Today, we’re going to have a super fun conversation with Lara because we love the same things, food, and drugs! LOL Lara is an IFM Certified Practitioner, nutritionist, pharmacist and public health professional based in New York City. She combines evidence-based nutrition and complementary medicine, including positive psychology, to inspire patients to use whole food, herbs and lifestyle modification to optimize their health. Her training in drug-drug and drug-nutrient interactions also gives her a unique perspective on helping patients optimize their medication and supplement programs. Lara works with her patients to help them find practical and delicious options to help them thrive within the demands of their unique lifestyles. She’s experienced in working with complex cases addressing digestive issues, autoimmune conditions, cognitive health, metabolic disease, and weight loss resistance, layering in customized therapeutic dietary plans.  Stay tuned, as Lara educate us about the importance of nutrition and drugs based on the lifestyle we have. She brings 2 different professions to her practice, her extensive knowledge of nutrition, with the combination of her pharmacy roots, for her patients to get the best out of both worlds and we’ll learn from that in this episode.   What we talk about
  • How pharmacy is going back to its roots, which is personalized medications
  • What are nutrients and why are they so important in our bodies.
  • How our medical solutions are not necessarily with a pill.
  • Reversal of some chronic diseases with lifestyle changes is possible
  • How foods are a cultural link to your family and how different they are based on the area you grew up.
  • The importance of nutrition. Why it’s not just filling up your stomach but actually getting nutrition. 
  • Is there a need for a supplement
  • We talked about how much I love plantains! LOL
  • And a bunch more topics related to health and food.

Links mentioned in this episode

  Let me know what you think about our conversation and if you have any questions!!! 

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MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 0:10 Hola, and welcome to The Legal Drug Dealer podcast where you would get health and prescription drug education and advice so you can take control of your own health by making your own decisions. My name is Marilena Grittani. I am a clinical pharmacist with experience in community pharmacy, like the ones that you go and get prescription drugs, stay with me and learn from my experience and the experience of experts that I have invited to educate us. Why The Legal Drug Dealer you might ask well as a pharmacist, I deal drugs and it is a legal job. So I think it’s funny to call myself The Legal Drug Dealer. So that’s the name of my podcast. Here you have the next episode. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 0:49 Hi there. Today I’m presenting episode number three of our functional medicine series. So welcome Lara to The Legal Drug Dealer podcast. Thank you for coming. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 0:59 Thank you for having me.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:03 Well, it’s been a while we talked the first time what like four months ago you were traveling somewhere warm and we were freezing here. I remember you were at the airport. So finally  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:10 that’s actually the other way around. I was going somewhere even colder. I was going from New York to Denver, Colorado to go snowboarding.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:17 Oh, well, that’s a bad bad situation. I’m so sorry. You had to suffer that much. I’ve been there. Did you go to Vail?  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:24 I didn’t. That time I went to copper.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:26 Copper. Copper is very nice to me and it’s not that many people. Yeah, yeah.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:29 One of my favorites.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:30 Yes. Perfect. Okay, so let’s just talk about your pharmacy career. I would like to know first of all, why did you become a pharmacist? And how long ago was that?  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:41 So I graduated from pharmacy school, almost 20 years ago. I just, I just dated myself there  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:48 she doesn’t look that old guy. She looks like 23 I’m gonna tell you that.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:52 Thank you, your my favorite person now. Thank you, I appreciated that. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 1:54 Yeey. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 1:56 and I you know, the decision to go to pharmacy school was mostly based on the fact that I really loved science. And I really particularly enjoyed biochemistry. So I remember at the time, my guidance counselor and I having these conversations about what I wanted to be when I grew up, and at the time, I was actually a dancer at the time. And I really wanted to do something like physical therapy or chiropractic that was something that was really appealing to me, just the idea of being able to maximize the body’s potential through movement. And he suggested that on my way to graduate school that maybe I should do something practical, like pharmacy, and, you know, I debated on it a little bit and the end, I applied to Rutgers, and I got in at the time, it was a really competitive program. And so sort of the logical side of me said, you know what, give it a try. Let’s see how it goes. I really wanted to help people. I thought it would be really cool to have a background in pharmacy and if I decided to go on and pursue something else, then I’d have this really solid foundation. And I would be able to along the way be able to help people and work with people and be part of the healthcare team.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 3:12 Oh really good. That’s, that’s mostly what we do. We just want to help people. And if people allow us, right,  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 3:19 yeah MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 3:19  sometimes so it’s a problem. Okay. So  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 3:21 for shadowing my plans changed? I did not. I did not end up going to physical therapy school after that. But yes.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 3:30 So what did you do then?  