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Posts tagged ‘vitamins’

Vitamins

I was contemplating the conundrum about vitamins, and as soon as I logged on, this article, telling me not to take vitamins, popped up. If you don’t feel like reading it, it says that there is no correlation between vitamin use and increased health, in fact there is some evidence to the contrary. Of course, I’m suspicious if they don’t include links to the research they are citing. The minute I did a search on research on vitamin benefits I got this article from Harvard School of Public Health, stating it is a good idea to take a multi vitamin. Another article from CNN, shows very inconclusive results as to whether vitamins prevent breast cancer or heart disease. Even Vitamin D, the current darling is starting to lose its shine, see here.

From everything I’ve read, I think there are some things we can say.

  1. You are always better off getting your vitamins from food
  2. More is not always better.
  3. Pills cannot compensate for poor choices
  4. Diseases are complex, and any kind of pill is only part of the answer.
  5. We don’t understand the whole picture of how food affects our body, so pulling one nutrient out and focusing on it may be counter productive.

Vitamins and minerals have been on my mind lately. As I’ve my mentioned before, I use myfitnesspal. I don’t have trouble with my weight, but I do it to help my clients, and to have an objective measure of “healthy” eating. I eat most of my diet with the objective of it being healthy choices. I find it interesting what the results are. First, A and C are easy to get. You almost have to try to be deficient in those two.

Interestingly, those are the two most often listed on labels. Myfitnesspal doesn’t give you the option of tracking the b family, d or others. You can however track sodium, potassium, iron and calcium. I find that I don’t get enough minerals, even though I eat a largely whole food diet. (No one’s perfect-I do eat desert). There is the possibility that Myfitnesspal is inaccurate. Much of what is in the database is user supplied, making its accuracy suspect. However, the other day I had commercial cereal, and for the first time, my iron intake was over 100 percent.

So, if taking a multivitamin is not beneficial, why do we fortify foods? We do have proof that fortifying foods reduced the incidence of pellagra and rickets. Is is possible to get all your nutrients from food? Is the USDA’s RDA inaccurate? Is the only way to get it all from food is to go from the other direction, and pick foods based on their nutrients, then figure out how to make meals of them?

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think science does yet, either. It is beneficial to pay attention, learn, and do your best. Another thing to remember is that “vitamins” and “supplements” are pretty broad categories. there is a world of difference between a daily multivitamin and some “proprietaries blend” of goodness knows what. There are people out there hawking all kinds of “supplements” There is no evidence that mega doses of anything is good for you. The funny thing is, many of the people who are taking tons of crazy  supplements are the same people who are eating right. When you do start to study nutrition, you see how important it is to eat healthy food as much as possible. You don’t have a lot of calories to waste on junk, especially if you are a small person, who doesn’t take a lot of calories to maintain.

 

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Why?

Recently my son and I were talking about design, and he was saying that you always have to question why you are making your design choices. I was thinking about this today as I was making my breakfast. I put a lot of things in my oatmeal, all for different reasons.  I was leaving out the peanut butter. Why? Because it only has 7 g of protein for 240 calories per serving. Bread has 5g, for 110 calories. That makes bread a better protein source than peanut butter. Which lead me to think about the assumptions we make about our food, and how good it is for you.

I just want to challenge everyone out there: why are you eating what you do? Never just mindlessly eat. Every cell in your body is made up from the food you eat. How healthy they are is determined by the choices you make about what goes into your mouth. While weight is what everyone obsesses over, it is the nutrients that come along with the calories that count for optimum health. Yes, losing weight, even on the twinkie diet, will improve your health to some degree, but do you want your health to be determined by “not dying”?

You have to think about what you eat and why, especially if you are on any kind of restrictive diet. A calorie is never just a calorie. Every calorie is also a carb, fat or protein. It is either packaged with fiber, vitamins, phyto-nutrients and water or it isn’t. Every fat calorie is either a transfat, omega-3, omega-6, omega 12, saturated or something else. The fat choices are extensive, and confusing.

If you are taking a food group out of your diet, either for weight loss or other reasons, it makes your choices more critical. Some people are anti-supplement. I would say if you are, then you would do well to only eat perfectly healthy food, never touching a cookie, candy or baked good, and never eliminating any food groups.  Most of us won’t achieve that. If you are vegetarian or vegan, you need protein supplements and B vitamins. If you are avoiding dairy, you need another source for calcium. When I was doing my diet experiment, I did fine on the “macro-nutrients”-fiber, protein, fats and carbs, but never reached most of the USDA recommended levels for vitamins without taking a supplement.

However you plan out your meals, step back and take a look at them. What are they giving you? How nutrient packed are your choices? Yes, there are some things we make and eat just for the taste, but that should be 20% or less in our diet. For example, we are having a party tonight. There are some foods I will be serving that would surprise people, since don’t appear to be nutritious. However, that is not how I eat every day, and some of those foods are more nutritious than they look, since I know some tricks to hide veggies in other things. I have vegans coming over, so I made some choices based on their protein needs. I have two recipes using crescent rolls. There is no redeeming a crescent roll, but the fillings are made from low fat products and vegetables. I’m not serving anything sweet, other than fruit. So even at a party, attempts to improve the nutritional content can be made.

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