Is Breastmilk Deficient in Vitamin D?

Breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D right? Think again!

As per usual, this isn’t a simple answer but let’s get into the science.

Breastfed babies are recommended to be supplemented with 400 IU (10 mcg) of vitamin D per day (1). This is because it is a widely held belief that breastmilk is deficient in vitamin D.

How much should you supplement?

One study found that 76% of women taking 600 IUs of vitamin D daily during pregnancy were deficient in vitamin D 81% of their newborns were deficient as well (2).

If a mother is deficient in vitamin D, her breastmilk will also be deficient. A mother supplementing between 400 – 2000 IUs will produce milk that is not high enough in vitamin D to meet the vitamin D requirements of an infant (2).

4000 IUs per day can potentially meet the requirements of the infant but it depends on the mother’s underlying vitamin D status. That is to say that if a mother was already deficient 4000 IUs of supplementation is not enough to bring her and her milk up to adequate levels (1).

Complications of Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is tied to a whole lot of health complications including preeclampsia, cavities, periodontitis (inflammation of the gums), autoimmune disorders, infectious diseases, cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer, type two diabetes, and neurological disorders (2).

Children born to mothers deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to be born via cesarian section, have wheezing disorders, and have cavities (2). 

This is especially troubling considering that prenatal vitamins typically contain only 400-600 IUs and additional vitamin D supplementation is not typically recommended.

Get Tested and Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re not sure of your vitamin D status the best thing you can do is get tested. Do not stop supplementing your newborn with vitamin D unless you are sure your levels are adequate. Vitamin D is a relatively safe vitamin and it would not cause your child harm to get vitamin D from both you and a supplement. 

There is a potential for harm with vitamin D deficiency, better safe than sorry. 

If you’ve been breastfeeding without supplementing yourself or your newborn with vitamin D, don’t worry. Begin supplementing your baby now and speak with your and your child’s doctor about the next steps.


  1. Vitamin D
  2. The vitamin D deficiency pandemic: Approaches for diagnosis, treatment and prevention

Are Seeds a Good Source of Omega-3?

Though nuts and seeds are high in omega-3 they are NOT considered a reliable source of the nutrient

Nuts and seeds are high in omega-3 but they’re not a reliable source. This is because when we talk about omega-3 we’re actually talking about a few different compounds collectively. The three main omega-3 compounds are ALA, DHA, and EPA.

We need to get DHA or EPA from our food. Nuts and seeds only contain ALA, not DHA or EPA. Our body can only convert a very small amount of ALA omega-3 into DHA. DHA reduces inflammation and supports eye and brain health. It also reduces the risk of heart disease and preterm birth.

Many people claim that flax seeds or chia seeds are a good source of omega-3, but unfortunately, they are not a reliable source due to the poor conversion of ALA to DHA.

The best sources of DHA are fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, algae and seaweed are the only vegan sources of DHA. In addition to fish oil supplements, there is also algae oil supplements for vegetarians and vegans.

Can Toddlers Drink Plant Milk?

The use of non-dairy milk in toddlers and children is increasing. But are there nutritional implications?

Unless your toddler has an allergy, avoid using non dairy milk.

Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium and many micronutrients. It is fortified with vitamin D, children who don’t drink it are at a higher risk of developing rickets.

No plant milk has a similar balance of fat, protein, carbohydrates, or calories per serving.

With smaller stomachs than us, toddlers rely on nutrient and calorie-dense foods. Children who drink alternative milks do not grow as tall as those who drink cow’s milk.

In the Case of Allergies

If you need to use non dairy milk for any reason keep in mind:

Goat’s milk is the most similar widely available alternative to cow’s milk

For plant milks, soy has the closest number of calories, and protein per serving when compared to milk

If your child cannot have animal milk there are plant based toddler formulas which are formulated to overcome the nutrient deficiencies of plant milks

Check to see whether or not your milk of choice is fortified with Vitamin D, if not, it can be supplemented, ask your doctor before giving it to your child.


