The first six months of a baby’s life – feeding is pretty simple – as babies nutritional needs will be met by breastmilk or formula exclusively. Some parents will want to begin feeding the baby solids sooner than six months, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed (or fed formula) exclusively for at least four to six months.  One of the main reasons to not begin solid foods too soon is the baby’s digestive system is immature making it more susceptible to potential allergens.  This is especially important for babies that have a family history of food allergies.

If your baby is older than 4-6 months and is not satisfied or happy on just breastmilk or formula, or the feeding times are getting more frequent – it might be time to start solids.  Other ways to tell that your baby might be ready for solids:

Baby’s first meals will be likely very tiny – maybe a spoonful. As baby gets more used to eating solids, gradually s/he will eat more.  So don’t worry about quantity at first – just start with “introducing” flavors and get baby used to all the different motions that go into eating solids.

Good First Foods to Introduce:

When introducing foods for the first time, you will want to introduce them one at a time, allow 3 days before introducing a new food to make sure there is not a sign of an allergy to that food.  The following foods are less likely to cause allergic reactions, and so are good “first foods.”

What foods should I avoid in Baby’s First Year?

Should I always buy organic produce and baby food?
When choosing foods for baby, selecting organic is definitely best – as it has no pesticides, hormones, or additives.  Buying organic all the time is ideal – but the following foods are more likely to have high pesticide contents, so you absolutely want to go organic with these foods:

Signs of a Food Allergy or Sensitivity:
Allergies are on the rise, so it is important to know the signs. They can range from mild to severe.  The CDC says that 4.6 % of kids have food allergies (up from 3% in 2000).  When introducing foods to a baby you want to introduce 1 food at a time waiting 3 days in between introducing any new foods to look for signs of allergies.   Severe symptoms are trouble breathing, hives, swelling of lips or tongue, or face, vomiting- these can show up minutes to hours after the food is eaten.  If your baby is showing signs of swelling, breathing problems or other severe symptoms, call 911.  Other symptoms can be more chronic – such as eczema, gastrointestinal issues, colic, diaper rash.   It is possible to be allergic to almost any food, but 90% of allergies are to the following foods:

Make Your Own or Buy It

Making your own Baby food is a great way to save money and ensure your baby is getting the freshest baby food.  There are some great tools for making your own baby food such as the Magic Baby Bullet – it easily makes purees, and has convenient storage containers with a “date dial” so you know when you made it.  Foods that are already soft can be put right into the Baby Bullet with a little water or formula/breast milk.  Other foods will need to be steamed before pureeing, such as apples, sweet potatoes, etc.  If you are not able to find organic fresh produce, or want a quick packable alternative to homemade, there are lots of great companies such as Happy Baby that offer high quality, nutrient dense organic baby foods in convenient “take along” packaging.  Happy Baby includes DHA in many of their products, which helps with baby’s eye and brain development.  Many Happy Baby products also have probiotics to help baby’s digestive system develop and strengthen.

Baby’s first year is full of excitement and milestones – enjoy this special time!

Article written by Clinical Nutritionist Sara Vance with ReBalance Life, find her on Facebook.

Worry no more!  Its almost Back to School time – so here are some tips and product ideas to make packing a healthy lunch easy and fun!

A working mom myself, I know how hard it is to juggle it all.  These products and tips can help us think outside “the box” and make packing a healthy lunch easy and delicious – and fun!  If you can bring your kid into the kitchen to pack it – they will be more likely to eat it.

Veggies & Fruit

Fill Up Half the Lunchbox!

The USDA recently replaced the Food Pyramid with MyPlate, which shows that half of all of our meals should be fruits and veggies.  Most people could benefit from eating more plant based foods – MyPlate gets us thinking about increasing our fruits & veggies!   The good news is there are so many great products out there now – that make fruit & veggies easy, yummy & fun for lunchboxes:

Kids Love to Dip!

Another great way to incorporate more fruit & veggies is to send in dips!  Laptop Lunch containers (or bento buddies) are perfect for sending dips, because they have a really cute dip container!  Also great for sending salads too – put the dressing in the mini bento buddy so the salad does not get all soggy.

Remember – if you are sending anything perishable, make sure to include a cold pack, or you can freeze some items the night before, learn more from this Today Show segment.

Buh Bye Boring Sandwich.

So many kids just get bored of the same old sandwich, so why not surprise them with:

The Chip Rule of “Thumb”

Kids like a little “crunch in their lunch” so it is no wonder that chips are a favorite.  My chip rule of “thumb” is if they turn your thumbs orange, or are flavor “blasted” – we can make a better choice! We don’t even think about chips having artificial coloring, and forget about those ‘flavor blasted’ ones – that just is extra artificial flavoring!  I like these options better:

Don’t Drink Your Sugar!

I am not a fan of juice boxes – I think kids already get too much sugar each day in the foods they eat, they don’t need to drink it.  But it is important for kids to stay hydrated at school, especially if they head right to sports afterschool.  Here are some cool alternatives that are super-hydrating:

To Dessert or Not Dessert, That is The Question.

So what about a little something sweet for dessert, you ask?  Is that allowed?   Yes – I like to follow the 90/10 rule that the Obama’s follow, if 90% of the diet is healthy, then 10% can be treats.  Here are some fun yet healthier alternatives that are treats – but without going overboard with tons of sugar or fat; and no artificial coloring:

Go Green!

Most people like to buy a fresh new lunchbox every year – why not “Go Green” this year?  The Go Green Lunchbox is not only ECO-friendly, but it really can make lunch fun again for your kids.  No more plastic wrap needed – it has lots of fun compartments, and a little white board to write notes!  Your kids will be so excited to open their lunchbox everyday to see the message.  Top rack dishwasher safe, so clean-up is a snap!  I suggest getting 2 liners – so one can be in the dishwasher, while the other ones is heading off to school.

If you already have a lunchbox for your child and want to make that more eco-friendly, get some bento buddies to fit inside.  I especially like the mini-container the bento kits offer – perfect for dips.  You can also buy the whole Laptop Lunches system.  Check out this video to see what Laptop Lunches has to offer:

I know there are a lot of other great lunchbox ideas out there.  Would love to hear from you…what are your favorite products and recipes for the lunchbox?

For vegan lunchbox ideas, check out these vegan kid-friendly  lunchbox ideas.

Leave your comments below, or let us know at

If you have a picky eater in your family – you are not alone – most American households have at least one.

Picky eating is very common in toddlers, and as long as parents continue to offer a wide range of healthy choices and do not cater to their pickiness, many kids will outgrow this stage. But picky kids can become picky adults if allowed to continue eating “kid food.”

