Zinc-binding is vital for regulating pH levels in the brain

Researchers in Oslo, Norway, have discovered that Zinc-binding plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of pH in the human brain. The findings come as one of the first studies that directly link Zinc-binding with bicarbonate transporters.

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The Morth Group, led by J. Preben Morth, recently published the findings in Scientific Reports. The group is based at the Centre for Molecular Medicine Norway and studies the structure and function of membrane proteins, and their interaction with lipids in the biological membrane.  When we inhale, oxygen is distributed via our red blood cells to every living cell of our body. Human cells use oxygen to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – the molecule that fuels vital processes in the cells, such as maintaining the electrical potential across the membranes of the cells that allow us to think and feel. In other words, we wouldn’t “work” very efficiently without this process.

ATP generation is directly linked to the citric acid cycle also known as the Krebs cycle, which leads to the complete breakdown of nutrients. This process ultimately generates carbon dioxide (CO2) as the final waste product, which is expelled when we exhale. However, before we can emit the excess CO2, this critical molecule is involved in one of the most important biological functions in our body: It regulates pH in our cells. This process is incredibly important; if the pH in and around our cells is lower than 6.8 or higher than 7.8, then we are in danger of dying due to cell death and tissue damage.

An example of how essential pH levels are to our health is demonstrated by the fact that pH levels in blood from the umbilical cord are always tested in newborn babies. A low pH value is correlated with a low oxygen supply during birth, which can lead to severe brain damage. When in water, CO2 forms bicarbonate (HCO3-) and is transported by specific transport proteins across the cell membrane. How these transport molecules sense what the pH value is inside the cell is still an open question. However, the work performed by Alvadia et al.describes that the transition metal, Zinc, likely interacts with the proteins that facilitate the transport of HCO3– through the membrane.

This Zinc-binding, therefore, plays a vital role in the sensing and regulation of cellular pH, in particular in the transporters found in neurons of the human brain. This is one of the first studies that directly associates Zinc binding with bicarbonate transporters. Preben Morth, Group Leader at NCMM comments, “This is a basic research project, and at this stage, it is difficult to predict what the medical consequences will be. However, it is likely that Zinc may play a key role in the regulation of pH in the brain and therefore has implications for brain function and health.”

The results have recently been published in Scientific Reports from the Nature publishing group. The research group behind the discovery is M.Sc. Carolina Alvadia Dr. Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Dr. Theis Sommer, M.Sc. Michele Montrasio, Asc. Prof. Helle Damkier, Prof. Christian Aalkjaer, Asc. and Nordic EMBL Partnership principal investigator, J. Preben Morth.

Adapted from: Carolina M. Alvadia, Theis Sommer, Kaare Bjerregaard-Andersen, Helle Hasager Damkier, Michele Montrasio, Christian Aalkjaer, J. Preben Morth. The crystal structure of the regulatory domain of the human sodium-driven chloride/bicarbonate exchangerScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-12409-0

Nutrition Nugget

Pre-Pack Your Meals And Snacks! It’s easy to get caught up with work and meetings during the day, leaving a quick fast-food lunch your only option. Spare yourself the empty calories and money by packing your lunch. Whether you meal prep at the beginning of the week or have leftovers from last night’s healthy dinner, you’re guaranteed a healthy option for lunch. Save even more money when you pack your own snacks to avoid any unnecessary trips to the vending machine!

Inspirational Nugget

Don’t forget to Thank God for keeping you safe through the night and every time you awaken to see a beautiful new day.

