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    Archive for the ‘fortification’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Odwalla Bars

    ss_29OdwallaProteinBarHow healthy are Odwalla bars?

    Even though they are made with all natural ingredients, they can be high in calories and sugar.

    — Jessie Arent
    Petersborough, NH

    I place them in the “definitely decent” category.

    On the plus side:

    • They are nowhere near as unhealthy as some heavily processed bars that are loaded with sodium and saturated fats (in fact, Odwalla bars offer more potassium than sodium)
    • All grains in Odwalla bars are in their whole state
    • Calorie counts are not obscenely high — they average at 230 calories, which is reasonable for a snack.
    • They are low in saturated fat
    • Most varieties use real fruit purees (as opposed to fruit juice concentrates or fruit flavorings)
    • They are a good source of fiber (an average of 4 grams per bar — all from food, not isolated fibers)

    I do, however, have some concerns:

    • In some of the bars, brown rice syrup (AKA: added sugar) is the first ingredient
    • Some Odwalla bars contain 12 grams (1 tablespoon) of added sugar
    • Some of their nutrients are fortified (added in) rather than an intrinsic component of ingredients
    • Some flavors use sweetened fruits and/or fruit juice concentrates

    Bottom line: Odwalla bars earn a solid “B” in the Small Bites grade book.


    ‘Tis The Season… to Supplement!

    0805p44c-vitamin_d-mIf you live north of the Georgia stateline (or, for European readers, north of Naples), it’s time to purchase vitamin D supplements.

    Remember that from late October to mid April, the sun rays involved in vitamin D production (UVB rays) don’t reach you if you live above that particular longitude.

    Aim for 1,000 to 2,000 International Units of vitamin D a day.

    The popularly-quoted official triple-digit recommendations have not caught up with the multitude of recent top-notch research studies that clearly indicate we need at least 1,000 International Units a day.

    By the way, it does not matter if your supplement is made up of vitamin D2 or vitamin D3.

    Also, keep in mind that certain foods — milk, dairy-free milk alternatives, and cereals — already offer some supplemental vitamin D.

    Below are two Vitamin D-related questions I have received and are worth sharing:

    Are tanning beds a good way to get UVB rays during these next few months?  (Kate R., via Facebook)

    No.  Tanning beds aren’t an exact replica of the sun.

    Many of them contain higher amounts of UVA rays and significantly lower amounts of the vitamin-D-producing UVB rays.

    The risks far outweigh the benefits.

    Is cod liver oil a good way to supplement vitamin D? (Adam L., via Facebook)

    While cod liver oil has long been passed down as a “healthy food to give your child” tip from one generation to the next, the consensus among nutrition professionals is that it is not the optimal source of vitamin D.

    The concern revolves around cod liver oil’s extremely high vitamin A content.

    Since vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, extraneous amounts are stored, rather than excreted (as is the case with vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin).

    Taking in the 1,000 – 2,000 International Unit Vitamin D recommendation via cod liver oil delivers an exorbitant amount of vitamin A.

    This is especially problematic in light of research that shows vitamin D’s bioavailability is diminished in the presence of high amounts of vitamin A.


    Essentially Nothing but Clever Advertising

    20093251549250.Fruit2O_022“Now some of the most powerful nutrients on earth can be found in your water,” Fruit2O Essential Water’s print advertisements proudly state.

    This particular bottled water’s added value is that it packs in a gram of fiber along with key nutrients — such as vitamin E, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and potassium for the cranberry-raspberry flavor — that supposedly equal two servings of fruit.

    I will never understand the inclusion of vitamin E — a fat-soluble vitamin — in zero-calorie beverages.  Unless you’re drinking Fruit2O while munching on a food that contains some fat, the Vitamin E is not being absorbed.

    Products like these only propagate what I call “the vitamin and mineral trap.”

    Remember — foods contain much more than simply vitamins and minerals.

    In the case of fruits, there are thousands of phytonutrients — many still undiscovered — that provide health benefits, particularly as part of a food matrix (in conjunction with other nutrients, as opposed to isolated in pill form).

