In theory, if you are eating fresh, healthy foods, you should be getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health, right? Maybe in theory, but not in reality. In the past, I was against taking any kind of supplement. I figured that if you were eating all of the right foods, there was no need to add anything to your diet. In a perfect world, or maybe say, 60 years ago, I was right. Today, however, the same healthy fruits and vegetables that we eat no longer contain the same nutrients that they did back then. Today, in order to get all of the 90 essential nutrients that our body needs every day to function optimally, we need to supplement our diet with vitamins and minerals.
According to the USDA, the decrease in the amount of vitamins in minerals in our food is so significant that since 1965, the nutritional content in apples is down 41%, watercress is down 88%, broccoli is down 50%, collar greens are down 85%, potatoes are down 57% and tomatoes are down 43%. So basically, you can eat as healthy as possible, and still be nutrient-deficient. Depressing, I know. Here’s an example… let’s say you ate a spinach salad in 1953. According to research done in 1997 (which of course was 14 years ago now), in order to get the same amount of iron that was in that salad back in the 50′s, you would have to eat 43 bowls of spinach. Forty-what?! Exactly. And you can taste the difference, too. Have you ever had a beautifully red, plump strawberry, but you bite into it, and it has no taste? We can add tons of chemicals to the strawberries to make sure they look gorgeous, but if the strawberries don’t have any minerals, they can’t take in any vitamins, therefore rendering them tasteless.
If these people have to remain completely covered while they spray insecticides on our food, how is possibly safe that we ingest it?
What happened between then and now that our foods have lost all their nutrients? The first place we need to look is at the soil that our foods are grown in. Nutrient-depleted soil produces nutrient-depleted foods. Very few nutrients exist in plants that have been grown in over-farmed soil. We grow crop after crop, each one of lower nutritional value than the one before, never replenishing the soil.
If the soil isn’t bad enough, the insane amounts of “processing” that we do to the food after it’s harvested is even worse! Say you live in the Northern U.S., it’s the middle of winter, and you are buying beautiful strawberries… where did those strawberries come from? They were likely transported thousands of miles over several days. In order to transport them, they were picked long before they were ripe (depleting them of the essential nutrients your cells need to do their chemistry). Poor strawberries, they weren’t ready yet! The food is then X-rayed to eliminate bacteria, which also kills nutrients, it’s pasteurized to kill pathogens, which also kills helpful enzymes, hydrogenated to make them shelf-stable, which alters your cells when you eat it, and often food is waxed to make it appear nicer in the store. Even the lovely pre-packaged, triple-washed spinach that you buy at the store is at risk. In fact, traces of fecal matter have been found in a large percentage of those packages. Other foods (like animal products) were likely given hormones to fatten them up (which in turn fattens YOU up) and to force them to produce milk more quickly. Not to mention the antibiotics they were given to prevent their weak immune systems from infection. (4) Now all of that is in your body. Nice.
One of the most powerful ways you can reduce your exposure to toxins and increase the nutrient content of your food is to buy fresh, organic foods from local sources whenever possible. It will be more expensive, yes. But do you know what’s more expensive than organic food? Cancer. You may want to look into taking a supplement or two as well. I would advise speaking with your doctor on which supplements are right for you. Often times supplements and medications cannot be combined. So how do you know if the supplement you are taking (or about to take) is a good one? There are several ways*:
• It contains a USP label that accurately states that the product has been tested for dosage, contaminants and that it dissolves.
• Put it in water, if it dissolves in 30 minutes or less, you know it will dissolve in your body and make it to your bloodstream.
• Must have an expiration date.
• Lists scientific information, not anecdotal studies on humans or testimonials.
Keep in mind that anyone can make a label online, bottle and sell their product, and it could be total junk. Also keep in mind that dosages on supplements are often listed higher than the actual requirement. So if it says take “3-6 tablespoons”, take 3. They want you to take 6 because you’ll run out of the product faster, causing you to buy more. Tricky, tricky! Also remember that supplements are a dietary substance used to supplement your diet, not replace it. If you ever have any questions at all, always refer to your primary healthcare provider. If they are trying to put you on medications, or are not giving you the help you need in the way you need it (many doctors are not yet on the “whole foods for good health” bandwagon), you can always do an online search for doctors using “functional medicine” in your area.
Here’s to healthy, happy bodies!
* Sports Nutrition, Promises and Pitfalls of Dietary Supplements, Scott Josephson, M.S., R.D.