Sunday, January 30, 2011

Challenge for Week #5

Our Challenge for Week #5 is to take a Multivitamin every day. For every day that you take a multi-vitamin (or separate supplements if they help you meet your daily minimum requirements) you can award yourself 5 points.

Don’t hesitate to set up a reminder for yourself… maybe an alarm on your cell phone.

Do you really need a multivitamin?

Well maybe not...You probably don’t need to take supplements if you eat wild, fresh, whole, organic, local, non-genetically modified food grown in virgin mineral and nutrient soils, and not transported across vast distances and stored for months before eaten… work and live outside, breathe only fresh unpolluted air, drink only pure, clean water, sleep nine hours a night, move your body every day, and are free from chronic stressors and exposures to environmental toxins.”

Hmmm maybe you do need to take a multi-vitamin after all! Here are 4 myths about Multivitamins as taken from an article by Dixie Mills M.D.

Myth #1: All multivitamins are created equally

I know that in these difficult economic times, many of us are shopping at discount markets. But it’s my belief that vitamins are just like so many things in life- you get what you pay for. Cheap multivitamins are often poor quality, low on nutrients, and full of unnecessary additives.

What to look for in a multivitamin

Be sure the multivitamin you choose has some or all of the following characteristics.

Pharmaceutical grade

Contains the most bioavailable forms, including chelated minerals

Contains naturally-sourced nutrients

No preservatives, sugar, or artificial flavoring, filler, dyes, or coloring

(For further guidance check out this article on choosing a multivitamin.)

Many inexpensive multivitamins contain forms of nutrients that are difficult for the body to break down and utilize, whereas professionally formulated brands combine naturally-sourced nutrients and chelated minerals so your body can digest and use them more readily. Some multivitamins contain preservatives, sweeteners, fillers, and artificial colors or flavoring, while others leave these additives out.

I sometimes liken multivitamins to salads. Most of us would agree that salads are good for us. But a salad of lettuce from a bag, sprayed with chemicals and topped with dressing made with high-fructose corn-syrup is far different from one made with organic spinach, topped with olive oil, lemon juice and walnuts. The bottom line is that salads are made with different quality ingredients, and so are multivitamins.

Myth #2: If you eat a healthy diet, you don’t need a multivitamin

Whether by choice or happenstance, we’re inevitably exposed to any number of factors that can make it difficult to get all of our body’s nutritional needs met — even with a healthy diet. Studies show that in today’s world, most of us are simply not getting the basic nutrition we need to prevent disease, let alone achieve optimal health.

Of course, vitamins are no substitute for a healthy die! But there is also evidence that some scarcer key nutrients are more reliably obtained from supplements. Research suggests that vitamin K, for example, is better absorbed from tablets than from food. Iodine is another crucial micronutrient that many women lack. Vitamin D and omega-3’s are simply not ample enough in the food chain to fully protect us from degenerative diseases. A good multivitamin–mineral complex will cover these gaps, particularly when you are under a lot of stress, on a special diet, or have food sensitivities.

Myth #3: Multivitamins are a waste of money

Think of multivitamins like a little extra money in your health bank account. A quality multivitamin–mineral complex can help preserve healthy brain and nervous system function, spark the body’s energy production, support tissue repair, protect immune function, regulate a healthy sleep-wake cycle, balance hormonal pathways, and so much more. A good one is never a waste of money, whether you’re a teen or a nonagenarian!

We don’t stand alone on this idea, either. Research by the Lewin Group — a health services consulting firm The Wall Street Journal calls “the gold standard of health policy analysis” — has applied accounting methods to determine that key essential nutrients are well worth the pennies per day they cost because they reduce sickness and chronic disease in women and dramatically decrease total healthcare expenditures on services like physician visits and hospitalizations.

Myth #4: Multivitamins are dangerous

Yes, if we take certain vitamins in extremely high doses or in the wrong forms, some can be dangerous to the body. But let’s be realistic: even drinking water in extreme amounts can be harmful! Vitamins and minerals work in harmony in the body, so looking at large doses of a single isolated vitamin or a multivitamin without minerals is not compatible with what is found in nature and is not the same as taking a well-balanced multivitamin. This is another reason why choosing a professionally formulated multivitamin is a good idea.

If you look closely at what’s behind this myth, you’ll see that studies reporting negatively on multivitamins generally target population groups with serious health issues to start — like cancer or heart disease, or lifestyle habits linked with higher risk, like cigarette smoking. Other studies are poorly designed and do not control for what type of multivitamin its participants are taking, how often they’re taking it, or their lifestyle factors.

