations such as age, skin color, geographic latitude and, of course, sunscreen use.8

Vitamin D is found in foods such as sardines, tuna, salmon and egg yolk. A 4 oz piece of wild salmon will provide you with around 500 IU of vitamin D and an egg, almost 44 IU.9,10 Considering that that RDA is 600 IU, salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D. With the RDA often proving itself inadequate to promote optimal health, especially for vitamin D, what does this mean for our health?

With research showing that people who have optimal vitamin D levels are at a reduced risk of dying from any cause – it sure means A LOT for our health, way beyond bone health in fact.11 Thankfully, even mainstream doctors are starting to routinely test for it. We suggest maintaining a range between 50–80 ng/mL for optimal health.

Unfortunately, it may be nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from food and the sun alone to get in this optimal range, especially if you are deficient. Note: Individuals supplementing with doses over 2,000 IU per day should monitor their vitamin D status though blood work.

Green Foods

Yes, we need to eat more vegetables in general but sometimes green foods don’t make the cut. Green foods tend to be alkalinizing which may help to promote an optimal acid-base balance in the body (although the body does a pretty good job at maintaining this balance).12

Also, greens tend to be non-starchy (besides peas, for instance) so they are often referred to as a free food for those who count carbs due to diabetes or other reasons. Take celery for example, it’s a great source of fiber with very low calories. Kale offers a significant amount of protein considering it’s a plant-based food. But perhaps the #1 reason you should be including more green foods is because of their chlorophyllin content and its detoxifying properties that protect our cells from becoming cancerous.13


  1. Available at:http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm Accessed October 17, 2016
  2. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sodium-potassium-balance/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  3. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4455825/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  4. Available at: https://www.choosemyplate.gov/dairy Accessed October 17, 2016
  5. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/osteopenia_when_you_have_weak_bones Accessed October 17, 2016
  6. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00127 Accessed October 17, 2016
  7. Available at: https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics Accessed October 17, 2016
  8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3738435/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  9. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=104 Accessed October 17, 2016
  10. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92 Accessed October 17, 2016
  11. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18574092 Accessed October 17, 2016
  12. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195546/ Accessed October 17, 2016
  13. Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25650669 Accessed October 17, 2016


How to Alleviate Menstrual Cramps

Kate Willett with Healthline

About 80% of women who menstruate have reported PMS symptoms. Women suffering from PMS may experience cramps, bloating, headaches, back pain, and breast tenderness. For some women, PMS symptoms are annoying, for others they can be completely debilitating. In any case, if you’re suffering from PMS, chances are, you wish you weren’t.

While scientists and physicians have long speculated on the causes of PMS, recent research suggests that PMS is caused by inflammation triggered by a biomarker called C-reactive protein (CRP), indicating that the best way to treat PMS may be reducing inflammation through anti-inflammatory medication and natural methods of reducing inflammation.

Today’s blog post outlines some potential strategies women can use to combat inflammation that may result in monthly discomfort or pain. Please note that if you’re suffering from severe menstrual cramps, it’s important to consult your doctor as they may be caused by endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

Natural Strategies for Reducing Inflammation

Changes to your diet may also help reduce the inflammation causing menstrual pain. While many foods and supplements can be part of an anti-inflammatory diet, we’ve outlined some of the most potent options here.

Consume Omega-3’s

Omega-3’s, found in fish (salmon, tuna, halibut), and various nut and seed oils, have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3’s can also be consumed in supplement form.

A study published in the May 2000 issue of the journal Nutrition Research, showed that omega-3 fatty acid supplements along with vitamin B12 helped significantly reduce discomfort associated with menstrual cramps.

Take Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps your body process calcium and may reduce inflammation. The research is still at early stages, but findings suggest vitamin D may be effective in treating menstrual cramps. Vitamin D is available in supplement form or can be consumed through dietary sources such as fish, eggs, and fortified milk.

Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which studies have shown to reduce inflammation. To get the most antioxidants, focus on colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli, spinach, and kale.

Avoid Sugar

Sugar is a strong contributor to inflammation. Avoiding or reducing sugar may reduce menstrual pain. Sugar lurks in most processed foods, so check labels for maximum effect.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication


NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Naproxen (available over-the-counter as Aleve) or Ibuprofen (available over-the-counter as Advil) are commonly used to treat arthritis, muscle and joint pain, and menstrual pain. Recent research confirms that NSAIDs are more effective than placebos in treating menstrual pain. Research suggests that Naproxen may be more effective in treating severe menstrual cramps than it is for moderate menstrual cramps.

