Perhaps it is because I just returned from vacation, where I had some free time to read up on recent Nutrition news, that I am sitting here cringing from much of the information out there on the web. What strikes me as fundamentally screwy is that almost every nutrition blog I read connects to some e-commerce site where they try and sell you some magical potion or powder to improve whatever ailment you may be suffering from. I am not here to sell you anything, but I am here to tell you that good nutrition is key to lifelong health and wellness.
What we eat profoundly affects our bodies, and no amount of exercise can make up for a poor dietconsisting of sugar and fat laden processed foods. In fact 80% of weight loss comes from dietary changes, not exercise, so as much as I support being active everyday, what we eat is far more critical to our bodies ability to function optimally.
First I want to address the issue of supplements which is what I see pandered most on the internet. I am going to be bold enough to go out there and say “how is it humankind managed to survive hundreds of thousand of years without supplements, which have only been popular for the last half century.” The answer is easy, we ate a variety of whole foods, primarily plants, vegetables, grains and fruits, with a bit of meat, eggs, and either some butter or lard to make it all taste good. We have had access to some sweet foods for a few hundred years, but history books make it quite clear that these were luxuries that only a few could afford and only occasionally. Can you imagine? We managed to get the nutrients we needed to not only to survive but to thrive as a species from the simple foods we ate. Ok, I will concede that herbs and spices have always been a vital part of health and nutrition and even though Tumeric may be sold in capsule form today, I do not consider any culinary or medicinal herbs that grow on this planet to be supplements.
My issue with supplements is simply the fact that manufactured forms of vitamins and minerals are never as readily absorbed and used by our bodies as when they are consumed in foods in which they naturally occur. Here is an example, for many years consumers bought and used Calcium Carbonate as a supplement to prevent bone loss which could lead to osteoporosis. However after decades on the market, we realized that without the presence of Vitamin C the body did not absorb the calcium so the money spent on all those calcium carbonate supplements quite literally was flushed down the toilet. Now companies pander Calcium Citrate which contains Vitamin C to aid absorption, but keep in mind every food that is rich in Calcium, dark green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and many types of seafood have copious amounts of vitamin C present already. Mother nature makes sure to create foods that match our bodies actual needs. This same rule applies to Iron, so when you wonder why if you are prescribed an iron supplement and your doctor tells you to take it with orange juice, this is the reason. But again if you ate copious amounts of greens and some red beans you probably would not need an iron supplement.
Another example is the explosion of probiotics on the market. Did you know that most probiotics are found in healthy soil? Our current system of farming which depletes the soil of these organisms is the reason so many of us lack the proper intestinal flora living in our gut. Refrigeration has also eliminated the need for fermenting foods which was the other way humans have insured they had enough probiotics in their system for centuries. Purchasing organic or even better biodynamic produce from your local farmer is a great way to get a wide variety of probiotics into your system.
It is always best to get the nutrients you need from the abundance of healthy foods available to us, they are designed especially for human consumption with nutrients that simply are not understood. I encourage clients to shift some of the money they spend on these pricey supplements and instead improve the quality of the foods they purchase and eat. However there are those suffering from illness and malnutrition that may need an extra boost of particular Vitamins and Minerals and for those people supplements may be the best way to go, in addition to improving their overall diet to include massive amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits. But these people are more unique than mainstream.
Our addiction to these expensive and untested supplements proves an unwillingness to make the difficult changes to our diet to ensure our good health. So many of us would rather eat a burger or pizza and take a handful of pills than eat a nutrient rich vegetable stew or a bowl of fruit salad. History proves to us that feeding ourselves has always been challenging and it consumes a significant amount of our energy and resources. How we face and address those challenges today is very different from our past and the state of disease in this country should be a warning bell that we may not be making the best decisions for our bodies.
As always remember GOOD HEALTH STARTS WITH GOOD FOOD