Many believe they’re feeding their bodies enough vitamins and minerals through fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome foods alone. While healthy eating is the best place to start, our diets are likely falling short of the recommended daily values for vitamins and minerals.
For starters, the typical Western diet involves a lot of foods that don’t provide much nutritional value, such as grains and refined carbs. But even if you’re eating all your fruits and veggies, you likely have some gaps in your nutrient levels for several reasons. Here’s why:
Not all produce is created equal, and how it’s grown has a lot to do with it.
Let’s start with soil. Poor, depleted soil yields less nutritious produce. The more times the soil is cultivated, the less fertile the soil becomes, and therefore the less nutrient-dense the food will inherently be.
Secondly, some commercial farms use fertilizers aimed at growing the crops as big and as fast as possible in order to shorten the time it takes from seed to harvest to grocery store. Shortening that process therefore limits the plant’s ability to develop all the potential nutritional benefits through its life span.
Meat and fish aren’t created equal either.
These limitations can be found in meat and fish as well. When farm-raised animals are fed poor diets (usually grain-based), we too miss out on the nutrients the animals otherwise would and should be consuming. And when those diets also consist of hormones to make the animals grow bigger and faster, the animal is unable to fully develop its natural nutritional benefits.
While organic produce and grass-fed and free-range meat are certainly more nutritious, the price tag of those options can often be limiting.
Even if it’s organic or grass-fed, think about how long it takes to get to your kitchen table.
Even if you are choosing the most nutritious options in the grocery store, it can take weeks (sometimes months!) for the produce or meat to get from the farm, to the grocery store, to you, and it’s losing more and more of its vitamins and minerals along the way.
Diets such as ketogenic, veganism, and vegetarianism can limit your intake of important vitamins and minerals.
Diets that primarily focus on one food source and/or exclude certain types of food can create gaps in your nutrient levels compared to a more balanced diet.
The way we prepare our food can affect its nutritional benefits.
Some vitamins and minerals are depleted from our food during the cooking process. Even the simple act of juicing or blending fruits and vegetables limits the amount of nutrients your body can absorb compared to eating the whole food.
So you’ve got a well-balanced diet full of organic, grass-fed, free-range food that you eat raw and whole as much as possible… Is it enough?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your body’s nutrient requirements and its ability to absorb the nutrients from your food. Requirements and absorption can be affected by a number of factors.
For example, as you age, your body becomes less efficient at extracting nutrients from your diet.
When active (i.e., sweating), your body is losing important electrolytes like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. If you don’t properly replenish those electrolytes, your body will stay in that depleted state.
Stress and sleep deprivation can limit your body’s ability to properly absorb vitamins and minerals from your food. The stressors also cause your body to run less efficiently, draining your nutrient levels quicker than if you were stress-free and well-rested. This means your body requires a higher level of vitamins and minerals when in a compromised state.
Our diets may be missing some essential nutrients, so vitamins and supplements can be an important way to keep our bodies running at peak performance.
With that being said, it’s important to note that vitamins and supplements are meant to be just that – supplemental. We should always strive to eat the best we can, and vitamins and supplements should never be treated as a replacement for whole food. They are simply a way to ensure the body has sufficient levels of the most important vitamins and minerals that we might otherwise be lacking through diet alone.