If you decide to use NSAIDS, start taking the medicine at the beginning of your period or when you feel symptoms, and continue for two or three days or until symptoms have gone away. NSAIDS may be hard on your stomach, so they are best taken with food. A typical dose of Naproxen for menstrual pain is 550 mg taken every 12 hours or 275 mg taken every 6–8 hours as needed.

NSAIDS may cause side effects or have negative interactions with other medications, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before taking this medication.

Note from the editor: NSAIDS may have a blood thinning and can increase the bleeding.

Whether you decide to use NSAIDS or reduce inflammation naturally, through treating inflammation, you may find maximum relief of your menstrual discomfort.

About the Author:

Kate Willett is a freelance writer located in Los Angeles, CA. She writes about health, politics, and comedy. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.


  1. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2015.5529?journalCode=jwh
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  6. http://www.healthline.com/drugs/naproxen/oral-tablet#Dosage4
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  8. http://www.livestrong.com/article/496885-does-omega-3-affect-your-period/
  9. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/27/vitamin-d-pms-menstrual-cramps-italy_n_1305127.html
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7922442


How Cinnamon Controls Blood Sugar

We're not talking about sticky, sugar-laden, insulin-inducing cinnamon rolls here. This much-loved spice has actually shown evidence of lowering blood sugar.

While long used as a flavoring, current research is beginning to confirm health benefits of cinnamon, whose traditional therapeutic use included treatment of chronic bronchitis.1

Cinnamon Controlls Diabetes

In a trial of type 2 diabetics reported in 2006, an extract of cinnamon that provided the equivalent of 3 grams powdered cinnamon consumed daily for four months resulted in a 10.3% reduction in fasting plasma glucose from levels measured at the beginning of the study, compared with a 3.4% reduction in the placebo group.2 Participants with higher fasting plasma glucose levels at the beginning of the study derived the greatest benefit.

Cinnamon has also been shown to lower hemoglobin A1c, a marker of long-term glucose control. A randomized trial of 109 type 2 diabetics with elevated hemoglobin A1c levels who received usual care in addition to 1 gram cinnamon daily for 90 days resulted in greater reduction in hemoglobin A1c in comparison with usual care alone.3

Additionally, a trial of 58 poorly controlled type 2 diabetic men and women found reductions in hemoglobin A1c as well as mean systolic and diastolic blood pressures after 12 weeks of cinnamon supplementation compared with a placebo group.4

In Chinese type 2 diabetics, 120 or 360 milligram per day doses of cinnamon extract in addition to gliclazide therapy for three months resulted in a reduction in hemoglobin A1c and fasting blood glucose levels while these levels remained unchanged in the placebo group.5

In a trial that included overweight or obese subjects with impaired fasting blood glucose, cinnamon given twice daily for 12 weeks was associated with an increase in plasma antioxidant status and a decrease in malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.6

"This study supports the hypothesis that the inclusion of water soluble cinnamon compounds in the diet could reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease," authors A. M. Roussel and colleagues conclude.

Cinnamon Helps Maintain Optimal Blood Sugar Control

A trial of healthy subjects conducted by Swedish researchers found a decrease in blood glucose after eating and a delay in gastric emptying among those who received 6 grams cinnamon compared to those who did not receive it.7

A subsequent study conducted by the Swedish team that evaluated the effects of 1 and 3 grams cinnamon revealed a reduction in serum insulin and an increase in glucagon-like peptide 1 (a hormone that helps prevent high blood glucose levels) in those who received the 3 gram dose.8

Another study involving healthy participants found reductions in total plasma glucose responses to orally administered glucose and improved insulin sensitivity when 5 grams cinnamon was consumed immediately or 12 hours before oral glucose tolerance testing.9

A subsequent study conducted by the researchers in which healthy men were supplemented with 3 grams cinnamon or a placebo for 14 days resulted in reductions in glucose and insulin responses to oral glucose tolerance testing at the end of the treatment period, however, these benefits were rapidly lost once cinnamon was discontinued.10

In nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients, daily supplementation with 1,500 mg cinnamon for 12 weeks was associated with decreases in fasting blood glucose, insulin resistance, total cholesterol, triglycerides, liver enzymes and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.11

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition not necessarily characterized by cystic ovaries (as its name implies) but by insulin resistance. In a pilot study involving 15 women with PCOS, cinnamon consumed daily for eight weeks resulted in significant improvement in insulin resistance compared to a placebo as indicated by fasting and two hour oral glucose tolerance test results.12

Interestingly, a recent article appearing in Food and Chemical Toxicology suggests that cinnamon inhibits the misfolding of human islet amyloid polypeptide that is regarded as a causative factor in type 2 diabetes mellitus.13 The authors of the study identified proanthocyanidins as the main anti-amyloidogenic compounds occurring in cinnamon water extract and discovered that these compounds also decreased human islet amyloid polypeptide aggregation's damaging and toxic effects.