Our bodies need antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support all cellular functions.  Picky eaters generally consume a very narrow range of foods, which tend to be lacking in nutrients and fiber. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, lowered immune system, constipation, and even other problems like delayed growth and bone strength/ density problems (read Building Strong Bones in Kids).  Eating a highly processed diet also increased the risk for weight gain and all degenerative diseases including heart disease and diabetes later in life.

The younger you can start, the better, because as kids get older – their eating habits get more “set” and difficult to change, and they are more independent – making more decisions on their own. But it is never too late to start improving dietary habits – even picky adults can do it!  But don’t expect a picky eater to change over night – it can take months, even years!

Some typical picky eater “profiles”: 

20 Tips for Transforming Picky Eaters:

1. Ditch the “kid food.” Feeding kids a separate dinner, or always give them “kid-food” will not help a child to expand their palate. Besides the extra time it takes to prepare a separate meal for the kids each night, most “kid food” tends to be nutritionally deficient.  In order for kids to develop their palate, they need to be exposed to a wide variety of foods, sitting down to the same meal together helps children explore different tastes and flavors. How else is your child going to develop the taste for salmon or Brussels sprouts? Sometimes due to parent’s work schedules this is not possible for everyone to sit down together, so having a family meal whenever possible is a good plan. A recent study showed that eating together as a family encourages kids to try new foods. Eating together as a family has also been shown to offer other benefits, read Bring Back the Family Meal for more info.

2. Follow a 90/10 rule. It is the things we do most of the time that have the biggest impact on our health. The 90/10 rule is a good “real world” plan.  It encourages healthy choices most of the time, but allows for some flexibility.  On this plan, 90% of the diet comes from “healthy” nutrient dense foods, and the 10% left can be “splurge” foods. The Obama family follows this plan, which is nice because it allows for occasional treats, but only if kids have eaten a primarily healthy diet, such as having 5 servings of vegetables and fruits. Even getting to an 80/20 ratio would be a big improvement for many!  Too often, kids who eat very few to no vegetables at dinner (or all day) will then fix themselves a huge bowl of ice cream or another sweet dessert.  My husband came up with this rule – “your dessert can not be bigger than the serving of veggies you had for dinner.”

3. Stop the power-struggles. Some kids are picky for attention, or to exert their independence. Instead of giving them attention for negative behavior, focus on and encourage the positive. You could set up a reward system – put out a jar, and let them earn marbles or coins for trying new foods, or eating their veggies. If they are getting more attention for making healthy choices – that will reinforce the “good” behaviors.  Another strategy is to offer 2 choices that you can live with – “would you like a salad or broccoli with dinner tonight?”  When kids are able to make a choice, they feel more independent and in control.

4. Have FUN!  Humor is also a great tactic for breaking through power struggles – be silly and have fun at mealtimes.  One way to make food fun is to cut it into fun shapes.  I like to use little fondant cutters to cut fruit & veggies into fun shapes, kids also like to make melon balls.  Put the shapes and melon balls onto skewers – and stick them into a watermelon that was cut in half and put upside down – and you have a beautiful centerpiece (see eHow video).  Set up a salad bar at home.  The kids get their lettuce, and then add the different veggies that they like – red peppers, carrot shreds, etc.  Link this into the rewards system, and they get points for trying a new veggie, or for each one they add to the salad.  Experts even encourage kids to play with their food – our kids like to eat their Brussels sprouts with their hands and peel off each layer – hey, they are eating and loving their Brussels sprouts, so why quabble about table manners at this point?  If we were out to a nice dinner – we would probably discourage eating with hands however.

5. Keep Track. When kids are paying attention to how many fruits and veggies they really are eating every day – it can be eye-opening (for parents too!).  Create a food chart, or I encourage kids to use 5 a Day Silly Bandz to track their daily fruit & veggie consumption.  They put them all on their left wrist in the morning, and each time they eat a serving (not a bite) of fruit or veggies – they get to move 1 band to the right wrist. The goal should be to have at least 5 or more on the right wrist at the end of the day – it is a fun, visual & tactile way to keep fruit & veggies on the brain.  If you are sitting down to dinner and all the bands are still on the left wrist, it says something about their diet that day (and often their energy and mood will coincide)!!  Some families might decide to make dessert conditional – the daily veggie and fruit goal must be met in order to have dessert (this goes back to the 90/10 rule).

6. Food is Fuel. Help kids understand how foods affect how their bodies feel and function. Sugary cereals or doughnuts for breakfast can cause them to crash and burn, that kind of fuel won’t help them “ace” their test or help get their team to All-Stars.  Teach kids to be “intuitive eaters,” to think about how a food makes their bodies feel or function. Many foods (like sugary foods) make you feel great for about 15 minutes, but then your body crashes, along with your mood and your brain function. Some foods can cause digestive troubles too. Help you child connect to how a food makes them feel – 30 minutes, 1-2 hours after eating it.  So if they overindulge in candy, cookies or another food that leaves them feeling icky – use it as a learning opportunity.  Ask them how all that sugar made their body feel.  Some people live their whole lives and do not make the connection between what they eat and how their body feels.  Helping kids to do this is an incredible skill to develop that could serve them for the rest of their lives.

7. Encourage Adventurous Eating. Instead of pointing out that they are a picky eater, encourage them to be an “Adventurous Eater!” In my School Assemblies – I ask kids if they would ride in a hot air balloon, or zip line in Costa Rica? Most kids say “yes.” I say that if they are adventurous with what they like to do, they can also be more adventurous with what they eat – they have nothing to lose! I always tell them that there might not be buttered noodles or pizza in Costa Rica, so they should start training their taste buds now to be a world traveler. Plus picky eating is soooo 2012!

8. Purge the pantry. Some families simply need to clean out the refrigerator and the pantry to remove the temptations for a little while. Toss out the sugary sodas and other sweet drinks, cookies, candies, sugary cereals, processed snacks, and more. Even fruit juice can be trouble – as even though it is natural, it is still a big jolt of sugar. Replace them with lots of veggies, whole fruits and whole grains, nuts, and other healthy choices.  A week or two might be all you need to “rebalance” habits and cravings. The more sugar a person eats, the more they want, so getting rid of it for a while can be a good strategy to reset their taste buds. The kids will likely protest for a few days, but you might be surprised at what they end up choosing for dessert when there is no ice cream or cookies around.

