From children’s chewables to silver seniors we love to take our vitamins. One-a-day, multi-, iron-free, packed with iron, we pop ’em in. My mother was always hassling me to take my Flintstone Vitamins with my lunch in grade school, right alongside my pb&j, apple or banana, and fruit juice. But here’s the question, with the piece of fruit, the jelly, and fruit juice in my lunch, did I really need to be putting the man-made chemicals in my body before recess? According to Drugs.com,
“Many multivitamin products also contain minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Minerals (especially taken in large doses) can cause side effects such as tooth staining, increased urination, stomach bleeding, uneven heart rate, confusion, and muscle weakness or limp feeling.
Certain minerals contained in a multivitamin may also cause serious overdose symptoms if you take too much. Overdose symptoms may include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, hair loss, peeling skin, tingly feeling in or around your mouth, changes in menstrual periods, weight loss, severe headache, muscle or joint pain, severe back pain, blood in your urine, pale skin, and easy bruising or bleeding.”
None of this sounds like too much fun. If these extreme side effects are possible from taking a bit too much, I am not so sure that I would want to take any of it. During this era of organic food, healthy choices, and a disdain for fast food, why should I still be getting my daily vitamin in pill form? After all, I’m not George Jetson, and furthermore I don’t want my hair to fall out before its good and ready. And if I don’t want the chicken or beef I eat packed full of chemicals and hormones, then why do I have a different standard for myself when it comes to vitamins?
So here’s the conundrum; chemical vitamins vs. natural vitamins.
Taste vs. No Taste
When I start my day I like to peel a nice ripe banana or bite into a fresh granny smith apple for breakfast. Typically I pack my lunch for work at the same time I’m dressing, eating breakfast, making coffee, and finishing any last minute work I avoided during re-runs of Arrested Development. The piece of fruit I eat for breakfast is quick, delicious, and very nutritious (rhyme not intended), and here’s the best part: they taste great. And really what’s the point of eating well if the flavor isn’t a factor also? I don’t suggest biting into a daily vitamin for the flavor, because the nutrition may be present, but the taste is sorely lacking. It’s a Fact:
• The average banana contains high amounts of potassium, sodium, phosphorus, chlorine, magnesium, sulphur, silicon and calcium, as well as vitamin A, B1, B2, B5, and C.
• The baobab fruit contains six times the Vitamin C as an orange and twice the calcium of milk.
• Apples, quinces, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are all part of the rose family.
It seems most Americans these days are trying to not only watch what they eat, in the sense of avoiding calories and fat content, but also attempting to eat what is the most healthy. This can get difficult for me because it often leaves me feeling pretty hungry, but instead of reaching for a candy bar or potato chips to fill that snacking void I’ve been reaching for pears, mangoes, or pomegranates. What’s great about this is that not only am I doing something positive and healthy for my diet, but also I’m filling up until my next meal. If I take a multi-vitamin it simply scratches my throat on the way down, leaving me no more satisfied than before I forced it down. It’s a Fact:
• Mangoes are rich in Vitamin A, C, E and Iron and provide an excellent source of Beta-carotene.
• An apple is more efficient at waking a person up than a cup of coffee.
• Tomatoes, which are technically a fruit, deliver a great source of Vitamins A, C, and K, contain high levels of lycopene, and have been shown to help fight numerous diseases including cancer.
Vitamins are important to any healthy diet, and that is what makes multi-vitamins so appealing. In a sense it means that a person can eat almost anything, and as long as a multi-vitamin is taken all the important things are taken care of. They allow us to be lazier in our eating choices. The absorption rate of multi-vitamins is something that needs to be considered, look at the back of a bottle of vitamins and the numbers are impressive, but are they accurate? In a way they are. The numbers represent the percentage absorbed by chemicals in a laboratory environment. But this is not the case in our own bodies. In fact the amount of vitamins our bodies absorb by eating a piece of fruit can often be much higher than the amount of vitamins absorbed from that chemical thing choked down during a meal. The reason a multi-vitamin is to be taken while eating is an attempt to fool the body into absorbing more of what it needs, as our bodies absorb fibrous or watery items (such as fruit) with much more ease and intensity than a solid chemical product. But do we really need to be fooling our bodies when it comes to the building blocks of a healthy, nutritional diet? It’s a Fact:
• Figs are a great source of potassium, iron, calcium, and magnesium as well as Vitamins A, B1, and B2 and have a mineral content similar to that of human milk.
• 155 billion pounds of bananas were consumed by the world in 2004.
• Pomegranates are a great source of Vitamins B, C, and E, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Folic Acid, and according to Greek mythology the eating of pomegranate seeds is the reason that winter exists.
Natural or Chemical
In a world that is striving to choose function or fashion, natural vs. manmade it’s quite obvious that one should avoid chemicals, even those that mean well. When faced with the choice between something made in a laboratory or that which nature has perfected, that which delivers vitamins, healthy fibrous materials, a nutritious snack, an ingredient for meals or deserts, and frankly something that tastes great, the choice is clear, do your self a favor and push past the plastic vitamin container and pick up the all natural goodness that is fruit.