Monday, March 25, 2013

What's All The Hype About Superfoods?

It seems as if every day the next “superfood” is introduced.  It is usually from some exotic locale; it has just recently been discovered by someone and saved their life; it will cure all diseases known to man; and it is featured in the latest and greatest multi-level marketing program that is guaranteed to make you a millionaire.  Also, it is generally rather expensive to buy!  Some of the most recent examples include: goji berries, acai berries, Mona Vie juice, chia seeds, seaweeds, spirulina, dark chocolate, and of course all kinds of superfoods combined in green, red, orange, or purple powders to mix in your smoothie.

Please, don’t get me wrong.  I’m in no way saying that these foods are not good for you.  I’m sure they have many of the “super” qualities being touted.  I’m only suggesting that there are many other foods that are probably just as “super” but do not have multi-million dollar marketing campaigns promoting them and will not take as huge a bite out of your wallet.  Also, many of these products claim to cure or reverse aging, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.  While they may contribute to improved health these claims are likely stretching the truth to some extent.  

Wikipedia has the following definition, “Superfood is a term used in various contexts. For example, it is sometimes used to describe food with high nutrient or phytochemical content that may confer health benefits.”  We are also told, “They are superior sources of anti-oxidants and essential nutrients - nutrients we need but cannot make ourselves.”

Here’s the part I like the best, “The term is not in common use by dietitians and nutrition scientists, many of whom dispute that particular foodstuffs have the health benefits often claimed by advocates of particular superfoods. There is no legal definition of the term and it has been alleged that this has led to it being misleadingly used as a marketing tool.”  This is exactly my concern.  Terminology is being thrown around without any agreed upon definition of what exactly a “superfood” is, should be, or should do!

So, are there really “superfoods?”  My answer is yes, but you don’t have to travel all over the world to find them nor do you have to surrender your whole paycheck to buy them.  Superfoods are real foods.  Most of them are located in a grocery store or farm near you.  For example, you don’t have to buy exotic berries.  Blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries work just fine.  

What does my list of “superfoods” look like?  This is In no special order.  The best fruits are berries.  Raw nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and fat.  In the vegetable family it is the dark leafy greens (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and beet greens) and the Cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage).  In the animal family there is grass fed beef, antibiotic and hormone free chicken and turkey, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines which are high in Omega 3’s.  For more details on my list of top foods to eat, click here and here .

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Risk of Nutrient Deficiencies for Vegetarians

As I have written before there are many theories about what makes a proper human diet.  And, what makes it more confusing is that you can always find a study to support each theory.   One of the main arguments is whether or not humans should eat meat.  From my personal experience and that of my clients I believe that we should.  Yet at the same time I believe that a vegan or vegetarian or plant based diet can be very good for someone for a particular period of time.  It can be healing.  

But, here are some key questions.  What is the plant based diet being compared to?  What did the person eat before?  Is the diet in and of itself healthy and providing all the nutrients or is it just cleaning up what was there?  The answer could be yes, no, or maybe.  Will this same diet provide long term health?  What is the significance of the age the diet is started?  

When we discuss animal product the most important question is the source.  It is a healthy animal raised in a healthy manner?  Or, is it a factory farmed animal raised in confinement on hormones, antibiotics, and food that it would not eat in nature?  All of this makes a huge difference.

From my own personal experience I was a vegetarian for five years before studying nutrition.  Yes, on that diet I certainly became healthier.  I got my weight down from over 180 pounds to 150.  However, I still suffered from seasonal asthma and needed an inhaler; I had virgin teeth that cracked;  I could not get my weight below 150; I had high triglycerides levels; and less than optimal cholesterol levels . Once I started to consume animal products from healthy sources my weight got down to 140, I don’t have the seasonal asthma, and my triglycerides and cholesterol are in healthy ranges.

At the end of the day diet is a personal choice.  My personal belief and from my studies and experience I believe that we need food that has animal origin.  Some of this will be explained below.  Also, there are many definitions of “vegetarian” and what that specific person will or will not eat.  This is beyond the scope of this article.  The purpose of this article is informational and to explain possible nutrient deficiencies that may occur in some vegetarians from not eating sufficient animal product.

As we begin to explore these specific nutrients you will notice one underlying theme.  Vitamins come in many forms.  I’ll explain using theoretical Vitamin X.  While we may call it Vitamin X (and the government allows it to be labeled as Vitamin X), this Vitamin X has different chemistry in animals and plants.  Since we are an animal, the animal form is more bioavailable to us.  The plant form needs to be converted in our body into the animal form.  Often times that process is not very efficient and that is where potential deficiencies can begin.  

