Is Too Much of a Good Thing Bad for You? (Hint: Yes)

The Danger of Too Many NutrientsI’m sure you’ve heard it in the news: if you eat healthy foods loaded with certain essential nutrients, your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other diseases will dramatically decrease. While many of these nutrients have many health benefits, you should always be cautious of consuming too much.

Most nutrients have an upper tolerable level, meaning that if you consume more than this level, they might actually do more harm than good!

Too Much Calcium?

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We all know that calcium is important for your bone health. It helps maintain the strength of your bones and may prevent osteoporosis in your later years.

But did you know that too much calcium may have some negative consequences? It is rare that you will suffer any consequences if you consume too much calcium from dairy and many fortified products. However, if you’re also taking a supplement, you may be overdoing it.

Your body needs about 1,200 mg per day, with no more than 500 mg per meal.

The maximum is 2,000 mg per day. The actual levels that are toxic to your body are not known but consuming higher than recommended levels may lead to some negative effects, like heart problems, calcium deposits on tissues, kidney problems, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

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My biggest worry among my clients is that by consuming too much calcium, you are displacing other nutrients. Calcium also interferes with your body’s ability to absorb other essential minerals such as iron and zinc.

Why take the risk? Stick to the recommended intake, get your calcium from healthy foods and avoid any problems.

Too Much Folic Acid?

Folic acid is an essential nutrient that is required for DNA repair and growth. You need about 400 micrograms of folic acid a day, with an upper limit set at no more than 1,000 micrograms per day.

It is important to stick to the recommended intake and not exceed it. Some experts believe that too much folic acid may promote tumor growth once tumors are present.

Folic acid is commonly recommended as a supplement for pregnant individuals and women of childbearing age since it is necessary to prevent neural tube defects.

Most importantly though in older adults is that excessive intake of folate can mask deficiencies of vitamin B12. Vegetarians are especially at risk of this happening. Vitamin B12 is essential for red blood cell formation, brain functioning, and DNA synthesis. A lack of this nutrient may lead to impaired cognitive function, depression, osteoporosis, and age-related macular degeneration.

By consuming a diet rich in healthy foods, you are sure to meet your intake without worrying about eating in excess. Healthy foods containing folic acid include leafy vegetables and many fortified grains and cereal products.

Too Much Protein?

I have heard it all too many times: If you eat lots of protein, you will build more muscles. Here is a case where you can’t believe everything you hear! Protein has many roles in your body. It is essential for maintenance and growth of structural components such as muscles, hair, skin and organs. It is also essential for cell signaling, hormones, immunity, and many other functions.

Ideally, it’s recommended you consume about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Evidence suggests that for regular maintenance and to prevent muscle loss, consume at least 30 grams of protein at each meal for the best results.

Excess protein overworks your liver and kidneys in order to get rid of the excess. Your body needs protein but if you overdo it, your body cannot store protein and therefore breaks it down for energy or eliminates it altogether. It was thought that excess protein may lead to kidney problems down the road but recent evidence suggests that this might not be the case.

Another problem is that by increasing your intake of protein, you may be displacing other healthful, beneficial nutrients such as folic acid, magnesium, vitamins A, B, C, and E and several others. Therefore, eat a variety of healthy foods to ensure a good balance of all nutrients.

Here’s a list of the amount of protein contained within these healthy foods:

Source Serving Size Amount of Protein
Meat/Fish/Poultry 2.5 oz (75 grams) 21 grams
Tofu 3/4 cup (150 grams) 21 grams
Eggs 2 eggs 13 grams
Cheese 1.5 oz (50 grams) 12 grams
Beans/peas/Lentils 3/4 cup 12 grams
Milk 1 cup 9 grams
Peanut Butter/Nut Butter Spread 2 tbsp 8 grams
Nuts/Seeds 1/4 cup 7 grams

The Bottom Line: Keep Your Diet Balanced With a Variety of Healthy Foods!

Did you know that loading up on all these supplements may not only be damaging your wallet but your health as well? Take a whole foods approach. Not only can a well-balanced diet provide you with all your nutrient needs, there are many other health benefits that you’ll be getting as well.

Sources:
Antinoro, L., “Boosting B12 Intake — More Experts Believe the Recommended Dietary Allowance Should Be Higher,” Today’s Dietitian 2012; 14(10):15
Dietitians of Canada, “Quick Nutrition Check for Protein,”Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN] May 2011; http://www.pennutrition.com, last accessed December 14, 2013. Access only by subscription.
Palmer, S., “Sorting Out the Science on Multivitamins and Minerals,” Today’s Dietitian 2009; 11(8):38 
Sass, C., “Healthy or Harmful? 5 Surprising Nutrients You Can Overdo,” ABC News website 2013; http://abcnews.go.com/Health/healthy-harmful-surprising-nutrients-overdo/story?id=20891839#, last accessed December 15, 2013