«Can I get all the nutrients I need from food?” a patient will occasionally ask. On the surface, this makes sense. After all, if you are eating a whole, fresh, unprocessed foods diet, shouldn’t you be able to get an abundant supply of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients?
Unfortunately, things aren’t that easy. Even with a perfect diet, the combination of many things –including our depleted soils, the storage and transportation of our food, genetic alterations of traditional heirloom species, and the increased stress and nutritional demands resulting from a toxic environment – make it impossible for us to get the vitamins and minerals we need solely from the foods we eat.
Simply put, the evidence shows we cannot get away from the need for nutritional supplements.
Doctors used to think you got all your vitamins and minerals from food. Any extra nutrients were excreted, or worse, became toxic. But the tide is shifting. Doctors now prescribe over one billion dollars in fish oil supplements. Most cardiologists recommend folate, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10. Gastroenterologists recommend probiotics. Obstetricians have always recommended prenatal vitamins.
Emerging scientific evidence shows the importance of nutrients as essential helpers in our biochemistry and metabolism. They are the oil that greases the wheels of our metabolism. And large-scale deficiencies of nutrients in our population – including omega-3 fats, vitamin D, folate, zinc, magnesium, and iron – have been well documented in extensive government-sponsored research.
4 Main Reasons We Are Nutrient Depleted
There are numerous reasons most of us are nutrient malnourished, anything from eroding topsoil depleting our mineral supply, to a toxic environment and the abundance of junk food many Americans eat. If I had to narrow nutrient depletion down to four primary reasons, this is what I would say:
- We evolved eating wild foods that contained dramatically higher levels of all vitamins, minerals, and essential fats.
- Because of depleted soils, industrial farming, and hybridization techniques, the animals and vegetables we eat have fewer nutrients.
- Processed factory-made foods have no nutrients.
- The total burden of environmental toxins, lack of sunlight, and chronic stress leads to higher nutrient needs.
These are among the reasons why everyone, at the very least,needs a good multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D. I also recommend probiotics because modern life, diet, and antibiotics, as well as other drugs, damage our gut ecosystem, which is so important in keeping us healthy and thin.
About Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD, believes that we all deserve a life of vitality—and that we have the potential to create it for ourselves. That’s why he is dedicated to tackling the root causes of chronic disease by harnessing the power of Functional Medicine to transform healthcare. He is a practicing family physician, an nine-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in his field. He is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. He is also the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center, chairman of the board of the Institute for Functional Medicine, a medical editor of The Huffington Post, and has been a regular medical contributor on many television shows including CBS This Morning, the Today Show, CNN, The View, the Katie Couric show and The Dr. Oz Show.