Author: Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.


Mosquitoes find their victims by smell. Specifically, their sensory organs are trained to zero in on sources of carbon dioxide and lactic acid because these chemicals lead them to warm-blooded animals, like you and me.  Chemical repellents like OFF! repel mosquitoes, but not because mosquitoes don’t like the smell of these repellents. Rather, it’s because the chemical DEET is very effective at masking the smell of carbon dioxide and lactic acid. When you’re wearing DEET, the mosquitoes can’t smell you and so they leave you alone. Natural repellents like geranium oil or citronella work the same way, they just don’t seem…

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I’ll bet that a lot of you are just like me. I wake up every morning with the best of intentions. I’m going to nourish my body with wholesome nutritious foods and avoid junk food and mindless snacking. But sometimes, as the day goes on, I end up going off track. I impulsively order an oversized muffin at the coffee shop. I find myself munching on pretzels or M&Ms at my desk. I get to the end of the day and realize I haven’t had a single vegetable. Of course, we all have those days once in a while. But…

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Nutrition Diva listener Eddie writes: “I am in my first year of pharmacy school, so naturally I have to eat a lot of those quick and easy foods that contain a ton of sodium. Would drinking more water help the body to eliminate the excess sodium?” Hang on just a second, Eddie! Before I weigh in on your question about water and sodium, who says that being in school means that you have to eat a lot of high-sodium foods? Being short on time or money doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to survive on fast food and vending machine…

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One of the very first Nutrition Diva podcast episodes, back in 2008, was on the nutritional benefits of flaxseeds. Among other things, flaxseeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is helpful for folks who don’t eat fish. At the time, flaxseeds were more or less alone in that category. Since then, however, two new omega-3-rich seeds have exploded onto the scene. I’ve gotten lots of questions from you about chia and hemp seeds and how they compare with flax. So today, we’re going to have a seed showdown to see how these various seeds stack up. What…

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Q. The American Heart Association guidelines say that normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL. My triglyceride level is 40 mg/dL. Is that too low? If so, how can I raise my levels in a healthy way? A.  Very low triglyceride levels can signal problems. Diets that don’t contain enough fat, for example, can cause triglyceride levels to dip dangerously low. (See also: How Much Fat Should You Eat?) There are also some medical problems that can cause abnormally low triglycerides, such as an inability to absorb fats or hyperthyroidism. But a triglyceride level of 40 is considered perfectly…

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Nutrition Diva fan Liz writes: “What is vegetable glycerin and is it safe? I’ve heard some diabetics use it as a sugar substitute.” The other day, I was using some vanilla extract in a recipe and noticed that the extract itself had a sweet taste. Liquid extracts often use an alcohol base to preserve the flavor but this particular product (labeled “alcohol-free”) used glycerin instead. I know that vanilla extracts made with alcohol aren’t sweet and I found myself wondering about the nutritional properties of glycerin.   Does it affect the body like sugar? Is it calorie-free? What is Glycerin? Glycerin comes from…

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Q. How do you calculate the fat percentage of a food based on the information given on the Nutrition Facts label? For example, if I want to choose a deli meat that is at least 98% fat free, how do I figure that out? A. I think I can answer this without having to call in the Math Dude! To calculate the fat percentage, you could simply divide the number of fat grams by the serving size grams. Let’s take this Nutrition Facts label from some roasted turkey as an example. A serving is 28 grams and it contains 1…

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We’ll be ringing in a new year in a few days and I daresay a few glasses of champagne or other spirits will be enjoyed by many Nutrition Diva listeners. So this seems like the perfect time to address some of the lore about alcohol and nutrition. For example, is it a good idea to eat a big meal if you’re going to be drinking? If you’ve over-indulged, can certain foods ward off a hangover? Is it true that alcohol is metabolized into sugar or that it blocks your body’s ability to burn fat?  Answers to these and other frequently…

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Lizette writes, “Can you explain what types of foods contain protein, carbohydrates, and starches so that we know exactly what you mean when you use these terms?” I like to think that it’s possible to eat healthy without having a degree in nutrition. So when I talk about nutrients like protein or carbohydrates, I always try to include examples of actual foods. For example, in my article on the benefits of protein, I suggested that protein foods such as eggs, meat, fish, soy, peanuts, and other legumes are great for controlling your appetite because they keep you satisfied for longer.  I’ve…

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The multi-billion weight loss industry has a dirty little secret: Dieting doesn’t work. To be sure, almost any diet out there will produce weight loss if you follow the rules.  Some of them will even produce very quick, dramatic weight loss. However, the majority of people who lose weight on diets will eventually gain it all back. Often, with interest. Don’t despair: I do have a solution! But first, let’s take a quick look at why diets are doomed to fail. Dieting Triggers Hormonal Changes That Lead to Weight Gain Much has been made over a recent study which found…

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