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Tuesday, December 8

Fascination (Alphabeat)

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on vitaminsupplements…but is that money really worth it?  Or like Sheldon once said, are we paying for “expensive pee?”

A balanced diet goes a long way to getting the vitamins and minerals you need to feel good and head off health problems.  The trouble is, very few people eat right every day.  But hey, we even have several, processed, vitamin-fortified foods on the shelves.  So if you’re not “eating right,” you can still be overdosing on vitamins. 

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, adults are often deficient in:
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B

Multivitamins often contain 100 percent (or more) of your recommended daily value of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Unless you aren’t consuming any nutritional food at all, you simply don’t need these supplements.

It’s too easy to think of vitamins as a “nutritional insurance plan.” If so many people take them, they must do something good, or at least not be harming our bodies, right? But let’s visualize the downside of overdosing on vitamins with this analogy. --  Would you take a powerful antibiotic every day, just in case? That’s the kind of attitude that let to MRSA and other antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

This is not to say that you should never take vitamins.  Just like any drug, vitamins can and should be prescribed for special cases.

Take it to the Next Level :  Learn Your Alphabet

Vitamin (common names)
Upper limit (UL) per day
Good food sources
Did you know?
3,000 mcg (about 10,000 IU)
Sources of retinoids: beef, liver, eggs, shrimp, fish, fortified milk, cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese

Sources of beta carotene: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, squash, spinach, mangoes, turnip greens
Many people get too much preformed vitamin A from food and supplements. Large amounts of supplemental vitamin A (but not beta carotene) can be harmful to bones.
Not known
Pork chops, ham, soymilk, watermelons, acorn squash
Most nutritious foods have some thiamin.
Not known
Milk, yogurt, cheese, whole and enriched grains and cereals, liver
Most Americans get enough of this nutrient.
35 mg
Meat, poultry, fish, fortified and whole grains, mushrooms, potatoes, peanut butter
Niacin occurs naturally in food and can also be made by your body from the amino acid tryptophan, with the help of B6.
Not known
Wide variety of nutritious foods, including chicken, whole grains, broccoli, mushrooms, avocados, tomato products
Deficiency causes burning feet and other neurologic symptoms.
100 mg
Meat, fish, poultry, legumes, tofu and other soy products, potatoes, non-citrus fruits such as bananas and watermelons
Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.
Vitamin B12
Not known
Meat, poultry, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soymilk
Some people, particularly older adults, are deficient in vitamin B12 because they have trouble absorbing this vitamin from food. A lack of vitamin B12 can cause memory loss, dementia, and numbness in the arms and legs.
Not known
Many foods, including whole grains, organ meats, egg yolks, soybeans, and fish
Your body needs very little biotin. Some is made by bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. However, it’s not clear how much of this the body absorbs.
2,000 mg
Fruits and fruit juices (especially citrus), potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, strawberries, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts
Evidence that vitamin C helps reduce colds has not been convincing.
3,500 mg
Many foods, especially milk, eggs, liver, and peanuts
Normally the body makes small amounts of choline. But experts don’t know whether this amount is enough at certain ages.
50 mcg (2,000 IU)
Fortified milk or margarine, fortified cereals, fatty fish
Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient.  While the body uses sunlight to make vitamin D, it cannot make enough if you live in northern climes or don’t spend much time in the sun.
1,000 mg (nearly 1,500IU natural vitamin E; 2,200 IUsynthetic)
Wide variety of foods, including vegetable oils, salad dressings and margarines made with vegetable oils, wheat germ, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts
Vitamin E does not prevent wrinkles or slow other aging processes.
1,000 mcg
Fortified grains and cereals, asparagus, okra, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, legumes like black-eyed peas and chickpeas, orange juice, tomato juice
Many people don’t get enough of this nutrient. Occasionally, folic acid masks a B12deficiency, which can lead to severe neurological complications. That’s not a reason to avoid folic acid; just be sure to get enough B12.
Not known
Cabbage, liver, eggs, milk, spinach, broccoli, sprouts, kale, collards, and other green vegetables
Intestinal bacteria make a form of vitamin K that accounts for half your requirements.  If you take an anticoagulant, keep your vitamin K intake consistent.

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