Tag Archives: labels

Vitamins & Supplements

Today, I want to take a look at vitamins and supplements. I take a lot of vitamins and supplements because of my PCOS, the lack of a gallbladder, and now because of LC. So, just off the bat here’s what I’m taking – I’m not sure about the doses:

  • Women’s Multivitamin
  • Magnesium
  • CoQ10
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc + Vitamin C (I usually only take this one when I’m feeling extra run down)
  • Dairy-Free Probiotic
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Iron + Potassium (only every other day during my period)
  • Fish Oil Capsules (or Krill, depending on what’s on the shelf at the moment)

 “Hang on a sec, Vee,” you must be thinking, “you’re doubling up on a few things there aren’t you?”

Yes, I guess I am. Obviously a multivitamin has most of those things in it already, but along with all the other things you get in it – ginseng, green tea extract, or whatnot – you don’t really get enough of any of the things you need, possibly with the exception of folic acid – which you’d be taking in larger amounts if you were trying to conceive!

Most of these things we should be getting from our food, but sometimes, especially when we’ve cut out certain things to attain a healthier weight, that’s just not possible. Before I go any further I’d like to suggest that you all go and see your GP and ask about getting yourself testing for any vitamin/mineral deficiencies, that way you know what you should be targeting!

I haven’t taken my own advice here yet, but the next time I visit with my GP I will definitely ask her for a test! Things I think I should probably be taking but aren’t sure about:

  • Chromium (again, only when I’m feeling like I really need an extra push)
  • Calcium

Let’s break it down so it doesn’t get all muddled:

Magnesium

We need magnesium for more than 300 different bodily functions. A lot of us don’t get enough magnesium through our diet, and that’s not our fault, we just don’t eat enough of the right foods to get the requisite amount. On top of that soil – especially in Australia – is low in magnesium so plants that normally have perfectly adequate amounts of magnesium, don’t. So if you’ve ever suffered from cramps – either stomach cramps, leg cramps, or what I used to call ‘growing pains’ even as an adult – you might want to look into magnesium. Ladies, lots of studies show that women with PCOS tend to be low in magnesium so it’s a definite go for us!

Vitamin D

The sun’s gift to all of us! Except that for one reason or another, most of us don’t get enough. By most of us, I’m primarily referring to those of us who work indoors for most of the day or live in places around the world where we don’t get a lot of direct sunlight. There have been direct links shown between depression and lack of Vitamin D! Not to mention the fact that D helps us absorb and regulate a whole heap of other vital minerals such as calcium and iron. So, the easy way to get your dosage, is to spend some time in the sun – I think the approved time is somewhere around half and hour with your legs and skin bared, but be mindful of any UV issues you might have! Too much sun is dangerous! The other way you can do it is to hop over to your local pharmacy and buy Vitamin D3, make sure it’s D3 and not D2. D2 is not the same as D3. When we absorb Vitamin D from the sun it’s D3, not D2; in high concentrations D2 can be toxic.

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, we rely on C to boost our immune system, keep our skin healthy, and a whole bunch of bodily functions most of us aren’t even aware of. It also helps us absorb things more easily, like iron and potassium. Most of us make sufficient amounts ourselves, but sometimes, like when we’re sick, not eating well, or stressed, a little boost can help us out of a rut.

Vitamin Bs

Here’s one you really should be taking, especially if you’re on an LC diet and/or have PCOS.  Vitamin Bs help maintain and control blood sugar levels and are vital in ketosis; if you don’t have enough B in you, your body won’t be able to efficiently render energy from non-carb sources.

Iron

This comes in two forms: heme and noneheme, both of which are found in animal and plant matter. Most of us will get our iron in it’s heme form, usually through the vegetables and meat we eat. Iron helps keep the immune system running as well as being a vital component of our circulatory (blood) system. Those who don’t have enough iron in their system become anaemic, and often experience dizziness, nausea and lack of energy. This is especially true for those of us with PCOS! If we aren’t regulating our periods, we might experience heavy ongoing bleeding: that’s blood loss, girls, and iron loss to boot. Try and take a supplement of iron, Vitamin B and magnesium and see if you don’t feel better!

