Supplements: Health or Harm?

Photo Credit: Kristel Irvine

Written by April Irvine

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES reports that in an effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle, about two-thirds of adults in the US are using dietary supplements. Although, acquiring our nutrients from a pill may be convenient and easy, supplements don’t necessarily deliver the promise of better health.

Supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there is no guarantee that the labeling on the package, it’s purity and strength are true. For example, dietary supplements may claim to make you faster, stronger, or slimmer but the manufacturers don’t have to prove that its safe or if it even works. Be careful, some supplements could contain illegal substances.

Although in some situations, supplements may help to improve health. A supplement may be recommended if you are on a restrictive diet, an older adult (age 50+), vegetarian or vegan, pregnant or lactating women, or a medical condition that limits your food choices. For example, a pregnant woman should take a prenatal vitamin to prevent deficiencies and improve fetal outcomes. Check with your doctor or dietitian to see if a supplement is recommended for you.

Remember, real food contains healthy things a pill can’t give us. Eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way for most people to get the nutrients they need to be healthy and reduce their risk of chronic disease. Healthy food choices include grains/legumes, dairy, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables).

USPMost people don’t need supplements however, if you choose use them its important be well informed. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a third party organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of dietary supplements and NSF sets standards for accurate ingredient labeling and testing for contaminants. NSF have different labeling and certification processes, be sure to do your research beforehand. Look for the NSF or USP mark on the supplement bottle to know that it’s been tested and approved.

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Even though some supplements have been tested by third part organizations, supplements can have powerful biological effects. When we take a nutrient out of a food and concentrate it in a pill, it’s not quite the same thing so consider your individual situation and consult a doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a supplement.

References:

  1. Dickinson A, Mackay D. Health habits and other characteristics of dietary supplement users: a review. Nutr J. 2014;13:14.
  1. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/
  1. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/
  1. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7918
  1. http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7088
  1. Marra M.V., Boyar A.P. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient supplementation.J. Am. Diet Assoc.2009;109:2073–2085. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.020

Mindful Eating

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By April Irvine

Learning to eat and live mindfully is key to experiencing health and peace. Have you participated in several weight loss regimens and failed? From low carb diets, gluten-free to I -will-never-eat-sweets-again usually don’t work because it creates a negative relationship with food. Celebrations and potluck parties are usually a time of celebration but do you find that you are filled with anxiety and stress. This can take all the enjoyment out of eating. This can sometimes lead to binge-eating…more on that in another post.

Common sense tells us that to lose weight we must eat less and exercise more. Many of us knows that but we get stuck. We start on a weight loss program with good intentions, but somehow it doesn’t last. We become pessimistic and spend hours worrying about our future, blaming ourselves for what we have eaten and completely missing the present moment – the moment in which we have the power to make real change in our lives. The practice of being fully present in each moment is mindfulness.

At your next meal:

  • Take the time to observe the meal, engage your senses of smell and sight.
  • Take a small bite and savor it. Chew slowly.
  • Put your fork down between each bite.
  • Try to spend at least 20 minutes to eat a meal because that’s how long it takes for your body to stomach to send signal to your brain saying “I’m full”.

Pay attention to your hunger cues, that is: Eat when your hungry and stop when your full. Every time you open the fridge, have a conversation with yourself. Why are you eating? Are you bored? Tired? It’s 6pm that means it’s dinner time? Or is it because you are truly hungry. If so, go ahead and eat.

Eating when your hungry and stopping when your full can un-complicate your life. You don’t need to worry about counting calories, keeping track of what ingredients are in it, etc. But I should also say, as your future registered dietitian, every time you do choose to eat be sure that most of the time it’s a healthy choice. That is choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, etc. It’s still OK to have your cake and eat it too, all foods can fit! I would just have to advise to not eat cake every single day. Try switching up with fruit every once in a while.

Trust me, choosing to eat when your hungry and stop when your full, can help you lose weight effortlessly and make eating enjoyable. Mindfulness will help you reconnect with yourself and become healthier in mind and body.

References:

1. Hanh TN, Cheung L. Savor, Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. HarperOne; 2010.