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To your health: Food first: How to fine tune your body

Update: June, 26/2017 - 04:00
Jill Tuong Truong.— Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice Vietnam
Viet Nam News

By Jill Tuong Truong *

Boosting children’s immune system

Summer is here and the children are having a long summer break with a lot of outside physical activities. Summer means hot, long days with plenty of direct sunlight. It is also the rainy season.

Boosting the family’s immune system is commonly associated with preparations for cold weather. But any change in the weather can cause stress, which affects the immune system and makes one more susceptible to illness when coming into contact with a virus.

Vitamin C is well known as an immune system booster, which is effective in the prevention of colds and recovery from them. Vitamin C supplements are convenient and packed with 1000% of the daily recommendation. And how much vitamin C is in an orange? It has more than 100% vitamin C than your recommended dose. Moreover, it is also packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, thiamin, folate, calcium, potassium. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain phytochemicals (plant chemical) that may help to fight the development and progression of some chronic diseases, such as cancer. Therefore, “Food first”. Make sure your kids eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to get a variety of nutrients.

Also, spend more time with your kids, choose some physical activity and do it together rather than sitting in front of the TV for hours.

Iron Deficiency

Iron is an essential mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Deficiency in iron causes anemia (symptoms including fatigue, weakness, headache, pale skin and fingernails, dizziness). Too much iron may damage your heart and liver. The body is able to regulate uptake of iron so an overdose of iron is rare and occurs when people take supplements.

Iron from natural food sources (animal and plant sources) is better regulated and causes less damage to the body. Iron from animal sources is better absorbed by the body than iron from plants.

Iron deficiency anemia is treated with iron supplement taken by mouth or a rich-iron diet. Some of the best animal sources of iron are liver (chicken), seafood, beef and lamb, fish. Vegetarians absorb less iron since their source is plants, so adding a source of vitamin C will enhance iron absorption. Some of the best plant sources of iron are beans and pulses (pinto, kidney, lentils and soybean), dark leafy green (spinach), fortified cereal/bran, enriched rice/breads, tofu, dark chocolate and cocoa powder.

How to prevent iron deficiency? The key is to eat a balanced, healthy diet with a variety of food groups. Add some vitamin C if your iron source is plants. For example: squeeze a wedge of lemon into your spinach salad or throw some strawberries into your fortified cereal bowl.

Raw milk and health risks

Due to the movement to consume foods that have been minimally processed, there has been a renewed interest in consuming raw milk. “Natural” is the very catchy term when it comes to advertising and marketing a product.

Is raw milk natural? Yes.

Is it ok to drink raw milk? No.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are no health benefits from drinking raw milk, and it can lead to serious health risks because it may carry bacteria that cause multiple food-borne illnesses. Expectant moms, infants, children and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to being affected.

Raw milk supporters believe that pasteurization kills good bacteria and causes nutrient loss. However, there is no medical evidence to support this theory. Pasteurization is known to kill bacteria that can cause disease and it is still one of the most effective food safety interventions known to public health.

What makes Greek yogurt different?

First of all, both Greek yogurt and traditional plain yogurt in low-fat forms can be a part of healthy diet. Greek yogurt is different because it is strained and this process removes the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, making it thicker, creamier and smoother than traditional yogurt.

What about nutrients in Greek yogurt?

·        It has double the protein of traditional yogurt, which makes it more appealing to vegetarians who sometimes struggle to get enough nutrients.

·        It usually contains half the carbs (less lactose) of the traditional one, so lactose-intolerant individuals may tolerate it even better than the traditional type. It is also the ideal snack for diabetic patients. Remember to double check the carb amount listed on the nutrition label.

·        It loses some of its calcium during the straining process: 170 grams of Greek yogurt actually provides about 20% of the daily recommendation. Want some more calcium? Mix your Greek yogurt with seeds or almonds.

There are many ways to enjoy the yogurt. Make yourself a yogurt parfait by layering yogurt, granola or some dried seeds, fruits such as berries or banana. Or try yogurt smoothies, yogurt fruit dip or yogurt salad dressing. Whether you choose Greek yogurt or traditional yogurt, check the nutrition label for the amount of fat, sugar, protein and calories.— Family Medical Practice Vietnam

* Jill Tuong Truong is a registered dietitian at Family Medical Practice Ho Chi Minh City. She recently returned to Việt Nam from study in New York and Oklahoma.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi on 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình. Tel: (024) 3843 0748.  E:

FMP’s downtown Ho Chi Minh is at Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn, District 1; 95 Thảo Điền Street, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848.

FMP Danang is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh Street, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E:


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