Tag: vitamin d

How To Effortlessly Boost Collagen Levels For Beautiful Skin


You’ve heard of collagen and know that it’s good for your skin. But let’s take a deeper dive with Veronica Wheat, the “V” in Chef V and find out exactly what collagen is and how to boost levels of it in your body so that your skin looks more youthful. And let’s improve our skin in healthy ways.

Have you ever seen a skyscraper under construction? Ever wonder how they build these monstrosities? With scaffolding just like this:

scaffolding

What does scaffolding and skyscrapers have to do with your skin?

Well, in order to understand collagen, you first have to imagine that your skin and bones also have a matrix (obviously on a much smaller scale, like invisible small).

Collagen Basics For Skin

The stretchy connective tissue that makes up your skin requires a strong, structural framework, just like skyscraper scaffolding. The framework that prevents your skin from completely sagging to the floor is called the extracellular matrix.

And there’s something that needs to provide structural integrity to this extracellular matrix. And that something is collagen—the most important protein in connective tissue (skin), not to mention your bones.

Out of thousands of proteins in the human body, collagen is by far the most abundant. Roughly 30% of all protein in the human body is one type of collagen or another.

There are 28 different collagen types, but when it comes to youthful-looking skin, we’re only concerned with collagen type I & III.

How Aging Affects Collagen

The aging process can be cruel to the skin. And what’s going on under the hood of our skin, so to speak, is that by the time you’re 25, your collagen levels in your body are already on the decline.

In fact, starting around age 30, 2% of our collagen stores will be depleted. By age 40, we have lost roughly 15% of the collagen we had when we were born. (But don’t let that depress you if you’re celebrating your 40th soon!). Then, once we turn 60, say goodbye to roughly 50% of your original collagen.

Going through menopause is especially a collagen killer. That’s because when you go through menopause, your estrogen levels plummet. Estrogen is vital for collagen production.

“Estrogen appears to aid in the prevention of skin aging in several ways. [It] prevents a decrease in skin collagen in postmenopausal women; topical and systemic estrogen therapy can increase the skin collagen content and therefore maintain skin thickness.” —The American Journal of Dermatology


How To Defy The Aging Process & Support Collagen Through Food

So there’s good news and bad news with collagen. I’ll start with the bad. While our bodies can make new collagen, as we age, we lose more of it than our body can rebuild and repair. And not only that, the collagen protein fibers that we do have start getting weaker. That’s why wrinkles develop.

The good news is that there are simple nutritional interventions that can help our collagen build back better.

Chicken Bone Broth



I’m not a strict vegetarian but I rarely promote meat. One rare exception is bone broth because it contains collagen. Bone broth contains collagen protein because the process of slow cooking bones for many hours releases collagen from the bones. So by consuming the collagen from animal bones, you’re helping revitalize your own body’s collagen.
In addition, bone broth contains other nutrients that help with collagen growth and repair such as:

Hyaluronic acid



According to the Cleveland Clinic, it helps skin stretch and flex and reduces skin wrinkles and lines; also reduces visible scars.

Chondroitin



This compound plays a major role in connective tissue and is essential for normal skin health and regeneration.

Glycosaminoglycans

Known as GAGs, these complex sugars—not the unhealthy kind you might think of in junk food—hold nearly 1,000 times their own weight. Translation: a moisturizing weapon for your skin you’ve never heard of. GAGs also support collagen and elastin, another important skin structural protein.

In addition, bone broth contains a great balance of minerals that support collagen production. But what if you’re a vegetarian? Thankfully, there are non-meat, collagen-building foods…

Green Leafy Veggies

Nearly everybody knows that green leafy veggies are among the healthiest foods on Earth. (Can’t stand eating them? Then drink them!)

But what you may not know is that green leafy veggies are a great source of a vitamin that hardly gets any attention: vitamin K. And it turns out that vitamin K is really effective at building that skin-and-bone scaffolding matrix I was talking about earlier, research shows.

