Are nutrition guidelines enough?
Have you followed the standard government health advice, whether it’s the USDA Food Pyramid or NHS’s Eatwell plate or your particular governmental recommendations and thought you were eating “healthy”? Have you been told supplements were simply unnecessary if you were following these guidelines? If you only ate a “balanced diet” you would be healthy? Or worse, that if you took a multivitamin (Can you say One-a-Day?) you were covered from a nutrition standpoint?
How many of you are eating “healthy” yet still feel foggy, frumpy, and just plain sick? Are you taking handfuls of supplements and still just plain unwell? And if you are, don’t you just love the snide underhanded comments from your friends and family? “You think you can fix everything with a pill!” or “Just eat food and you’ll be fine if you just stop focusing on your health!”
Here’s the thing…. While, if you are eating a true nutrient dense diet the majority of the time and you are free from health issues, you might only need one or two well placed supplements if you do suffer from dysfunctions, disorders or dis-ease, supplements like nutrients and herbs can make the difference between real healing and floundering around from one diet to another looking for relief.
Here are 10 reasons (the right) supplements are a good idea for a healthy nutrition plan…
1. You follow the “pyramid” or the “plate”
Grains, beans and other legumes, and most forms of modern (especially pasteurized) dairy are not nutrient filled foods. The purpose of eating is to nourish the body and mind and these foods simply do not fulfill this purpose. In fact, they may even do the opposite. Let’s stop and ponder that for a moment, shall we? We all assume grains and legumes are high in B Vitamins, zinc, iodine, magnesium and let’s not forget, carbohydrates for energy and dietary fiber. (I’m going to stop to snicker for a moment.) The fact of that matter is that grains and legumes contain large amounts of anti-nutrients (yes, that’s the OPPOSITE of nutrients) that keep the nutrients that are so good for us LOCKED in the grain or bean (which are, in fact, meant to be seeds to propagate those species) life phytic acid which render these nutrients almost completely unable to be fully metabolized. Let me drive this home further. Grains and legumes actually deplete nutrient stores.
Phytic acid and the other compounds meant to preserve their species (like gliadin) are toxins in themselves, which increases your nutrient needs. Grains and legumes (especially when eaten as a base of a “healthy diet”) both cause intestinal damage which further decreases your bodies ability to absorb nutrients. Even if you’ve stopped eating these foods, you can still have nutrient deficiencies or have lingering intestinal damage which could be creating a canvas for nutrient absorption issues.
Due to inflammation caused by other food, toxins, dairy protein is often inflammatory. Standard dairy also contains mycotoxins (hello moldy grains fed to feedlot cattle!) which cause considerable damage to your gut.
2. Daily Exposure to Toxins
Your body needs nutrients for every function in the body but one of the most important is to be able to deal with all the toxins you are exposed on a daily basis. Essentially the more toxins exposure, the more nutrients are needed. Before the industrial age there was far less concerned about getting or absorbing enough nutrients because the water and air was simply not as polluted as it is today. Even with a healthy lifestyle the multitude of toxins to which we are exposed to on a daily basis is enough to make your toes curl.
Here are just some of the things your body has to contend with:
- Xenoestrogens (plastics, BPA, some molds, petroleum products).
- Industrial solvents and cleaners.
- Wheat, corn and soy products/GMOs.
- Prescription medication
Our bodies aren’t designed to deal with these toxins using only nutrition from food, in fact they’re not designed to deal with them at all as they are negative by products of our scientific evolution in mass production to meet the demands of a growing population. So if you plan to get your nutrition only from food, you should plan to get used to ingesting and absorbing toxins on a daily basis. Good luck with your health of that’s what you decide.
Here are probably the top 3 sources of toxin build up in our bodies:
- Unnatural lighting and EMF/EMR from computers, televisions, and other electronics
- Food toxins (think pesticides, GMOs etc.)
- Stress and lack of sleep.
3. Nutrient Absorption Declines With Age
It’s no secret that children need more nutrients to support their continuous growth, and older people need more nutrients due to malabsorption. Older people, specifically the elderly, often begin taking medications which again can interfere with their nutrient absorption. As you get older you need to take more nutrients in the most absorbable form possible in order to maintain your optimal nutrient levels on a daily basis.