The concern about interaction between multivitamins and certain prescription drugs, such as anti–clotting medications, is a very real one. But many nutritional factors can influence the way prescription drugs work in the body, even eating broccoli — at least, in theory! If you’re receiving appropriate monitoring, taking a quality multivitamin–mineral complex, including omega-3’s, should not be a problem for you. We always encourage partnering with your healthcare professional to decide what works best for you.

Myth #5: Your body can’t absorb multivitamins

If this were true, why would there be well-known precautions about their interactions with certain drugs? Or why would people having surgery be asked to stop taking them (if they contain vitamin E) two weeks prior to surgery to minimize bleeding? Your body absolutely absorbs multivitamins — but there is a difference in how well you absorb and use multivitamins depending on the quality of the formulation.

Brilliant yellow pee — what’s that about?

When you take a “rich” multivitamin and notice your urine fairly glows in the dark, have you ever wondered if maybe those vitamins just simply went right through you?

Women often ask us about this phenomenon, and we’re happy to explain. What makes your pee yellow is a fluorescent component of riboflavin (vitamin B2) called the flavin ring. As it passes along the body’s metabolic pathways riboflavin plays many important roles and undergoes biochemical changes. Several of riboflavin’s molecular metabolites retain the fluorescent flavin ring which, when excreted, gives your urine that special glow!

The ease with which nutrient forms are digested, absorbed, and metabolized by the body is sometimes referred to as bioavailability. Pharmaceutical–grade vitamin and nutrient tablets are regularly run through tests that measure precisely how long they take to dissolve in the stomach and intestines. The optimal nutrient forms are those that better absorbed and metabolized than others. Calcium supplements made from ground–up seashells, for instance, aren’t absorbed and used as well as alkalizing mineral–salt forms such as calcium nitrate and calcium and calcium ascorbate.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Challenge Week #3

Your Challenge for Week #3 is to eat at least 1/2 cup of beans or legumes every day. Beans are incredibly nutritious and very inexpensive--a great thing to add to your diet. And there are many more ways to eat them than in Chili! Try 1/2 a cup of black beans folded into a morning omelette, 1/2 a cup of your favorite type of bean sprinkled on top of a green salad or even 1/2 a cup thrown into a fruit smoothie. Please forward any favorite bean recipes to the group as we are having a beanie week!

Why we should eat more beans?

Beans are a great source of nutrients and a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. Studies have shown their many health benefits, including the prevention of diseases like cancer, helping to maintain healthy weight, being high in protein, having good amounts of fiber; furthermore, there is just such a great variety of beans to eat, and they taste great too!

Beans have been shown in various studies to lower the risk of health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Beans are greatly nutritious foods. They have beneficial phytochemicals as well as antioxidant properties. In general, darker colored beans, such as those red and black in color, have stronger antioxidant properties.

Technically speaking, beans are a type of legume, which also includes foods such as peas and lentils. Beans are relatively inexpensive, and can be afforded by most. Beans are high in protein, and those who are concerned about a lack of protein in vegetarian diets can ensure adequate intake by consuming beans. Generally, a quarter cup of any type of legume has roughly the same amount of protein as an ounce of meat.

Perhaps one problem with eating beans is the intestinal gas which they seem to create. These can be tackled in three possible ways. Firstly, beans can be cooked with spices and herbs, for example cumin, garlic, fennel seeds, rosemary, lemongrass, coriander and turmeric. Using a digestive enzyme supplement may also help.

Thirdly, one could soak the beans for 12 to 15 hours before cooking. The soaking water should then be poured away, the beans rinsed and new water be added for cooking. This process helps to remove or reduce the compounds in beans which cause the intestinal gas

Monday, January 17, 2011

Week #2 Challenge

Our challenge for this week is to stretch for at least 10 minutes per day. You can include this as part of your daily exercise minutes or do it in addition to your minutes but begin to include daily stretching in your physical routine. For every day that you stretch at least 10 minutes you can claim 5 bonus points. And yes you can stretch on Sunday too- for a total of 35 possible bonus points.

If you have been inactive for any length of time, chances are you have lost a percentage of the range of motion associated with your joints. This range of motion is commonly referred to as flexibility. Each joint has a natural range of motion specific to the joint and the individual. Many factors can determine the range of motion of a joint such as age, sex, activity level and genetics. Activity level is by far the most influential when it comes to sustaining a healthy range of motion within each joint.

How We Lose Flexibility

As we age, flexibility diminishes within the joints through lack of stretching and physical activity. There are also other physical changes that affect the flexibility of a joint. They are:

Increased calcium deposits

Increased dehydration in connective tissue

Adhesions and cross-links in connective tissue

Changes in the chemical structure of the tissues

Fibrosis, whereby fibrous tissues replace degenerating muscle fibers


Stretching is a physical activity that elongates connective tissues, muscles and other tissues. The benefits associated with stretching include:

Reducing muscle tension and relaxing the body

Improved coordination and freer movement of body and limbs

Increased range of motion in the associated joints

Prepare the body for physical activity

Preventing injuries from tight muscles during physical activity

Creating a mind body connection

Promoting circulation

Reduce the risk of back problems

Reduce muscle soreness after exercise

Ten tips on how to stretch

1. Do everything slowly.

2. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and for at least 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down).