9. Stop the snacking!!  Kids today eat about 30% of their calories as snacks, according to a study from the U. of North Carolina. But many snacks and kid foods are empty calories, with lower nutrient-density.  Kids that are allowed to snack all day long and right before meals, will come to dinner with their bellies already full of “snack food”, leaving no room for the meal being served.  If kids sit down to dinner hungry, they are more likely to eat what is served. European kids snack very little, and they tend to eat 3 square meals a day, and eat the same meal as the parents, and therefore they have much more sophisticated palates. If your child has not eaten since lunch and is looking for a snack before dinner – put out a tray with a selection of colorful veggies with dip – some baby carrots, snap peas, red pepper and other chopped veggies. Put out some hummus or another dip to make it fun. We like to use colorful mini bowls for dips – it makes it more fun, and they use less of the dip. Summertime is a great time to boost the fruit and veggies – they are in season, so they are less expensive, more plentiful, and as ripe and delicious as ever! When you bring home the veggies, wash and cut them so they are ready to eat when the kids ask for a snack.

10. Experiment. Try raw, cooked, roasted… Someone who does not like cooked carrots – might like them raw dipped in dressing. Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sweetness of that food, so vegetables roasted in the oven tends to be sweeter than the steamed kind. Make sure to not overcook vegetables – mushy vegetables don’t look or taste appealing to anyone, plus much of the nutrition ends up in the water if overcooked. Baby spinach is very mild tasting – if you chop it up well – many kids might surprise you and eat a spinach salad, which is packed with nutrition.

11. Turn them into a Top Chef. If they cook it – they will eat it, or at least they will be more likely to try it! When kids cook “they come to at least try the food,” said Isobel Contento, professor of nutrition education and co-author of a study conducted at Columbia University Teachers College. So get your picky eater into the kitchen, or sign them up for some healthy kids cooking classes. If a kid cooks it – they will want to try their creation. Sometimes, kids can really get into cooking, and can even be a big help around the kitchen.

12. Ditch the sodas.  Kids who drink sodas regularly eat more and also have a higher risk of heart disease later in life.  Replace sodas with plain ole water throughout the day. A large percentage of kids simply do not get enough water during the day, which can lead to chronic dehydration and other related problems. For a treat, we like to make “fresh fruit fizzies.” To make them, you squeeze fresh citrus fruit into a cup, and add some sparkling water. If it is not sweet enough, stir in a little squirt of raw local honey or organic agave nectar – and voila! You have a fun antioxidant rich healthier soda, they are fun to make too.

13. Serve veggies first. Picky eaters often leave their veggies for last on their plate and claim they are “full.” Serve the veggies first when they are hungriest – or hold off on any seconds until the veggies have been consumed.

14. Whip up a smoothie!  Smoothies are a great way to pack in the nutrition. Instead of a lot of juice start with a whole orange as your base. Add in some frozen blueberries, a frozen banana and some vanilla protein powder. I like to add spinach or a greens powder to my kids’ smoothies – if blended well, they don’t even know it is in there – and spinach is high in vitamin k, vitamin A, and magnesium. A Vitamix is a good tool for families with picky eaters, yes they are expensive – but they last for decades, and are powerful blenders that can remove all the texture from foods – important for a texture-phobe. They allow for easy inclusion of vegetables into smoothies.

15. “Enhance” foods.  I don’t call it sneaking, or hiding, I call it enhancing.  I enhance everything I make for myself whenever I can, why not my kids?  Chia seeds and kale can boost the nutrition in smoothies, butternut squash makes a delicious “cheesy” pasta dish. This approach is great for texture-phobes – as the texture is removed by pureeing the vegetables first.  Some people think this tactic is deceptive – read: Is Hiding Fruits & Veggies Deceptive, Or a Solution to the Obesity Crisis?  Weigh in with your opinion in the comments below.  Try cookbooks like The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious for some “boosted” recipe ideas.

16. Taste Buds Change.  I always teach kids the “15 Tries Rule.” Because taste buds can change overtime, before you can say for 100% sure that you don’t like a food – you should try it at least 15 times.  Studies show that it sometimes takes 15 exposures to a food for someone to develop an affinity for a particular food.  So remind your picky eater that just trying a food once or twice is not enough – they need to try it at least 15 times. As long as they at least take one bite each time that food is served – they are giving it a try. Some people call it a “No thank you bite.” Encourage them to keep trying, and if they try it and do not like it, do not force them to keep eating it.   Praise them for at least trying.  They will be more likely to try it again next time.  How do you know if you don’t like it if you don’t at least try it?  I tell kids that if they have not tried a food in a while – they might just surprise themselves and love it!  This is another reason that I like to enhance foods – even if we do not know the food is in there, or taste it consciously – our taste buds are getting exposed to it, and so it helps us to develop our palate for that food over time.

17. Boost spices & flavor!  So often, picky eaters are fed a diet of bland and boring foods like buttered noodles and nuggets.  Often parents mistakenly think that picky kids prefer foods lacking in flavor.  Surprisingly, many kids are craving more flavor and variety, they just may not know it themselves.  My former picky eater loves pestos and spicy foods – the more flavor the better!  This is why Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are unfortunately so popular on playground – they are bursting with spice and flavor that kids are craving (and unfortunately also artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and other toxic ingredients).  So don’t be afraid to give them foods that have flavor – they might find a new excitement with food after eating a boring bland diet for so long.

18. Supplement. Because picky eaters diet is often lacking in nutrient rich plant based foods, it is a good idea to have an insurance plan. Get your picky eater on a high quality multi-vitamin and/or foods-based supplement. This will help to make up for some of the nutrients that they are missing in their diets.  Work with a nutritionist or health practitioner – they tend to have access to higher quality supplements than the ones you might find on the grocery store shelf.

19. Check their zinc status – essential to the normal growth and development of animals and humans. Zinc is required for the synthesis of steroid hormones by the adrenal glands, required for growth. Low zinc levels can cause picky eating in kids.  Supplementing with zinc can also sometimes correct unexplained slow growth in children.  Contact a nutritionist about having your child’s zinc status checked – there are liquid zinc solutions that can be used to assess zinc levels right in their office.

20. Set a good example. Picky eating runs in families – but is it nature or nurture?   According to a 2005 study, parents who consumed more fruits and vegetables were less likely to pressure their kids to eat and had kids who were less picky and consumed more fruits and vegetables. The study concluded that “parents should focus less on “picky eating” behavior and more on modeling fruit and vegetable consumption for their children.” Kids watch what their parents do, and tend to follow their lead.  So when parents choose and eat more fruits and veggies, so will their kids.

