Basic Nutrition Supplementation on the Clean Cuisine Challenge
In addition to the “whole food” phytonutrient-rich supplement we suggested in week one, you should now consider adding a broad-spectrum high-quality multivitamin, multi-mineral supplement every day, as recommended in a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (1)
Please note it is not absolutely mandatory that you add a supplement as part of the Challenge because the food you eat is of far more importance to your overall health, however our family has been taking nutrition supplements for over a decade and we truly believe they fill in nutritional gaps and offer benefit.
A multi-vitamin is designed to work in combination with our dietary and exercise advice. No pill can substitute for good nutrition, and you can’t find the benefits of exercise in any bottle. This having been said it is our belief, and the belief of esteemed organizations such as the American Medical Association, that select vitamins, minerals and essential fat supplements complement even the most healthful diet.
Surely you have seen vitamin content expressed in percentage terms on the labeling of the packaged food products you purchase. These reference daily intakes (RDIs) for vitamins and minerals are adequate for maintaining life and adequate for preventing rare diseases caused by severe vitamin deficiency. These RDIs are not necessarily adequate for attaining optimal health.
Young, healthy adults who eat nutrient and plant-rich “whole foods” diets can remain almost optimally healthy whether or not they consume supplemental amounts of the vitamins and minerals we recommend as part of the Challenge. But these people are in the minority. Any individual who fits into any one of the categories listed below in Table 1 will benefit from supplementation. Many people find they fit into several of these categories and therefore have significantly increased nutritional needs. Nutritional supplementation is therefore of special importance.
Table 1: People Who Significantly Benefit from Nutrition Supplementation
- Men over 35
- Women over 45
- Growing children or growing teenagers
- Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant
- Nursing mothers
- Cardiac patients
- Competitive athletes
- Persons under severe mental or physical stress
- Burn victims
- Anyone with an active infection
- Athletes or heavy exercisers
- Heavy drinkers and recovering alcoholics
- Anyone recovering from surgery or an injury
- People suffering with an autoimmune or inflammatory condition
- People taking prescription medications (including birth control pills)
It is important to note that many prescription drugs increase your vitamin requirements substantially. The drugs most often implicated include antibiotics, chemotherapeutic drugs, drugs used to prevent pregnancy and seizures and drugs used to treat inflammatory conditions. Steroid drugs such as prednisone are particularly likely to increase vitamin requirements. A detailed discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this article, but we encourage you to read up on or ask your doctor about any prescription drugs you take. Always make sure your overall health is not compromised in a misguided attempt to treat an isolated symptom.
As a bariatric surgeon, Andy believes vitamins, minerals, “whole food” phytonutrients and essential fat supplements can play an important role in weight management too. Along with other nutrition experts, Andy in part blames our obesity epidemic on malnutrition. Blaming obesity on malnutrition may seem contradictory, but malnutrition has nothing to do with how many calories you eat. Malnutrition means not getting the nutrients your body needs. If you over-nourish yourself with nutrient-poor, processed foods, you’ll find yourself overweight but malnourished and lacking essential nutrients. In addition to contributing to food cravings, malnutrition interferes with your metabolism. You can’t burn fat effectively when the proper nutrients are not in place to fuel fat-burning. If your body is properly nourished, it will have an internal monitor that regulates appetite, maintains a healthy body weight and burns fat. On the other hand, malnutrition slows your metabolism. Specifically, deficiencies of the essential fats, vitamin C, and calcium slow your metabolic rate substantially. A sluggish metabolism is a surefire way to get fat and stay that way.
Of course we are also well aware of the studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showing multivitamins are not effective at preventing chronic disease too. But it is important to point out that the studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine were flawed for one big reason; researchers looked only at the use of a multivitamin as a way to prevent disease when in reality disease-prevention is considerably more complex and involves numerous lifestyle habits such as diet, stress management, weight management, drug and alcohol intake, etc.
