From the category archives:

nutrition

Carrots and Better Vision: The Nutritional Truth Behind Some of the Myths

by Ed

The following is a guest post by Tara Heath. Also check out her cool info-graphic on this topic.

Many of us were told as children to eat more carrots in order to improve our vision. While these healthy root vegetables contain naturally occurring beta carotenes that produce vitamin A, which is important for good for eye health, there is considerable debate on whether our vision actually improves from increased consumption. There has also been considerable controversy stating that by eating more of them will prevent night blindness and curb other vision problems.

The carrot conundrum began with propaganda campaigns spread by the Royal British Air Force during WWII. According to the UK Ministry of Food, this now defunct agency was rolling out messages that credited the consumption of carrots as the key ingredient for the pilot’s successful shooting down of German aircraft at night. Decades later, rumors were swirling around about the use of new radar technology that the Brits were hiding from their enemies by concealing this fact underneath the promotion of increased carrot consumption.

But the question remains, does eating carrots really improve eyesight, help to prevent blindness and enhance vision in the dark? There is actually a little bit of truth behind all of these statements, but no absolute guarantee that consuming carrots are the complete answer to better vision.

NIGHT VISIONcarrots

As stated previously, our bodies use the beta carotenes in carrots to produce vitamin A, which is essential for good eye health. Vitamin A allows our eyes to convert light into the signal that transmits images to our brains that allows people to see in conditions of low light.

BLINDNESS

The cornea, the clear front surface of the eye that covers the iris and pupil, can disappear if the body does not get enough vitamin A. It’s estimated that somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 children around the world lose their vision due to a vitamin A deficiency. In some third world countries like Nepal and India, where vitamin A deficiencies are a result of malnutrition, beta carotene and vitamin A supplements have been shown to improve vision.

SUPPLEMENTS

Some research suggests that beta carotene supplements alone do not convert to vitamin A very efficiently. Some estimates show that between 12 to 20 molecules of beta carotene are necessary to create just one molecule of vitamin A. This would suggest that one might be better off taking vitamin A rather than attempting to eat enough carrots to supply our systems with this important chemical compound.

ALTERNATIVES

Instead of chomping carrots at a Bugs Bunny level, there are plenty of other foods that are packed with beta carotenes and some offer other nutritional benefits that can protect our valuable vision. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin found in spinach, kale and collard greens, have been shown to reduce the risk of older adults contracting age-related macular degeneration.

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Other foods rich in beta carotenes include pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, winter squash, cabbage, along with spinach, kale and collard greens. As with any healthy diet, we shouldn’t be concentrating on any one healthy food like carrots. We should all be eating a balance of healthy foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and cutting down on carbs, sugars and unhealthy animal fats.

Do You Make These 5 Mistakes with Your Health Supplements?

by Ed

This article is a guest post courtesy of Nutritional Supplements HQ – a great resource for open and honest information about health supplements, including a definitive guide to fish oil benefits.

There seems to be a trend with health aficionados recently. Instead of using health supplement for what they were intended, to supplement your diet, they are being used in a way that they shouldn’t be.

This gives them a bad name because then people wonder why they are paying $100 a month for products that seem to have no effect. Here’s a handy hint for you: it might not be the supplements. It might be you!

So, if you’re sat reading this and are thinking about giving up the supplements because they aren’t working for you, just check to make sure you aren’t making one of these 5 mistakes first.

Mistake #1 – You still eat crap!

It amazes me how often this crops up, but I hear people complaining all the time that their supplements don’t work, yet they are shoving a Big Mac down their neck, chugging Coke and dipping fries in ketchup. Health supplements can only work if you give them a platform. That platform is a healthy diet packed full of fruit and veg, as much meat as you can eat (unless you’re a vegan!) and no junk food!

Mistake #2 – You use cheap supplements

Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you get what you pay for? You’re not likely to get any benefits if you bought your fish oil for $10 from Walmart. This is your health. Why wouldn’t you want to spend a little extra to give your body the purest, healthiest supplement possible? The chances of finding a high quality product in Walmart is low – so do some research and you might find that supplements do work after all.

