Nutrition with Vegetarian Style

About Me

BrittaHello! My name is Britta Nelson and I am a compliance specialist at Swanson Health Products

My interest in health and nutrition began at a very young age.  As the daughter of a chiropractor, I have been taking dietary supplements my entire life. Being aware of my natural health choices, and as an animal lover, I became a vegetarian about fifteen years ago. I attended Concordia College Moorhead where I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.

As a nutritionist, I love to share natural health practices in hopes of promoting healthier lifestyles. I have learned in many ways the importance of health and nutrition. Over the past five years, my mother has battled cancer three separate times. She has undergone various surgeries and treatments for ovarian, breast and brain cancer. My mother is now living a healthy and cancer-free life. Her strength and courage has fueled my passion for helping others.

By keeping up with the latest research and current happenings, my purpose is to provide helpful information, tips, suggestions and personal experiences dealing with nutrition, health, supplements and a vegetarian diet. Together, we can start living healthier lives today!

Food Label or Warning Label: Top 10 Worst Processed Foods

Monday, December 2, 2013 by Britta S

Do you read your food labels?

Have you ever heard the rule “don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce?” A hundred years ago, this wasn’t an issue. Today, with all the processed foods in the standard American diet (SAD), there are over 14,000 man-made chemicals added as preservatives, artificial sweeteners and colors to nearly every food item found on the inside aisle of the grocery stores. Even the produce aisle is contaminated with pesticides and herbicides.

Therein lies one of the main benefits of eating an organic, whole-food based diet. With organically produced food, be it fresh fruit and vegetables or meat and dairy products, you don’t have to worry about any unnatural chemical additives sneaking onto your dinner plate. You can find more and more organic foods these days, from local farmers markets, an expanding section at your local grocery store as well as natural health websites such as our own.

Unfortunately, many of those added chemicals and preservatives are what make processed foods, including fast foods, taste so darn good. So if you do decide to make the switch and enjoy the benefits of organic foods and the peace of mind, don’t be surprised if it takes your tastes buds a few days to adjust. On the flip side, organically produced food is typically so fresh and ripe, it provides a depth of flavor you may have never experienced before.

It’s important to read the label on anything you are going to put in your body, but what are you looking for on these labels? I’m sure you glance at the serving size, calories, fat content and maybe skim through the ingredient list. It can be a bit overwhelming.

We can't know about all 14,000 chemicals added to our foods. So, I’m going to give you a list of the top ten things that I try to avoid when choosing my packaged foods.

  1. Trans Fats. If the label reads "hydrogenated oils" or "partially hydrogenated oils," I would recommend looking for an alternative food.  These are good indications that the product contains trans fat. Using trans fats in the manufacturing of foods helps foods have a longer shelf life. When it comes to fat, trans fat is considered by some professionals to be the worst type of fat. Unlike other fats, trans fat both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. If possible, avoid foods that contain trans fat.
  2. Saturated Fats. While the total fat content on the label is important to read, the type of fat is where you really need to pay attention. Foods like avocados, almonds and olive oil are high in fat, but notice the type of fat: monounsaturated fats. These are good fats. The type of fat to avoid is saturated fat–-the type that clogs up those arteries! One often cited exception is coconut oil, which touts medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs), which some studies have shown may help in the process of excess calorie burning, and thus weight loss.
  3. High Fructose Corn Syrup. HFCS has gotten a bad reputation as being worse than sugar, but that is not necessarily true. Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup are digested the same way in the body. Table sugar and HFCS are chemically very similar. The reason to avoid HFCS is simply excess sugar content, causing health concerns such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more.
  4. Sugars. Excess sugar is, plain and simple, not good for your body. Just like we mentioned for HFCS, it can cause many health complications. Be sure to look at the sugar content of foods before consuming and enjoy in moderation.
  5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG is a flavor enhancer commonly added to canned foods and processed meats. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that has a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, the use of it remains controversial. Over the years, the FDA has received many anecdotal reports of adverse reactions to foods containing MSG. The best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid foods containing MSG.
  6. Artificial Colorings. Blue 2, Yellow 5, Red 40. Science project or ingredient list? Artificial colorings do nothing good for the body. They are chemically composed and the best way to avoid them is by consuming natural foods, free of added artificial ingredients.
  7. Artificial Sweeteners. I’ll be honest, I’m as guilty as anyone in that I thoroughly enjoy a nice cold diet soda every once in a while. While research insconflicting on the effects of artificial sweeteners, there is something we know for sure: they do nothing positive for your body. What they can do is trick your body into thinking it's getting calories when it’s not and therefore triggering a desire to eat. Artificial sweeteners have been tied to excessive calorie consumption. It’s best to avoid them and choose a healthier option.
  8. Sodium. Sodium is necessary for your body to function, but in excess can cause extensive harm. The dietary guidelines suggest consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, or 1,500 mg in certain cases. Most Americans get well over the suggested amount. The first thing you can do is hide the salt shaker, which is usually full of "table salt," which most of you know shares little resemblece to healthy salts like Himalayan crystal salt. Adding salt to food while cooking or at the dinner table can be dangerous as most foods (processed foods to be more accurate) are already high in sodium. It is very important to look at the sodium content of your foods before adding more salt during preparation.
  9. Bleached. A pretty good rule when reading the ingredient list is to look for the word “whole” in the first couple ingredients. If your label reads “bleached flour” or “bleached white flour,” there is probably a better option for you. Consuming foods like brown rice instead of white, wheat pasta instead of regular or whole wheat bread instead of white will do you a world of good.
  10. Excessive and Unpronounceable Ingredients. List of ingredients seems quite excessive? Can’t pronounce half of them? It probably means that food is full of chemicals, artificial and processed ingredients. A short ingredient list that consists of ingredients that you recognize will be your best bet.