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 3:32 So I actually after I graduated from pharmacy school, I started working in retail or community pharmacy. And over the course of the years, I worked in various big chain pharmacies, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, you name it, I’ve probably set foot in almost all of them. And then I eventually transitioned over to work in an independent pharmacy and for a little while, I was actually even a manager of for one of those independent pharmacies as well, and I really actually enjoyed that I made  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 4:04 just as the best type of job in retail for from my standpoint. So based on that, what are you doing right now? Are you still working in a pharmacy? Or are you doing something else?  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 4:15 No, I’ve shifted gears pretty considerably since then. So I’ve taken all those years of experience working in community pharmacy and retail. And I shifted into doing consulting work for pharmacists who are interested in integrative medicine. Along the way, I developed a passion for nutrition and remembering how much I really loved biochemistry. I pursued a master’s in nutrition where the focus really was on nutritional biochemistry. And in fact, I get to teach that now. I’m an adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport, where I teach on nutritional biochemistry. And being able to put those things together really reminded me first of all, how grateful I was to my guidance counselor for helping me realize I should go to pharmacy school because I was able to draw on all the foundational knowledge and apply it then to nutrition. And a lot of people say, oh, there’s not a big relationship between pharmacy and nutrition, they’re sort of opposites. And I argue they’re actually very similar. The underlying mechanisms, the way that our body cells work, the different pathways that it takes in order to get the job done. They’re all the same pathways. In pharmacy, we’re usually utilizing external things, things that we have to ingest, whether they be drugs, whether they be vitamins, whatever they are, we’re going to look at the way that they interact with our body so that we get the kind of response that we want. In nutrition, we happen to focus a little bit more on the way that we’re interacting with our diet, as well as the same vitamins and nutrients and herbs and how they’re going to then either enhance a particular pathway or turn down a particular pathway.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 6:02 Yeah, I remember being in pharmacy school a long time ago, and one of our classes was pharmaco anoxia, which was the way that you come up with medicines or treatments from plants or animals and that and then you just make the concoction and you fix it. And I remember going through that class and thinking about Grandma, because she would give us a tea concoction a, whatever she makes in the kitchen, from the garden before she went to the doctor, she gave us a pill. And that was the way that I grew up. And of course, pharmacy schools then taught us galenic, which is to make drugs on your own, you make them by hand. That’s the basics that we learned. So I’m like, yeah, that’s the way that it should be. And now we have all these commercial drugs that are not but people need. So it’s just, it’s just a different way to see it. But I do value the the options of getting healed with food or with herbs, or, you know, all kinds of stuff that I know you’re going to entertain us with. But people don’t think about it. Because  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 7:20 and people forget the origins of pharmacy were based in plant medicine. Pharmacognosy like, I’m so glad you brought that up. And a lot of the more recent grads from pharmacy school didn’t have, don’t have pharmacognosy anymore. But that’s the original study of how like you said food and plants interact and how we derive those active components. So essentially, we’re really revisiting our roots when we revisit herbalism and food as medicine  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 7:51 because before we had companies that made all these drugs, that’s the way that it was. And humans survived for centuries. So that’s the way that it should be the same way that people are going back to organic, or planting or using, you know, handmade stuff rather than mass production.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 8:10 Yeah, these things concepts aren’t new. They’re they’re old concepts. And they’re worth revisiting and putting on a new investigative lens and really understanding the more and I love that in the field of in the nutraceutical world, in the in the world where they’re making these new compounds from plants, right? I love how they’re advancing the way that the, the way that they’re pulling those extracts and finding out what’s the most powerful component of that plant. And then they’re putting it into a delivery form that’s going to be the most absorbed by our body. And these are all thanks to more modern advances in science, but they’re applying it to plants and food and nutrients. And that’s really, really cool.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 8:56 It is. It looks, I mean for us that our geeks is awesome. But for people that might not be in the same line of work, they might like what is just food? What do you mean? But there is a lot of chemical reactions and a lot of transformation that occurs in your body once you ingest whatever it is whether it’s a good food or junk food or a vitamin or medication, and it has consequences, and it has interactions, and it has a lot to do with the way that you are with other diseases that you might have or your genetics, or your culture. And the diet is so many different stuff. So I have talked about this in general with medications before but we have never never approached it from the nutrition standpoint. And that is my passion because I love to cook one and two. My minor isn’t food technology, or Grammatology, so  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 9:49 that’s so cool.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 9:50 For me, this is my thing actually, that’s what I wanted to do. But you know, life changes a little bit, but I’m really passionate about it. I tried to keep a balanced diet. I try to rotate ingredients because I know the nutrition that it provides will give me a different resources for my body that I need. Not eating. Not Try not to eat the same thing all the time. But talk about nutrition a little bit. Why is nutrition so important? Why is not just filling up your body? I’m sorry, your tummy with food, but actually getting nutrition? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 10:23 That’s a great question. And you said something before and I’m actually going to use it. As my example. You said that what we put in our body communicates to us and that’s what it is. Food is information. Food is delicious. All right. I love food. I mean, I think we both do. I think most of us really love food.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 10:42 Yeah. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 10:42 Food is also the way that we relate to our family and part of our culture. It’s what we hand down to the next generation that really ties us to where we come from. So it’s, it’s there’s a lot that comes along with food but that same emphasis also talks to our body. So basically, if you’re eating food that is made with love, that is full of nutrients, that is colorful, that is got variety to it, right that you can enjoy the smell of and really appreciate. That’s going to communicate something to your body. It’s going to communicate gratitude. It’s going to communicate connection. It’s a way that we can relate, we eat a meal, and we talk about Oh, how delicious this is. And thank you so much for making this and this is my favorite. And next time you should add a little bit more XYZ. That’s all part of the conversation and what we communicate from from that. On a deeper level, those nutrients in the food, then communicate to our body. They go into our digestive tract, they start talking to our bacteria that’s sitting in our gut, and they start giving them instructions and telling them hey, I’ve got some vitamin C in here. I’ve got some broccoli in here. You know, I’ve got some protein in here, here’s what I need you to do. And in fact, that then starts to translate to our body and to our DNA, what to do? So we talked about eating the rainbow. We talked about eating a lot of different colors and a lot of different variety. Why do we do that there’s a component in plant based food, that’s a phytonutrient. They’re basically natural found chemicals that are in all plant foods, okay, and there’s hundreds, if not thousands of them, we actually don’t know how many that there are. We’ve identified quite a few of them. And what we do know is that the color of the food is usually a function of the kind of combination of these chemicals. And so if you eat a variety of colors, you’ll get a variety of these chemicals and you sort of want to collect them all you want to get as many of them in your diet as often as possible so that you can maximise on their benefits. These phytochemicals go in, they hang out with your gut bacteria. And they go, Hey, you know what I need you to do? This person has a genetic marker for cancer. I need to turn that down. All right, this person looks like they’ve got some diabetes happening. I need you to turn that down. And it actually starts sense telling the body to start repairing that damage. Dr. Terry walls. She’s a physician that did a lot of extensive research on MS in particular, but on autoimmune disease in general. And in fact, she has MS. And she reversed the progression of her disease. She was a physician working at the VA. And it got to the point that her disease had progressed to where she was in a wheelchair and she was in danger of losing her job and she is a really amazing compassionate physician. And so she started doing this research LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 14:00 And because of the plant based diet that she was following, she was able to reverse her MS. She went from a wheelchair to completely mobile, she rides a bike, she walks she lecture standing. I mean, she is a powerhouse. If you don’t know her story, you’ve got to look up her story. She’s pretty, pretty amazing. She’s pretty amazing. But what we learned from her was that eating this diverse Phytonutrient dense diet and she gets into the detail she does her homework she she did her research. And she can tell you that if you eat this particular combination of phytonutrients that not only can you stop the progress of disease, but you can actually send signals and instructions to repair the damage. And if that’s not powerful, I don’t know what is  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 14:54 amazing. I think that sounds like No, that’s not true. It’s so cool that it might be hard to believe. Yeah, it is so good. Okay, so that is that why when I go to the grocery store I get like a purple cauliflower and then a yellow cauliflower and then the regular cauliflower. Are they just giving me different phytonutrients? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 15:15 yeah, there’ll be a difference in the phytonutrients. And so again, get as many as you can, but don’t just stick to cauliflower. Right? cauliflower is great because cauliflower is actually a cruciferous vegetable as well. So though, because their first vegetables are things like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, you might notice they have something in common. They’re a little stinky. I call them the stinky veggies, because when you start to cook them, they have that very distinct sort of almost egg like smell to them. That’s the sulfur component that’s opening up when you cook them. That sulfur component is really helpful for detoxification. So that’s one component of the foods that you want to get. So if you get cauliflower and you get the white one, the purple one and you know, the green  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 16:00 orange is really pretty.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 16:02 Yeah, they are very pretty. They make a beautiful arrangement for sure. But you want to get other vegetables too. So you want to get some radishes and some beets. And then you want to throw in things like berries, blackberries, blueberries, you know the raspberries and get all those other deep, different colors. And the deeper the color, the better. And we can’t forget about our leafy greens, right, we can’t forget about our spinach and our rubella and soy chard, the bok choy and all those beautiful, bitter vegetables. Those bitters helped to stimulate and improve digestion, which is going to help you improve the way that you absorb your nutrients as well. So they’re actually going to get improved the way that your body absorbs nutrients. Plus, they are dense and full of all the phytonutrients we’re talking about as well as fiber LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 17:00 That’s the other reason we want to eat a good amount of vegetables and fruit in our diet because we really need to up the fiber. Did you know that the average American doesn’t meet the minimum recommendation for fiber that’s established by, you know, the experts. So the experts recommend a minimum of 15 to 30 grams of fiber per day. My opinion, that’s still not enough. I think most of us need to get between 40 to 55 grams of fiber per day, depending if you’re male or female. The average American barely hits 10.