Clinician’s Corner Re-Post: Is There a “Best Way” to Take Vitamins?

Tis the season! I know, I know, holidays are over, but National Folic Acid Awareness Week has started (as of yesterday) January 4 and will continue on until January 11, 2015. Go Folic! Women’s Nutrition Project of SFDPH is thrilled to announce that as part of our folic acid awareness campaign, we are collaborating with many community health clinics in SF, to distribute a promotional bottle of multi-vitamins (with folic acid) for women of reproductive age (13-44 years old)!

To kick today off, we are reprising one of our favorite blogs written by Barbara Kaas, to help remind all of us the best way to take vitamins (it’s easy, but I bet it’s not just me who can make a multi-vitamin work more efficiently in my body).

Go Folic! Be Healthy!

Throughout National Folic Acid Awareness Week (NFAAW), we’ve been encouraging readers to “Go Folic” by taking a daily multi-vitamin with 400-800 mcg of folic acid. So we thought that this would be a great time to re-publish one of our most popular blog posts, “Is There a ‘Best Way’ to Take Vitamins?” by guest blogger and project consultant, Barbara Kass, RNCNP, MSN.

Best way for taking vitamins?Morning or Evening?  With or Without Food? Is there a  “Best Way” to take a vitamin supplement?

If you’re reading this, you already know that taking a daily multivitamin with 400-800 mcg of folic acid is good for your health. But how can you get the most from your supplement? It all has to do with when and how you take it.

On an empty stomach or with food?

Try to take your supplement with a meal. Your body makes better use of vitamins when you already have…

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Foodie Tuesday is almost here!

Foodie Tuesday has returned! …Except we’re a day late…so we would like to introduce Foodie Wednesday this week!

Fall is here, but not for much longer. In nearly one month winter will have set in, and unhealthy eating & laziness will also be setting in… NOT! Wait a minute……. Just because the months of notorious unhealthy eating are creeping up on us doesn’t mean we have to let all of our hard work with our bodies go to waste. Beginning this coming Tuesday, November 25, we will provide you with yummy recipes for eating healthy throughout the cold months to come.

We wanted to warm you up this week with an overview of some of the fresh, rich in folate, produce our beautiful state of California provides us, in the fall and winter months.  california-dreaming-panoAnd to the rest of the world outside of California, all of these foods still apply to you (but you may have to be a little more creative)!

FYI: We will be using the words folic acid and folate interchangeably, like we explained two weeks ago, folic acid and folate are essentially the same, the difference is how the body recognizes it.

Dark Leafy Greens
-Spinach- 1cup= 263 mcg of folate
-Collard Greens- 1cup= 177mcg of folate
-Romaine Lettuce- 1cupe= 76 mcg of folate
Broccoli– 1cup= 24% of daily folic acid recommendation
Citrus Fruits
-Papaya- 1 papaya= 115mcg of folate
-Oranges- 1 orange= 40mcg of folate
-Grapefruit- 1 grapefruit= 30mcg of folate
Brussels Sprouts– 1cup= 25% of daily folic acid recommendation
Cauliflower– 1cup= 55mcg of folate and approx. 14% of daily folic acid recommendation
Beets– 1cup= 76mcg of folate and approx. 20% of daily folic acid recommendation
Celery– 1cup= 34mcg of folate and approx. 8% of daily folic acid recommendation
Winter Squash– 1cup= 57mcg of folate and approx. 14% of daily folic acid recommendation.


Now that we are all aware of some of the folate rich produce available in the fall and winter months, we can let the information marinate until Tuesday. Make sure to stay tuned and bring your appetite next week!

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.

Hi again…!

Hi again everyone! It’s been a while since we’ve last posted, so we decided to start to get back on track. First things first, a warm welcome to all of our new followers and an even warmer hello to our dedicated previous followers. Go Folic! Get Healthy is a nutritional project we have created here in San Francisco. We are all about YOU! Our primary focus is ensuring every female of child-bearing age gets the proper amount of folic acid (according to the NIH an average of 400mcg). Go Folic! Get Healthy is so committed to making sure every female in SF can get adequate folic acid we provide FREE VITAMINS!! Currently you can come to 30 Van Ness, suit 210 during business hours (Monday – Thursday, 1pm-4pm) and we will give you a free bottle of multivitamins.

Folic Acid Awareness Week is January 5, 2014- January 11, 2014 and during that week we will have so many great activities going on in the community, but most importantly that will be the start of your local community clinics distributing multivitamins. Way more convenient, right?!

WHAT IS IT REALLY? What is folic acid?? Folic acid is water-soluble B vitamin, which is important for women to get before, during, and after pregnancy. Folic Acid helps produce DNA and form healthy new cells. The process of creating new healthy cells is inevitably important to a developing fetus.

