Author: Laurie Hursting

Get out that grocery list

Last week, we dove into nutrients that may help the body reduce stress and anxiety. Many of those nutrients were B vitamins! Now let’s take a look at some of the food sources naturally high in vitamins B1, 6, 9, and 12.

Vitamin B1

Vegetables: green peas, asparagus, spinach, acorn squash

Nuts: macadamia, pistachio

Seeds: sunflower, flax, sesame

Fish: trout, salmon, tuna

Pork: lean cuts (loin, tenderloin, chops)

Beans: edamame, navy, pink, black, mung

Vitamin B6

Fruit: dried prunes, dried apricots, raisins, bananas, avocados (I know—technically a fruit!)

Nuts: pistachio

Seeds: sunflower

Fish: tuna, salmon, halibut, swordfish, herring

Meat: lean pork, lean beef, turkey, chicken

Vitamin B9

Legumes: lentils, black eyed peas, mung, pinto, chickpeas, pink, lima, black, navy, kidney

Vegetables: spinach, turnip greens, asparagus, romaine lettuce, broccoli

Fruit: avocado, mango, pomegranate, papaya, oranges

Vitamin B12

Shellfish: clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, crab, lobster, crayfish, shrimp

Fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, trout, striped bass

Meat: liver, beef steak

Dairy: milk, yogurt, swiss cheese

With finals coming up, do what you can for your body to not “B” stressed!

A Different Type of Stress Eating

Exercise has long been prescribed as a remedy to anxiety and stress. Are there certain nutrients that may help as well?

Vitamin B1: Prevents the production of excess lactic acid (often recognized as a biochemical factor in triggering anxiety).

Vitamin B6: Helps make mood-influencing neurotransmitters including serotonin, GABA, and norepinephrine.

Vitamin B9: Maintains homocysteine levels (high levels linked to anxiety) by converting into mood-stabilizing S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) and antioxidant glutathione.

Vitamin B12: Serves in production of methionine, precursor of SAMe, necessary for myelin sheath and nerve function.

Magnesium: Reduces lactic acid levels, binds to and stimulates GABA receptors, and can regulate the stress response by suppressing stress hormones.

Zinc: Stimulates enzymes necessary in the synthesis of serotonin and GABA.

Tryptophan: Acts as the amino acid precursor to serotonin.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Decreases proinflammatory cytokins, small proteins that interfere with the regulation of glutamate (a neurotransmitter that is associated with anxiety).

Vitamin C: Moderates the release of stress hormones like cortisol.

Check back next week for a post on what foods are a good source of these nutrients!

Garlic: bad breath, good health?

Yesterday was Halloween, and I hope y’all aren’t feeling too much like zombies after walking Franklin Street. See any vampire costumes?

Garlic is in the onion family. The separate sections that comprise the garlic bulb are cloves, and most of the health benefits come from when a clove is crushed or chewed when raw. This produces a sulfur compound, allicin.

In addition to allicin, garlic seems to be a nutrient powerhouse. Three cloves (9g) contain manganese (8% DV), Vitamin B6 (6%), Vitamin C (5%), calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, and zinc.

Research has shown that garlic may:

  • Boost immune system
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower LDL cholesterol
  • Fight oxidants
  • Protect against heavy metal toxicity

Okay, but why the connection with vampires? Perhaps since garlic has been used as a known mosquito repellent, the connection between the bloodsuckers was made. Some also believe the legend of vampires possibly had its fangs in porphyria, and garlic exacerbates the symptoms of this disease.

Though unlikely you’ll need garlic for folkloric purposes, it may still be beneficial to add it to your diet!


Do you hear those coughs, sniffles, and sneezes?

It sounds like flu and cold season.

Fastidiously washing your hands won’t prevent Mark from coughing in your general direction (thanks Mark), or save you from an ill-timed sneeze. Breathing isn’t optional. But before you break out the Bubble Boy suit, here are a few more tips that will strengthen your chances of staying healthy even when those around you aren’t.

  1. Mark has coughed. This aerosol (i.e. spray) potentially contains infectious droplets. With flu droplets, the trajectory is likely less than six feet. You are unfortunately standing right next to him. Hold your breath for 10 to 15 seconds.
  2. If this keeps occurring and you feel comfortable, politely ask Mark to cough into the inside of his elbow. Make a light, yet pointed, joke about doing the “dab.”
  3. Mark has sneezed onto his desk. Your hand at some point comes in contact with that desk. Don’t touch your face.

Stay healthy my friends.


Fair and Scare

The end of today marks the start of Fall Break! As the weather grows chillier and the last of midterms are turned in, what are a couple uniquely fall activities you may want to check out?

Bring 5 cans of food and gain free admission to the N.C. State Fair.

Thursday: October 19, Raleigh

“Food Lion Hunger Relief Day at the Fair is one of the largest one-day canned-food drives in the state, held each year to benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Since 1993, more than 4.4 million pounds of food have been donated by fairgoers. Food Bank volunteers and employees of Food Lion and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will exchange cans for Fair tickets at each admission gate.”