Do not give up!!  First of all, realize that transforming a picky eater is no picnic. Some kids can fit more than one of the above “types” of picky eaters, which can make the challenge even more difficult.  Don’t expect a picky eater to change overnight – most kids who are picky will need a lot of encouragement, and despite improving, could always be a little on the picky side. But even little improvements in their diet – can add up over time.  But realize – it is worth the effort, kids who do not eat a well balanced diet are going to be at an increased risk for diseases later in life.  Obesity and diabetes are rising in this country, and changing that starts at home in the kitchen.  Keep reminding yourself that it is worth every frustrating minute of your time and energy to help them expand their palate.  Some picky eaters can be underweight because they do not consume enough foods to maintain their weight, but others can be overweight due to the over-consumption of high calorie, nutrient deficient foods. In both cases, nutrient deficiencies can exist. Your child’s pediatrician can monitor their growth to make sure they are on track for height and weight.

Consider Seeking a Specialist: 

If your child says that a food gives them a tummy ache, a headache, or makes them feel nauseous or “sick,” I highly recommend seeing an allergist who can screening them for food allergies and a Nutritionist/Functional Medicine practitioner who can have a food intolerance panel run.  Kids with food intolerances can be pickier, because they might be avoiding foods that just make them feel “icky.”  Other possible symptoms of food intolerances can be unexplained muscle/joint aches, gas, constipation, diarrhea, frequent fractures, poor growth, mood imbalances/tantrums, weight gain, seizures, bed wetting, and asthma.

If you have ruled out food intolerances, and tried the above tips, and your picky eater does not improve at all after several weeks of trying – it might be worth seeing a feeding specialist who can diagnose what is going on, and provide therapy to help your child’s eating habits improve. Severe cases of picky eating are called Selective Eating Disorder and can last until adulthood if not treated. The definition of a true eating disorder is defined as abnormal eating habits that cause detriment to health, and can also interfere with social and professional relationships. Read No Age on Picky Eating in the Wall Street Journal to learn more.


Why Osteoporosis Prevention Should Start in Childhood

Most people don’t think we need to worry about osteoporosis until “middle age.” I certainly didn’t worry about my kids’ bones – until my 7 year old got a buckle fracture on her arm this past spring from a fall onto grass in the backyard. It didn’t seem like a hard fall, and I wondered – could she be missing some critical bone-building nutrients? The doctor said her bones looked fine on the X-Ray, and he didn’t think a scan was necessary – so I decided to research dietary ways of boosting bone strength. An article in Parents magazine, The Broken Bone Epidemic says that more kids could be missing important bone-building nutrients, potentially one reason why there has been a steady rise in bone fractures. A Mayo Clinic study published in JAMA, found that compared to 30 years ago – forearm fractures had risen more than 32% in boys, and 56% in girls. According to the study, forearm fractures in children could be a predictor for hip and other serious fractures in late adulthood. Understanding and addressing ways to boost kids’ bone health might not only prevent bone fractures now, but it could also prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis later in life. Read about the functions of bonesfrom the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

Broken Bone – Bad Fall or Warning Sign?

An unfortunate side effect of many sports, trampolines, playground activities – a broken bone can simply be the result of a forceful impact. But in some cases it can be a warning sign of a dietary deficiency. Nutrient deficiencies can result from dietary inadequacy, impaired absorption or use, increased requirement, or increased excretion. If your child has broken a bone – don’t panic – it may be that their bone development is right on track and they simply had a really hard fall. But if your child has suffered repeated brakes, on-going bone or muscle pain, or bones fracturing from seemingly “minor impact” – it might be worth a trip to the pediatrician. Your child’s doctor can decide if a bone scan and/or an assessment of their dietary calcium, or a screen for Vitamin D levels is needed. Another issue could be hypercalcuria – which is elevated calcium in the urine.According to The International Osteoporosis Foundation, “peak bone mass” is reached before age 25. This means that critical bone-building occurs before the age of 20 or 25 – so teens that are facing critically low bone density levels, don’t have many years left to build them up. There are many factors that go into building strong bones, and missing one or more could add up to trouble.


Kids today are consuming more sports drinks, juice boxes and sodas than ever before, and less calcium rich foods and drinks. Picky eating is also becoming more prevalent. So its no surprise that kids might not be getting enough dietary calcium needed to build strong bones and teeth. Milk and other dairy products like cheese are excellent sources of calcium, but there are some potential downsides to getting our calcium from dairy products (read Got Fractures?). Fortunately there are excellent non-dairy sources of calcium – with dark green vegetables topping the list. Spinach has a high calcium content, but it also contains oxilates – which binds to the calcium therefore limiting much of the calcium absorption.  An excellent source of vitamin K, spinach still contributes to a healthy bone diet. There are also a plethora of milk substitutes now – such as coconut, hemp, and almond milk – most of which are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. See this chart of calcium-rich foods. Kids who are 1-3 years old require 500 mg. a day of calcium. As kids grow, their calcium requirements grow too. At around age 11, kids need anywhere from 1,200 – 1,500 mg. of daily calcium. Yet while their calcium requirements have risen, unfortunately so has the consumption of sports drinks and sodas. This is a perfect example of why it is important to instill good eating habits as early as possible. The older a kid gets, the more set their dietary habits are and therefore more difficult to change – yet their bodies needs for nutrients are much higher. The more independence they have – means they will be making more of their own choices of what to eat and drink. Kids that have already developed good habits early on, such as reaching for fruits and vegetables – naturally are going to reach for healthier choices when they are on their own.Use this calcium calculator to find out how much dietary calcium is needed.

Calcium’s Key Partners

Calcium is just part of the bone-building picture. There are other key nutrients that work synergistically with calcium, of primary importance for bone-building are vitamin D, vitamin K, and magnesium. If a child is deficient in one or more of these, they could have issues with their bone density and/or strength. In fact, taking calcium without sufficient vitamin D or K to help with absorption can cause calcifications in areas they are not wanted – like the arteries of the heart. That is why too much calcium that is not properly absorbed can increase the risk of heart disease, and kidney stones.

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but a pre-hormone produced in the skin after exposure to the sun’s UVB rays. Very few foods in nature contain significant amounts of natural vitamin D – fatty fish (with wild salmon at the top of the list) and fish liver oils contain it. The majority of dietary vitamin D comes from foods that are fortified with vitamin D – such as milk. The best source by far is the sun, which is why vitamin D is called the “Sunshine Vitamin”. Vitamin D is critical for calcium absorption – which is why low levels can be associated with rickets and osteoporosis.For years doctors and dermatologists have been telling us to protect our skin from the sun, so we have dutifully slathered sunscreen on our kids. But what doctors did not tell us is that by doing this, is that we need to be careful to obtain our vitamin D from other sources. A study published in 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that 70% – 97% of Americans have insufficient blood levels of Vitamin D – a contributing factor to osteoporosis, linked to a recent rise in bone fractures, and even linked to several different types of cancers. So even if your child is getting plenty of calcium, there needs to be enough vitamin D to aid in the absorption. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for kids is 600 IUs, but there is much debate about whether or not that is enough to maintain serum blood levels. Just 15 mins in the sun a few days a week might be enough to enable our bodies to manufacture enough vitamin D (the amount of time needed depends on the pigment of skin). But even people who spend hours in the sun can be deficient – like swimmers and surfers. The reason why – is that vitamin D can actually wash off the skin before it is fully absorbed!

