Post about "Nutrition"

Why You Should Take Nutritional Supplements

Few things have been as controversial as nutritional supplements have been recently. Depending on who you listen to, they are either the answer to any problem you have or they are the devil incarnate. The truth about nutritional supplements, though, is really somewhere in between.

Nutritional supplements are more widely used now than in other time in history. This is because many people have turned to nutritional supplements in order to fill the gaps in what they know to be unhealthy diets that don’t meet the minimum daily requirements for many, many necessary vitamins and minerals. Others have turned to nutritional supplements in order to enhance everything from their workout regimes to their memory and mental functions.

Considering the controversy over whether it’s safe to take nutritional supplements or not, you probably wonder just what you can really expect from taking nutritional supplements. Do they have any real benefit?

The fact is that taking nutritional supplements in their recommended dosages is extremely helpful for everyone from infants to elderly people. The methods used to grow and process our foods have changed drastically in the last 100 years. In many cases, this means that the food itself is deficient in many essential, basic vitamins and minerals.

Add that to the fact that people are so time-starved today that many of us practically live on meals out of paper bags makes taking nutritional supplements almost mandatory. Taking vitamins and other nutritional supplements is a good way to be certain you get all the proper vitamins and minerals you need daily.

However, nutritional supplements should never be used as a substitute for a good diet. Eating at least three (and many experts recommend five) well-balanced meals and two well-balanced snacks per day is still the best way to be sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay fit and healthy. Adding nutritional supplements to good eating habits simply goes the extra mile to see that you’re getting all the nutrients that your body needs each day.

There are many high-quality multi-vitamins available at your local drugstores, as well as through many online sources. The key thing to remember when you decide to take (and you should!) nutritional supplements of any kind is to take them only as directed. Those directions are put on the bottles and packages for a reason–to ensure the vitamins and other herbal supplements are taken correctly.

This is vital for any nutritional supplement you take to be both as safe and effective as it should be. Too high doses of anything can cause side effects you aren’t expecting and don’t want. When you take more of any vitamin or nutritional supplement than the manufacturer recommends you take daily, then you run the risk of taking more than your body can effectively and safely process in a twenty-four hour period of time. Any risk of taking too much or of unwanted side effects is slight, though, for nutritional supplements when they’re taken as directed. Even slightly higher dosages, in most cases, will have few side effects because your kidneys will flush them from your system, which keeps your body from absorbing too much of any one vitamin or mineral. Still, to be totally safe, take nutritional supplements exactly as instructed.

If you’re still uncertain as to whether you should take a nutritional supplement each day, ask for your doctor’s advice. This is particularly true if you’re on any prescribed medications. It is possible for some supplements to decrease the efficiency of some prescribed medicines and to interact with them, causing unwanted side effects. However, despite many news headlines you may have read, this is rare, especially when nutritional supplements are taken as directed.

Taken properly, nutritional supplements are an excellent way to ensure your body has all it needs to be healthy. Just be sure to use them to supplement, not substitute for, a good healthy diet.

Copyright 2005 Wesley Atkins

Can Nutrition Bars Really Be Nutritional?

