How to Read Food Labels

October 6, 2015

Don’t Let Food Labels Give You Indigestion bigstock-Woman-Reading-Packet-In-Superm-3915536

When you are cruising the grocery store aisles, you probably flip over a few items to scrutinize their nutrition labels. But do you understand what you’re looking at? The government is working on updating the label to reflect today’s nutritional concerns and include more realistic serving sizes, but until that happens, use the diagram included with this post to help make quick, informed food choices that contribute to a healthy, balanced diet. Also, remember these helpful tips:

1. Nutrition information is provided for one serving of a food or beverage. Many products contain more than one serving. If a serving size is one cup, and you eat two cups, then you must double the calories, fat, sugar, and other ingredients to get an accurate estimate of how much you’ve eaten. If you’ve eaten a smaller portion than what is on the label, calculate accordingly.

2. Pay special attention to the amount of sugars (including carbohydrates) in one serving. This is especially important if you have diabetes (or other health concerns) that require you to monitor sugar intake or the glycemic index of foods.

3. Check out the amount of fat, especially saturated fat, in one serving. Unhealthy fats contribute to many chronic health problems. Trans fats are also labeled because they are known to contribute to bad cholesterol,which contributes to heart disease. They also harden arteries and block cell to cell communication. Choose foods that are free of these fats. Trans fats are also referred to as “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil” and are detrimental to your health. However, some foods, like nuts, have high fat content, but the source of fat is actually good for the body. It is not a saturated or a trans fat.

4. Be aware that “0” does not mean zero! It means less than 5% per serving!

5. In addition to understanding the nutrition label, take a look at the list of ingredients.
If you cannot pronounce the words that are listed on a food label, it’s likely coming from chemicals and processed (unnatural) elements that are not healthy for the body. Some of the items you want to avoid include:

  • Preservatives including BHA, BHT, brominated products
  • GMO – genetically modified organisms, common in corn and soy derivatives
  • Dextrose
  • Xanthan gum
  • Hydrocarbons (pesticides PCB, DDE, DDT)
  • Soy and cottonseed oil
  • Dyes (e.g., yellow dye no. 5, tartrazine)
  • MSG – monosodium glutamate (common in canned foods and Asian cooking)
  • Food allergens – if you or family members have a known allergy to peanuts, wheat, soy, or gluten

If you are in a hurry and can’t take the time to read labels, be sure to avoid packaged (bag, box, or bottle) foods. Instead, buy fresh foods and eat a rainbow everyday (e.g., fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt). Also, choose water, tea, or juices with no sugar added.

Finally, pay attention to what’s happening in the news – in July 2015 the government proposed a new nutrition information panel for food labeling. The public is invited to provide comment:

In health,

Dr. Gina


The Many Health Benefits of Being in Nature

September 24, 2015

Here’s a great article about the benefits of spending time in nature.

In health,

Dr. Gina


Being In Nature Benefits Health-But How?

September 23, 2015 | by Stephen Luntz

Photo credit: In his essay, Walking, Thoreau said: "In wildness is the preservation of the world." The same might go for our health. Credit: SNEHIT/Shutterstoclk

Photo credit: In his essay, Walking, Thoreau said: “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” The same might go for our health. Credit: SNEHIT/Shutterstock

Time spent close to nature is good for our health, numerous studies have shown. What is much harder to establish, however, is how and why this occurs. Now a paper claims the immune system may be the primary pathway through which exposure to the natural world can lead to a wide array of health benefits.

Modern medicine and plumbing – which brings us clean water and removes our waste – have doubled our lifespans, but technology sometimes comes with a cost to our health. It seems urban living is part of that, with research linking lack of access to the open air and relatively pristine environments to an astonishing range of conditions from depression and ADHD to cancer. The effect nature is thought to have on us has earned the name Biophilia. Now a paper attributing these diverse benefits to the immune system has been published in Frontiers of Psychology.

Ming Kuo of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, isn’t jumping to conclusions. As the author of some of the papers indicating these benefits herself, she uses the review article to propose 21 pathways that might connect time in nature with better health.