In a study involving 150 children and adults with unexplained muscle and bone pain, almost all were found to be vitamin D deficient; many were severely deficient with extremely low levels of vitamin D in their bodies. A few years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow fractured her tibia, which led her doctors to discover that she had osteopenia – early stage osteoporosis. Gwyneth’s vitamin D levels were found to be dangerously low. Unfortunately they did not catch it before her tibia broke, but it was discovered in time to prevent further bone loss, and potentially worse – low levels of Vitamin D are linked to cancer. Visit her blog “Goop” to read more about her fractured tibia and vitamin D. If you suspect that your child might have low vitamin D levels, a simple blood test can find out. Read “Am I Vitamin D Deficient?” from the Vitamin D Council for more information. According to the Vitamin D Council, “although many doctors are still prescribing vitamin D2, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the preferred form for treating deficiency and is what is recommended by the majority of the experts.”

Vitamin K:

Vitamin K is one of the key nutrients for keeping our blood clotting ability at the exact right level – both enabling clots by stopping blood from flowing from a wound, and preventing blood clots in the vessels. In addition to clotting, vitamin K plays a key role in making sure calcium gets to the bones. This helps to build healthy bones, and at the same time prevent calcifications in other areas of the body – such as our arteries, to prevent “hardening of the arteries.” Vitamin K helps to make sure our bones maintain a healthy balance of minerals and proteins. Our bodies can obtain vitamin K from plant foods – such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, kale and mustard greens. Studies have shown that individuals that consume sufficient amounts of vitamin K have fewer fractures. People who are anemic, or have trouble with bleeding gums or heavy periods could have a deficiency in vitamin K. Our bodies also manufacture vitamin K from the bacteria in our guts. So any disorder that impacts the digestion could also mean a deficiency in vitamin K – such as celiac, IBS, and other disorders of the digestive tract. Digestion disorders and food sensitivities and allergies are becoming increasingly common – so more and more people are developing deficiencies. * Learn more about Vitamin K.


The fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium comprises about 1% of bone mineral. It plays a key role in how the body converts food into energy, bone health, nerve functions, and even helps to regulate blood pressure. All the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. So even if you are supplementing with high levels of vitamin D, without sufficient magnesium, it might not be properly absorbed. Good food sources of magnesium are nuts, seeds, whole grains, dried fruit, and some fish. Like many other minerals, magnesium has been consistently depleted from our soils, so levels in food can vary depending on the quality of soil it came from. Taking magnesium with calcium helps to counteract the constipating effects of calcium.  Traditionally the recommended ratio of calcium to magnesium is 2:1. But many people find that a ratio of 3:2 works best for them, especially athletes – magnesium is excreted when we sweat – so people who work out and exercise a lot – might have higher needs to magnesium. If someone experiences loose stools however, the magnesium levels might need to be lowered.  If someone is taking too high levels of calcium, magnesium absorption can be blocked. Salt, sugar, caffeine and stress can also deplete our magnesium. The daily recommended requirement of magnesium for children varies with age and gender. Infants under six months of age only need 30 mg, obtained from breast milk or formula. Toddlers need around 80 milligrams per day; which can be attained from a cup of yogurt (45 mg.) and 2 tablespoons of nut butter (50 mg.). Children from four to eight years need 130 mg. From the age of nine to thirteen, the daily amount of magnesium jumps to 240 mg. During the teenage years, girls need 360 mg, while boys require 410 mg. Leg pain, foot or eye twitches, muscle cramps, irritability and even sensitivity to light can all be signs of a magnesium deficiency. If allowed to progress, migraines, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even kidney stones can develop.

The old adage “use it or lose it” that goes for our muscles – also applies to our bones. Exercise is very important for our bone health – especially the weight-bearing kind. When we lift weights, or stress our muscles, they get broken down, and then rebuild themselves – stronger. This is similar with our bones. Weight bearing activities that apply a “force” on our bones are important for building strong bones. The need for weight bearing activities can be well-illustrated by astronauts – spending 6 months without gravity can cause them to lose up to 30% of their bone strength.

There are more reasons than ever for kids to sit still – homework, TV, video or computer games, and phone texting. Exercise with impact is very important for building bones. Kids need to be running, jumping rope, playing tag, doing gymnastics, and other sports that require impact. Although better than sitting – scootering around the cul-de-sac does not count for bone-building, as there should be force exerted on their bodies and bones, which causes the bones to be stronger. But we want to be careful here – if you suspect your child might have deficiencies – too much stress can result in a break or a fracture. So we want to make sure our bones are in good health first.

Bone-Building Foes

Sugar & Salt:

Further complicating matters could be a diet that is high in salt or sugar. If consumed in excess, salt causes us to excrete more calcium, depleting it from our bodies. Sugary foods cause the body to not absorb calcium as well – especially sodas. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that daily soda consumption was linked to lower bone density. Sodas give us a double-whammy against bones – the sugar and the phosphoric acid. Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral. But if you’re drinking a lot of soda, you could be getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, and that could lead to bone loss. Not all sugars are created equal – lactose which is the naturally occurring sugar in milk – actually enhances calcium absorption. However, it is estimated that because less than half the population actually is able to completely digest lactose – they could be suffering from inflammation, which interferes with absorption of minerals and vitamins. Agave nectar is a better sweetener alternative than sugar, because it naturally contains inulin fructans, which also enhances the absorption of calicum, and potentially even magnesium.

Digestive Disorders:

Untreated celiac disease can increase your risk of osteoporosis. Celiac disease occurs when someone is not able to tolerate the gluten found in wheat and other foods. Consuming gluten can create serious and debilitating inflammation and “leaks” in the intestinal lining of someone with celiac – which can result in low absorption of many nutrients, including important bone-building blocks like vitamin K, and vitamin D. Celiac disease used to be a rare condition, but it is much more common now – affecting as many as 1 in 33 people by some estimations. And even if a person does not have a full blown allergy to gluten, they can be “sensitive” to it – overtime this can lead to chronic gut inflammation which can limit the proper absorption of nutrients. Other disorders of the digestive tract can also cause malabsorption issues – such as IBS, Crohns, and more.

