Posts Filed Under: Food Science Fabulousness


17 Mar

Tasteful

Posted by on March 17, 2016 at 11:05 am

As everyone knows, I have a refined palate. That palate gets invited to very exclusive events due to its uncommon level of refinement. Below is my account of one such occasion.

We sucked pricey vinegar out of the hollows of our hands.

We sucked pricey vinegar out of the hollows of our hands.

Taste is a tasting boutique in Provo. We went there recently with six of Jason’s work friends to… taste. Our experience started out with nine different types of high-end chocolate. Chocolate tasting is nothing new to me; I am a food scientist with a refined palate. Nonetheless, I will never object to putting chocolate in my mouth and describing its organoleptic properties with sizable words that highlight my palate’s extraordinary refinement.

Most of us looked quite refined, with a few confused exceptions.

Most of us looked quite refined, with a few confused exceptions.

Ben was flabbergasted by my palate's refinement.

Ben was flabbergasted by my palate’s refinement.

We next moved on to several types of fine vinegar, olive oil, and cheese. These provided more opportunities for me to say things like “umami” and “herbaceous” while everyone gasped in astonishment at my palate’s refinement.

My palate did not shrink from its refinement responsibilities.

My palate did not shrink from its refinement responsibilities.

The coordinator for our tasting was very enthusiastic but he wasn’t always accurate. Being a food scientist with a refined palate, I know. Still, my palate got to parade its refinement like a jeweled monocle and I got to rub chocolate until it melted in my arms and gave away all its secrets. Tastefulness accomplished.

3 Aug

Fiber the Fantastic!

Posted by on August 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I think most of us understand the role of fiber in keeping our visits to the bathroom regular but many of us seem to overlook the other numerous wonders of this fabulous filler. A recent survey sponsored by Kellogg’s revealed that Americans hold incredibly incorrect opinions about the sources and benefits of fiber. I am mystified as to where people are getting this really, really wrong information. That’s why I felt compelled to write this post and add my own extremely accurate facts to the mix.

Over 90% of Americans don’t get the amount of fiber in their diets recommended by the USDA. We aren’t eating enough fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains. Instead, most people seem to be chowing more than their share of snack foods, simple carbohydrates, and meat. But, according to the Kellogg’s survey, some citizens are under the erroneous impression that hidden somewhere within the greasy depths of their Big Mac is a heap of fiber. Twenty percent of those questioned replied that they thought meats, seafood, and dairy products were good sources of fiber. Talk about wishful thinking! Ten percent of responders even voiced the opinion that water is a good source of fiber. What the what? Before I talk about the benefits of fiber it would appear that I need to take a step back and review some fiber basics.

Fiber only comes from plants, not meat or water. It’s mostly made up of carbohydrates but, unlike other carbs, these babies are not digestible by the human body. (Bacteria in the large intestine, however, do like to nibble on certain kinds of fiber a bit.)

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is essentially the glue that holds plants cells together. Good sources of soluble fiber include: fruit, oats, kidney beans, and barley. Soluble fiber swells or dissolves in water. It attracts water to your intestines and keeps it there. You can probably guess how your bowels benefit from that attribute.

Insoluble fiber forms the outer covering of grains and the structural parts of plants. It does not dissolve in water. Lignin, the stuff that makes pear flesh grainy, is an example of an insoluble fiber. Good sources of insoluble fiber include: broccoli, brown rice, and wheat bran. Insoluble fiber decreases intestinal transit time; it speeds foodstuffs through our systems from one end to the other.

Most people get that fiber can relieve constipation but they don’t seem to understand that it benefits your body far beyond the potty. Fifteen percent of those polled by Kellogg’s thought that they only needed fiber in their diets when they were experiencing irregularity. Hmm? I don’t know where they heard that but it certainly wasn’t from a reliable scientific source.

