Vitamins and minerals are essential organic molecules that promote the smooth running of functions within the body.
These nutrients aid mental clarity, immunity, weight loss and digestion amongst other things. They can even help prevent chronic diseases, alleviate depression and keep energy levels balanced.
Given that we can’t manufacture any minerals, and are only able to manufacture four of thirteen vitamins we need to survive, we must look to external food sources to provide these for us.
Should You Supplement?
Should we supplement our regular diet with vitamin and mineral pills to receive the nutrients we require? This is a controversial issue that health professionals across the world are in disagreement about.
The main argument against supplementation is that we would get all of the vitamins and minerals that we require from eating a healthy and balanced diet.
We must ask ourselves then, why are foods ‘fortified’ in many western areas? For example, some countries add folic acid to bread to prevent spina bifida in unborn babies. The UK is also currently looking into following suit.
Thiamine, iodine and other vitamins and minerals are also added to many foods in the standard western diet the world over.
This clearly contradicts the logic that our food automatically contains everything that our bodies require in terms of nutrients.
The Effect of Modern Agriculture on Nutrient Levels
It is a sad fact that agriculture has destroyed many of the nutrients that naturally occur in our soil.
Intensive agricultural practices mean that nutrients get stripped from the soil every time a crop is harvested.
On top of this, chemical pesticides and fertilisers used to farm inorganic crops also can destroy many essential microbe activities that assist in mineral absorption by the plants in the first place.
It has been found that many of the vitamins and minerals that should be available in farming soil are missing or depleted.
Plants need more than 50 different vitamins and minerals to thrive, but typically receive only phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
These plants that are grown in our overworked and abused earth are deficient, and therefore far less nutrient-rich.
In addition, food is processed and refined, stripping even more of the vital elements that we need.
There is a stark contrast between the food that past generations would have consumed and what we can purchase in supermarkets today.
The Effect of Pollutants
Most individuals in the western world are bombarded with a huge number of pollutants on a daily basis. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and lead are commonly found in the air that we breathe.
We are exposed to pesticides and other toxins in the environment, and we often knowingly consume toxins in the form of additives, alcohol and cigarettes.
Smokers in particular need to increase their intake of vitamins to counteract the toxicity that they absorb, especially vitamin C.
One study published in the journal JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association) even stated that in their study, supplemental vitamin C taken by pregnant smokers improved newborn PFT (pulmonary function) results and decreased wheezing through one year in the offspring.
The authors also stated that vitamin C in pregnant smokers may be an inexpensive and simple approach to decrease the effects of smoking in pregnancy on newborn pulmonary function and respiratory morbidities.
All of this exposure to pollutants increases our need for vitamins and minerals to counteract the free radicals that that we are inhaling and consuming everyday.
Repeated and regular exposure to pollutants such as these is linked with numerous effects on human health, including respiratory symptoms, heart and lung diseases, and even premature death.
Even low levels of air pollution are linked to changes in the heart.
Meeting the Recommended Daily Allowance
In some areas there are schemes in place to start work on replenishing the minerals in our soil.
But until that happens, and we all take up the habit of eating a range of organic seasonal fresh produce, we must find another solution.
Given that only one in 10 children, and fewer than a third of UK adults meet the recommended 5-a-day fruit and vegetable intake goal, our current food crops are deficient in many vital nutrients, and our bodies can’t make any minerals and very few vitamins, supplements become an attractive option.
Click here to browse our range of vitamins and minerals. You might also like to have a look at our range of green food supplements which are brimming with beneficial vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.