The following statement will probably piss you off:
Vitamins and most nutritional supplements provide no proven long-term health benefit. In fact, some vitamins taken in isolation can cause disease. Vitamin E is a good example. Vitamin E, once the darling of the supplement set, has been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer and heart disease.
Whoa. Feels good to get that off my chest!
Some food-based products may be helpful, such as krill oil and fish oil – which provide Omega 3 fatty acids. Research has shown that these products may improve both cardio-vascular health and cognitive function. However, Omega 3 supplements also decrease the blood’s ability to clot so be wary if you are on an anticoagulant. Speak to your doctor before taking an Omega 3 supplement.
A few commonly used and abused supplements:
Ginkgo Biloba – Often recommended for use with dementia patients. Not particularly effective and can cause bleeding.
Vitamin C – Vitamin C may actually have some efficacy in preventing colds or decreasing the duration of colds, but long-term use has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Whenever I’ve had a significant exposure to a cold or the flu, or at the first sign of a sore throat, I take 2000 mg. of Vitamin C and I continue to take 2000-6000 mg. of Vitamin C for three days. It seems to help me, but this is anecdotal, of course. Be aware– high doses of Vitamin C also impair blood clotting.
Tumeric – Tumeric is the new cure-all. I don’t dispute the spice’s healthful properties. It is prescribed for certain conditions by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine. However, I know a number of true believers who take multiple capsules containing Tumeric every single day, several times a day. It also happens that these particular people are always sick. I believe that anything taken in isolation and at high doses is bad. Tumeric, used regularly in cooking– curries, stews, marinades– is our friend.
A few healthful herbs and spices and seeds and lilies (bulbs): Cumin. Chili powder. Cayenne. Garlic. Onions. (Do not give your dog onions. Onions are toxic for dogs. Large dogs can handle small amounts, small dogs should probably avoid onions.) Thyme – Thyme is a very healthful spice. A dry rub containing thyme helps prevent grilled meat from forming carcinogens. Yes, grilling meats does cause carcinogens to develop on the surface of the meat. Those grill marks we love? Tasty but not so healthy. I use thyme in all my dry rubs. Basil. Oregano, but be aware oregano can cause indigestion which is why I don’t use a premixed Italian Seasoning. The best way to add oregano to sauces and stews is to add it at the end of the cooking process. Sage. Rosemary. Paprika (a type of chili pepper). Black pepper– although it’s a little known fact that black peppercorns are quite toxic in large doses. As in you can die from ingesting large amounts of black pepper. Cinnamon is a terrific spice. Adding cinnamon to your breakfast cereal can help your body regulate blood sugar levels. Nutmeg is a nice addition to meat dishes– it’s not only good for pumpkin pie. But nutmeg is toxic in larger doses. Cloves elevate your mood. Mustard seed can help with lung ailments.
Although some people are salt sensitive, salt is an essential nutrient. Without sodium, we die. Our body uses sodium to regulate fluid ebb and flow (the sea inside). Fortunately it’s found in many foods so if you are salt sensitive you don’t need to add extra salt to your food. I’m sort of a stickler for salt– Add the minimum and I use Kosher salt or another sea salt.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m a huge fan of herbs and spices. For centuries herbs and spices (i.e. various parts of plants) were our medications. Plants contains chemical compounds that can heal wounds, relieve symptoms and even cure some illnesses. Most drugs in western medicine are plant based, or were originally plant based.
Unfortunately most of us don’t have a good understanding of the proper usage of herbs and spices as medicine, so we read the latest headlines and jump on the supplement of the month bandwagon.
My idea of daily supplements? Real food. Plus– Coffee. Tea. Chocolate. I even add coffee and cocoa powder to my marinades and dry rubs. I have both a coffee grinder and a spice grinder to serve my needs.
Any questions? Feel free to ask. If I don’t know I’ll do a little research.
Here’s to healthy eating! Julia