Studies have suggested that diets high in fiber can reduce the risk of all the big hitters from colon cancer to diabetes. One of these many studies found that men eating 25 g of fiber daily had a 36% lower risk of developing heart disease and those eating 29 g of fiber had a 41% less chance of having a heart attack. Another clinical concluded that women consuming mainly low-fiber carbohydrates were 2.5 times more likely to develop diabetes than those with a high-fiber diet. Further research found that men with type 2 diabetes showed significant improvement of blood glucose and lipid levels when given psyllium (a fiber) twice a day. The risk of colorectal cancer also appears to be decreased by an elevated fiber intake. Several studies have established that societies with a high-fiber consumption have a 30% lower rate of colorectal cancer. Looking to lose weight? Sure, fiber can help with that too. Research has shown that those with low-fiber diets gain 8 pounds more on average over a ten year period than their fiber eating counterparts. I could keep raving about the pros of fiber but I think I need to go chew on some bark now or something.

Ask not what fiber can do for you but what you can do for fiber. Scratch that. Just think about what fiber can do for you.

So how does fiber aid so many of our bodily systems? It’s sort of a mystery to be honest; fiber is full of more surprises than Houdini. Although fiber’s mechanisms of action are not totally understood we do know a few things:

When you eat a meal that contains a lot of fiber, that fiber adds bulk without adding much in the way of calories so you feel fuller and eat less. Additionally, since fiber slows the uptake of glucose and reduces the release of insulin, a high-fiber meal will spike your blood sugar levels more moderately and strain your pancreas less.

There are several theories on why fiber decreases the risk of cancer. Some think it’s because carcinogens (cancer promoting agents) are in contact with the intestinal wall for less time when fiber zooms things through our digestive tract so they have less of an effect on our cells. Others believe that carcinogens become bound to fiber in our guts preventing them from reacting with our bodies. Additional theories involve the acids contained in dietary fiber inducing cancer cell death. In the end the reason isn’t terribly important but the result, improving your chances of avoiding one of the top two lethal cancers, certainly is.

Based off current scientific data and government suggestions the average American should be consuming about 25 g of fiber a day. Are you thinking to yourself right now that you definitely get that much fiber between your daily doses of Ho Hos and potato chips? According to Kellogg’s about 80% of Americans think they are getting at least this amount of fiber in their diets but in reality only about 10% are. Are you one of those blessed 10%? Statistically speaking it’s not likely.

How can you increase the amount of fiber in your diet so you will no longer have to be the president of the Preparation H fan club? Well, about 20 years ago nutritional labeling became a requirement for processed foods but most of us apparently are still not taking advantage of this readily accessible information. Dietary Fiber content is mandatorily listed on almost all food labels; it’s easy to spot right there. Now that you know where to look for fiber totals how much should you be looking for? According to the FDA, a food with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving is considered a good source of fiber and a food with 5 grams or more is an excellent source of fiber. So look for whole grain options, eat a salad, and review your food labels. Foods are a much better source of fiber than supplements, since they also contain other goodies such as antioxidants and phtyonutrients, but, if all else fails, there is always Metamucil. Considering the state your colon is most likely in, you could probably use some.

To get the full scoop on the Kellogg’s survey visit: http://kelloggs.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=327

13 Oct

Joined at the Hip

Posted by on October 13, 2010 at 7:50 pm

America is losing it. We’ve all heard about how we, as a country, have been losing the international popularity contest and the foreclosures struggle but, no worries, we’re not losing in all arenas. In fact, there is one thing that we have most definitely been gaining: fat. Yes, just when it was beginning to look like our world dominance might be slipping, our people have demonstrated that we can still go above and beyond expectations. Congratulations America! Other nations may think that they can compete in the battle of the bulge but we’ve again proved that America is #1 as we Americans become fatter and fatter at unprecedented rates. Yes! We the people of the United States of America can still succeed at anything we put our mouths to!

