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Food First, Supplements Made out of Food Second {cod liver oil}

Posted Jan 04 2012 9:35am

Happy New Year, Friends!

I had a great New Year’s Eve with Joe and some of his friends (they’re really our friends, but they started out as his). We went to Ithaca and drank, ate, and danced. Joe and I weren’t out the latest, and we didn’t drink the most, but we had a ton of fun.

And now, onto my new life plan.

I’m thrilled to be teaching online, and doing a tiny bit (~10 hours a week) of wellness coaching. It leaves me time and freedom to work on projects that I’m really excited to get started on.

One great thing I’ve cemented about my good nutrition knowledge is regarding the benefit of consuming food first, before supplements. Often supplements aren’t absorbed very effectively, and foods have this uncanny way of (usually) giving you what you need in appropriate amounts–toxicity is less of a concern when you’re eating food sources of nutrients.

My current favorite food/nutrient source?

Cod liver oil.

It sounds awful, and honestly, it’s not. Certain brands are horrible tasting, but you can buy lemon flavored and you can get it in pill form (I chew the pills—it sounds weird, but somehow they’ve become like an extra chewy gummy bear to me).

In many traditional cultures, people consumed a teaspoon of cod liver oil a day, and no one knew specifically why, but they knew it was good for health.

Cod liver oil provides omega-3 fats, a high quality supply of vitamins A and D, and it has DHA and EPA.

The benefits:

  • brain and nervous system development and function
  • improved memory
  • better immunity, fewer allergies, improved asthma
  • decreased behavioral issues and learning disorders
  • helps build strong bones
  • reduces inflammation (i.e. cancer prevention)
  • improves heart function (reduces risk for heart disease and helps recovery after heart attack)
  • decrease hypertension
  • less bone, muscle, and joint pain
  • treats arthritis
  • in pregnant women and nursing mothers: nutrient supplier to baby, lower Type I diabetes in baby, maximize brain development
  • helps treat (sometimes completely curing) colitis
  • promotes soft skin and fewer wrinkles
  • on the skin: aids healing, and when mixed with zinc oxide it’s great for diaper rash
I’ve been taking cod liver oil pills, 5-10 a day, for about a month and a half. I’ve noticed my skin is not dry at all (it always is in the winter–and I haven’t even used lotion once!). My hair doesn’t get greasy anymore. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but there have been a couple times when I went 2+ days without washing my hair. It still gets messy, but not greasy. My skin is better—hard to decipher what percentage of this result is from the cod liver oil, but I’m pretty sure some of it is (fewer wrinkles, smoother skin, no dryness). I think it affects my brain/mental health too—I’m really not feeling the winter blues at all, and I have energy (also hard to say how much is attributable to cod liver oil since I’ve also cut out grains, but I’m sure some of it is since I’ve noticed a difference recently and I cut grains in August).

Do you take fish oil or cod liver oil? I love this stuff!

I also read Wheat Belly last week, and it reinforced my decision to remove wheat from my diet. Did you know that whole wheat has more of an impact on your blood sugar than table sugar?! It’s all very scientific (and boring), so you have to be really interested in it to read the book! I skimmed some parts—but I really like understanding why there’s such an increase in gluten intolerance over the last few decades, and how the genetic modification of wheat is on par (negatively) with high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

My conundrum is in regards to how to get the information to people, and (1) not sound crazy since it’s so different from status quo, and (2) make it a realistic thing to address for the average person.

Maybe it’s just not. Realistic, that is.

And maybe I am crazy! (Totally fine with that by the way).

I think this is related to my current struggle—whether or not I should keep blogging (which is why I’ve been so scarce—I’m waiting for answers to fall out of the sky effortlessly into my lap). I’m always going to be interested in this kind of wellness/food information, and I can’t shake the habit of reading about it for fun every night. But, really, why do I feel the need to tell people about it? Just something I’m contemplating…and I think it’s a function of transitioning my career. It’s healthy to question the path you’re on once in a while, right?

I think I’ll stick with it for a bit while I figure it out. I have some requests for info about food choices and anxiety (and a case study to share!), and I am going to tell you about the wheat issue whether it makes me sound crazy or not :)

Also, whey….I’m currently doing a non-randomized, semi-controlled, personal anecdote-based quasi-scientific narrative inquiry study about the effects of high quality whey. I used to not be a fan of whey, based on the process used to isolate the protein (in most brands of protein powder). However, now that I’ve been making yogurt, I have a whole new worldly view of whey (liquid form) and found a great brand of protein powder that I trust.

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