Probiotics

Sometimes you’ve eaten or drunk something that hasn’t done you any good – say you’ve had just a few too many red wines on a cheat day or something – and you feel awful, and I don’t just mean hungover! Your digestive system has a whole heap of helpful bacteria helping you digest whatever you’ve consumed. These little guys are awesome, but sometimes you need to send in some reinforcements. This is especially the case if, like me, you have no gallbladder and really need all the help you can get to digest whatever it is I’ve eaten this time. If you take nothing else I highly recommend taking at least a probiotic a day along with a multivitamin. Not only will your digestive system run better, but you’ll notice that your skin starts looking just that much more awesome. I specifically take a dairy-free one because I find that sometimes the dairy ones just don’t sit right with the phantom gallbladder attacks, but that’s just me.

CoQ10 – Co-Enzyme Q10

You’ve probably never heard of this, right? That’s okay. The thing is, I hadn’t heard of it until I’d started doing some research into PCOS and then into insulin resistance. Turns out, CoQ10 is a vital enzyme needed to ensure that body cells function properly. There are current studies showing hopeful results in using it to help deal with the symptoms of heart conditions, PCOS, cancer, diabetes, and a whole host of other diseases. The older you are, the more you’ll likely need to take a supplement. I would advise that you ask your GP about this before you start taking it, however, seeing as how some people can suffer from side effects like heart palpitations and the like. SO CHECK FIRST.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids  

Found in abundance in fish or krill oils, these little puppies not only help with your digestive system but are also an immune booster and it helps maintain healthy internal organs. The body cannot make this stuff itself so it’s essential that it comes from your diet or a supplement.

Zinc

Like iron, we need zinc to fight off viruses and bacteria. Children and infants need zinc to develop their bone structure and brains so it’s likely to be included in any pre/post/pregnancy multivitamins for those of you who are headed that way. Most of us get our zinc through the foods we eat: red meat, poultry, crustacean seafood, beans, and nuts. Some of us might be low in zinc due to geographical reason – like magnesium, the soils growing your foods might be low in zinc. In addition, you could be low in zinc if you’ve had a loss of gastrointestinal surgery, digestive issues, or Chron’s disease. Just something to keep in mind.

 

I’ll leave the list at that, we’ll probably end up revisiting this since I’m constantly finding out new things!

Keep in mind that we should be getting enough of all of these things through our diet, but most of us won’t be. In addition, those of us on an LC diet will be losing more amounts of minerals and vitamins more rapidly because we’re losing fat and water: two things which vitamins and minerals need to be absorbed correctly into the body! So make an effort to check out what you’re low in and either build those things into your diet or take some appropriate supplements.

Clear Skies,
Vee

Recommended reading:

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements    

Advertisements

A Word About: Sugar Alcohols

A lot of us on LC will explore the constrictions we place upon ourselves, and that often means we will jump for joy when we discover something that has ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low carb’ written on it in big fancy letters. Let’s face it, we’re putting ourselves through a series of serious changes by cutting out things we like; we’re going to be looking for alternatives for the things we can’t have. That means trying to substitute flour things with cauliflower crusts, or almond meal, or something; we’re only human, we’re going to want to duplicate our favourite carb foods. Imagination is the only limitation here!

But what about sugar? I used to like sugar in my tea, I certainly miss my ability to eat muffins and cakes. Well, there’s a whole host of artificial or alternative sweeteners that we can turn to, but this is where the waters get a little muddied. We don’t want to ingest anything that’ll mess up our good record so far; so nothing that affects our insulin levels, and you probably want to avoid anything with a high kilojoule count. So where does that leave us?

Well, we’ve got a few choices: artificial sweeteners, stevia, or sugar alcohols. There’s a lot of drama revolving around artificial sweeteners, a lot of arguments saying that they’re carcinogenic and have other detrimental health affects. In all honesty, I don’t know. The research is still inconclusive and wherever you look there’s conflicting data. I’ll try to explore a little further and get back to you in a later post. I’ll do the same with stevia, the natural alternative to sugar – I really want to focus on sugar alcohols in this post.

