Every year, consumers spend over a billion dollars on vitamins and other dietary supplements in the hopes of restoring or preserving their health. On one hand, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet should provide you with all of the individual nutrients you need. But, on the other hand, if your diet isn't so good, some of those nutrients might be deficient.
For us humans, the same principle applies. A healthful, balanced diet supplies the body with sufficient nutrients to carry out routine tasks. Supplements such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, phytochemicals, and more enrich the body's internal environment to fortify cellular protection, repair, and regeneration and support the Renewal process.
A supplement or multivitamin can help fill the nutrient gaps in your diet—but multivitamins won't fix an unhealthy diet. For example, a person who hates fruits and vegetables might not get enough vitamin C, and someone who refuses to eat dairy products may need extra calcium. Taking a daily multivitamin/multimineral productis an inexpensive and easy way to ensure the recommended dietary intakes for most vitamin and minerals are met.
Let’s take a look at what specifically has changed and how this influences our need to take supplements.
- Soil depletion reduces the nutrient content of crops - In many areas of the world, land has been intensively farmed without allowing nutrients to naturally replenish in the soil. Some areas with low quality soil are also being farmed where plants might not have normally grown well too.
- Hybrid crops can provide lower nutrient food - Hybrid crops are often used, even on organic farms. They yield more food per acre, but the crops often have much lower nutrient content.
- Modern fertilisers don’t supply enough trace elements - Back in the day, manures were used extensively for fertiliser. Today, superphosphate fertilisers have largely replaced manure. These contain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, but are deficient in many other nutrients naturally contained in manure.
- Pesticides and herbicides damage soil microorganisms and reduce the nutrition of the crops - Soil microorganisms are needed to make minerals and other nutrients available to plants, so hence when these are lacking in the soil, the resulting food is often much lower in nutrient content. Also, our bodies require extra nutrients to process pesticide residues that remain inside the foods.
- Long-distance transportation of many foods diminishes their nutrition - As soon as food is harvested, the levels of certain nutrients begin to diminish. It can be weeks between when the food was picked, transported, packed, stored, and then finally eaten.
- Food processing often drastically reduces nutrient content - For example, the refining of wheat to make white flour removes approximately 80% of its magnesium, 70-80% of its zinc, 87% of its chromium, 88% of its manganese, and 50% of its cobalt. Similarly, polishing rice removes about 75% of its zinc and chromium.
- Weak digestion and poor eating habits impair the absorption of nutrients - Digestion issues are one of the most common health complaints today. People with impaired digestion often don’t absorb nutrients sufficiently, which further increases nutritional needs. This is why when trying to balance nutritional deficiencies, the initial focus should always be on correcting gut health and supporting digestion.
- Stress - Being under a lot of stress can deplete many nutrients including calcium, magnesium and zinc. Among other implications, stress reduces digestive strength. This, in turn, reduces nutrient absorption and utilization even further. It’s not always external factors that contribute to deficiencies!
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits - If you drink alcohol, smoke heavily, live in a polluted city or are pregnant, premenstrual, on the pill, or simply just in a stressful patch, your nutritional needs can increase greatly. There are foods and habits that can strip the body of nutrients that we should be mindful of, and we should try and limit (if possible):
Smoking and drinking alcohol: Deplete the quantity of vitamin C in the body. Smokers generally need twice as much vitamin C intake as non-smokers to maintain comparable blood levels.
Drinking coffee: A cup of coffee can cut your iron absorption to 1/3 of normal.
Taking pharmaceutical drugs - Aspirin increases the need for vitamin C. Paracetamol increases the need for antioxidants, like vitamins C, and E and selenium. Antibiotics increase the need for B vitamins and probiotics (beneficial bacteria) Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and birth control pills increase the need for vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and zinc.
Minute but mighty, micro-nutrients - minerals and vitamins play a massive part in good health. The amount of minerals and vitamins we need may be small compared to macro-nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats, but their influence on our wellbeing is huge. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to supplement our diets to get health enhancing amounts of vitamins and minerals, but the nature of modern living is such that most often this is not the case nowadays.
Without optimum nutrition, you cannot achieve optimum health. And without supplements, you cannot achieve optimum nutrition. It's as simple as that.
Look at it this way: For the price of a basic multivitamin, you can protect yourself against heart disease, cancer, and all the other health problems associated with chronic low-grade nutrient deficiencies. In the process, you supercharge Renewal and put the brakes on aging.