Food is fuel for your body. The best advice I can give you–eat fresh foods! A well-rounded diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products are going to provide you with the most nutritious, clean and healthful diet. When packaged food is necessary, read the label carefully.

Read next: Grocery Shopping Guide: How to Keep Your Body Healthy and Your Wallet Fat


A Short Version for Sharing:

Response to "10 Surprising Dangers of Vitamins and Supplements"

Monday, September 10, 2012 by Britta S

The following post is our point-by-point response to Consumer Reports' September 2012 article, "10 surprising dangers of vitamins and supplements." The bold, numbered sub-headings are the 10 points addressed in the original article. We invite your feedback in the comments section below.

1. Supplements are not risk free
Did you know that there are an average of 3,000 deaths and 128,000 hospitalizations a year from food poisoning? Food is not risk free. Nothing in life is risk free. It is always recommended that you discuss with your healthcare provider before use of any dietary supplement or beginning any new diet/exercise plan.

2. Some supplements are really prescription drugs
If a product contains a drug, then it is not a supplement. Supplements are food, not drugs. These are misbranded and illegal products and the industry strives to remove these adulterated products from the market. 

3. You can overdose on vitamins and minerals
Have you ever heard of water intoxication? Yes, it is possible to overdose on water. Can you overdose on vitamins and minerals? Yes, but as long as you are following the suggested use of the product, it is not likely. If used appropriately, supplements should not cause an overdose. Be sure to check the label and be especially careful with fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) as these can be stored by the body. 

4. You can’t depend on warning labels
True. It is recommended to discuss all supplement regimens with your healthcare provider and use consumer discretion when choosing a product. It is especially important to discuss with your healthcare provider before beginning a new supplemental plan if you are pregnant or nursing, have a medical condition or taking any prescription medications.

5. None are proven to cure major diseases
Dietary supplements have been clinically shown to support many aspects of health including bone, heart, brain, etc. To say they cure major diseases is not only prohibited, but is not the intent of dietary supplements.

 6. Buy with caution from botanicas
We couldn't agree more. It is very important to purchase your dietary supplements from a credible company/brand. We could also say “don’t buy pain killers on the black market or in back alleys,” but some level of common sense usually prevails.

7. Heart protection: not proven
The American Heart Association has recognized the benefit of omega-3 and other supplements for supporting heart health. Along with healthy diet and exercise, supplements have been scientifically shown play an important role in supporting a healthy heart.

8. Choking
You can choke on a supplement…and anything else you swallow as well. Be sure to consume with adequate water.

9. Some natural products are anything but
Again, it is very important to purchase dietary supplements from a credible company. There are very specific guidelines set for production and labeling of supplements. It is important to look for legitimate, compliant companies that follow the rules, laws and guidelines of dietary supplements.

How Are Dietary Supplements Regulated?