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 17:34 Wow.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 17:35 Right.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 17:36 Yeah, because they’re vegetables is potatoes. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 17:37 Which potato is does have a starch in it. But how many potatoes can you possibly eat in a day?  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 17:44 Well, it’s 10.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 17:44 Meanwhile if you – Wow, that’s a fair point. That’s a fair point. But if you get a whole bunch of leafy greens and you saute them a little bit like this much leafy green turns into lay about a tablespoon MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 17:56  I know. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 17:57 So you can get a lot more fiber into your diet because you can blend it, you puree, you can saute it, and you can get more whenever we cook our vegetables, they shrink a little bit, which helps us eat a little bit more of them.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 18:10 True. True. So about nutrition and all this so we get all the vitamins that we need from food. So then there’s no need for supplements, or is it? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 18:23 I wish I could say that was enough to eat just our just from food and get everything that we need. And maybe once upon a time, that was a possibility. Unfortunately, due to our agricultural practices, the nutrient density of our food isn’t what it used to be. They actually did some studies and they looked at the nutrient density of vegetables in the 50s compared to vegetables today, and they actually found that they didn’t compare the vegetables back in the day actually had a higher nutrient density. So you’re probably wondering why, why are vegetables today not as nutrient dense, well has to do with our farming practices and our soil because of the way that you’re supposed to rotate crops and the sort of fertilizer and pesticides etc, that you’re supposed to be using. The current soil is depleted of its nutrients, well, just like us, plants need to get their nutrients too. So if you are growing the same crop in the same place using the same fertilizer, it’s essentially going to deplete the soil, you’re not going to get that same variety. We also protect our crops in a certain way so that we get better returns so you don’t get as many fluctuations from season to season and the number of plants that actually end up being produced, which is a good thing. It’s good for food security. But what that does is that it sort of pampers the plants a little bit but the crops get used to a safe environment. And it turns out remember those phytonutrients I was talking about those phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and the minerals LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 20:00 The plant actually gets richer in those when it has some adversity to deal with. So when it has to, it has to deal with temperature fluctuations, and has to deal with a little bit more adversity and shifts and changes. It actually develops more resilience just like people, right? When people have to deal with more adversity, we build more character, we become stronger, we become more resilient. Same thing with plants.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 20:24 So you’re just saying that I’m proving that I’m not crazy. Well, I might. Still. But what I’m trying to say is that I’m originally from Venezuela that is in South America and our crops are traditional. We don’t have mass production like it is here. It’s not done much technology. And our fruits and vegetables are not perfect. They’re, they look good, but they’re not perfect. Like yeah, that everyone is the same size, the same color there you have all kinds of variety. And I remember coming here when I came over 20 years ago, and I wanted to make a soup the way that grandma made it because that I was missing it, as you said at the beginning that, you know, link made  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 21:07 connection. Yeah, reminder.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 21:09 Yeah. And you had to make it because I’m the oldest of the grandkids and she taught me how to do it. And I did. I use the same ingredients and it did not taste the same.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 21:17 Yeah.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 21:17 And I remember telling her, yes grandma, but it didn’t have the same. Did you put this? Yeah. Did you put cilantro in. Yeah, I did. I did. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the water. But I never thought it could have been the way that they grow though around here. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 21:32 I’m originally from the Middle East, my family’s from Syria. And I remember and I grew up in New Jersey. And so New Jersey is very well known for its tomatoes. And I remember really loving tomatoes as a little kid. Like I really, I would like eat them like they were apples. They didn’t stand a chance you brought tomatoes into the house. They didn’t stand a chance in front of me. And I remember coming back home whenever I would go to Syria to visit and coming home and just there was a difference. There was a difference in the taste and it’s not the same. So you’re right. Now the good news is usually local farming practices and organic practices, improve the nutrient density of the food. So that’s great news. So if you live in an area where you have access to local farms or community sustained agriculture, a CSA take advantage of that. Because often they are using those traditional farming practices. And so their nutrient quality of the food that they’re producing is so much better, right? A lot of times are also cheaper.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 22:37 Yeah.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 22:38 So it’s a great way to eat more economically, right? Yeah.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 22:41 Actually, my husband can tell you if this, this is organic banana or not. I tried to trick him, I can’t because he knows LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 22:49 that’s impressive MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 22:49 The flavors are completely different, he says. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 22:52 That’s impressive. That’s really impressive. But that goes to prove that point, right. And so and then if you don’t have access to that or you need to you switching up different times of year, you might have to rely more on the grocery store, try to get organic when you can. The EWG has a great list called the Dirty Dozen and the clean fifteen. And that will tell you sort of the top most important foods that you should be buying organic to protect yourself from pesticide exposure. And that way, if you are on a budget, you don’t have to buy everything in your grocery cart doesn’t have to be organic. But this will help you narrow down the ones that are more important to buy organic and the ones that are a little bit safer to buy conventional. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 23:31 I mean those links in the show notes because I think everybody needs to access that and I will get one of them. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 23:38 And I believe that EWG just released their 2020 updated list. So um, yeah,  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 23:43 it will be very up to date so this is perfect. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 23:49 perfect.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 23:49 So  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 23:49 so just want to get back to your question, I just wanted to add one more thing so that you can improve your nutrient absorption by eating switching to organic, but for a lot of us it’s not realistic to get all our food organic, right? And it solves a problem to a certain extent, but not 100%. So I’m still seeing, especially after years of maybe not eating healthy, maybe you just started to eat a little bit more healthy. Maybe you’re starting to eat a little bit more vegetables, but it’s challenging to eat enough of them. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 24:19 Oh, I don’t like kale, ew.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 24:21 Yeah, and that’s okay.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 24:22 I’m sorry. I just don’t LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 24:23 and that’s okay. And that’s okay. That’s, I think where it starts to become important to start thinking about supplementation. And then furthermore, if you’re dealing with certain disease states, if you have diabetes, or high blood pressure, or maybe you have digestive issues, autoimmune diseases, things like that, that’s when you want to start thinking about Okay, I might be deficient in certain nutrients. And it’s great to lean on food and eat specific foods are really rich and those nutrients but if your body’s not doing a great job absorbing them, something’s happening where it’s not fully absorbing the nutrients from your food. You can eat a perfect diet, you’re not going to be able to get 100% of those things. Same if you’re already depleted or maybe you have genetics that make you need a nutrient more than the average person, you may not be able to reach those needs from your diet alone. And that’s why we might want to maximize your nutrient value with some supplements MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 25:20 and then it’s when you buy the multivitamins right,  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 25:23 maybe  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 25:25 okay, hold on let’s just make a pause here because I am one of the pharmacists that said no  multivitamins and at least not the ones that are popular in the market because they have a lot of stuff that you don’t really need. And then in a percentage that is like hello is way more than you need a day. And then if you take it every day, you end up having too many vitamins which is not ideal. People think that it will be so what is your point? What is your point of view for this? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 25:53 So I have a lot of opinions on this. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 25:55 Okay, go for it. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 25:57 I agree with you. I do not think most of the vitamins that are on the shelf at you know your, you know your usual retailer I’m not going to name any names. But at the usual store, you’re not going to usually find the highest quality vitamins for a few reasons. One is the actual form of the vitamin that they’re using is often not the most active or bioavailable form so bioavailable means whether or not your body can actually take it from that vitamin, pluck it out and actually use it in the body. Number two, they often don’t use the best ingredients to make those tablets or powders or liquid. So often you’ll see things like high fructose corn syrup or food coloring or additives things like that aren’t the best not only are they potentially preventing the proper absorption of those nutrients, but they themselves could be toxic and you take that day after day after day, it’ll add up even though it’s a tiny pill it’ll eventually out  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 26:56 But why do they do it then?  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 26:58 it’s cheaper. It’s cheaper. So you want to look for higher quality supplements, I really recommend that folks talk to an integrative provider, like a pharmacist who’s really familiar with nutritional medicine, or nutritionists that can really guide on this piece. And I usually recommend folks seek out the Institute of functional medicine, because they have a directory of providers that are trained in functional medicine, which is a field within integrative medicine that focuses on systems medicine and nutrition. So the providers that are trained in that pathway, all get exposure to nutrition, and they’re all very well aware of all the things that we’re talking about today in terms of the shortcomings of nutrients, and they can guide you in terms of what are the better options out there. And there are tons of pharmacies that are stocking these higher quality supplements as well. So it’s a good way to guide us. Now whether or not you should be taking a multi Vitamin? Look, if you’re not sure, it’s a good starting point, as long as you have a really good one. But if you can work with somebody to give you a little bit more direction and personalize it, I think that’s the ideal way to go. So it really depends where you are on this journey and what you’re willing to do. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got, I’ve got patients that they’re like, I’m taking one thing, I’m not taking 17 different things. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 28:25 Yup  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 28:25 And so I will do my best to find the multivitamin that’s going to hit all as many of the marks as I need to optimize this person’s health. And we’re just gonna, you know, we’re gonna do the best that we can between food and that one multivitamin. But when people are willing to take a take a few other things, then we can build a customized protocol for them. And that’s usually how we get people to get to the next level of their health. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 28:50 So how about the parents that think, Oh, my kid didn’t eat lunch today or he just picked a little bit of the veggies. I’m going to give him an extra multivitamin those gummy bears or stuff? What do you think about like that? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 29:03 Okay, so no multivitamin, I don’t care how great it is is going to replace lunch. So no, that’s not going to be enough but we can talk about doing things like a smoothie or adding a few extra ingredients in making it more of a treat. For example, I have to  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 29:22 popsicle LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 29:22 a popsicle. I have this great recipe for an avocado, chocolate pudding.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 29:28 What? Avocado LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 29:30 I’m not, no spinach in there, and no one knew. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 29:33 I’m rolling my eyes to her. I’m like what the heck is that? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 29:37 I know it sounds crazy, but it is so good. I promise you it’s so good. I’ll put a link to the recipe. It is phenomenal. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 29:47 I’m still rolling my eyes LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 29:49 you could do a smoothie with some berries and add a few greens in there right and then you can add some additional nutrients you can add some protein some extra healthy fats and sort of make it a little bit of a meal replacement. And most kids, if you hit the right combination, you can get them to eat that at least. At least you feel like a little bit more confident that they’re getting a little bit more of their nutrients. Now gummies, there are some great ways to make. Actually, I have different way I see gummies believe it or not, because a gummy is made out of collagen. And collagen can actually be really healthy for you.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 30:27 My hair, my nails. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 30:27 And they’re kind of like. Exactly, exactly. It’s part of the reason why bone broth is so popular right now is because it has a good amount of collagen in it. So it’s great for hair, nail bone growth, etc. Right exactly. skin. Exactly. So that’s, there is a way to do it the right way. However, most of the gummy type vitamins that are out on the market aren’t awesome. They’re not made the right way. I will, occasionally, I will prescribe to patients gummies supplements and then I’ve had some patients actually make some gummy supplements at home. So for folks that are DIY, there are ways to sort of also do it on your home.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 30:32 Respurceful. yeah LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 31:06 Yeah, you can be resourceful and you can make them it’s usually even cheaper than what you can find out. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 31:09 I need a sauce with a treat. Actually, I have a very handsome one living here with me for a while now. But he’s speaking and he likes his tweets and he’s trying to lose weight so I decided he likes a popsicle. So I choose blended..He likes passion fruit and he likes strawberry. So but every time I put another fruit on it to give him more variety, right so I don’t make the same thing all the time. And it’s kind of a game so what is it that is there? He said, it’s different this time, what did you put there? And then it’s two or three and then he’s like always mango or always peaches or, you know, whenever you get whatever fruit is not is not getting eaten so far, and you need to, you know, use it make it to use it.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 31:52 Yeah, I love that.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 31:54 And then you don’t need to add any sugar because it’s so bright. That is so sweet. And then it’s just perfect. It’s liberally  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 32:00 that’s a great idea. I love that idea. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 32:03 That’s my treat. I have some in the fridge if you have some. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 32:06 Oh yeah, send it over.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 32:07 Sure, sure from Arizona to New York right away LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 32:10 Perfect.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 32:11 Anyway LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 32:11 make sure it won’t melt MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 32:12 No, no, no. How about people that are over 65 and those multivitamins for them? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 32:18 So um, the supplement industry is brilliant, right? Because all they do is change the label, and they put on it for women, for men over 65. And all of a sudden now becomes a brand new product. Well, it’s actually very similar. They haven’t changed much, they might add a little extra something here like so for example, the, the senior formulas of multivitamins usually don’t contain iron. Right? And so that’s because some seniors might be on medications where iron might be contraindicated, right? And so they might shift a few things around or take out certain ingredients, maybe double a certain nutrients to, you know, say, you know, generally these people in this category might need a little bit more of this. But at the end of the day, if it’s, you know, if it’s a bad supplement, it’s a bad supplement, putting a label on there to say, for seniors or for women doesn’t all of a sudden make it better, right? MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 33:16 Yes, I totally agree with that. And I do think that people need to have specificity because when you are being a pharmacist for this long and knowing how many pills patients might take, one of them are going to interact and it’s not going to be a good thing. So the question that I have here for you is because this is what my patients say, the more vitamins I take the better right. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 33:44 One is good, ten must be better? MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 33:47 yup LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 33:49 False, false. The ideal scenario really, you know, is to have us be able to get as much as we can from our diet and then to supplement with some specific MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 34:03 came up then, supplement LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 34:04 that’s where- there must be where they came up with that name, supplement MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 34:07 I don’t know, I’m not sure but that, have a hint LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 34:09 we’ll have to look it up. We’ll have to Google that later. But the ideal scenario is that you get the most of your nutrients from your food, and then you supplement with specific nutrients that you need. And those are going to be different from person to person, they’re going to change depending on your age. So 10 years from now, you might need a certain a different set of nutrients. And they’re going to change depending on maybe what you’re going through right now. Maybe right now, you’re trying to prevent getting a cold because it’s the middle of winter, and you’re up here in the northeast with me, right? So you might need to up certain nutrients in order to do that. Right. Or you might have allergies, and you might want to take certain supplements to help improve your allergies so that you don’t, you’re not as miserable as everybody else’s around you, right. So we might want to shift what we take even from month to month, so that we can customize it and personalize it so that we can optimize our health because no two people are alike. Even if you’re in the same family, no two people need exactly the same thing. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 35:04 Amen to that. I always say even if you’re twins, identical twins, you might not need the same thing. So nobody, everybody’s different. So okay, so how do we know what to take? Where do we start? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 35:18 Where do we start? That’s a great question. So the first thing you’re going to take is your vegetables. That’s the first thing that you’re going to do is you’re going to get MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 35:24 no brussels sprouts. I’m sorry, I won’t or kale LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 35:26 that’s okay. It’s okay. I’m not gonna make you eat a vegetable you don’t like that’s okay. But I do want to encourage you to occasionally try vegetables you don’t love. So let’s say you don’t love brussel sprouts. That’s okay. Maybe have a bite or two from your husband’s play every once in a while. I don’t know if he loves Brussels sprouts.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 35:46 I’m rolling my eyes to her. But I will. LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 35:50 But you know why? Because we actually develop an acquired taste to things and so some of us, our taste buds settings are set a certain way. And we might be more sensitive to more bitter flavors, or certain phytochemicals that we might not love. We’re not used to them, and so we don’t love them. And so what we typically do is we don’t like a food, we don’t eat it. So I bet you haven’t had a brussel sprouts in years. I don’t usually remember. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 36:17 but it’s I don’t like them. They’re bitter for me. But I do see that point, because I do encourage my kids to do that. And  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 36:24 yes,  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 36:24 they said, I tried it like five years ago, and I’m like, try it again. And if you don’t like it, put it into trash that’s okay, but try give it a try. Don’t give up on them. Because you don’t know people change.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 36:35 So it takes about 20 to 30 exposures consistently to develop a taste for food. So I bet you and I’m willing, I’m willing to make a bet with you. If you were to try brussel sprouts two or three times a week, and you don’t have to have a whole plate of them just a bite or two, two or three times a week for the next I don’t know, month or two, you’ll eventually start to acquire a taste for them. You may not love them, they may not be your favorite food ever. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 37:08 But I can guess a little bit,  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 37:09 but you can have a little bit of it, and you’ll appreciate them. Believe it or not. And believe it or not, you might even start craving them.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 37:17 Oh my God LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 37:17 because those bitter vegetables, those bitter foods, trigger our body to digest a different way. And they start to trigger and go, Oh my gosh, we haven’t had that in a really long time. I need you to get more Hey, hey, knock, knock. Are you listening? I need more of that nutrient. I’m craving it  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 37:37 and that’s why we crave them  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 37:39 and we start to crave them MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 37:40 just like that very much so. So how do you help people with this, how people can get, I mean my listeners how they could get somebody like you that is very knowledgeable that is open to help them through this because people don’t know where to start that’s why they take a multivitamin because they’re like well, it has everything just in case.