Magnesium: Why You Need To Take This and Best Forms To Take


Here is Why You Need To Be Supplementing With This Mineral


Magnesium is known as the calming mineral.  I wish I knew this when I was younger.  I had such a poor diet, was on many medications and had anxiety.  Looking back now, I realize that adding magnesium rich foods and a magnesium supplement would have helped me a great deal.  Looking back, I know I was deficient in magnesium.  

Are you lacking in the master mineral that is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body?  It is found mainly in your brain, muscles and bones.   This is why an Epsom salt bath  is so good for sore muscles and after a strenuous workout.  

Up to half of the American population is deficient in magnesium and they don’t know it.  In fact, new research published in the BMC Bioinformatics indicates that magnesium plays a much larger role in our health than we previously thought.  Every cell in the body requires magnesium! 

And most people are not aware that magnesium is critical for proper brain function.  

Magnesium deficiency accounts for a long list of symptoms and diseases which are often easily helped by adding in this valuable nutrient.  In fact, it can be very beneficial for those with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, autism and insomnia.  Think of magnesium as the mineral that relaxes your body and mind. 

What Depletes Magnesium

The odds are that you are depleted. Take a look at this list. 

I know for me, in the past, sugar, antibiotics, calcium supplements, my diet, all the diet soda I drank, sweating from exercise and above all, the stress in my life, was definitely taking a hit to my magnesium levels.  Oh and I had (still get from time to time) restless leg, which is often (not always) attributed to low magnesium levels.  

Magnesium is not one that can be easily tested via blood work. Only 1% of the body’s magnesium is stored in the blood. This is why I like Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis for looking at mineral levels such as magnesium or using tests such as Spectra cell Test which looks at mineral levels in the white blood cells.  

If you are like me, you probably have more than one on the list that is impacting your magnesium levels.  

·        Stress, on-going, chronic, 

·         sweating

·         Alcohol intake

·        Sugar intake

·        excess phosphorus (from soda)

·         antibiotics

·        coffee

·        too much calcium intake, mostly from an “only calcium” supplement

·        diuretics

·        birth control pills

·        proton pump inhibitor medications

·         old age

·        processed grains

·        excessive D2

·        the Standard American Diet and

·        soil depletion

Signs and Symptoms that May Indicate You Need More Magnesium


You have

·        depression

·         feel irritable often, tantrums in children 

·         ADHD, confusion 

·        autism

·        insomnia, difficulty falling to sleep (difficulty staying asleep is usually something different)

·        have restless leg or muscle twitching or twitches, muscle soreness, muscle tension, fibromyalgia

·        PMS, cramping, PMS cravings for chocolate

·        heart palpitations, heart disease, arrhythmia, or mitral valve prolapse or hypertension

·        have migraines/headaches frequently

·         acid reflux, GERD

·        sensitive to loud noises

·        fatigue, lethargy

·         asthma

·        constipation

·         excess stress

·        poor diet

·        kidney stones

·        diabetes/insulin resistance


Those Who Are at Greatest Risk of Magnesium Deficiency Include:



  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Other gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Alcoholics
  • Elderly
  • Medications That Can Deplete Magnesium

  • This is not an exhaustive list.  Check the medication that you are taking to see if it impairs your magnesium levels. 
    • Acid blockers such as Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac to name a few
    • Antacids such as Mylanta, Tums, Milk of Magnesia and Alka-Seltzer
    • Antibiotics such as the Z-pak, Ceclor, Cipro, Septra and many others
    • Antiviral Agents such as Epivir and Rescriptor
    • Blood pressure drugs
    • Ace Inhibitors
    • Diuretics (loop, Thiazide diuretics, potassium sparing diuretics, sulfonamide diuretics)
    • Central Nervous System Stimulants such as Ritalin
    • Cholesterol Agents
    • Corticosteroids including inhaled corticosteroids
    • Hormone replacement therapy including oral contraceptives
    • Immunosuppressant
    • Anastrozole (used for breast cancer)
    • Raloxifene used for osteoporosis

Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Think green!  Magnesium is the central atom in chlorophyll molecule
  • Nuts, seeds
  • whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Banana
  • Leafy greens such as spinach
  • Sea veggies/algae
  • Broccoli
  • Baked potato with skin on
  • Pink salt

Magnesium Supplementation

When looking for a magnesium supplement, be sure to read the back label. 

