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Meagan O'Neill

New year’s resolutions come and go. For some people they are a great way to set a personal or professional goal and to stay motivated to accomplish that goal. Did you make a resolution this year? If so, please take our poll and share your progress in the comments section.

Have you kept your New Year's resolution?

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In honor of Valentine's Day, what is your idea of a great date? Do you like to put your feet up and have someone cook for you, or  do you prefer to go out to a fancy restaurant? Is an outdoor adventure more your style? Let us know in the comments!

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In honor of the Winter Olympics, what was your favorite winter sport growing up? Did you idolize Dorothy Hamill or dream of being part of the “Miracle on Ice”? Share your picks below!

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In the past few months, three studies that argue there is little to no benefit for most people to take multivitamins and that Americans are wasting billions of dollars on these supplements have received widespread media attention. Since then, Eloise Guckelberger, a clinical dietician at Johns Hopkins, has fielded many questions from her patients. Today she is sharing some of the most popular questions with the Johns Hopkins community.

 

Q: Should I be taking multivitamins?

A: It’s a very complicated issue. Multivitamins aren’t a cure-all for diseases, but they do prevent vitamin deficiencies. We have patients admitted with multiple vitamin deficiencies due to poor diets, often exacerbated by diseases of the digestive process or previous gastrointestinal surgery. The biggest problem is that the studies completed on multivitamins use different combinations of vitamins, different doses of those vitamins, test for different outcomes and are tested in different populations, so there is no way to combine the data and gain a better understanding of the overall efficacy of multivitamins for humans as a whole yet.

 

Q: If I have a healthy diet, do I need a multivitamin?

A: The average healthy person should be able to not only meet all of their micronutrient requirements by eating a healthy, balanced diet, but do better than any supplement. Some nutrient-rich foods are:

Grains Whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, millet and bulgur; bread, rolls and pasta made from whole grains; brown or wild rice; hot or cold cereals made from whole grains and without added sugar
Vegetables All fresh vegetables, especially fresh dark green, red or orange vegetables; peas and beans; low-sodium frozen or canned vegetables prepared without added salt; low-sodium vegetable juices
Fruits All fresh, frozen and dried fruits; canned fruit packed in water or fruit juice without added sugar; fruit juices without added sugar
Milk and Milk Products Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheeses; frozen desserts made from low-fat milk
Meat, Poultry, Fish and Other Proteins Boiled, baked or grilled lean meat trimmed of fat; skinless poultry; fresh seafood and shellfish; canned seafood packed in water; unsalted nuts and unsalted nut butters; tofu; dried beans and peas; eggs
Fats and Oils Olive, peanut and canola oils and margarine; salad dressing and mayonnaise made from these oils

(From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

 

Q: What are some things I should look out for if I decide to take a multivitamin?

A: There is no regulation of over-the-counter supplements—vitamins included—so you need to check to see if the supplement actually contains what it says it has. For example, ConsumerLab.com conducted a study of 21 different brands of vitamins and found only 10 to meet the ingredients on their labels. Consumers should look for the "USP Verified" mark on their multivitamins. This indicates that the manufacturer asked the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, a nonprofit, standards-setting organization, to verify the quality, purity and potency of its raw ingredients or finished products. USP maintains a list at www.uspverified.org.

 

Q: Is there any harm in taking a multivitamin if one is recommended to me?

A: Certain populations absolutely should supplement with a multivitamin. Of the studies available, no harm is demonstrated from providing a supplement meeting up to 100 percent of daily multivitamin infusion (MVI). There are actually a few recent studies where healthy subjects given multivitamins experienced benefits to mood, concentration and anxiety levels. The dangers of nutrient deficiency in pregnant women for example, outweigh the cost of a one-a-day supplement. Also, certain prescription medications can alter a person’s nutrient requirements and/or levels. Examples include gastric acid inhibitors (B12 deficiency), birth control pills (multiple B vitamins as well as some minerals) and drug therapy for tuberculosis (vitamin B6).

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The countdown to Valentine’s Day is on—we’re seeing more red and pink hearts and boxes of chocolate every day. Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday night this year. How do you plan to spend your Valentine’s Day?

How do you plan to spend your Valentine's Day

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Nuts are often included as part of a healthy diet. They can help fight disease, and they provide many nutritional benefits, especially for those who are avoiding certain food groups such as meat or gluten. Christie Williams, a clinical dietetic specialist at Johns Hopkins Medicine, works with patients on weight management, women’s health and executive health. She explains what nuts can be best for your health and includes some nutritional benefits of the most popular nuts.

 

What type of nuts are we talking about?

Tree nuts are a popular family of nuts that are OK to include as part of a healthy diet.

What nuts are in this group?

Pistachios, almonds, cashews, macadamias, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts and pine nuts.

What are the benefits of these nuts?

These nuts are plant-based in nature and contain protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, plant sterols and antioxidants specific to each variety.

How can eating these nuts affect certain health conditions?

Nut consumption has been associated with decreased obesity and improvement of postprandial blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes. They also have cholesterol-lowering properties and are rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats.

What serving amount is recommended for cardiovascular benefit?

The  U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a qualified health claim that says eating 1.5 ounces of most nuts per day or 2 tablespoons of nut butter in combination with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol that is controlled for calories can have cardiovascular benefits.

What nutrition benefits are provided from each type of nut?

Almonds: Vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, fiber and phytosterol. California is one of the world’s largest producers of almonds.

Cashews: This nut contains about 10 percent starch, so it is used as a thickening agent in water-based dishes for many Indian and African meals. It is high in antioxidants, copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.

Pecans: This nut is a good source of protein. It’s a heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat-rich nut that’s high in antioxidants.

Pistachios: The pistachio plant is a desert plant that is native to the Middle East. It is grown primarily in Turkey, California and Iran. A mindful approach when consuming this nut is to eat it “in the shell.” It has numerous nutrient values, including two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin.

How do you use nuts in cooking?

These are some of my favorite websites for using nuts in cooking:

http://www.almondboard.com/consumer/RecipeIdeas

http://oldwayspt.org/recipes?name=nuts

http://www.vrg.org/

http://ivu.org/recipes/

http://www.walnuts.org/cooking-with-walnuts/

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