Posts Tagged ‘vitamins’

a person standing in the sun

It’s fall now, which means the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler. In the long winter months, warm weather and sunshine can seem like a distant memory. We start to look forward to the days when the sun will stay longer and bring back all that we love about being outside – picnics, barb-b-ques, and more. The sun, in fact, gives us more than we realize. One of the most important vitamins we need – Vitamin D – actually depends on the sun, so much so that it is known as the “sunshine vitamin”.

If vitamins had a popularity contest, vitamin D would surely be a top contestant. Why does it get so much press?  The answer lies in just how much it does for our bodies. Vitamin D supports neuromuscular and immune function, reduces inflammation, and improves bone health.

You might be wondering how the sun plays a role in the vitamin D levels in our bodies. We naturally produce an inactive form of vitamin D in our bodies called calciferol. Our hero, the sun, converts calciferol to the active form of vitamin D – cholecalciferol. However, this process depends on a number of factors including the length of exposure to the sun, skin type, where you live (how much sun exposure your geographical area gets), the season, and the time of day.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the world, and in the United States. It is estimated that around 40% of Americans may be deficient in Vitamin D. Infants, disabled individuals, the elderly, obese individuals, people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, people with darker skin, and people who have medical problems which interfere with normal absorption of nutrients are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. If you feel you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting bloodwork done. It is important to consult with a doctor before taking a vitamin D supplement. Your doctor will help you determine whether supplementation is needed, and if so, what an appropriate dose would be. Taking a supplement without consulting with a doctor could put you at risk for toxicity, and you may suffer side effects associated with too much vitamin D. If your doctor does recommend a supplement, be sure to ask for recommendations, or use this resource to find products that have been tested for quality. As described in a previous blog article, not all supplements are created equal!

Proactively, besides getting outside and taking in the sun, you can also aim to include foods high in Vitamin D in your diet. Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel; eggs yolks, cheese, mushrooms, and cod liver oil are all naturally high in vitamin D. Fortunately, in the United States a number of foods are now fortified with vitamin D: milk, infant formula, breakfast cereals, some brands of orange juice, and select yogurt products.

Whether it comes from the sun, food, or supplements, getting enough vitamin D is important!


Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Nair, R. & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

Forrest, K.Y.Z. & Stuhldreher, W.L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutr Res.;31(1):48-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.12.001

Written by Avani Patel, Pharm-D, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

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a cabinet full of dietary supplements

The dietary supplement industry in the United States is robust, and it continues to grow with increasing consumer demand for health and wellness products. About two out of every three Americans take a dietary supplement today. As the industry grows, consumers have an ever-increasing choice of products and brands to choose from. This may leave people with an important question: is there really a difference between supplements brands? The simple answer is yes.  Suppliers of vitamins, minerals, and other wellness products do not all have the same standards of quality, purity, or safe manufacturing practices. Surprised? You might ask, “Doesn’t the government regulate these companies?” Here the answer gets a little complicated. The FDA does enforce certain regulations; however, since 1994 dietary supplements have been regulated under the category of food, not medication. Under these guidelines it is the manufacturer of the supplement, not the FDA, who is responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of the products. The lack of consistent regulations across the industry has flooded the market with products with varying degrees of quality. The number of consumer reports against manufacturers of dietary supplements is increasing, and the FDA continues to take action against companies that distribute and sell products that pose health risks.

This brings us to the next question, how do I find a quality brand of vitamins, minerals, or other supplements? One simple way to know if the brand you are reaching for is trustworthy is to check for the USP verification mark. The USP Dietary Supplement Verification Program identifies manufacturers who produce quality products. To receive the USP verification mark, manufacturers must meet quality standards by completing a facility audit, documenting their manufacturing and quality control measures, testing samples of their product in a laboratory, and providing off-the-shelf testing of supplements. What does this mean for consumers? The USP verification mark means that:

  1. The product contains the correct ingredients in the correct amount as stated on the label  
  2. The product does not contain harmful levels of certain contaminants
  3. The product will be broken down and released in the body in a particular time frame
  4. The product was made in accordance with USP and FDA current Good Manufacturing Practices. 

