Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's all about the food

I love this article, which talks about new research showing that when it comes to getting nutritional bang for your buck, it's food itself rather than supplements, vitamins, etc. that holds the key.

The article refers to recent studies that have looked at whether ingesting specific nutrients--B vitamins and beta-carotene--can prevent heart disease, cancer, and other ailments. All of these studies so far have shown no value, or even a slight negative value, to the supplement approach.

These researchers argue that it's the food, not what's in it, that's good for us. Sitting down to a plate of steamed kale with olive oil and garlic is an entirely different matter, nutritionally, than dosing yourself with B-vitamins, iron, etc. This follows along with conclusions from a 1970s study showing that when you enjoy what you're eating, you actually get more nutritional value from it. Shocking!

Here's the money quote in my book:

[Researchers] focus on the concept of food synergy - the idea that more information about the impact of human health can be obtained by looking at whole foods than a single food component (such as vitamin C, or calcium added to a container of orange juice).

Just as some of us have been saying all along, food is medicine.

So on this Thanksgiving week, lift a fork in honor of the pleasures and privileges of food. Say thanks to your body, a splendid machine that knows how to make use of food, and to your taste buds, which let you enjoy it.

Then dig in.


Maggie Ginsberg-Schutz said...


I love this, and perfect timing. Thanks, Harriet.

mary said...

Not a scientists here, just a layman researcher. : )
While I totally agree with food first I must admit that for myself taking a vitamin when I am feeling emotionally worn actually has an effect that works. I am not a vitamin guru and believe we need to adjust and take them according to need, not a daily regime.I might grab a B complex once in several weeks or an omega oil. (my vitamins last!)
Magnesium can lower blood pressure and help calm us down. It has helped my husband fight his borderline HBP with good results. I learned about this one after a friend who had an ED, and who was also a cutter, had her blood work done and was then given a shot to restore her very low magnesium levels. For some reason it stopped her urge to cut and helped her recover.
Yes, food is best but sometimes the pill or even a shot works. We still don't know what the root genetic component is that causes one starving person to eat when given food and another to continue to refuse food. Anorexia seems to have some chemical muck ups causing them to avoid or even fear foods in some cases. (layman's words)This is where I'd like research to focus their attention as perhaps we can then find a cure or treatment that keeps an ED at bay.
My father was actually hungry for several years during the war and he has a great respect for food today.(he also takes vitamins) My mom didn't have enough to eat growing up, due to poverty, yet she never felt the need to stop eating. She wanted to eat, she wanted food! With ana it seems that they can't eat like a normal person, being starved for whatever reasons, and offered food. This is why they need help outside their own head until they are strong enough to fight on their own.

I have to first trust my own body and that means learning to listen well to what signs to pay attention to. I know some women who can't even relate to any of this and perhaps they are balanced in this way. I am strong and balanced in other ways so I forgive my weakness.
Food IS a chemical too and I had to learn what combo's to take that helped when my iron was low. Iron needs vit. C, either OJ or a Vit. C pill.
Perhaps my body and others like me, is unique in it's sensitivity to moods. Eating well alone just doesn't cut it for me and I'd prefer a safe vitamin than taking daily meds for occasional lows.
I'm all for chowing down though and intend to indulge in both food and family fun tomorrow. No one should let a vitamin be a substitute for food if given a choice.
Happy Thanksgiving Harriet and others! I am thankful for many things including a computer that connects us to one another.

Harriet said...

Hi Mary,
I take magnesium myself--no argument from me on whether supplements can be helpful. Clearly they can. But I find it so interesting that our culture seems to want to separate the concepts of food and nutrition, with nutrition being what-your-body-needs and food being what-you-want, and therefore unhealthy, decadent, and sometimes downright evil. It's just more of the dichotomizing we do around food that contributes on some level to a nation of disordered eaters. Bah.

Maggie, I hope you enjoy every bite of your Thanksgiving meal(s)!

mary said...

Thanks for replying Harriet. It can be confusing sometimes as the article shared seem to lack does the way we are presented with such info almost daily in the news. I know you are showing all the ways they try to worry us and I probably needed to avoid stepping in "it". I was just feeling a little guilty knowing that I WILL take a vitamin when it can give me a boost.
I too am sick of the drilling into the minds that certain foods are bad and others are good.....unless they are talking about a good chocolate chip cookie or even a loaf of warm bread with butter. Then they can say good all they want.
I know one person who's gonna eat till she's stuffed tomorrow.:)
Hope I'm in good company.