“While each is likely to contribute to nature’s impacts on health to some degree and under some circumstances, this paper explores the possibility of a central pathway by proposing criteria for identifying such a pathway and illustrating their use,” Kuo writes. “A particular pathway is more likely to be central if it can account for the size of nature’s impacts on health, account for nature’s specific health outcomes, and subsume other pathways.”

Her conclusion is that “enhanced immune functioning emerges as one promising candidate for a central pathway between nature and health. There may be others.”

“Nature doesn’t just have one or two active ingredients. It’s more like a multivitamin that provides us with all sorts of the nutrients we need. That’s how nature can protect us from all these different kinds of diseases – cardiovascular, respiratory, mental health, musculoskeletal, etc. – simultaneously,” Kuo said in a statement.

Kuo suggests that fresh air, sunlight and a beautiful view relax us and turn off our “fight or flight” responses. “When we feel completely safe, our body devotes resources to long-term investments that lead to good health outcomes – growing, reproducing, and building the immune system,” she said. If so, many of the same benefits can be achieved for those who really aren’t the outdoor type by doing what they love, be it reading a good book or spending time with friends. However, Kuo adds these don’t provide elements of good health such as Vitamin D.

Some of Kuo’s previous work has looked at the ways cities can be redesigned to maximize the health benefits provided by relatively natural environments, even if provided in the limited format of urban parks or community gardens. A better understanding of the mechanisms might help us understand how to fit nature into our busy lifestyles, if that is not too much of a contradiction. Still, we hope you’re reading this on a mobile device in a forest or at the beach.

Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Colds & Flu

August 31, 2015


There are about 1 billion colds in the US every year, with every child catching it 6-10 times a year, resulting in 22 million school days being lost every year!

When it comes to cold and flu season, prevention really is the first line of defense. To keep your body’s defense system–the immune system–in peak condition, follow our immunity-boosting tips to help your body fight off the bugs looking for a host. And, for times when you are feeling ill, the second set of tips can help ease your symptoms and support a quick recovery.

Cold & Flu Prevention Tips

Your immune system is at work 24/7! The best approach to supporting immune function is a healthy lifestyle that includes stress management, exercise, whole foods, nutritional supplementation, and the use of plant-based medicines. On a daily basis, you can take the following steps to help your immune system keep you healthy:

  • Wash your hands regularly to help prevent transfer of bacteria.
  • Stay clear of people sneezing or coughing. Avoid shaking hands or other close contact with anyone whom you know to be sick.
  • Make sure your home and work space are well-ventilated. Even on a cold day, open a window for a few minutes to clear out stale air.
  • Follow a consistent sleep/wake schedule so the immune system can repair and recover.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of organic (when possible) fruits and veggies, which contain antioxidants that help the body neutralize cellular damage.
    Healing Tips
  • Rest. Sometimes the body’s only way of getting your attention is to force you to slow down by getting sick. Don’t push through fatigue. Honor your body and sleep/rest as needed to promote healing. Reduce activity at home and at work as much as possible.
  • Increase fluid intake to include water, diluted vegetable juices, soups, and herbal and green teas.
  • Eat light meals and eat more soup. Whether you choose a vegetarian broth or a heartier bone-broth, soups for healing should be loaded with a variety of herbs and veggies.
  • Manage stress. Even just 10 minutes of meditation a day has positive effects on the immune system and promotes a positive mindset.
  • Laugh–it truly is good medicine. Patch Adams was onto something when he brought humor to his patients’ bedsides. Read a funny book. Watch stand-up comedy. Share jokes with a friend or your kids. Laughter lowers the stress hormones and elevates your mood–both are good for healing.

Vitamin, Mineral, and Botanical Support for the Immune System

There’s no panacea, but a growing body of research has shown that certain vitamins, minerals, and plant-based supplements can help prevent/curtail the symptoms of colds and flu. Some that you may want to include are listed below.

These are best tailored to your specific needs and health status, with guidance from your doctor.

