If you are still a reader of these pages, then you are likely a person who is trying to change, for the better. If you are looking for ways to eat healthier then you want useful information about doing so. If you are struggling against your bad habits, and striving to build new good habits then you want encouragement when you succeed and forgiveness when you do not. Lots of you, I think, are trying to decide which of the choices out there, considering things to eat, are worthy of the extra time and effort that you are expending to get them.
Is it worth it to make a special trip to the health foods store to get GMO free, organic, all-natural foods, or will the difference between them and the mostly natural foods in the local grocer’s vegetable section be enough to justify the effort?
Are the supplements that I am getting at the health food store really what I need? By that, I mean are they really what they say they are, and do they interact with one another in mysterious ways, perhaps cancelling one another out, or over-dosing me where they contribute to one another?
One place you can go for scientific advice on topics like these is your National Institute of Health website. They have a section dedicated to nutrition and dietary supplements. If you drill down into their site, they also have a browser-based app where you can trace your supplement usage.
The majority of adults in the United States take one or more dietary supplements either every day or occasionally. Today’s dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and many other products. Dietary supplements come in a variety of forms: traditional tablets, capsules, and powders, as well as drinks and energy bars. Popular supplements include vitamins D and E; minerals like calcium and iron; herbs such as echinacea and garlic; and specialty products like glucosamine, probiotics, and fish oils.
If you count as ‘dietary supplement’ the added vitamins in milk, breakfast cereals, bread, and thousands of other processed foods in the grocery, you could safely say ‘the vast majority of adults’ are taking supplements. I read recently that most processed vitamins added into your foods are next to worthless at giving you the same effects as their true form as found in natural sources would give you, but all the same, we are most of us taking supplements.
If you only consider the more exotic things, like St John’s Wort, tropical plants, prebiotics and probiotics and oils of exotic plants and animals, then there are not as many people supplementing their diets with them, but the data on the quality, efficiency and interactions of these things with the other foods you eat is also not readily available. For that information, you must keep looking all of the time online. If you wait for ‘all the data’ to come in, you may never start taking supplements. Sometimes your faith in the practitioner who introduces you to a supplement is worth more to you than the supplement itself. Like I said earlier, the magic in the magic feather was inside Dumbo all along. My faith in science may be less powerful than your faith in prayer, so to speak.
However, it never hurts to watch the news, which is what makes the NIH site valuable to us. As a free resource the news there is not sensational, and they aren’t selling anything, which makes their advice right up there with Dr Oz’s advice, right?