 

GP referral to Weight Watchers avoided type 2 diabetes in third of patients (UK)

More than a third of patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes who reside in the UK avoided developing the condition after they were referred by their family doctor (GP) to a diabetes prevention program delivered by the commercial weight management provider, Weight Watchers, finds research published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

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The initiative also helped more than half of those referred either to reduce their risk of developing diabetes or to get their blood sugar levels back to normal. The number of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK has increased from 1.4 to 2.9 million since 1996. An even more substantial increase can be seen in the United States (U.S.) with a rise from 7.6 to 23.4 million. A new diagnosis is made every 2 minutes, and by 2025, an estimated 5 million people in the UK and 53 million in the U.S. will have the condition. Horrifying statistics! Risk of developing type 2 diabetes is strongly influenced by lifestyle factors but can be significantly reduced by weight loss, achieved by eating less and exercising more.

The UK’s national health and social care guidance organization, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says that certain commercial weight management providers, such as Weight Watchers, can help obese people shed pounds. A U.S. study showed that participation in a commercial weight management program succeeded in reversing progression to type 2 diabetes. However, the effectiveness of this approach in UK primary care has not been thoroughly evaluated. Therefore, the researchers identified 166 patients from 14 general practice surgeries at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes: Those with impaired glucose regulation known as pre-diabetes or non-diabetic hyperglycemia and with a body mass index (BMI) above 30 kg/m2.

These patients were then invited to contact Weight Watchers to book a place on their diabetes prevention program, which included a 90-minute induction session followed by 48 weekly group meetings. From among the 166 primary care referrals, 149 patients were eligible. Some 117 attended the induction, and 115 started the weekly sessions, representing a take-up rate of 70%, which is high for a lifestyle intervention, according to the researchers. The program focused on improving diet quality, reducing portion size, increasing physical activity levels, as well as boosting confidence in the ability to change and a commitment to the process.

Blood tests were repeated at 6 and 12 months to check risk factors, and any changes in weight were recorded by trained Weight Watcher staff. Analysis of the results showed that the initiative led to an average fall in HbA1c (a measure of average blood glucose levels over several weeks) of 2.84 mmol/mol after 12 months to levels regarded as standard. Blood glucose levels also returned to normal in more than a third (38%) of the patients and only 3% developed type 2 diabetes after 12 months. The average weight loss amounted to 10 kg (22lb) at the 12 month time point (a reduction in BMI of 3.2kg/m2).

The researchers acknowledge that not all patients at high risk go on to develop type 2 diabetes, added to which the referral numbers were low, based on the funding available, with few black or minority ethnic participants, men, or those on low incomes. Nevertheless, they conclude that the initiative has the potential to have considerable impact. “A UK primary care referral route partnered with this commercial weight management provider can deliver an effective diabetes prevention programme,” they write. “The lifestyle changes and weight loss achieved in the intervention translated into considerable reductions in diabetes risk, with an immediate and significant public health impact.”

Adapted from: Carolyn Piper, Agnes Marossy, Zoe Griffiths, Amanda Adegboye. Evaluation of a type 2 diabetes prevention program using a commercial weight management provider for non-diabetic hyperglycemic patients referred by primary care in the UKBMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care, 2017; 5 (1): e000418 DOI: 10.1136/bmjdrc-2017-000418

*If you are looking to knock $30.00 off of your next wine purchase, check out Bright Cellars! You can also find the link posted on the right side of the blog. Happy sippen! 

Daily Nutrition Nugget

Add Protein To Your Breakfast! A protein-packed breakfast will reduce hunger later in the day. This doesn’t mean load up on three kinds of breakfast meats, instead add a hard-boiled egg or some Greek yogurt to your first meal of the day. Try a cup of plain Greek yogurt with some sliced almonds, mixed berries, honey and chia seeds mixed together.

Daily Inspiration Nugget 

People change for two main reasons: either their minds have been opened, or their hearts have been broken.

 

5 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Dairy

Before you say goodbye to ice cream and mozzarella, here’s what you should know.

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What to know before you give up dairy

Thinking about eliminating milk, cheese, butter, and other dairy products from your diet (God help you; I could never give up cheese!)? You’re not alone. Whether or not to give up dairy, and how to do it is one of the top questions Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is often asked. One possible reason why so many people are ditching dairy? It’s gotten the A-list stamp of approval from those in the spotlight, from Jessica Biel who says she “just feels better” when she doesn’t eat dairy, gluten, or wheat to the Kardashian family where the women claimed that by going dairy-free they lost over 11 pounds in two weeks. And I have to be honest here and say, “Who Cares” but unfortunately these are some of the most “prized” role models.