Citrus Fruits & Berries

Citrus and berries contain good amounts of vitamin C. And vitamin C is a precursor (building block) of collagen. So make sure you’re getting both citrus and berries in your diet everyday.

Collagen Powder

Very few people like sipping on a piping hot mug of bone broth in the summer. And many people don’t like the meaty, savory taste of bone broth everyday. But you can get the benefits of collagen without broth simply by adding a scoop of collagen powder to a smoothie (or even your Green Drink!).

More and more non-meat-sourced collagen powders have become available, including marine collagen powder (derived from fish) and even plant-based collagen powders.

Botox For Collagen

And finally, no article about more youthful skin would be complete without mentioning botox. OK, so you can’t eat botox. That would be bad, and it’s the reason why babies can’t eat honey for the first year of life. (Both botox and honey have a toxin called botulinum.)

Obviously, people can go overboard with the botox treatments. But if you’re in need of major wrinkle reduction, there’s no doubt that Botox helps the skin build collagen. But don’t think that by getting a Botox injection, it gives you a free pass to eat like crap! You need to eat a high antioxidant diet every day otherwise the effects of Botox may be short-lived.

Bottom line, there aren’t enough long term studies on the effects of botox injections. We recommend getting as much collagen as you can in your diet, limiting your exposure to botox and trying a more natural route.

3 Easy Ways To Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Nobody likes getting sick. And with the holiday season upon us, it’s the time of year that will most likely challenge your immune system. So Veronica “V” Wheat, aka Chef V, has some tips to increase your chances of staying healthy this flu season…

woman in snow

You shouldn’t succumb to the fear-mongering that the media is hyping over this year’s flu season. Sure, it’s true that more people will get the flu this year in comparison to the last couple of years now that most people have gone back to resuming a normal life. Still, there are some relatively simple ways you can support your immune system this time of year.

Zero Added Sugar Diet

If you’re a Chef V follower, the advice to minimize or, better yet, completely ditch added sugars probably sounds like a broken record. But when we talk about the negative effects of sugar, it usually pertains to how it expands our waistline and spikes our blood sugar levels and leads to energy crashes and moodiness.

But when it comes to the cold and flu season, one of the biggest influencers on your immune system is your sugar intake.

Now, it’s one thing if you’re eating ice cream and other sweet treats in the summer. Of course, you can get sick in the summer, too. But most people can offset the increase in sugar consumption because they are getting outside more often for exercise. And even just spending time outside without breaking a sweat has positive effects on the immune system, research shows.

But in the colder months, we don’t get outside nearly as much and we’re breathing stale air. So we’re spending more time indoors. Add to that the temptation of sweet treats at holiday parties and it’s easy to see why many people’s immune systems get overwhelmed this time of year.

That’s why it’s so important to snack on healthy, zero-added-sugar treats this time of year. Because as a recent research study shows, “a high amount of glucose [sugar] may lead to impaired function of the immune system and pathological conditions.”

Researchers explain that when you eat a lot of sugar, your body produces excessive amounts of proteins (cytokines) that trigger inflammation. More inflammation in the body increases your chances of getting sick.

This is why it’s super important to keep your added sugars to as close to zero as possible. So instead of sweetening your tea or coffee with any kind of sugar (even if it’s organic cane sugar, it’s still sugar), use stevia or monk fruit extract. And if you love baking this time of year, you can also use sugar alcohols like xylitol. They may cause bloating in some people with sensitive GI systems.

electrolytes

Vitamin D & Vitamin K

This time of year, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are too weak for your skin to make vitamin D3. (Not to mention that when it’s cold out, you don’t expose that much skin.) This is one thing I don’t have to worry about as much because I live in San Diego, which is far south enough for vitamin D synthesis.

Yet, just to be on the safe side, I take a vitamin D3 supplement. After all, it can get chilly in San Diego this time of year. And it’s super important to mention that not just any vitamin D supplement will do. The one I take also has vitamin K, which helps vitamin D absorption and helps guide calcium into the bones instead of where it doesn’t belong like the arteries.

