Soup and Salad for Cold and Flu?

by Deborah McPherson MS,RD, LD, CDE and Mia Gibson RDN, LD, CDE

As seen in the Odessa American Medical Matters:

We may have all heard that chicken soup is good for what ails you, but can it actually cure a cold?

The answer is, of course, no. However, it has been proven to help relieve congestion, act as an anti-inflammatory and prevent dehydration … which may come in handy when you have a cold or flu.

How can salad help? 

A salad, especially a dark green leafy salad with spinach, contains beta-carotene and vitamin C that both enhance immunity … which might help prevent us from getting sick in the first place. Add some grilled salmon to the salad, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, for additional anti-inflammatory properties.

A healthy diet, getting enough exercise and rest … and keeping stress levels down … may be our best defense against cold and flu this season. A well-nourished body may more easily ward off infections. Other nutrients that may help increase our immunity are:

  • B-6 in fortified cereals, poultry, seafood and a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin E in nuts, protein in dairy, meat, poultry, fish, beans and peas
  • Selenium and zinc in seafood and beef

So why can’t we just take a vitamin or herbal supplements instead of eating these foods? 

Whole foods offer several benefits over dietary supplements. Whole foods provide more than one nutrient, dietary fiber and other protective substances such as phytochemicals and antioxidants that may also help protect us against disease.

Before taking dietary supplements, other than those prescribed by your doctor, remember that dietary supplements don’t undergo the same testing and quality control that prescription medications do. Just because the bottle says “all natural” does not mean that it will not interact with your current medications or cause side effects. Use caution and remember that supplements such as Echinacea and Ginseng, when taken longer than a few weeks, may actually lower immunity.

Some people may benefit from supplements, but ask your doctor before jumping on the supplement band wagon.

Dietary guidelines do recommend doctor-prescribed supplements or fortified foods during pregnancy and for adults over 50. In addition, we might need supplementation if we have a medical condition or surgery that leads to a deficiency in certain nutrients, consume less than 1,600 calories daily or follow a special diet (vegan or vegetarian) that may limit the variety of foods consumed.

Just remember:

  • Too much of a good thing (vitamins, herbs) may not be good.
  • Too many of those “candy-gummy” vitamins could be toxic.
  • Eat whole foods first and discuss dietary supplements and vitamins with your doctor.


Consult your doctor before making changes in your diet. If you have a medical condition, certain items may need to be reduced or eliminated. Seek the advice of your physician and Registered Dietitian before making any changes in your diet or lifestyle.

NUTRITION TIP OF THE DAY: Hot drinks with lemon or lime may help relieve sore throat or cough symptoms. And try spicy, hot soups to help clear nasal passages and possibly help an inflamed throat.


(Sources: Mayo Clinic, Nutrition Action, CSPI, JADA,, Web MD and MCHS Dietitians)


Serves Eight



1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp. cumin

1 (4-5 oz.) can chopped green chilies

½ tsp. black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (14.5 oz.) can beef broth

2 Tbs. water

1 tsp. chili powder

1 (14.5 oz.) can no salt stewed tomatoes

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ c. water

8-10 corn tortillas, cut in strips (bake in oven to crisp)

1 (14.5 oz) can fat free reduced sodium

1 c. diced cooked chicken breast

chicken broth

1 c. fat-free or low fat shredded cheese

1 (13.5 oz) can tomato juice



In large soup pan, soften onion, chilies and garlic in 2 Tbs. water. Add liquids, tomatoes and seasonings. Bring to a boil and simmer one hour, covered. During last ten minutes, add chicken. Top with cheese and tortilla strips before serving. Add one or two slices of avocado before serving, if desired.



Calories – 130

Carbohydrate – 24 gms

Protein – 8 gms

Fat – 0.5 gm

Saturated Fat – trace

Percent calories from fat – 3 percent

Sodium (w/o cheese) – 650 mg






Special Requests during Holiday Meals

by Mia Gibson RDN, LD, CDE

Dietitian at Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, Center for Health and Wellness

The holidays are a time to gather for meals with our families and friends. If you are the host or attendee, there are things to consider so the meals will go smoothly to accommodate special requests.

