Buzz Nutrients and Their Natural Sources
Vitamin C is commonly associated with colds and illnesses. It is believed that if you take Vitamin C, you will boost your immune system and fight off pathogens. But in reality, this is not a role of vitamin C. Taking vitamin C will not help your immune system. Vitamin C works in other ways to protect our bodies, by acting as an antioxidant and by working with enzymes in our body for important metabolic reactions. To get your recommended amount of vitamin C (75mg for males, 90mg for females), try snacking on bell peppers, citrus fruits, or leafy greens instead.
Vitamin C, beta carotene, and vitamin E are all antioxidants. This means they help to reduce the oxidation of compounds in our bodies and they fight free radicals. There have been many studies evaluating whether or not supplementing these nutrients will help to decrease risk for illnesses like cancer or decrease risk of death. Vitamin C supplementation has been found to have no effect in reducing risk, whereas beta carotene and vitamin E supplementation actually increased risk of mortality in some cases! Because antioxidant supplementation has not been proven effective, it is best to get your antioxidants from natural foods like blueberries, carrots, or nuts and seeds.
This fat-soluble vitamin is important to regulate our calcium and phosphorus balance in our bodies. Vitamin D is also called the sunshine vitamin because with the help of sun light, we can synthesize it from a compound naturally derived in the skin. Vitamin D is popular right now, and is therefore often associated with health issues that are not proven by research. One of these conditions is seasonal affective disorder, and it has been thought to be a result of low vitamin D levels in the winter. This connection has not been proven and supplementation is not a suggested treatment for this disorder. Researchers who work on vitamin D are also working to find more accurate diagnostic levels of vitamin D deficiency, as the current guidelines are not believed to be a great measure of the average person’s vitamin D status. The best way to be ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D is by eating rich foods sources like mushrooms, fortified milk, and oily fish like salmon and allowing yourself to soak up a little sun every now and then.
Many people associate B12 with energy. It is not uncommon for people to take B vitamins in an attempt to give them a boost in daily life. However, B12 intake is adequate in most people, with the exception of vegans. B12 is abundant in animal foods like meat, poultry, and eggs. Because the vegan diet contains no animal products, those who are vegan should take a B12 supplement. It may also benefit the elderly to take a B12 supplement, as absorption can reduce with age. Other than these two populations, supplementation is not recommended. In fact, supplementing with B12 when you are not deficient has no effect on energy levels.
Supplements often become popular because of the deficiency symptoms they eradicate. For example, deficiency in biotin leads to thinning of the hair and in extreme cases, baldness. By replenishing biotin in those who are deficient, this thinning stops and normal hair growth patterns return. It is a common misconception that if biotin can fix thinning hair in one circumstance, it must fix it in all. Biotin supplementation does not give you longer, stronger, and softer hair, skin, and nails if you are not deficient. Because the majority of the population is not biotin deficient, supplementation is not recommended. Foods like eggs are rich in biotin and are a much better alternative to a biotin supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids:
These are essential fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). This is one of the most commonly taken supplements in the United States. Having proper levels of omega-3’s in our diets contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation, and aid in brain development in children. Studies that evaluate supplementation of these compounds have been inconclusive. It is not clear whether or not taking a supplement of omega 3’s actually reduces. It is known that choosing omega-3 rich foods such as salmon and sardines, walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseeds does decrease risk of heart disease and inflammation. By including these foods in your diet instead of supplementing, you are choosing healthy fats that have a conclusive benefit to your health.
Calcium is known for its ability to help us build strong bones. Although dairy is probably the most commonly known source of calcium, there are many plant sources like broccoli, bok choy, and kale. Many foods are also fortified with calcium to be sure our diets contain adequate amounts, like fortified orange juice and plant-based milks (e.g. soy, almond, etc.). Studies have found that supplementation is only truly necessary for those who are elderly and at risk for falls or are deficient. In fact, some who supplement with calcium although they have adequate intake can increase their risk of painful kidney stones.
In conclusion, the best way to get adequate amounts of these important nutrients is to eat a well-balanced and varied diet that includes their natural food sources. Although supplements can be tempting, they are often not a safe way to improve your nutritional status, and in some cases can cause an increase of the very risk you were hoping to combat.
Pawlak, R., Lester, S.E., Babaturde, T. The prevalence of cobalamin deficiency among vegetarians assessed by serum B12: a review of literature. Eur J Clin Nutr. 62014; 8(5):541-548.
Kwak, S.M., Seung-Kwan, M., Lee, Y.S., Seo, H.G., Efficacy of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Arch Intern Med 2012; 172 (9):686-694.
Cauley, J.A., Chlebowki, R.T., Wacawski-Wende, J., Robbins, J.A., Rodebough, R.S., Chen, Z., Johnson, K.C., O’Sullivan, M.J, Jackson, R.D., Manson, J.E. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the health outcomes five years after intervention ended: the women’s health initiative. J Women’s Health 2013; 22(11): 915-929.
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Frequency and Duration
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends at least 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity exercise, or slightly shorter durations of high intensity exercise, five days a week. The good news is that you can meet your activity quota cumulatively, as long as each session lasts at least 10 minutes at your desired intensity.
You can determine the difference between moderate and vigorous intensity by trying the talk test. Try to have a conversation during the activity; if you cannot hold a conversation, then chances are you at vigorous intensity. If you can then you are at moderate intensity. Working out at a vigorous intensity can give you the same benefit in a shorter period of time. Certain types of vigorous intensity exercise may not be appropriate for everyone, so ease into it and listen to your body. Always consult your physician before initiating a new exercise program.
What counts as “cardio”?
The simple answer is “anything that increases your heart rate”, and depending on your current fitness level and interests, suggestions may include brisk walking, jogging or running, swimming, biking or indoor cycling, dance fitness or other individual or group activities.
When it comes to cardio, some is better than none! If you are new to exercise, or re-starting an exercise program, it is important to start slow to avoid injuries or other complications. Remember to incorporate a brief warm up and cool down with every cardio session.
The Total Wellness program offers a variety of classes aimed at improving cardiovascular health and fitness. The group exercise classes are led by friendly, knowledgeable instructors who are experienced in adapting exercises for any age or any fitness level. Find your program on the menu bar at the top of the page to see a group exercise class schedule.