Many experts stress that quitting dairy is not something to be done spontaneously or without cause. “You don’t need to eliminate an entire food group unless there’s a legitimate reason,” says Keri Gans, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York City. That said, if you do decide to give up dairy, there are five side effects you might experience.

You could miss out on some essential nutrients

Before you swap out your 1% for almond milk, it’s important to remember that dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. After all, there’s a reason why the USDA recommends adults have three cups of dairy per day; milk, cheese, and yogurt are rich sources of vitamin D, protein, and calcium, a critical nutrient for bone health. “It’s important to know how to replace them [if you give up dairy],” Sass says. If you’ve decided to eliminate dairy, work with a dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to create a diet plan that still includes plenty of these nutrients. “It’s not to say that someone who gives up dairy can’t get enough vitamin D and calcium, but it’s not as easy,” says Gans.

Dark leafy veggies, such as kale and collard greens, and fatty fish like sardines and canned salmon are good non-dairy calcium sources. Certain brands of plant-based milk and orange juice are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D, Sass notes, although “they’re low in protein so you may need to bump up your intake of foods like eggs, pulses, or salmon to maintain your total protein intake.” If you’ve eliminated dairy and are having trouble finding calcium and vitamin D alternatives that you enjoy, meet with an RDN to discuss whether or not you should start taking a supplement.

You might lose weight

Wanting to lose weight is often cited as the main motivation to cut out dairy, and Sass acknowledges that doing so may help you shed pounds. “I have had clients reduce body fat after giving up dairy,” she says. An important caveat, though: Weight loss after eliminating dairy “is often due to how they consumed it [before], how much, and in what form,” Sass explains. If pizza, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches were your go-to meals, and you replaced them with lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh produce, then yes, you’d probably see the numbers on the scale drop.

“It’s not dairy itself, it’s the way it’s being consumed,” says Gans. In fact, research suggests that full-fat dairy, in particular, may actually aid weight loss. In an extensive 2016 study in the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who consumed higher quantities of high-fat dairy products had an 8% lower risk of being overweight or obese. One possible explanation: Full-fat dairy contains more calories, which may keep you feeling satiated for longer, and less likely to reach for known weight-gain culprits like sugar and refined carbs.

You could feel less bloated

“When people inquire about giving up dairy, it’s usually because they’re feeling bloated,” says Gans, adding that the culprit is almost always lactose intolerance. People with this condition can experience bloating and gas, plus severe stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramps when they consume dairy products. The reason: Lactose intolerant folks do not produce enough lactase, an enzyme that’s important for breaking down a type of sugar called lactase found in milk products. However, “not everybody with lactose intolerance needs to 100% remove dairy from their diet,” Gans says. Cutting back on your overall intake, or consuming dairy products along with other foods (such as cereal with milk instead of ice cream by itself) may be enough to ease symptoms.

If you have a condition that damages the digestive tract, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, you may also get relief from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)–like symptoms when you cut back on dairy.

Your skin might clear up

Some may swear that going dairy-free helps the fight blemishes, but the relationship between diet and acne is an ongoing source of debate among dermatologists. Research stretching back to the 1940s suggests at most a weak link between dairy consumption and breakouts. However, some experts believe the hormones in milk products could play a role in exacerbating hormonal acne, and many people do report clearer complexions when they give up these foods. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends noting any food triggers that seem to aggravate the skin and cutting back with the help of an RDN to make sure you’re still eating a balanced diet.

