Best Nutrition From Food or Supplements?
Nutrition has two components: the ingestion of macronutrients, for growth and energy and the absorption of micronutrients for optimum physiological functioning. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Macronutrients also synthesize to produce micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) during digestion. For example, oranges have carbohydrates (macronutrients) but also contain vitamins B and C (micronutrients)
We can also use vitamins and minerals in supplement form as micronutrients to boost our dietary intake and achieve optimum nutrition.
Many people appreciate the value of using food supplements in the diet and this hub will consider this along with discussing the benefits of eating "real" foods instead of processed ones.
The Benefits of Real Food
An American journalist and food writer, Michael Pollan, who has a special interest in nutrition makes the following points about what he defines as real food:
- He differentiates between real foods and processed foods. He defines the latter as "edible food-like substances." He postulates that the food we eat should be as near it's natural state as possible rather than processed. In other words, it is best to eat what our great-grandmother would recognize as food. You can read more about his seven rules for eating.
- He also proposes a useful suggestion for food shopping i.e. it is better to buy food in the perimeter aisles of the supermarket rather than in the inside aisles. The items with a long shelf-life are in the middle aisles while the more nutritious, perishable foods are in the outside aisles in the circumference of the store.
- He also outlines that there is a direct relationship between the spoil rate and the nutrient density of the food. The more nutrient dense (nutritious) the food, the quicker it spoils. It follows from this that foods with a long shelf-life are less nutritious.
- A very important point that he makes which is of particular relevance to those with weight management issues is:
Do not eat until you are stuffed. Just eat until you are no longer hungry.
This ethic is an inherent part of the food culture in some countries which results in less of an obesity problem as well as overall better health.
Michael Pollan's views on nutrition can be summarised in seven words:
"Eat food.Not too much. Mostly plants."
You can read more about this on his website.
Your eating habits
Do you eat real food?
Three minute video of Michael Pollan
It has been known for centuries that deficiencies in certain vitamins can lead to illness. The best-known example is scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency common in sailors on long voyages from the 16th until the 18th century. Another example is rickets , a vitamin D deficiency common in children a century ago.
However, it is only since about the 1950s that research has been pioneered into the benefits of using vitamin therapy in treating illnesses as well as preventing them. There is a lot of evidence that taking vitamins and/or minerals in excess of the recommended daily allowance for certain diseases can address the causes and treat the symptoms of some illnesses. This approach is known as orthomolecular medicine and there are conventional doctors who have changed their treatment protocol in favour of an emphasis on this approach.
For example, Abram Hoffer was a pioneer into the use of niacin therapy for the effective treatment of mental illness and advocated that it can cure schizophrenia. Niacin is also used effectively to manage cholesterol.
Linus Pauling, the only person to have won two Nobel prizes, introduced the term orthomolecular medicine in the 1960s to define and describe the use of megavitamin therapy for the treatment of specific diseases with a particular emphasis on vitamin C. He defined orthomolecular as having the "right molecules" and did extensive work in developing this area of expertise.
A three minute summary of Orthomolecular Medicine
Why Take Supplements?
It is said that we have to eat eight oranges to get the same nutritional value our grandparents got from one orange.
At a recentVitamin Mastery Summit which I participated in, it was proposed that even though our stomachs may be full, we can be starving at a cellular level because of inadequate nutrient density in our food.
Charlotte Gerson of the Gerson Institute explains the reason for this. She states that the soil in which our food is grown is impoverished because of intensive farming practices. The many minerals that occur naturally in the soil are leached out of it in this way. Chemical fertilizers typically replace only three minerals-nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The other minerals, for example, iron, zinc, copper, selenium are not replaced so they are not in the plant food that we eat to be absorbed in our digestive process. Hence, they are deficient in our diet.
Furthermore, the practice of using chemical pesticides in agriculture adds a toxic element to the already nutritionally limited foods we are eating.
Above are some of the reasons to do the following:
- Eat food in it's natural state, preferably organic.
- Take the necessary supplements to redress this nutritional imbalance.
What Supplements Should We Take?
The work of Abram Hoffer, Linus Pauling and other 20th century pioneers of nutrition therapy (also known as orthomolecular medicine) has demonstrated conclusively that higher doses of some nutritional supplements are of great benefit in the treatment of some specific health conditions. I will give further details of some of these in other articles.
For those of us fortunate enough to be healthy, the Food Matters website has a good protocol for the four nutritional supplements we should take daily to maintain optimum health. They have compiled this "fab four" from consultation with health specialists in many disciplines over the past eight years. They are:
- a multivitamin
- a probiotic
- vitamin C
- essential fatty acid, e.g. omega 3
These are the supplements that I take on a daily basis and they are a good guideline for healthy individuals.
Healthy Eating Habits
You may not agree with some of the following ideas for healthy eating because some of them are very different from what we are used to when we think about diet and nutrition but try to keep an open mind on them even if you disagree.
- Do not eat in a habitual way. Only eat when you are hungry, not just because it is mealtime. Our ancestors did not have a regular supply of food and they managed fine between feast and famine. Our bodies are designed to store food as fat and other forms of body fuel in reserve so there is no need to constantly eat regularly. Of course it is a good idea to eat every day but don't do so just because you are in the habit of it
- Similar to the above, use your body clock to tell you when to eat instead of the clock on the wall. Regular meals are very over-rated. Let your body tell you when you are hungry before you eat, just don't eat mindlessly as a routine.
- Eating makes a lot of hard work for your digestive system so you might as well give your body nutritious food instead of junk food because it has to do the same work to digest both. Make it worth your body's while to process good, wholesome food while digesting it.
- Remember that hunger can mimic thirst. You might fell hungry when you are actually thirsty.
Culture and Language Influences on our Eating Habits
The following illustrates very clearly the impact of culture and language on our eating habits and attitude to food:
In parts of the Western World, we eat until we are stuffed. We over-eat. This is because we are conditioned from childhood to empty our plates. Having a large appetite is encouraged and considered favourably.
It is different in France. The French say "J'ai faim" when they are hungry. When they finish eating they say "Je n'ai plus faim" which translates as "I am no longer hungry"
In other words, the French eat enough to take away the feeling of hunger, then they stop eating. They don't eat until they are full or stuffed.
Research has shown that France has the lowest obesity rate in the world. It is certainly a lot lower than the rate in some other European countries and it is proposed that the reasons for this are that the French walk and cycle more, especially in cities, they eat smaller portions and have a more leisurely pace of eating as well as having a significantly healthier diet.
Summary and Conclusion
If you are interested in this subject, I hope that this article gives you some good, basic information as well as useful links to learn more.
It is a fascinating subject which I have studied for a long time and I look forward to continuing to learn about it on a regular basis.
There are more specific topics in this field which I will outline in other articles in the near future.
In the meantime, please feel free to comment below. All feedback will be appreciated.