A review published in 2007 concluded that cinnamon was well tolerated and has a "possible modest effect in lowering plasma glucose levels in subjects with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes”, and adds the usual disclaimer that diabetics should not use cinnamon in place of the proven standard of care.14

A meta-analysis of eight randomized placebo-controlled trials involving participants with diabetes and/or prediabetes published in 2011 concluded that "Cinnamon intake, either as whole cinnamon or as cinnamon extract, results in a statistically significant lowering in fasting blood glucose."15
Subsequent meta-analyses of six and ten clinical trials involving diabetics came to similar conclusions.16,17

Cinnamon has shown its value among populations who are looking to optimize their glycemic control. There appears to be a variety of valuable, recent human studies on this beloved ancient spice.

We conclude this review with a study of hyperglycemic subjects who were given a 250 mg dried water-extract cinnamon capsule twice per day or a placebo. Participants in this 2010 study showed a reduction in fasting glucose after two months.18 One should take immediate action at the first signs of hyperglycemia to lessen the chances that diabetes will develop.


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The Power of Pterostilbene

Pterostilbene (Pteros‐til‐bene) is an analog of resveratrol, a compound that is found in red grapes, peanuts, and other plant foods.

It is considered to be a calorie restriction mimetic — that is, a compound that mimics the myriad benefits associated with lowering one's daily calorie intake.

The Cancer Connection

In 1999, researchers reported in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology that pterostilbene and resveratrol were found in the Ayurvedic medicine darakchasava, which has long been prescribed as a cardiotonic and more.1

A review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2002 reported the significant antioxidant potential of pterostilbene, its inhibitory effect against cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1) and COX-2 (enzymes involved in inflammation) and its ability to prevent precancerous changes induced by a carcinogen in a mouse model of mammary cancer.2 The compound has shown stronger protective effects than resveratrol against the development of colon cancer in mice injected with a carcinogenic compound.3

Other research has shown an inhibitory effect for pterostilbene against gastric,4 bladder,5 pancreatic,6 lung,7 melanoma,8 osteosarcoma,9 liver,10 leukemia,11 esophageal12, and breast and prostate cancer cell lines.13 Additionally, pterostilbene has had a growth-inhibitory effect in colorectal cancer cells when combined with another plant compound, quercetin.14 A review lists alteration of the cell cycle, induction of apoptosis, and inhibition of metastasis as pterostilbene's anticancer mechanisms.15

Cancer stem cells are increasingly recognized for their role in cancer and metastasis. A study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research found that pterostilbene suppressed the generation of cancer stem cells in breast cancer cell cultures.16

Pterostilbene is a Metabolic Marvel

Findings from several studies suggest that pterostilbene could be of benefit to diabetics. In rats, in which diabetes was induced, pterostilbene improved activity levels of the body's naturally produced antioxidants, and normalized lipid peroxidation and pathologic changes in the animals kidneys and liver.17

In another study involving diabetic rats, pterostilbene lowered plasma glucose and glycosylated hemoglobin levels (HbA1C), inviting a comparison with metformin.18 In hamsters with elevated cholesterol levels, enhancement of the diet with pterostilbene was associated with lower glucose as well as low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.19

Research involving vascular smooth muscle cells, which are the main cells of the arterial wall, whose abnormal proliferation plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis, uncovered an inhibitory effect in vitro in association with the administration of pterostilbene, which suggests that "Pterostilbene may be a potential anti-proliferative agent for the treatment of atherosclerosis and angioplasty restenosis," according to authors Eun-Seok Park and colleagues.20

Pterostilbene and Memory

Now we come to an area of interest to most life extensionists: pterostilbene's effect on brain aging. In aged rats given pterostilbene, cognitive behavioral deficits were reversed and a correlation was discovered between working memory and pterostilbene levels in the brain's hippocampus, an area that is involved in memory formation.21

In a study involving a mouse model of accelerated aging, the addition of pterostilbene to the diet improved water maze performance in comparison with mice that did not receive the compound, and reduced markers of cellular stress, inflammation, and Alzheimer's disease pathology.22

In mice given a compound that impairs memory and learning, the administration of pterostilbene reduced this impairment and showed a protective effect against neuronal injury compared to untreated mice.23 

In a study that involved mice in which cerebral ischemia was induced followed by reperfusion, subsequent administration of pterostilbene improved neurologic function, decreased brain infarct volume, and reduced brain edema after 24 hours. In addition, pterostilbene was associated with improved motor function, increased neuron survival, inhibition of oxidative stress and other benefits indicative of neuroprotection.24

The Bottom Line

Although scientific investigation of pterostilbene and its benefits is relatively recent, the evidence revealed so far is positive. While one doesn't replace the other, pterostilbene appears to have many of the benefits of resveratrol and potentially greater bioavailability.25, 26, 27 Combining the two could be the best way to ensure reaping the greatest number of benefits from these multifaceted compounds.