Picky Eating:

Kids whose daily diet contains dark green vegetables like kale and broccoli, calcium sources, nuts or seeds, along with exercise, and a short amount of time in the sun, are probably going to be right on track for bone-building. But if you have a picky eater, you probably are worrying that your kid is not getting the right nutrients, including the ones needed to build strong bones.  You are not alone, most households have at least one picky eater nowadays. Don’t give up on them, most kids can expand their palate if given time and encouragement (and not allowed to “snack” and eat treats all day long). The younger you can start, the better.  Read 20 Tips for Picky Eaters for more ideas.

Taking a high quality well-balanced multi-vitamin is a nice safeguard against dietary imbalances, ideally one that is whole-foods based.  I like Animal Parade multivitamins or Rainbow Light products, both brands use high quality ingredients, no artificial colors, and they also contains foods and herbs. As far as calcium supplements, I recommend and use AlgaeCal, which is an algae-based calcium supplement that contains the co-factors needed for proper absorption.  When using supplements, follow the dosing directions on the label or from your doctor – as the fat soluble vitamins are not readily excreted like the water-soluble vitamins and can accumulate in the body if too many are taken.  Unabsorbed calcium can end up in places it is not wanted too – like the arteries of the heart, or as kidney stones. Realize that most multi-vitamins do not contain all the vitamins and minerals that kids need every day, some are missing several key nutrients. So even the highest quality multi-vitamin or supplement is not a replacement for a balanced diet – vitamins and minerals obtained from foods work together synergistically and are better absorbed.  A well-balanced diet boosts the immune system, improves energy, mood, and digestion – so the benefits extend way beyond the bones.

If you are worried that something could be amiss – such as unexplained bone or muscle pain, poor healing bones, or repeated fractures, the pediatrician can run a simple blood test to check for vitamin D levels, and a screening for celiac disease.  If bone pain or a broken bone does turn out to be related to a deficiency – the sooner it is discovered the better – while there is still time to make the diet/lifestyle changes needed to help build strong bones to last a lifetime. Because Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to many types of cancer, it is even more important to identify deficiencies as early as possible.

Lower Cholesterol Naturally – with Chia!

People with high cholesterol looking for an all-natural way to lower their numbers might want to consider taking 2 tablespoons of chia seed each day.  Exactly how can one food significantly lower cholesterol and heart disease risk?

ONE: Soluble Fiber
Chia is covered in a very unique soluble fiber. Unlike the soluble fiber of oats or flax seed, Chia’s fiber is hydrophilic – meaning it can absorb approximately 10-12 times the weight of the seed in water*. When chia seeds come in contact with liquid, they soak up the water and turn into a gel. Being hydrophilic means that Chia prolongs hydration and retains electrolytes in body fluids which protects against dehydration and promotes endurance and recovery. This gel stays in the system for a long time and helps to control blood sugar levels by slowing down the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars. This can also help to reduce cravings for sugar while slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. The digestive system uses the nutrients and takes a while to remove the gel, thus hydrating the colon and easing digestion and also might help with digestive disorders. Chia acts kind of like an “internal band-aid” helping to hydrate, protect and heal the digestive path – which might be helpful for people with a “leaky gut syndrome.” A well hydrated colon has an easier time moving food through it. Keeping the body hydrated is also important for absorbing nutrients and for endurance. This fiber in Chia also makes you feel fuller – so it can help with weight loss.
*Note: it is very important to drink plenty of water when taking Chia, to facilitate this absorption and uptake of water.  See below for how to make the chia gel.

TWO: Insoluble Fiber
The insoluble dietary fiber in chia is different from other fibers – as chia is highly nutrient dense – whereas many other fiber products are not. The fiber in chia promotes healthy regularity. Taking chia daily helps to sweep out old debris in your intestines and detoxify your system naturally. Keeping the colon clean means that toxic substances aren’t allowed to build up and unfriendly bacteria gets swept away. Like soluble fiber, insoluble fiber creates a feeling of fullness for longer. Consuming chia can help people to lose excess weight, which can itself help to lower cholesterol.

THREE: Essential Fatty Acids/Omega 3s:

Not all fats are bad, in fact, healthy fatty acids are a very important part of a balanced diet. Many Americans have gone crazy with the low fat diets – and there is some evidence that low fat diets are actually WORSE for your heart health! So getting high quality fatty acids in our diets is important. Chia is a very rich source of omega 3 fatty acids, yielding 25-30% extractable oil, including α-linolenic acid (ALA). Studies show that ALA levels found in chia are higher than those in flax seed, and are more stable because of its high antioxidant content. The combination of antioxidants and fatty acids are important for transporting oxygen into cells, and the lubrication and resilience of cells. This makes our cells healthier and more resistant to damage. Linoleic fatty acids can not be made by the body and are very important – they combine with cholesterol in the body to form membranes that hold cells together. Healthy fats are an important component for anti-aging, and keeping our skin and cells looking and acting young. Dr. Walter Willet is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and has been chair of the Harvard Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology since 1991. He is also the author of Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy and Eat Drink, and Weigh Less. Dr. Willet indicates that you should be eating plant-based Omega 3’s 7 days a week and wild fatty fish 2 days a week.

FOUR: Antioxidants
Chia’s antioxidants include flavonol aglycones: quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin; and flavonol glycosides: chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. Chia that is comprised of black chia seeds, which may contain 12%-15% more antioxidants that the white seeds. Other essential fatty acids from other sources (fish and flax seeds) can be damaged and become rancid by heat, light, and oxygen. Chia’s natural antioxidants keep the omega-3 fatty acid stable and prevent it from going rancid. Not only that, but when you eat chia, the antioxidants also protect YOU and your cells from oxidative damage – the hallmark of most degenerative diseases and signs of aging.

Manage Risk Factors
Reducing or eliminating risk factors for high cholesterol is also important. Some risk factors you can’t do anything about – like heredity. But others such as obesity and diabetes you can help to control with chia and other diet and lifestyle factors. Eating a diet that reduces inflammation is important, and regular exercise is also key. One of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, chia contains:

Chia is very adaptable to any recipe – it has no flavor, so it won’t interfere with the taste of foods you are making.  To make the gel, simply put 1-2 Tablespoons of chia into water.  The chia will soak up the water and form a “gel.”  It is good to make the gel – because you can be certain that the chia will be hydrated and will not soak up your body fluids.  This gel is a great thickener for sauces, you can even replace eggs in a recipe with the chia “gel.”  Chia is a wonderful Omega 3 source for anyone, and especially vegans.  If I don’t have time to make a smoothie or another recipe – often I simply stir into a glass of water and drink it down.

