Q. Are "whole food" supplements better than regular supplements?
A. There's little argument that a healthy, well-rounded diet is superior to a poor diet with dietary supplements filling in the gaps. Regardless, the supplement industry is booming, raking in over 28 million dollars in 2010 alone.
vitamin C and B12, may help prevent deficiencies like scurvy and anemia, evidence that supplements offer the same health benefits as real food is lacking.
In response to our growing appreciation for the health benefits found in whole food, some supplement manufacturers are marketing "whole food" supplements, derived from whole foods, such as vegetable juice powder and pulp from carrots, beets, kale, broccoli, and other fruits and vegetables.
Though it may seem like these supplements provide nutrients closer to the way nature intended, there's little evidence backing up their benefits over conventional supplements. Consolidating all the benefits of plants, from vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemials, into a single pill--no matter its source--is highly unlikely. And whole food supplements are costlier than regular supplements; about 90 cents to $1 per dose vs. 10-20 cents per dose, respectively. -- McKenzie Hall, R.D.
Q. Is it safe to eat ferns, and how do you prepare them?
A. Brilliant green and feathered, fiddlehead ferns are a welcome sign that spring has arrived. A seasonal delicacy, fiddlehead ferns are anticipated by those who covet this tasty treasure. Despite confusion and a very short season, fiddleheads are increasingly popular in fine restaurants, farmers markets and home kitchens.
Rather than a variety of fern itself, the fiddlehead is the young, tender shoot of the fern frond, which is coiled at the tip like the scroll that tops a fiddle. Though it can reach six feet, fiddleheads are harvested before they mature, at eight to 20 inches tall, before the tips uncurl.
There are three main species of edible ferns: lady fern, bracken fern and ostrich. The ostrich species, most often referred to as fiddlehead, is abundant in North American river valleys and forests. It is rich in vitamins A and C, phosphorus and iron, and has a flavor comparable to asparagus.
Unless you are experienced, it's best to leave fern foraging to an expert--like mushrooms, it can be tricky to distinguish the edible species from look-alikes that are unsafe to eat. Eating fiddleheads raw is not advised, but a quick blanch readies these crisp, mildly sweet morsels to pop into a stir-fry, toss with pasta, or enliven any dish as an attractive garnish. -- Lori Zanteson
(Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition in clear, concise English. For more information, visit http://www.environmentalnutrition.com.)