Immune Health Fundamentals

The delicate balance of the immune system can be interfered with and challenged by many factors. These include neglect, abuse, and overuse. Individuals who are impacted by COVID-19 are largely, not solely, those people that have diet and/or lifestyle related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart and lung disease. These disorders leave people in suboptimal health as a precursor for infection. No optimal level of vitamins as a “May Day” effort can protect the immune system as well as healthy lifestyles can.

How can you start boosting your immune system today?

Take a good quality multivitamin and a research grade probiotic. (Continue reading for more detail).

Without valuing nutrition vs big pharma, the mountain will remain steep.

The health as well as the function of the immune system can be upregulated by many factors.  Immune function can be maximized and balanced through the following:

  • Nutrition-whole food, lots of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Focusing on lean animal or vegetable proteins.  Few processed foods.
  • Reducing stress-emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This is different for each individual.
  • Moderate exercise (150-200 minutes/week of continuous moderate movement)
  • Decreased sugar intake (20gm or less/week for women and 25gm or less for men). Read food labels for added sugar.
    • Sugar negatively alters the function of our white blood cells for hours after ingestion.
  • Immune-specific nutrients and supplements. See list below.

The term “immune support” on the label of a nutritional therapy may be over-used in the natural product industry, due to an overabundance of caution caused by over-regulation by the FDA and other authorities. It has become very difficult to give consumers true information about the help and support that may be afforded by natural therapies.  This caution has influenced natural product companies to over-rely on the term “immune support” to attempt to convey why a consumer might want to use a specific supplement.

The very best way to approach supplement usage is to analyze a person’s white blood cells (lymphocytes) versus red blood cells to identify what nutrients are needed by that individual. It’s not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to cutting edge nutrition therapy. We do this testing at our clinic, Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa.

A list of our body’s immune support players includes:

  • Microbiome-biologically interactive microbes (good bugs) lining all mucosal barriers-intimately involved in the immune response
  • Gastrointestinal lining-most active immune area in the body, site of significant IgG production (a healthy antibody)
  • Lung barrier mucosal lining-key player in immune response
  • Thymus, Tonsils/adenoids, Spleen, Lymphatic system, Bone marrow and Suppressor T-cells-all have major roles in immune function.


The understanding of the microbiome is expanding exponentially. The major mechanism of probiotic action is the regulation of our immune response protecting against diseases that enter the body through the mouth and nose, such as COVID-19.

There are a variety of probiotic species on the market today, which can help to balance the microbiome when taken as a dietary supplement.  The strength of the probiotic in yogurt is not great enough to endure the “trip” from the mouth to the intestinal tract, so don’t count on yogurt as an adequate probiotic. Multi-species, research grade probiotics from reputable companies supply a probiotic that is sustainable.  We recommend and sell Microbiome Labs and Numedica research grade Probiotics in our clinic.   

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water soluble vitamin and supplies support to the immune system.  The body cannot make vitamin C so it must come from foods/supplements. Low levels of vitamin C can increase susceptibility to respiratory infections, like COVID-19. Getting vitamin C from fruits and vegetables is ideal due to the increased absorption from the flavonoids present in these foods.  Taking 500mgs twice daily as a supplement may reduce the severity and duration of a virus. More is NOT always better.


Zinc is a mineral that can be supplied by the diet and is intimately linked to immune support. Zinc binds to certain cells that upregulate the body’s ability to fight inflammation.  It has been found to be deficient in many diets, especially the elderly.  Any form of zinc is well absorbed except for zinc oxide.  Zinc lozenges can have some activity in the upper airway, where COVID-19 starts, but they will not directly help with lower respiratory illness (i.e. lungs), which is the greatest concern in COVID-19.  Dissolved zinc leaves the respiratory system after the throat, moving to the gastrointestinal system, not the lungs. During the COVID-19 outbreak it is recommended to take 20-30mg/day, but only short term.  Avoid taking this high dose for longer than 2-3 months due to induced copper deficiency and an actual adverse effect on the immune system.

These doses are to help boost the immune system, not meant to treat COVID-19.  These doses are not appropriate for children or pregnant women.

Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa, LLC

A private practice of Registered Dietitians

Connie Davis Bendel, RD/LD

Cece Davis Gifford, RD, LD, CLT

Stephanie Harris, MS, RD, LD

Carbohydrates and Our Brain

In our office we receive many questions regarding “Counting our Macros”, how many carbohydrates we should have in a day, is a ketogenic diet the right diet for weight loss, or what about that Atkins diet. Well, we now have a new book out there called Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist, that is recommending a low carbohydrate diet for everyone to prevent “toxic brain”, aka neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, and others. So, does this mean all of us should be focusing on a very low carbohydrate diet (<60 grams/d) to prevent these conditions? Well, people are all individualized and a one size fits all plan is not the best option! There is some truth here, very low carb (VLC) and ketogenic diets can be effective therapeutic tools for treating many neurological disorders like epilepsy and studies have shown some promise with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s but there has not been any research yet showing that a VLC diet will help prevent these conditions! You will find no argument here the idea that refined and processed carbs like flour and sugar contribute to modern disease, there’s no evidence to suggest that unrefined, whole-food carbohydrates do. In fact, there are three compelling reasons why this is not the case.

Here is a great link discussing this new book and three compelling reasons why this is not the case.

Micronutrients: Even the Smallest of Nutrients Matter

When talking about food most people immediately think calories.  How many calories are in this? Is that too many calories? Can I afford to eat that many calories? Calories are even listed at the top of a nutrition label.  While our society has decided that calories should hold a high honor when discussing nutrition they are not the end all be all.  In fact, the types of nutrients we are consuming are more important than the calories.

So that must mean macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat?  Not exactly, while these are important and we want to be well rounded when it comes to macronutrients, we often forget about micronutrients.  While they are small and we need less of them in our diet, they are a mighty part of nutrition.  When talking about micronutrients we are referring to vitamins and minerals such as: Vit A, B, C, D, E, K, calcium, iodine, iron, potassium, sodium and zinc.

A few functions: Vitamin A helps with our vision and building healthy skin. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cells from damage. Vitamin K is needed for blood clotting and iodine is needed for normal thyroid function.  This does not cover all of the functions of all micronutrients, but it gives you an idea of how important they are in our diet.

There is no need to memorize the function of every vitamin and mineral, but be aware of some simple ways to incorporate them into your diet.  One tip is to choose foods over supplements.  Adding variety to your diet will decrease the need for supplements.  Start by eating a wide variety of food groups and incorporate varying colors.  There is not one food out there that can provide all of the micronutrients we need and adding variety to our diet will help incorporate different micronutrients.

In addition to choosing foods over supplements try adding items that are either fresh or frozen since air, light and processing can decrease the vitamin availability.  When cooking, boiling is the worst option as this process will breakdown the vitamins and minerals more than steaming, sautéing or roasting.  Know how nutrients interact so that you can optimize your absorption.  Vitamin C increases iron absorption.  Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are best absorbed with a healthy fat.  Meat sources of iron are better absorbed than plant sources.

The take away: Eating a wide variety of foods and incorporating many different colors will provide a wider range of micro and macronutrients.  Do not focus on individual components, but instead think about eating a healthy diet that is full of variety.

Top Health Concerns for Men

Young Man In Fitness Clothing Running Along Beach

Heart Disease

Risk Factors: high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol

How to Protect: Exercise and Diet

  • Include low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, legumes, and nuts
  • Limit refined carbohydrates and red meat
  • Limit sodium to less than 2,400 milligrams per day
  • Limit added sugar to no more than 25g per day
  • Include a fruit and vegetable with every meal and snack
  • Eat two servings of fish per week

Cognitive Function

Risk Factors: diet high in refined grains and saturated fat

How to Protect: follow the Mediterranean diet – study showed moderately diligent followers reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s by nearly half

  • Consume 2 vegetarian meals per week
  • Incorporate 1 serving of nuts per day
  • Replace butter and fats with olive oil
  • Consume fish a few times per week

Prostate Health

Risk Factors: consuming red, processed, grilled and barbecued meats and deep fried foods

How to Protect: consuming antioxidants in green tea and lycopene in tomato products

  • Consuming one food daily high in lycopene such as tomatoes or watermelon
  • Incorporate 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day and whole grains instead of refined grains
  • Limit grilled meat to 4 oz/serving
  • Incorporate lean cuts of meat that end in “loin“
  • Limit fried foods to no more than twice a week

