Omega-3s during Pregnancy and Lactation

Maintaining optimal levels of omega-3’s is important for all of us, but one population that deserves special attention is women who are pregnant and nursing. The omega-3 fatty acids are critical for optimal brain health and function at all ages of life, but these essential fatty acids play a vital role during fetal development and infancy. Pregnant women have a higher requirement of omega-3s, in particular DHA, because of the rapid cell growth and development of new tissues and organ systems. Optimal development of the brain and central nervous system, the eyes, and the immune system – have all been associated with adequate intake of DHA. In fact, DHA is a major structural fat in the human brain and eyes, representing about 97% of all omega-3 fats in the brain and 93% of all omega-3 fats in the retina. During the last trimester, the fetus accumulates 50-70 mg DHA each day, nearly the same amount that most American’s consume from diet alone. Both the mother’s DHA intake and circulating DHA concentrations are important in determining fetal blood concentrations of DHA. Without supplementation, maternal levels of omega-3s will decrease during pregnancy and will be further decreased when breast-feeding, as the essential fatty acids are also components of breast milk. These nutrients continue to be vitally important for development of the brain during infancy and this is the reason DHA is now added to infant formulas. Babies continue to accrue DHA into the central nervous system until about 18 months of age.

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Butternut Squash Risotto

2 Tablespoons olive oil                      IMG_1167
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup pearled barley
32 ounces chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup frozen petite peas
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened (about 5 minutes). Stir in garlic and thyme and cook stirring for one minute.  Stir in the barley and the broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Stir in squash, cover the pot and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in peas and 3/4 cup cheese. Garnish with  remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Serves 4.

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Caramelized Brussel Sprouts

brussel sprouts12 ounces Brussels sprouts, halved
Course salt
Ground pepper
2 T Olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice

In a large skillet, combine sprouts and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover; cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated and sprouts are crisp tender, about 5 minutes (add more water if skillet becomes dry before sprouts are done).

Increase heat to medium-high; add olive oil to pan. Continue to cook, uncovered, without stirring, until sprouts are golden brown on underside, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

Brussels sprouts are delicious, high in fiber and like other vegetables in the cruciferous family, are rich in a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants. You will know when Brussels sprouts are in season when they are readily available in the market; look for nice green, small-medium sized sprouts. To prepare for cooking, rinse in cold water and remove the ends with a paring knife. For maximum health benefits, do not overcook.

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Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem – Seize the Day! This powerful dictum always brings me back to Robin Williams’ moving portrayal of the beloved and inspiring professor in the film Dead Poet’s Society. It is a call to action, a renewal of the spirit and a return to optimism and determination, like the feeling of hopeful yearning we experience when we pledge those New Year’s resolutions. As the clock ticks away the final minutes of the old year, the excitement can be intoxicating. But so often we fail. After the rush of the New Year’s celebration fades and reality sets in, those ambitions can once again seem insurmountable. The truth is we very often unknowingly set ourselves up for failure.

Maybe this year we can keep a few rules in mind: Be realistic, keep it simple, and understand that self-motivation is essential when it comes to making real changes in your life. You have to be the one who is convinced you need to make a change. You have to really want it; your desire to make the change has to be greater than the desire to keep things the same. If you’ve ever spoken to someone who successfully stopped smoking or made any significant and lasting lifestyle change and asked them how they did it, the answer is always the same: “I wanted it and I just did it!”

Be realistic. Create short-term goals and make changes in small steps that are part of longer-term goals. If you need to lose twenty-five pounds, focus on losing five pounds. And instead of trying to lose five pounds in a week, focus on losing one pound a week. Acknowledge and reward your efforts and progress each step of the way, and never abandon your goals because of momentary failure or neediness. Remind yourself where you were last week or last month. If you are doing anything more than before, you have made progress. If you remain on the path you have chosen and your goals remain in view, your chance of attaining them becomes ever more likely.

Don’t get caught up in the false hope of quick fixes when it comes to making lifestyle changes. It is unfair and foolish to think that decades of unhealthful habits can be eradicated in a week or two.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap that fixing one thing you think has gone wrong is going to change your life. Getting to your ideal weight or driving a fancier car does not equal happiness. It’s not about trading places with someone else who seems to be better off than you are, or looking like the model on the cover of Vogue or GQ, and it’s not about turning back the hands of time. It’s about striving to be the best version of you at this moment and investing in your future. Health and happiness comes as a result of taking better care of you, inside and out, and requires addressing a multitude of factors every day of our lives. Don’t wait for all the stars to be in some perfect alignment; start now in the midst of everything. Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

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Chicken with Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar

4 boneless chicken breastsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
1 jar whole mushrooms
2 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp butter

Season flour with salt and pepper and dredge chicken breasts in flour mix.  Heat olive oil in heavy skillet and brown chicken on one side, approx. 4 minutes.  Add whole garlic cloves.  Turn chicken pieces and scatter the mushrooms all over.  Continue cooking, shaking skillet.  Cook approx. 4 minutes and add the balsamic vinegar and broth.  Add bay leaf and thyme.  Cover closely and cook over medium low heat, about 10 minutes.  Turn pieces occasionally as they cook.  Transfer pieces to warm serving platter and cover with foil.  Let the sauce with the mushrooms cook uncovered, over medium high heat about 5-7 minutes.  Swirl in butter.  Remove and discard bay leaf.  Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