It is estimated, if trends don’t change, that by the year 2020 three out of four Americans will be obese. But so what? Why should we care? If we are all obese it’s like none of us are, right? Unfortunately, obesity is linked to a number of health conditions, things that tend to kill you. Heart disease, for instance, is the #1 cause of death in the United States and very much related to obesity and poor lifestyle choices. And, if all the alarming stats on the ever-increasing rates of heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes don’t faze you perhaps the monetary implications of our fatness will. Obesity cost those living in the U.S. $117 billion dollars in the year 2000, that’s $400 for every man, woman, and child. Health care for overweight and obese individuals costs about 37 percent more than individuals of normal weight. What does that mean? The cost of treatment for illnesses related to obesity is comparable to the financial toll of smoking-related disease at about 9 percent of all health care expenditures. Yet, someone who would never be dumb enough to pick up a cigarette may eat lunch at McDonald’s every day and watch 2-4 hours of TV every night. They might never be inclined to exercise and may do nothing to counteract the creeping weight gain cycle they find themselves in-except of course that annual new year’s diet that they will probably give up on after two weeks. They may continue to eat fatty snacks and sugary treats and skimp on the fruits and veggies. They might keep on preferring the couch to running trails, basketball courts, soccer fields, and gyms. Then, as the years go by, they might just find themselves morbidly obese and diagnosed with diabetes or possibly the victim of a heart attack.

Most Americans don’t seem to truly grasp the consequences of their daily habits. They lack the education or motivation to make healthy lifestyle alterations so they stay in their well-formed habit ruts until their arteries look like the inside of a Cheese Wiz can or their blood is sugary enough to be mistaken for corn syrup. The company I work for, however, has been doing something to provide incentives for change.

This year my company participated in the Global Corporate Challenge. What is the Global Corporate Challenge you ask? It’s a contest based off the World Health Organization’s recommendation that individuals should take at least 10,000 steps a day to reduce their risk of disease and improve their health. For the challenge you join forces with 6 of your coworkers, preferably ones that aren’t couch potatoes, and form a 7 person team. Your awesome team competes with all the other teams in your company and in other corporations around the world for the highest daily step average over the course of four months. In order to monitor exactly how many steps they take, the participants have to wear a pedometer every day, everywhere they move, for those 4 months. Sounds like kind of a pain, right? Yeah, a bit, but the results are quite revealing.

When I heard my company was joining the GCC I was all in. I’m an active girl so I thought it would be fun and that I could rock it. So I captained a team of hooligans. We called ourselves The Gait Mates (Yes, another goofy name of my invention.) and began wearing those silly pedometers around everywhere. My team didn’t do too shabby. We averaged 14,875 steps/day and finished 7th in our company out of 37 teams. We were also ranked 1,743 internationally out of 13,972 teams. Sweet! And everyone at my work, not just my team, seemed to step up to the challenge of their rivals. (Oh the puns and references!) As a business we placed 4th out of all the participating companies in the nation. Kudos to us!

This pedometer was with me so much it was practically like we were

This pedometer was with me so much it was practically like we were attached at the hip...oh yeah, we were.

How about me? Did this challenge entice me to drastically alter all my habits? Ah…no, not really. Since I am already very active and regularly involved in mountain biking, running, soccer, racquetball, rock climbing, snowboarding, and any other crazy hobby I can add to my list, I didn’t really need to alter my exercise patterns. In the midst of the challenge I was training for a half marathon and running up to 10 miles a day. That crazy distance seems like it should translate into a ridiculously high daily step average, right? Well, I discovered that that’s sadly not the case. When you’re running you take longer strides than when you’re walking, hence you get less steps per mile even though you are doing more exercise; the more you push yourself with larger strides, as you try to go ever faster, the fewer steps you acquire for all your work. Doh! This means I really got jipped off on my running steps! Oh well. I still managed to get a 14,005 daily step average over the course of the contest. That may not have been the number I was anticipating but hey, I was still way above 10,000 so it’s all good.

The challenge may not have changed my habits but it did lead to a sobering realization. Like many workers, my job requires a lot of desk time. I’m constantly at my computer writing up reports, doing research, whatever. I found that on the days I worked and didn’t go running or biking afterwards I only got about 5,000 steps. Geeze! Now you may be thinking that this was because I park my car two feet from my employer’s door and ride the elevator up to my desk. But no, that’s not the case. (And frankly, you should know better than to think I am that lazy! Shame on you!) I always park my car on the far end of the lot and take the stairs when I’m going in and out of work. Yet, my number of steps was despicably low on most of the days I didn’t conscientiously make an effort to exercise when I got home. What does this mean for all of you? If you work at a desk job and take a seat in front of the tube the second you get home from the office chances are you are taking about 10 steps everyday and probably getting plumper by the minute.

So, while I don’t necessarily recommend that you all buy a pedometer and wear it everywhere you go for months, I would suggest that you become more aware of your activity levels on a daily basis, especially if you, like me, spend way too much time in a life-sucking cubicle. Taking the stairs, walking over to a coworker’s desks instead of calling them, parking a little further away, and taking a walk on your lunch or break can help. While seemingly insignificant practices like those can make a big difference over time, the main lesson I took home from this challenge is that those little things really aren’t enough; they won’t make up for a general lack of activity. So the bottom line is that our bottoms need to find their way off of couches and onto the seats of bikes. Just twenty minutes of exercise a day can literally add years onto your life. Not such a bad investment is it?

Luckily for me I have way too much energy and therefore absolutely crave activity. This antsyness has served me well and getting lots of steps has never been a problem. I know many of you don’t share my odd energetic excesses and to you I say, especially those trapped in cubicleland, just exercise anyway. Then, just maybe, we as a nation can be known for something else besides being lazy porkers.

9 Jun

Post-conception Misconceptions

Posted by on June 9, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I feel like I am constantly surrounded by pregnant women; many of the ladies around here seem like they are in a state of perpetual pregnancy. While I have as of yet refused to join their ranks I do have a few words of wisdom to offer them, not as mother but as a food scientist.

Pregnant women seem to have a lot of misconceptions about their condition. I’m not sure if these erroneous beliefs originate from incorrect information passed down from mothers and grandmothers or if they simply blossom out of women’s desires to take advantage of their situation. But I do know that I’ve listened to far too many mothers-to-be talk about how hungry they are when they are only 5 or 6 weeks along and I’ve heard lots of ladies justify eating ridiculously unhealthy and calorie laden meals by stating that old adage “I’m not eating for one; I’m eating for two.” I’ve held my tongue loads of times when expecting women have told me that they can’t exercise because they are pregnant but I can keep my big mouth shut no longer.

Okay ladies, it’s time to get your information straight. Disregard the phony-bologna you heard from your Aunt Gertrude and forget your longing to just have one time in your life when you can eat whatever the heck you want without consequence. Despite all that wishful thinking pregnancy isn’t actually a good excuse to be a lazy piggy. Let me tell you the facts so the next time one of you pregos try to give me the rundown on why you need to consume 4,000 calories a day and do nothing but watch TV you will understand why I’m not buying it.

As a food scientist, and someone with years of experience in the dietary supplement field, I understand nutritional needs during pregnancy very well. I’ve even developed prenatal supplement formulas for companies I’ve worked for. So don’t discount what I’m telling you now simply because I haven’t experienced pregnancy myself. I’m guessing most of your OBGYN doctors are men and therefore have never been, nor will ever be, pregnant. Yet you take their advice. Why? Because reason and science do not require firsthand experience; if they did, life would be our only teacher and text books would be completely obsolete. The facts are the facts and I know the fact so let’s go through the basics of caloric needs during pregnancy and how they relate to nutrient needs and then let’s cover what is a healthy amount of exercise when you are expecting.

I

I'd hate to see what the offspring of that woman would look like. Here's Jason illustrating my post with more than his usual level of idiocy. He was sad that I didn't have a moo moo for him to wear.

First a reminder: pregnancy is composed of three trimesters – if that is news to any of you we have bigger problems than you eating too many Doritos. Nutrient and caloric needs vary from trimester to trimester so I’m going to break it all down for you.

Let’s start with the first trimester. Nutrition is absolutely critical during the first trimester of pregnancy because this is when many of the baby’s organs and body parts form. The nutrient status of a mother during this period can have lifelong ramifications for her offspring. That’s why it is imperative that all women in their childbearing years supplement with folic acid and that any woman attempting to get pregnant take a daily prenatal vitamin. In a woman that is nutrient deficient by the time she realizes she is pregnant, and takes steps to correct those deficiencies, irreversible damage may have already been done to her baby. It’s not worth the risk ladies. Be responsible and make sure you are getting adequate nutrients whether you see a baby in your near future or not. After all, life is full of surprises.

Despite the extra nutrients necessary in the first trimester women need virtually NO extra calories during this time. Yes, that is correct. So if you are 5 weeks along, and just found out you were expecting, don’t come crying to me about how you’re hungry constantly because you don’t need any additional calories yet – it’s all in your head. The mind truly must be a powerful thing because countless barely pregnant women have told me their hunger woes. Yes, I am rolling my eyes just thinking about it.

Since you don’t need any extra food during the first few months of pregnancy you should only gain 2 to 4 pounds and no, that 2 does not have a 0 after it. By the beginning of the second trimester the fetus only weighs about 1 oz. Yeah, not exactly what one would call a calorie demanding mass.

In the second trimester the fetus bulks up from 1 ounce to about 2 or 3 pounds and then, during the third trimester, it does the majority of its growing and weight accumulation. Surely, since the baby is rapidly expanding women need extra calories during their second and third trimesters, right? Absolutely, but only about 300 additional calories a day are required. This may sound substantial but it’s really not. You can get 300 calories from 2 cups of low-fat milk and a slice of bread …or a microscopic potato chip crumb. Pregnant women should put on approximately 0.75-1.0 pound a week in their second and third trimesters bringing the grand total of weight gain for the entire pregnancy to about 25-35 pounds. It should be noted that while additional weight gain is generally not healthy it is better than not enough weight gain. The wellbeing of your baby should always be your top priority so skimping on your food because you are trying to watch your figure is an absolutely ridiculous thing to do during pregnancy.

Unlike energy needs, which don’t change too much during pregnancy, nutrient needs increase by quite a bit: 20-100% depending on the nutrient. This means that pregnant women need to be more conscientious about what they’re eating, not less so, in order to fulfill their nutrient requirements. Translation: consume more nutrient dense foods not more calorie dense foods. Say no to the French fries but yes to the fruits and veggies.

Also, you poor women that suffer from morning sickness when you are expecting have my condolences. Obviously, for those in the vomitous clutches of this obnoxious condition whatever can be kept down should be consumed. And of course, getting too much food is not an issue for the gagging.

Now that we have covered the fundamentals concerning pregos and calories how about exercise? If you’re pregnant exercise is bad, right? While pregnancy is not the time to start up a new exercise routine, the rule of thumb is that you can continue to do just about any exercise that you could do beforehand without difficulty. So if you were in good shape and regularly went running before you were expecting you will most likely be able to continue that regiment to some degree. There are exceptions certainly. Contact sports are out as are things like deep leg bends and weight lifting. And of course some women, due to possible complications, are told to keep their exercise to a minimum. Any exercise program should be discussed with your doctor to ensure that it will be safe given your specific circumstances. With that said, I know plenty of pregos that use pregnancy as an excuse not to exercise at all even though there is no reason for it in their particular case.

In conclusion, while some women have problems with excessive weight gain during pregnancy due to genetic or hormonal causes beyond their control this is not the case with most pregnancies. Just like everyone else, pregnant women gain too much weight because they eat too much, exercise too little, or a combination of both. As much as a mother-to-be might wish that pregnancy would somehow be a loophole to that cardinal rule, it’s just not the case. So remember ladies, when you are 5 weeks along you aren’t eating for two; you are eating for you and a pea-sized mass of replicating cells. And when you are further along you only need 300 extra calories a day but a substantial amount of added nutrients. So make sure you get highly nutritious foods and take a nice walk. The exercise and healthy eating will do both of you good. And if you recall nothing else from this post remember this: pregnant women may need extra love and support to cope with the changes they are going through but they don’t need an extra cheeseburger. Your post-pregnancy body will thank you for keeping that in mind.

