Cavemen didn't take vitamin B injections, add protein powders to their drinks, or stock their refrigerators with probiotic supplements. So, if our ancestors relied solely on whole foods for nutrition, shouldn't we be doing the same?
Ideally, yes - we'd still be getting all of the nutrition we need from food.
But several factors in our environment and lifestyle today (many of which didn't exist as little as 50 years ago) can make it almost impossible to meet our nutritional requirements from food, alone.
Let's take a look at the importance of supplements for your health and wellness, even when you're eating a healthy diet.
4 Reasons We Can Benefit From Nutritional Supplements (Despite Having A Healthy Diet)
1. Nutrient Deficiencies Are On the Rise
Fruit and vegetables are nature's richest sources of vitamins and minerals - but the nutritional value of these foods depends on healthy soil.According to research published by The University of Wisconsin, raw broccoli in 1999 contained approximately 50% less calcium than it did in 1963 (1). This means that you'd need to eat double the amount of raw broccoli in order to receive the amount of calcium provided in just one serving 50 years ago.In addition to calcium, other nutrients in our soil, such as magnesium and potassium, are becoming heavily depleted as a result of modern day farming methods and the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides (2).
As you can see, the less nutrition our soil contains, the harder it is for us to get these nutrients from our diet - this is why nutritional supplements can be useful to increase these nutrients and prevent symptoms of nutrient deficiencies.
2. Body Detoxification
Not only is our soil depleted of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, but fruit,
When you consider the Standard American Diet, which is high in processed foods that contain trans fats and refined sugar, it's clear that our bodies are more toxic today than ever before.Although your body has an intelligent system in place to eliminate toxins, your body can become overburdened when you have a high toxic load. This causes your detoxification pathways to become sluggish, and encourages toxins to be reabsorbed in your body, rather than eliminated. When toxins accumulate in your system, not only do you become tired, but you may be at a greater risk for illness and disease.In this case, certain natural health supplements may be necessary to offer your liver a "boost" of nutrition and support your body's natural detoxification process. Antioxidant vitamins, minerals, algae, and bitter herbs such as cilantro and dandelion have properties that promote detoxification when taken as dietary supplements.
3. Nutritional Supplements Help Combat Stress
Stress is often referred to as "the most dangerous toxin" by health experts.Not only has stress been shown to deplete essential nutrients (such as B vitamins and magnesium), but chronic stress wears down your immune system, hinders your digestion and promotes systemic inflammation: two primary causes of illness and disease. You see, stress causes your body to release the hormone cortisol, which helps your body respond to stressful situations. When cortisol is repeatedly being released, it can cause an imbalance among the rest of your hormones, which can quickly lead to the onset of symptoms, such as a slowed metabolism, sugar cravings, depression, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
Today, our stress levels are at an all-time high. Sure, our ancestors experienced short bursts of stress when they had to run from a wild bear or tiger to survive (which was, of course, no easy feat). But today, our cortisol levels are elevated more than before.
We experience physical stress in the form of sleep deprivation, not exercising enough and eating processed foods, while our mental stressors arise from finances, chaotic work environments, and the state of our health and relationships. When our bodies are constantly adapting to this stress, we require extra nutritional support to prevent the negative physical and mental effects of elevated cortisol.Yes - we can receive stress supportive nutrition from our diets. But when our bodies are constantly in "fight or flight" mode (which is our natural stress response), our energy is being conserved for responding to stress, not digestion. This is why nutritional supplements may be most effective for protecting your body against stress.
For example, adaptogenic herbs such as Organic Sun Eleuthero® have been shown to lower cortisol levels, which prevents the negative side effects of physical and mental stress. By helping your body respond to stress more efficiently, adaptogenic herbs have also been shown to enhance mental focus and improve energy levels, which are both impaired during intense periods of stress.
4. Not All Superfoods Are Digestible in Their Whole Form
Nature has provided us with many superfoods that can transform our health in several ways. However, not all superfoods are digestible in their whole form. Let's take chlorella, for example.Chlorella, the amazing green superfood, provides a wealth of nutrition to support our health in numerous ways. As a single-celled green algae, chlorella is one of the richest plant sources of the nucleic acids, RNA and DNA, which support cellular health and body detoxification. In fact, chlorella is one of the rare foods that can help us eliminate toxic heavy metals that accumulate in our tissues through a natural process called chelation.The only problem with chlorella, is that its valuable nutrients are enclosed in a tough outer shell, or cell wall that can't be digested by the human body. Now, we don't want to miss out on the health benefits of chlorella. So to make chlorella digestible, it must go through a process to form a whole food supplement that contains "pulverized cell chlorella"-- which allows us to efficiently absorb all of the beneficial nutrients that exist beyond the cell wall.In addition to these benefits, organic whole food supplements can make it attainable and convenient to get a therapeutic serving of a specific nutrient that may otherwise be difficult to eat. In other words, 4 capsules of cilantro are easier to consume each day than 3 bunches of cilantro. Supplements also allow us to improve our health during periods in our life when we require increased nutrition, such as pregnancy, prolonged stress and even after taking a round of antibiotics.So, are nutritional supplements really necessary? Perhaps not at all times. However, there's a time and place for supplements in today's Western diet, which, when combined with nutrition from whole foods, can improve and support our health in countless ways.
It's always important to check in with a licensed healthcare practitioner before adding a nutritional supplement to your diet.
About Brandi Black, RHN
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare time you'll find Brandi writing in her blog and hanging out with her teacup chihuahua, Coconut.
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