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Pan Poached Salmon Piccata

2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon chicken broth granules
2 (4-6 oz. each) Salmon fillets
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon capers
Black pepper
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Bring water and lemon juice to a boil in medium-sized skillet.  Stir in chicken granules.  Reduce heat to a simmer and place salmon in pan.  Cover and simmer over low heat, 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the thickest part, or until fish flakes when tested with a fork.  Remove salmon from pan; keep warm.  Boil remaining liquid in pan until it reduces to approximately ¼ cup.  Whisk in butter and stir in capers.  Spoon sauce over fish.  Season with pepper and sprinkle with fresh parsley.  Makes two servings.  Note:  Recipe may be easily doubled.

Learn more about omega-3 fish oils at vitalremedymd

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Carrot Ginger Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large Vidalia/sweet onion chopped
2 lbs. carrots, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Dash of ground ginger
2 cups water
2 cups fat-free chicken broth
2 Tbsp. heavy cream, divided

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrots; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt, pepper, and ginger. Add water and broth to pot; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, simmer 25-30 minutes until carrots are tender.  Remove from heat; cool.  Place half the carrot mixture and 1 Tbsp. cream in a blender or food processor; process about 20 seconds until smooth.  Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining carrot mixture and 1 Tbsp. cream.  Return mixture to pot and cook over medium heat until thoroughly heated.  Serves 4-6.

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Pasta with Edamame

Edamame (ey-dah-MAH-meh) is a green vegetable more commonly known as a soybean.  In East Asia, the soybean has been used for over two thousand years as a major source of protein. As a snack, the pods are lightly boiled in salted water, and then the seeds are squeezed directly from the pods into the mouth with the fingers.  This has become a popular appetizer in many restaurants and you can find them in the organic frozen foods section at your grocery either in the pods or shelled.  When my daughter was 12 years old she loved this recipe and learned to make it herself;  it’s certainly a step up on the nutrition chart from pasta and butter!

3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you’re not a fan of spicy decrease by half)
12-ounce bag shelled edamame, partially thawed
14 ounces chicken or vegetable broth
12 ounces linguine (or pasta of your choice)
2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the garlic in olive oil until just golden; stir in red pepper flakes.  Add the edamame and broth and simmer until the edamame are tender and the broth is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta; drain and add to the skillet.  Toss to coat and remove from heat.  Stir in the parsley and serve.  Makes 3-4 servings.

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Are You Getting Enough Omega-3s? Take a blood test and see…

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids in the human diet that are primarily found in oily fish like salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, etc. They are also available in fish oil soft gels. The principle omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  Over the last 25 years, compelling evidence has accumulated from epidemiological studies and large clinical trials demonstrating their beneficial impact on joint, brain, eye, and heart function.  With regard to the cardioprotective effects of omega-3 oils, the strongest evidence to date relates to reducing risk for sudden cardiac death, the primary cause of coronary heart disease (CHD) death in the US today.

The American Heart Association reports that CHD is the number one killer of American men and women, accounting for more than one of every five deaths in the United States, usually as sudden death from cardiac arrest.  Recognizing the cardioprotective effects of omega-3s, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that patients with documented CHD should consume about 1,000 mg of omega-3s (specifically, combined DHA+EPA) per day; those without documented CHD should eat a variety of fish, preferably oily, at least twice a week, to provide about 500 mg of EPA+DHA per day.  It is very difficult, however, to reliably estimate omega-3 consumption based upon fatty fish intake because DHA and EPA vary greatly with species, season, maturity, fish’s diet, post-catch processing, and cooking methods.  A high-quality, highly purified fish oil supplement can deliver a more precise amount of omega-3s.  Even then, individual differences in absorption, metabolism, and distribution can lead to variable responses to a given intake.

So how do you know if you are getting enough omega-3s?

Now there is a blood test —the HS-Omega-3 Index™— that can measure your levels of the cardioprotective omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Researchers have discovered that one of the best risk indicators for sudden cardiac death is the level of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in red blood cell membranes. The HS-Omega-3 Index test measures levels of DHA + EPA in the phospholipids of red blood cell membranes and is expressed as a percent of total fatty acids in the membrane.  The result is a simple modifiable marker for the risk of death from coronary heart disease.

The target HS-Omega-3 Index is 8% and above, a level that current research indicates is associated with the lowest risk for death from CHD. On the other hand, an Index of 4% or less (which is common in the US) indicates the highest risk.  Low levels are easily corrected through dietary changes or supplements and can quickly improve test results. Of course, this is just one of a number of risk factors that plays a role in CHD.  Risks associated with other factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, family history of CHD, smoking, or other cardiac conditions are completely independent of and not influenced by omega-3 fatty acids. Any and all modifiable risk factors – including the HS-Omega-3 Index—should be addressed as part of any global risk reduction strategy.

Visit for more preventive healthcare solutions.

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Wintertime Chili

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 small yellow onions, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (16 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can whole kernel corn
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Shredded parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Warm olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, squash, and celery; cook 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add remaining ingredients, except cheese.  Increase heat to high; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered 45 minutes.  Sprinkle each serving with cheese.

Learn more about preventive cardiology at

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