It is important to get outside, – you get a double positive. Getting outside is both a natural source of Vitamin D and a way to keep up a healthy exercise routine. Walking, skiing, or even pushups in the snow – there's an exercise for everyone.

pushups in the snow

Nutrient-Rich Diet

This tip applies to anytime during the year, but it’s never more vital than right now. In order to satisfy your appetite and get vital nutrients to support your immune system, start eating more stews and soups. Now’s also the time to start eating lots of antioxidant-rich veggies like winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and roasted beets.

And there’s no easier way to get your daily dose of immune-supporting green, leafy veggies than with a Chef V Organic Green Drink plan.

Finally, don’t forget to get plenty of sleep, stay active and keep your alcohol consumption to a minimum at holiday parties.

Stay healthy, friend!

V

How To Read The Nutrition Facts Label & Why It Matters For Your Health

We all lead super busy lives. So when we go food shopping, who has time to scrutinize every single ingredient listed on every single nutrition facts label printed on every single item that we’re considering throwing in the shopping cart? Well, if you want to eat as clean as possible so that you can be as healthy as possible, learning how to read the nutrition facts label is critical. Thankfully, as a certified nutritional therapist, I’m here to break it down for you.

Food manufacturers are trying to pull a fast one on you. If you purchase any item that’s in a jar, can or box—with the exception of fresh produce—there’s a decent chance it contains the following:

  • Added sugars
  • High levels of net carbohydrates
  • High levels of sodium
  • Very low levels of beneficial minerals
  • Rancid vegetable oil or seed oil
  • Artificial preservatives

Now, I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world. And so if you’re buying one processed snacky thing like gluten-free pretzels and enjoying it in moderation, I’m not here to judge.

But, have you ever heard the expression, “Death by a thousand paper cuts”? The idea is that one little nick won’t hurt you. But 1000 painful paper cuts could lead to a nasty, fatal infection. This same principle applies to the world of nutrition. When you go food shopping, your goal should be to limit the number of nutritional paper cuts that you put in your shopping cart.

Added Sugars

The first place my eyes immediately go to when I’m purchasing an unfamiliar product is the nutrition facts label. Thankfully, a handful of years ago, our federal government (the FDA) finally did something about the over-consumption of added sugars in the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Let’s ignore the fact that the government itself is largely to blame for that because … well, remember those food pyramids? So what do you think will happen if you eat 6-11 servings per day of bread and other grains? But that’s for another topic…I digress.

Anyhoo, in 2016, the FDA issued rules that updated the nutrition facts label. The biggest update was added sugars. This was such a profound update because it’s shocking how many unsuspecting foods contain added sugars. We expect soda to contain added sugar but not salad dressing, bread, peanut butter and I could go on and on…

According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, adult women should have no more than 24 grams of sugar per day and 36 grams for most men. That translates to 6 and 9 teaspoons of sugar, respectively. That’s still too much in my book. But again, that’s for another topic…

Now if you’re someone who doesn’t make a lot of meals from scratch and instead rely on packaged foods, the amount of added sugars in your diet can add up real fast. So that’s why I highly encourage you to read the nutrition facts and check out the number of grams of added sugars. If the label says 1 gram of added sugars, well, I can live with that.

But for metabolic health and weight loss, the goal should be close to zero grams of added sugars. Eventually, you’ll become familiar with the healthiest packaged foods at the markets where you shop. So you won’t need to spend as much time scanning the nutrition facts.

Watch out for added sugars in so-called “healthy” juice drinks. You might be surprised, and not pleasantly.

Veronica with high sugar bottles

Net Carbs

“Net Carbs” is NOT something you’ll see listed on the nutrition facts label. To put it simply, net carbs is the number of grams of total carbohydrates minus the number of grams of fiber (as well as sugar alcohol; but try to avoid sugar alcohol if you have gut issues).

