Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet and good nutrition. For help, consider using some of the growing number of high quality, free open source and/or low cost  Diet & Nutrition software products now readily available to you.

They include software applications that run on your personal computer (PC), laptop, or smartphone.  Check them out.

Diet & Nutrition Software for PCs & Laptops

Here are several low cost or free open source Nutrition software products you can download for use on your PC or laptop:

For vendors or users of the open source VistA electronic health record (EHR) system, check out the Nutrition & Food Service module.  See VistA Clinical Software Library .

Diet & Nutrition Smartphone Apps

Check out this selection of popular free or low cost Diet & Nutrition mobile apps for smartphones:

You might also want to go directly to Android Market, Blackberry App World,  Verizon Media Store, and Apple iTunes to view other free or low cost Health & Wellness apps for your smartphone.

Diet & Nutrition Web Sites

Finally, here are several free, online web sites focused on providing Nutrition & Diet information and tools worth browsing.

Remember, a poor diet can have an injurious impact on your health. Many common health problems can be prevented or alleviated with a healthy diet.


The best way to get more calcium is from your diet. You probably already know that dairy products — such as milk, cheese, and yogurt — provide calcium. Other foods that are high in calcium include:

White beans
Some fish, like sardines, salmon, perch, and rainbow trout
Foods that are calcium-fortified, such as some orange juice, oatmeal, and breakfast cereal.
Continue reading “Calcium”

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential vitamin required for vision, gene transcription, boosting immune function, and great skin health. A deficiency in vitamin A can lead to blindness and increased viral infection, however deficiency is only considered a problem in developing countries where it is a leading cause of blindness in children. Over consumption of vitamin A can lead to jaundice, nausea, loss of appetite, irritability, vomiting, and even hair loss. Vitamin A if a fat soluble vitamin, and therefore, needs to be consumed with fat in order to have optimal absorption. The current percent daily value for Vitamin A is 5000 international units (IU). Below is a list high vitamin A foods, click here for high vitamin A foods by nutrient density, and here for an extended list of vitamin A rich foods.

#1: Sweet Potato (Cooked)

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup (200g) Per medium potato (114g)
19218IU (384% DV) 38436IU (769% DV) 21909IU (438% DV)

Other Types of Sweet Potato High in Vitamin A (%DV per cup): Frozen Sweet Potato, cooked, cubed (578%), Canned Sweet Potato (444%), and Raw Sweet Potato, cubed (377%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#2: Carrots (Cooked)

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup, sliced (156g) Per carrot (46g)
17033IU (341% DV) 26572IU (532% DV) 7835IU (157% DV)

Other Types of Carrot High in Vitamin A (%DV per cup): Frozen Carrots, cooked, cubed (494%), and Raw Carrots, sliced (408%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#3: Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Cooked)

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup, chopped (130g)
13621IU (272% DV) 17707IU (354% DV)

Other Dark Leafy Greens High in Vitamin A (%DV per cup, cooked): Frozen Spinach (458%), Frozen Collards (391%), Frozen Kale (382%), Frozen Turnip Greens (353%), Spinach (377%), Collards (289%), Dandelion Greens (305%), Beet Greens & Turnip Greens (220%), Swiss Chard (214%), and Pak Choi (144%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#4: Squash (Butternut, Cooked)

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup, cubes (205g) Per 1/2 cup, cubes (53g)
11155IU (223% DV) 22868IU (457% DV) 11434IU (229% DV)

Other Squash High in Vitamin A (%DV per cup, cooked): Hubbard, cubed (275%), Pumpkin, mashed (282%), and an average of All Varieties Of Winter Squash, cubed (214%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#5: Cos or Romaine Lettuce 

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup, shredded (47g) Per head (626g)
8710IU (174% DV) 4094IU (82% DV) 54525IU (1090% DV)

Other Types of Lettuce High in Vitamin A (%DV per cup, shredded): Green Leaf (53%), Red Leaf (42%), Butterhead (36%), and Chicory (33%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#6: Dried Apricots 

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup (119g) Per 1/2 cup (60g)
12669IU (253% DV) 15076IU (302% DV) 7538IU (151% DV)

Other Dried Fruit High in Vitamin A (%DV per 1/2 cup): Prunes (24%), and Dried Peaches (17%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#7:Cantaloupe Melon

Vitamin A in 100g Per cup, cubes (160g) Per medium wedge (69g)
3382IU (68% DV) 5411IU (108% DV) 2334IU (47% DV)

A medium wedge of cantaloupe melon contains 23 calories and 0.1g fat. Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#8: Sweet Red Peppers

Vitamin A in 100g 1 cup chopped (149g) 1 large pepper (164g)
3131IU (63% DV) 4665IU (93% DV) 5135IU (103% DV)

Other Peppers Providing Vitamin A (%DV per large pepper): Sweet Green Peppers (12%), and Sweet Yellow Peppers (7%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

#9: Tuna Fish (Bluefin, Cooked)

Vitamin A in 100g Per 3oz (85g) Per ounce (28g)
2520IU (50% DV) 2142IU (43% DV) 714IU (14% DV)

Other Fish and Seafood High in Vitamin A (%DV per 3oz, cooked): Sturgeon (15%), Mackerel (14%), and Oysters (8%). Click to see complete nutrition facts.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

In the 1930s, a vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets was a major public health problem in the United States so a milk fortification program was implemented nearly eliminating this disorder.4,9 Currently, about 98% of the milk supply in the US is fortified with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per quart.