Also, I will not detail the functions of the various nutrients in this article.  I will provide links to other articles for that information.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is also known as Beta-carotene.  But, it gets confusing because they are not the same substance!  Vitamin A (more specifically called Retinol) is found only in animal products, such as butter, egg yolks, liver, organ meats and shellfish.  Beta-carotene is found in plant food, such as carrots, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and leafy greens (collard greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens).  For the animal product to be a good source of Vitamin A, the animal needs to be eating green foods, such as cows eating green grass.  

When we consume Beta-carotene from plants (or vitamin supplements) our body has to convert it into Vitamin A.  And guess what - we aren't that efficient in doing that.  A variety of conversion ratios have been found based on different populations and experiments.  The bottom line is that some people convert better than others.  In fact, it may be nearly impossible to eat the amount of vegetables required to actually get what we need on daily basis. 

It has also been found that large doses of beta-carotene supplements have led to increases in cancer mortality and total mortality in human trials.  It was found that these massive doses increased oxidative stress and stimulated the production of enzymes that degraded true vitamin A. This caused a cellular vitamin A deficiency and the resulting cancer.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D – the “vitamin du jour” as I like to say.  It certainly is in the news almost every day and it even has its very own “council” (The Vitamin D Council).  I don’t think any other vitamin has achieved that status!  Let me cut through the clutter for you – Vitamin D is very important and most of us don’t get enough of it – meat eaters and vegetarians!  

When we discuss Vitamin D we need to understand there are two main forms.  Humans and animals synthesize vitamin D3 in their skin from exposure to the Sun.  Vitamin D2 is found in some plant foods, especially mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light. Studies have shown that Vitamin D2 may be five to ten times less effective at supporting long-term nutritional status.

In addition, Vitamin D is “fat soluble.”  That means you need fat for it to be properly utilized by the body.  Many vegetarian diets are low in fat diet.  This may impact their ability to effectively utilize the Vitamin D.  

Where do we get Vitamin D?  The number one source is the Sun.  It is also found in eggs, fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, and trout), liver, and milk products.

Vitamin K2

Vitamin K also comes in two forms: K1 and K2. Vitamin K1 is found in green plants, while vitamin K2 is found in animal fats and fermented foods. One of these fermented foods is natto, a soy food commonly consumed in Japan, but not elsewhere.  Therefore, the vegetarian not eating natto may be at risk for a deficiency of Vitamin K2.

Vitamin K - easy to remember - K is for "clotting", well there is actually lots more to it!  Vitamin K1 is known for activating blood clotting.  Vitamin K2 is used for all of vitamin K’s other functions, primarily bone mineralization. Therefore, these  two K vitamins are not interchangeable. 

For more information on Vitamins A, D, and K please click here

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 may be one of the most important of all the B vitamins, particularly because only true bioavailable B12 comes from animal sources.  There is no such thing as "vegan" or "vegetarian" B12 as far as your body goes.  Most supplements supply cyanocobalamin and call it B12.  In this chemical each molecule of B12 is attached to a molecule of cyanide. Since vitamin B12 detoxifies cyanide by binding it and causing its excretion in the urine, this form has poor bioavailability in most people.

Vitamin B12 needs along with it what is known as "intrinsic factor" which comes from animals.  Fortunately B12 (as other B vitamins) will store in the body, but over time you can become deficient.  In fact, a good friend of mine, after years of being a vegetarian has reintroduced more animal product into her diet after seeing a live blood analysis showing a lack of B12 and a move towards anemia.

B12 is available from animal products such as fish (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, and snapper are best sources), lamb, beef, organ meats, and yogurt.  It is important for the blood, digestive, hepatic, and nervous systems.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 occurs in three forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxamine and pyridoxal. Plant foods contain pyridoxine, while animal foods contain pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. The human body requires pyridoxal for most functions, pyridoxamine for a few others. Pyridoxine has no role in the human body but can be converted into the other two forms in the liver using vitamin B2.

Therefore, the plant form of vitamin B6 in order to be useful to the body depends upon the status of vitamin B2.  Also, as you would likely expect vitamin B2 levels tend to be higher in animal foods so again the vegetarian is at risk with their plant based diet.  Another issue with plant foods is that much of their B6 is bound up with sugars that make it difficult or impossible to absorb. So we have both B2 and B6 risks.

Vegetarians should select plant foods that have the least amount of their pyridoxine bound up in sugar complexes. Bananas are an excellent source because the sugar-bound form is low, their total content is comparable to many meats, and they are typically eaten raw. Most plant foods are relatively poor sources, however, and B6 intake would be much higher on a mixed diet including muscle meats, seafood and organ meats.

