Why We Need to Supplement—Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious?

Despite the barrage of conflicting information on what constitutes a generally “healthy” way of eating, one consistent thread that many experts do agree on is the importance of a whole food, plant-based diet.

And we agree. Adopting a whole food, plant-based diet is one of the very best things you can do to support your lifelong health.

However, studies are indicating that this simply may not be enough—today's lack of truly fresh food, modern farming methods, and poor nutrient absorption are all problems that are notoriously widespread in the Western world. Simply put, our great intentions may not be translating into actual health benefits, leaving us with gaps in nutrition that are difficult to fill with food alone.

This begs the question: is nutritional supplementation necessary? And is it necessary for everyone irrespective of how “healthy” their diets are? For the health enthusiasts out there, these are million dollar questions...and the answers are a resounding yes.

Even the Very Best Diets May Not Provide Complete Nutrition

Thankfully, the dangers of artificial additives and processed foods are becoming more widely understood, inspiring many of us to strive for a simpler, more holistic way of eating. While that’s great news, studies indicate that diet alone may not be enough due to the lack of truly fresh food—coupled with the modern farming methods and poor nutrient absorption that are so widespread in the West. This means that no matter how many servings of fruit and vegetables you might consume, you may still be lacking the nutrients you need to live a full and healthy life.

Here are a few specific obstacles that make it difficult to get adequate nutrition from food alone:

Lack of truly “fresh” foods
The term “fresh” brings to mind images of food that’s completely unprocessed, as well as recently picked, gathered, or produced. This certainly rang true for previous generations who purchased their food from local markets, butchers, or suppliers—food that would likely have been harvested or prepared the morning it was purchased, or just a couple of days prior.

This is in stark contrast to today’s farming and distribution practices, where the produce we buy is often grown many miles away (or even overseas!) and may have been held in cold storage for many weeks or months, depleting its nutritional value significantly.

Pesticide and chemical use
Our modern farming methods have shifted considerably to keep up with urban expansion and to make a variety of “fresh” food available nationwide. Nowadays, fruit, vegetables, and prepared foods may be chemically preserved to extend their shelf life, and/or treated with pesticides to help them grow without interference from insects. These agricultural chemicals may have some negative ramifications for our internal gut microbiome, and a poorly functioning microbiome can ultimately affect our ability to efficiently absorb the nutrients we ingest.2,3

No matter how many healthy foods you eat, you won’t reap the full benefits if your body isn’t properly absorbing the nutrients they contain. When your gut bacteria are thriving, they break down your food properly, extracting all of the key nutrients and sending them where they’re needed most in the body. Today’s agricultural practices, along with many other aspects of modern life, are tough on our microbiome, and many of us simply aren’t absorbing nutrients as well as we should.

Soil depletion
Due to the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and growing single species of crops in large swaths called “monocultures,” our soils are becoming depleted of many nutrients and trace minerals needed to keep our fruits and vegetables as nutritious as they should be. In nature, a variety of species must exist in an ecosystem to keep it healthy and ward off disease. When just one type of plant is grown in a single area, though, the plants become weaker due to soil malnutrition and they require more chemicals and additives to keep them healthy. Research analyzing nutrient data shows that average mineral and vitamin levels have been decreasing since 1950, and it appears that rising CO2 levels further compound this problem.4,5

Simply put, all of our food—from our fruit and vegetables to our grains, meats, and dairy products—have been affected by the need for convenience. We want our produce to be more perfectly shaped, grow bigger, and last longer, but this comes at a cost; human interference has vastly impacted the nutritional value of our food. We may be eating more of it in an effort to hit that 5-servings-a-day recommendation, but we’re getting less from it. This is why it makes sense to turn to nutritional supplementation to fill the gaps.

Highly bioavailable, natural supplements—those that can be easily absorbed into the body and bloodstream—could prove to be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing your body with sufficient nutrients to not just live, but to thrive.

Select the Supplements for You

Choosing high quality supplements can be tricky, especially since so many multivitamins and other supplements often contain synthetic nutrients that the body can struggle to absorb—along with chemical preservatives and fillers. Not all supplements and vitamins are actually good for you, and those made from synthetic ingredients may do more harm than good. That’s because while synthetically based supplements are engineered to mimic the behavior of natural nutrients, it’s unlikely that they’re recognized and utilized in our bodies in the same way as completely natural supplements.6,7 To make things even more confusing, vitamins and supplements can be called “natural” even if they only contain a very small amount of the natural form of the vitamin, making it hard to know what you’re really getting.

The bottom line is that labels on supplements are often difficult to understand, especially if you don’t know what to look for. At 42Nutrition, our mission is to bring transparency back to clean supplements—and while we’re committed to providing premium, pure supplements (every time, without question), we’re also here to help you identify the not-so-clean ones, so you can make informed decisions about what you put in your body.

These simple tips will help you choose truly natural supplements that support your well-being:

• Read labels carefully. Look for supplements that contain simple, understandable ingredients so you can be confident that they come from a pure, natural source. Labels with the words “pure’’ and “plant-based” are good indicators of a safer option.

• Favor natural food sources. Natural supplements should come from real foods. If you’re taking omega 3, for example, a natural food source on the label might be listed as sardines, anchovies, or marine algae. If the label does not list any natural food sources, the product may be synthetic.

• Choose Non-GMO certified products. You’ll know you’re getting a product that has undergone a rigorous process to reduce the risk of GMO contamination.

• Buy organic whenever possible. This provides additional assurance that the ingredients have not undergone genetic engineering and your supplements don’t contain certain harmful synthetic additives or pesticides.

• Avoid unnecessary processes and ingredients. Look for simple, cruelty-free, bioavailable supplements that don’t contain dairy, gluten, or artificial fillers, preservatives, or flow agents.

• Ask to see certificates. If you want to make sure you are purchasing supplements that are free from synthetic ingredients, ask the company you’re buying from for their third-party tested certificates.

Finally, seek out supplement retailers that adhere to honest, transparent labeling practices, and who source every single ingredient with the highest ethics and integrity. 42Nutrition applies these principles passionately and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with organizations that support women and children in their communities worldwide.

Getting the proper nutrition in our busy modern world doesn’t need to be complicated or compromise your holistic lifestyle. Filling in the inevitable nutritional gaps with clean natural supplements will complement your healthy eating efforts to help you feel your best through every stage of life.

References:

1. CDC Press Releases: Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables. (2017, November 16). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html

2. European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Glyphosate: Commission responds to European Citizens' Initiative and announces more transparency in scientific assessments. (2017). Retrieved from http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-5191_en.htm

3. Krajmalnik-Brown, R., Ilhan, Z., Kang, D., & DiBaise, J. K. (2012). Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice, 27(2), 201-214. doi:10.1177/0884533611436116

4. Davis, D. R., Epp, M. D., & Riordan, H. D. (2004). Changes in USDA Food Composition Data for 43 Garden Crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6), 669-682. doi:10.1080/07315724.2004.10719409

5. Myers, S. S., Zanobetti, A., Kloog, I., Huybers, P., Leakey, A. D., Bloom, A. J., … Usui, Y. (2014). Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition. Nature, 510(7503), 139-142. doi:10.1038/nature13179

6. Nutri-Con: The Truth About Vitamins & Supplements. (2006). Retrieved from https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/nutri-con-truth-about-vitamins-supplements

7. Liu, R. H. (2003). Health benefits of fruit and vegetables are from additive and synergistic combinations of phytochemicals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 78(3), 517S-520S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/78.3.517s

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