Thursday, March 26, 2009

Five Nutrients You're Likely Missing

Here are five key nutrients that most of us are not getting enough of from our diet. One of them is likely not a surprise to you. In fact I call it the "vitamin du jour" - the one everyone is talking about - Vitamin D. The others are Magnesium, Vitamin B12, Potassium, and Iodine.

Vitamin D is required for healthy bones and teeth. It allows for absorption of Calcium and Phosphorus in the intestine. It maintains a stable nervous system and normal heart action. A recent study in Circulation found that people deficient in Vitamin D were up to 80% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. The belief is that Vitamin D may reduce inflammation in the arteries. (Men's Health, April 2009)

Lack of Vitamin D may cause osteoporosis or softening of bones, rickets, tooth decay, poor healing of fractures, lack of vigor, muscular weakness, inadequate absorption of calcium, or retention of phosphorus in the kidneys.

Vitamin D is created in the body from the Sun's ultraviolet B rays (yes those very rays that we are protecting our self from with sunscreen). Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, so people following "low fat" diets may not have the right kind or sufficient fat to absorb and assimilate the vitamin.

The best way to check Vitamin D levels is the 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. The best sources of Vitamin D are cod liver oil, eggs, butter, and oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring).

Magnesium is needed for over 300 different bodily processes. Magnesium helps prevent heart attacks by regulating the neuromuscular activity of the heart and maintaining normal heart rhythm. It helps prevent calcium deposits, kidney stones, and gallstones. Magnesium is needed for proper Calcium and Vitamin C metabolism. It converts blood sugar into energy. And, has been found to aid in bowel regularity.

A shortage of magnesium can show up in a variety of emotional symptoms such as nervousness, tension, and confusion. On a physical level it can result in tremors, muscular excitability, gallstones, kidney stones, or constipation. It has also been linked to blood clots in the heart and brain, along with brittle bones.

If you drink alcohol or eat a lot of sweets, it may be a good idea to supplement with magnesium. Alcohol and sugar deplete magnesium in the body.

Your best sources of magnesium are dark green vegetables, most nuts, seeds, and legumes, whole grains, and avocado.

Vitamin B12 regulates the nervous system, increases energy and agility, and is required for the formation and regeneration of red blood cells. It is necessary for carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism, as well as calcium and iron absorption. It helps improves mental condition and attitude.

Lack of Vitamin B12 is related to fatigue, dizziness, poor appetite, itching, stinging or burning sensation of the skin. Severe deficiency will cause pernicious or iron deficiency anemia. Vitamin B12 is important for nervous system, so deficiencies will cause nervousness, neuritis, neuropathy, degeneration of the spinal cord, depression, lack of balance, or loss of motor control.

An important aspect to B12. My research tells me it needs to come from animal sources to be properly utilized and absorbed by the human body. Tests on "vegetarian" B12 supplements indicate the body is not getting the B12. The best food sources of B12 are meat, most fish (especially the oily ones), crabs, oysters, eggs, and yogurt. Organ meats such as liver, heart and kidney are also high in B12.

Potassium is effective in reducing and preventing high blood pressure. Very important - it works with sodium to regulate the body's waste balance and normalize heart rhythms. It will help to increase energy and support clear thinking by sending oxygen to the brain. It preserves proper alkalinity of body fluids, stimulates the kidneys to eliminate poisonous body wastes, and promotes healthy skin.

Lack of potassium can lead to high blood pressure, poor reflexes, nervous disorders, respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, or muscle damage.

The balance of sodium and potassium is very important in the body. So, loading up on high sodium foods can further get the body out of balance.

The best sources of potassium are leafy green vegetables, broccoli, peas, lima beans, tomatoes, potatoes (skins), citrus fruits, bananas, apples, avocados, raisins, whole grains, fish, and meat.

Iodine is required by the thyroid gland to produce its hormones which ultimately control the body's metabolism - or how efficiently you burn calories. It is important for mental agility and promotes healthy hair, nails, skin, and teeth. Iodine is also helpful for breast health, particularly in women.

Lack of iodine can cause serious problems for the body due to the lack of thyroid hormone production. It can lead to weight gain, fatigue, cold hands and feet, dry skin and hair, impaired reflexes, slow speech and mental reaction, loss of physical and mental vigor, and skin sores.

I've been doing a lot of research into iodine recently and have concluded that most of us are lacking. A great source of information on iodine is

The best sources of iodine are from the sea - fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables (particularly kelp). Bromine, which is added to many baked goods and breads, is an iodine depletor.

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

To Pass or Not to Pass the Salt - That is the Question

Pass the salt or not to pass the salt, that is the question. This is another area of nutrition confusion. To begin our understanding of this we have to recognize the difference between salt and sodium. Sodium is essential to life. Just as I discussed how the sweet taste coincides with our need for Vitamin C, our tongue also senses salt, so we can get the sodium we need. What does sodium do? It is critical for the ongoing health of every cell in our body. That’s a pretty important job! It is part of the fluid between the cells. Along with its partner potassium, the two minerals balance the nutrient and waste exchange of each cell. Sodium is also in our blood, our lymphatic fluid, and is required for the production of hydrochloric acid so we can digest our food. Sodium is involved in nerve and muscle functioning where it again teams with potassium. It also maintains our body’s fluid balance, electrolyte balance, and pH balance.

You can certainly see that we need sodium. So, where do we get it? There are many places. Healthy sources of natural sodium include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and meat. Unfortunately, the place where most of us get it is refined table salt or sodium added to processed foods. These are unhealthy forms of sodium. Like all other processed or refined foods, they have been stripped of all the naturally occurring minerals. In this case of table salt all that remains are the sodium and chloride. In addition, during the manufacturing process it is chemically cleaned, bleached, and heated so high that the chemical structure changes. Anticaking agents are added so the salt will not mix with water when in your salt shaker. This is fine in the salt shaker, but it does the same thing in your body. The refined salt does not dissolve and combine with the water and fluids in our body. So what does it do? It builds up in the body and leaves deposits in our tissues and organs leading health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, fluid retention, weight gain, headaches, stomach ulcers, and stomach cancer to name a few.

How much sodium do you need? The answer is based on individual needs. As a guideline, the FDA recommended a maximum of 2400 milligrams daily. That is the equivalent of approximately one and a quarter teaspoons of natural salt. Because most of us eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) high in processed and refined foods and low in healthy fruits and vegetables many of us far exceed that level.

One of the big misconceptions about salt is that we need to use salt that is iodized. Iodine is necessary for the thyroid gland to function correctly. Iodine has been added to table salt for that purpose. However, unrefined sea salt, Celtic salt, or Himalayan salt are examples of natural salts that contain many minerals and foods such as ocean fish, kelp, and other sea vegetables also contain iodine. Celtic salt, Himalayan salt, and unrefined sea salt are the healthy salts that I recommend to my clients. For more information on iodine I highly recommend the web site One way to determine whether or not you have sufficient iodine is called the iodine patch test. You can Google “iodine patch test” for more information and instructions.

Many people crave salt. That may be an indication that your adrenal glands are stressed out, meaning you are stressed out. According to Chinese medicine salt cravings are a sign of too much sugar or alcohol in the diet and the body’s way to come back into balance. Sometimes salt cravings can be a warning for oncoming hypertension. One of the best sources I know of for learning more about salt is Ann Louise Gittleman’s Get the Salt Out. You can get her book at

Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. He is an expert in the field of Nutrition and Erectile Dysfunction. His office is in Thiensville, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at, call (262) 389-9907 or go to