  • Whole food supplementation is best (i.e.: food based supplements/multi vitamin/minerals)  Innate Response is a reputable Whole Foods Brand
  • Magnesium can be taken in pill or powder form or transdermal 
  • Chelated forms are best (i.e.: forms of magnesium that end in “ate”)

Citrate is a better form if constipation is an issue

  • This is best for those who are not moving their bowels on a more than once daily basis.  Start low with the dose.  Mag Calm is a great brand for Magnesium Citrate.

Another form that end in “ate” is  Magnesium Glycinate which will not have much effect on stools

Magnesium oxide is not well absorbed and acts more as a laxative so it could be beneficial to use short term for bowels but this is not the form you want for daily long term use.  

Magnesium chloride best form to use for those with kidney disease. 

Magnesium l threonate can raise magnesium levels in the brain.  This is my preferred form to supplement with if you need more cognitive support, have ADHD, anxiety or depression since it is able to cross the blood brain barrier.  

  • Take magnesium with B6 as they work together.
  • Take an Epson salt bath to relax you, for stress, for sore muscles, muscle spasms. Use 1-2 cups of the salt in the bath water. When you soak in an Epson salt bath, your body will absorb the amount of magnesium that you need.  

Magnesium Orotate is known to be good for heart health.  It has also been shown to be good for endurance athletes, improving stamina.  

My favorite for overall health: Transdermal magnesium lotions and sprays for magnesium absorption via skin

o   This is my favorite way to get magnesium. My preferred brand is Ease by  and I have this in my office for clients and you can also order direct from the company. Other sprays typically will sting when you spray them on and this can be due to  poor quality. 

o   I like transdermal also because it does not need to be digested and is great if you have digestion/assimilation/absorption issues.  (you may not even know that you do!)  It is easier to use with children since they don’t have to take a drink or swallow a pill and most don’t mind you spraying it on them.  

o   Topically can be fast acting. It can be great for PMS, cramping, restless leg and muscle spasms. Spray on the area that is giving you the pain. 

Hint: Crave chocolate around your period?  Chocolate has magnesium and your body may be trying to tell you something!

How Much Magnesium Do You Need

The RDA for magnesium is 310 to 420 mg. per day and this amount can vary depending on your age and sex.  Many experts in the health field believe that the daily amount should be closer to 600 to 900 mg. per day.  Dr. Mercola states that magnesium intake should be closer to 1 to 2 grams per day.  He feels that this higher dose is warranted due to our EMF exposure and that the increased amount of magnesium should help to lower the damage that we get daily from EMF’s.

I am more in line with Dr. Mercola and not with the RDA guidelines. If you have ever heard me speak, I mention that the RDA for vitamin C is to prevent scurvy.  (the Vitamin C RDA is 75-90 mg. which in my opinion is too low).  Thus, my assumption is that the RDA for magnesium is also too low. RDA guidelines are there to provide you the amounts needed to prevent disease.

 These are not recommendations for optimal health! This is very important!


Bottom Line: Decide which form is best for you and your situation.  If you need more help deciding which type you should get or which brand or if you want testing done, give me a call.  In the end, we all need magnesium, even if you have the healthiest diet.  This is because of mono crops, lack of rotation of crops and depleting the soil of magnesium.  



Anderson, R. Awang, D. et. al. (2000) Professional Guide to Conditions, Herbs, and Supplements.

   MA: Integrative Medicine Communications

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Gaby, A. (2006) A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press

Haas, E. (2006) Staying Health with Nutrition. The Complete guide to Diet And Nutritional Medicine.

