Being that March is Nutrition Month, we thought we would talk a little about great nutrition, essential nutrients, and supplementation of our diet with vitamins. I am sure you agree that it is so hard to know what to eat, what to take, even how to exercise in today’s day and age. We are constantly bombarded with advertising and opinions, promotions by the next big thing in media, or Hollywood-superstars. It can be overwhelming, so where do you start?!? Here are a few easy rules to implement and some basics on supplements and nutrition to get you started:
1) Be sure to ask an expert. The health care professionals that you trust are full of great information on nutrition and can help you as an individual make a great choice that is healthy and safe for you and your family. We all have different needs based on our lifestyle, stresses, health factors (ie allergies, conditions, environment). Having a conversation with a knowledgeable and trusted individual will help you navigate the murky waters of supplements and diet.
2) Stick with the basics. Unless you have been diagnosed with a condition or are taking a medication that requires you to add specific supplements to help balance your nutritional needs, basic is best! There are things called essential nutrients. An essential nutrient is a nutrient required for normal body function that either cannot be made by the body or cannot be made in amounts adequate for good health and therefore must be provided by the diet.
If you generally eat well, daily supplementation will ensure that you are getting levels adequate to maximize your health and function, especially on those days or seasons where proper nutrition is a bit more of a challenge to attain. If you’re new to adding supplements to your diet, we recommend to talking to one of the chiropractors here; in addition to the vitamins and fish oils that we carry in the clinic, your doctor will be able to recommend valuable resources for finding the supplements that work for you.
Examples of essential vitamins, minerals and essential fats are:
- Vitamins A, D, E, K (fat soluble) and Vit C and the B vitamins (water soluble).
- Fat soluble vitamins: the body will take and store the excess amounts in our tissues so a proper dosage of the supplement is important to discuss with your health care provider to make sure it is appropriate for you. It is quite rare to have too much but very easy to take too little, so advice will ensure that you are adequate. With water soluble vitamins the body will only take on what is required and will eliminate any excess.
- Vitamin D is a supplement that health experts have recommended for daily use for many years. They have been aware of the negative effects of a deficiency for centuries and have used supplementation for illness prevention. Our body can make Vitamin D on its own through sunlight exposure on the skin. The UVB rays are absorbed by the skin and converted to Vit D3. There are many factors that can affect appropriate levels of vitamin D such as season, time of exposure, skin pigment, sunscreen, geographic location in regard to the equator, as well as many more. As many of us work indoors for the majority of our day (and in Saskatchewan we are covered up from the elements for a lot of our time outside), a supplement is an important addition to our diet.
- Minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, chromium, copper, fluoride, molybdenum, manganese, and selenium. These are found in our fruits and vegetables and come from the plant’s ability to absorb them from the soil. We all hear about soil and food quality in the media. Due to declining soil quality it is a good idea to supplement these to ensure we are getting what we need on a daily basis.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil, flax oil, olive oil). These nutrients are the hardest to get in a Saskatchewan diet but so essential for overall body, cellular, joint, and brain health. This is likely the one that we have to work the hardest to find on a daily basis. Being that we are land-locked, ocean fish and seafood are harder to come by in our diets. Flax is a great form of Omega 3 easier for us to find but the flax seeds need to be ground in order for our body to access the oils. Omega-3s play important roles in the body as components of the structures of cell membranes It is especially high in the retina (eye), brain, and in sperm. In addition to their structural role in cell membranes, omega-3s provide energy for the body and are used to form eicosanoids. These have wide-ranging functions in the body’s cardiovascular, pulmonary, immune, and hormone systems.
3) Be intentional with your food. We can get the majority of the nutrients we require from our food if we eat a wide variety of sources. They always say our plates should always include all the colours of the rainbow! Yes, we live in Saskatchewan and sometimes finding the rainbow can be difficult, but food is always the first place we should try and get our nutrients and then we supplement to make up what we may be missing. A great line I once heard from nutrition expert Dr Mark Hyman is “Try your best to limit in your consumption of foods that come from a box or have a barcode.” Every time you go for your groceries, pick up one new or different item in the vegetable and fruit section and try it out.
4) Use the 80/20 rule. If we eat well 80 percent of the time we are allowed to have a little fun as well and we should! The 80/20 rule is a guide for your everyday diet—eat nutritious foods 80 percent of the time and have a serving of your favourite treat with the other 20 percent.
For the “80 percent” stay focus on drinking lots of clean water and eating nutritious foods that include fruits and vegetable, animal protein and/or plant-based proteins such as beans, soy, and edamame, and healthy fats from avocados or olive oil (Omega 3s) . For your treats, or the “20 percent” part, eat your favourite foods in moderation.
In conclusion, nutrition and supplementation can be complicated if you let it be, and it’s a topic that can be challenging to navigate. There are many opinions and sources of information to read and analyze. Stick to the basics and do your best to make good choices – and if ever in doubt, just remember to ask your chiropractor. We are always here it help how ever we can!
Sources used (further reading):