Sugar alcohols derive their name from their molecular structure: kind of halfway between an alcohol molecule and a sugar one. They’re not either of those things: they’re not sugar, and they’re not alcohol.  What they are is a type of carbohydrate also called ‘polyols’. They occur naturally in plants and are extracted from plants as syrups or powder. There’s several different types of sugar alcohols, but if you’ve been browsing labels and ingredients lists you’ll most likely have come across these three: xylitol, malitol, and sorbitol. Good on you for taking notice and doing the research!

Alrighty, down to the nitty-gritty we go.

Sugar alcohols taste sweet – though maybe not as sweet as actual sugar – and are often used in products promoting themselves as sugar-free. Unlike sugar they don’t mess around with your teeth and so people use them in sugar-free chewing gum – go ahead, check the side of that packet, is one of the three in there? I’ll bet it is! These substitutes, however, also come with a bit of a warning: they’re not always completely digested or absorbed by our bodies and that can lead to some serious gas, bloating and stomach aches, not to mention diarrhoea and burping! These affects vary from person to person and depend on which sugar alcohol is ingested. For example, remember those sugar-free liquorices I was talking about when I was sick? Yeah, those had malitol in them. I thought nothing of it because I have little to no reaction to sorbitol or xylitol  – and I do love my sugar-free gum.  Apparently, however, malitol is my worst enemy.  I had an immediate reaction: bloating, gas, and a stomach ache. I was blocked up for days! I’ll not be doing that again, let me tell you; no more malitol for me, ever. Apart from the occasional stick of gum to help with nausea, I’ve managed to avoid sorbitol and xylitol, but I’m glad that I can have something if malitol is definitely off the menu.

Which brings me to erythritol. Unlike the other three, a large amount erythritol does manage to get digested and absorbed so there’s less left in the intestines to fester and cause any ill side effects. In addition, it’s meant to have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels. I have yet to experiment with this, so I can’t really give you an real world experience, but if you have used it – had it in candy, baked with it, etc., I’d love to hear about it.

Remember: whatever you’re replacing anything with go with moderation, start slow and build up, don’t go crazy all at once because you’ve done the research and it says you can definitely eat this! The theories are there, but your body might react differently to things! No one is the same, we’re all special and unique snowflakes (etc.,etc.,etc.) so just keep that in mind: you might have a different reaction to something than the next person. So go carefully!

Clear skies,
Vee

A Word About: Transfats

The use of transfats has spiked in the last decade. You’ll find it in almost every convenience food, snack, and prepacked product you might feel like buying. But what the heck is it?

Transfat is a type of unsaturated fat that has been chemically altered to act like saturated fat. I think it’s done because it supposedly improves the flavour of the products they’re in, thus increasing the sales. The danger with transfats is that they raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good ones. (Bad Cholesterol = LDL, Good Cholesterol = HDL; so next time you get your cholesterol checked, ask your GP to talk to you about which one you’re higher in!). High LDL cholesterol levels raise the risk for heart diseases; it clogs up your blood vessels and can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and all sorts of other issues, check out this video for a good visual: http://www.heartattackfacts.org.au/heart-attack-facts/what-is-a-heart-attack/

If you want to know more, have a look at the Transfat and the Cholesterol entries on the Heart Foundation Australia website, they have excellent information available on what the trouble is and how to avoid them. In general, look for a Heart Foundation tick, but don’t forget to actually read the labels – stickers with ticks on them are great, but not all ticks are 100% reliable! Check your sources before you eat!

Carb Paranoia

One of the things you often find suggested when you start any kind of new diet is to go to your pantry, fridge and other places you keep food and meticulously go through everything and get rid of anything that isn’t in line with what you’re about to do. That’s all well and good if you live alone or if the whole family is joining your mad schemes. It doesn’t work out so well if you try to do that when the rest of the household really would like to have those potato chips in the cupboard in case they feel peckish. This is where you have to take a firm hold of yourself and develop an iron will power. Learn to say ‘no’ to yourself and to the tasty goodies in the fridge/pantry/wherever. Forget any other advice you read or hear: you are your own most powerful weapon in this battle for weight loss.