For some, it is just dietary preferences. For others, it may be a life-threatening food allergy to be concerned about.

If you are the host, always ask your guests ahead of time for any special requests. They may have medications that need to be adjusted with meal timing. Providing your guest with the menu and what time the meal will be served will allow them to plan accordingly.

If you have a guest with food allergies:

  • Snap a picture of the label from food items with ingredients listed.
  • Prepare items separately to avoid cross contamination.
  • Be careful with serving utensils and let guests with allergies serve themselves first.

To serve healthy options that will help guests with special requests, try these ideas:

  • Keep food simple by serving dishes that have fewer ingredients.
  • Serve sauces and dressings on the side.
  • Reduce salt as much as possible by not adding salt and by using low sodium options.
  • Provide non-starchy vegetable items. A nice, green salad is a festive healthy option to the buffet.
  • By serving a variety of foods, most guests will be able to select foods that work well for their needs.
  • Always offer non-alcoholic beverages. Sparkling water and water infused with vegetables or fruit offers a nice alternative to plain water.

As a guest, please let you hosts know ahead for special requests. If possible, offer to bring a dish to share.

A little preparation can be the key to a happy healthy holiday gathering!

Source: Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, Nov 2017.



Blueberries and Bone Health

Adding blueberries to breakfast cereal or snacks may help your children ward off osteoporosis later in life.

That’s the hypothesis of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers who fed young, growing rodents a diet with 10 percent freeze dried blueberry powder. The berry eating animals ended up with significantly more bone mass than a comparable group that didn’t eat berries. Blueberries contain polyphenols, compounds that give the fruit its distinctive color and which may also have bone-building benefits.

Studies are still needed to determine whether the berries have the same effect on young human bones. But with their high vitamin C and dietary fiber content, blueberries are already a delicious way to eat healthy.

Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!
by Mia Gibson, RDN, LD, CDE

Dietitian, Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab with MCHS Center for Health & Wellness

Be prepared by making ahead or having items on hand for quick nutritious snacks to satisfy your busy family.

Fruit is always a great snack.  Small apples, grapes and mandarins are nice to have on hand, but don’t stop there. Try new fruits that are available in the produce section. And keep cut fruit in the refrigerator to combine with other food groups.

Add fruit to:

  • Vanilla yogurt. Layer in a tall glass for a pretty presentation or layer in a waffle cone.
  • Frozen yogurt with a sprinkle of crushed nuts or granola for texture.
  • Cubes of cheese to make fruit and cheese kabobs.
  • Cottage cheese.
  • Low fat milk. Blend frozen or fresh foods for a smoothie.
  • Peanut butter. Spread on apple slices.
  • Whole grain waffle with low-fat yogurt and top with favorite fruit.

Summer is peak season for fruit! So, enjoy being creative with snacks for your family!

Picking Produce … Does it matter if it’s fresh or frozen?

Picking Produce … Does it matter if it’s fresh or frozen?
Mia Gibson, RDN, LD, CDE – Dietitian, Cardiac & Pulmonary Rehab with MCHS Center for Health & Wellness

Finding fresh fruits and vegetables is easy at this time of year!  Freshly-picked, ripe fruits and vegetables are the most nourishing because the nutrient content is the highest.

Once picked, produce will quickly lose its color, flavor and nutrients. So frozen produce can be a better choice if you are not able to eat the freshly-picked produce in a timely manner. Frozen produce is picked ripe and “flash frozen”, saving the beneficial nutrients.

Are you meeting the dietary guidelines of 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day? You will benefit nutritionally when you do! So, when you shop for your produce, remember that your first choice would be to pick fresh, seasonal produce and eat it soon. The second choice would be to buy frozen produce. Look to see if “USDA fancy” is available.

Supplement Tips

Supplement Tips
by Rachel Weiland, PharmD, BC-ADM

The most important rule when taking supplements is to tell all of your doctors and your pharmacy about what you take. Supplements might be called “natural”, “herbal” or have some other marketing tactic to get you to buy them, but they can interact with other medications you take, or even with a disease state you have. The first example that comes to my mind as a pharmacist is St. John’s Wort, which is used for depression. It interacts with hundreds of medications, as well as affects blood pressure and blood sugar. Your healthcare team can ensure that any supplements you take are safe for you.