Mistake #3 – You forget to take them

The best way to not experience any benefit to health supplements is to simply forget to take them at all! It sounds stupid, and it is, but people can and do forget to take their supplements for days, sometimes even weeks at a time. I’ve lost count of the friends I have that keep supplements in their cabinet for years after the expiry date and then complain to me that they don’t work! Nowadays I just sigh and judge them silently. Don’t let this happen to you.

Mistake #4 – Taking advice from the guy at the health food store

Believe it or not, the guy working at your local health store for minimum wage is not qualified to tell you which supplements will work for you. So many people look to these guys for advice every day in stores all over the world and as a result, they choose inferior products that do not benefit their health. Your best bet is to do some research online, contact supplement manufacturers directly or check out their site for more information. Don’t just take one person’s advice (not even mine) when your body is the best judge of any supplement.

Mistake #5 – Treating health problems with supplements

A big culture in our society today is to take a pill to fix a health problem. If it’s a headache you can down a paracetamol or ibuprofen, antacids for stomach ache and so on. If your sole reason for taking supplements is to fix a health problem, make sure it solves the root cause. If you’ve got a headache then instead of popping an aspirin, drink some water, eat some good, wholesome food and fight the problem properly. Again, I must stress: use supplements to aid an already healthy lifestyle, not to solve all the problems you have!

Now it’s over to you. This list is definitely not exhaustive, and I know that many people reading this will have experienced many mistakes when using supplements. Spill the beans below and share your worst health supplement mistakes. Remember: you do learn from them! 🙂

Diabetes: More than a blood sugar problem

by Ed

There is an interesting article in the International Herald tribune, today. Apparently, doctors and media tend to focus exclusively on blood sugar in helping diabetics. Obviously blood sugar is very important in diabetes, but it turns out that most diabetics die from heart disease. If you are diabetic, blood pressure and cholesterol are just as important to control as blood sugar is. Fortunately, diet and exercise are important for all three. The problem is, if you are focusing on reducing blood sugar without considering blood pressure or cholesterol, or basic healthy nutrition, you are doing yourself considerable harm.

Whether you are diabetic or not, whether you believe in a low carb or low protein diet, there is one basic dietary guideline that I think will help everyone. Eat everything as close to its live state as possible. Ideally that would mean growing all of your own food. Practically, it means avoiding all processed foods. That includes flours and grains that are not whole grain, canned foods, and all packaged foods. By your foods fresh and whole, and cook them simply.

Back to Diabetes, monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar and get good professional advice on how to control them. That professional may not be your doctor. In North America, at least, doctors are given very little training on nutrition. Find someone who really is an expert in nutrition and follow their advice.

Can Vitamin C Fight Colds?

by Ed

A recent review of research into the effects of vitamin C concludes that it is largely ineffective in preventing colds. See the article in the International Herald Tribune.

But read it carefully. They talk about people taking at least 200 mg of vitamin C. Everybody knows that if you want to fight off a cold you need several grams a day. I’m surprised they found 200 mg to be as useful as they did.

Next in the article they say that lycopene has no effect in preventing cancer. However they do not mention details of the study at all. Who knows what they were looking at.

All this is very interesting, considering the FDA is getting ready to shut down the supplement industry. They are raising safety standards above that of drugs. They even admit that most supplement companies will not be able to stay in business.

Look out America. Your health choices are going away. (And we call this democracy?)

Study Shows Organic food healthier

by Ed

I find it interesting that this research comes out of th US, but I found the article on the BBC News web site. Is the US media more interested in helping big Agribiz than in reporting the news?

A ten year study in the US, shows that tomatoes grown organically have almost double the flavonoids of their non-organic counterparts. Flavonoids are anitoxidants that have been shown to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director in the UK said: “We welcome the now rapidly growing body of evidence which shows significant differences between the nutritional composition of organic and non-organic food.

“This is the second recent American study to find significant differences between organic and non-organic fruit.

“These findings also confirm recent European research, which showed that organic tomatoes, peaches and processed apples all have higher nutritional quality than non-organic.”