You can buy the whole seed, or ground – if you get the ground chia – look for cold water processed chia, which helps to protect the essential fatty acids from heat damage.  But some people like the crunch of the whole chia seeds. Adding chia seed daily improved my energy, mood, digestion, lowered my inflammation and more.  It is the things we do every day that have the biggest impact on our health. So one of the most important things you can do – is to simply be consistent with foods like chia. Taking 1-2 Tablespoons of chia each day, can have a major impact on your health, your outlook, and your life.

During the hot Summer months is important to stay on top of hydration.  Up to 75% of the body is made up of water, so drinking enough fluids is essential for our bodies to function properly. Dehydration occurs when too many fluids are lost, not enough are taken in, or a combination of the two.

Acute Dehydration

Certain factors such as sweating, hot climate, vomiting, medications can quickly accelerate fluid loss to cause acute dehydration. It is important to be familiar with the signs of dehydration, especially parents and coaches as kids can get dehydrated faster than adults.  Taking these symptoms seriously is important, as complications from severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Relying on thirst is not always ideal, as thirst is not always a good indicator of dehydration.

Chronic Dehydration

Chronic dehydration is not like acute dehydration, in that it typically occurs from regularly not taking in sufficient hydrating fluids and/or foods. Often the symptoms are not recognized as dehydration at all and can range from bothersome to serious and can include constipation, headaches, low energy, elevated cholesterol, and more. Although controversial, some theories link Rheumatoid arthritis and other serious conditions to chronic dehydration. People suffering from one or more of the above symptoms, might try gradually increasing their intake of fluids and foods with a high water content and notice if there is an improvement in their symptoms over a period of time. Regularly drinking caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic beverages can also lead to chronic dehydration, as all are diuretics. Chronic dehydration can also make us more prone to acute dehydration from a workout and/or sweating.

Dehydration and Heart Attack
Studies have found that a loss of 2% or more of one’s body weight due to sweating can cause a drop in blood volume – so the blood essentially becomes “thicker.” When this occurs, the heart has to work harder to move blood through the bloodstream, raising the risk of a heart event. Because we are not replenishing fluids while we sleep, people tend to be slightly dehydrated in the morning, which could explain why heart attacks are 40% more likely to occur in the morning. Blood thickening also causes muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, heat exhaustion/ heatstroke, and can even lead to swelling of the brain and hypovolemic shock.  A tip for people that like to drink coffee in the morning – fill up your coffee cup with water while the coffee is brewing – before you can pour yourself a cup of coffee, you need to drink the water in the cup.  Starting the day with a glass or coffee cup of water will hydrate you better than the coffee.

When Do you Need Electrolytes?

Electrolyte replacement is needed when someone loses measurable amounts of fluids from one reason or another (sweating, vomiting, etc). How do we know how much fluid we have lost? One way to tell if there is fluid loss is to weigh yourself before and after a workout, if you have lost weight, there has been fluid loss. Typically 2 cups of fluid accounts for approximately each pound of weight lost. But if it is not convenient to weigh yourself, you need to consider the following: did you exert yourself hard, sweat a lot, maintain fairly continuous movement over a period of time? Was it a hot or particularly dry day? Are you working out in high altitude? Did you drink enough water leading up to the activity, or do you tend to be chronically dehydrated? If there has been a significant amount of fluid lost – there will be sodium, potassium and other important minerals also lost. Plain water will not replace those lost minerals. A condition called Hyponatremia can happen when someone loses a lot of fluids and drinks lots of water without replenishing electrolytes – there is not enough sodium in the blood. But if there was NOT a lot of sweating and it was a fairly low intensity sport, or a sport with lots of breaks (sat in a dugout, or stood in the outfield a lot) – then plain water should be fine to stay hydrated.

For endurance athletes, prehydrating the body for as much as 3 days before a tournament can help to prepare the body for a major sports event. Drinking an extra glass of fluid each day over a 3 day period can help to hydrate the body and muscles. Even slight dehydration in the muscles can negatively affect performance. Increasing the carbohydrates 3 days before a big sports event is also helpful to help prepare the body’s glycogen stores for the activity.

Sports Drinks
After a very intense workout, glycogen stores get depleted in the muscles,  – in addition to replacing electrolytes, many sports drinks contain some form of sugar because it is a fast-acting carbohydrate that can quickly replenish lost glycogen. So endurance and intensity athletes that want to quickly replace lost energy after an intense workout – might use sports gels or drinks – which offer the electrolytes and fast acting carbohydrates they need.

But consuming sports drinks when the body has not exerted itself and does not “need them,” the carbohydrates/sugar can end up getting stored as fat overtime. A 20 oz. sports drink contains 125 calories and 35 grams of sugar – which is over 9 teaspoons – more than the recommended daily limit for added sugars for one day for kids. Studies show that over-consumption of sports drinks is linked to weight gain and an increase in cavities in children.

Another concern are the artificial colors many sports drinks contain – they serve no other purpose than to make them more “fun.” There is some evidence that some kids are sensitive to artificial coloring – potentially causing ADHD-like symptoms, or making them worse. So it is important to read labels to know what is in the sports drinks, when there is a color and a number – that means it contains artificial coloring.

If someone is showing signs of dehydration – grab them any sports drink – dehydration is very serious and it is not the appropriate time to debate about the drawbacks of artificial colors or sugar.

Artificially Sweetened Drinks

Many people choose artificially sweetened sports drinks to avoid the sugar and calories. But the artificially sweetened ones will not replenish the lost glycogen – so the only purpose the artificial sweetener serves is for taste. There is evidence that artificial sweeteners might have negative health consequences, read The Truth About Aspartame, MSG and Excitotoxins – an interview with Dr. Russell Blaylock.  I do not recommend them to adults or children. There are much better alternatives out there now.

Alternative Electrolyte Replenishers:

If you want an electrolyte replenisher, but don’t want the added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial coloring, there are some cool products available:

  1. Nuun – is a complex blend of electrolytes designed to be absorbed by the body quickly & easily. Nuun contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners, so if you want to replenish lost glycogen stores – reach for another kind of carbohydrate – like raisins, orange, granola, a banana, etc.
  2. Coconut Water – Nature’s perfect drink – coconut water is naturally high in potassium and other minerals, and it also has some natural carbohydrates. Coconut water is naturally alkalizing – which helps to balance our body’s pH and recover from workouts. I like the brand Zico, which comes in a variety of flavors.  Or you can pop a straw right into a raw young coconut!
  3. Electrolyte waters – replenish lost electrolytes without the sugar, artificial coloring, etc. I like the brand Metroelectro. These do not contain carbohydrates, so to replenish glycogen stores have with a carbohydrate.