Here’s an example:

Total Carbohydrates: 15 grams

Dietary Fiber: 5 grams

Net carbs = 10 grams

Both total carbohydrates and dietary fiber are listed on the nutrition facts label. If even doing some simple math sounds like a chore, then no worries, you don’t have to whip out your calculator. The important thing is to notice how many grams of total carbohydrates a particular food has. If it’s a very high amount, say, like 40 grams or higher, there should be a significant amount of fiber to offset the total carbs.

If there’s very little fiber, then the high amount of carbohydrates can quickly spike your blood sugar levels. Healthy grains like quinoa may have a high amount of carbohydrates but they also have a decent amount of fiber as well as protein.

nutrition label carbs

Fat

When it comes to dietary fat, I’m actually not particularly concerned with the amount of fat unless it’s insanely high, like 50 grams.

What matters more is the type of fat. The Mediterranean Diet continues to have a reputation of being perhaps the single healthiest type of diet on the planet not only because it calls for lots of fresh veggies. Another key component is heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that come from foods like olives, olive oil, avocado (and avo oil) and cold-water oily fish.

I’m also not too concerned about saturated fat although there are some people who need to be careful about their intake of it because their genetics puts them at greater risk for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

The biggest issue with fat is where it comes from. The unhealthiest sources of fat come from vegetable oil and seed oils. Now I know that may sound counterintuitive because vegetables and seeds sound healthy. But the problem with these oils is that they are heavily refined and they spoil very easily. And how consuming these oils in large amounts may affect your health is that they may cause high inflammation in various parts of your body.

Heavily-processed, packaged foods are typically made with these poor oils that food manufacturers love to use because they are cheap. So if you see corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil or cottonseed oil, try to avoid it. When cooking at home, use avocado oil, walnut oil, ghee (clarified butter) or coconut oil. (Just be careful of the high amount of saturated fat in coconut oil if you have a family history of heart disease.)

healthy oils

Everything Else

Sodium

As for sodium, unless you’re on a sodium-restricted diet or have edema, I wouldn’t pay too much attention. If you buy bone broth or soup stock, it will likely have a lot of sodium. The problem with most high-sodium, packaged foods is that they lack vitamins and minerals. And when you consume too much sodium and not enough beneficial nutrients, it can throw off your electrolyte balance.

Cholesterol

Cholesterol used to be demonized by the mainstream medical establishment. Eating a diet high in cholesterol—mainly anything that’s made from an animal—was thought to be a sure ticket to developing heart disease.

But just in the last handful of years, many (but not all) health experts have changed their stance and no longer regard cholesterol as a nutrient of concern. Why after so many decades did the so-called experts change their mind? Well, the latest research studies cast big doubts about the link between cholesterol consumption and cardiovascular disease. So unless your doctor has advised you to curb your cholesterol consumption, don’t pay too much attention. Just make sure you’re eating clean, organic/wild humanely-raised animal products.

Vitamin D/Iron/Calcium/Potassium

These 4 nutrients are required on nutrition facts labels. Vitamin D is hard to get from food alone so you may want to consider getting it in supplement form, especially in the winter. Many people who eat a high-processed food diet are lacking in iron, calcium and potassium.

So the moral of the story is, if you’re eating lots of fresh produce or drinking low-sugar leafy greens, you don’t have to worry about diligently scrutinizing food labels. At the end of the day, you should be eating real food 90% of the time. The ingredients should be easy to pronounce (salad, fish, Green Drink, brown rice), mostly consisting of plants.

Veronica cooking

Chef V cooking at her Joshua Tree retreat in 2021

Vitamin D for a healthy Immune System

Vitamin D and Covid

We’re taking our health seriously in these uncertain times – and maintaining a healthy immune system may be the most important way to protect ourselves against Covid-19. Before all else, we need to eat healthy and stay active. After that, according to the experts, Vitamin D, the “Sunshine Vitamin”, can help.

Vitamin D: What is it?

Vitamin D is a substance naturally produced by our own bodies after exposure to sunlight. Our ability to absorb calcium depends on it – for strong bones, we need plenty of Vitamin D. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D regulates the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. It protects against influenza and and is possibly a factor in protecting against Covid-19.

