Many believe a healthy diet is all that’s needed for optimal health. Just the other day I heard a parent say, “Do I need vitamins? I don’t think so because we eat healthy.”
Does that sound familiar?
But do you realize that even those with healthy diets still struggle to get all the nutrients their bodies need?
Research shows that greater than 80% of American adults do not consume enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.1 In addition, national nutrition surveys confirm that kids are not getting their recommended servings of food based on the Food Guide Pyramid.2
(Think you are in the top 10% of Americans when it comes to eating healthy? Keep reading. You may be surprised by what you don’t know.)
Fast Food Facts
Did you know that fruits and vegetables today are not as nutrient dense as they were thirty years ago?
Don’t believe it?
The reason is because of the soil quality in which they are grown. Essentially, we have been extracting nutrients from the soil faster than we’re able to return them. The result is a decreased soil quality, which directly impacts our food quality. Less nutrients in the soil means that less nutrients are entering into our food supply.3
Another problem is the way food is grown and processed. It too has radically changed in order to meet growing consumer demand. Remember that whole “supply and demand” concept from your high school economics class? Well, the same thing is true in food production.
Just do the math.
Today roughly 7.1 billion people populate the earth. Thirty years ago there were 4.6 billion. That’s 35% more stomachs to fill, or an increase in 2.5 billion mouths to feed — every day! And to think we’ve met that demand without any increase in available land! That speaks volumes to the technological advances in agriculture. But those advancements have had unintended consquences.
The Unintended Consequences of Advances in Agriculture
Consider these facts. Most of the meat produced in America today comes from animals who no longer graze openly. Cattle, pigs, and chickens are raised in industrial facilities where farmers can meet larger demands at the expense of quality.
Rather than enjoying the free range, these animals are confined to small living quarters. The air quality is often poor, and they are injected with hormones to artificially grow them bigger faster. (Something about this just sounds unnatural, doesn’t it?)
Even fruits and vegetables are grown internationally and shipped to the U.S. to accommodate demand. This means they are picked before they have fully ripened and sprayed with chemicals to help them “ripen”. On the outside they may look fresh but on the inside they are nutrient deficient.
Frightening stuff when you stop and think about it!
Do I Need Vitamins If I’m Eating Better Than 90% Of Americans?
So, let’s assume the best for a moment. Let’s say a family goes above and beyond to eat the freshest and most natural foods possible on a regular basis. They choose to eliminate processed foods completely from their diet, and they choose to shop for organic or local produce. They make their own bread, sauces, snacks, everything.
Lisa Leake, creator of 100DaysofRealFood.com, does just this. She has been on a mission to eliminate all processed foods from her family’s diet. She is doing a superb job at eating well and helping her family to do the same.
Lisa proves to the rest of us that it is possible to eat healthy. But is she getting all the nutrients her body needs? Does a healthy diet eliminate the need for vitamins?
Not quite. On one of her posts, she states that her doctor recommended a vitamin D supplement because her blood test showed levels below where they needed to be. Something was still missing.
If Lisa, the proponent and mentor for cutting out processed food, is lacking a key nutrient, then what does that mean for the rest of us?
I believe it is practically impossible to give the body all the nutrients it needs through diet alone. Lisa’s testimony is proof. We would go crazy trying to count all of our vitamins and nutrients each day, making sure we got it all.
And how much more might our pickier-eating kids be missing what they need?
Families Need Nutritional Insurance
I like thinking of vitamins as nutritional insurance. I can rest easy as a mom knowing that my whole family received all the essential vitamins needed for optimal health, even if our diet wasn’t perfect. Do we still strive for healthier eating habits? You bet! Supplements should never take the place of healthy eating.
But when the right vitamins and a healthy diet are combined, they pack a powerful punch toward optimal health and strong immune systems.
Check Out This Great Video On The Health Paradox In America
1. Krebs-Smith SM, Guenther PM, Subar AF, Kirkpatrick SI, Dodd KW. “Americans do not meet federal dietary recommendations.” J Nutr. 2010;140:1832–1838.
2. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Dietary guidance for healthy children ages 2 to 11 years.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2004;104:660-77. See also Harnack L, Walters SA, Jacobs DR. “Dietary intake and food sources of whole grains among children and adolescents: Data from the 1994-96 continuing survey of food intakes by individuals.” J Am Diet Assoc. 2003;103:1015-19.
3. Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. “Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999.” J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6):669-82. PMID: 15637215.