There are, however, a few supplements I think are worth mentioning. The American Heart Association recommends 1000 milligrams per day of a combination of EPA/DHA, which is found in fish oil, for general cardiovascular health. The recommended dose for lowering triglycerides is 2000-4000 milligrams per day. It is very important to check the label of a fish oil supplement to see how much EPA/DHA is actually in there, as they try to trick you! Many advertise 1000 mg per softgel, but only have around 300 mg of EPA/DHA. The remaining 700 mg of ingredients are not proven to have as many benefits as EPA/DHA.

Many people are deficient in vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium. This can be easily discovered through a simple lab test. Your doctor may recommend that you take a large dose of vitamin D once a week. Vitamin D is held in the fat in your body, so it does not need to be replenished every day.

To go with the vitamin D, scans can be done to determine bone density and determine if you need to supplement with calcium. If you do, there is an important distinction between the two different common over the counter calcium supplements. Calcium carbonate, which is less expensive, needs to be taken with food. This is because when you eat, your stomach releases acid, which helps the calcium carbonate get absorbed. This also means that if you are taking a medication to lessen acid, such as omeprazole, it will not be absorbed well. If you do take any medications like this, I would recommend you switch to calcium citrate. Calcium citrate is more expensive, but does not rely on acid. That also means it does not need to be taken with food. Another thing to consider is your absorption of calcium is not as good when you exceed 500 mg at one time. If you need more, take your tablets at two separate times throughout the day. All calcium supplements can interact with some medications – for example, some antibiotics, thyroid, and osteoporosis medications. Therefore, they need to be taken several hours apart. Ask your pharmacist if the medications you are taking interact with any over the counter medications you are taking, or are considering taking.



What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart?

What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart?
As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”: What fruits and vegetables are best for your heart? by Dr. Fernando Boccalandro


A heart healthy diet is fundamental in preventing heart disease, even with the use of current prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs. Thus, it is important to understand the value of a good diet in heart disease prevention.

Diets that are cholesterol-free, such as plant-based diets or low in cholesterol, processed and refined foods, can markedly reduce serum cholesterol levels and help to prevent heart diseases as part of a healthy lifestyle.

My patients frequently ask me what fruits and vegetables are best as part of a heart-healthy diet?

  • A handful a day of nuts such as almonds and walnuts. It’s filling and will help your heart.
  • Berries including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cranberries are very nutritious with phytonutrients and fiber.
  • Dark beans including black beans and kidney beans are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • Colorful vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and acorn squash have carotenoids, fibers and multiple vitamins which complement a heart-healthy diet.
  • Spinach is a great leafy vegetable packed with great nutrients and can be used instead of lettuce.
  • Steamed or boiled asparagus is low calorie and has beta-carotene and fiber.
  • Broccoli is also a great snack with multiple vitamins, folate, calcium and nutrients.
  • Tomatoes are excellent either fresh or sun-dried. Sun-dried is a convenient way to enjoy them.
  • In general, fruits are rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, potassium, magnesium and fiber. However, fruits could have a high sugar content requiring attention in diabetics.
  • A small amount daily of dark chocolate with at least 70% of cocoa can also be heart healthy.


It is always preferable to eat these food products unprocessed and in their natural form … just as they come out of your backyard garden… rather than canned or already processed. If you do not want to grow your own, take advantage of the local Farmers Markets this summer. Your heart will glad that you did!



MEDICAL MATTERS: Good Nutrition is Vital for Pregnancy

MEDICAL MATTERS: Good Nutrition is Vital for Pregnancy
As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”:

by Dr. Avelino Garcia

Good nutrition is vital for a healthy pregnancy. Between fatigue and pregnancy cravings, it can seem difficult to keep healthy eating habits. Planning healthy meals and staying physically active can help.

Eating five or six small meals daily, rather than three large meals, can help with nausea and can also help pregnant women get extra vitamins and minerals needed for growing babies. Each day, eat foods from the major food groups, keeping fats and sugars in moderation. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins are encouraged. Be sure that red meats are fully cooked, not rare, as this can cause illness in a pregnant woman. Fish and seafood are good sources of protein, but stay away from seafood with high mercury content such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces weekly.

