Monthly Archives: May 2014

Multivitamins – should you be popping these pills?

With so mImageany supplements and vitamins on the shelves these days, it’s pretty easy to get flustered. One of the areas that I personally have found to be pretty confusing over the years is the subject of Multivitamins.  Why should we be taking a multivitamin? Is it safe? Have no fear, your questions are about to get answered.

1. What is the purpose of taking a multivitamin?

Multivitamins contain most of the essential vitamins and minerals needed to meet your daily requirements. They are intended to make up for the potential gaps in a person’s diet and make sure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy. So multivitamins CAN be a good nutritional insurance policy…IF you aren’t eating a very balanced diet. It can also be helpful to those that are on very restrictive diets, such as vegans. Many sources of essential nutrients come from animal products, so it is important that vegetarians and vegans take a daily multivitamin to ensure that they don’t become deficient in vitamins like B12.

2. Are multivitamins safe?

Sometimes you can get TOO much of a good thing. If you are eating a balanced diet, which most of us are (and this recent CDC survey proves it), getting additional vitamins and minerals on top of what we are already ingesting, could lead to toxicity. Especially considering how many foods are being fortified with nutrients these days (milk with vitamin D, eggs with omega-3s, grains and breads with folate), you could be getting much more than you even realize. Getting way too much of a vitamin like Folate, has been linked to certain cancers such as colon, breast and prostate. One article on this subject states, Getting enough folate from natural foods may keep tumors from starting by repairing errors in DNA, but synthetic folic acid may feed tumor development and promote  carcinogenesis”. The jury is still out on that one, but excess folate is definitely not a good thing.

The best way to get in your nutrients really is food. And by food I mean lots of colorful, vibrant fruits and veggies, moderate amounts of lean meat, nuts/seeds/other healthy fats and whole grains. Your body is much better at absorbing and breaking down vitamins and minerals in real food than it is in synthetic products. After all, that’s what it’s made to do!

3. So are there any vitamins/minerals that I should be taking?

Yes! I feel VERY strongly that everyone should be taking probiotics. Probiotics increase the amount of healthy bacteria in your gut (not all germs are bad!). Studies have demonstrated that probiotics can improve digestive health, immune function and may even help with diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. But be careful about which probiotics you take, because not all are created equal. I take Culturelle, which is the probiotic that most hospitals provide, and it’s worked pretty well for me. Probiotics available in most large pharmacies and Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s are reliable as well. You can also get a good boost of probiotics from yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods like sauerkraut! Pretty sweet.

As far as other supplementation, it really depends on your diet and lifestyle. One vitamin that is being increasingly linked to cancer-prevention and good immune function, is vitamin D. Unfortunately, vitamin D isn’t present in many foods (food sources are egg yolks, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, and fortified milk or cereals). If you haven’t been getting a lot of sunlight lately, and you’ve been skimping on these foods, you may want to get your vitamin D levels checked out.

Another supplement that I think is great are omega-3 fatty acids. We all know that they have a host of heart-healthy benefits, but they also can give you stronger nails and shinier hair, which is fine by me! If you already eat a lot of fish, walnuts or avocados, you may want to skip this supplement. While omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, sometimes inflammation is a good thing – like when your body is fighting a cold, so too many omega-3s may dampen your immune system. Yuck.

Of course, if you are deficient in a vitamin or mineral, you should be taking a supplement if you can’t get to optimal levels with food. This goes without saying, but do NOT self-prescribe. If you are going to start taking a supplement, do so under the advice of your doc. Be smart people!

Bottom line: Pills should not substitute having a balanced, varied diet. That’s really the best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need!

have a great weekend!


Why the Paleo Diet is a dinosaur

The Paleo Diet. When I hear this diet mentioned I think this:


Every few years, a restrictive new diet like this becomes popular, promising its practitioner’s quick weight loss, freedom from disease and endless energy. But before we get into the nitty gritty of why I think this diet is just another fad without any basis in science, let’s define what the Paleo diet actually is.

The diet is based on the premise that our agricultural diet today contributes to our high rate of chronic diseases and that this type of diet does not mesh with our biological makeup. So in order to achieve better overall health and live longer (and also achieve an ideal weight), we need to abandon our current agriculturally-based diets and eat like our ancestors in the Paleolithic period, about 10,000 years ago.

Diets like Primal Blueprint promise to literally “ reprogram your genes in the direction of weight loss, health, and longevity by following 10 immutable “Primal” laws validated by two million years of human evolution”

The Paleolithic diet is:

  1. Meat-based
  2. Vegetables and fruits supplement the meat
  3. Some nuts and oils are also thrown in there 

What is excluded from this diet:

  1. Grains (especially processed grains)
  2. Legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans, peas)
  3. Dairy
  4. Any processed sugars (honey is ok)

This all sounds well and good, right?? Well, actually…..

According to archeologists, this type of diet has no basis in the actual archeological record. (OMG they made it up to get people to buy their product!!)

  • Humans are well adapted for plant consumption. We actually have no genetic or physiological adaptations for meat consumption!
  • Examples that support this include the fact that our bodies cannot make vitamin C, however all carnivores can make vitamin C by themselves. We must eat vitamin C in order to absorb this beneficial nutrient. And guess where vitamin C comes from…..plants! 
  • We also have molars which are made for shredding fibrous PLANTS, not sharp fangs for shredding meat like carnivores have.
  • Our anatomy and genetics HAVE changed since the stone age. Take milk consumption. In the past 7,000 years, humans have actually developed lactose tolerance. Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down milk sugars, originally stopped being present in the body after infancy, however as dairy foods became more prevalent in our food supply, genetic mutations caused lactase to continue its action throughout life. But as with any other genetic mutation, not everyone has it today, hence lactose intolerance.
  • You don’t actually want to live like a Paleolithic person, because they didn’t live very long. Most Paleolithic people didn’t make it past 40, and many didn’t even survive past the age of 15! An article in the Scientific American states: recent study in The Lancet looked for signs of atherosclerosis—arteries clogged with cholesterol and fats—in more than one hundred ancient mummies from societies of farmers, foragers and hunter–gatherers around the world, including Egypt, Peru, the southwestern U.S and the Aleutian Islands. A common assumption is that atherosclerosis is predominately lifestyle-related, and that if modern human beings could emulate preindustrial or even preagricultural lifestyles, that atherosclerosis, or least its clinical manifestations, would be avoided. But they found evidence of probable or definite atherosclerosis in 47 of 137 mummies from each of the different geographical regions.”

Not to mention, avoiding grains, legumes and dairy means you are missing out on a whole swath of important nutrients and health benefits (calcium, fiber and plant protein to name just a few). And just as the Atkins diet proved, a diet primarily composed of meat is a surefire route to many chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

While I don’t recommend the Paleo diet for its nonsensical restrictiveness, there is one thing it does get right: limiting your intake of highly processed foods, which are chock full of not-so-yummy chemicals, preservatives, sodium and added sugars. Foods like white bread, processed meats and cheese, chips, packaged cookies, sugary cereals and packaged diet “foods” are mainly empty calories, any nutritional benefit they might have had is usually lost in the processing.

If you really want to live like a Paleolithic person, here are my two tips:

  • Eat LOCAL. Hit up that farmers market, COOK for yourself, and avoid processed foods. 
  • Get MOVING. While we aren’t being chased down by lions and wildebeest, living an active life is one of the best ways to ensure longevity and good health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise 3-4 times a week. And don’t forget that “active” means active all the time – standing at your desk, walking more, taking the stairs – these all count too!

Until next time…

yours truly,