   CA: Celestial Arts


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5 Ways to Achieve Weight Loss

5 Reasons Why You Are Not Losing the Weight


While I do not specialize in weight loss, I find that weight loss is still one of my client’s top goals.  I’m all about root causes. There is no one right diet for everyone and no one right diet for your entire life time.  I see people that are eating healthy, or eating very little yet they are still struggling to drop weight. Here are some things that could be hindering your weight loss from a root cause perspective

Undiagnosed Subclinical Hypothyroidism or Using Synthetic Thyroid Medication

You can be struggling with thyroid issues for years before your doctor finally diagnosis it.  And that is if she will do the correct thyroid testing.  The thyroid controls metabolism and hence when the thyroid function slows down so does the number of calories you burn up. 

Once you know that your thyroid is not functioning properly, and this includes the autoimmune condition, Hashimotos, work with someone to address your root causes so that you can support proper thyroid functioning and autoimmunity too if need be. While medications may help you, they do not help everyone and some need extra nutritional support.  In addition to that, while medication may be needed, it still does not address the root cause for your hypothyroidism.

Many also don’t get the results they hope for by using synthetic medication since it is made up of T4 which needs to convert into the active form, T3, for your thyroid to function optimally.  Seek out a health professional who supports using natural desiccated thyroid which has some T3, the active hormone in it.  (you may need to call around until you find an MD who has a more holistic view or opt for seeing a naturopath for your thyroid medication). One way to find the right doctor is to call the compounding pharmacy in your area and ask if they will give you the names of local doctors that prescribe natural desiccated thyroid hormone replacement.

Systemic Inflammation

Obesity has inflammation as a root cause.  What can trigger inflammation in the body includes your diet, toxins and food sensitivities to name several.  But let’s focus on how your diet can cause inflammation. 

A diet high in refined and processed foods such as sugar, flour, oxidized oils, and heavy on the starches such as from a diet of pasta and bread can all cause inflammation and lead to weight gain.  Ever see someone with a “puffy” face?  That is usually a sign of inflammation. 

Many people think that because they are “paleo” or “vegan” or “vegetarian” that they must be eating a healthy diet.  This is not always the case.  A paleo diet too high in meats (and not grass fed or organic), a vegan diet high in grains and a vegetarian diet high in dairy can all cause inflammation. 

Any diet, whether you are vegetarian, vegan or a meat eater, should be plant based.  Think 70-80% of your meals should be leafy greens, herbs, spices and crunchy vegetables.  Then you can add in your beans or your grass- fed meat along with healthy fats from avocado, EVOO or coconut.  If you want to reduce inflammation and lose weight, these changes need to be made. 

Avoid oils such as canola, soy bean and vegetable oil.  These are high in omega 6’s. While we need some omega 6’s in our diet, we are getting too much, and this leads to inflammation.  On top of that, by the time you use these oils, they are rancid, which contributes to free radical damage in the body (and again leads to inflammation).  Choose healthier options such as coconut, avocado or “real” extra virgin olive oil (avoid the fakes which are blends of olive oil mixed with cheaper oils such as canola). 

Hormone Imbalances

Having too much estrogen is more common today than people realize and if there is an imbalance of estrogen with your other sex hormones, this can cause weight issues.  This is not only an issue in women but is occurring in men with more frequency (i.e.: “man boobs”).


 Too much estrogen can be caused by our diet and lifestyle.  Too much sugar and excess alcohol

can lead to estrogen dominance.  Xenoestrogens, which come from plastics, are also hormone disruptors, and can create unbalance.  Foods sprayed with chemicals (GMO crops) are also a contributing factor.  If your weight gain is caused by excess estrogen, you will typically have the weight gain in the hips, thighs and upper arms.


