Supplements…Friend or Foe?

Currently, 70% of women over the age of 50 are taking calcium supplements to improve bone strength. Unfortunately, calcium supplements have been linked to an increase risk for heart attacks. Not to mention, our bodies only absorb 500 mg or less at a time, even though supplements are usually at least 1,000 mg or more.

If you are like millions of Americans, chances are you take omega-3 or fish oil supplements for heart and brain health. But the most recent research indicates you may not get these amazing health benefits from supplementation. Even worse, omega-3 supplementation may increase men’s risk for prostate cancer.

This is the same for vitamin E. Supplemental vitamin E may not provide the same health benefits as eating foods rich in vitamin E and it too, may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

So how can you best benefit from these health-boosting, disease-fighting nutrients?

Eat your food, rather than taking supplements alone. Keep in mind, supplements were never meant to be food substitutes, but an addition to your already healthy diet. We know now that nutrients don’t work alone and to reap the benefits we need the whole food, rather than extracted nutrients in pill form.

For example, broccoli contains phytochemicals called isothiocyanates, which are linked to a decreased incidence of tumors. However, without the enzyme found in whole broccoli sprouts, your body only absorbs a fraction of the amount, therefore eating broccoli is way more beneficial and that’s not even including the benefits from the added fiber.

The latest research also indicates that many nutrients, plant chemicals and even fiber join together to bring more health benefits than taking them alone. Some studies show tomatoes help prevent cancer development, but when you pair them with broccoli, you can reduce your cancer risk even more.

Bottom line…work on loading up your plate with high nutrient containing foods, rather than stocking up your medicine cabinet with supplements.

Calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, soy, almonds, kale, broccoli

Omega-3s: fish, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts

Vitamin E: tofu, spinach, plant oils, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados