Here’s a little observational humor for you:

Don’tcha hate it…when the people that refuse to take supplements because they want to “get everything they need from only food,” are the same people that aren’t even eating CLOSE to the proper amount of food to stay healthy?  Who aaare these people?

As someone who is dedicated personally and professionally to nutrition, and its paramount role in our health, I often consult with clients that diminish supplementation’s effectiveness while implementing a poor/inadequate diet.

I currently write or update about 40 nutrition plans per month.  About 1-in-4 new clients that I see are either anti-supplement or supplement-skeptical (too bad there aren’t more who are supplement-curious).  These clients either don’t believe nutritional supplements work and/or they believe they can meet all their nutritional requirements with whole foods alone.

Whether or not supplements work is a topic for another discussion on ingredient quality and proper formulation.  If you’re buying from a grocery store or retail pharmacy, take heed and do your research (or ask someone like me who does the research).  Many supplement brands on the retail shelf cut corners and spend copious amounts of money on marketing so the packaging appeals to encourage you to purchase.  But that’s a rabbit hole for another time.

Yes, in a perfect world, we WOULD get everything we need from food alone.  There is plenty of evidence showing our ancestors were much healthier than us, and they obviously obtained all their nutrients from hunting and gathering (unless you count eating dirt as supplementation).  Unfortunately, those conditions are not today’s reality.  And it hasn’t been a reality for decades.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons why relying solely on food may not be enough to maintain optimal health.  Not just adequate, but OPTIMAL health.

First, there is the issue of modern agriculture practices and soil depletion. 

Crops grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.

This is the abstract of a Scientific American article written back in 2000.  It explores the disturbing trend in soil depletion, exposing how modern agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil in which our food is grown. 

A landmark study compared nutrition data from 1950 and 1999.  In over 40 fruits and vegetables, the study showed significant declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (B2), and vitamin C.  There were likely other reduced nutrients, but they were not all recorded in 1950.  Other studies have replicated these findings, showing that certain nutrients are around 20% of where they were several decades ago.

Basically, the tomato you eat today is not equivalent to the tomato from the past.

What is the reason behind this trend?  It’s the same reason behind all business decisions – money.  If you could make a seemingly identical product, for less overhead, and the consumer thought it was a BETTER product than before – that’s a recipe for mucho mula.

Agricultural practices have shifted to improving traits like size, sweetness, growth rate, and pest resistance, rather than nutrition.  Corporations have caught on to the fact that it only takes 3 elements for a crop to grow – Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

However, as Dr. Bob Rakowski (director of the Natural Medicine Center in Houston) clarified, “It takes 30 elements to make HEALTHY plants, animals, and humans.  I don’t care what your bank account starts at – if you pull out 30 elements for every 3 you put back in, you’re ultimately going to have a big problem.”

The second reason the food-only plan may fall short is that the demands of our current society are much greater than they have ever been. 

The stressors we’re exposed to continue to compound.

The following are just some of the significant examples of our “new normal.”

  • Environmental stress is higher than ever before.This includes exposure to contaminated air quality, plastics and toxins, chemicals in everything from food to body products, radiation from electronics, and many more.

  • The majority of adults fail to get the proper quality or quantity of sleep, sometimes spanning decades in a deficit.And with the increased screen time of phones/computers/tv, sleep quality is becoming a problem for younger age brackets as well.

  • Lack of proper sun exposure is commonplace now.This not only has a direct impact on Vitamin D levels and circadian rhythms, but has a multitude of downstream hormonal and psychological ramifications as well.

  • Food abundance has become increasingly problematic.People are now more likely to eat the same group of foods year-round, rather than rotate food choices based on seasons and geography.This alone can easily lead to nutrient deficiencies.

The list of modern demands we must account for today goes on and on.  And if it seems a little overwhelming, well…yeah, it is.  But if you’re reading this, I’m guessing that you are ready to start addressing some roadblocks that may be in the way of your goals.

A healthy diet and lifestyle should always be the foundation to regain or improve health and aesthetics.  If everything else in your life in place, then sure, let’s talk about how far we can get with only food first.  Until then, look for ways to fill the gaps by supplementing nutritionally, physically, and psychologically.

Here’s one place to start:  5 supplements I recommend to everyone that walks in my office