Health Chats
How To Eat Healthier: The Role of Vitamins, Minerals and Phytonutrients
Tuesday Dec 08, 2009, 05:00PM - 06:00PM (EST)
Master's Level Registered Physician Assistant
When the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released in 2005, the federal recommendations for fruits and vegetables increased from 5-9 servings to 5-13 servings per day for adults. Unfortunately, despite the recommendations and known health benefits of fruits and vegetables, 8 out of 10 Americans are not consuming these recommended intake levels – there is a “phytonutrient gap”. <br><br> Nutrition plays a large role in your health and in the health of your loved ones. In this hourlong health chat, learn all about macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients - what they are, the role they play in your nutrition, how they affect your health, and how to eat healthier. Why should you eat vegetables and fruits of different colors? How can you supplement your nutritional needs? What should you look for when buying vitamins and supplements. Get the answers to these questions and more!
Welcome to MedHelp's live Health Chat with Amy Hendel, R-PA.  This chat will begin at 5pm EST, but feel free to submit your questions ahead of time.
Welcome again and thank you for joining us.  A big thanks also to Amy Hendel for answering questions today and to Nutrilite for sponsoring this chat.
Amy Hendel:
Hi! Thanks sos much for allowing me to host this discussion. I'm looking forward to a robust discussion on vitamins and nutrition.
What is a good breakfast?
Amy Hendel:
I think that the goal should be eating whole grains plus protein plus a fruit and even including a small serving of a healthy fat.So for example, you could have an omlette with egg whites, some veggies, half a grapefruit, a peice of whole grain toast, and you would be good to go!
Hi- Can vitamins and supplements help boost the immune system?
Amy Hendel:
In this winter season, when we are concerned about seasonal flu, swine flu, colds, and other malities, vitamnins can defininatly help to su[pport a healthy immune system. You can also target ten servings of fruits and vegetables daily so that you get some nutrients ffrom food aswell.
Dear Amy, I'm 74 and worked for 50 years and have been retired for 3 years. My first 25 years was in corporate work in optics. My second 25 years was in teaching Mechanical Engineering (Cal Poly, Penn State, University of Arizona and N.Y. University), I have (and have always had) free medical, prescriptions, vision and dental. In the last 50 years I've seen probably 50 MDs about low energy. For the past 5 years I've been taking a mild anti-depressant, avodart (BPH), zetia, and ProVigil (for wakefulness, alertness). My BP, heart, etc are normal. Any information on vitamins, minerals, herbs, compounds would be greatly appreciated.
Amy Hendel:
First of all, a recent report called, America's Phydonutirent Report, suggests that we need to be targeting a variety of colored fruits and vegetables in our diet daily. So thatmeans, for someone like you, shoot for eating two servings from each of five color groups.
Amy Hendel:
The color groups are, green, red, white, purle/blue, orange/yellow, and you should target two servings of fruits or vegetables from each of those color groups. Additionally, i would defininatly add a natural plant based supplement and one I like alot is Nutrilite.
Amy Hendel:
Finally, look for vitamins that have plant concentratea, and of course try to eat a balanced diet. Hope that helps!
Hi, Thanks for your time. What are phytonutrients and why do we need them?
Amy Hendel:
There are active compounds in fruits and vegetables aside from vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Those active compounds give produce their vibrant ranges of colors. They are called phytonutrients and they also provide a range of health benefits.
I take vitamin E and C every day...Is that good enough for my body? I walk for 3 miles everyday but yet, I feel tired and stressful. What are the good vitamins to take at my age of 45...thank you.
Amy Hendel:
It is a good start, but based on this new information in Americas Phytonutrient Report, I would A. recommend that you shoot for eating a dose of daily color from each of the five color categories I mentioned earlier and then I would supplement with a multivitamin and possibly a good dose of Vitamin-D, around 1200 IU. B. I would also, make sure to get enough calcium.
Is an overdose of vitamins dangerous? How do we know how much we need?
Amy Hendel:
One of the problems with the fact that their are so many fortified foods including cereals, beverages, eggs, pretty much every food category has fortified foods- so if you are eating alot of these foods and taking vitamins you do indeed, run the risk of taking to many vitamins. Why not go to and check out the phytonutrient spectrum and the other tool your daily phytonutrient snapshot. It will help you track your vitamin needs and hopefully, give you information to improve your energy levels.
I've been so paranoid about getting sick this winter, that I try to take an Airborne or an Emergen-C everyday. I'm not sure if it's really helping - or what the best nutritional regime is to stay healthy/balanced this winter. Any thoughts?
Amy Hendel:
Clearly, we experts love when people make a commitment to getting their benefits of nutrients from foods. This whole idea of a daily dose of color is to inspire people to not only eat about ten servings of fruits and vegetables daily, but to really track the colors which represent phytonutrient gealth benefits.
Amy Hendel:
If you want addition insurance then commit to taking a daily supplement that is hopefully plant based and as I mentioned earlier , track your Vitamin-D.
I have been sick for the last couple of weeks and just seem to have a poor immune system in general, any suggestions?
Amy Hendel:
Of course I would start with some home made chicken soup! LOL! But more seriously, the winter months can really confound a person's immune system and once you get sick you can be at risk for recurrent illnesses. So lets agree that you need to get adiquent sleep and wash you hand frequently. Also, make sure you get enough fruits and vegetables, plant bassed protein, healthy fats, and whole grains in your diet.
Amy Hendel:
And then, you are the perfect candidate to take a daily multi vitamin. If you want more information, a great website is
I have seen reports that suggest the average person should have 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day- is this correct? Seems very difficult to consume all that every day...
Amy Hendel:
The actual reange is 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. America's phytonutrient report suggests that if we use ten as our goal then why not eat two servings of fruits and veggies from each of the five color categories I mentioned previously.
Amy Hendel:
So, if you do that you will get health benefits like good immune system, a healthy brain, healthy eyes, and you may lower your risk of certain health conditions.
I recently read the book "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. In it, he argues that Americans are too concerned with nutrients and instead we should be eating foods, not supplements because we do not yet understand all the nutrients in a specific food. What do you think of his argument? Is his theory unfounded?
Amy Hendel:
The author had some very valid points, and indeed feven the ADA is pretty hardlined on getting most of your nutrients directly from food. The problem is that most Americans have food issues, and they eat alot of fast food and processed food, leaving gapping holes in their nutrient consumption.
Amy Hendel:
I certainly tell clients to first anf foremost, adopt better eating habits and we work on those alot. But I have to recognize the gapping holes and address them. Vitamin supplementation is the way to do that, but be sure to choose a reputable vitamin that has a great track record of RND and I also like plant based supplements.
Hi, I have been sick the past few days and unable to hold food down. I have to get something in me so I can take my blood pressure and anti-depressant meds. I am vegetarian.  What can you suggest to help me start eating again. I attribute the stomach issues to nerves right now but am not entirely sure.  Also what can you suggest as good things to either take in or avoid for helping with cramping due to endo and adeno-myosis pain?
Amy Hendel:
I am only comfortable making spome quick suggestions with regard to helping you get back on track with your meds. Dry toast in small amounts, white rice, and bananas are bland food options that may help.
Amy Hendel:
You may be curious about why America's Phytonutrient Report was so provacative. It was the first major analysis that looked at fruit and vegetable consumption by color categories.