Although milk is fortified with vitamin D, dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice creams, are generally not fortified with vitamin D.

There are only a few foods that are good sources of vitamin D,4 so vitamin D supplements are often recommended unless you are exposed to sunlight on your skin regularly. Suggested dietary sources of vitamin D are listed below.

Table 1: Selected food sources of vitamin D10-12

International Units(IU)
per serving
Percent DV
Pure Cod liver oil, 1 Tablespoon (Note: most refined cod liver oils today have the vitamin D removed! Check your label to be certain.)
Salmon, cooked, 3½ ounces
Mackerel, cooked, 3½ ounces
Tuna fish, canned in oil, 3 ounces
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 1¾ ounces
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D fortified, 1 cup
Margarine, fortified, 1 Tablespoon
Pudding, prepared from mix and made with vitamin D fortified milk, ½ cup
Ready-to-eat cereals fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, ¾ cup to 1 cup servings (servings vary according to the brand)
Egg, 1 whole (vitamin D is found in egg yolk)
Liver, beef, cooked, 3½ ounces
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce
*DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers developed by the Food and Drug Administration to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a specific nutrient. The DV for vitamin D is 400 IU for adults.

Sun Exposure as a Vitamin D Source

Exposing yourself to sunlight is the most important source of vitamin D because sunlight is far more likely to provide you with your vitamin D requirement than food is.13 UV rays from the sun trigger vitamin D production in your skin.13-14 Lights from your home are not strong enough to produce vitamin D. Season, geographic latitude, time of day, cloud cover, smog, and sunscreen affect UV ray exposure and vitamin D synthesis.14 For example, sunlight exposure from November through February in Boston is insufficient to produce significant vitamin D synthesis in the skin.

Obviously any point of north of Boston is worse. Complete cloud cover halves the energy of UV rays, and shade reduces it by 60%. Industrial pollution also filters sun exposure and may contribute to the development of rickets if you have insufficient dietary intake of vitamin D.15

Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or greater will block UV rays that produce vitamin D. An initial exposure to sunlight of 10 to15 minutes allows you adequate time for Vitamin D synthesis and should be followed by application of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to protect the skin. Ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen is usually sufficient to provide adequate vitamin D.14 If you have limited sun exposure it is very important that you include good sources of vitamin D in your diet or supplement with AlgaeCal® Plus.

What is the Recommended Intake for Vitamin D?

The RDA, developed by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences,4 recommends the average daily intake that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of healthy individuals in each age and gender group. An Adequate Intake (AI) is set when there is insufficient scientific data available to establish a RDA.

The Institute of Medicine determined there was insufficient scientific information to establish a RDA for vitamin D. Instead, the recommended intake is listed as an Adequate Intake (AI), which represents the daily vitamin D intake that should maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism in healthy people. Vitamin D AI for infants, children, and adults, are listed below in International Units.4

Daily Adequate Intake of Vitamin D

Age Children Men Women Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 13 years 200 IU
14 to 18 years 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU
19 to 50 years 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU 200 IU
51 to 70 years 400 IU 400 IU
71 + years 600 IU 600 IU

According to the Institute of Medicine, food consumption data suggests intakes of vitamin D for both younger and older women are below current recommendations.4 The data suggests more than 50% of younger and older women are not consuming recommended amounts of vitamin D. Their data also shows African American women are particularly prone to consuming low amounts of vitamin D in their diet.

What is the Best Form of Vitamin D Supplement?

Houghton, in a 2006 article appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition18 points out that vitamin D2, the synthetic variety used for fortification of milk and foods, is inferior to the natural form, vitamin D3 for several reasons. He suggests D2 “should not be regarded as a nutrient suitable for supplementation or fortification.”

Authors Goldberg, and Cantorna, show it is very important to take adequate calcium and magnesium along with vitamin D3 supplementation as the three balance each other.

More Vitamin D May Be Better!

Recent science is showing that levels above the Adequate Intake may provide better health. For example, professor Robert Heaney has reported in April 2006 in the Journal of Nutrition his study showing an additional 2600 IU/day of oral vitamin D3 should be given to older women.15

Vieth reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a recommendation of 4000 IU per day for adults.16 He also showed that levels of 10,000 IU per day were normal from body exposure to the sun and the only published vitamin D toxicity was at levels exceeding 40,000 IU/day.

The National Institutes of Health indicates Vitamin D may have benefit for some forms of Cancer, Osteoporosis, Alzheimers, Chron’s Disease and other maladies.17

It seems more studies are warranted on proper vitamin D levels. Given that vitamin D3 is safe at very high levels and may provide extraordinary benefits with no known risk, we recommend individuals get reasonable sun exposure, eat foods rich in vitamin D, and supplement with AlgaeCal Plus.

