This article was originally written by Dan Ho
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A busy lifestyle leaves little time for planning meals and cooking. It’s far too easy to fill up the diet with empty calories in fast and convenience foods. Packaged and prepared mixes make life easy, but seldom provide all the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. A good multinutrient supplement can help fill in the gaps in your diet when you’re too busy to eat balanced meals.
But what if you eat a healthy diet? Do you still need to take vitamin and nutritional supplements? According to most experts on nutrition and the American diet, the answer is, quite honestly, yes.
Over the past ten years, scientists who study medical conditions like diabetes and coronary disease have all noted alarming rises in the incidence of those diseases. It’s not just that there are more people being diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease. The profile of those being diagnosed has changed dramatically. For the first time ever, doctors are seeing significant number of children with adult onset diabetes and other conditions that were once thought to exclusively begin in middle age. Nearly every one of those conditions has been linked to diet and nutritional deficiencies. Why is this happening in a society as wealthy and well-fed as ours? The reasons are all wrapped up in our way of life and the changes to society and the environment over the past 100 year some nutriitonists argue.
One hundred years ago, most foods were grown and raised on small farms. Farmers rotated their crops regularly to get the best harvests because they knew that the soil needed replenishing in order for the food to grow healthy and strong. Their livestock was fed a varied diet because the animals were allowed to free range and graze at will. This meant that the meat derived from those animals contained the nutrients from the food that they ate. The vegetables and fruits that appeared on the dinner table had been sliced and cooked in the kitchen, not canned months or even years earlier. There wasn’t as much of a need to add vitamins that processing robs from food simply because the foods weren’t processed.
Farming has changed in major ways since then. Crops are grown in soil that has been sterilized and robbed of its natural nutrients by overuse, insecticides, pesticides and chemicals meant to promote large, attractive fruits and vegetables–at the cost of vitamins and minerals. The natural fertilizers that kept soil healthy have been replaced with chemical fertilizers that contain only a few of the needed chemicals, and none of the enzymes that allow the body to process and absorb vitamins and minerals from food. Mass production and processing robs foods of still more nutrients. Cooking and canning and sterlization methods can remove or destroy as much as 90% of the vitamins present in a fresh peach or carrot. Even many foods that appear fresh are likely to have been sprayed with gasses meant to preserve their color and crispness as they travel across country. The end result is vegetables and fruits that contain a fraction of the vitamins and minerals that the same foods contained 100 years ago, much of it unusable by the body as it is.
When you add that to the fact that most Americans eat diets that are high on convenience and low on nutrition, the need to add vitamins and other nutritional supplements becomes very clear.
It’s important to remember that taking nutritional supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet. They are meant to be exactly that–supplements–to fill in the gaps that our lifestyle leaves in our diets. Most doctors recommend, at the very least, a high-quality multi-vitamin supplement daily, but nowadays sophisticated nutraceutical companies are producing products that go far above basic vitamins and minerals. These products may include speciality antioxidants that are much more powerful than vitamins, and other substances beneficial for health that won’t be found in any typical multivitamin supplement, such as enzymes for digestive health, herbal extracts, or other natural supplements.
Whatever kind of supplement you decide to take, it’s still important to consult with your doctor to let him know of your intent.