Vitamins Role In A Balanced Diet

The month of September has the MediLodge Whole Person Wellness Program focusing on Vitamins and Supplements.  The following post is from The Vitamin Update, an informational website on the latest developments in vitamin and mineral research.

We are all familiar with the saying, ‘You are what you eat’, and more than ever, people are focusing on nutrition to help them live healthier, longer and happier lives. Growing evidence suggests that many people suffer from diseases that can be controlled or prevented through diet and lifestyle, and the last fifteen years has seen an explosion of research into the links between nutrition and health. Along with the interest in diet has come a focus on nutritional supplements as people search for ways to feel better and stay healthy. Supplements are a $6 billion-a-year business. As many as 70 per cent of people take them at least occasionally, and almost every mall has a health food store filled with products that promise to relieve pain, help you sleep better and boost your health, vitality and virility. But many people still have questions. What do vitamins and minerals do? Am I getting enough from the food I eat? Should I take supplements? Which ones should I take and how much? Can supplements make me look and feel healthier? Can they prevent diseases? Can they slow the aging process? The answers to these questions are not always clear-cut. There is an almost daily barrage of media reports on new studies, some suggesting that a supplement does you good, others indicating that it may be harmful. The scientific and medical community are divided on many issues, making it even harder to sort out truth from media hype. And then there are the advertisements….

The official line is that a healthy adult can get adequate amounts of nutrients from a balanced diet. Adequate to prevent deficiency disease – yes, but adequate for optimum health? That is a more complex question to answer. Many people don’t get all the nutrients they need from their diets because they don’t eat well. Only one person in ten regularly eats the recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Many people are on weight loss diets, regularly skip meals or eat a lot of foods high in sugar and fat. People also have varying nutritional needs and ways of meeting those needs. And then there are those with clearly increased needs such as pregnant women, the elderly, those taking long-term medications, and those who are chronically ill. Such people probably all have needs greater than their diet can meet. This is where the ‘nutritional insurance’ of supplements can help. Many experts prefer not to recommend supplements because they worry that this may lead people to believe that they can eat all the fatty, sugary, processed foods they like as long as they remember to pop their vitamin pills every morning. But supplements don’t turn a poor diet into a healthy one. Foods contain thousands of nutrients over and above those contained in a supplement bottle. If you depend on supplements rather than trying to eat a variety of whole foods, you miss out on possible health benefits from these phytochemicals. If you are trying to sort your way through the maze of information and decide which foods to eat; whether to take supplements, and if so, which ones, how often and how much; it helps to have a good understanding of the roles played by vitamins and minerals in health and disease. You also need to understand how their functions are affected by your age, sex, state of health and lifestyle. In some situations, taking supplements can be harmful; for example, an iron supplement that stops a teenage girl from becoming anemic may increase the risk of heart disease in an older man. Of all the major factors affecting our health, we have the greatest control over the food we eat. Most of us, therefore, have the power to dramatically affect our health and quality of life. It is human nature to deny the possibility of disease until it occurs, and as diet has a huge role to play in the prevention of disease, eating well and consuming adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals are vital for both present and future health.

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