Read more about the latest studies involving calcium and vitamin D reducing the risk of cancer.

Diet for a 56 Year Old

As you age, your body changes along with your dietary and nutritional needs. The changes experienced are greatly influenced by hereditary factors and illnesses. Changing your diet to include necessary nutrients may reduce the risk of developing certain health conditions such as osteoporosis. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects approximately 75 million people in Japan, Europe and the U.S.


Most people reach their peak bone mass between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age. According to New York State Department of Health, if your calcium intake is too low, your body will begin to withdraw calcium stored in your bones, which may lead to osteoporosis. In addition, calcium aids in the clotting of blood. The recommended daily calcium intake for males and females over the age of 50 is 1,200 mg. Cheese, yogurt, milk and calcium-fortified cereals are good sources of calcium.


Protein is essential for the building and maintaining of muscles regardless of your age. However, when you reach your 50s, muscle deterioration begins to occur. According to Medical News Today, diets containing sufficient amounts of protein-rich foods such as nuts, dairy, chicken, pork and beef may slow the deterioration of muscles. The daily recommended intake of protein for 56-year-old males is 56 g and 46 g for females of the same age.


Chronic constipation is common among older adults. Chronic constipation is the result of several factors such as reduced liquid and fiber intake, decreased activity and medications. Diets rich in dietary fiber may prevent or reduce the frequency of constipation. Aside from alleviating constipation, high fiber diets have many benefits such as lowering blood cholesterol levels, maintaining bowel health, controlling blood sugar levels and may aid in weight loss. states that the recommended daily fiber intake for males over the age of 51 is 30 g and 21 g for females over 51. Sources of high-fiber foods include vegetables, nuts, whole-grain products and fruits.

McDonald’s Oatmeal

How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong


February 25, 2011 5:32 pm

Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman on food and all things related.

There’s a feeling of inevitability in writing about McDonald’s latest offering, their “bowl full of wholesome” — also known as oatmeal. The leading fast-food multinational, with sales over $16.5 billion a year (just under the G.D.P. of Afghanistan), represents a great deal of what is wrong with American food today. From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong; from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right, as the oatmeal fiasco demonstrates.

One “positive” often raised about McDonald’s is that it sells calories cheap. But since many of these calories are in forms detrimental rather than beneficial to our health and to the environment, they’re actually quite expensive — the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation.

Oatmeal is on the other end of the food spectrum. Real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient. As such, it’s a promising lifesaver: oats are easy to grow in almost any non-extreme climate and, minimally processed, they’re profoundly nourishing, inexpensive and ridiculously easy to cook. They can even be eaten raw, but more on that in a moment.

Like so many other venerable foods, oatmeal has been roundly abused by food marketers for more than 40 years. Take, for example, Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal, which contains no strawberries, no cream, 12 times the sugars of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and only half of the fiber. At least it’s inexpensive, less than 50 cents a packet on average. (A serving of cooked rolled oats will set you back half that at most, plus the cost of condiments; of course, it’ll be much better in every respect.)

The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100 percent natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Since we know there are barely any rules governing promotion of foods, one might wonder how this compares to real oatmeal, besides being 10 times as expensive. Some will say that it tastes better, but that’s because they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods, which is what this bowlful of wholesome is.

Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work. If you prefer so-called instant, flavored oatmeal, see this link, which will describe how to make your own).

If you don’t want to bother with the stove at all, you could put some rolled oats (instant not necessary) in a glass or bowl, along with a teeny pinch of salt, sugar or maple syrup or honey, maybe some dried fruit. Add milk and let stand for a minute (or 10). Eat. Eat while you’re walking around getting dressed. And then talk to me about convenience.

The aspect one cannot argue is nutrition: Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)

The bottom-line question is, “Why?” Why would McDonald’s, which appears every now and then to try to persuade us that it is adding “healthier” foods to its menu, take a venerable ingredient like oatmeal and turn it into expensive junk food? Why create a hideous concoction of 21 ingredients, many of them chemical and/or unnecessary? Why not try, for once, to keep it honest?

I asked them this, via e-mail: “Why could you not make oatmeal with nothing more than real oats and plain water, and offer customers a sweetener or two (honey, the only food on earth that doesn’t spoil, would seem a natural fit for this purpose), a packet of mixed dried fruit, and half-and-half or — even better — skim milk?”

Their answer, via e-mail and through a spokesperson (FMO is “fruit and maple oatmeal”): “Customers can order FMO with or without the light cream, brown sugar and the fruit. Our menu is entirely customizable by request with our ‘Made for You’ platform that has been in place since the late 90s.”

Oh, please. Here’s the thing: McDonald’s wants to get people in the store. Once a day, once a week, once a month, the more the better, of course, but routinely. And if you buy oatmeal, they’re O.K. with that. But they know that, once inside, you’ll probably opt for a sausage biscuit anyway.

And you won’t be much worse off.

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