WHY? Why, you ask. 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned! WHAT THE FOLIC?? So all you women out there who are not planning on having a baby anytime soon and women who are…. Listen up…. Folic Acid is VERY important in helping reduce the number of babies born with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are defects in the brain or spine of the developing fetus, which ultimately lead to various problems when the baby is born.

So now that we know why us ladies should take folic acid if we get pregnant, let’s talk about the other reasons we want to take folic acid. How many times have you looked in the mirror and wondered when is your hair finally going to grow out of the, not-so-hot-haircut-anymore? Well ladies, fortunately the answer has been right in front of us. Yes, you guessed correctly, the answer is folic acid. Folic acid has shown to increase the rate of hair and nail growth. And speaking from first hand experience here at Go Folic! Get Healthy, we have experienced it ourselves!

So let’s recap… to help prevent any neural tube defects from happening, as well as to expedite your hair & nail growth, a daily multivitamin with 400mcg of folic acid, as well as eating folate rich foods help reduce your chances (or grow longer hair)! You can find folate (the form of folic acid once it gets broken down in the body) in food such as dark green vegetables, beans, and fortified cereals. In addition, a few fruits such as, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, oranges and grapefruit juice also are rich in folate.

Well ladies and gent’s (those of you wise guys who want to ensure their girlfriend, wife, sister, cousin, etc. stay healthy) it’s been a pleasure… This is just the start of many more blogs to come. As we continue to blog we will get more in depth of the specifics of folic acid. If there are any specific questions on folic acid please comment and let us know. Also, if there are any topics in particular you want to know more about, we can also take request for blog topicsJ

Until next time, keep folicin’ San Francisco.


Introducing Jenelle Merzon!

Please join us in welcoming Jenelle Merzon to the Go Folic! family.  Jenelle comes to us from Tuoro University, where she is earning her Masters in Public Health degree (MPH).  She will be interning with Go Folic! through January 2015, working on creating a multi-pronged SFDPH-wide event in conjunction with next year’s Folic Acid Awareness Week, scheduled for January 5, 2015 through January 11, 2015.  As Jenelle will also become a regular contributor to this blog, we promise to keep readers updated on our 2015 Folic Acid Awareness Week plans as they take shape.

In the meantime, here is Jenelle in her own words…

Jenelle MerzonI was born and raised on the central coast in San Luis Obispo, California.  I attended the University of California, Santa Barbara and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a minor in Exercise Physiology.  I have always had an interest in the human body and a passion for staying healthy through exercise and proper nutrition.  These passions led me to physical therapy.

The experience I gained while working in physical therapy set my foundation for pursuing a Masters of Public Health.  I will receive my MPH in December 2014, with an emphasis in Community Public Health, from Touro University, California.  I have volunteered and worked on many different community health projects, ranging from coordinating health promotion events to being a research assistant at Touro University.  While at Touro University I worked on studies that focused on improving MPH student’s health competencies and skills.  I am very excited for the opportunity to begin my internship with the GoFolic! Project within the Department of Public Health, San Francisco.

I am much more than just school and work!  You can commonly find me training for marathons, snowboarding, or attempting to train my dachshund puppies.  Most recently you’ll notice that I love being a newlywed with my husband, Andre.  I would probably be most known for being goofy, a vegetarian for 20+ years with no real reason why, and taking trips around the world.



A Warm Welcome to Camarin Sanford!

We want to welcome Camarin Sanford, who will be working as an intern with the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Family Planning Program (Go Folic!’s parent program) through February 2015.  Ms. Sanford, who comes to us with a wealth of experiences in the social work field, is looking to expand her skills as a sexual health educator.  Among other projects, she will be updating our Pregnancy Referral Manual, coordinating community groups to review and approve client education materials, and helping to craft (and deliver) several fun sexual health education sessions at one of our partner organizations, the San Francisco Black Infant Health Program.  We are also hoping that she will contribute some posts to this blog.

Without further ado, here is Camarin in her own words…

Bio PictureGreetings!

My name is Camarin Sanford and I am a south Sacramento, CA native. I am currently a Title X Open Doors Intern with the San Francisco Department of Public Health Family Planning Program. Additionally, I serve as the Family Services Manager at a San Francisco based non-profit drug treatment center servicing female offenders on parole.

While interning with the Family Planning Program I endeavor to explore and advance the alliance of mental health and public health services and to propel its impact on young women of color. Historically, the African-American female body and African-American sexuality was a commoditized product. As a result of this devaluation, in addition to many complex extraneous variables, the understanding of African-American female sexuality can be nebulous. While interning, I will strive to learn about the ways in which women of color, specifically African-American women, can be linked to lasting and effective public health, mental health, and sexual health services.   I am training to become a sexual health educator and reproductive health specialist to foster sexual health equity among at-risk populations.