    Therefore, I do NOT equate a bottle of Fruit2O to two servings of whole fruit.

    I see no difference whatsoever between drinking a Fruit2O and downing a multivitamin while drinking water from your Brita filter.

    Is eating fruit that torturous and difficult for people?


    You Ask, I Answer: Orange Juice with Pulp

    pa_orangejuiceHow come the “lots of pulp”  Tropicana orange juice doesn’t have any fiber?

    Isn’t the pulp of fruits a good source of fiber?

    — Camille Mellen
    Eugene, OR

    When you eat a whole orange, you are getting fiber from the pith (the membrane-like white strands between the skin and the actual fruit).

    Orange pith does not end up in fruit juice.  The pulp is simply the solid part of the actual fruit, which does not contain fiber.

    Unless you’re using a high-speed blender like the Vitamix (in which you can blend an orange, pith and all, into a smoothie), no orange juice will ever intrinsically contain fiber.

    If you live in the United Kingdom, however, you can purchase Tropicana Essential with Fiber, which is fortified with — eek! — 3 grams of corn-based fiber per serving.

    If you want fiber from an orange, eat the actual fruit.


    You Ask, I Answer: Enriched Whole Grain Bread?

    dsc00448I love this Costco whole grain loaf [I took a photo of the ingredient label for you to see] but have questions regarding some of the ingredients that go into it, namely the thiamine mononitrate, the riboflavin and the ferrous sulfate.

    I know that they can be described as dietary supplements but I am an avid whole grains baker myself and never add any of that to my breads.

    Two questions: Should I?   Do these nutrients double as dough conditioners and could it the reason Costco is using them?

    — “MC”
    Via e-mail

    Guess what?  Contrary to what Costco wants you to think, that loaf is not 100% whole grain.

    Notice the first ingredient?  Unbleached flour?  That’s refined white flour.

    Sure, whole wheat flour is the fourth ingredient, so this bread contains some whole grains, but it is not an entirely whole grain bread.  If you seek 100% whole grain products, look for whole grain flours as the first (and only) ingredient.

    In the United States, per the National Enrichment Act of 1942, all refined grain products MUST be enriched with niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and iron.

    Folate is a fortified nutrient and was not legally required to be added to refined grains until 1998.

    Remember, enrichment refers to putting nutrients lost during processing back into a food, while fortification entails tacking on nutrients not naturally found in a given food.

    When a bread is 100% whole grain (meaning ONLY whole grain flours are used), it is not enriched.

    These nutrients do not double as dough conditioners; they are there because it’s the law!

    By the way, this would only be considered false advertising if the loaf was sold under the guise of being “100% whole grain.”  It is TECHNICALLY a whole grain loaf since it DOES contain whole grains.

    Trust me, manufacturers know this.  They also know the words “whole grain” help boost sales.


    Say What?: JELL-O With Antioxidants

    Behold JELL-O’s latest creation: sugar-free, vitamin fortified gelatin snack packs.

    Relying on trendy fruit flavors (raspberry-goji berry and strawberry-acai berry), this new product contains 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of two antioxidants: vitamin A and vitamin E.

    Since these two vitamins are simply tacked on (and not naturally contained in an ingredient), you might as well be eating regular JELL-O and chasing it down with a multivitamin.

    More importantly, vitamin A and vitamin E are fat-soluble, meaning they need to be consumed with some fat in order to be absorbed in the small intestine.

    Their presence in a fat-free product like Jell-O completely boggles my mind.


    You Ask, I Answer: Pasta

    I’ve heard so many different things about pasta from a nutritional standpoint.

    Is pasta from Italy enriched with vitamins and minerals [like it is in the United States]?

    Is pasta cooked al dente better for you because it digests slower?

    Some say [pasta] is no better than white refined bread, but others say differently?

    What’s the deal?

    — Carrie Watson
    (via the blog)

    What a great trilogy of questions! Let’s taken them one by one.

    White flour products in the United States are enriched with nutrients lost in the milling process (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and iron) as a result of The Federal Enrichment Act of 1942.

    In the United States, all white flour products are also fortified with folate.