10. You may not need supplements at all
True, in an ideal world. Did you get your five servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of dairy, six servings of whole grain and lean proteins today? Neither did I. As a Licensed Nutritionist, I would love for everyone to eat healthy enough to not need supplements. That’s just not a reality in today’s busy lifestyle. A basic, high-quality multivitamin is a great way to help fill in the gaps when needed.

There are also many cases where supplements are necessary: prenatal during pregnancy and lactation, Vitamin D in winter months (especially for us up in Fargo, ND!), Vitamin B12 for vegans, etc. All in all, supplements are complements to the diet not substitutes for healthy balanced meals and adequate physical activity.

Top 5 Reasons Why I love Working at Swanson Health Products

Tuesday, February 7, 2012 by Britta S
britta at swanson

When they asked for the top five reasons I love working at Swanson Health Products, my first reaction was, only five?! So here are my first five reasons that come to mind...

1. The People. The number one aspect I love about my job is the people that I work with. The employees at Swanson Health Products are some of the most hard-working, respectful, intelligent and professional people around. The environment around this company is one that I enjoy walking into each and every day. It seems I spend more time with my co-workers than I do my own family, so having such great people to work with is truly a very lucky thing.

Gym Time!2. The Company. Swanson Health Products is a company that is 100% focused on the customer. I am so proud to work for a company that puts the customer first and focuses on quality. You might be interested to know that SHP not only “talks the talk” of living a healthy lifestyle, but does “walk the walk”. We have access to a full fitness center available 24/7 right here in the building! The company truly cares about every employee’s health and provides opportunities and incentives for improving our lives.

3. Learn something new every day. In my job, this couldn't be truer. My position here at SHP is a compliance specialist. My job is challenging, interesting and rewarding. My duties are to keep up with industry regulations and be sure we are offering the safest, most research-based and highest quality products available while complying with industry policies. The supplement industry is one that is constantly growing, changing and advancing. Keeping up with all of the information, I truly do learn something new every single day.

4. Natural Health Focus. I have been taught the benefits of natural health from the day I was born. Growing up in a home where my parents truly believed and practiced natural health, I’ve never known a different way of living. My father is a chiropractor and has always shown us the advantages to including dietary supplements into our daily routine. While I’m thankful for many things my parents have taught me, this natural way of living is something that I appreciate and take with me each and every day. My job allows me to continue with my natural health beliefs.

5. Influencing Lives. While I was earning my nutrition degree in college, my focus was to work in a clinical setting where I could directly influence the lives of patients. Through my education and working experiences, I realized that there were many ways that I could work in my field and help people with their health. Working at Swanson Health Products allows me to positively influence the lives of many people around the world by providing top quality natural health supplements at affordable prices. I am able to use my nutrition degree in ways that focus on natural health and well-being.

I am proud to say that I work for Swanson Health Products - a company that cares about their employees and always puts the customer first.

Coconut Water: A Natural Recovery Drink Packed with Electrolytes

Thursday, January 12, 2012 by Britta S

Coconut WaterThere’s nothing like sticking a straw into a fresh coconut to quench your thirst. Or maybe we’ll settle for coconut water fresh from the package. Either way you drink it, coconut water is a great choice for rehydrating your body

Coconut water is an isotonic solution that replaces the fluids and minerals that your body loses during physical activities. For this reason, many athletes and people who work out regularly are encouraged to drink coconut water to replace all the minerals and fluid that they lose while exercising.

To help recover after a workout, coconut water contains the things that your body typically uses during the workout: sugars, electrolytes, and of course, water. Coconut water naturally contains these same things, and it contains more potassium and less sodium and sugar than sports drinks.

Coconut water delivers many benefits to athletes, specifically runners. When you sweat, you also lose water and essential electrolytes that your body needs to function properly. If you don’t replenish your water and electrolytes, you risk becoming dehydrated as well as feeling weak and fatigued.

Coconut water is especially packed with 5 essential electrolytes, including:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
Coconut WaterThese electrolytes are critical to proper recovery after you run or workout, making coconut water one of the best runners’ recovery drinks available today.

Perhaps best of all, coconut water is all natural. Unlike most other sports drink available today, coconut water contains: No artificial colors, No artificial flavors, No preservatives, No added or refined sugars and its low in calories and fat-free!

If you don’t have time to visit a tropical location today, check out Swanson’s line of coconut water.