To supplement, or not to supplement that is the question

Now I’m not a dietician and I’m not going to pretend I have all this fabulous knowledge about food and its multiple benefits. However, I did take Nutrition for Health and Wellness, KIN. 2501/3, at the University of Winnipeg with the wonderful, educated, registered dietician Mrs. Rennie Benedict, which I feel leaves me qualified to give my opinion – Rennie’s notes are really great and informative and if anyone wants to look over them let me know.

Recently, a fellow blogger and classmate was curious to know my opinion about taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Now this person is taking supplements because her mother, which I totally get because our mothers only want us to be healthy, suggested it to her. But unfortunately taking supplements when we don’t need them can actual harm us and prevent our body from absorbing other vitamins and minerals, which are also called nutrients, that are important to staying healthy. Rennie, and the rest of the science community, refer to the ability of our body to absorb a nutrient through diet as bioavailability. In her class notes, Rennie says Bioavailability depends on several factors: our physiological need for the nutrient when it’s consumed, vitamin-mineral interactions, interactions between some plant compounds and minerals, like a compound found in spinach and rhubarb called oxalic acid renders the calcium these plants contain unable to be absorbed, and last but not least mineral-mineral interactions. Now mineral-mineral interactions refer to the interaction between the nutrients we get from eating and the nutrients we get from supplementing.

Several minerals are constantly competing with each other to absorb into the body. Rennie says that when our bodies have too much of one it can steamroll another, which limits our body’s ability to absorb that mineral. She also says this usually happens when people self-prescribe large quantities of individual minerals. And that is one of the problems; because supplements do not need to be prescribed by a doctor people often take them thinking vitamins and minerals are good for me so it can only be awesome for my body if I take more of them. But here are some questions to think about when considering taking supplements:

1. Does my diet give me all the nutrients I need to be healthy?

2. Do I have any food allergies to wheat, milk, protein, or fruit?

3. Have I been diagnosed with a disease, deficiencies, or malabsorption syndromes?

4. Am I planning to become pregnant, am I pregnant, or breastfeeding?

5. Am I over 50?

6. Am I at risk of developing osteoporosis?

7. Am I vegetarian or vegan?

If you’ve answered no to these questions chances are you don’t need to supplement your diet because the food you eat is enough to cover all your body’s vitamin and mineral needs. So watch out when considering taking a supplement. If you feel you need to supplement because your diet is poor think about taking a multi-vitamin. Multi-vitamins are constructed in a harmonious balance of nutrients so that none compete for a place in the body. If you’re still not convinced go check out NIH Office of Dietary Supplements for more info and here's another list from Rennie about the hazards of supplements:

1. Taken in megadoses supplements can be harmful.

2. More is not always better. Extra amounts either serve no purpose and just end up in your pee or are harmful, so why waste all those good nutrients?

3. An excess of fat-soluble vitamins, like A and D, and many minerals, like iron, zinc, copper, and selenium, are stored in body tissue and can reach toxic levels.

4. An excess of one nutrient can affect another creating a nutrient deficiency, and they you’ll really need to take supplements.


Holy Plastic!

Sorting the recycling can be a daunting task. There are plastic bottles, plastic containers and plastic packing en masse not including all the different plastic that goes in the garbage. I

put plastic in the recycling each week because I believe that something is being done about it. And while there is a lot being done to recycle these products there is just so much of it that it’s difficult to control.

But I had no idea how much is out there.

The other evening I was given a shocking dose of reality when I watched documentary filmmaker, Ian Connacher, unfold an eye-opening story about plastic.

His film, Addicted to Plastic, is one man’s journey discover what happens beyond the recycle box. Connacher travels around the w

orld in search of answers to what can be done for this epidemic of plastic that is filling our world’s landfills, cities, and waters. The filmmaker from Toronto created a fantastic documentary that is both staggering and very insightful. Connacher’s playful way of presenting the facts along with amazing alternatives that are out there gives a jolt of reality with an optimistic sting.

You may be curious as to why this is any way relevant to my blog. Health and wellness is not just about eating right and being active. It has become an umbrella term that also implies mental and emotional, social, spiritual, occupational, cultural, and environmental health.

Environmental health is such a huge aspect in our overall achievement of health and wellness, because it pollutes our water, and gets ingested by animals we may eat. These factors leave us vulnerable to an attack on our overall health and well-being.

Do you know what happens to the plastic you throw out?


The Great Outdoors - One Great Workout

Health and wellness has quickly become the buzz phrase on the minds and on the tips of tongues of people throughout North American. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done to begin incorporating these aspects into everyday life. Everyone has good intentions. You join a gym and start including healthier foods into your daily lives, but then life starts getting crazy and all your good intentions fall by the wayside, and you end-up paying for a gym membership that never gets used. The thing is, and this is my own personal feeling, that many people who want to start living a healthy lifestyle become so overwhelmed with the idea of using the gym and changing eating habits. But it doesn’t have to be; it can be really easy if little steps are taken and you work on solidly changing one negative aspect in your life at a time.

For my first ever blog, l'd like to address this issue of physical activity. If anyone is like me I feel I get a better burn at the gym than say going outside and running. I feel like I can challenge myself more in a gym setting by increasing the tension or incline, because god knows you can’t find too many hills to run-up in Winnipeg. But I was completely foolish and blind to the bulk of outdoor activities there is to do in and out of Winnipeg. Just this past Labour Day weekend two friends and I decided to load the canoe onto my friend’s Rav 4 and head toward Caddy Lake in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park for an amazing three-day canoe trip.

Now the great thing about heading towards Caddy and its surrounding lakes is one, there is no fee to get into any federal or provincial park for the next two years, in case you didn’t know. Two, even though at times you feel like you’re the only one on the lake your really not, so if anything were to happen there are people around to help. And last, but not least, canoeing these lakes is totally, and completely easy, but please make sure you have at least one person that knows how to steer a canoe. So off my friends’ and I went with our GPS in hand, which by the way I really recommend, paddling across Caddy Lake through two tunnels to reach our destination of North Cross Lake.

The paddling wasn’t crazy intense. But it got us working hard increasing our heart rate, which makes our bodies work harder in order to pump blood quickly to the muscles being used to give them energy. The more energy our muscles use means burning down more of our bodies food stores, which leaves us with less unwanted body weight and a healthier heart.

The amazing thing about going on this canoe trip was not only that we got to be physically active, and really we worked our butts off, but also we had a great time doing and that is the most important thing about being physically active. Canoeing is a great way to have fun and be active with the whole family, or with a girlfriend or boyfriend, or with friends. Please remember that you need to be prepared. Plan your trip; bring a GPS, tell conservation where you plan to paddle, and bring the right equipment because you still need to remember your on the water and in the wilderness so you do need to be prepared. On top of being prepared for anything please, please remember to take your garbage with you because it’s important to leave nature beautiful and free of garbage not only for us, but also for our kids and their kids.