    Some countries have similar laws (in Argentina, the same nutrients are added back to flour, whereas in England white flour must be enriched with these nutrients AND fortified with calcium), but Italy is not one of them.

    From a nutritional standpoint, cooking pasta al dente is recommended over mushy consistencies since the “al dente” texture has a lower glycemic index (meaning it does not spike blood glucose levels quite as much.)

    However, remember that the glycemic load of a pasta meal is ultimately determined by what else you are eating with your pasta.

    If, for example, your pasta dinner contains some protein, fat, and fiber (i.e.: whole wheat pasta with meatballs and parmesan cheese), those additional components will help slow down digestion and lessen the sharp spike in blood sugar levels.

    As far as white bread and pasta made with refined flour are concerned — yes, they are basically identical from a nutritional standpoint (the main exception being that one ounce of bread has roughly 150 to 200 milligrams of sodium, while most dry pasta is sodium-free.)

    It’s not that white bread and pasta are inherently unhealthy, but rather that, compared to whole wheat varieties, they are nutritionally inferior.


    In The News: Coming To A Supermarket Near You…. Health Foods??

    I can’t help but roll my eyes at the news of “a start-up that helps pharmaceutical companies discover new drugs [signing] a deal with Kraft Foods Inc. to help develop foods that offer specific health benefits.”

    I’m assuming this means that certain phytochemicals naturally found in certain fruits and vegetables or lignans in flaxseed might possibly be tacked on to Oreos or ready-to-eat mac and cheese.

    What this is supposed to accomplish — other than provide higher profit margins for Kraft — beats me.

    If health foods are what people seek, how about starting out with the produce — rather than cookie — aisle of their supermarket?


    You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3 Fortified Eggs

    What is the process exactly in adding Omega-3 to eggs?

    How is this done?

    I know the eggs are “fortified” but what does this mean?

    — Lori (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Before I get to your actual question, this is a good time to point out the difference between fortification and enrichment.

    When enriching a food or ingredient (for instance, white flour,) food manufacturers are adding back nutrients that were already present in that food or ingredient prior to processing.

    Fortification, meanwhile, entails the addition of one or more nutrients that are not inherently part of that food or ingredient.

    Similarly, adding higher quantities of a nutrient than what is naturally present in a food or ingredient also falls under the “fortification” umbrella.

    As far as Omega-3 fortified eggs, it is very simply done by adding food sources of Omega-3 to chicken feed — usually fish oils or flax.


    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Vitamin D requirements

    I read today that the recommended amount of vitamin D has doubled due to a new study.

    I thought most people get enough of it.

    How much vitamin D do we get from dairy as compared to being out in the sun?

    –Hemi  W.
    Via the blog

    Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem; most people certainly do not get enough (especially in the United States).

    The issue of Vitamin D requirements being too low has actually been a hot topic in some nutrition circles for years.

    According to current recommendations, children and adults up to the age of 50 should get at least 200 International Units, adults 50 to 71 years of age should aim for 400 IUs, and anyone above the age of 71 should be taking in 600.

    The new guidelines you are referring to bump up the 200 IUs figure to 400 IUs.

    Even so, many researchers think everyone should aim for at least 1,000 IUs a day!  Others go further and think the minimum daily intake from supplement should be 2,000 IUs (there is plenty of research to back that up, by the way).

    Our bodies can produce up to 10,000 IUs from sun exposure.  After 10,000 IUs, the body stops producing vitamin D.  So, really, you can consider 10,000 IUs the Upper Tolerable Intake.

    The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but this can get complicated.

    After all, we get this vitamin from exposure to UVB rays, which are not as powerful in winter months and have a harder time getting through on cloud-covered days.  In fact, anyone who lives north of Atlanta, Georgia (regardless where in the world that may be) is unable to produce vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and April due to the sun’s rays not being powerful enough.

    Additionally, the massive use of moisturizers and creams that block out UVB rays prevents many people from absorbing a good deal of “solar powered” vitamin D.