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 38:02 Right. And I think that’s a you know what, everyone has to start somewhere. If right now what you need to do is take a high quality multivitamin. That’s a good first step. But from there, if you’re really ready to take charge of your health, and you really want to make a transformation, you know, right now, everybody’s thinking about their health, everybody’s thinking about their immune system, a lot of us are at home and thinking about, gosh, you know, is there something I can do so that I could be healthier, so that I can have a stronger immune system so I don’t get sick? Well, this is a great time to start going beyond that. You could start the multivitamin that’s okay. But can you start to think about maybe adding one or two new vegetables into your rotation every month? Can you start counting and paying attention? How many? How many of those vegetables and those fruit are you getting into your diet on a day to day basis? The average person maybe gets three, maybe four servings per day. And the ideal is over six, maybe even seven, eight. Dr. Walz talks about nine servings every day.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 39:16 Well LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 39:16 that’s challenging. That’s we’re talking almost triple what the average person eats. But how powerful would it be? What a big difference that it makes, I think it’s worthwhile. So I think the first step is to take inventory of where you’re at. And then start to challenge yourself one step at a time, I just one new one, maybe once a week, try to get one more serving in, right. And then from there, you can evolve and then if you feel like you need a little bit more help, we can think about working with somebody, again, who’s trained in nutrition, who’s trained in functional medicine, that can then guide you on a specific protocol and specific supplements that are going to help take your health to the next level. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 39:56 Okay, so we’re going to put the resources where The Institute of functional medicine that has all this people all over the country, and some of them work online too, so you don’t need to go physically see them. And the other thing that I’m going to ask you is this any resources that you can provide that has the rainbow so we can see what colors were missing? And how to add them in what, what vegetables or fruit are in color, so we can find them or  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 40:24 yup MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 40:24 kind of point them that will be great LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 40:26 Sure. I’ll send you that as well for the show notes. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 40:29 Okay, we’re using her. People, don’t blame me, because I need to take advantage of this. Okay. Well, this has been really interesting. And I think that everybody’s getting a lot of information, I can see the passion that you have for this, and we share that and I can see how easy it is for you to explain it for them to understand. So is there any way that they can contact you in case that they would like to get more information from you? LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 40:55 Absolutely. Come visit my website at And send me a note over there. If you’re on social media, I’m pretty active on Instagram and on Facebook, not as active on Twitter, but you can come hang out with me there as well. And you can look for Foodie Farmacist, that’s two F’s foodie with an F pharmacist with an F. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 41:15 because that’s the way that it’s supposed to be with and F LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 41:18 That’s right.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 41:19 Perfect. So thank you so much Lara for coming. I really appreciate it. And I’m challenging you to come back with more tricks for us to get more colorful.  LZ Lara Zacharia, PharmD 41:27 I got you.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 41:28 Perfect. Thank you so much.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 41:29 So there you have it, wasn’t it awesome. I learned so much from there. I have so much fun. And I also had the opportunity to link in my brain, how my family, my traditions and my culture, links to my health. And I really didn’t think about that before I talked to her and now I want to take that in consideration. So for all of you that are trying to hold on into your traditions living outside of your country, inside of your family nucleus and you want to keep it up, do it. This is a lot. This means a lot to your family. And it also will mean a lot for your kids and the future generations because you are responsible to carry on with this tradition that are so beautiful and so important. But if you can tweak it for them to be even better, that’s, that’s wonderful.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 42:22 So that’s it for this episode. I just want to remind you that next week we’re going to be talking to Kira Whythman. Kira Here is also a dietitian, but she is practicing nutrition with a focus on functional medicine. This episode will be part of the series because she’s going to be talking about how functional medicine helps with autoimmune diseases, and its treatment from the nutritional standpoint. It is a very insightful conversation. She is very easy to understand and she is so knowledgeable that you’re going to be pleased and happy that this conversation is there. That will be the last episode of this series, but I think you’re gonna have a lot of general information for you to understand what it is and for you to do your own research and decide if you want to be a patient for functional medicine rather than traditional medicine. With that, I’m done and I will talk to you next week.  MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 43:18 This episode was brought to you by the where we empower you with education to take control of your own health from doctors and health insurance companies. Look me up at The Legal Drug Dealer podcasts in Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions and send them to So that is it for this episode. Thank you so much for listening. Please subscribe to our podcast. Give us a review if you have a little time for it. And if you have a question or a topic for a future episode, send it to me to and I will respond myself or maybe you will have an episode with that topic in the future. Also, don’t forget to visit, look around and see what I have there for you. And while you’re there, join our community so you will not miss a thing, with that I’m done. MG Marilena Grittani, RPh 44:15 But before I go, and just in case no one has told you today, I wanted to remind you of how awesome you are, and how lucky are those that have you in their lives. Thank you for being the awesome you that you are. Have a wonderful rest of your day. This is Marilena Grittani, The Legal Drug Dealer. Bye for now.