A Modern Day Dilemma
Supplements… where do I start? In a paradoxical world where some people are malnourished due to scarce resources and other are malnourished due to poor diet one has to wonder what is the best way to get the nutrients we need.
Enter the supplements – a modern phenomenon of adding man-made nutrients to our diets. From powdered vegetables to vitamins to amino acids, this has become and industry worth billion of dollars (US$104 billion as of 2013 to be precise).
Of course as a rule of thumb we should always try to get our nutrients (mind, not just vitamins, but also minerals, proteins, oils, essential acids and so forth) from natural whole foods. However, there are many factors that could undermine our efforts to hit our daily target of the good stuff.
Image from PeopleCleaner.com
Naturally we lose nutrients as we go about our daily activities, however certain situations may leave us a little bit drained. For example, when we are stressed our bodies use more nutrients at a faster rate. But it is not just proteins and carbohydrates that we lose.
Dr. Griffin, Dr. Neblett and Kissinger state that “The increased metabolism [due to prolonged stress] can also cause an increase in the use and excretion of many nutrients such as vitamins A, C,D,E,K, and B complex, and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, chromium, selenium, zinc, and potassium.”
“Eating right is just as important as managing stress
because vulnerability to stress increases with poor diet”
Philip Rice, Stress and Health. Moorhead State University
Another issue is the quality of food that we eat nowadays. It is not just junk food that is the culprit here. A lot of our groceries are either heavily processed or chemically treated to extend their shelf life. These processes significantly reduce the nutrients of the foods we buy and eat. In this case, the best solution is to opt for organic or locally grown produce (and check the labels!).
And of course there are certain personal situations which may make matters worse. Suffering from digestive problems may mean that no matter how much nutrients from natural food one gets, the body is not absorbing and/or converting enough of those into fuel. Other illnesses may also require specific supplementation (currently fighting a cold with Vitamin C, zinc, lemon and ginger 🙂 ) Also, intense training requires more nutrients such as protein, amino acids, trace minerals and electrolytes which are lost through sweat.
To Supp or Not to Supp?
So should we jump with both feet in to this trend? Personally, I like to avoid artificially made things, especially when it comes to what I put in my body. Deciding whether to take supplements is an important health decision filled with mine pits – there is so much information and so many supplements that haven’t been tested which make it very confusing.
My recommendation is to read, read and read some more! Check labels and consult with qualified professionals (not me!). But first and foremost evaluate your needs. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you eating enough natural whole foods?
- Do you feel constantly tired or are you energetic?
- Are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life at the moment?
- Are you ill, undergoing intense training programme or suffering from specific health issues?
Think carefully about your answers and if you think natural whole foods may not be enough, do consult with an expert and make sure you choose high quality supplements.