I am a proud and esteemed alum of Clark-Atlanta University where I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. While in Atlanta, I trained extensively as a post abortion counselor, juvenile mental health intern, and case manager during my undergraduate matriculation. As a result of these experiences, I found my passion to serve others. I plan to earn my MPH/MSW in the coming year.

Find a way or make one!

Fun Facts about me:

  • I have skydived from 13,000 feet!
  • I was born with eleven fingers!
  • I own more pairs of Converse™ Chuck Taylors than I do high heels!
  • I love the Miami Dolphins!!

Women’s Health News Round-Up: November 15, 2013

This week’s news round-up focuses on health events and new or revised health resources.  What’s included?  A New York Times article about the question of why Americans weigh more now than we did 40 years ago, Diabetes Awareness Month, lesbian/bi/queer women and STI risk, and the relative benefits of HPV vs. pap screening.

Gut bacteriaWhy do Americans Weigh More Now than We Did 40 Years Ago?
For many people it seems clear that the “obesity epidemic” (a phrase we don’t like) is due to bigger portion sizes and less physical activity, a view that is not supported by the research – you cannot tell how much someone eats or exercises just by looking at them.  However, a recent article in the New York Times explores one important factor with which few people are  familiar – changes in the gut bacteria that help us digest carbohydrates, provide vitamins, and regulate how much fat our body stores.  Click here to read the article.

National Diabetes Month 2013November is Diabetes Awareness Month!
Diabetes is a preconception health issue.  Uncontrolled, both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes raise the risk of problems for baby and mother. Diabetes affects nearly 26 million Americans and an estimated 79 million people are at risk for developing it. During November, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and its partners are working with individuals, families and communities to take action and encourage simple, but important lifestyle changes to improve their health – particularly if they have diabetes or are at risk for the disease.

Also during Diabetes Awareness Month, the American Diabetes Association, which sponsors the event, is focusing on raising awareness that diabetes is a condition that affects people who have it on a daily basis.  They are inviting people with diabetes to share their photos and stories of living with the disease on Facebook as part of their “Day in the Life of…” campaign.

What to cook if you have diabetes? You can download “Tasty Recipes for People with Diabetes and Their Families” by clicking here (PDF – 1 MB).

Lesbians in love - still from the Taiwanese film, Spider Lilies"Are women who have sex with women at risk for getting STIs?
The website recently updated their website for lesbian and bisexual women.  They now provide a whole section on how STIs are transmitted during sex between women.  In addition to impairing fertility, untreated STIs – including some that are more likely to affect women who have sex with women and trans men,  can affect a developing fetus and raise the risk for preterm birth.  Access the health fact sheet here.

a doctor talks to her patientHPV Screening vs. Pap Smears
Finally, a new study published in the Lancet suggests that screening for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is more effective than Pap tests for protecting women against invasive cervical cancer.  This is life-saving news for the 12,340 who are diagnosed with the condition annually.  Get the full story here.

Why aren’t we all talking about Renisha McBride? Racial Injustice as a Public Health Issue

Go Folic! usually steers clear of controversy.  So why I am writing this post, especially as I am one of only two regular contributors to this blog? As a white woman who is concerned with women’s well-being and who works in the field of public health, I feel compelled to speak out, and to ask my other white colleagues to follow suite.

Who is Renisha McBride?

Renisha McBride funeral coverAt about 2:30 AM on Saturday, November 2, Renisha McBride got into a car accident in her home neighborhood of Dearborn, Michigan. She decided to knock on the door of a nearby house in order to seek assistance.  After being refused help, she began to walk away. It was then that the 70-year old homeowner shot her in the back of the head with a rifle, claiming that he feared for his life.

As many of her advocates have pointed out, if Renisha had been white and the elderly man who shot her had been black, the shooter would have been jailed and the national news machine would have picked up this story immediately.  But Renisha was black, and the shooter was white. It’s Sunday morning now, and this story is getting more coverage in the mainstream press . However, early on, one of the only non-black national news sources to cover the story was (thank you, Joan Walsh).

I am a progressive news junkie – a day doesn’t pass when I don’t listen to KPFA, watch the evening news, and peruse the headlines of the New York Times.  The fact that it took almost a full week for me to learn about Ms. McBride’s death – via a Davey D interview on Hard Knock Radio with filmmaker Dream Hampton – says much about the state of racism and racial injustice in America.

Theodore Paul Wafer, the man who used such force when he shot Renisha that her family was unable to hold an open casket funeral, cited Michigan’s “Stand Your Ground Law” as justification, claiming that he was afraid for his life. How can one be threatened by an unarmed teenage girl who is walking away from you?  It is certainly beyond me to understand.  There can be no justification for what happened.