  • Multivitamin and mineral formula
  • Vitamin C
  • Bioflavonoids, 1000 mg/day
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D, 2000 IU/day
  • Zinc, 30 mg/day
  • Echinacea, elderberry, and astragalus (tea, capsule, or liquid extract) help prevent common cold and viral infections. Physicians and scientists continue to study the immune-enhancing effects of these and other botanical remedies.

Food for Thought. . .
“He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he that prevents it is the safest physician.”
– Thomas Fuller

In health,

Dr. Gina

The Healthiest Kids on the Block

July 31, 2015

bigstock-Kids-Superhero-67023205Did you know that 40% of daily calories of US children and adolescents aged 2-18 years come from added sugar and solid fats? Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.

Raising healthy kids sounds pretty simple: Provide good nutrition, 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and create a joyful and safe home environment. Do that, and you’ll reduce your child’s risk for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disease. But you’re up against a host of unhealthy temptations including advertising, peer pressure, and an abundance of junk food in shiny packaging.

The first and most important step you have to take for your child’s health is modeling healthy habits in front of them. Make a healthy lifestyle a family affair. Keep things simple. And don’t give up when kids get picky. The tips and resources provided below will keep you on track.

Keep Kids in Motion. Once kids return to school, they are sedentary for the better part of the day. Outside of school, make sure your kids have opportunities to stretch, strengthen, and build endurance for 60 minutes daily. Make time for creative play at the park where children can engage all the major muscle groups. Provide opportunities for trying new sports or creative movement classes. Get the whole family involved with obstacle courses, biking, or hiking. When the weather outside is too hot or cold, visit an indoor pool, playscape, climbing gym, or bounce-house facility. Create a joyful atmosphere at home, check stress at the door (which is easier to do if you are exercising), and encourage playtime.

Limit Screen Time. With more schools incorporating digital devices into curricula, it’s important to monitor your child’s free time on the screen. For younger children, set a daily limit of 60 minutes, and for older children, set a limit of 120 minutes for all media–TV, movies, and games.

Consider having a “digital-free zone” in your home: one room designated just for reading, games, and music sans the headphones. Also, make one day a week (e.g., Sunday) a “device-free day” for all family members. Play games or get physically active, together.

A Balanced Diet, Not a Food Fight. No matter their age, kids can be picky eaters. Offer your child choices at meals that are acceptable to you, health promoting, and palatable. Model the healthy eating habits you want your child to have whether they are at home or out with friends.

When it comes to getting kids to try new foods, get creative: Blend veggies into homemade smoothies. Serve raw veggies with hummus. Make zucchini-based brownies. Incorporate blended or finely chopped veggies into pasta sauce for use on pizza and spaghetti. Try healthier ice cream options like Bliss (raw, vegan, organic and tastes great) or Arctic Zero.  Involve your kids in creating a beautiful fruit salad. Kids’ palates change as they age; what they like/don’t like at age 3 is likely to be different at 13 and even 23!

Introduce and reintroduce healthy selections at all meal and snack times. And don’t fight about food…that only creates a lousy mood for everyone at mealtimes. Sometimes, it really is okay to skip the asparagus and still have dessert.

Tame the Sweet Tooth. Sugar intake for children is recommended to 3-4 teaspoons a day. Cutting back on soda, candy, and cookies is only the first step. Read labels to identify added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and food dyes that can be hidden in foods including bread, condiments such as ketchup, crackers, cookies, candy and canned and frozen foods. Make your own frozen treats from fresh fruit, and cut down on packaged foods.

Sleep Well. During sleep, children’s bodies generate hormones important to healthy growth and development. A good night of rest allows children to wake energized for the following day. Research has shown that sleep plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight and promoting a positive mood. Try to keep kids to a daily sleep-wake routine, especially during the school week.

Healthy diet and exercise make a huge difference in the health and demeanor of children. If challenged with a behavioral and/or physical health issue you can take it a step further. At HealthBridge Medical Center we will often run lab tests to determine if a child has specific food allergies, or a particularly high demand for certain nutrients like zinc, magnesium or essential fatty acids for example.  Getting specific with nutrient supplementation and adjusting the diet accordingly makes for much happier and healthier children. It is always worth the time and effort involved.

