Q&A: Vitamins and minerals


The Question:

To my knowledge I don’t think you have written your thoughts about taking vitamins. I would be really grateful if you could write on this subject; the reason I ask is because of the negative press there has been about vitamins causing cancer. I have tried to do some online searching myself, and I think the research that has been done on links between vitamins and cancer is scary. It seems that super-vitamins are the real worry, but I am now not sure if my family and I should continue to take the usual multivitamin we all take each day.

My Answer:

I’ll say right up front that a conversation about micronutrient supplements is challenging for me, to say the least, precicely because this is so scary. I hope I’ve got some things to say about it that will be of help, but I don’t claim to have all the answers, strongly suspect that the answers have yet to be nailed down – and maybe never will be!

The term micronutrient, by the way, refers to vitamins, minerals and a host of other elements we need to consume for our bodies to maintain the best of health. We also need to consume the macronutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrate – and that’s a somewhat different conversation. I say somewhat different because macronutrients do contain micronutrients, but let’s not get into that.

Many years ago I came across the idea that micronutrients act as instructions for the body, telling it what to do to maintain itself properly. These instructions are like directions, such as how to leave my house to head for the nearest town:

“Turn left and follow the road all the way to the main road. Then turn right and follow that road all the way into town.”

Those directions, of course, are useless if they are incomplete:

“Turn and follow the road all to road and follow the way.”

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  1. Amanda

    Hi Gillian, This is slightly off the topic of supplements but I wanted to share my thoughts on micro nutrients.

    In the book you talk about how hunger for the over eater is a really unreliable. I totally agree. Pre quitting over eating I’d eat and get hungry and eat and get hungry…

    And then I gave myself over to considering my food choices and had this internal dialogue “how can I make this meal better?”… I want macaroni and cheese… pre change it would have been a large plate full with half a stick of garlic bread and a coke, why not?! I could have that, I might still have it, but actually what I have is about 60g of pasta, use loads less cheese, add in leaks, and half some cherry tomatos, and make sure half my plate is a side of vegetables. This is a much smaller plate than before. After a little while of eating like that, the hungry after eating thing kinda goes away…. If I am hungry after eating I know its because I didn’t eat enough veg, and the next meal I make sure is vegetastic.

    Conclusion “fake hunger” after eating is because you’ve not been eating your micro nutrient… For some one like me who doesn’t miss many macro nutrient requirements!! Fruits, vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and seeds are how I keep fake hunger to a minimum. Real food micro nutrients rule!

  2. Mette

    Made me think of a recent danish study where diabetes II patients were given 500 grams of old nordic sorts of cabbage and roots for a period of three months. The food worked like medicine and helped regulate blood sugar – more so than regular vegetables. To the point that many could no longer be called diabetics.

    Maybe it wasn’t wise to breed out the bitterness/medicine from our crops?! Instead now we need bitter pills from Big Pharma 😉

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