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Rule #1 For Supplements
Vitamin and food supplements are big business in America, raking in over $6 billion dollars per year, and this number increases every year. Everyone wants a simple solution and everyone wants to be healthy, so it's logical to reach for a supplement, especially if it's cheap. Unfortunately, the primary problem with the supplement business is that it is poorly regulated. The US Federal Government / FDA does not monitor supplement companies in an in-depth way, and there are actually laws protecting supplement businesses from deeper scrutiny. Supplement companies have lobbyists, and lobbyists work hard to protect the companies they work for.
Besides the fact that you don't know for certain if what you're getting in the supplement bottle actually is what it says it is, there may also be problems with toxicity. A recent study showed that many supplements don't contain what they say they contain and instead even contain toxic compounds. Another showed, as an example, an increased chance of liver failure with Green Tea Extract Supplementation.
Via Negativa, Again
Why would you take a supplement you weren't sure about? If you didn't know if it might hurt you or not, why would you risk it? One of the best ways to stay healthy is to avoid things which are harmful.
This is also called Via Negativa - improvement or learning by taking away. Similarly, the first principle of health care, called "The Hippocratic oath" which all doctors swear to uphold, is to do no harm.
Safety comes before everything else, or at least it should. When you think about how to be healthy with food your main concerns should be the basics:
- A diet based on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and moderate amounts of lean meat and dairy.
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine to 1-2 servings per day.
- Avoiding fried food, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.
- Eating less than you burn and moderating your caloric intake.
- Drinking plenty of water, 8 glasses per day.
It's amazing that a billion dollar supplement and nutrition industry can complicate something that really is that simple. Supplements do have a small place in the big picture, but food should be your primary focus. Over the next few blog posts, we're going to review some things about supplements, but let's start from the beginning.
So here it is:
Rule #1 of Supplements: There is no replacement for real food.
Real food has several things that a supplement doesn't:
- Fiber - Fiber makes you feel full, keeps you regular, and helps curb your appetite and as a result helps you lose weight.
- Phytochemicals - Plants are made up of various chemicals, called phytochemicals, which help in defense against competitors, pathogens, or predators. Phytochemicals are still being researched but are thought to have health benefits and some researchers even believe that the main benefit of eating vegetables and fruits is the phytochemicals. Some examples of phytochemicals include carotenoids and polyphenols.
- Calories- This is the obvious one, but vitamin supplements don't give you any actual calories for energy.
- Fun- It's much more fun to try new foods and eat than it is to pop a pill.
- Taste- Eating is a great joy.
- Digestion / Absorption- Vitamins, minerals, and nutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and proteins) work together to boost absorption so it's necessary to eat real food to get the full effect of these compounds.
- Less Toxicity - Again, you never know for sure what you're getting with a supplement. At least with real food, you know what you're eating.
- Absorption - In some cases, vitamins are sold in combinations, like Vitamin D and Calcium, to enhance absorption.
- Convenience - If you're traveling, or sick, or in a stressful environment it may be helpful to boost your immunity through supplementation.
We'll dig a little deeper into supplementation next time, but for now, always remember to focus on food, not supplements. No amount of supplementation and expensive health care treatment can overcome a poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle.
Enjoy a fresh salad, a handful of strawberries, sweet potato, or some roasted almonds. Delicious!
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- Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol. (Sauces or seasonings may add fat, calories, and/or cholesterol.)
- Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C.
- Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
- Dietary fiber from vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
- Folate (folic acid) helps the body form red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant should consume adequate folate from foods, and in addition 400 mcg of synthetic folic acid from fortified foods or supplements. This reduces the risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida, and anencephaly during fetal development.
- Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
- Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption.
- Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
- Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
- Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
- Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, and may also reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
- Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.