Soft Drinks & Alternatives

Soft drinks are not a good choice for hydration, for a number of reasons:

When you want a soda, try making your own “Fruit Fizzy.”  Squeeze your favorite citrus juice into a glass, squeeze in some Natures Agave clear nectar, and pour some sparkling water – voila!  An antioxidant-rich homemade soda!  If you can’t make your own fruit sodas, I like IZZE-esque – which only has 50 calories and is made with sparkling water and real fruit juice.   Or if you want something calorie free, quick and on the go – try Metromint – is pure water and 100% real mint, which creates a unique cooling sensation that relieves your thirst, soothes digestion, and revives your body. They come in a variety of minty flavors – even chocolate mint!

Some foods can help hydrate and replace lost minerals, to mention a few:

Stay hydrated!

Suggested reading:


Dehydration, Wikipedia

The Dangers of Dehydration, Natural News


Your Body’s Many Cries for Water by Dr. Fereydoon Batmandhelidj

Eat Your Sunscreen – Foods that Boost the SPF of Your Skin

Eating the right foods can help us improve our skin from the inside out – even boosting the natural SPF of our skin! Foods that are rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients and omega-3s can help to provide an added layer of protection for the skin from UV damage, and also help to prevent the signs of aging.

Antioxidants – An Army Against Free Radicals

Antioxidants such as carotenoids give foods their vibrant colors, and are critical to the photosynthetic process, protecting a plant from damage by light and oxygen. By consuming plants or organisms that contain these pigments, people can gain a similar protective benefit. Antioxidants and other key nutrients protect cells from oxidation, encourage cell growth, fight inflammation and boost our skin’s ability to prevent free radical damage. When the skin is exposed to the sun or other sources of radiation, this causes free radicals to form – which can damage the membranes of skin cells and harm the DNA of that cell. Antioxidants slow or prevent the effect of free radicals and oxidation – which can lead to cell dysfunction. We can see oxidation in action when a sliced apple turns brown. But a little squeeze of lemon juice can prevent the oxidation – providing antioxidant protective-effects. Oxidative stress appears to be an important part of many human diseases – linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, macular degeneration, as well as the signs of aging. In addition to helping fortify cells against free radicals, antioxidants also encourage cell and tissue growth, helping the body to repair itself.

Eating an antioxidant-rich diet – commonly found in fruits and vegetables and other foods – can protect and repair the cellular walls. Important antioxidants for boosting the SPF of the skin include:


An important antioxidant found in egg yolks and vegetables such as kale, broccoli, carrots and spinach that helps us to maintain healthful eyes, teeth, bones and skin as we age.


Another carotenoid antioxidant with skin-friendly properties, shows up in yellow-orange foods such as orange peppers, carrots, and squash.


Perhaps the least well-known member of the carotenoid family, but is poised to be the new superstar of antioxidants with reports suggesting it has anywhere between 10 – 500 times the activity compared to other antioxidants.


Perhaps best known for it’s heart health benefits – lycopene is also from the carotene family, and is an excellent free radical scavenger – it is at least twice as effective an antioxidant as beta-carotene.


Powerful botanical antioxidants, polyphenols offer protection against free radical exposure to help prevent skin aging and boost the skin’s antioxidant protection from the inside out.


Believed to have the ability to diffuse UV light, beta carotene can help prevent burning and counteract the damaging and aging effect of the sun’s rays.


A trace mineral that increases the potency of vitamins C and E and prevents damage from free-radicals.

Vitamin E

It strengthens the immune system, and protects all the cells in the body from free radical damage.

Vitamin C

Found in fruits and vegetables like strawberries, red pepper, and citrus fruits; vitamin C helps to boost the immune system to fight free radical damage.

Eat a Rainbow

It is important to eat a variety of colors of the rainbow – because antioxidants work best when taken in conjunction with each other – they are better absorbed that way, and can magnify each other’s effects. The American Heart Association recommends obtaining antioxidants from a well-balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains rather than just from supplements. The body absorbs antoxidants from whole food sources better than most supplements. But many people can benefit from a good multivitamin as well as a diet rich in whole fruits and vegetables. When supplementing, just be aware that more is not always better when it comes to vitamins – the fat soluble vitamins are not readily excreted like the water-soluble vitamins and can accumulate in the body if too many are taken.

Omega 3s – Key Inflammation Fighter

Omega-3 rich foods protect our cells from inflammation, oxidation, and free radical damage, and also offer important heart protective-effects.  Research shows that omega-3 fats are inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including melanoma. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids – which means the body can not make them, so we must obtain them from the foods we eat or supplements we take.

Omega 3s are important for focus and brain development, mood, and heart health too.

Omega 3 Rich Foods:

Niacin (nicotinamide)

#1 Food to avoid for skin health:

Sugar – Skin’s Enemy

Consuming a diet high in sugar not only contributes to weight gain and insulin resistance, it also damages our skin. When sugar enters the bloodstream, it attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs damage collagen and elastin – the proteins in the skin that keep it looking young and healthy. AGEs also causes the body to covert the more stable form of collegen into collagen that is more fragile and prone to wrinkles and sagging. Finally – AGEs deactivate the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes, leaving us more vulnerable to sun damage. Ideally, no more than 10% of daily calories should come from sugar (which is about 9-10 teaspoons a day for an average woman). The good thing is that reducing dietary sugar consumption can quickly reverse some of the AGEs and collagen damage to result in more youthful looking and functioning skin.

Prevent Overexposure

What we put on our plate is important to the overall health and appearance of our skin – and it can boost the SPF of our skin. But it does not mean we can sit in the sun for too long. Consuming the above antioxidants can provide a modest level of SPF.  Too much time in the sun can be very damaging. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer affects 1 in 5 Americans in their lifetime – making it the most common form of cancer in the United States. If you plan to be in the sun for an extended period, these 4 tips can help prevent overexposure to the sun:

Make sure to consider Vitamin D

Because the sun of the best source of vitamin D, wearing sunscreen all the time could have an unintended side effect – it could potentially reduce our vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D is a very important nutrient for our immune system and overall health.  And low levels may raise our risk for bone fractures and several different cancers.

More research is needed on the topic of sun, sunscreens, antioxidants and omega-3s – but it appears that a limited amount of time in the sun (approx 15 mins. for fair-skinned people), actually could have protective effects against skin cancer because it can boost vitamin D levels (read related blog: Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin).

Whether or not we decide to get a limited amount of unprotected sunlight or not – we can all boost the natural SPF of our skin, and boost our skin’s ability to fight free radicals and the signs of aging – by getting more antioxidants and omega 3s in our daily diets. A diet rich in antioxidants, obtaining the right balance of essential fatty acids, and limiting processed or foods with high levels of sugar, preservatives and chemicals – will help protect our skin, and our overall health.

Additional resources:


Note: Article updated on May 22, 2017 to include niacin. 

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