Iron or Spinach?

Do you worry about getting enough iron, omega-3’s, calcium, or other specific nutrient?

Or is your focus on getting enough vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains and low fat dairy options?

Not surprisingly, the media, advertising and research results have influenced us to have greater concern and focus on a single nutrient versus the whole food that contains that nutrient.  Is there a problem with focusing on the nutrient (or being nutrient-centric) vs. focusing on whole foods (or being whole food-centric)?  Based on new research, yes, it appears this is a concern.

A study published just this month evaluated the perceptions of over one-hundred adults.  Each group received a description of a man and his behaviors and were asked to rate his risk for disease.  The descriptions were exactly the same except for the description of the diet.  One group received a description that listed the type of nutrients consumed, while the other group received a list of the foods consumed.  The information was equivalent. The way the information was presented was the only difference for the nutrients amounts matched up with the foods where those nutrients found.  However, the interesting part is those who had the nutrient list for their diet, ranked the person as having a lower disease risk.  And those who received a corresponding list of whole foods containing the same nutrients, ranked the man with a higher risk for disease.

So what does this mean?  As a society, we seem to think that isolated nutrient focus is more important than focusing on whole food consumption.  The reality is that there is a greater health benefit and absorption rate by consuming our nutrients in whole foods (with a few exceptions).  For example, if you consume raspberries (vs. taking a vitamin C supplement) you will not only be getting vitamin C, but fiber (raspberries are an excellent source of fiber per serving! ), potassium, and some calcium, iron, B-6 and magnesium to name a few.  We still do not fully understand all nutrient interactions, but we do know that consuming whole foods usually results in better absorption rate for the body as well as utilization within the body.  These interactions within the body are important for reducing risk for disease.

food

From a safety standpoint, there has been no evidence of dangerous levels of nutrients within the body when people are obtaining their nutrients from whole foods.  However, when supplements are involved toxic levels may build up in the body and result in negative health issues.  For example, we have seen negative health consequences linked to supplementation of Vitamin E, beta carotene and calcium.  This is why it is important to speak with your physician and/or registered dietitian regarding whether a supplement of any kind is warranted, necessary or appropriate for you.

For more individualized feedback and help, please contact Kristine Clark Wellness Associates.

Resources:

JP Schuldt, AR Pearson. Nutrient-centrism and perceived risk of chronic disease. J Health Psychol June 2015 vol. 20 no. 6 899-906. 

Woodside JV1, McCall DMcGartland CYoung ISMicronutrients: dietary intake v. supplement use. Proc Nutr Soc. 2005 Nov;64(4):543-53.

Take a “Bite” into Food!

We truly are blessed in so many ways. We are fortunate to have so many choices when it comes to food. Unfortunately, this abundance of food choices has also had a negative affect on our health (plus the contribution of lack of exercise, stress, poor sleep, etc.) I am fully supportive of anyone who is making healthier choices and working to improve their health. I am deeply saddened to see people I know spending money on products that claim more energy, or help with weight loss or any other claims that motivate you to buy their product. We all have the right to choose what we do with our body. However, before you spend the money on a product, I urge you to truly research the product (please do not research the product on the product website as all you will find there are positive reviews for the product). Rather read the ingredients (unfortunately with supplements it may not contain everything in the product or tell you how much of the active ingredient is in the product) and research the ingredients separately on reputable sources such as eatright.org or the NIH, etc. If taking a pill, powder or drink claims that you will lose weight – ask how – what inside the product will do that? How will the product give you energy? Typically, products claiming a boost in energy contain stimulants like caffeine or other similar substances. Is that how you want to get your energy?

Exercise provides numerous positive benefits for our body – but one positive side effect is that it can help you have more energy throughout the day – naturally – without putting any substances in your body. Eating the right foods (whole foods vs. highly processed packaged foods) will also naturally give you energy you seek as it helps the body to operate properly.

It is so easy to get sucked into the claims on supplements and diet products because they sell their product so well. People who sell these products will have a smooth answer that “sounds” right when they tell you, so it is believable. Unfortunately, many of the diet products and supplements are spin offs of past products that have been banned, but they modify the ingredients enough to make it seem like a whole new product. Realize that the people that sell these products do not care if they are safe or effective – they are only in it for the money.

Yes – choosing to eat healthy does require some work and some planning. However, it can be done and it does not have to be expensive. There are ways to eat healthy and do it inexpensively. The first step is you have to decide not to purchase the processed packaged foods that you do not need to eat. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the occasionally treat – but it should be that – a treat – something that you do not have every day or regularly, so when you do have it it is a pure treat.

If you are unsure where to find reputable information – please go first to eatright.org. They discuss a number of different topics on Nutrition, Health, and Fitness. If you would like to speak with someone – then please seek out a Registered Dietitian with current and proper credentials (you can find these individuals in your area on eatright.org).

It is daunting to sift through all the information that is thrown at us in so many media outlets. But it truly comes down to the basics:

  • Focus on making the majority of your diet from whole foods that have minimal processing
  • Be active in some way every day
  • Sleep – most of us need on average 8 hours of quality sleep each night
  • Use healthy stress reducing activities (not food)
  • Partner with a buddy to help you on your journey

Remember, if you are looking to change from where you are now – think about how long it took you to get there. It is unlikely that those changes occurred overnight – so don’t expect them to reverse overnight. Be patient and celebrate the small success along the way in your journey.

Kristine Clark

Wellness Associates