Eating The Right Food – Part 4

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Vitamins and Supplements. 

Vitamins are nutrients that our bodies can’t manufacture, so we need them from external sources. There seems to be no difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. The difference seems to be in the fact that when you get them from food they are more effective. It is thought that maybe other chemicals (phytochemical) from the plants are acting with the vitamins to make them more effective; and further we get vitamins from food in the right proportions to these chemicals. To put it in another way; taking vitamins in pill form doesn’t allow our body to use them synergistically with other nutrients under optimal conditions.

The functions of vitamins include acting as a hormone messengers (vitamin D), regulators of tissue growth and cell differentiation (Vitamin A), and antioxidants (vitamin A, C, and E).

You may have heard that people who take supplements and vitamins are generally healthier than the rest of us. That maybe true but it’s not from taking supplements. Michael Pollen in his book “ In defense of food” suggests that these people are healthier not because of them taking the supplements but because they are typically more health conscious, better educated and more affluent. This means they eat healthy diet mentioned in my previous posts, they sleep at least seven hours, exercise and manage their stress more effectively. Studies certainly confirm that taking vitamins in a form of a pill does not confer the benefit. Taking Vitamins in high doses may actually do more harm.

Dietary Supplements are nutrients and chemicals that when added to a diet might lower the risk for some health problems and might improve overall bodily function.

Antioxidants are major category of supplements. They protect the damage to the cells by neutralizing free radicals and their intermediates. The sources of destructive free radicals include ultraviolet and other forms of radiation, toxins, and pollutants. Free radicals contribute to the development of many diseases. We have both internal and external naturally occurring antioxidants. Glutathione is one, along with vitamins C and E and numerous enzymes. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are dietary sources of antioxidants. Recent research suggests that mega-doses of antioxidants taken, as supplements cannot prevent heart disease or diabetes as it was hoped. Large doses may actually be harmful. Rather, it is better to pig out on carrots, sweat potatoes, chard, asparagus, papaya, prunes, oranges. …and the whole vast arrays of foods that are delicious and are good for you

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Calcium is used to prevent osteoporosis, it has also been suggested that it may have value for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Conclusive evidence in this regard is not yet available but we do know that too much calcium may actually be bad for your heart. This is unlikely to happen if we relay on food as a source of calcium, such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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Fiber is another commonly used supplement, which keeps bowels soft and may help to eliminate toxic wastes.  There is some evidence that it may offer some protection from heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.

Herbal supplements commonly used include ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and Echinacea; however there is very little science to back up their claims.

Polyphenols are organic chemicals that belong to a family of several thousand compounds referred to as flavonoids. They are found many fruits, berries, pomegranates, grapes, wine, walnuts, olive oil, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, and tea. Their antioxidant properties can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Garlic has allicin and turmeric has curcumin , both are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Recent studies suggest allicin improves lipoprotein balance and may reduce arteriosclerosis and fat deposition in blood vessels.

Finally, probiotics are active bacteria found in yogurt and are sold as supplements. Their active bacteria is good for you but you may not need it all the time.

There are situations when supplements can be helpful, but not everyone needs a supplement and they may not need them all the time. Probiotics are useful when you take antibiotics or have diarrhea. As we age our ability to absorb supplements, vitamins and minerals from food decline. It is suggested by some that its probably is a good idea and it certainly can’t do hurt to take multivitamin and mineral pill after age fifty.  It would not be a good idea to take more than twice the Recommended Daily Allowance.

This is a very general guideline about vitamins and supplements. The specifics can be different for everyone and one should discuss them with a dietician and your doctor.

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Resources

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

In Defence of Food – by Michael Pollan

Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well- Being at Any Age  – By Professor Anthony A. Goodman.

 

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1 Comment

  1. great post you gots here, thanks for making it available!

    Reply

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