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Nutrition Feature Article

How Do We Get a Balanced Diet

In This Age of Fast Food?

Have you ever heard, All you need is a balanced diet “ nobody needs to take vitamins. The question is: What is a balanced diet, and how do we get it every day in this age of fast food?

In 1959, there were 300 additives being used in our foods. Today there are a total of 2,000. They include preservatives, antioxidants, emulsifiers, stabilizers and thickeners, bleaching and maturing agents, buffers colorings, and artificial sweeteners and flavors. This doesn't include fertilizers, antibiotics, and pesticides, which get into our food. No one can say for sure what years of ingesting these substances can do to a person. Most people eat to satisfy hunger and take for granted that they are getting the proper nutrients. But for many, their tissue cells are weakened due to deficiencies of a certain vitamin, making them much more susceptible to disease.

The examples of  how nutrients are lost in food processing are endless. A good example is milling whole grain products to produce white flour, which reduces valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber by 70-80%. Boiling vegetables for an extended period of time is nutritional murder.

How can we know if the Recommended Daily Allowances is enough? Noble Prize winner Linus Pauling believes that the RDA for a vitamin is not the allowance that leads to the best of health for most people. It is, instead, only the estimated amount that for most people would prevent death or serious illness from overt vitamin deficiency. Values of the daily intake of the various vitamins that lead to the best of health for most people may well be several times as great, for the various vitamins, as the values of the RDA..

The vitamin requirements of individuals vary drastically. That of an athlete, for example, would be much higher than that of a sedentary person. Drugs affect a persons requirements. Aspirin actually forces vitamin C out of the body. Antibiotics and birth control pills can cause deficiencies of many B-complex vitamins. Deficiencies, in early stages, tend to all look alike, fatigue, malaise, insomnia, susceptibility to cold, bleeding gums, burning feet, and may other symptoms. Food supplements should not be thought of as a drug. They are a convenient way to get the nutrients we expect to get from our food, but most of the time, we don't.

Vitamins taken in excess of the amount utilized by the body are valueless and will be either excreted in the urine or stored in the body. Excessive ingestion of some nutrients may result in toxicity or unwanted side effects. For example, ingesting an excess of niacin (vitamin B3) may result in liver problems. If you are wondering whether or not you should take vitamin supplements, consult a health care provider who is knowledgeable in this area.


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