4. Soil Depletion
Farming practices today deplete the soil of nutrients. Lack of crop rotation (when crops are grown on the same land season after season) causes the soil to lose nutrients faster than they can be replaced. Over time, these crops have fewer nutrients to grow. Fertilizers impart just enough nutrition for the plant to survive until harvesting, but not enough to support human health. This results in plants that have 75% fewer micronutrients. Couple that with the fact that most crops are not harvested fresh and they sit on trucks, shelves, and counters for weeks before being eaten. Over time, the nutrient content of these plants decreases.
Most modern fruits and vegetables are grown to increase their sugar content as opposed to their nutritional value (this increases their size). This then results in most of the common fruits and vegetables being artificially high in fructose and sugar and ultimately lacking in the basic , key nutrients. Now let’s add insult to injury by saying when plants contain fewer nutrients, the animals that eat these plants also become malnourished. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Health found copper levels in the US have dropped by 90% in dairy, 55% in meat, and 76% in vegetables. (Copper is essential to keep blood cholesterol levels in check, build blood, help maintain cellular metabolism. A copper deficiency is linked to chronic miscarriage.)
5. Water Nutrient Depletion
Depletion of mineral content in water is also a probloem due to modern production methods. There is a massive variation in the mineral content of bottled and tap water and surprisingly, tap water generally has more minerals that bottled. Water filters meant to filter toxins alsoremove important minerals such as magnesium, water being a main source of magnesium for early humans. To make matters worse if you don’t use a filter and you don’t have a well, it’s likely you’re consuming dangerous amounts of fluoride and/or are deficient in magnesium. This could explain why people who drink water higher in calcium (most bottled water) than magnesium develop more myocardial infarctions and ischemic heart disease. This could an explanation in a rise in the incidence of heart attacks and disease.
6. Low Calorie Diets Are Unhealthily & Nutrient Poor
I may sound completely crazy but starving yourself is bad for your health. Consuming a diet that is too low in calories means you’re consuming too few total micronutrients. Humans are designed to consume a large amount of calories, and that doesn’t necessarily make you fat. When you eat less (and how many times have we been told this by every media mogul on the continent and beyond?), it’s easy to become malnourished. When you’re consuming low quality foods, you have to eat even more to obtain the right amounts of nutrition. This is one more example of why food quality matters.
What do we mean by low calorie? Well, here’s the crazy part. According to a study by the US National Institute for Health most diets require 27,575 calories to supply all the essential micronutrients. If you’re eating less than that, and are following something like the USDA diet or the South Beach Diet, you’re deficient in nutrients. Ok, that might sound completely ridiculous but you must understand that some of the micronutrient recommendations might be a little skewed (note the dripping sarcasm there) but also, our plants and animals used to be much more nutrient dense in general.
Animal foods are generally higher both in calories and nutrients, so it’s no surprise that this is where the majority of calorie intake came from in early human development. Now all we are bombarded with is the notion to reduce the consumption of animal foods, (hello veganism) and people are consuming fewer nutrients all around.
I feel I should mention that many studies show organic foods are not higher in nutrients. However, that’s going by the governmental definition of organic – not “organic” that you would find in your back yard garden or CSA. Fresh fruits and vegetables grown at home in well-fertilized soil are going to be far higher in nutrients than store bought organic versions. Pesticide-treated vegetables and fruits are lower in phenolics than organic ones. Polyphenols are produced as a defense against bugs and other pathogens. When there is no reason to defend themselves because of pesticides the plant stops producing polyphenols.
There is also evidence that glyphosate bonds to and removes (chelates) minerals in crops on which it is sprayed. Whilst it remains to be seen how much of an impact this effect has, but it is safe to say avoid GMO foods for a variety of reasons.
Unfortunately, organic is not always possible due to financial or logistical reasons. Even when you can find organic foods, they aren’t necessarily better. CSAs and growing your own garden remains the best alternative to date.
7. Grain-Fed vs Grass-Fed Meat & Standard Dairy Products
Compared to grass-fed meat, grain-fed (especially feedlot) meat is considerably lower in its natural content of antioxidants, micronutrients, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Grains are not the ideal food for humans or herbivorous animals. When herbivores are fed grains, they become malnourished, just like humans. Grain-fed meat and farmed seafood can also serve as a carrier for more toxins, which increases nutrient needs.
