Tag Archives: Nutrition

Do you need vitamins and supplements in the winter?


Packed full of vitamins WikipediaWI



At this time of year, we all get bombarded with advice – “take this supplement to counter winter’s ills”;  “winter means you need extra vitamins”;  I am sure you have seen many more.

Every cancer patient gets massive amounts of advice from friends;  “you need Vitamin X – or Y – or Z” to keep you chill, keep you healthy, etc.  But, current thinking in research centres says you are unlikely to need extra vitamins

as long as you are getting plenty of veg. and fruit, and eat a sensible, varied diet.

If you don’t think you are getting enough – follow James Martin, the TV Chef‘s advice on his recent Hospital food programme, and eat warming soup.  The beauty of soups is you can just chuck in more and more veg – until you run out!

But some supplements can be beneficial when undergoing treatment as part of your medical regime.  Your doctor or nurse should give you advice as to what and when you may need these, but – say good-bye to those expensive pills that are heavily advertised – unless you are given medical advice to take a certain brand.

Where supplements are useful

However, in all things, there should be a sensible balance, and the Health Supplements Information Service (HSIS) says overweight and obese people risk ill health over low vitamin and mineral levels;  supplements may help bridge the nutrition gap.

Older people face ill-health because of a poor diet, particularly if they are undergoing treatment.  They can often feel too tired to cook a proper meal, and start on the downward path to poor nutrition. Vitamin and mineral supplements can help bridge the gap, but as my Pharmacist says, you MUST take advice, as many of those sold over the counter may not be suitable.

September’s Nutrition and Food Science Magazine will contain an article on this subject, under the title ‘The Role of Micronutrients in Health Ageing’.

A recent study by the HSIS says that “not only is excess weight linked with lower levels of essential nutrients, but …………….. diet or losing weight can result in further nutrition problems”.

So what can you do?

Unless your doctor prescribes extra vitamins, spend the money on fruit and veg. instead.

But if your doctor does advise taking a supplement, listen carefully.  Often the dosage in over-the-counter remedies won’t be strong enough, and you will need to be sure you taking products containing the correct amount of ingredients.

And beware.  Companies know buzz words such as ‘Vitamin C or E or D – or any combination of letters of the alphabet – grabs attention; but even if you take lycopene instead of tomatoes – the fruits are far better for you, and probably cheaper.  Unless you can’t stand tomatoes, in which case why not look for tinned, paste, pizza etc.  to disguise the taste?

If you don’t believe me, just Google around for a bit, and you will see research finding after research – all saying the same thing.

As with all things – taking sensible advice can save you money – and  give you guidelines of what and when you need to take extra vitamins and supplements.  But if your doctor doesn’t say you need these pills, put the money into fresh fruit and veg.

What to buy

Have a look for the little Union Flag sticker on British apples and pears.  If you buy from supermarkets, ensure they are stocking OUR apples, not some from overseas, with all the problems that causes with extra food miles.

If you are going for a country walk, look out for blackberries;  try and pick them from the top of the bushes, because foxes, dogs, etc. lift their legs against lower branches!

If you are cooking brussels, cabbages, etc. think about using the outer leaves for soups, if they are fresh.  Celery makes a lovely vegetable, particularly cooked in stock, and you can make a simple and very cheap vegetarian dish with cauliflower, cheese and milk – then make double the sauce and use this for a leek bake the next day

And if you have a Farmers’ Market near you, or can access Veg. in a Box deliveries, you have an inexpensive source of ready-made vitamins just asking to be eaten!


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A – Z of 'miracle foods'


Try mixing the colours for more health benefits Wikipedia

NHS Choices :

If you are serious about what you eat, a scholarly report has just come out from NHS Choices:


Miracle Foods

myths and the media



Basically, it shows that so-called ‘miracle foods’ are

no better for us, what we need for better health is to

follow sensible dietary advice – this can be ~

  • eat local produce if possible
  • ‘food miles’ when food is transported a long way are NOT good
  • eat organic food if possible
  • vary your diet as much as possible
  • eat seasonal food
  • eat sensibly
  • when eating vegetables and fruit incorporate as many different colours as possible

and it talks of the science behind dietary advice, as well as enabling us all to challenge the headlines we get bombarding us, such as ‘Miracle foods prolong life’;  Eating xxxxxxx cuts cancer risk, etc.

I am not going to go on.  We have all seen these;  look at them to see what ‘they’ are up to, and very often find the ‘research’ has been funded by the Association of XXXX growers, or the manufacturers of XXX.

But it is sensible to revise your diet occasionally, as there may be new research out that tells us an everyday food has certain properties that could have benefits, although these will only be slight.

So here is an A – Z of general advice about everyday foods.  Bon Appetit!

APPLES  One of our favourite foods, but make sure they are home-grown: look for the little Union flag sticker.  They are easy to transport, so are often taken thousands of miles around the world.

BANANAS  These could almost be called a miracle food, and if you watch sportsmen (particularly at Wimbledon) you often see them take a bite during a match.

CHICKEN  Beware labels that call chicken ‘Fresh’  or ‘British’.  These can still be battery-reared in horrible conditions.  Look for labels saying ‘Free-range.

EGGS  Thanks to campaigners, the majority of eggs sold today in Britain are free-range.  But if the label or writing doesn’t say this, don’t buy.

FISH  Try and buy line-caught fish – which means it is caught ‘individually’, rather than scooped up in a giant net.  Oily fish is best, such as mackerel, herring, anchovies and especially salmon.  What about reviving the British Breakfast kipper?  It’s good for you.  When buying salmon, watch fish counters to see when Wild salmon is available.  Or go for Organic Salmon – far better than ordinary farmed salmon, both for the fish and you.

FRUIT  especially local, home grown fruit.  We have an incredible variety wherever we live around the world, but if you live in Britain look for seasonal stars such the red Leveller gooseberries, very sweet and delicious; plums,  etc.  Then if you live in India you know when is the Mango season – and enjoy!  Fruit contains antioxidants and phytochemicals which are good for the heart, plus vitamins  etc.

GAME This usually has less calories than ordinary meat, and by law can only be sold during its season:  August – February.

MEAT eat red meat in moderation.Chicken and Turkey has less calories.  Liver is helpful in preventing aneamia

NUTS  eat a small handful a day if you can;  brazil nuts are a good source of selenium – but avoid salted varieties of nuts.

SHELLFISH   If you can tolerate these, they’re good for you – oysters especially contain zinc.

SPINACH  Popeye knew a thing or two;  a tablespoon of steamed spinach contain s more Vitamin C and folic acid that the ‘miracle’ shot of wheatgrass (and tastes nicer).

SMOOTHIES   If possible, make your own.  Commercial ones can contain salt, sugar, preservative and other ‘fillers’.

VEGETABLES  Yes, yes, yes – whatever diet you follow will tell you to eat these. Try and eat a variety each day:  green, yellow, red, white, purple, etc.

But if you are fed up with all the advice flung at you, from me and others, take heart from Independent dietician Ursula Arens, who is spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, “I do have great sympathy for the average person who gives up and says they’ll eat what they want”.

And that could mean CHOCOLATE – a square of DARK chocolate at mealtime is becoming popular.

Celebrities who endorse foods

We have all read stories about the Celebs who promote a ‘miracle diet’, and then watched as the pounds climb back on once they are away from the cameras.

Martina Navratilova has endorsed a very strict eating regime – and not very appetising if one looks at her website.  But she got the shock of her life when she was diagnosed with cancer, calling it “my personal 9/11”.  She said she ate healthily, with a diet  that was based on plants – and raw at that.  Yet she gets cancer.

Doctors say that no food will prevent cancer, but research findings suggest that those who eat healthily have a better recovery rate.  Also, eating healthily brings  benefits for our skin;  and clearer, brighter skin is something not easily quantifiable by research, but we all know the boost it gives to morale, and therefore overall health.

So keep up the ‘five a day’ habit – it can only do you good.

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Are Old Wives' tales fact or fiction?

Image via Wikipedia


It seems as if some old wives’ tales have truth in them –

Start the day with a good breakfast – yes, everyone today is saying this (see article about breakfasts)

Carrots help you see in the dark – yes, it is proven that Vitamin A is good for eye health, however, there would not be enough beta-carotene (which contains Vitamin A) in one portion – but they should be included in your diet as this can help.

Fish is good for the brain – Omega-3 found in fatty fish helps the brain function, which is an aid.

Bread is good for you – yes, if it is wholegrain or wholemeal as it is a source of Vitamin B, fibre, calcium and energy.

Sunshine makes your bones strong – so although we should be careful when outside, the benefits of sunshine can be an added bonus.

Clean up your plate – yes, it saves wasting food, but not such a good idea if you have had enough – and helps to put on weight.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – Apples contain antioxidants and pectins, which is a soluble fibre that is effective in lowering cholesterol.

Spinach makes you strong – Popeye had something there, as spinach contains calcium and lots of other goodies which all help to produce red blood cells, etc.

And A little of what you fancy – all experts are agreed that a little – does you good!

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