A Comparison of the Nutritional Value of Cow’s Milk and Nondairy Beverages

Dates and Labor

Consuming dates has been shown to decrease labor time and reduce the need for induction.

Consuming 6-8 dates daily starting 4 weeks prior to your due date has been shown to decrease the need for labor induction and augmentation (1) as well as to shorten the length of labor (2).

Specifically, in one study women who consumed dates prior to labor were in their first stage of labor (0-10 cm) an average of 8.5 hours compared to 15.1 hours for the non date eaters. 

Though it is unclear why dates seem to have this effect, it is proposed that dates help to soften the cervix prior to labor which makes the process quicker.

In my own experience, upon admission to the hospital my cervix was fully effaced, the doctor who examined me was surprised and said it was “paper thin” despite being 1 cm dilated and not having any contractions.

Hours later my nurses thought I would be in active labor starting around midnight or 1 am, but it started at 9:45 when I went from 6 cm dilated at 9:30 to almost 9 cm by 10:45!

My baby was born three hours before the nurses predicted I would even start pushing.

I certainly don’t think dates are a magic pill, at the very least they don’t cause harm. If the small amount of evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) we have is true, they could shorten your labor. I think any woman who has experienced labor would agree a shorter labor is worth a few weeks of eating dates.


  1. Date fruit consumption at term: Effect on length of gestation, labour and delivery
  2. The effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit on labour and delivery

What is the Difference Between Folate and Folic Acid?

Check the label of your prenatal vitamin and make sure it’s folate, not the synthetic form, folic acid

Folate (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) is vitamin B9, folic acid (pteroylmonoglutamic acid) is the synthetic form. 

Folic acid absorbs well into the blood stream but 40-60% of the population has a mutation in the MTHFR gene which means they are unable to use folic acid or are less efficient at converting it to the active form (1). Since the conversion is inefficient, folic acid can build up in the blood and cause health issues (2, 3).

But more importantly than that, if it’s not being converted it won’t help prevent neural tube defect.

Neural Tube Defect

Neural tube defects develop around 6-8 weeks gestation, a time when some women may not know they’re pregnant. For this reason, public health officials want all women of childbearing age to take a folate supplement or a prenatal vitamin that contains folate. 

While consistent supplementation would be nice, it’s not realistic to expect every woman to do that. If you are planning to become pregnant start taking a prenatal right away, ideally supplementation begins 3 months prior to conception. 

Dietary Sources and RDA

Pregnant women need at least 600 mcg of folate per day. Check your prenatal vitamin to make sure it contains folate and not folic acid. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting plenty of folate from foods.

Good sources of folate:

  • Liver
  • Avocado
  • Legumes
  • Leafy Greens
  • Beets
  • Nuts / Seeds
  • Eggs


  1. Multivitamin Supplementation During Pregnancy: Emphasis on Folic Acid and l-Methylfolate
  2. Folic acid for the prevention of colorectal adenomas: a randomized clinical trial
  3. Cancer incidence and mortality after treatment with folic acid and vitamin B12

Baby Food Toxins: Should You Worry?

The heavy metals in baby foods pose serious risks.

Recently the New York Times and other publications reported on toxic levels of heavy metals found in popular baby food brands. Many people are calling these reports “alarmist”. While I completely support a bit of skepticism, this happens to be one of those times when the headlines are correct.

The words in the report couldn’t say it any clearer: “The test results of baby foods and their ingredients eclipse [allowable] levels: including results up to 91 times the arsenic level, up to 177 times the lead level, up to 69 times the cadmium level, and up to 5 times the mercury level.” (1)

That, is NOT (even a little) alarmist.

The worst part is, these numbers came from the companies themselves. They had been testing the food and the ingredients they used. They knew the levels were dangerously high yet they chose to use ingredients and to sell foods with dangerously high levels of heavy metals.

While the spotlight has been on the testing results we do know, the report states concern over even higher heavy metal levels in the products manufactured by Walmart (Parent’s Choice), Sprout Organic Foods, and Campbell (Plum Organics), the companies who refused to participate.

