Healthlines: Taking food supplements can be helpful

Updated 04 December 2013
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Healthlines: Taking food supplements can be helpful

Our bodies need a balance of nutrients to be healthy and strong. Ideally, it’s better to get the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need through real food rather than through supplements, since all the nutrients in food often work together to enhance absorption.
Feeling healthy and full of energy is a sign that you are eating a balanced diet containing food from all the food groups.
At this time of the year many people are returning from leave from all over the world. Air travel is the perfect place to pass on bugs and viruses, so keeping your immune system strong is very important to avoid catching coughs, colds and flu.
Starting afresh after the summer is a good time to rethink your health. Benefit from taking a fresh look at your eating practices to support your immune system. Establishing healthy eating routines is important for a strong, healthy body. Our nutritional needs are not static: we are all individuals and have different nutritional needs based on the genes we inherit, our age and our lifestyle. As our bodies age we need to take greater care of them as they do not thrive on a lack of nutrients. The sooner you begin taking care of your body the better for preventing problems in later life. What you do today affects your health in the future.
Some experts, like Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, say that if you keep a balanced diet containing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy products, you can skip the supplements. However, other experts say that most of us overestimate how well we’re really eating and that taking a daily multivitamin is like an insurance policy so that your body has some of everything it needs to heal and protect.
Many doctors recommend multivitamins in particular, for the variety of essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients they provide.
Antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E and the minerals zinc and selenium) are your protectors that protect you against contracting disease. Think of your immune system as an army defending your body from hostile viruses, bacteria, yeasts and free radicals (damaging molecules). To picture how antioxidants protect your body, try to imagine how lemon juice (vitamin C) stops a halved apple from turning brown (oxidizing) on exposure to air. A similar process happens inside your body. Antioxidants protect your body’s tissues against damage. Antioxidants mainly come from fresh fruits and vegetables: get into the habit of eating at least five portions a day. The natural pigments that give fruit and vegetables their colors are also protective.
So always eat a colorful plate of food. This is healthy and will support your immune system.
Equally important to eating healthy is keeping control of your stress levels.
Stress is a major suppressor of the immune system. In times of stress, make it a point to eat well and protect your immune system. We tend to eat badly when stressed, and turn to caffeinated drinks and sweet treats and fat snacks. In the long run these have a negative effect on our immune health. B-vitamins, found in whole grains, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, beans, liver, eggs and Marmite, are important for energy production and to counter the worst effects of stress. Try and lead a balanced life, as the body likes a balance of work, exercise, family, prayer, hobbies and relaxation.
Few people realize that the digestive tract is actually the largest immune organ in the body and that healthy bowel bacteria can make a real difference to the immune health. Symptoms of disturbed digestive health could include excessive wind, bouts of abdominal bloating, thrush, loose stools, and constipation. Keep beneficial bacteria in good shape by eating lots of fiber from fruit and vegetables, and whole grains such as brown rice and oats. You can also eat bio yoghurt daily and have healthy whole grain cereal for breakfast. Checking your digestive tract is healthy: your bowel movements should be regular and you should produce a firm stool.
Immune Boosters
Vitamin C is both anti-viral and anti-bacterial, and it is essential for building white blood cells (the chief soldiers in your immune army). It is needed to make collagen, which ‘glues’ cells together making them less penetrable to invading organisms. A daily dose of vitamin C can help make the immune system work more efficiently.
Zinc is critical for immune health and a deficiency is linked to poor wound healing and a susceptibility to infections.
Many healthy people under 50 eating a healthy balanced diet do not need vitamin or mineral supplements. However food in the Gulf has often traveled many miles so many doctors recommend a good quality daily multivitamin as an insurance policy for your health. Taking a few carefully chosen supplements is a simple way to make up for any shortfall. With so many different dietary supplements out there, conflicting messages can occur, making it hard to choose which ones to take. But if I had to pick just two daily ‘must-takes’ they would be a high quality multivitamin. If you do not spend time outside or in light sun, speak to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement.
Taking vitamins is never a substitute for eating a healthy balanced diet; try when possible to eat local produce. Always wash fruit and vegetables.
Healthy Recipe of the Week
Quick cod and tomato supper (serves 4)
This is a great recipe if you are in a rush because you just pop it all in the oven and it is a colorful plate of food.
Ingredients
2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped
2 red onions cut into wedges
250g cherry tomatoes
Handful black olives
340gr passato or tomato pasta sauce
400g can butter beans, drained
4 skinless cod fillets
Small bunch basil
Method
Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.
Put the peppers, onions, tomatoes and olives into a large, deep baking tray and cook for 15 minutes until they start to soften and char at the edges.
Stir in the passato, butter beans and seasoning, then make four little areas and to pop in the cod.
Return to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes until the cod is cooked through. Sprinkle over the basil and serve with crusty bread.
Ask Alva
I am a vegetarian and I often feel tired; do I need to take vitamin and mineral supplements? – Paromita
Generally vegetarians are very healthy but some may not get enough calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Natural dietary sources would include dairy products, fish, poultry, liver, eggs, red meat, and turkey. Taking a multivitamin should ensure that your B12 levels stay where they should be. Please see your doctor to check your iron levels as you say you often feel tired.
— Alva

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Ful — the dish of choice for iftar and suhoor in Madinah

Updated 25 May 2018
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Ful — the dish of choice for iftar and suhoor in Madinah

LONDON: Ful, a dish made of cooked fava beans, is proving to be the dish of choice for fasting Muslims during Ramadan in the Saudi Arabian city of Madinah.
The dish, which is an everyday food across the Arab World, is one of the most popular dishes served in Madinah at Iftar, the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset, and suhoor, the pre-dawn meal.
Ful’s popularity stems from its excellent nutritional value, delicious taste, attractive aroma, and the fact that it is considered to be a very filling food rich in protein.
Iftar in Madinah is not complete without ful and the city’s ful vendors are extremely busy just before sunset with people wanting to buy the freshly prepared dish.
There are two ways of preparing ful in Madinah, one is made of hand-crushed fava beans and the other is prepared with the whole bean.
The preparation of ful varies from region to region in the Arab world. Lebanese foul overflows with the flavours of lemon, olive oil and garlic whilst Egyptian ful is made with olive oil, parsley, cumin and tahini.