By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Vitamins are very popular nowadays. But do you know that the first vitamins were only identified in the 19th century? Of course people since Adam and Eve knew that eating certain foods produced good health and strength. The quest for more resources and the unknown resulted in long ocean voyages which deprived the sailors of fresh vegetables and fruits and limiting their diet to what was placed in their ships. Accounts say these provisions in the ships would be sugar, rum or wine, barley, rice, bread, meat fish. This situation led to deficiency diseases. No fresh plants? Of course, they would have deficiency but people didn’t know this phenomenon then. Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Magellan lost many men at sea because of scurvy, a mysterious disease then that also afflicted British and American sailors centuries later. Scurvy is caused by a severe deficiency of Vitamin C which is present in fresh lightly cooked or raw plants.
The term “vitamins” is a coined name for the invisible substances found in natural food that are necessary for life. They were initially called “accessory factors” until some people studied them in the laboratory and gave them names. Earl Mindell, the author of the book VITAMIN BIBLE compares vitamins to spark plugs. “Vitamins are components of our enzyme systems which, acting like spark plugs, energize and regulate our metabolism, keeping us tuned up and functioning at high performance.”
Although essential to life, vitamins in tablets or capsules or injection cannot replace natural food.
Thirteen vitamins are universally recognized at present but there are surely more in nature that science hasn’t yet decoded. These 13 are four fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E and K- and 9 water soluble vitamins- 8 B vitamins and C. Mr. Mindell mentions other vitamins and if you are interested to know these, I refer you to his book VITAMIN BIBLE.
Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed in our intestines with the help of fats and are likely to accumulate so there is danger of overdose for those taking supplements. As the name implies, water soluble vitamins easily dissolve in water and thus could also be easily excreted from the body usually through the urine.
As mentioned earlier, vitamins are found in nature – in our natural food. They don’t come as individual vitamins. You don’t gather them from the farm as alphabets or numbers. They appear in nature as leaves, roots, sprouts, tubers, fruits and in many colorful and interesting and varied shapes and sizes. Because nature’s design is that vitamins need the other components of food like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, etc. to be utilized by the body and vice verse. Vitamins also need each other. Apparently, they are like people. We can’t live alone. And together, all these nutrients work in amazing ways that are more than the sum of their individual actions. This is why if ever you need to take in supplemental vitamins, you have to take them with food.
Altering natural food disrupts this harmony of the various nutrients. For example, polishing rice takes out much of the vitamins and minerals and fiber out of the rice leaving only starch. Cooking vegetables for long or sundrying them destroys Vitamin C. Refining sugar takes out the vitamins and minerals and fiber. Refined flour which becomes your favorite pandesal and pancake is likewise devitalized. William Dufty, in the bestseller book SUGAR BLUES, says “The combination of white sugar and white rice – especially among people whose principal food is rice- is lethal. The removal of the B vitamins, among others, from the rice, causes imbalance, for as the body seeks what it lacks, more B vitamins are leeched from the system to digest the white rice. Refined white sugar leeches the same vitamins for the same reason. The combination of refined flour and refined sugar spells double trouble.”
Now you would understand why the vitamin business is such big business. Industry is happy supplying all those food supplements to people who have acquired and loved the taste for western diet of refined foods. As some people say, “Jollibee or McDo taste”.
But come to think of it – why do we remove these important nutrients then spend money to process what we removed into capsules and tablets? Isn’t it more logical and simpler if we didn’t remove them in the first place? There are machines that can mill the rice without polishing them, that is why we now have unpolished rice. We can eat camote leaves instead of drying them, crushing them and then packing them in capsules. Masmasarap pa.
Despite our technology, nobody really can say for sure how much of vitamin A or any other vitamin does one person really need. Is it 500 milligrams or 500 grams? Would it be the same for an Igorot and a Japanese? An adult and a child? An athlete and officeworker? Health authorities can only provide recommended daily allowances. And where are these figures based on? And how many milligrams vitamin C does iron need to be absorbed? If you track scientific literature, there are many controversies regarding all these details. That is why a lot of people are confused. Again, do we have to chop our grains, vegetables and fruits into things we can’t even see?
Here are some other findings mentioned in the book VITAMIN BIBLE which will confound you more:
*“One cigarette destroys 25-100 mg of vitamin C!
*Milk with synthetic vitamin D (which means all store-bought milk) can rob the body of magnesium!
*Daily “happy hours” of more than one cocktail can cause a depletion of vitamins B1, B6 and folic acid!
*… pills (oral contraceptives) can interfere with the availability of vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and vitamin C!
*If you are on a high-protein diet, your need for B6 increases!”
So, again (makulit), how much of these vitamins do we really need? Like our ancestors, I believe that only our Creator knows and let us leave that to Him. People have been in existence for centuries and if he wanted us to know how many grams he would have shown it earlier. He loves us, doesn’t he? Like he would have lined the leaves in a certain way. Just imagining. Well, a lot of studies have now shown that as long as we eat a variety of foods as provided in nature and live in harmony with nature, we are unlikely to have vitamin deficiency. Meaning we don’t have to buy those expensive food supplements that are being peddled. And we don’t have to memorize all those technical terms that are intended to confuse us. November is Children’s Month (not anymore October) and so let’s not forget to give fresh vegetables everyday to these hope of our Motherland. Yes, everyday! If possible, every meal. Now, please pass the sayote!**
“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Genesis 1:29