Elizabeth Somer, Registered Dietician and author of Eat Your Way to Sexy, joined us today to discuss vitamins and answer all those questions we have about them.
1. We’ve only know about vitamins for 100 years, really?
That’s right. Before 1912, the only nutrients known in foods were carbs, protein, and fat.
2. You don’t hear about scurvy or beri beri anymore, but you say we still need to be concerned about our vitamin intakes. Why?
Many Americans are marginally deficient in one or more vitamins. That means they consume enough to prevent the classic deficiency, but not enough to be optimally nourished. Marginal deficiencies smolder under the surface and result in compromised health in a subtle way today and serious conditions later in life. Osteoporosis is a good example. Get some, but not enough vitamin D and over the course of a lifetime, your bones slowly lose calcium until they no longer can support your weight.
3. How do you know if you aren’t getting enough?
The irony here is that if you ask people how they think they are doing diet-wise, most people will tell you they know they don’t eat perfectly, but feel they do OK. Most are delusional
- 99 out of 100 people don’t meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet, according to FDA data, yet 9 out of 10 think they are doing pretty well
- The average American eats less than three servings of fruit and vegetables daily (women do slightly better than men in this category), which means their intakes of vitamins like vitamin C, E, K, and A are probably marginal.
- We average less than 1 serving of whole grains a day, which means important vitamins, like vitamin B6, might be low.
Marginal deficiency symptoms are subtle. For example, low vitamin B12 leads to memory loss, poor intake of vitamin D over the years leads to osteoporosis and possibly cancer, MS, seasonal affective disorder, and more. Low intake of folic acid, another B vitamin, can contribute to cancer, as well as memory problems and birth defects.
4. Are their certain vitamins that are particularly important depending on your age?
While we all need the 13 vitamins some vitamins seem to be more important depending on a person’s age. For example, folic acid is important for women in their 20s. This B vitamin works its magic in the first weeks after conception, helping cells to divide properly and preventing birth defects. On the other hand, the antioxidant vitamins, including C and E are important in the 30s because this is a time when people’s lives are so busy it is common for them not to get enough fruits and vegetables. Vitamins D and B12 are important by the 40s and beyond because absorption levels begin to drop as we age.
5. So, what do we do to prevent these marginal deficiencies and make sure we get all the vitamins we need?
First and foremost, eat right! Include at least 6, preferably 9, servings of colorful fruits and veggies in the daily diet, 5 servings of whole grains, 3 servings of vitamin D-rich nonfat milk products, and a few nutrient-packed servings of legumes or extra-lean meat, chicken, or fish. But we also know that people who take supplements are better nourished than people who don’t.
To learn more information, just visit Elizabeth's website at www.elizabethsomer.com.