When I first started this diet I explained it briefly to my husband, who, as the primary cook in the house, was more than happy to oblige my craziness, especially when we both started noticing results. At the beginning, whatever meals we were going to have that day would usually come with a ‘can you have…?’ and either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from me. We worked around the things I was avoiding, like if we have a roast for dinner we’d make sure there was pumpkin and carrot on the go so I could have those while he had some potatoes, or if we were having pasta we’d just cook enough pasta for him while I just had the sauce. Now because we did the majority of our own cooking, this was fairly easy, when you or your partner takes charge of your own cooking you know exactly what goes into your meals, so you don’t have to worry about hidden carbs and mysterious numbers. This also means that you’re going to have to take charge of your own shopping and buy whole foods, avoid processed, prepackaged stuff at all costs!

‘Awww, but Veeeee,’ you grumble, ‘I work five days a week, when I get home all I want to do is shove something in the oven or microwave and just flop. I don’t have the energy to cook!’

‘I hear ya! I work six days a week and most nights my husband and I are so beat we don’t know what to do with ourselves, but trust me: you’re better off with starting from scratch than relying on convenience foods to get you through. Do you want to lose the weight or don’t you?’

Most convenience, prepacked, processed foods contain all sorts of things, from hidden carbs to artificial flavourings, not to mention the amount of preservatives they put into those things to keep them safe to eat for months. I promise that if you severely limit the amount of processed convenience food you consume, you’ll start feeling better regardless of what other dietary limitations you implement.

To keep myself in the low carb lifestyle, I’ve developed what I jokingly refer to as a ‘carb paranoia’ – I know, it sounds like a psychological disease or something. What I mean with this is that I’m constantly on the lookout for what’s in what I’m eating; I look at labels, I read ingredients, I check to see that I understand most of what’s written on a packet.

‘That sounds…um…slightly crazy.’

‘And I know it does. No one really wants to make eye contact with the lady in the supermarket who not only has purple hair but reads the nutrition label on everything she pulls off the shelf and sometimes checks it against the MyFitnessPal database in her phone! That’s just crazy talk!’

The thing is, if you don’t know what you’re eating, how can you even begin to control your diet? And I’m not even talking about a weight loss diet here, I’m talking about healthy eating, an art we are losing.

NutritionLabel

Look at the label here. I’ve pulled it off Google images, I’ve got no idea what it’s from but that doesn’t really matter. I’m sure we’ve all seen these things plastered on the side of a carton of milk or a box of cereal, I’m not sure how many of us have paid attention to them before we started a particular diet.

Our primary focus here is the carb number. So it says ‘Total Carbs – 31g, Dietary Fibre -3g, Sugars -5g’ and we need to know what the net carb count is so we can figure out whether we should be having it or not. Well, easy enough: 31g total minus 3g fibre = 28g of Net Carbs. A little too high for my count at this point in my diet, but it might suit someone else’s plan, great. Now, have a closer look at some of the other numbers. The sodium’s a little high at 28% of the recommended daily intake don’t you think? And uhoh, there’s some transfats in there too! Maybe we should keep looking along the shelf for something that’s a little cleaner.

See? Not that hard! Like I said, it’s important to know what you’re putting into your body. Now, let’s have a quick lookee at ingredients:

ingredients

This is the label off of a can of a popular brand of soup. If we look at the label closely we can see there’s a whole variety of not-so-hidden carbs in there: bread crumbs, all that flour, at least two types of sugar, juice concentrates, milks, pasta, and a few weird science words we don’t even know the meaning of that could contain who knows what.

 Now, I’m not saying look up every ingredient on a can of soup before you eat it, that’s going a little overboard: this lifestyle isn’t suppose to drive you to the brink of suicide, it’s meant to be helping you achieve your goals. What I am saying is BE AWARE OF WHAT YOU’RE EATING (and drinking!), become a conscious consumer: check the labels of what you’re buying, hop online and research the fruit or veggie you’re about to consume – nowadays that takes seconds  so don’t pretend like you’re going to starve if you take that extra minute.  The sooner you take charge of what you’re putting into you, the sooner you can take charge of your weight loss.

 And that’s enough preaching from me for the day.

 Clear skies,

Vee