Why write about Renisha McBride on a health blog?

Within public health circles, it is well known that African-American women are two to three times more likely than white women to give birth to babies that are born too small (low birthweight, or less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) and too early (preterm, or at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy). These health disparities continue to impact the health of black women, men and children throughout the life course; poor birth outcomes predict infant mortality, as well as other adverse outcomes, from child disabilities and asthma to adult cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

When first presented with these statistics, I assumed that poverty (certainly a result of racism) was to blame.  It was overwhelming to learn that even black women who are well-educated and financially successful – in other words, women who I count among my friends and colleagues – experience poor birth outcomes at two to three times the rate of their white peers.

Why do these disparities exist, even after socioeconomic status is taken into account?  As Jason Silverstein so eloquently documents in a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, “Racism is Bad for Our Bodies.” Living in a world where one not only experiences discrimination, but also must ready oneself to experience it on a daily basis creates a constant state of stress that a growing number of studies have shown to increase the risk of everything from depression, to hypertension to breast cancer to infant mortality. As Mr. Silverstein points out, the problem is so pronounced and so so serious that two prestigious journals – The American Journal of Public Health and The Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race – dedicated entire issues to the subject.

What is a white woman’a role?

In her interview with Davey D, which you can listen to in the KPFA archives, Dream Hampton states that white women have an obligation to confront our own racism and our own fears of black people.  I suspect that many of us who work in public health would maintain that in embracing the “fight” against health disparities, we have already done so.

black dad and babyIs this actually the case?  In my fields – reproductive and Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) – black men are usually excluded from conversations (and program funding), even though for the majority of women, they are one half of the equation.  Even worse, black men are frequently demonized as the perpetrators of violence against black women.

These beliefs clearly reflect the racial narrative that is woven into the fabric of white American culture and media, in which people who inhabit black or brown bodies are portrayed as criminals, as slaves, as victims, but rarely as full human beings.

Black folks are not a cause…

Recently, I was asked to join a community advisory board for a project that is addressing race-based health disparities.  During our first meeting, members were asked to state why we were interested in the project.  Almost every white woman at the table, myself included, said something about her commitment to “The Cause.” However, black members’ responses were women far more personal, as women talked eloquently about their own experiences and/or the real life impact of racial injustice on the health of people that they loved.

I thought about my own response long after the meeting.  Intuitively, I knew it was wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on why, despite how deeply troubling I found it.  When I sat down to write this post, it hit me – I had turned black women into a cause, an act that is every bit as dehumanizing as acting on other racial stereotypes can be.

“It’s the Skin We’re In”

We cannot escape the skin we’re in, no matter our color.  But those of us who are white can afford to ignore its consequences.  In a study that was initially published in the January 2009 issue of the Maternal and Child Health Journal, black women of all socioeconomic backgrounds reported racism experiences during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and vigilance in anticipating future racism events.

The “cause” of racism I can walk away from when I leave my office if I am white. It is much more difficult to walk away from racism when I understand a problem as affecting colleagues and people I love on a daily basis.

Were I to have a daughter of Renisha’s age who found herself in the same circumstances, I would want her to be able to seek help, in whatever neighborhood she found herself.  Living in a world where one must constantly fear for one’s own life or the life of one’s children, can only intensify the health impacts of discrimination.

As one protester in Detroit pointed out to a Voice of Detroit Reporter, “I have a twelve-year-old daughter. I don’t want to hear this kind of news about her. We have a Black President, but it is still open season on us. I’ve been working since the age of 14 and have three college degrees, but people still stereotype me, following me around as I’m shopping.”

It is incumbent upon all of us who work in the health field and are white to support our black sisters and brothers in their fight to ensure an end to this “open season” on black folks of all ages.  We must make repealing “Stand Your Ground” laws and “Stop and Frisk” policies a matter of public health.

Before that, If we genuinely want no more Oscar Grants, no more Trayvon Martins, no more Jack Lamar Robersons, no more Jonathan Ferrells, and no more Renisha McBrides, we must confront the racist, irrational fears we hold of both black women and men. (Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine can be good place to start). We must refuse to feel comfortable with or to support media portrayals of black men and women as criminals, victims, or causes, and examine our motives in wanting to help.  We must listen to and acknowledge the stories that black folks tell about their experiences of racism.  And we must invite our other white friends and colleagues to do the same.

In Closing


Shivaun Nestor, Go Folic! CoordinatorWritten with great respect,

Thoughts? Differences of opinion?  Please comment, remembering that we reserve the right to moderate and expect that people discuss issues with respect.