Hydration is also a key part of proper nutrition. Pregnant women are encouraged to drink at least two liters of water daily. Symptoms of dehydration in pregnancy include thirst, headache and uterine cramping. Sugary and caffeinated drinks increase risk for dehydration, so they are to be avoided.

Staying physically active is one of the healthiest things an expectant mom can do for her unborn baby. Thirty minutes of low intensity exercise, like walking, is encouraged.

Unless an expectant mother has a high-risk pregnancy, exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels, keep blood pressure in the normal range, and minimize abnormal weight gain.

The United States Department of Agriculture has made meal planning easier by creating The website assists everyone, including pregnant women, figure out how to make healthy choices with each meal. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Nutrition During Pregnancy, the MyPlate website gives “personalized nutrition and physical activity plans by using the ‘Super Tracker’ program. This program is based on five food groups and shows the exact amounts needed each day from each group during each trimester of pregnancy.”


Just Three Things

As we start this new year, we need to find a way to really live healthier lifestyles. Often times, New Year Resolutions are large in number and vast in scope. Let’s simplify that to “Just Three Things”.

Today’s MCHS Healthy & Well Blog is from Mia Gibson RD, LD, CDE, Dietitian at Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab at the Center for Health and Wellness. She recommends the following three things that will lead you to a more nutritionally complete way of life.

  1. Add one serving a day of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen or canned (no salt if possible).
  2. Reduce sugars- replace a sugar-sweetened product such as a beverage with water or unsweetened option such as iced tea.
  3. Try cooking one additional meal at home instead of eating out. Check out the Web site to purchase a four-week Mediterranean meal plan with new recipes. They have many free, wonderful recipes also on cooking vegetables and trying new foods.

Mia also recommends that you try this recipe from Kellogg’s for Original Bran Muffins. (Source:

Original Bran Muffins: These simple bran muffins have a wholesome, nutty, packed-with-bran taste. Thanks to All-Bran® cereal, these little gems have fiber plus essential vitamins and minerals. A healthy and delicious way to start your day.


  • 1 1/2 cups Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Bran Buds® cereal
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Kellogg’s® All-Bran® Original cereal
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  1. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine KELLOGG’S ALL-BRAN cereal and milk. Let stand about 2 minutes or until cereal softens. Add egg and shortening. Beat well. Add flour mixture, stirring only until combined. Portion evenly into twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin-pan cups coated with cooking spray.
  3. Bake at 400° F about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

Servings: 12

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes


Molasses: Decrease milk to 1/2 cup. Add 1/2 cup molasses to KELLOGG’S ALL-BRAN cereal with milk. Omit sugar. Follow directions above.

Toasted Cinnamon: Split cooled muffins in half crosswise. Spread cut surface liberally with butter. Sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoon cinnamon. Place buttered sides up on broiler rack. Toast under broiler for 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

The Benefits of Exercise on Diabetes

The Benefits of Exercise on Diabetes

by John Douthitt

General Manager – Mission Fitness* at the MCH Center for Health & Wellness

Regular activity is a key component of managing diabetes. When you are active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin allowing them to work more efficiently. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise.

Besides lowering one’s blood glucose and thus improving their A1C score, regular physical activity can help your body manage many health conditions. Some of the benefits of regular physical activity are the following:

  • Lowers blood glucose levels.
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Lowers one’s risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Burns calories to assist in maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Increase in energy throughout the day.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Stress reduction.
  • Improves circulation and cardiovascular output.
  • Strengthens muscle and bones.
  • Keeps your joints flexible.
  • Can improve balance thus reducing the likelihood of falls.
  • Improve one’s quality of life.

*Mission Fitness, the most advanced health and fitness complex in the Permian Basin, incorporates state-of-the-art facilities with the most cutting-edge training equipment available today. Whether you are training as part of a medical treatment plan, or just want to stay in the best physical condition you can, Mission Fitness is perfect for you. If you would like a tour of Mission Fitness, please visit the facility located on Hwy. 191 at Faudree Rd. (8050 E. Hwy 191) in Odessa, TX. For more information, call 432-640-6400.