Consistently substituting actual food with supplements like protein shakes or smoothies can be tempting but most people understand this is a slippery slope. What is often misunderstood, however, is that the opposite can be true as well. Certainly, supplements shouldn’t replace whole foods altogether, but suggesting that supplements are unnecessary with a proper diet isn’t the answer either.
First of all, the idea of a perfect and complete diet is nothing more than a myth. There will always be debate concerning how much the average person’s nutritional needs. Even if there was universal agreement, the average person’s diet can’t possibly apply to every person.
The reality is your body could always use more nutrients than what you get from a “healthy” meal. Particularly in the day and age, our food is often grown and raised in controlled, unnatural environments—not to mention most of it is processed. As a result, our meats, grains, and even fruits and veggies, can be missing important vitamins, minerals, and fats. That’s where supplements come in.
In addition to industrialized farming and food processing, Dr. Mark Hyman points out that higher stress levels and less sunlight contributes to nutrient depletion. This depletion results in insulin resistance, which slows your metabolism and raises cholesterol. Supplements help fight this negative process by supplying your body with what it needs to function properly. This isn’t about building muscle or burning fat—although those will both likely be improved as a result—it’s about being healthy. Of course being healthy makes it easier to look the way you want, but it will also give you more day-to-day energy and a longer life.
There’s much more nuance to good diet advice than simply saying, “eat more protein” or “avoid gluten.” Balance is important, but even the most disciplined eaters should take supplements. Dr. Hyman specifically recommends taking the following supplements on a daily basis: Magnesium, Chromium and Biotin, Vitamin D3, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Omega 3’s (found in Fish Oil), Herbs (such as Cinnamon and Green Tea) Polyglycoplex (PGX), multivitamins, and standard protein powder.
Dave Asprey, author of New York Times bestseller “The Bulletproof Diet,” gives a few more reasons for why you need supplements. In addition to being cheaper, supplements can be a healthier way to absorb nutrients than actual food (such as salmon). Furthermore, since nutrition absorption declines with age, Asprey suggests you put aside the “my grandparents survived without it” argument. Our grandparents probably got more exposure to natural light and they weren’t so concerned with low-calorie diets (which are lower in nutrition) the way society is today.
The good news is that working more supplements into your diet is easier than, say, controlling your sweet tooth craving or eating a kale salad. Many of them come in pill or powder format, so it can be as easy as a chewable in the morning or a quick gulp before bed. Finding out more specific goals customized to your body and lifestyle can be trickier, but WellPath is happy to help you with that process.