Muscle Strength

Risk Factors: lack of strength training and adequate nutrition can result in men losing half their muscle mass by 70 years old

How to Protect: resistance training, cardiovascular exercise and consuming enough calories and protein to adequately supply muscles with needed nutrients

  • Eat 20-30 grams of protein per meal and incorporate protein-rich snacks
  • Choose lean meat such as chicken breasts, fish and 96% lean turkey and beef
  • Other sources of protein include cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, whole eggs, nuts and tofu
  • Do not go >1 hour when hungry before eating
  • Eat breakfast and do not go to bed hungry
  • Unprocessed carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes will provide lasting energy


If you just don’t have time to put these tips into practice, let us help!

We would love to hear from you! Contact us at 918-749-9077!

Follow us on social media!

Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Email

How to get your child to eat vegetables

What are some strategies to get your kid to eat healthy? Make food fun, etc.?  Whether giving them a hands-on experience or allowing them to make choices, involving children in the preparation and cooking process is important. Food can be inherently exciting for children because it involves the sensory experiences of touching, smelling, seeing and tasting. Instead of teaching a healthy versus unhealthy approach to food, I recommend emphasizing the importance of moderation, balance and variety. Teaching children that it is OK to enjoy all types of foods in moderation is a more meaningful lesson than pitching “good” against “bad” foods.

Another strategy is to exemplify this food philosophy at home by modeling the way you eat in front of your children. If your child sees you enjoying a balanced meal with all types of foods in moderation, this message can go a long way for picky or resistant eaters. While parents are not the sole cause in the development of eating disorders, many girls and women connect the restrictive, diet-centered environments they grew up in with the development of their eating disorders.

What do you do if you pack your kids healthy lunches and they don’t eat them?  If the lunches you pack for your children resemble what they are eating at home, you might not hit as much resistance when it comes to them eating that lunch at school. If there are other issues with lunch at school, I encourage parents to talk to the school and share your concerns. Lunches have gotten earlier and shorter in many schools, so there may be other factors influencing your child’s choices, such as not having enough time to eat the lunch you pack. If you have concerns, share them; perhaps other children may benefit from changes being made.

How often is it good for kids to get treats like cookies, fruit snacks etc.?  It’s really going to look different for each child. There is a lot of scientific research about parents who restrict or promote a diet-centered food philosophy in the home, and this has been associated with children having lower self-esteem and who are also more likely to eat in the absence of hunger. Instead of telling your child that they eat too many cookies or fruit snacks, which can feel shaming and embarrassing for a child, point out that trying a new food may be exciting and suggest foods that you want to promote. If you place value on a diet rich in variety and moderation and model this at home, don’t worry about giving your child treats and allowing them to enjoy these foods as they would others.

What do you do when you are teaching your kids to eat healthy at home, but they get unhealthy foods at other people’s houses?  Consider these instances as a time to demonstrate moderation. Even if your child is eating something at a another person’s house that you might not serve at home, if the child is not allergic or intolerant of the food, it is not going to have any lasting, negative, or harmful effect on the child.

What are some things you should not say to kids when trying to get them to eat healthy?   Focusing on healthy versus unhealthy is a dead end because we eat food in combination rather than in isolation. Someone’s health does not come down to whether they had a dessert that day; but if they have had 10 desserts, that is obviously not moderation. Instead of emphasizing healthy or unhealthy, focus on the importance of variety. If a child is asking for the same food over and over and the parent wants to limit the child’s intake of that food, the concern really is rooted in that food not being eaten in moderation and encouraging more variety in the child’s choices. That being said, using statements like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been choosing a lot of food A, so today why don’t you choose between food B or C?” This can be a great statement for parents to encourage a child to make different food choices or try something that promotes variety.

What if a kid just won’t eat vegetables?  In these situations, take the emphasis off vegetables altogether and focus on empowering the child. One way to do this is to offer the child a choice of vegetables to try that week. Parents can take the child to the grocery store or show him or her pictures so that the choice feels exciting and hopefully elicits some curiosity. Another strategy that works is using pre-existing activities that the child already enjoys and linking these with vegetable choices. For example, if a child likes arts and crafts, creating a color wheel and having him or her group vegetables of like colors together can be exciting and take the focus off the vegetables themselves. Having the child choose a different color every week and identifying a couple of vegetables in that color category can be new and exciting for the child. If the child is reward-driven, giving them stickers or points for each new vegetable tried and providing an appropriate, nonfood reward at the end of a month or season can be effective. As parents, you know your child best, so find ways that engage or excite your child.

Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa, LLC

2021 South Lewis  Ste 325  Tulsa, Okla 74104                 918.749.9077          

What’s the Skinny on Detox Diets?

On every social media site, all over the internet, and on TV celebrities are endorsing detox diets. They are often convincing, who wouldn’t want to look like a celebrity?  Beyoncé swears by the “Lemonade Diet” and Dr. Oz is singing praises of viewer success with the 3-Day Cleanse.  So what’s the skinny?

There are no short cuts! A year of unhealthy eating is not going to be corrected by a few days of drinking juice.  People claim to feel better and have more energy once they start detox diets, but those feelings are likely not from the new diet but from eliminating highly processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients.  Detoxing a few days per year? This is not going to make a big difference in your overall health, it will more likely just make you hungry and nutrient deprived.

Want to make a big difference you will actually notice? How about eating nutritious and healthy foods daily.  Take care of your body everyday by fueling it with proper nutrients and trust that your body will take care of you.  Your kidneys, liver and lungs naturally detox your body.  In fact, healthy people do not store toxins in the liver but the liver converts potentially harmful chemicals into water-soluble chemicals that can be sweated or excreted from the body.

Detox diets often lack protein which may cause your body to breakdown muscle tissue to get the nutrients it needs. Colon cleanses often do more harm than good by wiping out gut microflora -beneficial bacteria for immune health.

The bottom line? Ditch the detox diets and focus on a well-balanced diet year round.


Adding Added Sugar on Nutrition Labels

In 2014, the FDA proposed a plan to better highlight information on added sugars by including it on the nutrition facts label. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggested that reduction of added sugars was a primary target for optimal health, which most likely guided this change. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics on added sugars shows that intake for adults can range from 15-21 teaspoons of added sugars and 18-23 teaspoons for children and adolescents, which is way above the current recommendations. The World Health Organization recently published guidelines in 2014 proposing added sugars should make up less than 10 percent of total daily energy for the average adult, approximately 12.5 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Reduction below five percent of total calories is further recommended for additional health benefits. In the U.S., top sources of added sugar include soda, sports and energy drinks, grain-based desserts (cookies and cakes,) fruit drinks, ice cream, pudding, and candy.

Currently, the nutrition facts label does not clarify the difference between natural and added sugar. Most people are not aware that added and natural sugar are added together under the total carbohydrates section on the label and listed as sugar. One way to estimate added sugars is by reading the ingredients list and looking for added sweeteners, such as evaporated cane juice or corn syrup and checking their position on the list. Ingredients are listed in order by quantity with the first ingredient being the largest. For example, if evaporated cane juice is listed second on the ingredients list, you can bet the product contains added sugars. Keep in mind that added sugars are the target and natural sugars; such as from whole fruit are healthy. The recommended changes from the FDA would separate added sugars from naturally occurring sugars making it a lot easier to find on the food label. Unfortunately, these changes can take time and may not even be seen on the shelves until 2017.


Artificial Sweeteners… Are they safe?

Artificial sweeteners have been around for many years and are commonly used in products to make them sweet without the calories. What exactly are artificial sweeteners? They are a chemically processed sugar substitute, also known as non-nutritive, non-caloric or high intensity sweeteners. These sweeteners can be hundreds or even thousands of times sweeter than table sugar. Artificial sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels because they are not carbohydrates. Therefore, they are a good alternative to sugar for someone with diabetes. As previously mentioned, artificial sweeteners do not provide calories, therefore they are commonly used for weight loss. These sweeteners can be found everywhere including soft drinks, gum, yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, and cereals.

The question on everyone’s mind, “Are they safe to eat?” Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began its approval system in 1958, the FDA has been testing sugar substitutes for their safety. Anytime a company wants to put an artificial sweetener in their product, they have to get permission from the FDA. The FDA reviews all of the scientific research provided and determines the safety by conducting studies typically on mice and rats. Since there are so many different studies that have been done using different test subjects, with different amounts of artificial sweetener, the results have varied and left most people confused.

