Why Getting Your Nutrition Only from Food Is a Bad Idea
BETTER BODY

Why Getting Your Nutrition Only from Food Is a Bad Idea

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 a complex system of vitamins and minerals.

And there’s reason to believe that we’re all falling short, especially today.

Writing in the Journal of Nutritionresearchers from the National Cancer Institute put it bluntly: “Nearly the entire U.S. population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations.” What this points to is the fact that all of us should be taking supplements.

Here are four pieces of evidence to support the fact that food is failing you.

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We’re chronically 
under-nourished
001

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.

Modern lifestyles require more nutrients
002

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.

Food alone 
doesn’t cut it
003

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.

Digestion is imprecise
004

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.

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.