3. Breathe normally and relax while holding the stretch to the point of pain.

4. NEVER, EVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax.

5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it.

6. If a particular muscle group is tight, then stretch it in stages. Stretch as far as you can, then relax it and stretch again. This is most important during cool-down.

7. Move slowly out of the stretch.

8. Remember to stretch both sides of the body.

9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle.

10. Do more stretching in addition to just warming-up and cooling-down. As we get older our muscles shorten naturally, and it is vital for everyone that stretching becomes part of your normal everyday life. Gyms that offer stretch-classes or Yoga, where the aim is to permanently and progressively increase your flexibility are well worth considering if time and money allows.

* We Spencers are a super inflexible bunch but my son Sean claims that even we can become much much more flexible with daily stretching. Here is a site with some ideas of stretches you might begin with. And yes Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates classes can count as stretching minutes!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Challenge For Week #1

Our challenge for the week is to eat at least one serving of green leafy vegetables every day. You can eat them raw in salads or green smoothies or cooked. 1 cup is 1 vegetable serving of greens. My favorite way to eat greens is in my daughter-in-law Alli's green smoothie. Here's her recipe:

1 banana (frozen is best)

1/2-3/4 bag of spinach (I also like to use Kale)

6 large frozen strawberries

1 T. Agave nectar

6 ice cubes

1 cup cold water

Blend and enjoy! Looks weird but tastes like a glass of fresh! Serves 2!

Eat Your Greens!

A nutrition professor once said that it was common for our ancient ancestors to eat up to six pounds of leaves per day. He imagined them walking along from one place to another, just picking and eating leaves as they went. Can you imagine eating a grocery bag full of greens each and every day? Few of us even eat the minimum USDA recommendations of 3 cups of dark green vegetables per week. And yet, these veggies deliver a bonanza of vitamins, minerals, and

Health Benefits

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Dark green leaves even contain small amount of Omega 3 fats.

Perhaps the star of these nutrients is Vitamin K. A cup of most cooked greens provides at least nine times the minimum recommended intake of Vitamin K, and even a couple of cups of dark salad greens usually provide the minimum all on their own. Recent research has provided evidence that this vitamin may be even more important than we once thought (the current minimum may not be optimal), and many people do not get enough of it.

Vitamin K:

Regulates blood clotting

Helps protect bones from osteoporosis

May help prevent and possibly even reduce atherosclerosis by reducing calcium in arterial plaques

May be a key regulator of inflammation, and may help protect us from inflammatory diseases including arthitis

May help prevent diabetes

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, so make sure to put a dressing containing some oil on your salad, or cook your greens with a bit of oil.

Almost Carb-Free

Greens have very little carbohydrate in them, and the carbs that are there are packed in layers of fiber, which make them very slow to digest. That is why, in general, greens have very little impact on blood glucose. In some systems greens are even treated as a "freebie" carb-wise (meaning the carbohydrate doesn't have to be counted at all).

So that is your challenge. Eat at least a serving of greens every day! I hope this is a habit that you will continue for your whole life!

Monday, January 3, 2011

My Fitness Pal

I am hoping you are getting excited about getting started. One thing you can work on in the next few days is setting up an account at

This service is free and you will learn to love it. It is one of those things that gets easier to use the more you use it.

One of the things that will earn you points is recording EVERYTHING YOU EAT every day. THE CHANGE FOR THIS ROUND OF COMPETITION IS YOU MUST RECORD WHAT YOU EAT ON THIS WEBSITE rather than in a notebook or on a scrap of paper.

A few helpful things:

1. If you have a smart phone there is an app to use myfitnesspal on your phone
2. It is OK to write what you have eaten on a paper as long as you enter it into the computer program before midnight each day
3. Take the time now to sign up for the website and to set your goals. You will choose how many pounds you want to lose per week and the program will select a number of calories per day for you to eat.
4. You will earn points every day for entering EVERYTHING you eat on the program and you will earn bonus points every day you stay within your caloric allowance
5. If you exercise the program allots you more calories in your daily amount! Yahoo!
6. The program has a lot of food items from restaurants and grocery stores already entered. As you select those things you eat most often you can save them which makes it way easier the next time to enter what you've eaten. Sounds complicated but it's super easy.

So go ahead and sign up and set up your goals. Wait until Wednesday morning to weigh and measure. That information can be entered here too!