Other skin conditions may improve, too

There’s no scientific evidence to back up claims that dairy aggravates skin conditions. That said, some people with eczema and psoriasis report fewer symptoms after they cut back or entirely eliminate dairy. In general, when skin is acting up, an RDN may recommend an elimination diet to help pinpoint the offender. Dairy is considered one of the most common food allergens (along with wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts), and is usually one of the groups excluded in such a diet. After a few weeks, food groups are added back to see which one is triggering inflammation.

The bottom line: Cutting out dairy is not a guaranteed fix for those with psoriasis and eczema. However, if you’re experiencing a sudden flare of symptoms, it may be worth trying an elimination diet to find out if a particular food is to blame; However, consult an RDN before attempting this diet.

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Drink Warm Lemon Water! Drinking a glass of warm lemon water in the morning will start your day off right! You’ll get a boost of vitamin C, clean out toxins from your body and keep your digestion system on track.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Just because some people are fueled by drama doesn't mean you have to attend the performance. - Cheryl Richardson

 

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

B6-dependent protein, potentially opening avenues for new antibiotics and drugs to battle diseases such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, and diabetes.

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Specifically, the team used neutron crystallography to study the location of hydrogen atoms in aspartate aminotransferase, or AAT, an enzyme vital to the metabolism of certain amino acids. “We visualized the first neutron structure of a vitamin B6 enzyme that belongs to a large protein family with hundreds of members that exist in nature,” said Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Andrey Kovalevsky, a senior co-author of the study, which was published in Nature Communications. Vitamin B6-dependent proteins are part of a diverse group of enzymes that conduct over a hundred different chemical reactions in cells. The enzymes are of interest to biomedical, as well as bioenergy, researchers because of their role in metabolizing amino acids and other cell nutrients.

“These enzymes are unique in that each one performs a specific chemical reaction with exquisite accuracy while suppressing other viable chemical transformations,” Kovalevsky said. “How they accomplish this is not well understood, but it is of great significance for drug design.” The team’s previous research predicted that hydrogen atoms move in and around the enzyme’s active site, where the chemical reaction takes place, indicating that the hydrogen atoms’ positioning controls the reaction type. Knowing the precise location of hydrogen atoms can explain why the behavior of these enzymes is so specific, but hydrogen is hard to detect with standard methods such as X-ray crystallography.

To directly determine the positions of hydrogen atoms within AAT, the ORNL-led team turned to neutron diffraction techniques. The researchers exposed fine protein crystals to neutrons using the IMAGINE beamline at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor and the LADI-III beamline at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France. Surprisingly, the team observed a reaction within one AAT protein biomolecule while another AAT biomolecule was unchanged, providing a before-and-after perspective of the enzyme-catalyzed chemical reaction. “The data revealed that in one of the enzyme’s biomolecular structures the covalent bonds reorganized after a chemical reaction occurred in the active site and, in another, the reaction had not taken place,” Kovalevsky said. “Essentially, we were able to obtain two structures in one crystal, which has never been done before for any protein using neutrons.”

With this knowledge, the team will run molecular simulations to determine the hydrogen atoms’ specific behavior when interacting with the enzyme. The results could be useful in guiding the future design of novel medicines against multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “This study highlights how neutrons are an unrivaled probe for identifying the location of hydrogen atoms in biological systems, providing us with an unprecedented level of structural detail for this important enzyme,” LADI-III beamline scientist Matthew Blakeley said.

Adapted from: Steven Dajnowicz, Ryne C. Johnston, Jerry M. Parks, Matthew P. Blakeley, David A. Keen, Kevin L. Weiss, Oksana Gerlits, Andrey Kovalevsky, Timothy C. Mueser. Direct visualization of critical hydrogen atoms in a pyridoxal 5′-phosphate enzymeNature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01060-y

Nutrition Daily Nugget

Eat the rainbow! A fun and tasty way to make sure your family is eating a good variety of fruits and vegetables is to eat as many different colors as you can each day.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt only by the heart.

