The Betterment Project

Why Getting Your Nutrition Only from Food Is a Bad Idea

How do you feel right now? Give yourself a quick body scan, starting with your head and working down through your neck, shoulders, and back. Does anything ache? Is there any tension or stiffness? How about your overall energy level? Your motivation? Your ability to focus on this article? Are you still here?


Odds are, you feel room for improvement. Don’t worry: That’s normal. And there are lots of reasons why you might not feel your best, but chief among them is the fact that you’re probably undernourished. 


When we talk about fuelling our bodies, we tend to focus on carbohydrates, fat, and protein—the main sources of calories. But our bodies also rely on complex system of vitamins and minerals. And there’s reason to believe that we’re all falling short, especially today. According to government data, only 12 percent of the U.S. population eats the recommended amount of fruit. With vegetables, that number is even worse: Only 9 percent of us get enough


What this points to is the fact that all of us should be taking supplements. Sure, we’re biased. We made what we think is the world’s best supplement for men. But there’s legit science behind it: Here are four pieces of evidence to support the fact that food is failing you. 


1. We’re chronically under-nourished 

The average American consumes nearly 1,000 calories a day from processed oils, sweeteners, and added animal fats, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s a lot of energy with very few micronutrients—and it’s partly why so many of us are simultaneously overfed and undernourished.  


Research suggests that even with a balanced diet, 40 percent of men are deficient in vitamins, and 54 percent are deficient in minerals.


2. Modern lifestyles require more nutrients  

To make the problem worse, we’re all walking around in a mild state of exhaustion. A third of men report getting too little sleep, and nearly half report experiencing low-quality sleep, according to data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey (NHANES). And yes, that’s related to your vitamin and mineral intake. According to data presented at a meeting of the American Society of Nutrition, poor sleep is associated with poor nutrition. Those who log fewer than seven hours a night have the lowest levels of magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, niacin, calcium, and dietary fiber.


Similar negative nutritional associations have been made with stress and missed workouts—both common pitfalls of modern life. And sure, you’re trying to manage everything. But odds are you won’t win every battle every day, and your nutritional intake shouldn’t suffer.  


3. Food alone doesn’t cut it

Our food is less nutritious than it used to be, and to prove it, University of Texas researchers analyzed USDA crop data from the years 1950 and 1999. The results show half a century of declining nutrient levels: iron, protein, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C were all lower in 1999 than they were in 1950. Riboflavin, a B vitamin, dropped a staggering 38 percent.


As a possible explanation, the researchers point to modern farming practices that select for size, growth rate, and pest resistance. As they write in the paper, “rapid growth or other non-nutrient characteristics may suffer resource limitations in their abilities to extract soil minerals or transport them within the plant, or in their abilities to synthesize proteins, vitamins and other nutrients.”


Keep in mind that the data that research is based on is now decades old. Presumably, the slide toward nutritional bankruptcy has continued, so even if you’re eating enough produce (which, again—you’re probably not), you’re still likely worse of nutritionally than your grandpa was. 


4. Digestion is imprecise 

Most nutritional recommendations stem from the government’s Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs), which are the numbers required to meet your basic health needs. You can think of them as minimums: You need at least that much, but more is often better. 


There are two primary problems with focusing on minimum values. First, you don’t always know the precise nutritional value of the foods you’re eating, and it’s often lower than you assume. Second, your body doesn’t catch every vitamin and mineral that passes through your intestines. Factors like medication, age, illness, smoking status, ethnicity, environmental pollutants, and the other foods loaded up on your dinner plate all conspire to influence absorption.

The point is, even if you’re meeting your RDA, you’re still probably undernourished. And odds are, you aren’t hitting your RDA. Writing in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from the National Cancer Institute put it bluntly: “Nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations.”


And that’s why supplements are critical. That’s why we created ASYSTEM.

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