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The Health Benefits of Amla (Indian Gooseberry)

Amla, also known as amalika or Indian gooseberry, is an Indian Ayurvedic remedy that is gaining popularity in the Western world. It is also recognized under the names of Emblica officinalis and Phyllanthus emblica.

Amla enjoys a mythical reputation in India, due to a belief in that it originated from drops of Amrit, the nectar of immortality.

It is thus asserted to confer longevity and to cure nearly every disease, hence its designation as a rasayana or rejuvenator in Ayurveda. While these claims lie within the realm of myth, has modern science validated any of amla's benefits?

Amla Is Really Healthy

Amla fruit has been found to contain a high amount of the antioxidant vitamin C, and its tannins were shown to possess vitamin C-like properties.1,2 An article that calls amla "the Ayurvedic wonder" notes that the plant also contains phenolic compounds, phyllembelic acid, phyllembelin, rutin, curcuminoids and emblicol.3

A review published in 2011 in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention titled, "Amla (Emblia officinalis Gaertn), a wonder berry in the treatment and prevention of cancer," provides a long list of properties attributed to amla.4

The authors observe that "The fruit is used either alone or in combination with other plants to treat many ailments such as common cold and fever; as a diuretic, laxative, liver tonic, to manage cholesterol, support heart health, ease inflammation, as a hair tonic; to prevent peptic ulcer and dyspepsia, and as a digestive aid.

Amla's Case for Cholesterol

Early research found an association between supplementation with amla and protection against elevated serum cholesterol in rabbits given a cholesterol-rich diet.5 In humans, 28 days of amla supplementation lowered cholesterol in those with normal and elevated levels, which returned to near pretreatment levels two weeks after amla was discontinued.6

In human umbilical vein endothelial cells, it was shown that the amla compound corilagin and its analog Dgg16 decrease malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress, while preventing the adherence of monocytes to the cells, indicating an inhibitory effect on atherosclerosis progression.7 In rat vascular smooth muscle cells, both compounds inhibited proliferation activated by oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL).

A clinical trial of amla in overweight and obese adults resulted in lower LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol to high density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP, a marker of inflammation) and platelet aggregation after 12 weeks of supplementation, suggesting that amla could benefit overweight or obese individuals by reducing several cardiovascular disease risk factors.8

In a trial that included diabetics and nondiabetics, amla lowered fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels, total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while improving HDL cholesterol.9

Amla Supports Liver Health

In addition to the cardiovascular system, amla has been shown to benefit the liver. According to a recent review that noted that over 10% of the world's population is affected by liver diseases, "Scientific studies have shown amla to be effective in preventing/ameliorating the toxic effects of hepatotoxic agents like ethanol, paracetamol, carbon tetrachloride, heavy metals, ochratoxins, hexachlorocyclohexane, antitubercular drugs, and hepatotoxicity resulting from iron overload.

Amla is also reported to impart beneficial effects on liver function and to mitigate hyperlipidemia and metabolic syndrome. Amla possesses protective effects against chemical-induced hepatocarcinogenesis in animal models of study." 10

Amla May Offer Environmental Protection

Other research has found a protective effect for amla against chromosomal damage caused by lead and aluminum.11,12

Amla also appears to have a cosmetic benefit. In one experiment, amla stimulated fibroblast proliferation and induced procollagen production, while decreasing matrix metalloproteinase-1, which breaks down collagen.13

Amla was also shown to inhibit ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced photoaging in human skin fibroblasts through its ability to scavenge reactive oxygen species.14 Its ability to protect against reactive oxygen species induced by UVB appears to be stronger than that of vitamin C.15

The Bottom Line

It appears that some of amla's mythologic properties may indeed be valid. While there's no evidence that it will confer immortality, one interesting study conducted in 2014 found that turmeric, from which curcumin is derived, as well as amla fruit increased the life span of Drosophila melanogaster, a fruit fly that is the subject of a fair amount of gerontologic research.16

The authors concluded that "the results support the free radical theory of aging as both these plant derivatives show high reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging activities."


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