My patients frequently ask me if using nutrition bars would be of any benefit to their overall health or weight loss plan. I admit, even I grab one of these bars every now and then for a quick snack, or even lunch on a really busy day sometimes. In fact, I would much rather have my patients substitute a good nutrition bar for lunch than grab a high-saturated-fat burger and fries.These bars are convenient, they don’t require refrigeration, and, if you read labels before buying, they really can help you get some good nutrition in a hurry. Here’s what I tell my patients about the pros and cons of the “nutrition on the run” that these bars offer.Are All Nutrition Bars Alike?Seems every time I go to the health food store, there’s a new nutrition bar promising to be better tasting, or more vitamin/protein-packed than all the other bars! However, what tastes good to me may not to you, so, different flavors aside, let me explain what ingredients should be in a good nutrition bar.•Protein:For meal replacement, a good bar should have at least 15 grams of protein, preferably from whey or even casein protein and not soy, gelatin or collagen protein. Many bars, however, contain soy protein isolate, or a blend of whey, casein, and soy. Soy products can interfere with thyroid hormones as well as imbalance male and female hormones, as it adds plant estrogen, or phytoestrogens, to your body.•Fat: Should be fairly low in fat, not more than 3 grams saturated fat and 0 trans fat, 10 grams total fat. Steer clear of bars that contain cholesterol-boosting oils like palm kernel oil. Bars with polyunsaturated vegetable oils like olive, safflower, or coconut oil are best.•Carbohydrate: For meal replacement, there should be a balanced fat/carbohydrate/protein ratio, in a 40/30/30 distribution, i.e., 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbohydrate. If you want added protein only, then the carb and fat level can be lower than this distribution. Some bars can contain a whopping amount of sugar, however! Limit sugar to 10-15 grams.•Sugar Alcohols: Many low carb nutrition bars contain sugar alcohols. These help sweeten the bar without adding carbohydrates. When figuring the carbohydrate, or glycemic load, they should be subtracted from the overall carbohydrate content. For example, if the bar contains 25 grams of carbohydrate and also 20 grams of sugar alcohols, then the effective carbohydrate count would only be 5. Some people get digestive upsets from sugar alcohols which can be a drawback to bars that contain it.•Vitamins: A good bar has at least 1/3 of the minimum daily requirements for vitamins, usually in the 30% range for crucial vitamins like C, E, D, A. This is especially important if you are using a nutrition bar as a meal replacement.•Minerals: Many good bars also contain 1/3 the minimum daily requirement of necessary minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc. Again, should be in the 30% range for meal replacement use.•Fiber: Many nutrition bars contain very little fiber, but several brands have between 4-6 grams. Or, at least have a piece of fruit, or a salad, with it to make up for fiber deficiencies.•Calories: If you’re using it as a meal replacement for a quick lunch, your nutrition bar should have between 200-300 calories in it. Otherwise you’ll be at the snack machine in an hour!Are There Any Cons to Nutrition Bars?We’ve talked about what I recommend a good bar should contain. Now, are there any real disadvantages, or cons, to using nutrition bars? As I tell my patients, I think that answer depends on how you use them. With that in mind, here are some possible disadvantages to using nutrition bars that you might consider when deciding to use them everyday or just occasionally:•Cost: Most good nutrition bars can cost anywhere from $2 to $3 a piece. This can get expensive if you use them everyday. However, if you use them as a meal replacement for one meal a day, that’s still less than the cheapest burger place for lunch, a lot less fat and salt, controlled calorie amount, and more vitamins and minerals.•Excessive Nutrition: If you’re using a nutrition bar for just a snack here and there, and not as meal replacement, look for one that has less than the 30% minimum daily requirement of vitamins and minerals to avoid over-intake of nutrients. This is especially true if you are taking a good vitamin/mineral supplement already everyday and eating well at your other meals. Too much Vitamin A can pose liver problems. Too much Vitamin E can result in excessive bleeding should you cut yourself.•May Contain Herbals: Steer clear of nutrition bars that contain “energy boosting” herbs such as ephedra, bitter orange, or even caffeine from green or black tea extracts which can affect some people’s heart rate or blood pressure adversely.•Taste: The taste of these bars can vary widely from brand to brand and price range. Some are in the “acquired” taste category and can be rather dry. Then there are others that really taste great. You really have to shop around and try a lot of different ones to find one you like and could eat on a regular basis.If you take medications, it’s always a good idea to ask your doctor about adding anything with vitamins/minerals in it that may interfere with absorption of your medications. Nutrition bars should not take the place of a balanced diet of whole foods, but they can provide a satisfying solution to a chocolaty-sweets craving, or provide a quick and nutritional meal on the run!