 

 

5 Smart Carb Swaps

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Eating fewer carbs does not mean giving up everything you love. A few easy changes can make a big difference in how much you consume. Instead of choosing carb sources loaded with sugar, fat, and calories, opt for more nutrient-dense alternatives filled with fiber, heart-healthy fats, and whole grains. You’ll be surprised at much you love the alternatives below and how delicious eating low-carb can be.

1. BBQ Baked Beans

GOOD: Beans are full of fiber.

BAD: Lots of sugar in the sauce—13g for a total of 32g carbs.

BETTER: Black beans with sautéed red bell pepper, jalapeño, lime, and fresh cilantro. 10g fewer carbs and an additional 1.5g fiber.

2. Salad Dressings

GOOD: You’re eating salad!

BAD: Dressing choices, such as honey mustard (one of my favorites!!) and raspberry vinaigrette contain roughly 7g refined carbs per 2 tablespoons, all from sugar. And most light or fat-free dressings add sugar to make up for fat.

BETTER: Opt for oil and vinegar-based dressings instead; you’ll get zero carbs and lots of heart-healthy fats.

3. Apples with Low-Fat Caramel Dip

GOOD: You’re eating apples—25g balanced carbs and 4g fiber.

BAD: That caramel sauce has 26g carbs in just 2 tablespoons, all from sugar.

BETTER: Swap caramel for 1 tablespoon peanut butter. You’ll add 4g filling protein.

4. Cracker Jacks

GOOD: Whole grains and nuts.

BAD: The caramel adds 30g refined-sugar carbs per cup.

BETTER: Lightly salted oil-popped popcorn and nuts.

5. Mashed Taters

GOOD: More veggies.

BAD: No skin = 2g less fiber.

BETTER: Mashed butternut squash has just 47 calories, 12g carbs, and 4g fiber per ½ cup. Add a teaspoon of butter for 34 calories and 2.4g sat fat.

Not bad alternatives! And if you want to take your health goals to the next step, check out the challenge.

Nutrition challenge: If half of your daily grain intake is not 100% whole grain, I challenge you to “up-your-ante!” If this is old news to you, then what challenge will you take on?

Adapted from: Sidney Fry, MS, RD

Nutrition Daily Nugget 🍏

Get your kids in the kitchen! They’ll be more excited about eating healthy foods when they’ve been involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy.

Daily Inspiration Nugget

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7 Foods to Improve Eyesight

Our eyesight is among the conditions underestimated by many people. Usually, people take care of their eyesight only when they start experiencing some problems. However, this should not be the case!

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Our eyes are extremely important and they help us to see the everyday beauty that life offers us, so we should take constant care of them, doing everything in our power to protect them. The care related to our eyes is pretty complex, and our diet is one part that plays an important role in it. The food we consume can help us to protect our eyesight and to prevent numerous health issues related to it.

These are the best foods that can improve your eyesight:

1. Carrots

Carrots are the most beneficial food for the good condition of your eyes. They are abundant with vitamin A that can prevent night blindness and essential for the health of your eyes. Carrots can reduce the risk of macular degeneration and Cataracts due to their rich content of antioxidants, beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein.

2. Salmon and sardines

To protect your eyesight, you should regularly consume fish. It is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that can improve the health of your eyes. The regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can protect the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. Make sure to consume fish, such as salmon, sardines, or herring, twice a week.

3. Broccoli

It is a well-known fact that broccoli is extremely beneficial for our overall health. Broccoli can significantly improve the health of your eyes. It is rich in antioxidants and vitamins and can supply your body with the essential nutrients. By consuming broccoli, you will intake vitamins A, E, and C, all of which work together to protect your eyesight.

4. Spinach

This green plant contains carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Moreover, it is a great source of vitamins E and C which can prevent macular degeneration and night blindness.

5. Eggs

Maybe you will not believe it, but eggs can improve the health of your eyes. They contain vitamin A, vitamin B complex, essential fatty acids, and zinc. It doesn’t matter how you consume them as long as they are included in your diet, so make sure to regularly consume them for your breakfast….or whenever you like to eat eggs!