A low- fat diet, which I think more people are now realizing, is not the healthiest diet, can reduce your cholesterol levels into the “too low range”. While western medicine may tell you that the lower your cholesterol, the better for you, studies indicate this is not true and in fact, cholesterol at 160 and below is linked to mental health issues and an increase in suicidal ideation.  We need cholesterol. In addition to this, having cholesterol that is too low can contribute to low testosterone.  Men and women both need testosterone (just in different amounts).  For women, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which is associated with insulin resistance and elevated testosterone, can also lead to weight gain.  This weight is typically around your middle as belly fat. 


Constipation can also lead to hormone imbalances. My mantra is “you are what you do not eliminate”.  This is so important, because excess estrogen gets eliminated via the bowels. If you do not eliminate, it recirculates and makes its way to fatty areas of the body. 


Balance your hormones if you want to lose weight. Get rid of the plastics (and do not microwave plastic containers), eat plenty of fiber rich foods such as fruit and vegetables and reduce the alcohol and refined foods in your diet.  Avoid foods that contain added hormones such as beef and dairy that is injected with growth hormones (chose grass fed). Avoid GMO’s and sprayed foods as much as possible and include healthy fats in the diet. 

Poor Gut Health



Studies have shown that those with specific strains of good bacteria in their gut are able to maintain a healthy weight. They also found that those who are missing these healthy strains and have more “bad” bacteria in the gut, tend to be overweight.  Thus, having good bacteria can aid in weight loss and having more bad bacteria and less diversity in the gut can lead to weight gain.  Some bacteria can cause inflammation while others can reduce inflammation. 

Think of your microbiome as a garden. Does your garden have a lot of plants, or just one type or is it filled with weeds?  You want diversity and more plants and fewer weeds!  Add in probiotic rich foods such as kefir, kimchee, kombucha and fermented vegetable. Add in prebiotic rich foods too. Think of this as the rich soil to help your plants grown.  Prebiotics are the food for your probiotics. These foods include asparagus (raw), onion, garlic (raw) and not too ripe bananas. 

In addition to this, food sensitivities that are undiagnosed, can lead to intestinal permeability and this can lead to weight gain.  You can do a trial elimination diet or you can get tested. 

Too Much Stress!

person holding binders stressed

Yes, just by being stressed, you can hinder weight loss.  When you are stressed, the adrenals increase cortisol production to help you manage the extra stress. This is a good thing, in the short term. The problem is that you may have chronic stress.  This leads to constant cortisol production. 

Think about it.  Synthetic cortisol such as prednisone is known for causing weight gain and diabetes.  This is an example of what high cortisol production caused by chronic stress can do to our bodies. 

While we all have stress in our lives, knowing how to control it can help reduce belly fat and elevated cortisol levels and other health conditions associated with stress such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. 

To help manage stress you can add in meditation, yoga, deep breathing, emotional freedom technique (also called tapping), or just setting aside some time for yourself daily. 

Support your body when under stress with nutritionally dense foods (stress uses up nutrients such as your vitamin B’s, magnesium and vitamin C) and Adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogenic herbs help us to adapt to the stress in our lives.  My favorites are Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. 


Bottom Line: If you feel like you have tried every diet out there and still cannot keep the weight off and don’t want to spend more money on another diet book, diet plan and another exercise program, then work with someone who can address your root causes to weight loss and help you with an individualized plan to help you succeed.


Hoffman, R. 10 Reasons Why It’s Not Your Fault You’re Fat. Health E Times, Issue 2, 2017.


If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Ginger: 12 Reasons Why You Should Be Consuming This Herb

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

12 Reasons Why You Should Be Consuming It

ginger root

The underground portion of ginger is used.  The flesh of ginger may be white, yellow or red depending on the variety.  It has a light brownish skin. It has a aromatic, pungent and spicy smell and taste. 

Ginger has been used for thousands of years as an herbal remedy.  Modern medicine and research has proven that ginger possesses several therapeutic properties. 