    Some fortified foods (i.e.: cereals, soy milks, and dairy milk) provide vitamin D, while others (tuna, salmon, and… ugh, cod liver oil) do so naturally.

    Despite this, it can be very difficult to meet the Vitamin D recommended intakes without some sort of supplementation.

    For example, a cup of fortified dairy milk provides a quarter of a day’s worth of Vitamin D (using 400 IUs as the goal).

    Not bad, but unless you’re planning on downing four glasses of milk a day, you will come up short.  And, even then, the new recommendations are not possible to meet through food alone.

    Keep in mind, too, that many dairy products (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream) are NOT fortified with vitamin D.


    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin B12

    As a vegetarian (vegan most days) I know I have to supplement my diet with vitamin B 12. However, I’m really puzzled about something.

    The best sources (non-veg) of vitamin B 12 are mollusks, snapper, calf’s liver, lamb, venison, etc. If these animals are able to produce vitamin B 12 in their tissues, why aren’t we?

    — Jennifer Armstrong
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Great question.

    Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria in animals’ — yes, that includes humans — digestive tracts. However, since this occurs in our large intestine, it is past the point of absorption (nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine).

    You may be wondering, then, why Vitamin K — also synthesized by bacteria in the large intestine — is absorbed with no difficulty.

    Simple. Our colons contain Vitamin K receptors which aid in the absorption process. Keep in mind, though, that we do not produce enough vitamin K to meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance, so we must get some from food.

    While we’re on the subject of B12, I want to point out other important factors regarding its consumption and absorption.

    Too often, I see various forms of algae and seaweed described as “good sources of B12”, which is inaccurate.

    What those foods contain are B-12 analogues — compounds that mimic real B12 and compete with it for absorption (bad news!).

    Some fermented soy foods (natto, tamari, and miso) contain real B12, but the amount is so insignificant that it is really a moot point.

    A much better idea for vegans and vegetarians is to supplement B12 through fortified foods (i.e.: certain brands of nutritional yeast, as well as most brands of non-dairy milks and cereal) or supplements.

    It is not only vegans who need to be concerned with B12, though.

    People with celiac disease need to be careful; gluten intake damages the microvilli in their small intestines, thereby inhibiting absorption of nutrients, including B12.

    Similarly, individuals who undergo total gastrectomy are at high risk of developing B12 deficiencies, as they lack intrinsic factor (a glycoprotein produced by the stomach and required for B12 absorption.)

    A large body of research has also established that B12 absorption capacity decreases with age, which is why it is often recommended that individuals over the age of 60 supplement B12.


    You Ask, I Answer: Vegan Child’s Nutrition

    I have a picky eater at home, an 8-year-old I adopted last year from another country.

    She is still very suspicious of new foods, and I have taken to sneaking supplements into her diet wherever I can.

    She’s vegan and I’m vegetarian; I open up iron supplement capsules and sprinkle small amounts of iron into her food; same with B-complex capsules and multi-vitamin caps.

    She gets plenty of protein and fiber, since she’s happy to eat tempeh, beans, quinoa, peanut butter and lots of vegetables and fruits.

    I’m mostly concerned with her iron, B-complex, calcium and Omega-3 intake.

    The last two I can handle with flax oil, wakame powder and various calcium supplements.

    Actually, I still think she could be getting more calcium if she’d drink milk, but she won’t.

    — Jennifer Armstrong
    Saratoga Springs, NY

    Although I understand your concerns regarding your child’s nutrition, I believe she is doing just fine based on the eating patterns you describe above.

    First of all, I am impressed that an 8 year old appreciates the taste of quinoa and tempeh – nutritious foods that many adults shun, or downright don’t even know about.

    Most people with children your age are concerned about the increasing consumption of Doritos, Oreos, and soda!

    Alright, let’s discuss the specific nutrients you inquired about.

    As far as iron is concerned, there is no absolutely need to provide capsules.

    An omnivorous 8 year old should get 10 milligrams of iron a day; since your daughter is vegan – and therefore consuming solely non-heme sources – I would place her requirement at 15 milligrams.

    Note that between the ages of 9 and 12, this requirement will lessen to approximately 12 milligrams.