Currently, the National Cancer Institute states there is not clear scientific evidence that any artificial sweetener approved in the U.S. causes cancer, therefore they are recognized as safe. However, the FDA does set Acceptable Daily Intakes, so moderation is key. Can artificial sweeteners be used in a safe and healthy way? Yes, just don’t overdo it.

How to Actually Lose Weight

If you are among the 69% of overweight/obese adults in America that are struggling to lose weight, this article is for you. Below is a list of basic principles that can help you lose the weight and keep it off.

  • Stop Dieting: To actually lose weight and keep it off long term, you have to give up dieting. Diets are generally too restrictive and not easy to maintain, which means the weight might come off, but it will most likely come back on and then some. Plus, diets could potentially be dangerous depending on what you are taking (diet pills) or removing from your diet (carbohydrates.)
  • Start Exercising: Exercise seems more intimidating than it needs to be. You do not have to start running six days a week. Start with something easy if you have never exercised before and work your way up. Find things you enjoy doing rather than forcing yourself to do something you hate. Swimming, riding your bike, yoga, and walking with your family are great places to start. If you don’t have a full hour in your day, try and shoot for ten to fifteen minutes here and there, because every little bit counts. Keep in mind that anything is better than nothing; so get started today rather than waiting for tomorrow.
  • Eat Consistently: Most healthy people eat consistently throughout the day. They wake up, have breakfast, and then eat every few hours when they are hungry. One of the most common habits in individuals struggling with their weight is going all day without enough food and then overeating at night. Make sure to get in a solid breakfast balanced with some protein (eggs, yogurt, nuts) and carbohydrate (oatmeal, cereal, toast, fruit) and work on eating consistently throughout the day without huge gaps in your meals. That does not mean you need to eat every two hours, but it does mean you should eat every time you feel hunger.
  • Portion Control: Once you have mastered eating consistently throughout the day, it is easier to manage your portions. If you go into a meal starving, you are more likely to overeat. However, if you fuel your body all day with nutritious meals and snacks, you are less likely to over indulge. Paying attention to when you are full is also important. Becoming more aware and checking in with yourself during a meal is a great way to determine how much food you actually need. Other ways to cut down on portions are using smaller plates, slowing down while eating, and eating without distractions, such as watching TV.



We Heart Canned Food! Tips for Eating for a Healthy Heart

It’s fitting that February – the month in which we celebrate love and Valentine’s Day – is American Heart Month. Isn’t now the perfect time to make heart-healthy eating a priority? Here’s a lineup of canned foods you – and your heart – will love.

Beans. Rich in fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium and several phytochemical health boosters, beans are linked to lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and even a lowered risk of having a second heart attack. Aim for several servings per week.

  • Drain and rinse canned beans to reduce about 40% of the sodium.
  • Add drained and rinsed canned beans to prepared soups or on top of a green salad.
  • Thicken a favorite soup with mashed cannellini beans.
  • Replace flour with pureed black beans in brownies and other chocolate desserts.
  • Toss canned black beans and corn with salsa for a super-fast salad or topping for grilled fish or chicken.

Fish. Reel in canned tuna, salmon and sardines. Each is rich in heart-shielding omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice weekly.

  • Keep cans of tuna and salmon on hand to toss together a quick sandwich or salad.
  • Cook a big batch of tuna or salmon patties for dinner; freeze some for lunches over the next few weeks.
  • Top whole grain crackers with sardines mashed with mustard and onions.

Fruits and Vegetables. Sadly, most Americans continue to fall far short of meeting the recommended fruit and vegetable intake. With canned F&V in your pantry, however, there’s no need go without the health-shielding powers of fruits and veggies. What under-consumed nutrients do they supply? Fiber, potassium, folate and so much more!

  • When selecting vegetables, choose low sodium and no salt added varieties most often. Not ready for all low sodium canned products? Mix the low sodium and regular varieties together.
  • Stock up on canned fruits packed in 100% juice; put a serving of canned fruit in lunchboxes.
  • Bulk up soups, stews and casseroles with your favorite canned vegetables.

See why I heart canned foods? They make it quick and easy to enjoy heart-healthy nutrition! Cheers to happy, healthy eating!


Cece Davis Gifford, RD, CSSD, LD

Nutrition Consultants of Tulsa, LLC