Benefits to Using Ginger

  • Antioxidant Rich. And you only need a small amount to reap its benefits.  You want to consume a antioxidant rich diet to support overall health and prevent disease. 
  • Reduces Pain from Osteoarthritis: Ginger Inhibits the formation of inflammatory compounds and has direct anti-inflammatory effects. This is due to compounds called gingerols.  It has been shown to reduce pain in those with arthritis and muscular discomfort.  In one study, those who took ginger extract 2 times per day had less pain and needed less pain killing meds than those who took the placebo.  The dose in one study was 250 mg. 4 times daily. 
  • Provides Gastrointestinal Relief: Ginger is commonly used for an upset stomach, gas, diarrhea, and IBS.
  • Can Prevent Sea Sickness: It has been shown to be far superior to Dramamine, an OTC drug, used for motion sickness. It can reduce symptoms associated with motion sickness such as nausea, vomiting and cold sweat.  There is a reason that you see ginger candy in gift shops at boat docks to purchase!
  • Relief from Vomiting and Nausea Associated with Pregnancy: It can be useful even in the most severe form. And unlike anti-vomiting, drugs ginger is safe during pregnancy and only a small amount is required.  Pregnant women can safely take up to one gram. 
  • Protective against Colorectal Cancer. Gingerols which is the main active component in ginger is also the one responsible for its distinctive flavor.  This component may also inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.   
  • It can Induce Cell Death in Ovarian Cancer Cells. Again, this is thanks to the gingerols in ginger.  A pro-inflammatory state is thought to be important in the development of ovarian cancer. In the presence of ginger a few key indicators of inflammation were decreased in the ovarian cancer cells. 
  • Immune Boosting Properties. Since it has anti-viral properties, ginger can be useful to consume when you have a cold or flu or other viral infection.
  • Lowers Cholesterol and improves lipid metabolism. Studies show that ginger can have a dramatic effect on cardiovascular health. Studies used 250 micrograms of ginger
  • Anti-diabetic effects. In several studies ginger has been shown to help reduce blood sugar levels, regulate insulin response and also reduced body weight.
  • Use it for Colds and Sore Throat. It is a natural remedy to soothe an irritated throat.  Regular intake of ginger stimulates the secretion of mucus which soothes and provides throat relief.  Natural oi in ginger acts as an expectorant and thus not only useful for colds but also for upper respiratory infections, coughs, asthma and bronchitis 
  • Use for PMS cramp pain. A 2009 study found that 250 mg. 4 times a day was just as effective as ibuprofen for pain relief associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle. 

Ways to Incorporate Ginger into Your Diet


You don’t need to use much ginger to reap its benefits.  Whenever possible opt for fresh over the dried spice.  The fresh ginger will contain higher levels of gingerol.  Most supermarkets carry the mature ginger which will have the skin that you need to peel. Young ginger is more often found in Asian markets and this ginger skin does not need to be peeled.  Fresh ginger can be stored in your fridge for up to 3 weeks if left unpeeled.  You can also store it in your freezer unpeeled for up to 6 months. 

For cooking, if added in the beginning of the cooking process, it will add a subtle flavor while adding it at the end of cooking will lend the dish a more pungent taste. 

  • For nausea: make ginger tea by steeping 1 or 2 ½ inch slices of ginger in a cup of hot water.
  • For arthritis: ¼ an inch (or more) cooked in food. (The more you use the quicker your relief may be)
  • Add it to rice dishes
  • Mix ginger with coconut aminos and garlic to make a sauce for stir fry
  • Add ginger to your oil and vinegar salad dressing
  • Add it to sautéed vegetable dishes.
  • Mince a teaspoon and add to your regular tea
  • Add to marinades, stews and soups
  • Add some to your morning smoothie
  • You can add in ginger supplementation in capsule form or in tincture form.

When to Use Caution

  • Don’t give to children under 2 years of age.
  • If you have a sensitive stomach, take ginger with some food in your belly.
  • In adults, do not take more than 4 grams per day
  • Pregnant women should only consume up to 1 gram per day.
  • Avoid ginger supplementation if you are on blood thinner
  • If you are on diabetic meds, ginger can reduce blood sugar levels.
  • If you are on blood pressure meds, it can reduce your blood pressure.
  • Always talk to your doctor if adding ginger in as a supplement to your diet since some meds can interact with herbs.

