Misconception: Food Contains All The Vitamins You Need
Some physicians disparage vitamin use by telling patients that “vitamins only produce expensive urine”. Other experts have tried to reassure us that we simply need to eat a balanced diet to get all the nutrients our bodies need.
We even have the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans prepared by two U.S. Government of Health and Human Services – telling us to follow this advice about vitamins and food:
Nutrient needs should be met primarily through consuming foods. Foods provide an array of nutrients (as well as phytochemicals, antioxidants, etc) and other compounds that may have beneficial effects on health. Supplements may be useful when they fill a specific identified nutrient gap that cannot or is not otherwise being met by the individual’s intake of food. Nutrient supplements cannot replace a healthful diet.
In an ideal world, all of this advice would be common and would be worth following. But, as you probably know, we do not live in an ideal world – not by any stretch of the imagination – and that is certainly the grim reality when it comes to the availability and quality of the nutrients that we depend upon for optimal health.
We must start with a simple biological fact of life: Vitamins and minerals are essential to human health, and the human body is unable to manufacture most of what it does. These nutrients must be obtained from the foods that we eat and the supplements we take derived from food.
Once upon a time the soils that grew our food crops naturally contained the nutrients needed by the human body. Today, most organic farm soils contain only 2- to 4-percent organic matter when they should have more than 20-percent organic matter. Most foods used to be eaten fresh soon after harvesting, so these nutrients were largely preserved for absorption. That began to change during the 20th century with the introduction of pesticides, herbicides, and other synthetic chemical contaminants, along with the widespread processing of foods containing added preservatives and other additives.
The mineral depletion of our soils and food crops has been a source of grave concern since at least 1936, when a warning about the problem appeared in the U.S. Senate committee report known as Document 264. Although this was not an official government report or study, but a reprint of a mainstream media article submitted into the record, it nonetheless represented an emerging perspective about the depletion of our soils.
At least 90 of the depleted nutrients are considered essential to human health, including 60 minerals and 16 vitamins that are crucial to proper immune-system functioning. Now consider what happens when foods grown in these anemic soils are then processed by the large food-processing corporations and larded with synthetic chemical preservatives, colorings, and other additives. Nutrient levels are reduced once again by 80 percent, and more, in the case of both minerals and vitamins. By the time these foods are then subjected to high heat during cooking, which reduces nutrient levels still further, not much nutrient value is left for the human body to absorb.
As if this extensive loss of nutrients at every step of the food-growing and processing, chain did not provide ammunition enough for the need to supplement our diets, we now know the few people are meeting even the minimum dietary guidelines for the consumption of beneficial fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that less than one-third of U.S. residents consume the government’s recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Only 27 percent of adults, based on a sampling of 305,000 adults, eat vegetables in large enough quantities each day to absorb any of the vitamins and minerals that help to guard the body against chronic illnesses and disease.