I so wish there was a nutritional supplement I could take that would make my skin smooth, soft and radiant. But the links between beautiful skin and nutrition are more complex than that. The NHANES study looked at the relationship between health and diet and found that people whose diets were higher in vitamin C, fiber, protein and linoleic acid looked younger and had fewer wrinkles. But these benefits were only there when the nutrients were from actual food– not where people took supplements. I know first hand how hard it is to find healthy food in a world dominated by burgers, tacos, pizza and take-out chinese food. At lunchtime, I’ve walked for blocks with a rumbling tummy trying to find a quick bite that wouldn’t shorten my lifespan. A multi-vitamin supplement can cover my dietary shortfalls but won’t really give me the juice I need to slow aging.
That being said there are two nutrients which are vital to good health but are almost impossible to get the amount we need just from food alone:
Vitamin D- Repeated studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D are linked to a wide range of health problems including breast cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. For years the recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been 800 mg./day, about two servings of dairy products. We can create our own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but our use of sunscreens have actually lowered vitamin D levels in most Americans.
A few years ago physicians started prescribing vitamin D supplements at a scary 50,000 units/week. Current recommendations are scaling back this number to about 3000-6000 units per day. My recent blood test showed pretty low vitamin D levels but I hate BIG pills so I’ve been taking a daily petite gel cap with 2000 units. In a few months the test will be repeated and we’ll see if these supplements are working.
Calcium– this is arguably the most important mineral in the body– and we need alot of it. Calcium is essential for strong bones and teeth. Current recommendations are 1000-12000mg/day for adults and its actually pretty hard to reach that number without taking in some serously large portions of dairy products. For example one ounce of cheese has 200 mg, 1/2 cup of yogurt offers 190mg and 1/2 cup milk clocks in at just 100 mg of calcium. Reaching the RDA can be especially difficult for the millions of people who are lactose intolerant.
Calcium supplements usually supply about 1000 mg of which 400 are actually absorbed. If you do the math, two ounces of cheese, 1/2 cup milk and a calcium supplement will get you where you want to go. However a single 1000 mg supplement is a pretty big pill to swallow. Chewable antacids like Tums contain calcium carbonate, one of the most easily absorbed forms of calcium. Afforadable and convenient, popping a few Tums during the day are an easy way to raise your calcium levels to healthy numbers.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium which is why they are often combined in a single supplement. I find these large pills daunting and stick to small vitamin D gel caps and Tums to meet my nutritional goals.