Food for Thought: 

From reading some of the cautions above, it makes me wonder, wouldn’t it be better to use herbs to say lower blood pressure or blood sugar instead of a med that comes with side effects? What do you think?



Balch, P. ( 2012)   Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition.  NY: Avery Publishing

Gaby, A.(2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and updated 3rd edition.  NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. Medical Herbalism. (2003) The science and practice of herbal medicine.  VT: Healing Arts   


Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.













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21 Reasons to Avoid Energy Drinks

21 Reasons to Avoid Energy drinks


I had met someone that drank 6 cans a day of Red Bull and thought nothing of it. 

I gave a talk to a 5th grade class and when I asked how many drank Energy Drinks, most of the boys (and a few girls) hands shot up.  Most said they drank these right before a game or practice.

Many young adults (18-35 y/o range) can be seen walking around holding a can of pure caffeine and sugar.  More often than not these cans contain more than one serving and who really drinks only half a can?  What is this doing to your health and could it have long term consequences?

Read on to find out!

Here is why I think energy drinks are a bad idea. 

  1. You want to work out but are tired and need some motivation and energy so you take an energy drink


  • This can be deadly, especially if you are under a great deal of stress or have high blood pressure.
  • The number of hospital visits related to energy drinks has doubled from 2007-2011. 
  • It can make your heart race, cause palpitations, and increase you blood pressure and even lead to seizures and heart attacks. 
  • You don’t need that much sugar before you work- out.  An energy drink serving can have up to 10 teaspoons of sugar (40 grams).  Opt for a natural source of sugar and energy instead-have a banana or handful or grapes.
  • If you want to take something to give you energy and endurance before a sport game/race, competition,  etc…. then read this article…

2. Instead of Coffee Just Drink An Energy Drink or Energy Shot, Right?

Wrong!  One leading brand of energy drink shots tops out at 570 mg. of caffeine.  This is way too much caffeine for your body to handle, especially in one large gulp! 

This much caffeine can lead to severe adrenal depletion.  This sets you up for a vicious cycle of that leads to more fatigue which means you need more and more caffeine to get through the day. If you are this low on energy and need this much caffeine it is time to look at root causes instead of managing your symptoms. 

The amount of caffeine in common energy drinks is 5 times the amount in a cup of coffee and 10 times the amount in a serving of soda. Be sure to look at how many servings are in the can! A serving may not be all that bad but some of these cans contain 2 to 3 servings.  This adds up!

However, if you do want to start reducing your caffeine intake, don’t go cold turkey.  You will end up with terrible withdrawal effects from your daily habit.  Instead wean off slowly such as pouring a little bit out of each can you drink and every few days pouring out a little more.  If you go cold turkey you will end up with terrible headaches and brain fog for several days. 

If you need this much caffeine, ask yourself why?  Usually if you are using caffeine as a crutch there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.  While a picture on one website for energy drinks would have you thinking it is normal for everyone to have a 3:00 o’clock slump and need a pick me up, this is not normal to need caffeine to get through each and every day. 

3. But the label Says it Has all These Herbs and Vitamins and Amino Acids in it So It Must Be Healthy For Me!

Sorry, there is no nutritional value in a sugary, caffeinated beverage. Don’t be fooled by the marketing! Energy drinks are actually labeled as dietary supplements but they are anything but that.  It is estimated that sales of Energy drinks in the US have brought them a market worth 12.5 billion and sales of these harmful drinks continues to grow. 

In fact, recently I was trying to look up the label for Red Bull and I couldn’t get it from their site. It just kept having me click a link, then another and another and I just went in circles and could never see the actual ingredients. If a company is proud of the ingredients, they will make it easy for you to see the actual label.  Whenever I cannot find the actual label, my radar goes up.  

