Buy Food, Not Supplements

She did it before me! I love Judy Foreman, health columnist for the Boston Globe. She recently published a column about “the fading allure of vitamins” and I thought it was brilliant.

In this column, she states, “my love affair with vitamins and supplements is over. With a few exceptions, I’m tossing them out.” She goes on to describe how studies on Vitamins C, E and beta carotene had great press and promises, but scientific studies failed to show these promises could be kept. This is important, because it is based upon “anecdotal information” (meaning: my friends take it and swear by it) that many people decide to buy supplements.

I discussed this particular issue with my students, especially the weight-lifters taking powdered supplements to build muscle or some such claim. When I asked them WHY they spent all this money on powders and pills, they replied “because my trainer said it works” or “everyone at the gym takes them, and they said their workouts are much better.” I then ask these same students what they think happened to the folks for whom the supplements did not result in a better workout. They don’t know, but I do -- and I tell them.

These are the folks who stop coming to the gym, who stop buying the supplements because they do not work, and it was easier to go somewhere else to work out than to be a “non-believer” surrounded by believers. This comes as a surprise to my students, who then begin to understand that this could, indeed, be true. Now I have the chance to help them understand their “data” is biased, and cannot be supported by their information research methods. The “research” upon which their conclusions are based is faulty. Do they stop taking the pills? Probably not, but hopefully they are beginning to think that chewing their nutrients in the forms of food may be preferable to swallowing a pill or tasteless powder.

Strength training pills aside, please understand all is not lost. Pills are not the most effective way for your body to get the nutrients you need. Unfortunately people believe that taking a pill means they don’t have to watch what they eat. What you need to remember is that these pills are SUPPLEMENTS. They are supposed to supplement your diet, not REPLACE good eating. I have a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement I (try to remember to) take regularly. I suppose I take it as insurance.

On a more serious note, you need to understand that your body is uniquely designed to work best with whole foods. For example, when you take a vitamin C pill, that is all you are giving your body –- ascorbic acid (the chemical name for vitamin C). Eating an orange supplies you with other nutrients, including potassium, water and bioflavonoids -- plant chemicals that may help your body absorb vitamin C more efficiently.

So I absolutely agree with Judy Foreman. Toss out those supplements that have “magic” claims. Instead of supplements, buy whole foods. It’s what your body is designed to process.

Imagine what you can do with the money you’ll save. Your body, and your wallet, will thank you.


Become At Peace with Food: Stop Dieting and Lose Weight

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received from your primary care doctor or other medical professionals.