Raw, unpasteurized, unprocessed, full-fat dairy can be good for you, but the kind most people buy at the grocery store is not healthy. The majority of nutrients in milk are found in the fat (cream). When you remove or reduce the fat, you are removing and reducing the nutrient content. Pasteurization destroys many of the nutrients and all of the enzymes in both skim and full fat milk. Standard dairy products are also high in aflatoxin and other mycotoxins that were in the cattle’s feed. So, if you eat grain-fed meat or standard dairy products, then supplementation is a very good idea. (It should also be noted that this goes hand in hand with following a low-calorie diet in which skim and semiskimmed dairy is touted as healthy.)
8. Exercise Increases Your Nutrient Needs
There is a common misconception that tons of exercise is the key to a long and healthy life (it’s not). There are many people out there, some athletes included who decry supplementation as unnecessary, often with the idea that exercise is the best medicine. Unfortunately this is extremely misguided. I don’t recommend high quantities of exercise for the bulk of my clients, unless they are training for something in particular, and this is an important point. If you’re doing enough exercise to substantially deplete energy reserves, you’re also burning more nutrients for energy production and recovery afterwards. As a result, athletes and busy professionals in particular are at an even higher risk of nutrient deficiencies. Since many up and coming athletes eat a low nutrient, high toxin diet – this is a serious concern for their development, performance and overall health.
Don’t get me wrong here. Exercise is healthy but I always say a little is good but more is not necessarily better. Some HIIT, a few miles jogging, a barre workout, yoga, pilates, these are all fine on a day to day basis but too much is just too much unless you are making sure you get enough nutrients through a nutrient dense diet and necessary supplementation to ensure energy and nutrient level restoration. If you are in training for an event like a triathlon or marathon then your nutrient and caloric requirement increases exponentially!
In today’s fast paced lifestyle, we, being mere mortals, are also at risk as we eat fast and on the go, deal with much more stress, sleep less and often poorly, as well as committing to regular exercise all add up to poor nutrient intake and absorption which has a massive knock on effect on our overall health. This is why supplementation becomes ever increasingly important.
9. Using High Quality Nutritional Supplements May Be Your Age Preservation Insurance.
Aging is a natural process and while it is not always fun, the decline associated with aging is, largely, able to be delayed if not prevented. Certain supplements (especially ones that are easily absorbed and even tailored for your needs) can achieve just this feat so, knowing that, why would you not take them? Although there are nutrition camps that say you shouldn’t take anything to which our ancestors (the cavemen)lacked access. To me this is a bogus assumption. As I increase my knowledge of biochemistry, biological function of the macro and microsystems of the body, and genetics and how the expression affects our health dramatically, I will say, our technological advances in medicine and nutrition should be thoroughly exploited to preserve health at every stage of life. We have good reason to believe a higher intake of certain nutrients may prolong not only life but quality of life. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have been malnourished at certain times which is not beneficial. If supplements can buy you a few more years of quality life, why not take them?
10. What is Your Health Worth to You?
Unfortunately, supplements can be less costly than the real food . Sometimes with something like fresh salmon, it can often be healthier for you both physically and financially to supplement with a high quality algae based Omega-3 than to settle for a farmed variety, because farmed salmon is frequently much lower in its omega-3 content and extremely high in toxins. Farmed salmon are also have higher concentrations of parasites and bacteria. You should also know that in order to hide the sickly appearance of farmed salmon meat, the fish are fed a pink pigment to change their tissue color because, instinctively
Farmed salmon contains about 16 times more PCB’s and pesticides than its wild cousin. Wild salmon is often more expensive than grass-fed beef, and can sometimes present more of a health risk than benefit due to water contamination. Grass-fed beef has enough omega-3’s by itself, but supplementation may be a good idea for some people (like children and older adults).
We live in a stressful, toxin riddled world, and it’s a perfectly normal, healthy,and totally acceptable behavior to want to understand what the toxins are in our food and water and how you can counteract their effects whenever possible. Hiding your head in the smoke and mirrors of the government and food industry advertising and also of the diet industry won’t make the effects of these toxins go away. Sadly, neither will eating a few more fruit and vegetables.
The idea that you can get all your nutrients from food is fine in theory, but sadly in todays environment it is virtually impossible in practice unless you are growing your own or investing in your local CSA where it becomes more of a possibility. Soil and water depletion, food and environmental toxins, poor absorption, pesticides, exercise, stress, poor sleep and a lack of calories can all cause nutrient deficiencies. Of course, we have all the evidence that consuming nutrients from food is more beneficial than supplements, which is why you need to focus on a nutrient rich diet first and foremost. However, it’s rarely enough these days that this is a possibility.