Even the best dietary supplements and vitamin products cannot replace what we get from food

Food As Medicine: Vitamins, Supplements & Other Dietary Products

EVEN THE BEST DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS AND VITAMIN PRODUCTS CANNOT REPLACE WHAT WE GET FROM FOOD

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Those of us who believe a long life is related to a good diet have something to celebrate this year. In 1912 the term vitamin was first used to describe the compounds in food necessary to prevent nutritional deficiencies.  Now our use of the word vitamin, and the supplements and dietary products they’re found in, is 100 years old!

A Brief History of Food

Before the isolation of the first vitamin and recognition of its importance to health, all people had to worry about when it came to food was getting enough to eat to stay alive. Food choice was based solely on availability. We ate what we could hunt, catch or gather, and when the “local” food supply diminished, we moved on to find food in other places.

Eventually, the ability to grow plants and raise animals made it possible to stay in one place a bit longer, but did not insure there would always be enough food to go around. Unpredictable changes in the weather and other environmental conditions made a feast or famine existence a way of life for most of the world right into the 20th Century.

Advances in agricultural practices in the mid-1900s resulted in bigger crop yields while improvements in storage and distribution allowed more food to reach more people. Finally, there was enough food to allow the nutritional quality to become a point of distinction when making food decisions.

Is the Food Supply Getting Better or Worse?

Many people today think our food is not as good as it used to be. There is no doubt in my mind that what I eat now is quite different from what I ate in my childhood, but I don’t think it has anything to do with the goodness of the food.

An increase in the variety and quantity of food available explains, in part, why what we eat has changed over time. Another reason is the increased information we have about food composition and our nutritional needs. It certainly has become easier to question the quality of our food since we started seeing Nutrition Facts on labels. They weren’t always there.

But I don’t blame the food industry for making food more appealing, convenient, and inexpensive. I also don’t blame them for using all of the technology at their disposal to develop new products and market them so people will want to buy them. That’s their job.

It’s my job to decide what I want to eat. At the end of the day, the quality of my food choices rests entirely with me.

That is why when people ask me what are the best dietary supplements, I always say choose your food wisely. Thirteen unique vitamins have been identified in the last 100 years. The most recent discovery was in 1941 for Folic Acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9. Other possible vitamins to be added to the list are currently under review.

The only way to be sure you are ingesting everything you need for optimal health is to consume a varied diet, because that is where the nutrients are. Vitamins and other dietary products can supplement what you eat, but cannot be relied on to replace food.

 

Tips to get the whole family to eat enough fruit this summer

10 Fun Ways to Eat Enough Fruit This Summer

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the blog here.

USE THESE TIPS TO GET THE WHOLE FAMILY TO EAT ENOUGH FRUIT FROM THE SUMMER BOUNTY

I love fruit and eat plenty of it, but most people do not eat enough fruit to get the minimum 2 servings a day recommended in the Dietary Guidelines. That’s too bad because fruit is an important part of a balanced diet, right along with its side-kick, vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are routinely grouped together in government issued food plans, pyramids and plates, yet some people think vegetables have higher status. Maybe it’s because they have a permanent place on dinner menus, while fruit is relegated to snacks and dessert? Whatever the reason, fruit deserves to be counted on its own merits.

Fruit contains essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber that are not available in plentiful amounts in other foods. The nutrients in fruit help protect us against cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer disease, cataracts, and many other chronic diseases.

Taste is high on the list of reasons why people don’t eat all of the vegetables they should, but that’s no excuse for not eating enough fruit. It can be sweet or sour, juicy or dry, soft or firm, chewy or crisp – something to please any palate. And you can eat it fresh, frozen, cooked, juiced or dried.

One of the easiest ways to make sure teens and adults eat enough fruit is to get them started young. Summer is the perfect time to introduce your little ones to the abundant variety of fruit that is in season and ready for sampling. You can include fun lessons on colors, shapes, and sizes, too, as you shop for an assortment of berries, melons and more.

10 Fun Ways to Eat Enough Fruit This Summer

  1. Melon Bowl Soup Most children don’t like their soup too hot, so make a cold fruit soup and ladle it into carved out half-cantaloupe as a bowl.
  2. Rainbow Pizza Spread cream cheese on toasted English muffins or whole wheat pita bread and top with colorful sliced plums, apricots, and kiwi.
  3. Honey-Grilled Fruit Place pitted and halved peaches and nectarines and sliced pineapple on the barbecue grill for a sizzling fruit platter you can top with a drizzle of honey.
  4. Tropical Dip Cut chunks of banana, mango, and papaya for dipping into lemon yogurt then sprinkling with toasted coconut or crushed cereal.
  5. Green Slushies Puree kiwi, green grapes and honeydew melon together, freeze in ice cube trays, then process again in blender until a slushy consistency.
  6. Fruit Dunkers Easier than fondue, just dunk fruit chunks into caramel or chocolate sauce thinned with hot water or use maple syrup, honey, or whipped topping.
  7. Asian Fruit Salad Combine mandarin orange segments, boysenberries, and cubed Asian pears, top with Chinese noodles, and let everyone eat it with chop sticks.
  8. Crazy Quesadillas Spread shredded mozzarella cheese over a one half of a flour tortilla, top with sliced strawberries, then fold other half over and heat until the cheese has melted.
  9. Parfait Cones Layer yogurt and berries in an ice cream cone for a portable snack filled with summer’s best.
  10. Melon Stick Cube watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and/or Crenshaw and thread onto popsicle sticks.

What’s your favorite fruit of the season?

For more ways to increase the fruit in your diet check these blogs:

  • 11 Ways to Get Kids to Eat More Vegetables
  • Getting More Fruit in Your Diet is Easy with Dried Fruit

 

Pumpkin deserves a place on the menu all year long for its high nutritional value.

What’s So Great About Pumpkins? Everything!

Pumpkins are a nutritious addition to the diet all year round

The capital O in October is just one of several reminders that it is the month that celebrates pumpkins! Of course, there is no reason to wait until the 10th month of the year (there’s another big circle) to enjoy this nutritious vegetable, but for most Americans, this is the season when they’re sure to have their fill.

Little Known Facts About Pumpkins

Pumpkins are believed to be native to North America, with the oldest pumpkin-related seeds found in Mexico and dated between 7000-5500 BC. Today they are grown on every continent except Antarctica. The U.S., Mexico, India and China are the biggest producers of pumpkin, with 95% of the U.S. crop grown in Illinois.

Pumpkin is included in cuisines around the world and used by veterinarians as a digestive aid for dogs and cats. It is also used raw as poultry feed and added to other animal food.

The current world record for the largest pumpkin weighed in at 1,810 pounds. There are also pumpkin chucking contests where various mechanical devices are used to see how far a pumpkin can be hurled. The world record was placed on September 9, 2010 using a pneumatic air cannon that fired a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet.

Pumpkins enjoy a special place in folklore where witches turn people into pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns ward off demons. In fiction pumpkins have run the gamut from being turned into a carriage for Cinderella and consumed as a favored drink by the students of the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft in Harry Potter novels.

Important Nutrition Information About Pumpkins

Like most fruits and vegetables, fresh pumpkins are 90% water. And just like every other plant, they contain no cholesterol. One cup of boiled, drained and mashed pumpkin flesh contains these nutrients:

Macronutrients: Calories 49 , Fat 0g, Carbohydrate 12g of which naturally occurring sugar makes up 2g, Fiber 3g, Protein 2g.

Minerals: Potassium 565mg/16%*, Copper 0.2mg/11%, Manganese 0.2mg/11%, Iron 1.4mg/8%, Phosphorus 73.5mg/7%, Magnesium 22mg/6%, Calcium 36.7mg/4%, Zinc 0.6mg/4%, Sodium 2.5mg/0%.•

Vitamins: A 12231 IU/245%*, C 11.5mg/19%, B2 0.2mg/11%, E 2.0 mg/10%, Folate 22.0mg/6%, B1 0.1 mg/5%, B6 0.1mg/5%, Pantothenic Acid 0.5mg/5%, K 2.0mcg/2%

*Percentage of the Daily Value based on a 2000 calorie per day diet

Phytonutrients (plant nutrients that are neither vitamins nor minerals): Alpha and Beta carotenes, which can be converted into Vitamin A once consumed, and both Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes from macular degeneration.

Uses Beyond Your Holiday Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkins are members of the winter squash family of vegetables and can be prepared in many of the same ways as members of that group, like butternut, Hubbard and turban squash. Whether you carve and cook your own or buy a canned pumpkin, it deserves a place on your menu all year long.

Here is a sampling of some of the many recipes you can find that include pumpkin:

Biscuits • Bread • Brownies • Brulee • Burgers • Cheesecake • Chili • Cookies • Crackers • Cream Cheese • Curry • Custard • Flan • Hash • Fudge • Muffins • Oatmeal • Pancakes • Pudding • Ravioli • Risotto • Salad • Scones • Smoothies • Soufflé • Soup • Stew • Waffles • Yogurt