“I don’t need supplements; I prefer to get it from food”
Ever heard anyone say that? Maybe you say it yourself! I hear it every day. I’m sorry to say, I just don’t buy it! That’s right: for optimal health, I think we need specific supplements. There are six main reasons why, which I’ll tackle individually in further bog posts.
Before I start, I’d like to emphasise that it’s not a choice between food and supplements. Of course we need an excellent diet to promote ideal health – a diet that is varied, rich in micronutrients, high in fresh unprocessed food and includes fermented food. (We also need a healthy digestive system to properly assimilate the nutrients – but that’s another blog post.) But it’s not about an “either/or” – we can have a faultless diet (which, let’s face it, few people do) and STILL obtain benefits from supplementation. So let’s start with the most obvious one first: our diets aren’t always perfect
A Sometimes Imperfect Diet
It’s well known in nutrition research that people always remember their diets as better than what they actually are! That’s right, even with our best intentions, when we recall our diet, we always conveniently forget the worst bits!
Do this experiment: note down every single thing you eat or drink for three days. At the end of it, can you honestly say that you
- Ate no packaged food?
- Ate a mix or fresh and cooked vegetables at two to three meals per day?
- Didn’t consume sugar?
- Ate all organic?
- Consumed only grass-fed meat?
- Included “live foods”, such as home-fermented sauerkraut or home made yoghurt?
- Didn’t eat any foods that don’t make your body feel good?
- Didn’t overeat anything?
There are plenty of other possible criteria for optimal diets, but you get the idea! It’s probably kind to say we all have a “sometimes imperfect diet”. How often does life get in the way of ideal nourishment?
As a clinical nutritionist, I have done plenty of computerised nutritional analyses of my clients’ diets. One advantage of this is the estimation of what’s known as the RDIs, or Recommended Dietary Intakes, of various nutrients. I’ll talk more later on the relative merit and potential problems of the RDI system, but for now, think of it as a starting point for determining the nutrient richness of your diet. If you fall below the RDI for a certain nutrient, you are not obtaining enough of that nutrient for normal body function (that’s right – not optimal function, but simply normal function).
In all my analyses, I only came across one client who was meeting the RDIs for all measurable nutrients (and keep in mind that most nutrients cannot currently be measured in Australian foods). She was an Olympic longjumper, eating massive quantities of food that would be far in excess of the energy requirements of most of us non-athletes!
Next post, I’ll start getting into the meat of this issue, on the topic of nutrient depletion in our food.