19 Mar

Vitamin D Drama

Posted by on March 19, 2010 at 6:59 pm

A vitamin, by definition, is a nutrient needed in the diet in small amounts for normal function, growth, and maintenance of body tissues. However, there is one vitamin that pushes that definition, one vitamin that won’t be viewed in black and white, one vitamin that refuses to be categorized. That rebellious nutrient is Vitamin D.

Vitamin D, unlike other vitamins, isn’t always essential. Obtaining it in your diet may or may not be necessary. Hmmm…has Vitamin D’s ambiguous nature got you a little puzzled? If so, let me walk you through the details.

You see, your skin cells are capable of forming Vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, or UV light to be more exact. Most people, in the majority of climates, can make all the Vitamin D they need by simply getting sunlight on their face, arms, and hands for about 10-15 minutes, a few days a week, between the hours of 8 AM and 4 PM. However, if you aren’t hanging out in the sun much, or you’re wearing UV blocking sunscreen constantly, then your skin can’t manufacture adequate Vitamin D and you need to get it in your diet. So while dietary Vitamin D intake isn’t essential for many people, those “if” cases have allowed this nutrient to achieve vitamin status. Vitamin D deficiency used to primarily be a problem only in populations that had a sun insufficiency: the elderly, vampires, people living in northern climates where the sun pretty much disappears for months. However, trends seem to indicate that now things may be changing…and not in a good way. But before I get to the latest Vitamin D drama, permit me to tell you why you should care about this particular nutrient.

Vitamin D, like most vitamins, is a multitasker. Its most important function is regulating blood calcium levels and preventing calcium loss but it also aids in immune function, contributes to insulin secretion, and may help ward off cancer. Vitamin D deficiency causes rickets or soft bones- amongst other things. Even if you were so stuffed with calcium that someone could use you as a piece of chalk, all that calcium wouldn’t do your bones much good without Vitamin D. Calcium can’t do its job without Vitamin D to back it up; bone maintenance is a team effort. Go team bones!

You should now understand that vitamin D is important but perhaps you are confused as to why it, a sometimes non-essential nutrient, deserves our attention when there are plenty of always-essential nutrients out there. Let me quell that confusion by sharing Vitamin D’s recent woes – the problems that have lead to increasing deficiencies.

Problem 1: You may have noticed that more and more people have become aware of the harmful nature of UV radiation. It is true UV light causes all sorts of havoc in our skin. You many know that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer but were you also aware that it suppresses your skin’s immune responses, causes a cascade of inflammation, and leads to the formation of free radicals? Oddly, although some people don’t care about the risk of skin cancer and all that other bad stuff they usually do care about being pretty. Sun exposure is one of the leading causes of premature aging. Yes, in this day of youth obsession that point seems to catch everyone’s attention. In fact it has caught so much attention that not only are many women putting SPF lotions on their faces every day but some are slathering on SPF containing body lotions day and night. They are essentially wrapping themselves in a sun proof cocoon. After all, the seconds of sun exposure here and there do add up over a lifetime and can lead to catastrophically normal skin. Gasp! Because of this rise in UV apprehension, and segments of the population avoiding unprotected sun exposure like the plaque, Vitamin D deficiency appears to be increasing.

Jas is doing his best to represent someone with a

Jas is doing his best here to represent someone who feels uneasy about going out in the sun even with ridiculous amounts of sunscreen on. But it isn't just the sunscreen that looks ridiculous...