Dangers Posed by Heavy Metals

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states on their website: “There is no safe level of lead exposure in children.” (2)

A study of Maine schoolchildren who had been exposed to water polluted with 5 ppb arsenic “showed significant reductions in Full Scale IQ, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning and Verbal Comprehension scores.” 

The allowable arsenic limit is 10 ppb, baby food was testing up to 91 times that amount.

Lead and arsenic can cause permanent brain damage leading to learning difficulties and developmental delays.

Is it Unavoidable?

It is true that due to pollution many foods contain heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. To ensure that the public is not being bombarded with toxins, the FDA regularly tests foods from across the country as part of the Total Diet Study (TDS).

The most recent report available on their website includes data collected from 2006-2013. (3) While ingredients like sweet potatoes and carrots did have measurable levels of arsenic and lead (levels below), those levels are nowhere near as dangerous as those seen in the ingredients used by these baby food companies.

Beech-Nut ingredients:

  • Carrots – 20 ppb lead
  • Sweet potato – 55 ppb lead

TDS 2006-2013:

  • Carrots baby, raw – 1ppb lead
  • Carrots fresh, peeled, boiled – 2ppb lead
  • Sweet Potatoes, Canned – 12 ppb lead

*the goal level for lead in baby food is 1 ppb

Foods like rice and root vegetables are known for having higher levels of contaminants. Baby food companies have the capabilities of avoiding such ingredients yet they choose to use them. The companies could also specifically source foods from areas lower in pollution, clearly, they don’t do that. And despite testing ingredients, they still use them regardless of a poor test result.

It seems the goal is not to protect our most vulnerable, but to profit off of them.

Going Forward

Unfortunately since pollution is present in foods making foods at home may not completely protect children. Below are a few strategies to reduce heavy metal exposure from food.

  • Reduce rice intake, check all labels for rice flour
  • When preparing rice, add extra water, then pour it off before serving
  • Vary foods, there is no need to wait days before introducing a new food
  • Avoid juice
  • Peel sweet potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables and serve them less frequently


  1. Baby Foods Are Tainted with Dangerous Levels of Arsenic, Lead, Cadmium, and Mercury
  2. Lead Exposure in Children
  3. Analytical Results of the Total Diet Study

Crispy Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Try this easy, simple, and fast cauliflower recipe anyone will enjoy. It is the perfect addition to any meal.

Cauliflower. It’s good for you! It can also taste great.

My favorite way to prepare it is to set the oven to 450, cut your cauliflower into bite size florets, toss it in olive oil with salt, a dash of cayenne, thyme, and garlic powder. Put it on a cookie sheet with enough olive oil to avoid any sticking, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Often times I also add some bacon fat for flavor and crispness.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating is a philosophy, not a diet it teaches you that YOU know how to make the best choices for your body.

Intuitive eating is a philosophy that is the opposite of a diet. Rather than place limits on foods or cut out whole food groups, intuitive eating teaches you that YOU know how to make the best choices for your body.

The biggest draw to intuitive eating is the no rules philosophy.

Yes, if you eat intuitively you can eat desserts but there is more to intuitive eating than that. It’s about understanding your body’s signals and listening to them.

It’s about developing a healthy relationship with food.

It’s about avoiding starve / binge cycles.


It’s about losing the obsession with food.

It’s about being happy.

Intuitive eating has been shown to improve self esteem, body image, and decrease depression and anxiety.

To begin intuitive eating there are great resources like podcasts, books, and YouTube videos to get started. You can also seek help from a therapist or dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating.

If you’re feeling skeptical, I felt the same way. The more I learned about intuitive eating and paid attention to my own thoughts about food the more I’ve come to love and understand intuitive eating. Our culture teaches us that food and hunger are the enemy and that is no way to live.

Send an email to to learn how you can get started with intuitive eating.

Does chicken soup help a cold?

There’s truth to this old wives’ tale! Chicken soup has been shown to have numerous benefits for a cold.

Chicken soup has been shown to help clear nasal passages and reduce inflammation. While hot fluids generally help clear nasal passages, chicken soup has been shown to be better when compared to other hot liquids (1).

