Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this question. As a Nutritionist my first priority is to help people feed themselves the best quality food possible but in a world filled with petrochemicals, genetically modified organisms and pharmaceuticals, it is difficult to find food at the quality that nature intended. We do not live in a bubble and the food we eat is often subjected to a vast array of chemicals at every stage of production. I believe organic farming practices are crucial to the health and wellbeing of every living thing on this planet but the truth is, even organic food is being contaminated by toxins that are present in the air and water from neighboring conventional farms.
Another important factor that people need to recognize is the issue of soil quality. The concept that a carrot is a carrot is a carrot is simply nonsense. A plant cannot uptake a nutrient that is lacking in the soil it is grown in. Organic farmers know this and mitigate the loss of nutrients by ‘feeding’ the soil. The Trichoderma fungus for example helps to protect the plant from diseases. Just like adding probiotics to the human diet, an organic farm brimming with living soil, make all the difference in how the plants are able to uptake the nutrients in the soil.
Beyond the quality of the food, there are other factors that reduce the amount of nutrients we shuttle into the cells of our bodies. The old saying “You are what you eat” is a misnomer. We are, in fact, what we absorb. One of the greatest health issues facing the Western world today is the lack of nutrient absorption. Anytime you have an issue with your digestion system, be it indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, you are not capable of absorbing the nutrients you are feeding your body. Just because one cup of carrot has 20381.32 IU of Vitamin A, does not mean you have the optimal ability to convert beta carotene to the active vitamin A in your body.
So how do you get all the nutrients you need to feed your body optimally? Correcting your digestive issues is the most important step. This process can take years depending on the state of your body and in the mean time…
Enter the nutritional supplement…
Do you have a telephone? How about a computer, car, chair, refrigerator, stove or furnace? These are common forms of tools and technology that we all take for granted. Supplements are tools that can be used to help support your body by providing simplified nutrients that are either missing in your food or not being digested and absorbed.
Like all forms of modern technology the quality of a nutritional supplement varies depending on the manufacturer and their method of processing. I prefer to use products that are as close to whole food as possible. Over the years it has become apparent that we have not identified all of the nutrients and co-factors present in a whole food. We also do not know how each nutrient affects or is affected by another. For example we know that taking Vitamin C may be a good idea to help fight the common cold but this nutrient works far better when the bioflavonoid cofactors are present.
Nutritional supplements are not the only solution to a health concern but they can play an important part in process of healing from the effects of our nutritionally compromised lifestyles.