Welcome to Small Steps to Health where we do not take orders from a cookie! In this post, my friend, Sagan Morrow from Living Healthy in the Real World, shares her approach to getting the proper amount of nutrients from food and supplements.
Judging by the shelves upon shelves of diet and health books that I found myself staring at recently in a bookstore, we all greedily lap up any information we can regarding what we should and should not do when it comes to eating habits. If a particular diet expert says that we are all probably deficient in calcium and need more of it to prevent bone loss in the future, society responds drastically. Calcium supplement sales shoot up and we start knocking them back. Why take just one when you could take three? It’s good for you, right? Better triple that dosage!
But it doesn’t work like that. Although we should indeed be concerned about nutrient deficiencies, we should equally be concerned about nutrient toxicities. If you’re doubling or tripling the recommended daily amount of calcium, for example, then you’re more likely to be susceptible to kidney stones. Excess calcium also hinders the absorbent ability of iron, which could then lead to a deficiency in that nutrient.
It also depends what kind of nutrient you’re consuming as to the likelihood of reaching deficient or toxic levels. Water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, pass through our bodies quickly and therefore we need to consume an astronomically high amount of that vitamin to reach toxic levels. Fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, on the other hand, remain in the body and can reach toxic levels much quicker.
The moral of the story is to take the Goldilocks approach of consuming a moderate amount of every nutrient. Not too much, not too little: just enough to be healthy and reap the benefits. You can best achieve this by reading nutrition labels and doing a little research to learn what foods different nutrients can be found in. It is also good to know a little bit about which nutrients you may be lacking in due to a lack of variety in your diet.
Iron is a particularly tricky nutrient when it comes to achieving that desired balance. There are two forms of iron; heme and non-heme. Heme iron is only found in animal flesh, and it is absorbed twice as efficiently as non-heme. This is very problematic for vegetarians. There are ways that they can increase the absorption of non-heme iron, however: consuming the plant-based source of iron with a source of vitamin C is one way to enhance absorption. Toxicity levels of iron usually only occur when the person is taking iron supplements, so if you are taking supplements, you might want to discuss it with your doctor or a registered dietician to ensure that your nutrient levels are balanced.
It pays off to become savvy at reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists for figuring out the meaning of the labels on bottles of supplements. Increasing your awareness of the value and dangers of nutrient consumption will lead you to better health. Any kind of recurring problem, such as bleeding noses, insomnia, or diarrhoea, could very easily be a result of a deficiency or toxicity of a vitamin or mineral in your diet. How much do you know about the nutrients in the food that you eat?
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