How to get more cancer-fighting nutrients?
Essential vitamins should come from a healthy diet, not supplements
By Karen Collins, R.D.
Updated: 8:38 a.m. ET Dec. 2, 2005
The latest report card on the nutritional composition of the American diet tells us a lot about the food choices we have been making. If we reshape our eating patterns, we could improve our nutrient intake and lower our risk of cancer and other health problems.
The new publication, which details our nutritional shortcomings, is called What We Eat in America: NHANES 2001-2002. It was based on a federal dietary survey of almost 9,000 people. Almost all of the shortfalls identified in this report can be corrected by eating a balanced, mostly plant-based diet recommended in both the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Institute for Cancer Research's cancer prevention guidelines.
Results of the survey show that almost a third of us get too little vitamin C, almost half get too little vitamin A, more than half get too little magnesium, and at least 92 to 97 percent get too little fiber and potassium.
Since vegetables, fruits and beans are major sources for these nutrients, to end any deficiency we might have, most of us should try to eat three-and-a-half to five cups of vegetables and fruits a day. The survey indicates that all of us need to expand our produce choices and learn to enjoy more dark green and orange vegetables and more fruit.
These particular nutrients are important because they help lower the risk of our major health problems: cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. When we expand the amounts and variety of vegetables, fruits and beans we eat, we get a wide range of natural phytochemicals, along with these nutrients, that seem to keep blood vessels healthy and block several steps in the cancer development process.
By including more whole grains in our choice of breads, cereals, rice and pasta, we can also get more magnesium, potassium and fiber. If we aim for three or four servings of whole grains a day, we can still include a few of the refined grain products that we find hardest to give up. Too many refined carbohydrates can mean too many calories that challenge weight control.
Supplements not a good optionAccording to the survey, vitamin E consumption falls below recommended levels for 93 percent of us. Getting enough of this vitamin poses a challenge, because its major sources are high-fat, high-calorie vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds, although some can be found in dark green leafy vegetables. You can use soft tub margarine and canola or olive oil to add vitamin E to your diet without too much saturated fat. However, people who are trying to cut back on calories may have difficulty getting enough vitamin E this way without exceeding their calorie limit.
Vitamin E supplements aren't a good option, however. New studies confirm past findings that these supplements don't protect against heart disease or cancer. Furthermore, some researchers suggest that the gamma-tocopherol form of vitamin E, which is more abundant in nuts and seeds, may lower cancer risk. Supplements with the alpha-tocopherol form should be considered carefully, because they can reduce blood levels of the gamma form. If you wish to take vitamin E supplements, you should use one with mixed tocopherols.
The only other common nutritional deficiencies found in the survey that can't be fixed by taking the steps above are shortages of calcium and vitamin D. To remedy these shortcomings, from the age of nine onward we need three daily servings of dairy or calcium-fortified juice, cereal, or soymilk. These servings provide the calcium linked with sturdy bones, blood pressure control and possibly less colon cancer. For the elderly and anyone else who is advised to aim for the highest intake levels of vitamin D, a supplement may be needed.
But you shouldn't think immediately of using supplements when you hear about common nutritional problems. By eating a mostly plant-based diet that's recommended for lower cancer risk, your food choices will supply most of the nutrients that are often missing.
Nutrition Notes is provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Comments: She gives a great argument on how deficient we are, but concludes we do not need to supplement. Maybe she needs to go back to 1936 and read what the government concluded in Senate Document No. 264 74th Congress 2nd Session, 1936 :
" Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until the depleted soils from which our foods come are brought into proper mineral balance?
The alarming fact is that foods, fruits and vegetables and grains, now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contains enough of certain needed minerals, are starving us--no matter how much of them we eat!
This talk about minerals is novel and quite startling. In fact, a realization of the importance of minerals in food is so new that the text books on nutritional dietetics contain very little about it. Nevertheless, it is something that concerns all of us, and the further we delve into it the more startling it becomes.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that a carrot is a carrot--that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn't; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain.
Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!)
No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his stomach with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them! And we are running too big stomachs.
No longer does a balanced and fully nourishing diet consist merely of so many calories or certain vitamins or a fixed proportion of starches, proteins and carbohydrates. We know that our diet must contain in addition something like a score of mineral salts.
It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99% of the American people are deficient in these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease. Any upset of the balance, any considerable lack of one or another element, however microscopic the body requirement may be, and we sicken, suffer, shorten our lives.
We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for the normal function of some special structure in the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency. It is not commonly realized, however that vitamins control the body's appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of mineral's they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless."
--Written and printed by the 74th US Congress
Maybe she should have read a little from this giant, before she made such a ignorant conclusion:
In the 1960's, Professor Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel prizes, proved that there are over 60 deficiency diseases, some as debilitating as arthritis, others as well known as osteoporosis, which can be traced to vitamin & mineral deficiencies alone.
Your choice, listen to the advice of someone who develops hospital diets, (Jello being one of their favorite foods choices) or listen to expert scientists like Linus Pauling... Gee, I think I'll follow Linus.
Christopher Wiechert's Healthblogger is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. If you decide to use this information on your own, it's your constitutional right, but I assume no responsibility.
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