Want to do research before going to the store? You can look for USP verified dietary supplements by visiting the USP Quality Supplements website. You can use this reference to learn more about USP verification and to search for USP verified supplements by type. You can also search for brands, including select store brand products. There are also resources to help consumers learn how to read supplement labels. 

Given the inconsistent quality across the industry for dietary supplements, it can be hard to know which brand to trust.  Choosing a dietary supplement that has the USP verification mark can help you make that choice with confidence. 

Written by: Avani Patel, Pharm-D, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County


 Dietary Supplement Manufacturing – USP Verified Mark | USP. Accessed March 4, 2021. https://www.usp.org/verification-services/verified-mark

Quality Supplements. Accessed March 4, 2021. https://www.quality-supplements.org/resources/resource-gallery-infographic

Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on the agency’s new efforts to strengthen regulation of dietary supplements by modernizing and reforming FDA’s oversight. FDA. Published February 11, 2019. Accessed March 4, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-agencys-new-efforts-strengthen-regulation-dietary

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I love any type of juice in the morning- grape, orange, apple, cranberry, punch. It gives me that quick energy that I need to jump start my day. Juice is naturally high in carbohydrates and calories, and also some antioxidant vitamins such as C and A which help the immune system, promote heart health, and prevent cancers. Citrus juice has B vitamins and minerals such as potassium which promote nerve and muscle health. Some juice products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D which are helpful to bones and teeth. Juices such as grape juice have other antioxidants and phytochemicals which are anti-inflammatory and can also promote healthy cardiovascular systems and prevent some cancers.

As someone who lives with type 1 diabetes, juice can also be helpful to have around in case I have a low blood sugar. With that in mind, I have to be especially mindful of serving sizes when I drink juice because it could also cause a spike in my blood sugar if I don’t take enough insulin. Most juice has about 30-40 grams of carbohydrate per 8 oz serving. 8 oz doesn’t look like much in today’s mega-glasses, many of which can easily hold 32 ounces! I normally will try to use an 8 oz glass when pouring juice. In addition to being high in carbohydrates, juice is also acidic, which is especially problematic for tooth decay. Experts recommend not brushing teeth until at least an hour after consuming acidic products.

Not all juice is created equal. Most experts recommend drinking 100% juice because vitamins and minerals are higher. However 100% juice is also high in fructose, naturally found in fruit. Many juice cocktails on the market have fewer carbohydrates since they contain added sweeteners and are still fortified with vitamins. Be sure to read labels when shopping for juice.

Fruit juice lacks an important nutrient found in whole fruit- fiber. Fiber helps the digestive system, lowers cholesterol, promotes a healthy colon, lowers blood sugar spikes, just to name a few benefits. Eating an orange or an apple will give you the fiber and also the juice!

Parents should be careful not to introduce juice too early to their children. The sugar in juice can be harmful to teeth, and too much can contribute to childhood obesity. Kids should get used to drinking water, low-fat milk, and other low-calorie products. Parents can also look for lower calories juice products.

Consider other alternatives to juice such as:

Fruit infused water or herbs

A splash of juice in a spritzer

Lemon infused water, with some honey or sweetner


Author:  Dan Remley, MSPH, PhD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu


WebMD: Juices, the Best and Worst for Your Health. Retrieved on 9/8/20 from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-juice-wars

WebMD: Choose Fruit Wisely. Retrieved on 9/8/20 from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/fruit-diabetes-sugar

Remley, D. Nutrition and Dental Hygiene: Myths versus Facts. Retrieved on 9/8/20 from https://livehealthyosu.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=12050&action=edit

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

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The weather outside is very cold and I begin to feel that scratchy throat. I am seeing my daughter’s nose running and hear her squashcomplaining about her ear hurting.  Amidst the holiday celebrations and more contact with friends and family, contagious illnesses are making their rounds.  Besides the number one action of washing our hands frequently, how can we best prepare our bodies to fight off these pesky germs?  The American Institute for Cancer Research has a helpful article, “Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables.”  What a timely topic!  So what are the recommended tips we should put into practice?

Make sure you are eating the rainbow.

  • Deep orange vegetables like pumpkins, winter squash, and sweet potatoes will provide you with Vitamin A and fiber.  See a great reduced fat recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole below.
  • Red Peppers will provide Vitamin E and Vitamin C while tomatoes will provide Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A).
  • Deep red, purple and blue berries and all the varieties of apples are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Green broccoli, mustard and turnip greens (and others), spinach and brussel sprouts all provide a variety of wonderful vitamins and minerals that keep our body healthier and able to battle infections.

Eat a variety of foods and do not overcook them.

  • Red meats and poultry, whole and fortified grains and breads provide the minerals zinc and selenium that help to build our immunity.
  • Grapes, beans, onions, etc.  are part of the many fresh fruits and vegetables and are nature’s vitamin pills.  In addition to their great taste they help to maintain our healthy lifestyles.
  • Overcooking and boiling our foods causes vitamins to escape and be poured down the drain.

Flavor foods naturally.

  • Ginger is known to fight inflammation and colds.  Other herbs and spices also help to keep our bodies running strong.

These food tips along with regular physical activity and drinking lots of water to keep us hydrated will not prevent every sneeze or sniffle this frosty season, but it should help us to prevent some illnesses and shorten the symptoms of the ones that get us down.

Try this tasty slimmed down version of sweet potato casserole for some great Vitamin A:

Sweet Potato Casserole

Yield: 10 servings


1 pound sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)

3 egg whites

1⁄2 cup sugar

12 ounces evaporated milk, nonfat

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon nutmeg

1⁄2 teaspoon ginger


1. Rinse sweet potatoes in cold running water and pierce with a fork.

2. Microwave sweet potatoes on full power until tender, about 15 minutes. Turn them half way during baking.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove skin from sweet potatoes and mash with hand beaters or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth.

4. Pour mixture in an 8 inch square baking pan. Bake until casserole is firm in the center, about 40 minutes.

5. Remove pan from oven. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then cut into 10 squares.

6. Serve hot. Refrigerate leftovers.

Notes:  You may want to experiment with using canned sweet potatoes.

Sources: Deck Your Meals with Fruits and Vegetables, (2013).  American Institute of Cancer Research.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://preventcancer.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=17467&news_iv_ctrl=2303

Super Foods for Optimal Health, (2013). WebMD.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

Sweet Potato Casserole, (2013). United States Department of Agriculture:  SNAP-Ed connection.  Accessed on December 10, 2013, at http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/sweet-potato-casserole

Author:  Cheryl Barber Spires, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, West Region, spires.53@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Liz Smith, R.D., L.D., SNAP-Ed Program Specialist, Ohio State University Extension, NorthEast Region, smith.3993@osu.edu

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If you pay much attention to health and nutrition news, you’ve probably heard about probiotics.  But for those of you who aren’t familiar with probiotics, here is a basic primer.

Probiotics are live, healthy bacteria in foods that we commonly consume.  The bacteria pass into our digestive tract and promote health by helping digest our food, synthesizing vitamin K, and maintaining the immune system. Although research is still being done, some studies have also shown that probiotics may help regluate inflammation and decrease the incidence of colitis and  inflammatory bowel disease.

Healthy bacteria, or microflora, are frequently found in yogurt and fermented foods such as kefir, buttermilk and sauerkraut.  The most common microbes used as probiotics include lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.  However, some yeasts and bacilli are also used in probiotics.  Since our intestines contain several different species of bacteria, many people believe supplementing that bacteria will help form new colonies of microflora that further benefits health.  In contrast, prebiotics are not bacteria but are typically non-digestible carbohydrates such as soy beans, raw oats, or unrefined wheat which help stimulate the growth of bacteria in the gut that is also beneficial to health.

In addition to fermented dairy/food products, live probiotic cultures are also available in a tablet, capsule, or powder form.  Be sure to check with your medical professional before purchasing a probiotic .   Products vary in quality and purity, as with any supplement.  Check with your physician or the manufacturer for research to support any health claims made by the company.

Source:  Department of Public Affairs, Children’s Hospital, Boston

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

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