Just Eat Right
Choose wisely, eat real foods, and eat a wide variety, and you’ll be fine.
When it comes to the issue of supplementing with pills, many professionals will encourage you to “just eat real food.” And I don’t disagree. In my on-again, off-again experimentation with different diets and supplements, I’ve tried just about everything. But then I really started studying food and nutrition and went ahead and got certified to be a coach. And this is what I learned about supplementing…
In today’s world, our food supply is pretty tainted. Our crops have been tampered with, our food is being picked before it’s ripe and transported around the world to get to our table, and our seeds have been modified over and over such that the final product harbors only a fraction of the micronutrients that it used to.
Even back in 1936 we were seeing changes in our food supply. The following is an excerpt from the 2nd Session of the 74th USA Congressional Record, which stated:
“Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago”
Now I’m a science person, so before drawing any conclusions I want to know, what does the research say?
Well let’s start with this. The ADA has given us a bare minimum baseline for our daily micronutrient consumption. If we “just eat right”, our goal would be to consume, at MINIMUM:
- Vitamin A 5000 IU
- Vitamin C 60 mg
- Calcium 1000 mg
- Iron 18 mg
- Vitamin D 400 IU
- Vitamin E 30 IU
- Vitamin K 80 μg
- Thiamin 1.5 mg
- Riboflavin 1.7 mg
- Niacin 20 mg
- Vitamin B6 2 mg
- Folate 400 μg
- Vitamin B12 6 μg
- Biotin 300 μg
- Pantothenic acid 10 mg
- Phosphorus 1000 mg
- Iodine 150 μg
- Magnesium 400 mg
- Zinc 15 mg
- Selenium 70 μg
- Copper 2 mg
- Manganese 2 mg
- Chromium 120 μg
- Molybdenum 75 μg
- Chloride 3400 mg
Wanna guess how many Americans are achieving these MINIMUM goals?
Yeah, not many.
There was a study in 2006 that published the results of analyzing 70 diets from athletes and sedentary individuals alike, and every single one of them fell short.
Further, the female dietary intake was RDA-deficient in 35.2% of the 10 vitamins and 7 minerals analyzed, and more active individuals displayed greater deficiencies than sedentary individuals.
Here is some of the breakdown:
- Iodine – 100% of the diets were deficient in iodine
- Vitamin D – 95% of the diets were deficient in vitamin D
- Zinc – 80% of the diets were deficient in zinc
- Vitamin E – 65% of the diets were deficient in vitamin E
- Calories – 50% of the diets were deficient in calories
- Calcium – 50% of the diets were deficient in calcium
In fact, if you do a quick Google search you’ll find multiple resources pointing to the statistic that 90+% of Americans are nutrient deficient.
So what do we do? Does that mean we need to supplement?
Strategies to optimize your nutrition
Like any other program, awareness is the first step. Simply starting by being aware of what we are consuming, and maybe comparing it against some benchmarks, such as eating a rainbow of foods or eating 5-7 servings of veggies & fruits each day, can be a good start.
Pair this with awareness of how you feel. Notice if you tend to be phlegmy, stuffy, bloated, headachy, lethargic, crabby, puffy, irritable, in pain, or have difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
Observe your body, and observe how it changes day to day, pending what you eat, how you sleep, your emotions, and a variety of other factors.
Become an observer – step 1.
Make Conscious Choices
Focus on the quality of your food.
Shift your goal to eating whole, unprocessed foods and push out the packaged foods and take-out.
Start paying attention to what you’re buying and where it’s coming from. Choose heirloom varieties whenever possible, or shop at local farmer’s markets. Purchase organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised foods.
You are, as you recall, what you eat!
Get the facts
One way to decide for sure if you need to supplement or not is to get a blood panel done.
Ask your doctor to test for nutrient deficiency, specifically Vitamin D, iron, B and B12, and omega 3’s. These are the biggies. This way you have the choice to target your nutritional deficiency (through food sources and/or supplementation) and have some objective measures to track improvement.
I asked for this this year and guess what, I’m totally Vitamin D deficient. Not surprising.
Eat the rainbow.
You’ve heard this, and you know it. Most of us need to eat more veggies. A lot more!
And the thing is we need more variety. Most Americans eat the same produce every day, week, and year. Think about it, when was the last time you ventured out beyond baby carrots, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes??!
(PS this is one of the reasons I love being a part of a CSA farm share – community supported agriculture – during the growing season. I’m forced to eat a variety of local, seasonal produce!)
In addition to numbers of servings per day, what I was considering a serving was falling way short. One serving of veggies is a full on cup, or size of your fist, and you need a good 7-9 servings/day.
And 1-2 servings of fruit. Are you hitting that?
Our best chances from getting all the micronutrients we need from food, and food alone, is to eat the highest quality, heirloom varieties we can get our hands on. Eat local and seasonal. Produce that is picked from the other side of the globe to get to your grocery store in January is picked before it is ripened, and then sprayed with toxins to help it change color while in transit.
That’s not doing anything for you.
A CSA is a great strategy, as are frozen options for the winter.
My top 3 musts for supplementing
In my experience with my own diet and coaching others, there are 3 areas where most of us need to invest in a good quality supplement.
- A good quality greens boost. Let’s face it none of us are consuming enough super greens. And even with our best intentions, some days we get none at all. These are the days I boost up with some powdered greens. I have two favorites – this one I simply add to my morning smoothie, and the Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Greens I drink on when I need a protein + greens boost – just depends on how my day is going and where I’m lacking.
- Vitamin D. Many women fall short here, especially if you’re like me and live where we don’t see the sun for 6 months out of the year! We need vitamin D to help absorb calcium, among other things, and its deficiency is being linked to all sorts of problems, including cancer, metabolic disease, heart disease, and depression/SAD. So supplement up here – start with around 2000 iu’s, more if under the care of your MD. I use a one-stop-shop supplement that combines my multivitamin, greens, and D needs, but there are a bazillion options. I’ve taken this MegaFood – Vitamin D3 whole food supplement in the past, and now I combine and use this product that combines with an omega 3 supplement. Just do your research and make sure you’re choosing something clean.
- Omega 3s. Again, unless you’re eating fish or algae every day you likely would benefit from a supplement. Watch the sourcing here! I use chia and flax seeds (part of my smoothie blend) every day for an omega 3 boost. I highly recommend watching out for fish oil (so many environmental toxins and fishing/sourcing problems here), so try something quality sourced like the Vital Choice Seafood High Potency Omega 3, which uses a wild caught non-GMO, or a product that is made from algae.
If I were to pick 2 additional supplements that most of the world could use help with it would be pre and pro-biotics.
Millions of Americans struggle with gut-related discomforts, from IBS to colitis to full blown leaky gut syndrome. It’s no good!
Prebiotics are what feeds the good bacteria in our gut. I’m currently fascinated by the amazing links that are being discovered between the gut, obesity, the enteric nervous system, and overall health, particularly brain health. There are some amazing studies being done that are uncovering the brilliant microbiome in our guts, and trust me, it needs to be nourished!
Probiotics are the good bacteria that all the rage in terms of gut health, and there are zillions to choose from. Here’s where I want you to be careful again and do your research. There are a ton of different strains of probiotic, and you need on that can withstand the acids in your stomach so it actually gets down into your gut. Bacillus Coagulans (or Lactobacillus sporogenes) has been shown to be a superior strand that withstands the gastric environment and effectively colonizes
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