Updated: Nov 27, 2018
It's a no brainer right? Nourishing our bodies with good nutritious food is vital to good health. Vitamins and minerals within the food we eat provide our bodies with the fuel, building blocks and support it needs to function, heal and repair.
However I have encountered many who eat a balanced, real food diet who still struggle with their health and are nutrient depleted. Why? Shouldn't the food we eat be enough?
Unfortunately it just isn't. For these 5 reasons:
1. We have destroyed our gut.
Our ability to digest and absorb nutrients from our food is dependent on the integrity of our gut or digestive system. What destroys it? High sugar and carb foods, antibiotics, medications, preservatives, pesticides, alcohol, tobacco smoke and other toxins.
Some of the microbes in our gut that we deplete with our modern toxic lifestyle also produce certain vitamins, like vitamin K and B vitamins.
2. Stress and our fast paced, high tech lifestyles.
Stress is known to deplete our bodies of many vital vitamins and minerals like B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium. Stress can even cause a "leaky" gut, further impacting absorption.
3. Our age and medication use
As we age our ability to digest and absorb our food becomes increasingly challenging. Add to that our increasing reliance on medications which many are known to deplete certain vitamins and minerals. For example, proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole used for heartburn and reflux are known to deplete magnesium and vitamin B12.
4. Gene Mutations
For example the MTHFR gene mutation inhibits the way the body processes folate and other important B vitamins. For many vital bodily processes to occur, certain vitamins are required to be "activated" by the body. This mutation can interfere with the body's ability to do this, so supplements of B vitamins already in their activated form can be highly beneficial. This genetic defect is common and it's estimated that it affects approximately 1 in 4 people seriously and nearly 1 in 2 people mildly.
5. Diminished nutrient content of our food supply.
Modern intensive agricultural practices have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which the food we eat grows.
One study found that we would need to eat EIGHT oranges today to derive the same amount of vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from just ONE orange!
A Kushi Institute analysis, found that between 1975 and 1997, calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped an average of 27%, iron levels dropped 37%, vitamin A 21% and vitamin C levels 30%!! Other studies have found similar "reliable declines" in nutrient content.
"Sadly, each generation of fast-growing, pest-resistant carrot is truly less good for you than the one before."
(Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss for the Scientific American).
In New Zealand, there are 5 known deficiencies in our soil: iodine, selenium, zinc, chromium and boron. And if it's not in our soil, it's not in our food.
Does this mean that we shouldn't bother trying to get our nutrient intake from fruit and vegetables?
Absolutely not. They are still the best source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and beneficial phytochemicals.
But there is a reason why five plus (palm sized) servings of fruit and vegetables per day is no longer seen as enough. The latest recommendation by many health professionals around the world is more like eight!
Nutritional supplementation can be quite controversial, yet the majority of the population are deficient in at least one vital nutrient, and it provides a quick way to boost a nutritional need and achieve therapeutic levels.
There is also a big difference between surviving with "just enough" versus thriving with an abundance of nutrient sources for your body to function optimally.
Many top health professionals, including Dr Libby Weaver, are of the view that some form of supplementation is necessary for most.
So which nutrients are we most commonly deficient in and which can have a huge detrimental impact on our health? I take a look at my top three here.