First of all let’s look at what ‘enough’ is. Everyone has heard of the Recommended Daily Allowance or RDA. You find these listed as percent RDA on the back of all foods that you buy. What does that mean? The RDA was developed in the 1920’s as a minimum requirement to avoid malnutrition. It was later improved in the 1950’s to include the amounts of vitamins and minerals needed for ‘normal growth’. Today’s scientific studies show that this is very different than the amounts that are probably needed to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. The amounts of many vitamins (not all) that are needed for most people to stay healthy in their adult years are likely to be much higher than the RDA. The fact is, we don’t really know what the exact optimal amounts of nutrients are and they certainly vary for different people. But the bottom line is that the vast majority of us don’t get enough from our food. Studies have shown that most people who think they are eating a healthy diet are not even meeting the RDA levels for all nutrients and most people are deficient in at least one if not several key vitamins.
So what does that mean? Think about it like driving down the freeway with no seatbelts, no airbags, and old tires that could blow at any time. You might be fine. But if a tire blows and you get in a wreck what are your chances of coming out of it unscathed with no safety equipment. Proper nutrition works the same way in the body. It allows us to function optimally to fight off infections and common colds and to deal with the common physical and mental stressors that we face all the time. A minor deficiency in a key vitamin, mineral or other micronutrient shows up in the short term as lethargy, impatience and general fatigue and in the long term can increase your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression and a large number of other chronic illnesses.
Where can you get good advice? How about your physician, are they qualified to give you advise on optimal health and nutrition? Well, maybe. Ask your doctor if they have had any formal training in nutrition. It may surprise you to know that less that 10% of medical doctors get any formal training in nutrition in medical school. A doctor’s profession is really to help people that are sick get better. Doctors are trained to diagnose and treat, and after medical school a large part of their training comes from pharmaceutical representatives that visit their office. They are not usually trained to give advice on optimal healthy living. Most doctors are very reputable practitioners and adhere to high standards of patient care – but their customers are sick people trying to recover, not people trying to achieve optimal health.
So what should you do? Your homework! Would you go and buy a car or a house without doing some homework first? Would you trust all of your money to a financial advisor without checking them out first? So why would you treat an investment into your health any differently? The fact is that the nutrition industry is regulated by the FDA as a food and to the same standards as frozen pizza. Many of the products on the market use cheap ingredients in sub-optimal amounts and in forms that are not easily utilized by the body. It is outside the scope of this article to give a detailed account of all of the products available but one source is a book called “The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements” by Lyle McWilliam. This provides a background into how nutritionals work in your body and also a detailed ranking of many of the products on the market. You can find it at amazon.com or many other bookselling websites.
In summary, nutrition is key for life-long health and disease prevention. Do some homework and find high quality nutrition products that meet your needs.