How much do I need?

Adults need 600 IU of Vitamin D each day, increasing to 800IU per day if you are over 70. Everyday Health says: “very few foods have enough Vitamin D to reach recommended daily intakes, and sunshine can be unreliable in certain climates. Men and women relying on sourcing Vitamin D through diet alone typically don’t exceed 288 IU a day on average.”

Have you had your Vitamin D level tested recently? It might shock you. Nearly half of people tested for it were deficient in a recent study. A “good” level of Vitamin D in lab testing is a serum concentration of 25 ng/ml. In your lab results, anything under 20 is considered low, and 35-55 ng/ml is considered optimal.

If you don’t know your Vitamin D level and want to make sure you are getting enough, should you take supplements? The NHS suggests taking 10 micrograms of Vitamin D a day, But getting vitamins from food is preferable for most of us.

Vitamin D foods

What foods have Vitamin D?

If you don’t want to take a supplement, you can get Vitamin D from certain foods. Vitamin D is found in oily fish (like salmon and sardines), in red meat, liver, egg yolks, and foods that are fortified. If you are a vegetarian, you can find yogurt, oatmeal, and some cereals that are fortified with Vitamin D.

I’m pretty much a vegetarian, but I occasionally enjoy healthy fish like wild salmon. Try my Salmon Carpaccio  and Ginger Glazed Salmon Recipes. And read my article: Benefits of Wild Salmon (and The Best Recipe).

wild salmon

The Vitamin D – Covid-19 Connection

Vitamin D keeps our immune systems at their best, and new studies find that not only does it keep your immune system healthy, it may protect against respiratory illnesses, possibly including Covid-19.

Researchers at Northwestern University have found that Covid-19 patients with Vitamin D deficiency are twice as likely to get more severely ill and to die. And the researchers also found that normal levels of Vitamin D have a beneficial effect on patient outcome.

According to Dr Vadim Blackman, “Vitamin D will not prevent a patient from contracting the virus but it may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are effected”. He continues: ““Our analysis shows that it might be as high as cutting the mortality rate in half,” Blackman said. “It will not prevent a patient from contracting the virus, but it may reduce complications and prevent death in those who are infected.”

As you might expect, numerous studies of Vitamin D and Covid-19 are underway. Here are a few of the most promising:

  • A recent study cited by the NIH: “Vitamin D might induce antimicrobial peptides to reduce Covid-19 replication”.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7175848/
    More simply stated, it might keep the virus from multiplying in your body. And that’s a good thing.
  • A study of older people showed that Vitamin D has protective effects from influenza. “…vitamin D has been shown to have protective effects and the researchers concluded that vitamin D appears to be a safe strategy to protect against acute respiratory infections. ”
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28202713/
  • A former director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, proposed using Vitamin D to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in a recent news interview. He said: “Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of respiratory infection, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza. A respiratory infection can result in cytokine storms – a vicious cycle in which our inflammatory cells damage organs throughout the body – which increase mortality for those with COVID-19. Adequate Vitamin D may potentially provide some modest protection for vulnerable populations.”

Where do we go from here?

First and foremost, we continue to drink our Green Drink, eat a healthy diet, and stay active. Unhealthy habits and food deficiencies hurt your immune system and make it harder to fight off disease-causing bacteria, viruses and toxins. Getting tested for your Vitamin D level is a good idea, I’m doing that. And most important, stay calm, stay focused, and stay safe.

Chef V and kale

Medicinal Herbs: Fantastic Fungus

You might think of mushrooms as something to put on pizza, but they are much more.  These days they  are showing up in herbal energy drinks, coffee recipes, and supplements. Mushrooms are full of antioxidants and are widely used in Chinese medicine.

There’s a good reason why mushrooms are one of the biggest trends in wellness. They deserve to wear capes for they are truly superfood heroes! Mushrooms are nutrition powerhouses, loaded with vitamins, minerals and lots of phytonutrients that you won’t see listed on nutrition labels.