The purpose of a multivitamin is to fill in nutritional gaps and provide optimal levels of vitamins and minerals (note: it is well established that the vast majority of Americans fail to obtain adequate levels of certain nutrients.) To expect diseases such as cancer and heart disease to be prevented solely from taking a multi-vitamin is asking a bit much, wouldn’t you say? But unfortunately scientific research studies are almost always performed by studying a single substance to determine what, if any, effect it may have on a single disease, when in actuality the real science is considerably more complex.
So, we are not about to tell you that taking a daily multi-vitamin is the number one key to disease prevention, but we absolutely DO think it plays a role. Especially because common factors such as stress and aging can increase your body’s need for certain vitamins and minerals. Taking a daily multivitamin can also help optimize the way you look and feel, curb food cravings by filling nutrient gaps, enhance energy, optimize your immune system and so much more. But no, a multivitamin is not a miracle cure-all. Think of your multivitamin, multi-mineral supplement as a daily insurance policy. Everybody needs one, the problem is which one to choose?
If you head to your natural foods store you’ll be bombarded with a plethora of supplements lining the shelves, each one seemingly better than the next. You might just be tempted to buy the one that contains the most “stuff.” But when it comes to nutrition supplements, more is not always best. A multivitamin, multimineral supplement is designed to complement your anti-inflammatory Clean Cuisine diet but you don’t want to go overboard. Getting an excess of certain nutrients such as iron, selenium, and copper can be toxic.
Look at the Ingredients List on Your Multivitamin Too!
In addition to making sure you don’t get too much of a good thing, it is equally important to seek out supplements containing the absolute very best ingredients. Just like we want you to read the ingredients list on the packaged foods you buy, you need to do the same thing with your nutrition supplements too. Here are a few things to be aware of when looking for a multivitamin:
- You do not want a supplement that contains synthetic forms of vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopherol). You don’t even want one that contains just one of the natural forms of vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol). Ideally, you want your supplement to reflect the way vitamin E is found in nature in real food, in the form of mixed tocopherols. When you hear about research linking vitamin E supplementation to negative health outcomes, it is important to note that in addition to other flaws, the research in those studies did not take into account the type of vitamin E that the subjects were taking. Supplementing with a reasonable dosage (not mega-dosing!) of natural vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols not only is safe but is an important strategy in reducing overall oxidative stress, which slows the aging process.
- The same thing for carotenoids; research has actually linked taking isolated beta-carotene to increased risk of lung cancer (in smokers anyway), but isolated beta-carotene is not something you would ever find in nature in your food. In food, you would obtain mixed carotenes. That’s exactly what you want to look for in a supplement.
- You want to avoid supplements containing synthetic folic acid and instead look for one containing folate, which is the form naturally found in foods like green vegetables.
- Balancing the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K is also critical. This is because when you take one fat-soluble vitamin you increase your body’s need for the other fat-soluble vitamins. For example, one of the roles of vitamin D is to activate osteoblasts (bone-building cells) to increase bone density while one of the roles of vitamin A is to promote bone breakdown so that new bone can be laid down. Although these processes seem to oppose each other they are both necessary to maintain bone health. Vitamins A and D work closely together and if you take one you need to take the other. Also, taking vitamin D will increase your need for vitamin K2 (Note: Vitamin K2 is not the same as the vitamin K1 that is easy to get from dark leafy green vegetables; K2 is not easy to obtain from the typical diet.) There is an intimate relationship between fat-soluble vitamins, and they all play a vital role in optimizing health. Unfortunately, mainstream foods do not supply adequate amounts of vitamins A, D or K2, so supplementation is especially important.
- Unless you are under the supervision of a physician and being treated for a specific problem such as anemia or are pregnant, it is not wise to take supplemental iron. Although iron is crucial for oxygen transport and other physiological processes, in excess iron is an oxidant that may contribute to cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline in older adults.
- Copper is another nutrient that is often added to multi-vitamins in relatively high quantities, which can potentially lead to toxicity. Additionally, studies have shown excess copper to be associated with a lower antioxidant status and reduce immune function.