    Considering the iron amounts in these vegan foods, you’ll see why iron pills are basically a waste of money:

    Quinoa (1 cup): 6.2 milligrams
    Soybeans (1/2 cup): 4 milligrams
    Lentils (1/2 cup): 3.2 milligrams
    Kidney beans, chickpeas, black eyed peas (1/2 cup): 2.5 milligrams

    Don’t forget enriched and fortified grains.

    Half a cup of fortified oatmeal provides 6.5 milligrams of iron, and a cup of enriched cereal (say, Cheerios) provides 9 milligrams!<

    In terms of calcium, she currently needs 800 milligrams a day, but this will jump to 1,300 from age 9 to 18.

    Again, though, no need for supplementation.

    It does take more planning than an omnivorous diet, but it can be done.

    Check out these values:

    Calcium-fortified orange juice (1 cup): 300 milligrams
    Soy yogurt (1 cup): 300 milligrams
    Soymilk (1 cup): 300 milligrams
    Tofu (4 oz.): 260 milligrams
    Collard greens (1/2 cup): 175 mg
    Almonds (1 oz): 80 mg

    Although Vitamin B12 is often cited as an issue in vegan diets, fortification has made this former problem a lot easier to manage.

    Many popular cereals are fortified with vitamin B12.

    Let’s go back to the Cheerios example — 1 cup provides a third of a day’s needs.

    A cup of some (fortified) soymilks, meanwhile, contains 40 percent of a day’s worth of B12!

    Wakame – a kelp – is also a great source. It’s one of the few seaweeds that contains human-active B12 (as opposed to the analog type, which is useless in our bodies).

    In the event that B12 needs can not be met through food, I do recommend supplementation. Make sure it is specifically a B12 supplement and not a multivitamin containing B12 (vitamin C, vitamin E, and iron can impede absorption).

    Omega-3 fatty acids are the most difficult to get from a vegan diet, since walnuts and flaxseeds only contain alpha linoleic acid (they do not contribute EPA and DHA, the two essential fatty acids found in fish).

    However, Omega-3 supplements made from algae are vegan and contain EPA and DHA!

    While we’re on the topic of supplementation, I think everyone — carnivore, vegan, and everywhere in between — should supplement their diet with vitamin D.

    One last thing – don’t get discouraged by your daughter’s adverse reactions to new foods.

    Research has determined that it takes approximately eight to ten tries for a new food to be accepted by a young child.

    The key is slow integration.

    For instance, let’s say your daughter enjoys baby carrots but the first time she tried celery she wasn’t too keen on it.

    Rather than outright swap carrots for celery pieces overnight, throw in four or five chopped bits of celery next time you pack some baby carrots in her lunch box.

    This subtle addition of a new flavor will be less intimidating to her and less of a shock to her palate.

    Do this another five or six times. The results might surprise you!


    Food for Thought: Nutritious Candy (Really)

    Last weekend, the Institute of Food Technologists held a conference in Chicago, where a variety of new and innovative food products were unveiled for approximately 20,000 attendees.

    Some of the biggest buzz comes courtesy of candy with added vitamins and minerals in it. It’s set to be all the rage in 2008. Expect to see young Hollywood starlets chewing on some in the pages of Us Weekly soon.

    I read about this conference over at CNN’s website, where Caleb Hellerman (senior producer of CNN’s Medical Unit show, for which Dr. Sanjay Gupta — who I think CNN considers a deity — is chief medical correspondent) opines:

    Worthless, a prominent nutrition expert told me, although he didn’t want his name used. I’m not sure I agree. Of course it would be healthier to eat a complete diet, full of vegetables, but who has the time? Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, found that barely 1 percent of children and teenagers meet government guidelines for a healthy diet. Neither they nor I were surprised.

    “If my kids are munching on candy anyway, is it really so bad if it’s giving them their RDA at the same time? Is there a healthy food product you would like to see on the shelves?”

    Oh, Caleb… where to start?

    Of course it would be healthier to eat a complete diet, full of vegetables, but who has the time?”

