What’s the deal with dietary supplements?

Who remembers those commercials for Flintstones brand chewable multivitamins from back in the day? As a kid, I was happy to take one a day because, let’s face it, they tasted like candy. Now that I’m an adult, it’s definitely a little harder to feel like I should be taking a daily vitamin or other dietary supplement. There are so many bottles sitting on the shelf at the grocery store and so many labels; it can be overwhelming when you’ve just come to pick up some eggs. Understanding a bit more about these supplements and how they work can go a long way towards helping you determine whether or not they should be a part of your life.  As National Nutrition Month comes to an end, we’re providing you with an overview of dietary supplements to help you decide whether you need to boost your nutrition this spring.

What exactly is a dietary supplement?

Dietary supplements can contain one or more dietary ingredients like vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other substances. They usually come in pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid form, but can also come as powders and bars, too. They’re meant to supplement (not replace) the nutrition you get from your daily diet.

Do I even need to take a dietary supplement?

It depends. Your nutritional needs should technically be met as long as you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet full of a variety of foods. The foods we eat are full of naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and other substances that are good for your health, but sometimes you might not be getting enough of a particular nutrient. This can be due to lots of reasons even outside of what you eat. For instance, if you’re getting insufficient exposure to sunlight, you might not be getting enough vitamin D; this is where a dietary supplement could be helpful.

What should I take then?

Before you pull every bottle from the shelf, it’s a very good idea to talk to your doctor first to determine what supplement may be right for you, or if you even need one. It can be dangerous to exceed the level of nutrients you can safely intake. Your doctor can tell you just how much of a particular supplement will be beneficial to your health. If you’re already taking one, make sure your doctor is aware – some supplements may not play nicely with prescription medication.

How much of a recommended supplement should I take?

The manufacturers label will suggest a serving size as it relates to the potency of the supplement ingredients, but this can get a little confusing depending on what your doctor has recommended for you. You don’t want to take more (or less) than what you need. Read the labels as carefully as you can, and follow up with your doctor to make sure you’ve picked up the right thing. You can also ask your local pharmacist for help with interpreting supplement labels.

Where can I find more information about the types of supplements that are available?

A good place to start is MedlinePlus. Powered by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MedlinePlus presents information in an easy to read format and provides you with lots of links to other safe places to look for health-related information. The NIH also has a number of helpful Vitamin and Mineral Fact Sheets that can provide you with scientifically-based overviews about the many vitamins and minerals that are out there.

Resources

https://medlineplus.gov/dietarysupplements.html

https://www.nutrition.gov/dietary-supplements/questions-to-ask-before-taking-vitamins-and-mineral-supplements

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/DietarySupplements-HealthProfessional/

 

5 Reasons to Eat Seasonally

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 3/26/16.

As you walk through the produce aisles of your favorite grocery store, you may notice different fruits and vegetables on display sporting messages like “At Seasons Peak!” or “Now In Season!” throughout the year. If you’ve never thought about grabbing those veggies while they’re hot, maybe you should! As National Nutrition Month slowly comes to a close, take a moment to introduce yourself to the concept of Seasonal Eating, and the benefits of adopting this nutritious habit.

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Spring Reading Round-Up

Happy spring, y’all! One of our favorite springtime activities here at the library is (duh) reading – to be fair, we love reading during every season, but spring reading brings so many new possibilities! The extra hour of sunlight thanks to Daylight Savings Time plus balmier weather means a whole new world of reading opportunities: reading on the porch, at the park, on a hammock, walking around your neighborhood (be careful with this one), under a tree… aren’t you feeling rejuvenated just thinking about it? Since spring is all about sunny skies and nature’s renewal, we’ve rounded up some spring reading picks to indulge in as you take in the new season!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove: he’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. Although it may seem odd to start off a springtime reading list with a book about a man in the “late autumn” of his life, so to speak, the sense of new life and renewal in this book is heartwarming and lovely. I particularly enjoyed this as an audiobook.

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Tips for a Healthy Spring

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 4/14/16.

Springtime brings with it a flurry of activity and a sense of renewal. The flowers bloom, the weather warms, and I get an intense drive to clean my home and refresh it for a new season. Although this season abounds with fresh opportunities, it also brings its own health concerns (pollen, anyone?). Follow these tips to help you have a healthy spring and enjoy the best of the season!

blooming-springtime

How will you stay healthy this spring?

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Discover More About Your Family Health History with these Genetics Resources

Knowing our family health history is often the key to our own personal health. Many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, are often inherited. But we can also inherit genes from our family that can increase our chances of developing certain serious diseases such as cancer. Understanding genetics can be confusing for anyone. Luckily there are many resources available to help you make sense of this important topic.

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The Best Apps for Better Sleep

An oldie but a goodie: This app round-up was originally published on 11/2/17.

Happy Daylight Savings Time! Although the time switch means it’s time for warmer weather and longer days, when our clocks spring forward, it often leaves us feeling groggy and tired. In general, we tend to be fairly sleep deprived – according to the CDC, more than a third of American adults are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, causing chronic sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults aged 18–60 years sleep at least 7 hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being. Sleeping less than seven hours per day is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and frequent mental distress. Yikes!

Luckily, aside from Daylight Savings Time, this week is also Sleep Awareness Week, giving you a prime opportunity to focus on getting better rest. There are lots of ways you can improve your sleep, including these tips from the National Sleep Foundation. To encourage you to focus on getting better sleep, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite sleep apps to help you track your sleeping habits, fall asleep faster, and sleep more soundly.

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Habits for Healthier Sleep

Raise your hand if you’re tired right now. OK, now raise your hand if you’ve been tired at least a few afternoons this week. Unfortunately, I bet every single one of you lovely readers raised your hand for at least one of those – according to the CDC, one third of Americans are chronically sleep deprived, regularly clocking in at fewer than 7 hours a night. The number of people who experience occasional and/or recurrent sleep deprivation is even higher – studies show that nearly everyone experiences occasional sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can lead to a slew of problems: from reduced concentration, lowered immunity, irritability, and low productivity in the short term to the increased risk of heart disease, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation, dementia, and much more over the long term.

Luckily, there are some easy ways to help you sleep more and sleep better! Next week is Sleep Awareness Week, so we want to encourage you to try these tips next week to see how you feel! If you find yourself more rested, you can work them into your regular routine.

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Celebrating Pioneering Women in Medicine: March is Women’s History Month!

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 3/16/17.

Happy Women’s History Month!! Although you don’t have to go far to run into a brilliant female medical student, faculty member, of staff member at the UCF College of Medicine, medical education was not always so. The first American woman to become a medical doctor (Elizabeth Blackwell), obtained her medical degree in 1849, but it has been a slow journey to the more diverse (though still imperfect) medical education system in the U.S. today.

In a previous post, In Celebration of Brilliant Women: March is Women’s History Month, I discussed the current state of the gender disparity in medical education: “Although it is clear that women have come a long way in American history, the glass ceiling seems to be alive and well in academic medicine. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, although nearly half of American medical students and medical residents are women (47% and 46%, respectively), only 16% of deans, 15% of department chairs, and 33% of senior associate/vice deans are women. As of 2014, only 22 out of the 141 deans of American medical schools were women.” Happily, the UCF College of Medicine is ahead of this national curve, and the numbers of women in academic medicine are slowly changing to match those of the larger medical profession.

We love celebrating and supporting the awesome female medical students, faculty, and staff studying at and employed by the UCF College of Medicine, as well as celebrating influential women in medicine throughout history. We’ve rounded up some of these female pioneers in medicine for your Women’s History Month reading pleasure:

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