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!