    I wasn’t aware that opening a bag of baby carrots or popping cherry tomatoes into your mouth was a time consuming activity. Regardless, if we’re talking about candy (and, therefore, sweetness) why don’t we talk about nature’s candy — fruit.

    There is no way I am going to believe that peeling a banana, eating blueberries, or biting into an apple is something people just can’t seem to find the time to do.

    “If my kids are munching on candy anyway, is it really so bad if it’s giving them their RDA at the same time?”

    As much as I like to break nutrition down and make it an accessible topic for everyone, it’s not fair to break it down as being just about vitamins and minerals.

    Yes, vitamins and minerals are important, and we all need them. However, nutrition goes beyond that.

    First of all, if we are talking about the prospect children being allowed to eat more candy because it’s nutritious, we need to think about implications.

    What happens when that child grows up? A young palate accustomed to high amounts of sugar will very likely continue these eating patterns well into adulthood.

    And while it’s fine and dandy that these Gummi Bears will contains vitamins and minerals, they are still lacking the fiber and phytonutrients present in fruit.

    I am not advocating for children to have sugar banned from their diets. Part of being a kid is looking forward to an ice cream cone every Saturday night or getting to share some M&M’s with a little brother or sister whenever the family goes to a movie.

    However, this “nutrification” of candy is dangerous because it takes junk food away from the “occasional treat” category and places it in the “hey, why not, at least it has vitamin C” category.

    Currently, if a parent is making a lunchbox for little Sarah and wants a nutritious snack, she’ll pack some trail mix with raisins over a bag of Gummi Bears. It has a hint of sweetness, and, along with vitamins and minerals, offers fiber and antioxidants.

    I’m afraid that vitamin-fortified candy will become acceptable as a snack at any time since it has added value.

    Not to mention, if these Gummi Bears are anything like Diet Coke Plus (“Diet Coke with vitamins!”) they’ll contain the exact same vitamin and mineral combination that, by law, has to be present in all breads. In other words, they aren’t offering anything you can’t get anywhere else.

    As soon as I read this story, I headed over to Marion Nestle’s blog, knowing she surely had an opinion about this, which she does (and I completely agree with):

    Candy is candy. If candy is organic or is laced with vitamins or substances that promote health, at least under laboratory conditions, it still has sugary calories.

    Say no more.


    Nutrition History: Healthier Breads

    Look at the food label for any grain product (even the most refined of breads) and you’ll always see 4 B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate) and iron listed.

    Thiamin(B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3), are bread’s enriched vitamins, while iron is its enriched mineral. Meaning, the flour lost these nutrients while undergoing the milling process, so they are added back in.

    The requirement of replenishing these nutrients stems from the Enrichment Act of 1942, an initiative to lower the rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies at the time.

    In February of 1996, the Food & Drug Administration required that folic acid (the bioavailable version of folate, another B vitamin) be added to all grain products,in an effort to lower rates of neural tube defects (research unequivocally demonstrated that babies of women who consumed low levels of folate during the first trimester of pregnancy had a higher risk of being born with neural tube defects.)

    Folate is not originally found in the endosperm of grains (which is the only part white bread is made from), so it is put in via fortification (added on), rather than enrichment (added back).

    Since folate is a B vitamin (which is water soluble), it is crucial to get the required amount every single day.

    Whole grains naturally contain folate, so they do not need extra amounts.

    Quick lesson on whole wheat vs. white or regular wheat bread:

    Whole wheat breads use all 3 parts of the wheat shaft: the germ, bran, and endosperm
    Refined wheat breads only use the endosperm (thus completely missing out on nutrients found exclusively in the bran and germ, such as vitamin E and selenium).

    Fortunately, the folate initiative has worked! Since the fortification of folate to breads, cereals, and pastas, neural tube defects have decreased by 25 percent in this country.

    Why bread products? They are widely consumed by people in the United States, regardless of age, socioeconomic level, or ethnicity.

    That being said, commercial breads are not the best sources of folate. Spinach, asparagus, and all sorts of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc.) provide more substantial amounts of this crucial B-vitamin.


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