If you’re disgusted just by the thought of eating mushrooms, I don’t blame you. I used to be revolted by the squishy little buggers. In high school, whenever my friends and I ordered pizza, there was always that one person who was adamant about including ‘shrooms on the pie.

But edible mushrooms have come a long way. No longer are they a tasteless, chewy and squirmy substance drowned in water in a can, reserved for pizza and, well, I can’t think of any other foods I used to see with mushrooms back in the day.

These days, practically every entree I make, especially stir-frys, includes mushrooms. Personally, I don’t drink coffee, but I do know plenty of people who mix mushroom powder into their morning cup. Lately, I started experimenting by adding mushroom powder into herbal tea.

Benefits of Mushrooms

So after years of being revolted by mushrooms, why did I hop on the ‘shroom bandwagon? Why am I taking the time to slice the blooming fruit of fungus (that’s what edible mushrooms are) and tossing it in not only stir-frys but also soups and stews and other dishes? And why has mushroom powder become a thing?

First, let me say that if you really detest the texture and taste of mushrooms, you may want to still consider buying mushroom powder. They have a mostly neutral taste. If anything, they have a subtle nutty, Earthy flavor profile. At least the couple different brands that I’ve tried.

The reason I want you to consider incorporating more ‘shrooms into your diet is that they are one of the best foods on Earth for supporting the immune system.

And lord knows we all need that these days.

Why are ‘shrooms beneficial for immunity? Let’s start with vitamin D. Certain species of mushrooms are very rich in vitamin D, which is crucial for maintaining a balanced immune system.

That means that if you do become infected by a pathogen, your immune system won’t go out of control and attack your body. Obviously, there’s no guarantee that eating mushrooms or taking a vitamin D supplement offers 100% protection, but I’m putting my money on my health by making sure I’m getting enough vitamin D.

Best Mushroom For Vitamin D

According to the Mushroom Council, the maitake (“My Tock E”) species of mushrooms contains over 230% of the daily value of vitamin D, which is very difficult to obtain from the diet alone. That’s because there are relatively few natural foods that are rich in vitamin D.

As a side note, I wouldn’t rely on mushrooms alone for obtaining vitamin D. The reason is because mushrooms are rich in vitamin D2, but not so much in vitamin D3. D3 is the more “active” form of vitamin D that our bodies use to produce hormones and perform lots of other important functions. Still, your health will benefit from consuming rich sources of vitamin D2.

below, Maitake mushroom

Mushrooms: A Good Sugar?

The all-star phytonutrients in mushrooms is beta-glucans, which is actually a sugar. Who says sugar is bad for you? Well, too much added sugars in the diet contributes to disease. But certain natural sugars that are trapped in the cell walls of plants can help us stay healthy.

Beta-glucans support the immune system by activating specialized immune cells that target potentially-harmful pathogens for destruction and clean-up the crime scene after they’ve been assassinated.

shitake mushrooms

above, dried shitake mushrooms

Eat These ‘Shrooms For Health

Another fabulous fungus that supports the immune system, and one that’s found in many supermarkets is crimini. Zinc might be the trace mineral that gets all the immunity-seeking attention. But selenium is arguably just as important. That’s because selenium has been proven to prevent viral replication. Brazil nuts are probably the best plant-based source of selenium. But crimini mushrooms are an excellent source as well. One serving contains about a third of the daily recommended value.

To support your bones, the Mushroom Council recommends shiitake (“Shee-Tock-E”), because it’s rich in copper, a trace mineral few of us ever think about, especially for bone health. But there’s more to healthy bones than calcium.

There are so many varieties of mushrooms. You really can’t go wrong with whatever variety you go with. Toss any variety available at your local health food store into stir-frys, soups, and yes, even on top of a healthy pizza (with cauliflower crust).

If you have the funds for it, buy mushroom powder, which contains other varieties that you wouldn’t be able to get at your local supermarket. I’m talking about reishi, turkey tail, lion’s mane, etc.

© 2021 Chef V, LLC.