The shelves of our favourite supermarkets, health food shops and department stores are simply overflowing with them – fancy vitamin and mineral supplements in all shapes and sizes. Supplements that according to the optimistic promises on their clever packaging, will do wonders for both our physical health and mental wellbeing. However, scientific research now increasingly suggests that many of these vitamin and mineral pills offer very little, if anything at all, in the way of tangible health benefits. So should we continue shelling out a small fortune on expensive vitamin and mineral supplements, or is there a better, far more sensible way to boost our nutrient intake? Let’s find out!
What are vitamin and mineral supplements?
Nutritional supplements are essentially products that aim to ‘supplement’ our diet with nutrients that may be missing or are not being consumed in sufficient quantities. They are available in a variety of different forms, from traditional tablets and capsules to powders, drinks and supplement bars. We’re often persuaded to buy them by the convincing health claims made on their labelling.
Amongst other things, vitamin and mineral pills typically claim to:
- Strengthen immunity (and thus help to stave off colds and flus)
- Delay the unwelcome signs of aging
- Boost vitality
- Heighten libido
- Increase longevity
- Reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer
- Treat specific aliments, such as arthritis
Vitamin and mineral supplements – who’s taking them?
More and more of us are turning to costly vitamin and mineral supplements for a quick fix – according to research conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2008, almost one third of people in the UK take some form of vitamin, mineral or dietary supplement on most days, whilst around 15% of us report having taken a “high dose” supplement in the last 12 months.
The study by the FSA also revealed that the following target markets are much more likely to take vitamin and mineral supplements:
- The elderly
- Those in poor health
And, around half of all households with children say that they currently give vitamin or mineral supplements to their children too.
Vitamin and mineral supplements are not cheap either – in 2009 the UK market for dietary supplements and vitamins was worth more than £670 million!
Vitamin and mineral supplements – are they a waste of money?
In recent years, both scientists and proponents of natural food products, such as organic superfoods, have discovered that the human body is unable to effectively absorb the isolated vitamins and minerals that are found in supplements. In order to digest vitamins and minerals correctly, our body requires a full spectrum of complementary and supporting nutrients, such as those made available to us by Mother Nature in the form of natural superfoods.
Tomatoes, for example, contain a phytonutrient known as lycopene, which has been linked to a potential ability to help prevent prostate cancer. However, when taken in isolated form, its positive effect is limited. The same is true for the majority of vitamins and minerals – our body has no use for vitamin C or zinc in isolation, but instead requires a full and balanced combination of nutrients that come from a variety of different foods.
And certain so-called health supplements are not merely ineffective, they’re also dangerous – some, such as inferior weight loss products that can be ordered via the Internet for example, have even been found to contain banned substances, and can therefore pose a serious risk to our health.
So, what’s the alternative to isolated vitamin and minerals and other types of health supplements?
Organic superfoods – the sensible alternative to supplements
Experts agree that most of us obtain enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients via a healthy, balanced diet or, in the case of vitamin D, from a sufficient amount of sunlight.
Dr. Vic Shayne, nutritionist, researcher and director of the American Nutrition Research Center in Boulder, believes that vitamins belong in food, not jars. “Our food is made by nature and contains thousands of nutrients that you won’t find in vitamins or multivitamins. These nutrients are often much more important than vitamins and minerals alone.” The nutrients that he’s referring to include complete proteins, fibre, chlorophyll, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, to name but a few. He also claims that an added benefit of natural food products is that they’re “balanced by nature, don’t have unpleasant side effects, are non-toxic and contain nutrients that regulate very specific biochemical functions in the body.”
Augmenting an already healthy, balanced diet with organic superfoods that are naturally rich in nutrients is thus not only significantly cheaper than purchasing over-priced supplements, it’s also a sensible way of boosting your nutrient intake more safely.
What are organic superfoods?
Organic superfoods are pure foods direct from Mother Nature. They come from some of the most remote and unspoilt corners of our planet and are by their very definition, low in calories and rich in beneficial nutrients, including fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Nutrient-dense, organic superfoods are commonly broken down into the following categories:
Cacao Products – e.g. organic cacao powder, organic cacao beans and organic cacao butter
Supergreens – e.g. organic kale, organic barley grass powder and organic wheatgrass powder
Algae and Seafood – e.g. organic kelp powder, organic chlorella powder and organic spirulina powder
Coconut Products – e.g. organic coconut oil, organic coconut sugar and coconut aminos
Bee Products – e.g. bee pollen, raw honey and bee propolis
Superfood Sweeteners – e.g. organic lucuma powder, organic stevia sweetener and agave nectar.
Herbs – e.g. organic maca powder, Brazilian ginseng powder and organic astragalus extract powder
The health benefits of organic superfoods
The advantage of consuming organic superfoods is that you obtain a full spectrum of complementary and supporting nutrients all at once – nutrients that are in their natural state and can therefore offer much more in terms of potential health benefits, including strengthened immunity, increased energy, heightened libido, improved athletic performance, enhanced mental clarity and focus, greater physical and emotional balance and an elevated sense of spiritual connection. Organic superfoods can also help us to achieve our weight loss goals, delay some of the more unwelcome signs of aging and may even help to prevent or offer some relief from the symptoms of a variety of modern diseases.
So, whilst there may occasionally be times when you need to take a good quality, concentrated vitamin and mineral supplement (e.g. if you are at risk of a severe deficiency), the best way to boost your nutrient intake and prevent a deficiency in the first place, is by enjoying a wide range of delicious superfoods that are naturally nutrient-dense.