Nutrition Facts and Fallacies

No one food contains all the essential nutrients necessary to achieve optimal nutrition. No one combination of foods nor one single nutrient insures good nutrition either. Optimal nutrition is the product of eating a wide variety of nutrients from a wide variety of foods.

This is important to emphasize because all too often you will hear people make statements like: "I want to build muscle so I'm taking these protein supplements" or "I want to avoid osteoporosis so I'm taking oystershell calcium".

These nutrients may in part help build bone or muscle tissue, but they do so in concert with many other nutrients as well. Take bone tissue for example. Bone is created from protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamins A, D, C and a host of B Vitamins as well. Vitamin D is required to pull calcium in from your gut and deposit it into a protein matrix. Vitamins A and C help to insure that protein fibers in the matrix have sufficient strength to hold the calcium. Riboflavin and other B Vitamins work to convert dietary protein into bone matrix protein. They also help convert carbohydrates and fats into energy to do all this metabolic synthesis. Most of these nutrients are found together in dairy foods and they work in concert to create bone tissue; oyster shell calcium contains only one nutrient. A good start maybe, but not the whole show.

The major point here is that slugging down a lot of supplements with a diet soda is not going to give you a healthy body; but eating a wide variety of nutrients present in foods will do the trick.

In fact, excessive amounts of some supplements can be harmful. High protein diets and protein supplements can land you in the emergency room.

Proteins, unlike carbohydrates and fats, leave nitrogenous waste products and acids in your blood stream. These wastes are filtered out by the kidneys, except when your intake exceeds their capacity to do so. Tremendous sums of water are required to flush out these wastes and one can become both dehydrated and acidotic in the process.

Low carbohydrate diets cans cause the same results. The body needs the carbohydrates found in breads, cereals fruits and vegetables to feed the brain, completely combust fats and protect the protein stores in lean tissue. Without adequate carbohydrate, lean tissue proteins are catabolized and this produces acids. Fats are incompletely metabolized into ketones and these are acids as well. The kidney's ability to clear these acids is surpassed, excessive water is lost and dehydration occurs. Many a dieter has been brought to the E.R. in ketoacidosis. This is a rough way to learn the virtues of eating a balance diet.

Another crucial benefit to the nutrients found in food is that there are still many nutrients we have yet to identify. Researchers have found many, but not all the nutrients in foods. They can not reproduce them in a lab if they have yet to isolate them.

Take betacarotene for example. Did you know there are 600 different forms of betacarotene? Which ones work where? We don't know. How much of what forms do we need? We don't know. There is much about nutrition we have yet to learn. Man's quest to duplicate the beauty of food in a lab is just beginning. In the meantime, why not just eat a carrot? You not only get many different forms of betacarotene, but the soluble fiber as well. And it is cheaper.

This is not to say that supplements are never necessary.

They are; even before the conception of a human being. Researchers now believe the leading cause of neural tube defects, like spinal bifida and cleft palates, is the result of folic acid deficiency. This is why they lobbied Congress to force food manufacturers to add folic acid to breads and cereals.

If you are planning to conceive a baby in the next couple of months, start eating your fruits and vegetables now. It may be possible that the form of folic acid present in foods is more potent in preventing birth defects.

Supplementation of iron and folic acid is necessary during pregnancy for the creation of extra red blood cells. It is difficult to keep up with the demand of these nutrients (but not impossible) by eating foods alone. Prenatal vitamins can help a healthy diet, but they are not a substitute for a healthy diet.

That goes for the rest of us too. Pregnant or not. There is no substitute for food (thank goodness) or a balanced diet. Balance is the operative word here. Balanced eating is the key to not only a long life, but a high quality life as well. Let this be your key to becoming empowered the good life and not a fallen victim to it.

Tips For Healthy Eating

  • A medium papaya contains 200% of your Vitamin C requirement A green pepper has more Vitamin C than a orange.

  • Whenever possible, eat raw fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is very easily oxidized by air. In fact, orange juice and cantaloupe can lose half their Vitamin C content if not stored properly. Wrap tightly in plastic or store juice in a small container. This minimizes their exposure to air.

  • Tomatoes contain both Vitamin C and betacarotene. Both are powerful antioxidants.

  • Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant. You can find it in sunflower seeds, wheat germ and fortified cereals.

  • Whole grain breads and cereals contain magnesium, iron, zinc, B Vitamins and fiber.

  • Good sources of folacin are broccoli, beans, spinach, romaine lettuce, eggs, and oranges.

  • Non-dairy sources of calcium are sweet potatoes, beans, broccoli collard greens, kale, tofu, salmon and sardines.

  • Do not take iron and calcium supplements at the same time. They bind together in your gut and your body can't absorb either of them!

  • Many vitamins do not dissolve in time to be absorbed by your body. Test yours by putting it in vinegar. If it doesn't dissolve in thirty minutes, it ends up in the septic tank.

1. Did you eat a red or yellow-fruit or vegetable each day?
2. Did you eat a good source of Vitamin C each day?
3. Did you eat any whole grain breads or cereals each day?
4. Did you eat 2 servings of calcium-rich foods each day?
5. State one reason why it is best to get your nutrients in food rather than supplements?

Material © San Franisco Spine Center. Used by Permission.

Updated on: 09/07/12