“We don’t need to take supplements because we can get all the nutrition we need from our diets”
Sound familiar? Whilst logical and true if we were living in a utopian world, there are so many factors working against this being realistic today. The following outlines 10 of these common challenges
1. Low / compromised nutrient levels in soil.
Decades of intensive agriculture and overwork can deplete soil nutrient levels. Whilst macro nutrients are usually replaced, the trace and living elements within the soil are often ignored.
2. Shift from seasonal diets
The movement away from eating seasonal foods that are harvested at the peak of their freshness and usually contain more vitamins and antioxidants has been a gradual one over many decades. In comparison, out-of-season foods have been picked early and stored. The composition of in-season foods is also naturally directed to our energy and nutrient requirements of that season and this is being altered.
3. Poor digestion
Even when our food intake is well-balanced, compromised digestion can limit your body's uptake of vitamins, minerals and key phytonutrients. Some common causes of poor digestion include; not chewing well and eating too fast. Both of these result in ‘larger than normal food’ particle size, too large to allow complete action of digestive enzymes. Drinking too much with the meal also has the effect of diluting the action of digestive enzymes.
Whilst the dangers of excess alcohol are well understood, it should also be noted that for the body to metabolise alcohol it requires the presence of a multitude of vital nutrients including B-group vitamins. This makes the task of ‘diet-only’ sourced vitamins more difficult to maintain.
5. Smoking & pollution
Cigarette smoke and other pollutants have a direct impact on nutrient levels. Vitamin C is called upon to counter the associated free-radicals in a way that would be difficult to counter through dietary modification alone. Whilst gross vitamin deficiency diseases such as scurvy are thankfully less common, sub-acute deficiencies can result in immune and other challenges for the body if these nutrients aren’t replenished adequately.
6. Diet programs
Diets that miss out on whole food groups can be seriously lacking in vitamins. Even the popular low fat diets, if taken to an extreme, can be deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins: A, D and E. Vegetarian diets, which exclude meat and other animal sources, must also be very carefully planned to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, which may lead to pernicious anaemia.
Long cooking or reheating of meat and vegetables can destroy heat sensitive vitamins such as the B-group, C and E. Boiling vegetables leaches out the water-soluble vitamins B-group and C as well as many minerals.
8. Fast foods
Wholegrains naturally contain many of the nutrients (b-group vitamins etc) to allow us to fully break them down as an energy source. But when we replace wholegrains with highly refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, white flour and white rice, we need to supply the nutrients from other sources.
9. Additional nutrition demands
Athletes, pregnancy, stress and living in polluted environments are just some of the reasons than can place additional nutritional demands on the body beyond what a ‘normal’ healthy diet may be able to deliver.
10. Diet / lifestyle Diversity
Whilst the health and nutritional benefits of key traditional foods is now well known, time pressures and a desire for dietary diversity can mean we don’t eat them every day. Taking garlic as the example, we may well be enjoying the cardiovascular and immune health benefits eating garlic can provide if ingested regularly, so the insurance / convenience of a daily garlic supplement can make good health sense.