Embrace the Halloween spirit at Carowinds amusement park.

Weekend Evening: October 20-22, Charlotte

“Fear rises when darkness falls when Carowinds is transformed from a ‘theme park’ into a ‘scream park’ during the annual haunt of SCarowinds. Experience the thrills of your favorite rides and the chills of over 16 terrifying haunted attractions and shows. With over ghastly 500 monsters waiting to feed off your screams, there’s no place to hide during the Carolinas largest Halloween event.”

Have a safe and fun Fall Break!

What Exactly is Coconut Water?

Coconut water seemed to be a fad brought about by celebrities (as most fads are). Besides providing a unique tasting alternative to plain water, what do we know from a nutritional standpoint?

Despite the name, coconuts are considered a fruit. The juice at the center forms the white coconut meat as it ripens and the half-cup to cup of liquid that remains in the middle is the coconut water. And this liquid is made up of 94% water. A cup of coconut water contains:

  • Carbs: 9 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 10% of the recommended daily intake (RDI)
  • Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 17% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 17% of the RDI
  • Sodium: 11% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 6% of the RDI

The nutrients and antioxidants present may even decrease blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol, all while replenishing electrolytes and providing hydration. More research is needed but coconut water seems to be a pretty satisfying drink.


Flu Shot Season

When it comes to the flu shot, I trust in the CDC for their advice and present it as follows. Some vaccines contain inactive virus parts to three types of influenza while others have four. The predicted and included flu strains are educated guesses, so a quadrivalent vaccine might cover more bases. Search for flu shot locations around you and find out which they offer.

If an individual has never gotten the flu or the flu shot, they may not think they need to be vaccinated. This experienced phenomenon is often due to herd immunity, where the surrounding people in a population act as insulation against the flu because they were vaccinated and so not spreading it. Another common myth is that the flu shot will give you the flu though this is not the case. The body takes up to a few weeks after being exposed to the inactivated virus to develop antibodies, and while your immune system is working on this you may not feel at your best for a day or so. If I experience this, I remind myself how much worse the full-fledged flu virus feels. The flu shot may even decrease your risk by half.

October is the time to get it— read up on the flu shot and make a choice that best benefits your health and the health of those around you!

Pumpkin Spice: What Makes It So Nice?

Pumpkin spice conjures images of fall and fall is now upon us! The smell alone triggers nostalgia and comfort, and memories of pumpkin pie with the family. Interestingly, about 80% of our experience of taste comes from smell. Clever marketing, most notably of the pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, has further conditioned us to associate this scent and flavor with the cozy season. But what exactly is pumpkin spice?

It’s usually not pumpkin—a natural mixture may combine ground cinnamon, nutmeg, dry ginger and clove or allspice. Spices are derived from plants, offering a good source of phytochemicals. And for those specialty lattes, a synthetic flavoring is often used that evokes the aroma of butter browning with sugar. Sweeteners are, of course, aplenty in these syrups and additives.

The physiological effects of feel-good sugar paired with comforting pumpkin spice really make for a serious seasonal craving.


Thank you to Dr. Marshall for the fascinating presentation!

Last week, we were excited to have Dr. Laura Marshall discuss her dissertation research with us. Her work looked at the different types of comments posted online under an article for Breitbart and for Huffington Post, both on the subject of healthcare reform. Identity seemed very important to establish in both comments sections with “othering” used as the most common social process, i.e. invalidating a differing opinion typically through name-calling and questioning of intelligence. Main distinctions between the two sets of comments included Breitbart comments focusing on personal responsibility and a distrust of government actions or programs, and Huffington Post comments emphasizing social justice and hopeful solutions.

What is the purpose of these comments sections and, ultimate goal, how can communication professionals utilize them? Dr. Marshall’s theory is that users of comments sections establish identity through “othering,” then seek or offer information within their group, and propose solutions.

An Appetite for Adjectives

How can healthy foods be rebranded to garner interest and uptake, without the use of a master chef? A study this summer looked at the effects of descriptive food labels on the amount of vegetables self-served at lunch. The researchers categorized four different labeling groups:

  1. Basic description (i.e. carrots)
  2. Healthy restrictive (reduced-sodium carrots)
  3. Healthy positive (vitamin-rich carrots)
  4. Indulgent (caramelized carrots)

The vegetables and their recipes remained unchanged regardless of the label type. However, the indulgently labeled vegetables had 25% more people select the vegetable than the basic description, 41% more than in the healthy restrictive, and 35% more than the healthy positive. And when the indulgent label vegetables were selected, the portion size selected was greater than when the vegetable was a basic or healthy positive label.

These findings suggest that how we talk about a food impacts how we interact with it. Once the self-service containers were weighed and paid for, we don’t know how much of that food the individuals ate. Perception seems to play a large role in intent, though, and I am curious to see how health communicators can turn that intent into sustainable action through reframing the perceptions of vegetables and other recommended healthy foods.