If we are eating healthy foods every day, why should we take vitamin and mineral supplements? We're getting all the nutrients we need from eating a wide array of colorful foods, right?
Unfortunately these days our foods (no matter how healthy they may seem) don't contain all of the nutrients our bodies require to function optimally. Even if you're the healthiest person on the planet, only eating a whole-foods based diet and never eating anything processed, you still could be lacking certain essential vitamins and minerals.
Due to soil depletion from over-farming and industrialization, and lack of biodiversity, many fruits and vegetables do not have the same nutritional value that they did just 50 years ago. Soil is one of the main factors from which plants get their nutrition. If the soil is lacking on nutrients it will not transfer to the fruit or vegetable, and in turn not into to our bodies when we eat them.
Scientific studies have shown that vitamin, mineral, and protein content in fruits and vegetables has decreased anywhere from 5-40% in the past 50 years. That's shocking!
Why are vitamins and minerals so important?
Vitamins are a particular group of substances essential for cell function, development, and growth. Cells are the tiny structures that make up our bodies so vitamins are vital for all aspects of health and functionality throughout all of our 11 systems. There are 13 essential vitamins required for our bodies to function.
Minerals are inorganic substances that plants absorb from soil, water, and rocks. These are also essential for cellular function, and support building of the skeletal system, nervous system, and running the metabolic processes (converting food into energy).
The lowdown on supplements.
Supplements can come in pill, powder, or liquid form, and are so named as they are meant to supplement the vitamins and minerals in an already healthy diet. Although supplements can be purchased just about anywhere these days they are not regulated by the FDA.
On one hand, it's nice that you don't have to go to your doctor to purchase vitamin C. On the other hand, this also means that companies can claim that a supplement contains vitamin C when it actually does not. These unreliable supplements can also be packed full of fillers and allergens. Here is a great list of trusted supplement brands.
It's important to remember that health is not a one-size-fits all equation. What combination of vitamins and minerals your body requires more of will be different from what someone else's body needs. There are also certain variables that can alter how well your body uses and absorbs supplements such as: combination with other vitamins, whether taken with or without fats, time of day, etc.
Consult your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist for what balance of supplements fits your specific needs.
[Credit: New York Times. Vitamins.]
[Credit: Eat Balanced. Why do we need minerals?]
[Credit: Natural Grocers. Supplementing Your Diet.]