The best plant sources are bananas, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, and wheat germ.  The best animal sources are fish (cod, halibut, snapper, salmon, and tuna), lean beef, organ meats, and poultry.
To read more about the B Vitamins click here


Zinc is one of the most important minerals for the body.  Essentially it is involved with enzymes and enzymes control every reaction in the body.  Enough said?  To read more about zinc click here

Zinc is present in both animal and plant foods.  As is the theme of this article it all comes down to its bioavailability once in the human body.  While zinc is present in grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, it is found in much lower concentrations compared to animal foods. In addition, zinc absorption in the body is inhibited by plant compounds such as phytate, oxalate, polyphenols and fiber, and enhanced by compounds present in meat. It is possible for a well planned vegetarian diet to escape zinc deficiency, it is difficult to maintain a truly healthy zinc status without eating animal foods.

Zinc we are often told is good for the immune system.  True, but apparently viruses like it too!  What does that mean?  Taking that zinc lozenge may not always be the best idea if it is a virus you are fighting.

Animal sources of zinc are Cheddar cheese, lamb, lean beef and pork, liver, milk,  poultry, seafood (crabs, oysters, shrimp), and yogurt.  Plant sources of zinc are almonds, beets, carrots, cashews, green peas, mushrooms, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, spinach, wheat germ, and whole grains.

Essential Fatty Acids

The essential fatty acids are better known as the “omega” family, featuring the 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s.  These are polyunsaturated fats and whenever we hear the word “essential” in nutrition it means that we must eat these nutrients, as our body does not manufacture them.  We need all the essential fatty acids.  The issue here again is balance.  Omega 6’s are considered “pro-inflammatory” while Omega 3’s are “anti-inflammatory.”  And you guessed it – the vegetarian diet is more prone to Omega 6’s. 

Our body was designed to consume the Omega 3’s and 6’s in relatively equal amounts (you’ll see anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1 Omega 6’s to 3’s in the nutrition literature), most Americans are in the 20:1 to 50:1 ratio.  Why?  Omega 6’s are found heavily in grains – the foods featured in many vegetarian diets.  Omega 3’s are found in cold water wild fish, something not too prevalent in most vegetarian diets.  In fact, vegetarians have 30 percent lower levels of EPA and DHA than omnivores, while vegans have over 50 percent lower EPA and almost 60 percent lower DHA.

Plant sources of the essential fatty acids include: black current seed oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed, lecithin, linseed oil, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, and winter squash.  Animal sources include seafood (halibut, salmon, scallops, shrimp, snapper, and tuna) and grass-fed beef.

There are a few things you should know about flax seeds.  First, beware of the marketing hype! If the flax seed is whole your body can not break it down.  We can only work with flax seed in the form of meal or oil.  If you buy flax seeds grind them up in a coffee grinder and store them in the refrigerator.  As a polyunsaturated fat they go rancid very quickly, so only grind up a small amount.  The ground flax you get in the store likely has preservatives added to keep it “fresh”, but the oils are likely already rancid.  

Second, we are told that flax seed contain Omega 3’s.  This is true.  However it is not DHA or EPA meaning the body has to convert it.  And guess what – once again this is not a very efficient process in the body.

To read more about the Essential Fatty Acids click here

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rosen Wellness 2013 Events

Rosen Wellness Nutrition and Yoga Workshops:

Mequon, WI - Department of Recreation
Range Line School

From Head to Toe: What Your Body Is Telling You (In Three Parts)
All Sessions are from 9:00 - 10:00 AM
Come for one or come for all!

November 6, 2013 - Part 1
December 4, 2013 - Part 2

Your body is constantly sending you signals about your health. Some of these signs are quite evident to you: your nails, spots on the skin, even the quality and color of your stool! Some signs are more subtle: quality of sleep, quality of digestion, sex drive. Gain an increased understanding of anatomy and physiology as we walk through the body from head to toe and explore some of these signs so you better understand what they mean and what potential actions you can take. 

Register on-line at
Lisle, IL - Prairie Yoga
4701 Auvergne Avenue, Suite 104
January 18, 2014 (11:00 AM-2:00 PM) - Nutrition Boot Camp 1/Nutrition for Yogis
January 18, 2014 (3:00-6:00 PM) - Nutrition Boot Camp 2/Nutritional Anatomy for Yogis
See Program Descriptions below.
Call (630) 968-3216 to register.

Kalamazoo, MI - Sangha Yoga
157 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Mall Plaza Suite 140

Future programming TBA

See program descriptions below.
For more information or to register go to

Cedar Falls, IA – Field of Yoga
15 E 4th St, Suite 101

Future programming TBA
Call (319) 830-2080 to register.
Minneapolis, MN – Devanandi Yoga
2822 W. 43rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55410

December 15, 2013 (11:30 AM-2:30 PM) - Nutrition Boot Camp 1/Nutrition for Yogis
December 15, 2013 (2:30-5:30 PM) - Nutrition Boot Camp 2/Nutritional Anatomy for Yogis
See Program Description below.
For more information and to register click here:

Program Descriptions:

Nutrition Boot Camp 1/Fundamentals of Nutrition/Nutrition for Yogis
Learn the basics of nutrition - what to eat and why. Discover the core nutrients - protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water - and why they are important. This information will aid you in making better choices. You'll leave with food shopping lists, ideas for healthy meals, a step by step transition to a healthier diet, and a sample week of healthy eating.