There have been cases of teenagers dying from the effects of too much consumption and it caused them to go into cardiac arrest.  So ask yourself, it is worth it?

  Yes, I know it mentions all these herbs it contains.  Most likely the herbs are in very small quantities and not in the right forms to provide you with any benefit. If you are looking for the benefits of the herbs then work with a nutrition/herb professional who can provide you with the best herbs for you and in the right forms. Herbs can also interact with medications so always work with a professional when ingesting herbs. 

You will see Guarana in these energy drinks.  Guarana, itself is not bad and in fact has health benefits.  It is mostly known for its caffeine content and has a higher caffeine content than coffee beans.  It also contains antioxidants. 

Even though it is in energy drinks I don’t recommend them because they may be using the too much Guarana and the wrong form.  If you want to use Guarana for a caffeine boost, use it in powder form and add only a small amount to your morning smoothie or add some to your homemade bar recipes.  

When Guarana is used in the wrong form or in high amounts it can cause nervousness, headaches and heart palpitations.  

If you want to try it in powder form, you can purchase it from and start out by using only 1/4 teaspoon in your morning smoothie recipe.  

The same applies to the vitamin and amino acids. The odds are they are using very poor quality forms which are difficult for the body to absorb.  And if you are only absorbing a very small amount then the odds are the benefits from them are doing you no good. Get your supplements from natural food sources instead. 

4. Can I substitute my morning smoothie with an energy drink?


You can if you want to stay on the viscous cycle of being wired and tired all the time and continue to destroy your health over time. 

If your usual smoothie is loaded with fruit then it may be better than an energy drink but still not a great choice. Don’t start your day with sugar.  Instead make a protein veggie smoothie.  For instance, water, protein powder, ¼ of an avocado, ¼ of a frozen banana, large handfuls of dark leafy greens, tablespoon of hemp seeds and/or nut butter.  You want energy-give your body what it really needs. It does not need caffeine and sugar.  If you think it does, then your body is trying to tell you something! Listen to it. 

5. Pros and cons of drinking energy drinks

Pros: None I can think of. I wish they didn’t even exist.  There are better options out there if you need a pick me up.  


  1. Dangerous when combined with alcohol or stimulants such as ADHD meds (Adderall, Ritalin)
  2. There is little scientific evidence that their “proprietary formulas” give someone a physical and/or mental edge.
  3. Anxiety
  4. Headaches
  5. Heart attacks, strokes
  6. 8-11% of those who are caffeine dependent show signs of depression
  7. Seizures
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Diabetes
  10. No nutritional value-empty calories, takes place of nutrient dense foods
  11. Irritability
  12. The caffeine inhibits the activity of folate, B6 and B12
  13. It can cause death
  14. Nausea, diarrhea
  15. The acids in the drinks can lead to tooth destruction, damage enamel, cause stomach damage, osteoporosis and bone fractures
  16. If it contains artificial sugar: this can lead to overconsumption as your brain is waiting for the calories to come along with the sweet taste and leads you to crave more sugar. 
  17. Premature aging
  18. Disrupts your gut flora (this alone is a major concern for mental, physical and immune health!)
  19. leads to low serotonin levels  (mood issues, depression)
  20. Dehydration
  21. Reduces cortisol levels (which can cause weakness, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpitations, depression, unable to cope with stress)

So as you can see, that energy drink to help you get through the day is not helping you but rather hurting you.  Zero pros to drinking them, 21 cons to drinking them; the choice is yours. 

Bottom Line: If you cannot get through a day without consuming an energy drink, we need to look deeper at what is going on with your diet, lifestyle and your body.  If you need help, give me a call.  



Andrews, R. (nd) All about energy drinks.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Greenfield, B. (7/09) I don’t approve of Energy drinks.

Meier, B. (1/12/13) More Emergency Room visits linked to Energy Drinks.  http;//  

Stone, I. (3/17/14) Link between emergency room visits and energy drinks.

Gaille, B. (nd) Energy Drink Industry Statistics and Trends.


