Odds are you've heard conflicting information on nutritional supplements.
Considering the multitude of mixed opinions and thousands of products to choose from, it can be challenging for someone to know what to do.
If your eating a well-balanced diet, getting sensible sun exposure, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of sleep, your likely thinking, there’s no need for nutritional supplementation.
Well, in today's world that's not the case and this article will explain why nutritional supplements are important for anyone who wants to optimize their health and performance.
Don’t get me wrong. We should all strive to eat a nutrient-dense diet and obtain as many vitamins and minerals from our food as possible.
Optimizing lifestyle factors (sleep, hydration, exercise, sun exposure, community, etc.) is also a critical component to good health.
Even if your doing everything right in terms of diet and lifestyle (which very few people are) supplementing with certain nutrients can still be very helpful.
5 Reasons Why Nutritional Supplements are Important
1. Our Food is Not Nearly as Nutrient-Rich as it Used to be
The vast majority of our food is grown in nutrient depleted soils. Modern farming practices focus more on profitability than nutrient profile and sustainability.
Commercial farmers only add in NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) fertilizers which are the 3 basic compounds plants need to grow.
They neglect to include the dozens of other minerals, vitamins, and trace minerals our bodies require for optimal health. Over time this creates soil devoid of these valuable nutrients and as a result, the plants don’t contain them. (1)
2. Stress Increases Our Bodies Nutrient Requirements
Stress has been shown to increase our bodies need for various nutrients. Beneficial stress, such as exercise, depletes vitamins and minerals which is why athletes are at a much higher risk for nutrient deficiencies.
Even if your not an athlete, all forms of stress (work-related, family stress, anxiety, etc.) increases the usage and demand for many nutrients in the body. (2)
In today’s hard charging fast-paced world, we are all subjected to some degree of stress, meaning we can all benefit from a higher intake of nutrients.
3. Nutrient Absorption Declines with Age
As we get older, our ability to absorb the nutrients from food declines. This is due in part to a lower production of HCL (hydrochloric acid) and decline in our production of digestive enzymes.
Less absorption means we need higher intake to achieve the desired outcome.
4. Higher Toxic Exposure Increases Nutrient Needs
Today more than ever we are all bombarded by constant chemical exposure. As of January 2018, there are over 6 trillion pounds of synthetic chemicals being produced and released into our environment every year.(3)
The vast majority of the chemicals on our planet today didn't exist on the earth hundreds of years ago because they are all made in laboratories, so our bodies weren’t designed to be able to handle this overload of chemicals because they didn’t exist in the past.
These toxic compounds get into the water supply, are sprayed onto our food, exist in the air we breath, and surround us everywhere in our homes. Unless you live in a pristine rainforest, you have some degree of toxic exposure. We all do.
To combat the negative effects of these toxins in our bodies, we need high amounts of various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
5. Food is No Longer Fresh
As soon as a fruit or vegetable is picked, the nutrient it contains degrade very quickly. (4)
Our food system often ships our fruits and vegetable thousands of miles to your grocery store, where it then sits until you purchase it, then it sits even longer before you actually eat it.
Since very few people get fresh produce picked within one or two days of them eating it, the vitamin content is much lower than people may realize.
Bottom Line: Our increased need for nutrients combined with the decreased amount of vitamins and minerals found in our food means we could all benefit from additional nutrients from high-quality nutritional supplements.
Problem With Most Studies Done on Nutrients
Sadly most nutritional research is done on single nutrients.
This is a poor way to analyze the effects since nutrients naturally exist with hundreds of other nutrients that all work synergistically in our bodies.
It would be like claiming that nails don’t contribute to building a house since no amount of nails can construct a home. Or that lumber doesn’t contribute to building a house since tons of lumber doesn’t build a home on it’s own.
Many construction materials need to be used together in order to build a house.
Our bodies are the same with nutrients, except they are far more complex than construction.
Studying only one isolated nutrient on it's own gives us very little idea of the full effects of that nutrient when combined with all the other cofactors that help it do its job.
You need it all!
Many studies are also drawing these conclusions based on epidemiological studies using poor survey-based research.
That is when a group of people fill out health questionnaires and statistics draw conclusions on the results.
This type of research can have many flaws since it fails to take into account many variables.
Just because you answered ‘yes’ to taking a multivitamin doesn’t take into account numerous other health related factors such as your overall diet, stress levels, alcohol consumption, physical activity levels, smoking, etc.
Health expert Chris Kresser wrote an excellent article explaining the drawbacks and limitations of this kind of research. (5)
Another reason some research studies shown nutritional supplement to not be effective is because they are using low-quality products during the testing.
It's obvious that a synthetic, poor-quality product with harmful additives doesn’t improve your health.
Same as with the food we eat, the quality can be the underlying factor to determine the efficacy of a particular supplement.
Why Nutritional Supplements are Wrongly Demonized
As with any industry, there are great nutritional supplements but there are also really lousy ones.
The most commonly purchased supplements are the products that are most advertised and marketed, NOT the supplements that are actually the best for you.
Unfortunately, these products are mainly low-quality multivitamins using harmful ingredients and synthetic vitamins manufactured by pharmaceutical companies (big surprise...).
These poor quality products are far too prevalent and one of the primary culprits of why many folks have been turned off to the idea of nutritional supplements.
Although, that doesn’t mean all supplements are bad.
The key is finding high-quality nutritional supplements using the right nutrients your body needs without any harmful additives.
With hundreds of thousands of products on the market, how are you supposed to know which are best and which ones you actually need?
To help you navigate the complex and overwhelming world of supplements, check out our article on "The 5 Essential Nutritional Supplements for Optimal Health" to learn what are the best options.
Nutritional Supplements are Essential
All of these factors are reason enough to incorporate nutritional supplements into your regimen, but when you consider the biggest problem which is the Standard American Diet most people are consuming, supplements become a no-brainer
The over consumption of processed, nutrient devoid foods is overwhelmingly common in our society.
It’s important to realize that no amount of supplements can negate the effects of a poor diet, but they can certainly help in a major way.
The ideal scenario here is eat a healthy, nutrient rich diet the vast majority of the time combined with high-quality nutritional supplements to fill in the gaps.
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