Expert answers to your health and wellness questions
By Grant & Cathy Pritchard
Question: If I get sick, will loading up on Vitamin C help me get better sooner?
Answer: This question is coming at a great time, and many people will start to worry about how much vitamin C they are consuming when they feel an illness coming on. For the most part, studies have shown little to no benefit. Consuming extra vitamin C after you’re already showing signs and symptoms of an illness will not help you recover faster. However, for those that consume the proper amount of vitamin C regularly, this may help reduce the duration of a cold by about a day, and they may have fewer symptoms than a person not meeting their daily requirement. Unfortunately, relatively high doses of 1-2 grams may be needed to elicit these very mild benefits, so is it really worth it in the end? Keep in mind, the RDA for women is 75 gms per day and 90 gms per day for men. Vitamin C can be found in acidic foods such as oranges, strawberries, kiwis, and also in green, leafy vegetables. It’s also found in citrus juices or those fortified with Vitamin C. Bottom line—only you can decide if you want to dose up on vitamin C. It certainly won’t cause any problems, but the minimal benefits may not justify the added expense.
Question: I have taken some time off from the gym and gained some extra weight, not to mention the fact that I feel a bit weaker. Did all my muscle just turn to fat?
Answer: This is a great question and all too often it may seem like this is actually happening when people stop working out. However, muscle and fat are two completely different types of body tissue. Neither can simply turn into the other. When people stop working out for long periods, food intake should decrease because if you’re not expending as many calories, you certainly don’t need to consume as many calories. It’s important to remember that the muscles in your body are active tissues that are constantly using energy even when you’re sedentary. This means the more muscle you have, the more calories you need. The opposite is true as well. Unfortunately, when workouts decline, people often consume the same amounts of food that they had been when they were working out. These extra calories are stored in your body as adipose tissue (body fat). If you make a conscious effort to consume fewer calories when you stop working out, then you should be able to avoid the added pounds.
Question: Foods seem to be so high in salt these days, and I’m aware of the dangers of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Can you please clarify the amount of sodium I should be consuming daily?
Answer: You’re right—salt is everywhere. Processed foods are the main culprit, but the increased reliance on fast foods and restaurant meals are problematic as well. To add to the confusion, people often have trouble differentiating between sodium and salt. Salt is actually 40% sodium, so when discussing recommendations, we need to be clear about what we’re talking about. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). On the other hand, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day (about 2/3 teaspoon of salt), and they set the tolerable upper intake level at 2,300 milligrams. It’s clear that your intake should fall somewhere between these two ranges, or even less, but it’s actually quite difficult to keep your sodium level as low as 1500 milligrams per day. In fact, the IOM points out that 95% of American men and 75% of American women consume sodium in excess of the tolerable upper limit—not good news for those of us looking to avoid chronic disease as we get older. In order to keep your sodium intake in check, you need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and make sure you buy foods that are fresh and unprocessed. And don’t forget to avoid adding salt at the dinner table as well.