People often ask me about taking supplements. Yesterday someone emailed me to ask for “the truth” about what the FDA is doing to “outlaw” supplements. I don’t get very involved in politics, so decline to comment. There are times supplementation is appropriate. Usually if there is a specific need and for a specific period of time. As a general rule, though, I favor eating whole, nutrient dense, energy-filled foods. Let’s look at what each of those terms means. First, though, let me say that there is a very big continuum of food and many points along the way are helpful and healthful. Consider one end of the spectrum artificially flavored, colored, processed as much as possible. Consider the other end of the spectrum foods like an organic apple picked fresh from the tree growing in a forest.
Whole foods. These are foods in the most natural form. They are the extreme of an organic apple picked fresh from the tree, or close to that end of the spectrum. Is there really a big difference between buying something in a package (even a raw food) and running food through the food processor, then dehydrating it? Compare that to merely slicing the food and eating it. Both can be very healthy and, of course, much healthier than eating something with white sugar. It’s a matter of considering where on the spectrum they fall. Whole foods tend to be what we consider raw or living foods. Fruits and vegetables make up most of this category.
Nutrient dense foods are foods that have lots of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, water and oxygen. Some nutrients are created by the body. Some we need to get from food because our bodies cannot make them. Some we get from food and while they are not essential, they help our digestion process. Fiber is a great example of a non-essential nutrient. When eating nutrient dense foods, we require a smaller quantity. Nutrient dense foods tend to have a high nutrient:calorie ratio. We sometimes hear about nutrition density because the nutrition in our foods has decreased over the years. Some reports based on US agriculture records indicate that you need to eat five apples today in order to get the same nutrients from eating one apple in 1965!
Energy filled foods can be defined in a couple of ways.
Traditionally it is defined as having a large number of calories — so candy and cookies would be considered energy rich. Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories in a similar serving size. Compare a banana-chard smoothie (calorie rich) to an apple-lettuce smoothie (not so many calories). Which one fills you up and keeps you going longer? Not to say that one is better than another, but you might notice that you need different quantities of each or that you might prefer one over another based on your activities for a certain day. How much energy you need – or how much food to provide that energy – will also vary depending on how efficient your body metabolizes food.
A more significant measure of energy is biophotonic energy. This is the measure of energy which results from the metabolization of sunlight. It can also be defined as the light given off from an organism. When one compares the biophotonic energy of plants growing in the wild versus a home garden versus a commercial greenhouse there is a spectrum of energy (with wild having the largest amount of energy).
So, should you take supplements? It depends on your circumstances and whether there is a specific issue you are addressing. Supplements have a place. For the most part, getting your nutrition from whole foods is best. Not only are they complete, but they have the proper ratios of different vitamins and minerals and are in a form that your body can digest and absorb. Not all supplements are easily digested or offer nutrition in a form that your body can use. Just as you can put unleaded gas into a diesel tank, but that engine cannot use that fuel.