It is a great source of vitamins, minerals, calories, and protein, all of which are nutrients you need when you’re sick (2). It also helps you to stay hydrated and is an excellent source of electrolytes, two critical factors when dealing with a cold or flu (3).

One reason for chicken soups beneficial effect is that chicken contains an amino acid called cysteine which is anti-vital, anti-inflammatory, and helps to break apart mucus (4, 5). For a vegetarian source of cysteine, try adding lentils to your soup. 

Aside from the chicken itself, chicken soup typically contains a number of ingredients that can help to ease cold symptoms. Onions contain a compound called quercetin which is both antiviral and antibiotic (6). Garlic and ginger have also been shown to have antiviral properties (7, 8).

On top of all the actual evidence to show that chicken soup helps fight a cold, it’s also easy to eat and soothing when you’re not feeling well.


  1. “Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance.” CHEST. (1978).
  2. Metabolic response to injury and illness: estimation of energy and protein needs from indirect calorimetry and nitrogen balance
  3. Water, electrolytes, vitamins and trace elements – Guidelines on Parenteral Nutrition, Chapter 7
  4. Existing and potential therapeutic uses for N-acetylcysteine: the need for conversion to intracellular glutathione for antioxidant benefits
  5. Adjunctive therapies and immunomodulating agents for severe influenza
  6. “Modulatory effects of plant phenols on human multidrug-resistance proteins 1, 4 and 5 (ABCC1, 4 and 5).” FEBS J. (2005).
  7. “Garlic for the common cold.” The Cochrane Library. (2009).
  8. “Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines.” J Ethnopharmacol. (2013).

Collagen Powder

Benefits of dietary collagen, causes of collagen damage, and how to add more collagen to your diet!

Dietary collagen has been shown to have lots of potential health benefits:

  • Slow aging by reducing wrinkles and dryness (1)
  • Reduction in wrinkle depth (2)
  • Improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain (3, 4)
  • Reduce bone loss and prevent osteoporosis when combined with calcium (5)
  • Increased bone density (6)
  • May boost muscle mass when combined with resistance training (7)
  • Increase HDL (good cholesterol) and reduce artery stiffness (7)

Despite the benefits we do know, there are many things not yet supported by evidence. Overall more research needs to be done!

Not supported but not refuted by evidence:

  • Helping to prevent acne and other skin conditions
  • Improvements to gut health
  • Increased metabolism and weight loss

Things that damage collagen:

  • Smoking (9)
  • Too much sugar and refined carbs (10)
  • Too much sun exposure (11)

Collagen has shown to not have any associated risks and appears to be safe for most people though some experience fullness and heart burn. If you take collagen supplements and notice any side effects be sure to consult your doctor.

While we can get collagen from the diet, the body also makes it if you provide your body with the right building blocks! In order to promote collagen production in the body ensure that you’re consuming complete proteins and adequate vitamin C. Even though humans produce collagen, getting it through diet is beneficial because as we age we produce less and lower quality collagen.

Collagen comes from the connective tissue of animals, animal skin and bones are a good source of collagen. Foods like bone broth that contain gelatin provide collagen. If you notice a gel on refrigerated stock, bone broth, or other animal product, that’s gelatin!

Bone broth has become popular in the last few years but collagen powder is another great way to add more collagen to your diet. It is easily added to any liquid and is flavorless. It mixes into hot liquids better than cold so I usually add it to my morning coffee. Adding collagen powder to soups and sauces is very easy but I’ve mixed it into foods like mashed potatoes or oatmeal as well.


  1. Skin anti-aging strategies
  2. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles
  3. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature
  4. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review
  5. A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial
  6. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study
  7. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial
  8. Effect of Collagen Tripeptide on Atherosclerosis in Healthy Humans
  9. Smoking affects collagen synthesis and extracellular matrix turnover in human skin
  10. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation
  11. Mechanisms of Photoaging and Cutaneous Photocarcinogenesis, and Photoprotective Strategies with Phytochemicals