One of the greatest worries people have today is that there’s something wrong with their diet and it’s affecting their health. They’re right to worry. The Western diet is terrible. Three quarters of us are short of at least four of the 47 key nutrients. Worse, a quarter of us haven’t enough of between 9 and 18 of them. We fill up on things we know are bad for us, so we miss some things our bodies need. And all this does affect our health — of course it does.
Where are you on this deficiency scale? Did you think you’d be different and eat badly but escape the consequences?
The usual answer to diet problems is to read an enticing ad in a magazine or on TV and send for a pack of expensive supplements which are (almost) guaranteed to help whatever’s hurting or your money back. But…
The Problem With Supplements
In this quick fix age, it’s all too easy to look for a medicinal solution. Certainly the advertising claims might make you think that the wonder supplement they sell is all you need. But they would, wouldn’t they! Their general message is that if something’s missing from your chosen diet, you can simply get a pill to add it in. Sounds fine — on the surface. But surely the way to start is to find out what’s actually missing before you try to put it back?
In my article on vitamins I looked at the dangers of high-dose vitamins — see below for the link. Sometimes they can make you very sick, sometimes they’re fine. But are they any good for you? Research often comes up with results showing that the people in their research sample are lacking in some vital chemical, usually because of poor diet. So makers rush out supplements to give it back to you, and quote the research as proof that you need their pill.
But are you sure that eating the missing nutrient is the way to get it to the point in your body where it’s needed? What does your digestion do to this nutrient before it gets there? Don’t be gullible and believe advertisers’ half-claims — look out for proper tests on the actual product.
The problem with supplements is that a healthy body doesn’t need them. So by taking them, you’re admitting that you’re sick and need help. Do you really think that heavily-advertised pills and potions are all you need to restore you to good health? Isn’t that the same as saying that all the public advice about diet is a waste of time?
Of course, you might have special reasons to ignore the medical advice about good diet. Maybe you’re too busy to make a substantial change in the way you eat? Maybe you just can’t be bothered with changing your routine and want a quick fix, even if it may not work? Or are you just a hedonist who lives for today and to hell with health tomorrow? If it’s that one, go away now. You’re wasting time reading this!
Check Yourself With This Good Health Checklist
If you’re really concerned about your health, you should look further than pill-popping. A change of diet will work wonders on your physical vitality and mental sharpness. My other articles give you plenty of ideas on how to do it.
Some supplements, though, should be useful anyway, and my take on the two best is at the end of this article. But first, you need a check on whether you need any help at all. Here is a quick six point checklist for diet:
Water: are you drinking enough for your body to dump poisons, process your food and hydrate your brain? Expert advice is seven glasses a day minimum. Most people don’t drink anything like this, and are dehydrated. In particular, if most of your liquid intake is as diuretic caffeine drinks like tea, coffee, chocolate and colas, or with alcohol, you’ll certainly be dehydrated.
Vegetables and fruit: Forget all that ‘five a day’ stuff you may have heard of. You need at least a third by weight of all your food to be green, red, orange and yellow vegetables, and preferably half of all you eat! This keeps your gut happy and free from constipation and your body free from slow poisoning. Most people are constipated, however often they ‘go’ in a day.
Salt: Living and eating in the West, it’s almost impossible to eat too little salt, but it’s all too easy to eat too much. Processed food and drink is always salt-loaded, even the sweet stuff. Take the medical advice and cut out as much salt from your diet as you can.
Sugar: most of us eat at least five times as much sugar as our bodies can handle comfortably: it’s the scourge of modern life. Sugar is addictive, so weaning yourself off it ain’t easy. But it’s a major cause of heart disease, diabetes and a score of other afflictions. Are these the future you want for yourself?
Saturated fat: OK, you know this one. But do you gobble fatty foods — especially those with ‘hidden fat’? They are addictive, so it’s easy to get caught. Result? Heart disease and overweight. Shorter life and arthritis. Greater chance of cancers. It’s your choice to do this to yourself or not.
Refined foods: Most people today eat a lot of pre-prepared foods, from ready meals to take-aways to most budget restaurant and bar meals to snacks and nibbles. They are all designed to be addictively tasty and to keep well on the shelf before they get to you. They have had key nutrients refined out of them to achieve this — healthy foods are short life. The essential nutrients in good foods don’t keep once the plant or animal is dead. So if most of your food is refined, you’re bound to be nutrient-deficient. Oh, and these meals are all too salty for good health. See point 3.
Supplements to Get Healthy
If you didn’t do well on the checklist, you get a choice of three actions:
abuse your body like you’re doing now, and take the consequences;
change your diet right now, using the checklist to help; or
begin to make changes more slowly and use supplements while you change.
If you reckon you need supplements, here are the two that make the biggest difference — and neither of them is expensive.
One-a-Day all-in vitamin and mineral pills are designed to give you the minimum daily requirement (RDA) of all the key vitamins and minerals for a few pennies a day. They’re harmless. Nothing in them can give you an overdose or problems even if you are getting enough of some of their content already. Treat them as a kind of nutritional backstop, just in case. The chances that you need any more exotic vitamin or mineral not in these pills is remote in the over-fed West. The cheapest are all you need; you might as well get them at discount when the offers are on. They last well; get two years’ worth and keep popping! If you miss a day, don’t eat two; there’s no need to catch up!
Flax Oil is the miracle of the last decade, re-discovered in the 80s from a century and more ago when it was a common foodstuff, but still not well-known in modern times. It is mostly ALA, the essential Omega-3 fatty acid that’s removed from processed food to give it shelf life. You need it if you want to be healthy, and a majority of people in the West are seriously deficient. Don’t get capsules; buy a bottle of the oil from the chiller in a health store or supermarket and eat a dessertspoonful a day in your food — or take it straight like that ghastly cod-liver oil us oldies will remember. Flax oil is the ‘parent’ of cod-liver oil and with ALA and the vitamin pill you can make all the good stuff in fish oils yourself, in your own body. Though eating oily fish too is a good idea.
You’ll find more help in my article ‘High-dose Vitamins — Are They Dangerous?’
So, which way will you go? A super-healthy diet, better food and basic supplements, or just keep on pigging out? Or maybe you’ll spend your moolah on those expensive advertised supplements in the hope that they’ll rescue you from Bad Health decisions without any effort on your part. If that’s your health plan, you’ve got a big surprise coming in a couple of decades!