Is just having a “healthy” diet enough to provide all the nutrients and minerals the human body needs to maintain a healthy, active and vital life? We live in a polluted world where we are exposed to toxins as early as in the womb.
Our food supply is grown in mineral-depleted, nitrate-rich soil and then sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. Produce is picked so early it is still green and has not developed its full, nutritious potential. Much of our food is genetically modified, and the full impact of hybridization has not yet been fully realized. Even organic produce may have pesticide residues from cross contamination during transportation and drift from nearby spraying. Newer organic farms, even after certification, will not have soil as healthy as older ones. There is no doubt that supplementation is a necessity.
Our Food Supply Is Lacking In Essential Nutrients
We do not make vitamins or minerals within our bodies; we must obtain these nutrients from the foods we eat, which, in turn, obtain nutrients from the soil in which they are grown. In the U.S. our soils contain 86% less minerals than they did 100 years ago (based on a study done in 1992).
In 2004, The Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a study that found significant declines in the mineral and vitamin content of 43 garden crops grown in U.S. markets. Due to these lower levels of magnesium, calcium, and selenium, and because conventional agriculture crops are raised in soil where crop rotation is not practiced, the balance of nutrients, organic matter, and microorganisms necessary for healthy soil does not occur.
Rotating crops helps maintain this balance and also interrupts disease cycles. Sometimes lengthy cycles are necessary to control chronic, soil-borne problems like some fungal diseases.
Interestingly, plants actually fend off a range of insects with their own natural defense mechanisms--compounds called phytonutrients. When allowed to grow without the assistance of insecticides and herbicides, plants develop higher concentrations of these compounds that, coincidentally, have healthy properties including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and liver-health-promoting activities. They also provide the plants with characteristics such as their color, flavor, and smell.
According to some studies, organic crops are higher in vitamin C, iron, natural sugars, magnesium and phosphorus, and are lower in harmful nitrates than conventionally raised crops. An independent review, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, found that organic crops had significantly higher levels of all 21 nutrients evaluated than did conventionally grown produce in the U.S. and Great Britain.
Organically grown spinach, lettuce, cabbage and potatoes were found to have high levels of minerals. Conversely, a separate study found that conventional, nonorganic vegetable crops grown between 1940 and 2002 in Great Britain showed mineral losses from 15% to 62%.
In a Canadian study, there was also a significant decline in the nutrient content. This decline was over a 50-year period 1949 to 1999. During this time period, fruits and vegetables lost 57% of their vitamin C and iron, 28% of their calcium, 50% of their riboflavin and 18% of their niacin.
We Live In A World Of Pesticides, Herbicides And Other Toxins
When pesticides and herbicides are used, they kill the bacteria and fungi that promote nutrient uptake in plants. They also deactivate the systems within the plant roots that are involved in mineral absorption. Pesticides and herbicides also destroy soil microorganisms needed to create the organic-mineral complexes that naturally replenish the soil.
Chemical fertilizers deplete vital micronutrients and trace elements, and reduce their bioavailability to plants. Commercial nitrogen+phosphorus+potassium fertilizers (NPK) gradually reduce soil pH, making the soil too acidic to support beneficial bacteria and fungi. As stated, these organisms assist plants in absorbing nutrients from the soil, so eliminating them significantly impairs the plants’ uptake of micronutrients. In addition, NPK application has been found to bind soil-based selenium, making it unavailable for root absorption.
In one study, organic fruit crops were found to contain higher levels of flavonoids and polyphenols than conventional fruits—including up to 50% more antioxidants. Conventional crops also have increased levels of heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and solvents like benzene and toluene. Heavy metals displace the body’s minerals in biochemical reactions, leading to dysfunction and disease.
Pesticides and herbicides have also been linked to a wide range of health problems including decreased immune function, hormone function, diminished intelligence, reproductive problems, neurological and behavioral problems, and cancer. They are also endocrine hormone disruptors.
Pesticides and herbicides can easily pass through the placenta to an unborn infant, and some toxins are actually concentrated across the placenta. Women actually reduce their toxic load by transferring it into their unborn babies. This happens with lead and mercury. Additionally, the fetus is extremely vulnerable to toxins that disrupt the developmental process.
A Body Burden Study by Environmental Working Group in 2004 found toxins in fetal cord blood, amniotic fluid and meconium. Babies come into this world with an average toxic burden of 200 chemicals and toxic metals. After birth, children are also particularly susceptible to pesticides because of food–to-body weight ratio and a developing immune system.
Minimizing exposure to these toxins by eating organic foods is important for our (and our children’s) health. Supplements can help replace the nutrients lacking in our foods and support the body in detoxification of the increased toxic load.