Nutrition Boot Camp 2/Nutrition Roundtable/Nutritional Anatomy for Yogis
Learn how to use nutrition to address common ailments and symptoms that people suffer from. Includes: digestive problems (acid reflux, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea), aches & pains, inflammation, blood sugar, high cholesterol, fatigue, stress, emotional issues (anxiety, depression, mood swings, PMS), and hormones.

The Joy of Relaxation... Simple Stress Management Techniques
Stress is the most widespread affliction in our fast paced world. It affects people of all ages. It comes from a wide variety of sources and is at the root of many common cardiovascular, digestive, energy, and weight complaints. Learn the impact of stress on your body, but more importantly learn techniques to reduce its effects.

Rejuvenation... The Five Tibetan Rites of Rejuvenation
Come learn these simple techniques to improve your physical and mental vitality. Practiced by a remote sect of Tibetan monks, these rites were brought to the West by a British Army colonel fascinated by stories of monks that had discovered the secret to longevity. The Five Tibetans are a great way to start the day. The complete practice requires only 10-15 minutes.

Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a technique for deep relaxation and restoration. The intent of the practice is to systematically relax all physical and mental stress, and on a deeper level relieve all negative subconscious tendencies. When combined with “sankalpa” (resolution), Yoga Nidra offers the ultimate means to access vitality and at the same time establish new and inspiring life directions. During the workshop you’ll create your “sankalpa” and experience Yoga Nidra. Please bring a pillow and light blanket or other body covering to this workshop.

Principles of a Healthy Diet
Learn the nuts and bolts of nutrition – protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. There are all kinds of diets being marketed to the American public: low carbohydrate, high carbohydrate, low fat, high fat, low protein, and high protein. How do we know what is good for us? The truth is that we need carbohydrates, fats and proteins for our bodies to operate. However, all carbohydrates, fats and proteins are not created equal. Learn why we need these in our diet and how to make healthy choices. For each of these nutrients you’ll learn what they are, what they do in the body, why we need them, and dietary sources.

Strategies for Successful and Permanent Weight Loss
Many of us want to know – what is going on? I watch what I eat, I exercise regularly, but I am not losing weight. Others of us have tried a variety of diet programs with varying degrees of success, but often once the diet is over, we gain the weight back. There are many factors that influence our ability to lose weight. Among these are certainly the foods we eat and what we drink, how often and how long we exercise, and often overlooked – how we manage the stress in our daily life.

The Pioneers of Nutrition
Did you know that back in the 1930's and 1940's several nutrition researchers had made connections that our Western diet based on refined and processed food was contributing to increasing rates of chronic disease? Yet, no one believed them, and worse yet termed them as "quacks". Who are they and what did they discover? Come meet the pioneers of nutrition - Dr. Weston Price, Dr. Frances Pottenger, and Dr. Royal Lee.

Good Supplements, Bad Supplements
One day you hear Vitamin X is good for you; the next day you hear it has no benefits.  Why is this?  Let me ask you this question: Have you ever seen a Vitamin C tree?  Despite what most vitamin companies tell you, vitamins made in a laboratory and those made in nature work differently in your body.  In this workshop you’ll learn the difference between investing in your health and flushing your money down the toilet.

Ten Foods to Have in Your Healthy Diet
We are often told what not to eat. In this class learn the ten foods that should be included in your diet that will have an immediate healthful impact. Learn what the foods are, why you need them, and suggestions for how to incorporate them into your diet.

Ten More Foods to Have in Your Healthy Diet
We are often told what not to eat. In this class learn about an additional ten foods that should be included in your diet that will have an immediate healthful impact. Learn what the foods are, why you need them, and suggestions for how to incorporate them into your diet.

My Tummy Hurts: Natural Ways to Improve Your Digestion
We’ve all heard the old saying - we are what we eat. Yet, there is much more to the story. We are what we digest. Much of the U.S. population experiences some form of digestive problems – gas, bloating, heartburn, constipation, and/or diarrhea. In this workshop we’ll learn the role of food, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria in improving our digestion.

Energize Your Life: 30 Ways to Increase Your Energy
Are you looking for more energy and vitality? There are many ways to boost energy in a natural way. Learn how to invigorate your body and mind through diet, relaxation, sleep, and exercise.

Ladies, Meet Your Hormones
What's controlling all aspects of your life and you may not even know it? Your hormones - they control, manage, direct, and define every aspect of your daily life. Learn the key hormones and what they do for you.