Eating food is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need; supplement-binging like this could potentially lead to a dangerous overdose. (Photo credit: DBduo Photography)

Avid food-label readers will be upset to find out that what you see is not what you get.

It is not that food companies are intentionally being dishonest (usually); rather, nutrition is more complex than we like to think. This especially comes into play with vitamins and minerals on food labels.

Availability: Each vitamin and mineral can have different forms–sometimes as many as eight! However, only one or two will be usable by the body–this is called the “biologically active” or “biologically available” form. BUT, ALL usable or unusable forms of a vitamin fall under its name. A food company can print that a serving contains 100% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C, even though 95% of the Vitamin C is in an unusable form.

Testing Time Vs. Sale: Nutrient levels are tested upon production–not upon packaging or selling. Sometimes years can go by between the making of a product and its sale! There is often a large difference between what is written on the label and what is left in the food products after that time passes.

Packaging: Many vitamins and minerals are heat or light sensitive. Therefore, avoid buying anything that comes in a transparent package if you are interested in getting the most from it. And don’t bother paying for anything “Fortified” if it is exposed to light or heat–you will be paying for the word, not the nutrition.

Wild, isn’t it? And, perhaps, a bit frustrating.

I like to think of it as a relief; don’t micromanage your diet–just eat well! Follow the guidelines in the “Low Stress Diet” and you should be golden. (“Eat food, not too much, mostly vegetables.”)

If you are discouraged or concerned about your vitamin and mineral intake, take comfort in knowing that RDA’s are both generalized and overestimated: they are meant to provide several days’ requirement, if need be, for someone of the national average height and weight. And these are only estimates: many RDA’s were determined using testing on animals–not humans. Vitamin recommendations for your unique body on any given day may be much different.

It is simple to get the nutrients you need when you eat a variety of food from all food categories: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, meat/poultry, fish, oils, legumes.

Eat fresh food, eat organic food; but above all, eat food! Supplements are not the best source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals; food is always better.

If you are on a special diet–especially vegan, vegetarian, or raw–learn about popular vitamin deficiencies associated with that diet (look forward to a future post on this topic!) and be especially careful to eat foods rich in those vitamins. In some cases, supplementation will be necessary; in many cases it is excessive.

HOWEVER, Vitamin D deficiency and Iron deficiency are both on the rise in the U.S.–and these are only the deficiencies most studied at the moment. Don’t be afraid to ask for a test.


~ by danclaps on September 11, 2012.

5 Responses to ““Fortified”?”

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