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Coconut Sugar vs. White Sugar: The Facts

Coconut Sugar versus White sugar

Which is the healthier option?

You May be surprised by my response



I read numerous nutrition articles, research articles and health books weekly if not daily.    Most of the information is very helpful and informative.

Usually it leads me to ask more questions which then lead me to more research. Along the way I stumble upon some blogs-some very good ones and some really bad ones. 

This blog post is created because of a blog I read on “Ways to Alter Recipes to make them Healthier” This was written by someone called “Dr. Donna” but no other information about her was provided. 

While the article had many errors (and a few good points) the comment that made me laugh was this:

“Commit to NO sugar in a recipe.  You can do this by using coconut sugar instead”

Hmmm, last time I checked coconut SUGAR is still sugar!

What concerns me is that her post has been viewed over 46,000 times in the past year since it was posted!  How many of those people now have chronic health conditions due to their “sugarless coconut sugar” eating. 

I’m sorry, what did she not understand in the wording “coconut sugar”

I admit that I use coconut sugar in some of my baked good recipes. BUT I would never mislead my guests or clients and say “here, try some of my no sugar added cookies!” 

The Facts

  • Some tout coconut sugar to have a lower glycemic index than regular processed/refined white sugar.  But if you look at the research, only a couple of studies have been done and on only a handful of people.  One study was done by a government that is one of the largest producers of coconut sugar in the world.
  • Studies vary saying coconut sugar has a glycemic index anywhere from 35 to 54.  (White sugar is around 60).  For me, I need to see more research. 
  • Coconut sugar is higher in some minerals as opposed to white sugar BUT….
  • In order to get the nutrient benefits from coconut sugar you would have to eat A LOT of it!  Eat whole foods instead. 
  • Regular table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.  You may see claims that coconut sugar is fructose free but in reality it is roughly 40% fructose.  Fructose gets processed by the liver and the excess get stored as fat.  Fructose contributes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and in my opinion, mental health issues and systemic inflammation as well. 
  • Coconut sugar does contain some inulin which is a prebiotic fiber.  Again, how much do you need to consume to reap the benefits? Eat raw onion, raw garlic, raw asparagus and not overly ripe bananas for your prebiotic fiber instead!
  • Some coconut sugar products are not 100% coconut sugar but instead a blend with cane sugar.  Know your products or ask someone who does know which products to use!
  • If you are diabetic you should treat the consumption of coconut sugar the same as consuming refined white sugar. 
  • While it may be the better choice than white sugar, it can still impact your liver and blood sugar health.
  • If you opt for coconut sugar, use it in small, limited quantities, not part of your daily intake. 
  • It has the same amount of calories as white sugar.


Bottom Line

Coconut sugar is still a sugar. It is a better option that GMO white processed sugar for the occasional baked good but don’t be misled. It is still sugar.  Use it as an occasional treat instead. 

Coconut is a great source for healthy fats but in the form of coconut oil. Fat gives food its flavor. I make banana bread that really does not have any added sugar!  What gives it a great taste is the coconut oil and the bananas provide all the sweetness that you need. 

Final Thoughts

There is so much information on the web and unfortunately much of it can do more harm than good. Always check the sources of the information provided and do further research. If you are still unsure, bring the information to a qualified professional in that subject area to get their take on the information. 

I always research products and information. Most product companies that stand behind their products and their words are more than happy to respond to you and share more information.  I email and call companies all the time! 

Sadly (for me, not for her!) there was nowhere to comment at the end of “Dr. Debbie’s” post to let her know of the error but I’m sure she is glad that I was unable to comment! 



Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Gunnars, K. (nd) Coconut Sugar-Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie?

Perlmutter, D. (nd) Coconut Palm Sugar-What’s the Skinny?

Virgin, JJ. (8/18/14) Coconut Sugar: Healthier Sweetener of Another Pretty Name for Sugar?


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at

As a nutrition professional, Karen Brennan does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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