6. Almonds

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E which can slow down the development of problems that occur as a result of aging. Moreover, they can prevent cataracts.

7. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries

These fresh and delicious fruits are abundant with antioxidants which are known to reduce the risk of many eye problems. They are also packed with vitamin C which can significantly protect the health of your eyes. Other foods recommended for improving your eyesight: Milk, avocados, lemons, oranges, dark chocolate, papaya, pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and apricots.

Our bodies depend on us to choose the right fuel sources!

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Enjoy fruit for dessert most days and limit traditional desserts to special occasions. Try a delicious smoothie, a mixed berry and yogurt parfait, or a baked spiced apple or pear!

Daily Inspiration 

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A spoonful of oil: Fats and oils help to unlock full nutritional benefits of veggies

The song says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but an Iowa State University scientist has published new research suggesting a spoonful of oil makes vegetables more nutritious.

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A new study led by Wendy White, an associate professor of food science and human nutrition, shows that eating salad with added fat in the form of soybean oil promotes the absorption of eight different micronutrients that promote human health. Conversely, eating the same salad without the added oil lessens the likelihood that the body will absorb the nutrients. The study appeared recently in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and the results may ease the guilt of countless dieters who fret about adding dressing to their salads. White’s study found added oil aided in the absorption of seven different micronutrients in salad vegetables. Those nutrients include four carotenoids — alpha and beta carotene, lutein and lycopene — two forms of vitamins E and K. The oil also promoted the absorption of vitamin A, the eighth micronutrient tracked in the study, which formed in the intestine from the alpha and beta carotene. The new study builds on previous research from White’s group that focused on alpha and beta carotene and lycopene.

White said better absorption of the nutrients promotes a range of health benefits, including cancer prevention and eyesight preservation. The study also found that the amount of oil added to the vegetables had a proportional relationship with the amount of nutrient absorption. That is, more oil means more absorption. “The best way to explain it would be to say that adding twice the amount of salad dressing leads to twice the nutrient absorption,” White said.

That doesn’t give salad eaters license to drench their greens in dressing, she cautioned. However, she said consumers should be perfectly comfortable with the U.S. dietary recommendation of about two tablespoons of oil per day. The study included 12 college-age women who consumed salads with various levels of soybean oil, a common ingredient in commercial salad dressings. The subjects then had their blood tested to measure the absorption of nutrients. Women were chosen for the trial due to differences in the speed with which men and women metabolize the nutrients in question.

The results showed maximal nutrient absorption occurred at around 32 grams of oil, which was the highest amount studied, or a little more than two tablespoons. However, White said she found some variability among the subjects. “For most people, the oil is going to benefit nutrient absorption,” she said. “The average trend, which was statistically significant, was for increased absorption.”

Therefore, a spoonful or two of salad dressing may indeed help you derive the optimal nutritional benefit from your veggies. The relationship between a spoonful of sugar and the medicine going down, however, remains outside the scope of White’s research.

*Research collaborators included Yang Zhou, a former ISU postdoctoral researcher; Agatha Agustiana Crane, a former graduate research assistant in food science and human nutrition; Philip Dixon, a University Professor of Statistics, and Frits Quadt of Quadt Consultancy, among others. Unilever, a global food company, provided funding for the research. The company had no input in the publication of the study.

Adapated from: Wendy S White, Yang Zhou, Agatha Crane, Philip Dixon, Frits Quadt, Leonard M Flendrig. Modeling the dose effects of soybean oil in salad dressing on carotenoid and fat-soluble vitamin bioavailability in salad vegetables. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017; 106 (4): 1041 DOI: 10.3945/%u200Bajcn.117.153635

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Try sparkling water, unsweetened tea or sugar-free beverages instead of sugar-sweetened soda or tea. Add lemon, lime or berries to beverages for extra flavor.

Daily Inspiration 

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