I believe the best way to obtain nutrients is through eating real & whole foods. That being said, there are a number of factors that can make it challenging to get all of the nutrients we need from food alone.
Soil degradation plays a large role. Consider this example- University at Texas researchers found that fruits and vegetables grown today contain significantly less amounts of vitamins and minerals compared to those grown in the 50’s. Our soil is no longer as fertile as it used to be, and because of this, our food does not contain the same levels of nutrients that it once did.
A couple other factors that can impair nutrient intake:
- Medication use– Oral contraceptives have been found to reduce absorption and utilization of many nutrients, including folate, zinc, and Vitamin B-6.
- Genetic variations– Those with the MTHFR gene mutation have a hard time utilizing folic acid.
- Restrictive diets– Another reason not to diet!! However, if you must, keep in mind that every food and/or food group you eliminate, the greater your risk of nutrient deficiencies. Vegan diets are most often lacking adequate Vitamin B-12 and iron. Low-fat diets can make it hard to absorb Vitamins A, D, E & K.
I chose to take a select few vitamin/mineral and dietary supplements to additionally support my food-based nutrient intake. Here’s my daily stack-
- Multivitamin-Mineral Supplement (MVI): I intentionally look for MVIs that do not provide supra-therapeutic doses (ie 1000%+ of recommended daily value) of vitamins and minerals, but rather 50-100%. In my opinion, more is not always better, especially for those vitamins and minerals which are stored in the body. Again I see a MVI as a supplement to the nutrients I’m getting from food.
- Vitamin D3– While my MVI does contain Vitamin D, I take an extra boost during the fall-winter-spring months because of inadequate sun exposure (I live in Michigan). Vitamin D comes in a couple of different forms, and I prefer D3 over D2 because it can be used more efficiently by the body.
- Fish Oil- In an ideal world, I would eat 2-3 servings of fish a week and get all of the fatty acids I need. That being said, I very rarely eat fish. So I take a fish oil supplement to get my omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. If you chose to use fish oil, look for a supplement that contains at least 1 gram of combined EPA & DHA, not grams of fish oil. You’ll have to turn over the bottle and review the label for this info.
- Berberine– I initially started taking berberine to help me more easily get into a state of ketosis. One of berberine’s actions is to reduce glucose production by the liver, so in this sense, my body wouldn’t start making its own sugar in the absence of carbs.
- Tumeric- I take turmeric supplements for their curcumin content. Curcumin has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. I always look for a turmeric/curcumin supplement with black pepper extract (also known as piperine) because it greatly enhances absorption.
So those are the pills/capsules/tablets I pop. Because everyone is different, I urge you to speak with your health care professional before starting or stopping any medication or supplement regime.
Davis, D. R. (2004). Changes in USDA food composition data for 43 garden crops, 1950 to 1999. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(6), 669-682.