Here is an updated list of the fruits and vegetables that comprise the Dirty Dozen (those that have the highest pesticide residues according to the USDA) and Clean Fifteen (those that have the lowest residues). As suggested in the blog, use them to help you determine when and how to buy or grow organically. Also, an opinion about genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Recently, my mom had a minor surgery. She’s been suffering from low levels of energy, which we attributed to the surgery because she’s overdone it a few times and worn herself out. No matter what she did, however–drinking much water and sleeping away gobs of time–she was not seeing an increase in her energy levels. Thankfully, at her last doctor’s visit, they tested her vitamin levels. Lo and behold, she’s deficient in several areas, particularly vitamin B12.
According to the American Council on Exercise, vitamins “are organic, noncaloric micronutrients that are essential for normal physiological function. [They] must be consumed through foods, with only three exceptions: vitamin K and biotin, which can be produced by normal intestinal flora (bacteria that
live in the intestines and are critical for normal gastrointestinal function), and vitamin D, which can be self-produced with sun exposure.” (ACE Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant Manual, p. 143) Some foods also contain provitamins, inactive vitamins that enzymes convert into the active forms our bodies need.
There are 13 vitamins essential to physiological function: water-soluable (B vitamins and C) and fat-soluable (A, D, E, and K). There is also choline, nicknamed a “quasi-vitamin” because it can be produced within the body but also provides additional benefits through food consumption as it plays a critical role in neurotransmitter and platelet functions, and may prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Here is a chart on vitamins and where to find them in your diet. In general, men need slightly more vitamins (and minerals) than women. Eating your vitamins promises a more thorough absorption of them into your system, rather than taking them by pills, which causes the body to have to convert them into useable forms before they are flushed out of your system (water-soluble) or stored in your fat cells (fat-soluble).
I also owe my mom an apology for misinforming her. Yes, green leafy veggies are important to gain B2, not B12. (Oops!) You’ll want to shovel down more meat, milk products, and seafood for an increased intake of that vitamin. My bad!
So, if you’ve found yourself feeling energy-less and blue, try increasing your consumption of vitamins! I know that this has worked for me. It will work for you. Remember, you do not have to overconsume anything if you are deficient. Eat regular, properly portioned, whole foods to increase your levels slowly, safely over time. (An example is the DASH Eating Plan.)
On a more solemn note, my mother-in-law also had surgery recently. She grew sick after a day of games with some girlfriends but, after three days of intense cramping, when the pain had ebbed, she still felt crappy. Amongst these feelings was a lack of energy. This went on for a few weeks until she took the advice of friends and family (and was tired of feeling yucky) and saw a doctor. They did blood work and found that she had elevated levels of the protein that indicated cancer. The sonogram showed no signs of growth; we are currently waiting for the biopsy results.
The lesson I mean to pass is this: sometimes we get so wrapped up in our busy lives that we disconnect from our bodies. We only get one body and we need to listen to it. If more people did, I believe there would be more early diagnoses for such devastating diseases like cancer. For, as my mom-in-law told me just yesterday, all the people she’s known will tell you the same thing: the thing they remember the most about the disease is how much pain it causes. Not emotional pain. Real, physical pain…and not from the treatment they receive.
She was lucky to have gotten ill. It made her take note of how she felt overall. However, she wonders about how long it would have taken her to notice if she had not been laid up for so long. Therefore, I leave you with this thought: awareness of our internal selves is just as important and awareness of the external life consuming our time. Be kind to the one vessel we get in life. Take note. It may save your own life.
More information on signs and symptoms of cancer here.