- And of course the bioavailability of the nutrients in your supplement is also important because if your body can’t absorb and use what you ingest then why bother taking it? For example, minerals have a wide range of bioavailability, depending on the form they are in and what they are bonded to; chelated minerals are the absolute best because they are well absorbed by your body. As another example, if your supplement contains vitamin C, it also needs to contain bioflavonoids or you won’t be able to fully absorb the vitamin C. Bioflavonoids also boost the activity of vitamin C once it has been absorbed.
Vitamin B-12 Concerns
If you are following our Clean Cuisine diet closely, the one potential drawback to eating less animal foods in your diet is that you could possibly shortchange yourself on vitamin B12. This will not be an issue for most people because Clean Cuisine is not a vegan diet. However, because some individuals need extra B12 and because some people do not effectively convert B12 supplements into the bioactive form their body can use, if you are a strict vegan you should consider looking for a high-quality B12 supplement in the form of methylcobalamin.
NOTE: Vitamin B12 is water soluble so you don’t need to worry about overdosing.
The “Perfect” Multivitamin
Picking the “perfect” multivitamin, multi-mineral supplement is not exactly as easy as picking which flavor of bubble gum you like best. We have put together a breakdown of approximately what you want to look for on a daily basis in a downloadable PDF.
Download the Clean Cuisine Multivitamin Guide (pdf): Click HERE
Do Try This at Home: Quick Quality Control Test for Vitamin Supplements
The best vitamin in the world won’t do a body much good if it doesn’t release its ingredients. For your body to absorb the nutrients from your vitamin supplement it must first disintegrate (“break apart”) and dissolve (“go into a liquid solution”) in your gut before the contents can be absorbed and entered into your bloodstream. Vitamin pills that do not disintegrate properly may not release all of their ingredients for absorption, and ingredients may go unused. Although only one measure of quality, you can check at home whether your vitamins are disintegrating properly with this simple test:
- Place the vitamin pill in a cup of water heated to body temperature (about 99 degrees) and let it sit, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes while keeping the water warm. During that time, the pill should completely break apart, with its contents either turning to a powder or dissolving in the water. Note: this test is not meant to work for chewable, enteric-coated or timed-release pills.
Name-Brand Nutrition Supplements
In addition to the basic vitamins and minerals listed in the downloadable PDF, we also believe additional supplements should be taken (such as omega fats like EPA, DHA, GLA, probiotics, etc.). You can find the vitamins and minerals listed on the PDF from supplements (or a combination of other supplements) on the market.
In fact, the vitamin product called Vitalizer is a comprehensive supplement solution providing vitamins, minerals, omega fats, probiotics and antioxidants/ phytonutrients; Vitalizer also has some pretty extraordinary research behind it and is based on 12 clinical studies as well as a first-of-its-kind Landmark Study that showed the overall health of the people who took this supplement compare to non-supplement users was markedly better in four key biomarkers of health. The Landmark Study was done by researchers at UC Berkeley School of Health where Vitalizer supplement users were shown to have 33% lower triglycerides, 11% lower ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, 59% lower levels of C-Reactive Protein (this is an important biomarker for inflammation in the body that is measured in the blood) and 36% lower levels of homocysteine (lower levels of homocysteine are associated with better heart health.) Vitalizer is developed by Shaklee and the company promises that if you don’t feel better in 30 days they will actually send you your money back!
Keep in mind Vitalizer is a complete supplement system including omegas, probiotics, etc. so if you want a more economical strict multi-vitamin supplement you might want to consider Vita-Lea instead. But really, plenty of high-quality multivitamin supplements are on the market (Dr. Weil, New Chapter, Life Extension are all good brands) — you just want to have a foundational knowledge of what ingredients and in what amounts to look for when buying one, and hopefully the PDF we provided above will help.
And keep in mind, no supplement in the world is a supplement for eating healthy FOOD! A supplement is just that… a supplement.
1. Fletcher RH, Fairfield KM. “Vitamins for chronic disease prevention in adults; clinical applications.” JAMA. 2002 Jun 19;287(23): 3127-9.