Do we need to take supplements? Won’t our five a day do?

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Cambridge market.  Just behind this veg stall is another veg stall that has interesting veggies instead of the usual tomatoes and bananas. Hurrah.

Cambridge market. Just behind this veg stall is another veg stall that has interesting veggies instead of the usual tomatoes and bananas. Hurrah.

Over Christmas, on Channel 5, there was a programme called 50 shocking facts about diet and exercise.  It was rather interminable, but a surprising amount of the information was OK.  However, there was one huge contradiction during the programme.  Fairly early on in events, they said that we don’t need to take supplements saying we get enough from our diet and saying, quite correctly, that most supplements are not worth the money.  This is absolutely true.  In order to work, supplements have to be of the highest quality and the vitamins or minerals presented to the body in a form it recognises and can uptake.  Later on in the programme, the programme came out with the astounding fact that in 1914 a cabbage contained 248mg calcium, but by 1992 this had sunk to 47mg calcium; spinach in 1914 contained 64mg iron, but only 2.7mg in 1992.  They then said we would have to eat 30 cabbages these days to get the nutrition we got from one cabbage in 1914.  30 cabbages!   We could pipe the methane produced from our bottoms into a national grid.  And the trouser industry would have a boom as we would all need bigger pants to cope with our distended guts.  All this apart, we are told we do not need supplements since we still get all the nutrition we need from our five a day fruit and veg.

Shortly after this, on the news came the surprising fact, that, due to the rubbish summer in the UK, the vitamin content of the veg is much lower . The vitamins mentioned include zinc, iron and copper.  They all got washed away.  Did they?  If so, how is it going to be replenished?  Not by the usual commercial fertilizers, rich in nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.  If a crop looks particularly sickly, then the farmer will apply the appropriate mineral so our plants look lovely again.  But the drop in calcium and iron quoted above speaks for itself.

Despite the drop in nutrition in our British fruit and veg, still we are alright if we take our five a day.  Interestingly, in Canada the recommended daily intake of fruit and veg is 7 for women and 10 for men under 51.  Upon reaching wrinkleydom, the need drops to 7 a day for both sexes.  Confusing stuff, hey?

What counts as a portion?  1 apple. 3 sticks of celery.  1 medium tomato.  3 heaped tablespoons of cooked veg or 4 heaped tablespoons of raw veg.  Spuds don’t count since they are a starch.  But 3 heaped tablespoons baked beans apparently do count as a portion.  The weight of a portion is given as 80g.

The best form of nutrition comes from our food.  In food form, the vitamins and minerals come bound to proteins which the body seizes upon with glee.  However, the vitamins and minerals have to be actually in the food AND we have to have good levels of HCl in our stomach to break the food down properly.  An important building block of HCl is zinc.  Funnily enough, one common symptom of low levels of HCl is heartburn1  which we ‘cure’ with anti-acids.  So we have low levels of zinc, which leads to low production of HCl which means we can’t break down our food properly to access any remaining nutrition in there.  Yet, folks, we still get all our nutrition from our 5 fruit and veg a day and have no need to take any supplements.  Dearie, dearie me.  Actually, there is a way of getting our nutrition from our food and that is to move to the parts of the world where they have never used artificial fertilizers, for example Cuba or the Dominican Republic.  There they have no concept of organic food since all their food is organic.  Go to the Dominican Republic for a holiday, and provided you don’t get shot, you come back full of vigour.

In summary, we do need to eat plenty of fresh vegetables, preferably organic.  But sadly we do need to supplement as well with the highest quality supplements, not the cheap stuff found on the supermarket shelves.  And we need a nice broad spectrum of supplements, including gut help.  Then we can live life vigorously.

  1. Why do low levels of HCl cause heartburn?  Well just above the stomach lives the Lower Esophageal Sphincter which closes firmly when the acid levels of the stomach rise upon eating protein.  If the stomach does not produce enough HCl,  the acid levels do not rise enough to cue the sphincter to close properly.  A properly acidic stomach is massively acidic – it would burn holes in the carpet.  So the heartburn we feel is the slightly acidic stomach juices – not pleasant, admittedly.  But how we deal with this is by taking anti-acids which further lower the acidity of the stomach, making it harder for us to properly breakdown our food and get what scant nutrition is in there.  And leaving us open to bugs and pathogens living on all foods.  And then we wonder why Novovirus is getting ever more rampant.  And people get more tired and fatter than ever.  Whilst I’m on a rant, the programme was also talking about the allowed levels of rodent hairs and dead bugs allowed in our food – 145 bugs and 5 rodent hairs per jar of peanut butter or 10 fly eggs/5 fly eggs and 1 maggot per glass of tomato juice. Yum.  They then blithely said our stomach acid would take care of these nasties.  What a laugh. []

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