Why do we even need supplements?
This is a very common question and a good one. Many of us feel we eat a good enough diet and don't need to add vitamins to our routine and the expense to our pocketbooks.
But do we?
The truth is that most North Americans consume a diet that is nutritionally inadequate and most of us are unlikely to meet the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) for all required nutrients from our diet. And truthfully, the quantities of nutrients required to build and maintain optimal health are significantly higher than the suggested RDAs! So you need more...more to build superior health, not merely avoid disease. There is a difference!
Did you know that even if you ate the perfect, wholesome diet of all 8-10 servings of organic fruits and vegetables, no refined sugars or processed foods, omega 3 rich foods and good fats, whole grains and tons of dietary fibre etc., etc., EVERY DAY, you still could not get all of the nutrients that your body requires?
And the reality is that most of us do not even come close to eating this wholesome diet and meeting all of our nutritional needs from our food.
We eat out, we have convenient, pre-packaged food way more often than we should and way too much sugar! We skimp on the fresh fruits and veggies and we don't spend enough time in the kitchen cooking our own food!
A USDA study has shown that marginal deficiencies exist in approximately 50% of the population and for select nutrients more than 80% of people in certain age groups consumed less than the recommended daily allowances (RDA) (USDA nationwide food consumption studies).
The second issue is that even if you ate the perfect diet, in this day and age you still can not get everything you need from food.
Well firstly, our soil has changed significantly over the last several decades and just doesn’t contain the valuable minerals and other nutrients that it once did. For example, our present day soils are deficient in iodine, selenium and zinc. So, if these minerals are not in our soil, they are not in our food. Add to that the loss of nutrients due to extended transport times, picking/harvesting before produce is ripe and before plants can uptake all the nutrients from the soil, to how we grow our crops – with increased herbicides, pesticides and the use of GMO crops.
Sadly conventionally grown foods (most of what we eat) just does not contain as high a concentration of nutrients today as they did in the past! One study in the Journal of American College of Nutrition showed that vitamin levels have dropped as much as 37% from 1950 to 1999 and another found that trace minerals have decreased by as much as 77% from 1940 to 1991. And our methods have not gotten better since then.
Then, we have to take into account our increased need for certain nutrients. The increased stress in our lives, the amount of toxins our bodies need to process on a daily basis (air pollution, e-smog, radiation, personal care product toxic ingredients, prescription and over the counter drugs…the list goes on) contribute to our higher needs for certain nutrients.
Many modern environmental and lifestyle factors can destroy vitamins and bind minerals in ways that make them unusable in our body.
For example, stress robs us of Vitamin C, Electromagnetic frequencies disrupt our normal hormonal function and antibiotics deplete folic acid, biotin and B complex vitamins and vitamin K. They wipe out our beneficial gut bacteria that support healthy digestion and immune function.
We need more to help support our bodies and keep our systems in balance.
Some Basics We Could All Benefit From
One person's optimal supplement program might be different from someone else's depending on many individual factors - age, current diet, past medical history, lifestyle - to name a few. But, there are a few key nutrients that would benefit most people:
1. A high quality, broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement (if you are pregnant choose one that has Vitamin A provided by beta-carotene rather than retinol)
2. A high quality fish oil/omega 3 fatty acids - unless you eat a great diet full of wild caught, cold water fish and flax and other seed oils in appropriate ratios, you could probably use a good supplement of essential fatty acids from fish oils
3. Plant based antioxidants - flavonoids or a good greens formula - help protect us from free radical damage
4. Vitamin D3 - enough to raise your blood levels to the optimal range (you will probably need more if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and it is winter as the more sun that hits your skin, the more your body is able to make the sunshine vitamin). Get your levels checked by your doctor to guide you to the right dose for you.
Some other nutrients worth looking into:
Probiotics - a good human strain probiotic maintenance program (lesser dose than you would need during or post antibiotics or when you are needing therapeutic doses to re-inoculate). These are my favourite.
Vitamin C - this nutrient is depleted readily when under stress and is vital to keep us healthy and strong, so extra C on a daily basis is not a bad thing
Other supplements like digestive enzymes, herbals and homeopathic remedies, hormonal glandular concentrates other individual vitamins and minerals and key nutrients like CoQ10 or SAMe may be required daily, depending on your individual needs, biochemistry, or age. Or they may be required in therapeutic doses until the body is able to correct its imbalances through diet and lifestyle changes.
Not all supplements are created equally. Things you should look for in a Supplement:
Is it a good quality supplement from a reputable source, a known professional brand? Brands you might find at the drug store might not be the best ones to buy. Don't waste your money on a supplement that won't work
Is the form of the nutrient in the supplement the preferred one to use, the most absorbable one?
Are there a few non medicinal ingredients or a long list of things you can't pronounce and probably are not good for you?
Are you instructed to take "One a Day" or are the doses broken up throughout the day so you can absorb all the nutrients you are taking?
Work with a professional to find out what else you might need
It is always a good idea to get a holistic nutrition and/or health professional to take a look at your whole health story. They will be recommend the right combination of supplements you may need to support your diet, lifestyle and individual requirements.
If you are interested in finding out what supplements may be of benefit to you, I would love to help!
Remember that supplementation works in conjunction with a good diet/optimal nutrition. It is not a substitute for it! To acquire optimal health you need a great diet, healthy lifestyle and a solid supplementation plan.