September 29, 2008
Ed Blonz: Supplements No Basis for Good Nutrition
By Ed Blonz
Supplements not the basis for good nutrition
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have a long workday and often don't leave the office until it's time for dinner. I am not questioning the importance of eating grains, fruits and vegetables, but I have neither the time nor the knowledge to cook. During the week, I usually end up eating out, doing takeout or buying single-serving entrees to make at home. My diet is not what I would consider to be marginal, but it is certainly not where it should be. I haven't really suffered for it yet. How much will I be helping things out by adding a dietary supplement or a vitamin-fortified drink to my daily regimen? -- M.Q., Danville, Calif.
Dear M.Q.: Your question goes to the heart of what nutrition and good eating are all about. The short answer is that it's unrealistic to think that supplements or a vitamin-fortified drink can capture all the goodness that healthful whole foods have to offer. They can't transform a marginal diet into a good one. However, it is not unreasonable to take multivitamin/mineral supplements or drinks, but you will still need to make good choices with the foods you do eat.
The healthfulness of eating fresh fruits, vegetables and grains has been verified through epidemiology, the science that investigates the connection between what people are eating or doing and their state of health.
The fact that good eating leads to good health is certainly not news. What's relatively new is the technical ability to tweak out the identity of the beneficial compounds. I like to think of whole foods as providing a symphony of healthful compounds that work together like the instruments in an orchestra. If you rely on supplements, you will get only those ingredients that have been studied to the point that they have tickled the fancy of supplement makers enough to include them in their mix. Taking the same supplement day after day provides only those components. It is not the same as eating from a variety of healthful whole foods.
There are many excellent single-serving entrees in stores, and you can find restaurants that serve healthful foods on a takeout basis. What I would suggest, however, is that you consider making the time to take a basic cooking class. It is not that difficult, and it will open up a world of possibilities, such as learning how to prepare and store multiple portions of a meal. You state that you haven't, as yet, suffered because of your dietary habits. Life, however, is a cumulative affair, so why not take this opportunity to make some positive adjustments?
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I have lost almost 30 pounds on a low- carbohydrate diet, but I wanted to try a little veggie pasta made with semolina flour. It is from a small gourmet company, and they don't have a nutrition index. What is semolina flour, and is it going to be something that is OK on this diet? -- W.F., Arlington Heights, Ill.
DEAR W.F.: Congratulations on your weight loss. Semolina is a coarse flour that is used in traditional pasta dough. It is made by milling whole kernels of durum wheat. Semolina flour is relatively high in (gluten) protein, and it absorbs less water, giving pasta dough and pizza dough their chewy texture. The semolina flour from durum wheat is used in Italy to make commercial pasta. It is also used to make couscous. The carbohydrate content will be in the same range as other wheat flours, which is around 100 grams per cup.
Originally published by Ed Blonz, Contra Costa Times Correspondent.
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