Problem 2: When I was a kid I spent a lot of time outdoors. I loved playing outside. Most people my age felt similarly about the outdoors when they were children and now those once-kids are already dealing with skin cancer issues because of all the time they spent enjoying the sunny summers in their early years with as few clothes on as possible. My generation may have gotten a few too many sunburns back in those days, and our skin is now paying the price, but did we have Vitamin D deficiency? Absolutely not. Kids today, however, spend a lot less time being lively outside. They are too obsessed with their video games and TV shows to be regularly involved in active to buy furosemide outdoor play. The negative effects of this surge in childhood inactivity are far reaching and include: childhood obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. Vitamin D levels also seem to be dwindling in many kids due to their sedentary indoor lifestyles.

So now you appreciate what poor Vitamin D has been going through but what can be done about its predicament? My solution is very simple and entirely logical…heaven forbid the answer to any dilemma be logical. You see, I am a big fan of moderation and that’s exactly what this situation calls for. Many people bask in the sun, or regularly visit tanning beds, with little thought to the long-term consequences… and there will be consequences. Those consequences may come in the form of sunburns, wrinkles, a suppressed immune system, sagging skin, age spots, or skin cancer. Why tanners why? If you are burning yourself in order to be hip you should know that tan skin is on its way out! That’s right, pale even-toned skin is making a comeback! (Yes! I am going to have the trendiest skin around!) And even if tan skin continues to be popular, (It really is becoming less and less so…I would never lie to you.) is looking sun baked really worth the health of your skin? Also, if you are that concerned about appearances shouldn’t you be concerned about what your skin is going to look like in 20 or 30 years thanks to all the tanning you are doing now? Put some sunscreen on people! By the way, the sunless tanners they have these days are quite good; they don’t make you look like an oversized pumpkin. Ever considered using those instead of frying your skin? Just a thought.

And to all you people that fear the sun as if it were an evil overlord hovering above you…chill! You need some beams! Ten minutes a day isn’t going to kill you, in fact not getting any is much more likely to do so. And you aren’t going to turn into a hag if you get a few rays now and then, at least not any more so than is unfortunately unavoidable through the passing of time.

And parents, you know where the “off” switch is on your TV or kids’ gaming system right? Well, then why don’t you use it? Send you children outside to run around and play. Even if this takes a bit of work, it could save your kids from a long list of chronic health problems and sickly lives. (I know, I know, it’s not fair; you didn’t expect parenting to actually take effort.) By the way, don’t forget your kids do need sunscreen when being out in the sun for extended periods of time. You wouldn’t want their backs to be littered with precancerous cells when they’re only 30 would you? I thought not.

So to review: Lots of sun=bad. No sun or constantly SPFing your whole body=bad. Ten minutes of sunscreenless sun a few days a week=good.

And let me just say to those of you that are bound and determined to keep every inch of your skin covered from the sun and wear a thick layer of SPF 500 sunscreen day and night despite my plea for moderation and rationality- there is still a glimmer of hope for your bones. If you won’t soak in your Vitamin D you can still eat it. Good sources of Vitamin D include: fatty fish, fortified milk, and some breakfast cereals. So make sure you get plenty of those in your diet or your beautifully pale and well-kept skin could be stretched over a large osteoporotic hump. (That’s usually not considered attractive.)

I should also warn you sun avoiders that while sunlight and food sourced Vitamin D will not cause toxicity, such is not the case for Vitamin D supplements. If you seek to improve your Vitamin D status through supplementation you should be careful not to overdo it. Vitamin D is fat soluble, builds up in your fat tissue, and can be extremely toxic. A normal adult would have to take about 10 times the AI (Adequate Intake) of Vitamin D for approximately 6 months before toxicity would set in. (For an infant the amount of Vitamin D that will cause toxicity is far less.) You may be thinking that six months is oodles of time and that toxicity therefore isn’t an issue but you might change your tune when your body starts going berserk and depositing calcium in random places like your kidneys, heart, blood vessels…organs don’t tend to recover from something like that too well.

So go easy on the Vitamin D supplements, enjoy some fish, and hang out with your fiery friend the sun occasionally. A few short visits with him every week will take quite a bit of the Vitamin D drama out of your life.