Eating Healthy: the Basics

1. What is a healthy breakfast?
2. What is a healthy lunch?
3. What is a healthy dinner?
4. How much should I weigh?
5. How many calories should I be eating?
6. What is the best way to lose weight?
7. How can I keep my weight loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight loss?
9. How to set weight loss goals and make them happen
10. How to keep a food diary, and why it is essential to successful weight loss
11. Are all fats bad for you?
12. Are saturated fats bad for you?
13. Are unsaturated fats good for you?
14. Are carbohydrates bad for you?
15. Is fiber good for you?
16. How to read nutrition/food labels
17. How to plan your weekly menus
18. Why should I eat less salt?
19. What do the sodium (salt) numbers mean on food labels?
20. What is The Mediterranean Diet?
21. Why eating vegetables is good for you
22. Why eating fruit and nuts is good for you
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
26. Which fats and oils are good for you?
27. Are dairy products good for you?
28. Which meats should I not eat?
29. Is drinking alcohol good for you?
30. Is it important to measure your ingredients?
31. Are snacks good for you?
32. How to choose the right portion size
33. Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning out your pantry
35. Which oils and fats should I keep in my pantry?
35. Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?
36. Which carbohydrates are good for you?
37. What is the best chicken or turkey for you?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
39. Which nuts and seeds should I eat?
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
41. Is eating dessert good or bad for you?
42. Is drinking soda bad for you?
43. Is drinking coffee bad for you?
44. How can healthy food taste good? Part 1
45. How can healthy food taste good? Part 2
46. How to eat healthy while eating out
47. Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?
48. How to eat healthy while traveling


Eating Healthy: the Basics

Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?

a prescription pill bottle with pill capsules spilling out of it

There are a lot of vitamins sold today. They come in all forms - pills, capsules, packets of pills and supplement drinks. We now have more and more good research that says they are pretty much worthless. We know that vitamins are good for you, but the research is now clear that getting your vitamins from food and not supplements is better for you.

For instance, one study looked at the effect of Vitamin C on inflammation. The study evaluated whether eating fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C would have an effect on inflammatory markers in the blood (AJCN 83;567-574). In looking at about 3,200 men between the ages of 60 and 79 they found lower levels of chemicals that cause inflammation in those with higher intakes of Vitamin C from fruits. Vitamin C intake from vegetables showed only reduced blood clotting factors. Similar studies using vitamins in pill form have not shown comparable results.

In one very well designed study in Scotland, researchers used a supplement containing 11 vitamins and 5 minerals. Over 900 men and women 65 or older were given either the test supplement or a placebo daily for a year. The participants' mental status was assessed at the beginning and the end of the study using two standard tests. The researchers found no difference between the two groups. Those over 75 and those who were already nutritionally deficient showed did show a slight positive effect, but it was not statistically significant.

In a meta-analysis of eleven studies, researchers looked at whether taking supplements of antioxidants and B vitamins had any effect on the progression of heart disease (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:880-7). The studies looked at the amount of plaque lining the arteries of those in the study, then assigned them to get no supplements, antioxidants or B vitamins. The outcome showed no evidence that taking vitamins in pill form had any effect on heart disease. In fact, 6 of the studies suggested that taking antioxidants might actually make the progression of atherosclerosis worse. Even more worrisome, the vitamins seemed to reduce the positive effects of common atherosclerosis medications.

One of the most comprehensive studies recently studied the role of Vitamin E and selenium in the prevention of prostate cancer. The SELECT trial looked at a variety of combinations of these two supplements, and found that alone or in combination, neither had any effect on the prevention of prostate cancer (JAMA 2009; 301 E1 - E13). Similarly, a major review by the respected Cochrane group found that supplements had no effect on a variety of diseases, including gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, neurological, ocular, dermatological, rheumatoid, renal or endocrinological (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD007176).

The National Institutes of Health studied Vitamin C in healthy adults and concluded that the current RDA of 60 mg daily may not be adequate for most adults. RDAs were originally set to prevent vitamin deficiencies and scientists are rethinking those guidelines (JAMA 1999; 281: 1415 - 1423). The new recommendation from this study is that 100-200 mg daily will best meet most adult needs. On the other hand, consuming more than 1000 mg daily was found to be detrimental. This study was conducted with the use of foods high in Vitamin C and did not use vitamin supplements.

You can meet these new RDAs by eating 5 servings of fruits or vegetables per day. It's probably a good idea to add a couple servings to that list, especially if you're highly active, overly stressed or experiencing a growth period.