In health,

Dr. Gina

Dark Chocolate Helps you Pay Attention

June 25, 2015


Eating dark chocolate may help to boost attention levels and lower blood pressure. Larry Stevens, a professor of psychological sciences at North Arizona University, and colleagues conducted a study to examine the acute effects of chocolate on attentional characteristics of the brain. The researchers examined the effect that consuming a 60 % cacao chocolate had on the brain (using electroencephalography [EEG]) and blood pressure. A total of 122 participants aged 18-25 were enrolled on the study. Results showed that eating 60% cacao chocolate made the brain more alert and attentive, but it also increased blood pressure for a short time. However, an immediate drop in blood pressure was recorded in participants who consumed 60% cacao chocolate that also contained L-theanine (an amino acid analogue found in green tea). “Chocolate is indeed a stimulant and it activates the brain in a really special way,” said Professor Stevens. “It’s remarkable. The potential here is for a heart healthy chocolate confection that contains a high level of cacao with L-theanine that is good for your heart, lowers blood pressure and helps you pay attention.”

Reminder! Upcoming Event. Intimate Discussion and Dinner with Dr. Gina ~ Wednesday June 24th 6:30-9:30 PM

June 22, 2015

Please join us!


HealthBridge Medical Center is inviting you to share what our patients are learning about optimal health. It’s a fascinating journey that most people wished they knew about years ago. We are all excited to share with you, your family and friends this amazing insight!

Feel healthy. Be healthy. Your body has the ability to heal itself.

Learning the secrets to optimal health and mental, emotional and physical balance.

Dr. Gina Nick, NMD, PhD is a CA and HI licensed and practicing Naturopathic Physician, President Emeritus of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association, an author, mother and entrepreneur, community volunteer and founder of HealthBridge Medical Center in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills, CA. Dr. Nick is one of Susan Sommers’ recommended physicians specializing in hormone balance, and is a member of the Forever Health Network. She is a physician spokesperson for the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM), serves on the Board of Directors for numerous medical and non profit associations, and was a featured physician on PBS. She has been in practice for 17 years.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

6:30PM – 9:30 PM

Onotria Wine Country Cuisine, 2831 Bristol St, Costa Mesa, CA 92626 (714) 641-5952

$48/person includes 3 course menu (with gluten free options).
Cash or credit card payment upon arrival.
Beverages are not included. “Cash and carry”.

Please RSVP to Julee Nishimi promptly at or (714) 307-2991 or contact our office anytime. Seats are limited.

HealthBridge Medical Center
949-715-9321 x2
1401 Avocado Avenue Suite 810 Newport Beach, CA 92660

FDA Essentially Bans Trans Fats

June 18, 2015

small_food_packageNaturopathic Physicians have been educating the public and their patients on the dangers of trans fats (also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils) for 30 plus years based on studies from the 1970’s showing a link between these artificial fats and heart disease.

Finally, the FDA, in an effort to prevent heart attacks and deaths, finalized its determination that the main sources of artificial trans fat are not safe. FDA gave food manufacturers until June 2018 to remove partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from their products after concluding that the oils are not so-called GRAS, or generally recognized as safe.

It’s hopeful that our government is finally taking action and acknowledging the SIGNIFICANT impact that our food supply has on the state of health of our citizens, and the major economic burden the US shoulders to manage chronic illnesses that can easily be prevented by removing artificial chemicals, excess sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and the like from our food supply.

Research identified a relationship between folic acid deficiencies and birth defects as early as 1965. It was not until 1992 that the United States Public Health Service shared this critical knowledge with the country and recommended that all women of childbearing age, capable of becoming pregnant, consume 400mcg of folic acid per day. It took the scientific community almost 30 years to accept that a nutrient deficiency might cause a gross distortion in human neuronal development and to recommend supplementation. Tens of thousands of children were born during this time with preventable birth defects.

Let’s use common sense, and consider listening to the doctors who pay attention to the research as it comes available rather then waiting 30 years to act on it, and who are tirelessly working to educate the public on the importance of quality food and the power of nutritional medicine to prevent and treat disease.

In health,
Dr. Gina


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