Emily Fawell, Nutritional Therapist, based at Bridge to Health in West Ealing gives us the low down on how we can achieve a balanced diet in a nutrient deficient world.
Our soils are depleted of nutrients due to farming practices, which means that the vegetables and fruit that we eat have lower nutrient levels than they would have done 70 years ago. Particularly affected are minerals such as selenium, calcium and magnesium. In addition to this supermarkets store fresh produce for a long time before it hits the shelves and during this time some nutrients' levels will diminish. Some produce is also picked before it is ripe, meaning that it’s never reached its full nutrient potential.
Add to this the over reliance on processed foods which are mostly low in nutrients – 56% of the calorie intake of average UK resident now comprises of ultra processed foods (mass produced bread, ready meals, processed meats, crisps, biscuits, cakes, breakfast cereals etc).
Many of us are stressed (which causes us to use up micronutrients at a faster rate) and if we live in an urban environment we are subjected to pollution (which requires the body to use up its intake and stores of antioxidants).
This all means that it’s very difficult to ensure that we are getting a diet rich in micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we get from food) and taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement might help bridge this gap.
In my view you get what you pay for when it comes to supplements. If you are paying very little for a multivitamin then the forms of the nutrients that it contains are likely to be cheap and that usually means that they are difficult to absorb (for example calcium in the form of calcium carbonate or chalk), and therefore you are unlikely to see much benefit from taking them. Look out for unwanted ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and colourings.
I think it’s worth seeking the advice of someone who is qualified to recommend supplements (such as a qualified Nutritional Therapist) to make sure that you are taking a supplement that is right for you, particularly if you are taking any medication as there could be unwanted interactions.
Where possible I like to test for deficiencies (via GP blood tests or private tests) before recommending supplements such as iron, Vitamin D, B12 or folate to ensure that I am recommending the right dose.